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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« Happy Birthday, Yoshinori KanadaTweeny Witches eps »

Friday, January 28, 2005

10:06:58 pm , 419 words, 6712 views     Categories: Animation

Recent sightings

Shinya Ohira did some nice work in Ghibli's latest film, as did Shinji Otsuka. G being G, Ohira's bit was corrected, but still unmistakable. Ohira is reportedly in full force in the recent Windy Tales 10, and, a bit more surprisingly, in the Tennis no Oji movie that opens this weekend. I wonder how many GITS SAC fans will be mobbing the theaters for this one. Maybe Ohira fans. It's surprising how prolific Ohira seems, considering the nature and quality of what he does. A real inspiration.

Sam Cham started again at 18, and it's one of the best episodes in the series. It's the same Sato Dai writer-Sayo Yamamoto director team that did an earlier ep. I'm loath to even mention it here because the show is so hip it's painful, but the quality is there in this case, which ironically is probably because they had extra time due to the temporary cancellation. Nice balance between still and motion throughout, with a few good bits courtesy Nobutake Ito. Anyone who could allow that Yuasa bit in without the slightest correction can't be all bad.

I haven't seen anything from Mitsuo Iso since Kill Bill, which hopefully means he's working on something big. I recently saw his bit in Voogie's Angel 3, and it ranks as one of his best. Watching it gave me goosebumps, which hasn't happened in a while. It got me to pondering the question of why there's nothing else out there that's remotely comparable to Iso's work, which seems different at a fundamental level. Where did Iso get the idea to do animation like this? And why doesn't anybody else? After rewinding and watching Iso's bit about ten times, I came away awed and feeling the same thing I always feel after seeing an Ohira bit - amazement at how boring everything else seems in comparison. This is the sort of animation I want to see.

Shogo Furuya was at it again in Tweeny Witches 33. I personally derive considerable pleasure from the fact that his episodes look so different from the rest of the series, but this understandably causes consternation among some viewers who are accustomed to their anime looking the same week after week after week after week. I laud the production stance that allows a person with as sure a vision as him to wield complete control over his work. And I say that even though I'm not completely convinced by his directing. What is satisfying is that we can see the person behind the creation.

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28 comments

Leo
Leo [Visitor]

Sorry in advance as this is completely Off Topic but I was hoping that you would be of some help as you seem to be one of the more alert people I know about this sort of things.

The thing is, it has come to my knowledge that there is a sort of 16 volume DVD set dedicated to the Animation of China (which I’m a tremendous fan of) but so far I haven’t been very successful in finding out anything about it except for some guys who are downloading it through emule…

As I don’t have that installed in my PC (nor wish to as I like the real thing better even if it does cost me great amounts of money…) I’m afraid I have no access to what seems to me to be a real treasure.

Do you have any idea of what I’m talking about? Any kind of help is more that appreciated…

Sincerely,
Leo

01/29/05 @ 07:36
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

No problem at all. Thanks for bringing this up.

Sounds like a truly incredible set! I’d never heard of it until now, so I’m afraid I can’t help you out much. I did a search and I can’t seem to find it for sale anywhere, though I did find a detailed list of the contents in Chinese. I would also gladly purchase it if it was available. I’d surmise it wouldn’t be too expensive either, considering the provenance. Unfortunately I doubt it would have English subs.

Does anyone else out there know anything about this set?

I’ve also long been interested in seeing a lot more animation from China, but this is one area that’s been curiously neglected over the years. Over the years I’ve managed to dig up odd Chinese releases of titles like Naja and various shorts like the Tadpole short, which I remember seeing on a VHS set aimed at foreign audiences that for some reason didn’t have English subs, but has there been any release that presented these works in careful transfer and properly subbed in English? The only foreign release I know of is Geneon’s Japanese DVD releases. In France not long ago Wang Laiming’s Uproar in Heaven was shown dubbed in French on TV. Whatever it’s supposed to mean, I thought it was a fantastically enjoyable film, with all the movement and music based on Chinese opera. I know a there has been animation of all varieties done in China over the years, so I’m sure the set must be a real treasure trove. When will some intrepid company release a good set of Chinese animation over here?

01/29/05 @ 12:56
hym
hym [Visitor]

Recently there was a documentary on Chinese animation on Arte, http://www.arte-tv.com/fr/art-musique/tracks/20050106/718340.html they mentioned things from 50s to 80s and there are some real beauties but I doubt there is enough material excluding tv series to fill 16 DVDs and even if there was it would be weird that one company could license them all so probably bootleg.

01/29/05 @ 13:12
Tony Mines
Tony Mines [Visitor]

I was on Arte the other week, he said shamelessly plugging himself.
I was in Japan in early 2003 (the only time I ever been there) when I picked up a Chinese Animation vol 1 in the Virgin Megastore in Shibuya. Couldn’t tell you if it was the same thing, but this was part of a series that went at least up to vol 3.
The DVD isn’t to hand, but I can tell you it mainly featured ‘Little Nezha Fights Great Dragon Kings’, which is a fantastic feature film from the sixties, and not to be confused with the similarly themed Toei Doga film of the same era. It also featured some lovely shorts, but I can’t remember what.

More info when I’m less tired.

Good post Ben. I too lament the almost impossibe nature of auter identity within the wester animation construct. Let authorship shine through, be it crap authorship or nay.

01/29/05 @ 14:53
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Wish I got Arte here. Wrong side of the pond. Would have liked to be in the UK last year for H. Birtwistle’s birthday celebrations. What were you up to on Arte, Tony?

The DVD Tony bought was from the legit two-volume Geneon release, not the set being talked about here.

http://www.geneon-ent.co.jp/anime/NAA/3034.html

I haven’t seen Nezha in years, but I recall being simultaneously impressed and underwhelmed when I saw it. I saw it unsubbed, so I was mainly left to appreciate the animation. Not being used to Chinese animation and not knowing anything about the history of stylistic development that led up to this film, at face value the animation just felt kind of… odd, like it could have been made in the early 60s, when in fact it was released in 1979 (which you seemed to assume as well!). So I didn’t know quite what to think. It was entertaining and obviously well produced, but the animation and directing left me scratching my head for some reason, sort of the way the animation in 2772 felt unnecessarily fluid. I’d have to see it properly subbed to really appreciate it, but I much preferred the earlier Uproar in Heaven.

There’s a discussion about Chinese animation from 1981 between Yasuo Otsuka, Isao Takahata, Miya and Taku Furukawa in Takahata’s book Eiga wo tsukurinagara kangaeta koto. They talk about a lot of the more famous shorts, and also about Nezha, which had just come out; about the political subtext with the gang of four and all. M comes across as rather enthusiastic, particularly about the heroic aspect, while Takahata seems predictably more neutral about the film, like me. I kind of have a bad feeling about the combination of political allegory + heroism.

I remember appreciating the shorts somewhat more, though again not unreservedly; the political aspect can be really ham-handed at times. About the only one I remember specifically is the Tadpole short, so it must have had a good impression on me. It’s probably an obvious choice since it’s comparatively apolitical (though it could be interpreted as political, since it’s all about praising a traditional art and such). One thing I recall thinking about that one is that it felt a little cold, like it was impressive as a stylistic experiment but could have engaged the audience a bit more. I don’t really remember what else I saw… I’d really like a refresher.

The other shorts on your disc are The Shepherd’s Flute, The Three Priests and The Monkey and the Full Moon. The only one I vaguely remember is the first, which I liked; the others have faded. Actually, apparently the last was never released before on video, according to the official page. (but does that mean just in Japan?)

Thanks about the post. There aren’t enough people willing to color outside of the lines in anime, and I wish there were more.

01/29/05 @ 18:23
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

I finally watched Mind Game. I…

01/29/05 @ 23:20
Tony Mines
Tony Mines [Visitor]

Okay, so there were only two volumes. Shows what I know. I couldn’t believe it though. Nezha, on DVD, in a Virgin Megastore? It was in the ‘art’ animation section (section!) next to a bunch of Toei Doga stuff. I only went in to shelter from the rain and walked out having spent £120, but that’s Tokyo for you.
Nezha is one of those films you can only watch to ‘appreciate’ from a visual and historical perspective, it doesn’t truly function to me as pure entertainment - its too decontextualised for that. But then a lot of westerners feel that way about even the most commercial and westernised anime.
I gather there is relatively little context for it though. I think its more circumstantial than the product of a definable linear chinese animation history or aesthetic. It was made as one of a set of three such films, and I dont know that theres much more like it beyond that?
I love it though, I think its a beautiful film, I think I even prefer to Little Prince’. It’s one of the few animated films in the world that really feels like a moving picture book, like illustration in motion. Not the concesion to function that is the cel aesthetic.
It IS kind of absract to my eyes for the most part, but there is an absolutely stunning suicide scene part way through, and it all comes together after that.
I can’t believe it was made when it was either, but then that reminds me of Wonderful Days, which is a hokey peice of regressive crap. Aaah the global economy…

01/30/05 @ 02:37
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Speaking of ’sightings’, on rewatching Guu 18 it seems like Yuichiro Sueyoshi was in there. If you have Guu 18 (the tv series) it’s obvious which parts he did… That always was my favourite ep of Guu…

Now I really have to go and rewatch Mind Game once I can free up 1 hour and 40 minutes of my time…

01/30/05 @ 04:12
Leo
Leo [Visitor]

I do have the Geneon DVD mainly because I’ve been hunting down Nezha ever since I first laid my eyes onto a picture of it on a book and I must say that the film didn’t disapoint. Yes it is different and yes it does need a little contextualizing to it (but I failed to see the political overtones you mentioned) because you’re thrown right into a culture without little explanation of what’s going on. But it was real fun and it left me mesmerized from beginning till end for its amazingly fluid animation and style. It’s really one of a kind.

For anyone interested, Uproar in Heaven is available on yesasia.com as a single edition and also as a double-disker. I have the latter and you’d be surprised to know that the 2nd disc has among other extras Princess Iron Fan, China’s first animated feature!!! There’s no english subs to speak of but considering the price and the value of the set, it’s really a bargain!

Ben, can I ask you to make a reference to that 16 DVD set whenever you happen to find out more about it on your blog? It would mean a lot to me as I’ve come to the limits of my huntings…

01/30/05 @ 06:59
Leo
Leo [Visitor]

Oh, one more thing - there is this DVD on sale on yesasia.com that features some classic chinese animation by Te Wei that someone mentioned up the thread:

http://global.yesasia.com/en/PrdDept.aspx/pid-1003927609/code-c/section-videos/

I believe there is also a 2xDVD edition but I cannot find it anyhwere. The big plus is that it has english subs and it’s cheap as hell!

01/30/05 @ 07:03
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

People should definitely check out Nezha. I didn’t mean to deter. It’s got immense appeal as animation. I think I’d probably be able to appreciate it a lot more now than I did back then, so I’ll try to see it again to re-evaluate it.

I do recommend both Nezha and Uproar. They’re truly refreshing and satisfying seen even today particularly because they’re different from both anime and western animation, unlike a certain film Tony mentioned, so they’re real eye-opening films.

R.P.:

Thanks for the Goo tip. Hadn’t heard about this one. Great stuff! Obviously an encore of his Dama from the OVA. Want to see more from him!

How was Mind Game? From the look of it, words failed you…

Forgot to mention another recent sighting, some Itano Circus by Itano at the beginning of Maho Tsukaitai OVA 1. Worth a look.

And I’ll definitely mention the DVD set if I run across anything, Leo…

01/30/05 @ 15:53
Tsuka
Tsuka [Visitor]

I know this 16 DVD volumes compilation of chinese animation. Somebody talk about it last year on my boards. I’ve got 1st volume. It’s a 22DVDs box, because each “volume” can have 1, 2 or 3 discs. Hard to order (perhaps out of order ? I would like to get it too), but easy to find on the net indeed … here are the cover of the box :

http://www.catsuka.com/interf/tmp/china_animation_dvdbox.jpg

Te Wei Collection compilation is more easy to get. The DVD have 4 shorts :
- The Cowboy’s Flute (1963)
- Feelings of Mountains And Waters (1990)
- The Conceited General (1956)
- Where Is Mamma (1960)

I also mention this DVD released for the 40th Anniversary of Shangai Studios, which include the famous “Monkey King” animated movie :

http://us.yesasia.com/en/PrdDept.aspx/pid-1003740310/code-c/version-cn/section-videos/did-106/

A votre service :)

01/31/05 @ 09:35
Leo
Leo [Visitor]

OMG!!! Now I really want that!!!

Tsuka, can you give us more info, please!!! How and where did you first heard of it and who’s distributing it?

And where can I get it???!!!

Where did you get your first volume from?

Please, don’t leave us hanging from a thread!!!

02/01/05 @ 08:33
Tsuka
Tsuka [Visitor]

I would like to order this box too, but I didn’t found any webstore for that :-\ (I downloaded the first volume). I heard about this box on my boards last year :

http://www.catsuka.com/interf/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2768&start=6

The person says that this box is unofficial, but strangely approved by Shanghai Studios. I’m going to ask him more informations, but I think that it’s perhaps out of print.

On theses websites for example they talk about the box (2 versions apparently), but I don’t see any link to order :

http://www.mov8.com/dvd/dvdnews_show.asp?id=24576

http://www.520dvd.com/news/html/2004/07/20040727024707-1.htm

I’ll keep you informed if I get more news about it.

02/01/05 @ 11:32
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Another with screenshots from each film in the first 3 volumes:

http://www.mov8.com/dvd/dvdnews_show.asp?id=23785

02/01/05 @ 17:02
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Ben: Correct. Mind Game really was awesome indescribable stuff… I’m going to have to get a credit card by hook or crook because I must have the DVD (a few copies - I’d love to share it with some certain people.)

Do you understand Chinese, Ben? I’m assuming you do… Those Chinese animation screenshots interest me.

02/01/05 @ 22:45
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Learning Chinese is on my list of things to do. I’m just able to identify certain Kanji that are identical or nearly so to Japanese Kanji, for example the title, which is perfectly legible to me: 中国水墨动画. I just pronounce it Japanese style. I should really take a course some time.

Good to hear about Mind Game. Spread the word! I’ve heard of some Japanese fans who did that - buy several copies and give them away.

02/02/05 @ 10:42
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Heh, I guess I’m the opposite. I learned Chinese first and then apply it to Japanese, so recognizing kanji and all of that was a cinch… My Chinese is getting worse and worse though. Oh well. What you just pasted I can instantly read as “zhong guo shui mo dong hua", but in Japanese I still don’t know what “shui mo” is. If you need any sort of help figuring out anything (which I doubt you would really need)…

I hope I don’t sound too much like an evangelist by pushing Mind Game onto people, though! “You shall find salvation in the Whale..” … yeah.

02/02/05 @ 23:03
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Thanks for the offer. “Shui mo” would be “sui boku". “Boku” is the on yomi. “Sumi” is the more familiar kun yomi. Even I had to look up the on yomi.

I don’t see anything preachy about wanting to show a great movie to someone. But you’re right, it’s curious how this movie makes you want to evangelize about it to other people. It has a special something that makes you want to share it with others. One person had the great idea of showing it to a class of animation students, who were all reportedly quite amazed and moved by both the animation and theme. I hope a lot of people do that, maybe it’ll influence the next generation of animators. It’s a movie that makes you want to see how different people will react to it.

02/03/05 @ 17:47
neilworms
neilworms [Visitor]

Hey I showed mindgame to a local anime club, there already are some people who’d like to buy it once it comes out on dvd here (as long as it isn’t edited of course).

As for the film itself, I loved it… wildly imanginative visuals and direction. Yuasa is amazing (from the short sequences I’ve seen from him previously as well as what was essentially his previous work - Cat Soup) this was just even better. The art was much freer the designs all wonderful, I liked the story also… but I think the animation/direction was the real star of the show :).

Thanks for promoting it, and letting people know such a creative film exists out there amongst the flood of pseudo-pornographic formulaic that floods the airwaves in Japanese anime programming these days.

02/04/05 @ 06:32
Tony Mines
Tony Mines [Visitor]

While we’re all planning our shopping, I gots me my Mind Game moneys, I was going to order it from Yesasia (unless anyone has a better suggestion) but I can’t figure out which version is which. I can’t/wont afford the Perfect Edition - but which one has the book that you ordered Ben?

02/04/05 @ 09:04
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Neil:

Couldn’t agree more with your assessment. Thanks for doing your part in helping to spread the word about the film. Wish I could have been there to see people’s reaction.

Tony:

The one with the storyboard book is the “Special Box". I can’t find it at Yesasia either, but it’s definitely there at CDJapan. Not exactly cheep cheep, but a 550 page book of Yuasa drawings is a dream come true to a die-hard Yuasa fan like me, so it was worth it to me… it’s great to see the raw drawings that created this film. The drawings for the last scene in particular really reflect the incredible velocity you see in the screen.

02/04/05 @ 13:27
Tsuka
Tsuka [Visitor]

The Mind Game Special Box is also available on this webstore :

http://www.nippon-export.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=8651&language=en

jay smith > you didn’t linked the Special Box but the Perfect Box (strangely available ? it was supposed to be a pre-order only product). This Perfect Box has nothing that you can’t buy independently, except a book of layouts by Yuasa.

02/04/05 @ 19:42
jay smith
jay smith [Visitor]

so many versions? so which one is most worth the money?

02/04/05 @ 20:53
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

The regular edition should be enough for most people. Get the special only if you know you want all the extras.

02/04/05 @ 23:05
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Ouch, you actually watched every episode? No need to be masochistic, man. I just watched the eps done by Itano so I could clip out his bits, and even that was hard going. I found that the eps with the best stuff are basically 2, 6, 8, 9, 18 and 24…

I’m not sure what part Anno did in 24… in 9 he did the part where the Valkyrie armor comes off, and in 27 he did the Macross attack. The Cagliostro parody in that episode was kind of unexpected and funny. Seems like the sort of thing Anno would do. There’s a Daicon girl drawn on one of the mecha in 27. Obvious who did that.

I actually watched this on TV as a kid back when it first aired, and I’m realizing now that the whole reason I was mad about the show basically boils down to Itano. Everything that wowed me about the show was done by him. It’s interesting timing the way Anime Style just started putting up an interview with him…

02/06/05 @ 12:16
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Yeah… I really am torturing myself watching through them one by one. 25 was so awfully bad I’m traumatised right now and need to recover before I can get on to some more…

Sigh. But I do enjoy the space battles greatly. Well, *most* of them… They’re pretty good for a series of that time. Actually, they’re the only damned thing good about the series. Aaargh!!!

I manage to push myself after every episode and have enough sanity to translate the key animators… Surprisingly I saw Akemi Kobayashi there, she did the animation character designs for one of my personal favourites, Princess Tutu. I don’t know why the hell I’m doing this, but…

02/07/05 @ 03:25