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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Sunday, May 8, 2005

05:40:35 pm , 663 words, 875 views     Categories: Animation

Nishio's Pierrot

Watching last year's Naruto film, I was surprised to find that Tetsuya Nishio wasn't the animation director. The drawings were extremely close to his designs throughout, almost to a scary degree. But I was convinced when I realized that no less than fifteen people were credited as animation directors of some persuasion or other, including Takashi Hashimoto as the FX AD. I could just picture them all madly correcting away. The production side has a good understanding of what fans of this series demand. It would take fifteen people to equal what that crazy Nishio did singlehandedly in his Ninku movie ten years back.

I haven't seen the short event film completed a month before the TV series started in January 1995, which was his first job as AD, and which he reportedly put much work into - to prove himself to the world, as he put it - but only the movie from summer 1995, which was blessed with many good animators, meaning that he didn't have nearly as much work to do. But obviously he still did a huge amount in comparison with anybody else, judging by the results. Hearing that the feature was supposedly a cinch for him, and the event film is the one where he put in his all, naturally makes me curious to see it, though youthful fervor is probably a big part of why he says that.

He's always had a sort of perfectionist - or totalitarian - ethic about his work. If he's doing an opening, he animates it all himself. Naruto, Makibaoh, GTO, and more recently the 2nd Otogizoushi op were all done by him. If he's the character designer, he designs the characters in every episode. He'd like to be able to be the AD of every episode, too, the way it was back in the old days with Yoichi Kotabe on Heidi etc. and Akio Sugino on Treasure Island etc., but the situation on the production floor these days makes that sort of thing nearly impossible now, even for someone as determined as him.

There's an interesting anecdote about the episode I mentioned a while back as having impressed me and sort of opened my eyes to the genre, #41. The ep was done by Yoshihara Masayuki, who was sort of an 'oyabun' to Nishio during his Yu Yu Hakusho days, teaching him the ropes in terms of what was cool and no longer cool to do at any given period. (I recommend checking out ep 58 of Yu, my favorite, to taste the unique style of Y. Masayuki the animator, as well as early Shinbo at its best.) I said how this episode impressed me, but it's been such a long time that I didn't quite remember why, and I was reminded when reading that Nishio, who animated a part of the ep, wryly observed the fact that he, the character designer, was having his drawings corrected by Yoshihara on the episode. Yoshihara had apparently made his own design sheet for the episode. In every respect this was Yoshihara Masayuki's creation.

Just like the Wakabayashi episodes of Pierrot's latest milking cow, there are a few instances were certain figures were given seemingly free reign (or perhaps they wrested the reins) to do what they wanted, resulting in some very unique and memorable little gems. Even the most casual comparison of Wakabayashi's episodes with the others will reveal the maniacally close attention to detail in Wakabayashi's work - not only the great balance of the directing and choreography of the action, but also the nuanced color palette, even the very texture of the screen, which are are all exactingly polished in a way that's unlike anything in the rest of the show.

My favorite scene in the Naruto film was probably Takeshi Honda's, for one because Takeshi Honda rules, but for two because it looks like just about the only scene in the film that wasn't corrected. You just don't go correcting Takeshi "shisho" Honda's work!


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