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Bones again has Takuya Igarashi heading their latest show Star Driver. The quality of everything is very high, consistently, even up to ep 3, as is typical for the director and Bones. But I find they've just given up completely on the content, choosing to rehash all the cliches in the book rather than gamble on another ambitious experiment in epic fantasy with a more broad appeal that fans probably won't even bother to get behind.
As with Eureka Seven and Xam'd, they've assembled a strong team in every facet. Their shows consistently produce the best mecha action animation seen on TV these days. And it's not just Yutaka Nakamura. Today there's no end to the list of young animators doing sharp and exciting work right off the bat. You find a combination of old veteran mecha figures like Ken Otsuka and new outside faces like Hironori Tanaka as well as relatively new though now vetted in-house faces like Yasuyuki Kai.
Ep 1 had Shingo Abe on mecha AD and animation from Yutaka Nakamura, Takahiro Shikama, Hironori Tanaka, Yasuyuki Kai, and Shingo Abe.
Ep 2 had Ken Otsuka on mecha AD and animation from Soichiro Matsuda, Shingo Fujii and Takahiro Shikama.
Ep 3 had animation from Yasushi Muraki, Shingo Abe, Jun Arai, and Yasuyuki Kai.
The nice action in ep 1 was of course by Yutaka Nakamura and preceded by Hironori Tanaka, who also did the 'eyecatch'. The designs of the robots are fairly imaginative and certainly laboriously drawn. The action in ep 2 was actually also quite nice, and though I personally couldn't identify it, supposedly it was partly the work of Takahiro Shikama and Shingo Fujii. Yasuyuki Kai and Takahiro Shikama are also credited with 'Psybody design assistance', suggesting they worked on the mecha scene in the second half of each episode.
I was wondering what the deal was with the side-scrolling in the op, because it's a clear copy of the side-scrolling Nadja opening. Then I realized that Nadja was also directed by Takuya Igarashi, so I guess it's just something Igarashi likes doing. The interesting thing, though, is that Igarashi didn't do either openings. The opening of Nadja was done by Mamoru Hosoda and the opening of Star Driver was done by Shinichiro Watanabe. I suppose maybe Igarashi gave the instruction to do the sideways scrolling thing.
I just noticed some unusual credits in that Star Driver opening. The aforesaid Takahiro Shikama is credited with layout. Usually they don't credit layout because it's supposed to be done by the gengaman, but it's interesting to see them using this system here, presumably for the purpose of unity. Shingo Abe was the mecha AD of the op, so he's obviously one of the main mecha guys on the show. He was one of the main mecha guys on Xam'd. It's pretty amazing though how ubiquitous Hironori Tanaka has become. Here he's credited with not only animation but also with the unheard credit of "motion design", which someone already pointed out and wondered about in the forum. That'll require an interview to elucidate because they're doing something new there.
Jun Arai is one of those young animators who likes to mimic Yoshinori Kanada/Masahito Yamashita, and he did a scene in that style in ep 3 that feels completely out of place and embarrassing to watch. The scene right after was really great, though. I suppose it was by Yasushi Muraki.
I'm also enjoying Hiroyuki Imaishi's latest effort Panty & Stocking. At least it's full of energy. Every shot is packed with some interesting action or joke. It seems like a return to the silly, slapstick, all-out-crazy tone of Dead Leaves. This show feels a lot more like pure Imaishi than Guren Lagan, though I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not. I'm not too keen on the 2D styling or the content, but I'm enjoying the show nonetheless. Pure silly fun, like a cross between Powerpuff Girls, Dead Leaves and Ebichu. The sperm story in episode 3 was inspired.
I find it sad that humor in anime always has to be as broad and simple-minded as possible. The jokes in this show are funny because they're more risque and adult and something of an improvement over the usual approach to sex in anime, which irritatingly pussyfoots around the subject with bloody noses and exaggerated shyness, but it's still sex and shit jokes. I want to see humor with the sort of wry, understated wit of, say, My Dog Tulip, not the adult version of preschool potty jokes. But at least Imaishi has his own brand of humor that doesn't feel like any other anime out there. Whatever you might say about the show, the fact is that Imaishi is one of the only people in the industry besides Yuasa right now who has enough talent to be the ground-up guiding vision behind a show like this. The vast majority of people in the industry lack the vision to come up with their own comprehensive visual ethos and approach to animation the way Imaishi does. That alone makes this show vastly more watchable than anything on air right now, including the above Bones show. The skilled animation in that show feels so wasted.
I kinda sorta was able to endure the first episode of Togainu no Chi and thought I might be able to watch it, but then the second episode set me straight and I felt embarrassed for having been so forgiving, because the first episode wasn't even that good and the signs were pretty obvious that it would be a typical crap show.