Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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« Two new epsJapanese Animation Horizons »

Monday, October 11, 2004

07:12:49 am , 930 words, 2034 views     Categories: Animation, Misc

New shows

The fall lineup has hit the air, and the hilight for me turns out to be Beck ep 1, in which Osamu Kobayashi puts on an amazing one-man show: writer/director/storyboarder of ep 1, in addition to series director, character designer, animator, opening storyboarder/director/animation director, and ending illustrator. Not surprisingly a number of good animators are involved. The first three listed are Ken'ichi Konishi, Norio Matsumoto and Yasunori Miyazawa. The op is nice, with lip-syncing, which is unusual in anime, and it features Takeshi Honda, Tadashi Hiramatsu, Yusuke Yoshigaki. I hope this trend continues throughout the rest of the series. This is a nice followup to Paranoia Agent for Madhouse. It's good to see them continuing to use good home-grown animators rather than just outsourcing everything.

As far as I know this is Osamu Kobayashi's directing debut, and it has that unpolished feeling of youth and inexperience. But that's not a bad thing. By no means. It feels great to see someone actually spreading his wings and trying to find himself in anime rather than just following the crowd and pumping out cookie-cutter characters and situations. This is an auspicious debut. I can't think of another series in recent memory that had one man behind the visuals and the directing like this, and that gives it a real sense of unity. Also it's very rare for an anime director to also go to the trouble of writing an episode like Kobayashi has done here. That reveals the depth of his devotion to the task of making this thing good. Apparently he event did the "location hunting" himself, basing a lot of the scenes on actual places around Tokyo (like the ramen booth) that he went around and photographed himself. He probably felt this was his chance to prove himself to the world, and I'm impressed with the result. It's this sort of love that's missing most from anime these days.

The rest of the shows I had the misfortune to sample are depressing proof of the poverty of imagination in anime these days, with most virtually indistinguishable from one another. I'm eager for this moe fad to pass. Akiyuki Shinbo even did one, strangely enough: Nanoha. It's worth mentioning only becuase Ko Yoshinari did animation in the first episode. I think I remember hearing that in his section in the opening of FMA he handled the CG effects for his shots, and it looks like he did the same thing here. It's an impressive few shots, in what appears to be hitokoma or 1 cel/frame, clashing nicely with the rest of the episode. Yet another series by Shinbo started at the same time, Moon Phase, this time another vampire type thing more in line with his past work, but he didn't do anything in either first eps, so they're rather forgettable.

One of the series I was looking forward to somewhat but that has left me a little dissatisfied so far (if not disappointed, because I was half expecting it, and there's still room for improvement) is Takashi Nakamura's Fantastic Children. Again it's hard to understand why he feels he has to go through all those contortions, especially right at the beginning. If it's an attempt to pull the viewers in, it doesn't work, because it just leaves one in the lurch, dangling carrots the whole way without providing any satisfaction. Learn from Miyazaki. He didn't have to do that in Conan. Also, he jumps right into the deep end with the drama, which is a bad gamble, because without knowing what's going on it's impossible to empathise with what any of the characters are experiencing, so it's just kind of uncomfortable. One interesting thing I noticed was the use of hitokoma in certain transitional shots. I wonder whose idea this was? It creates a nice feeling of luxury, when in fact the animation is otherwise rather bland. It might be a Nippon Animation thing. I noticed that in a few of the late WMT series.

If anything, the best TV episode in recent weeks was episode 20 of Tweeny Witches, another one-man-orchestra episode by Yasuhiro Aoki. I'd say it's his best episode yet. He tries out all sorts of interesting ideas in the directing. I can't think of another figure striving to do more new and interesting things with directing on TV right now than him. Aside from that, Sunrise's Mai Hime was a dreadful concession to moe, and Haruka naru toki no naka de was an utterly pedestrian shojo anime, but done with amazing zeal and energy by the women at Yumeta Co. Not TV but new is the first ep of Gainax's revival of Aim for the Top, by Kazuya Tsurumaki. I was a little wary after seeing the trailer, hoping the actual episode wouldn't be like that, but it was, and frankly it left me puzzled. It seemed like a mess. There was no dramatic drive whatsoever. The animation was certainly spectacular and on par with FLCL in certain spots (which only makes sense because it's largely the same production staff) but I wasn't convinced by the directing or the writing. I don't know what they were trying to do, but it just felt clunky and meandering. Still, there's no way to know what's going to happen from here on out, so it's not a lost cause.

I don't know if it's record-breaking or not, but more than 20 different TV series starting within about the same week (to say nothing of those still running) seems indicative of the anime industry being spread out way too thin.



Amamiya [Visitor]

I have just watched more than 10 “1st episodes,” and it was nothinbg more than the inflation of Moe-Anime. Among the all, I picked up Fantastic Children (Takashi Nakamura), Beck (some staff are from Tokyo Godfathers?), Suna-Bozu (Fist of the north star+Lupin the 3rd), Gankutsu-Oh, and School Rumble (Daich-Anime without Daichi). I do not want to comment on other new serieses. Especially, I was so shocked when I found Tomonori Kogawa was involved in Kanna-Duki no Otome (神無月の乙女), and Toyoo Ashida worked for Msumumet(流星戦隊ムスメット)… sigh.

10/11/04 @ 16:55
neilworms [Visitor]

“As far as I know this is Osamu Kobayashi’s directing debut, and it has that unpolished feeling of youth and inexperience”

Kobayashi has actually directed a couple other shorts for Studio 4C including Digital Juice’s “Table and Fishman” and “End of the World” which was included on one of the Grasshoppa DVDs. I liked his other work, and Beck seems like a nice show, particuarly the illustrations at the end.

Did you see the Count of Monte Cristo yet? The effect has gotten mixed reviews, some like it others don’t. In terms of story though, its pretty bland, and the acting was really bad.

10/11/04 @ 17:32
Ben [Visitor]


I also decided I would watch all the episode 1s this time around to get a rounded picture of what was being made, and it was truly a depressing experience to find that most were moe anime. I noticed Tomonori Kogawa too, but I was hoping it was a different person with the same name. I didn’t want to believe someone like him could have fallen so low. Sunrise making moe anime, Shinbo Akiyuki making moe anime… feh. I think I know how to explain the anime glut now: subtract all the moe anime, and the number of anime being made comes down to a more realistic number. The moe is just the thick layer of scum on the surface.

10/11/04 @ 17:54
Ben [Visitor]


I actually knew of those shorts, though I haven’t seen them yet. I meant “debut” in the sense of his first non-short anime. Besides those he also did the ending of Gad Guard and the ending of Kaiketsu Zorori.

I haven’t gotten around to watching Gankutsu-Oh yet, but what you say is pretty much what I was expecting: something visually interesting at first sight, but with little below the surface. A gimmick. It’s a Mahiro Maeda joint, after all.

10/11/04 @ 18:08
Amamiya [Visitor]


I watched the Count of Monte Cristo(岩窟王). As you expected, the visual effect is good.
If you like Gonzo’s works, you will enjoy it. Actually, I did not pay attention to other features when I was watching it because I watched it right after the tons of Moe-Anime (and I was very tired of them!).

10/11/04 @ 18:32
neilworms [Visitor]

“Shinbo Akiyuki making moe anime… feh. I think I know how to explain the anime glut now: subtract all the moe anime, and the number of anime being made comes down to a more realistic number. The moe is just the thick layer of scum on the surface.”

If the otaku culture would actually focus on art (peh never going to happen) as opposed to projecting their own psychological issues onto anime, we might get work with more promise :P.

As to the Count of Monte Cristo, I watched it Amamiya, I liked the visuals, just the plot wasn’t anything special. I’m going to have to agree with Ben on this one, the best show of this batch is Beck (though I have yet to see Fantastic Children or Moonphase).

So your saying that Moonphase is fully moe otaku garbage? Man, I was hoping for it to be kind of a parody of that genera… At least Le Petit Cosset was pretty good….

10/11/04 @ 18:48
Amamiya [Visitor]

Nekomimi-Mode (Moon Phase) could be the Moe-Anime of the year :), but many watchers forsee the tone of this anime is going to change according to the end of the 2nd episode.

Anyway, if you can read Japanese, you will see interesting comments regarding Beck at Anime-sama’s BBS.

10/11/04 @ 18:52
Ben [Visitor]


Actually, I was a little harsh on Moonphase ep 1. It wasn’t the best thing in the world, but it was definitely watchable, and kind of fun. I wouldn’t watch any more than that, but it was still vintage Shinbo. I was just hoping it would be as stylistically intense as Cosette or Soul Taker, which it wasn’t, because he wasn’t the storyboarder or director of the episode. I suppose he was too busy directing two series at the same time. But it is definitely contaminated in a big way by moe. Just watch the opening. It’s 1o1ita vampire chic.

10/11/04 @ 18:57
Ben [Visitor]


Here’s a good definition:


Kobayashi-san is a regular on the BBSs. I also noticed Utsunomiya-san posting occasionally. Both have their own web pages. Here he says episode 8 is the one to look forward to. In ep 1 he says Matsumoto did the paintbrush scene and Konishi did Koyuki running - which I take to mean the whole pool scene. And he says the dog was done by an animator called Tomo? Yu? Maruyama, who also did the dog in Gad Guard (which I remember being cool!). Also, did everyone notice the Dokonjo Gaeru t-shirt? And as for what Anime-sama was talking about, it’s proof of my age that I have fond memories of listening to cassette tapes in my youth. I still remember vividly when CDs started coming out, how expensive and magical they seemed.

10/12/04 @ 07:04
Spaceman-Spiff [Visitor]

Before I start, I want to say that I don’t consider myself as a big anime fan. I like manga a lot more than anime, and I find most manga-adaptation animes suck. So, here goes the reviews from a manga fan.

Official site:
Genre: music
About: The making of a band. Based on Beck manga by Harold Sakuishi.
Comment: Very nice songs & BGMs. But… Ryusuke’s seiyuu is not that good in English (a Japanese seiyuu) >_

10/13/04 @ 22:24
Spaceman-Spiff [Visitor]

damn post limit won’t let me post my whole anime review
for those who are interested, my review of Fall 2004 new anime series:

10/13/04 @ 22:25
Tsuka [Visitor]

Hi Ben ;)

I run a webpage about Osamu Kobayashi on … with his bio and contents from his works. He directed 2 shorts at 4°C, a video clip called Losin’ My Way, and others little stuff like TVCM …

10/15/04 @ 03:07
Ben [Visitor]

Right-o. Thanks for the reminder. I didn’t realize he’d been active since at least Birth.

10/15/04 @ 14:38