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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Monday, November 30, 2009

04:01:33 pm , 982 words, 4091 views     Categories: Animation

Recent viewing

Haven't been watching much lately other than going through my box set of Hajime Ningen Gyators, which continues to entertain me to no end. I find I can watch an episode a day and never get sick of it. Can't say that for many other shows. Even Ganso Tensai Bakabon or Dokonjo Gaeru, other A Pro shows from the same period, get kind of repetitive if you watch too much, but I never tire of the stone-age family. The drawings are always lively and spontaneous and the stories crazy and fun. Though as the series progresses I find that it becomes a little tamer in terms of the stories, which lose a bit of their edge and become kind of watered down and cliche where once they were unhinged and unpredictable. It seems like the classic case of station complaints changing the course of a series, as happened to a show similar in spirit, Goku no Daiboken, though it's not as extreme here. It happens right around the time this cutesy and unneeded Amanojaku character is introduced.

Minoru Maeda, an animator who wasn't on my radar up until watching Gyators, is one of my favorite animators from the series. He's got one of the more pronounced styles on the show, drawing the characters with huge blocky limbs and really sharp angles, putting the characters through inventive distorted poses, and coming up with interesting layouts. It doesn't move much in his hands, in contrast with Yoshiyuki Momose or whoever, but he carries it with his drawings. In the first three quarters of the show he usually draws a half episode by himself, but in the last quarter he draws four full-fledged solo animator episodes. (by which time the show switches to a single-story format, rather than two 10-min stories) I've long associated him with Group Tac, as he's been a mainstay in their projects over the years, but he actually worked at Gyators sakkan Takao Kosai's Studio Junio from Gyators onwards and throughout the 80s, until co-founding his own subcontracting studio, Synergy Japan, in 1988 (together with Hiroshi Azuma and Minoru Okazaki, the latter of whom was one of the regular episode directors of Gyators). He's most well-known perhaps as being the character designer of Dr. Slump, directed by Minoru Okazaki, and then Anpan Man, as well as sakkan/"chief animator" of Dragonball & Dragonball Z.

I watched Cencoroll, an episode-length one shot produced based on a pilot from a few years back that impressed me when it made the rounds because of its skillful animation. Even the FLCL-inspired sensibility seemed fairly well executed, albeit not particularly original. Drawn out to nearly thirty minutes, it's a languid and desultory bore with no real reason to exist. It's amazing and all that Atsuya Uki could do all the animation, backgrounds, etc. by himself, but I don't quite see the point if he doesn't have anything to say other than rehashing anime cliches and making them more boring. There are some genuinely creative indie animators working in Japan who have created their own conceptual worlds and idioms, but when it comes to people who think in anime tropes like this, and who are actually quite talented in the technical aspects, I think the world would be better served if they worked as a cog on a worthwhile project rather than creating a short that did nothing much more than to seem like a failed attempt at grandstanding when they just don't have what it takes as an artist to be directing, at least at this stage.

I said I didn't particularly enjoy the sexy nurse schtick in Trapeze, but I've changed my mind. I now think it's one of the best things about the show. The reason being it's quite clever how they've subversively replaced the element of 'moe', with its sexualization of a nonexistent drawn character, with an actual human female (though of course she's rendered as a drawing most of the time). I would hardly call Gyators the pinnacle of artistic expression, but it's testament to the astonishingly limited range in which the industry has now boxed itself partly by catering so obsequiously to the fad for this peculiar genre (although that is certainly not the only reason) that something as harebrained as Gyators seems so amazingly fresh and different from everything being made today. It can't be healthy that there doesn't seem to be freedom anymore in the industry to explore different styles of material and visuals.

I re-watched Arion a few days ago and find that despite being a failure as a film, it's a valiant attempt, and it's directed with conviction and passion that I don't find in many films these days. One part stood out to me in terms of the animation - the part where Lesphina breaks the bonds of Arion and allows him to escape. It's short but stands out from the rest. At first I suspected Norimoto Tokura or Shinji Hashimoto, because it has that proto-realistic but strange feeling to the timing and a rich, fluid motion. It feels like it's conceptualized differently from the rest of the animation in the film. It even had a bit of Utsunomiya feeling to it, though I know Utsunomiya did the part on the flying monster later on, so it couldn't be him. I couldn't find the full credits, though, so I don't know if they're involved. The only name in the truncated credits I've found that seemed a possible fit was Toei animator Yoshinobu Inano, and that turns out to have been correct. Okiura, who cites Inano as an influence, mentions in an interview that he'd similarly been impressed by the scene when the film came out. Inano seems to have been one of those seminal proto-realistic animators who paved the way in the 80s for a whole slew of more well-known realistic animators who built on his approach.

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17 comments

tim merks
tim merks [Visitor]  

I’ve been waiting for ages for you to update your blog to point out something good to watch. It’s been really dead this year with nothing that new or exciting.

I am however really enjoying Trapeze. At first I wasn’t sure since the design style is so camp and such a mish mash of things but after the second episode onwards its really endearing, really enjoyable and laugh out loud funny.

I think however you ruined japanese animation for me when you mentioned ‘Take the X Train’ also ‘Lupin - Tokyo Babylon’ haha. After seeing those two films I am so frustrated with how they just decided to box themselves in to almost one drawing style.

I have been enjoying the cartoon network show ‘the misadventures of flapjack’. It’s really interesting as each episode the characters are drawn different depending on who drew the storyboards. It’s great to see something fresh from amercian animation which isnt batman or ren and stimpy clones.

Thanks Ben for writing such a great blog. I might just shamelessly mention I just recently finished a film that I’d like you to check out. Since I’d really value your opinion if thats ok.

Thanks again!

Tim

12/01/09 @ 17:31
bahijd
bahijd [Visitor]  

Uki is a very mysterious guy because he gives no informations about his work progress…….the only one who could possibly work on the next cencoroll episode with Uki-san could be Mebae.
Those two are good friends and Mebae is skillfull too…..I asked Uki if he is working on the next episode of Cencoroll but he answered–>
秘密です(;´3`)〜♪

I asked him if he need animators for his next project, if I can work as key-animator or asisstant and he said–>
今は原画マンの人は募集してないです。すいません〜

I’m not sure but maybe he already found a group of animators.

It would be an honor for me to work on cencoroll, but I don’t know Uki-san very well, I have to show him that I can handle it.

12/07/09 @ 06:03
Ben [Member]  

Or perhaps he just wants to do it all himself again? It would be really cool if you could get to work on a Japanese production, Bahi. I could totally see you animating some awesome shithead action sequences on an episode alongside Yama or Ryochimo or whoever. Maybe someone like Hiroshi Ikehata would be willing to give you a chance. He uses a lot of gif animators. (most recently he did episode 33 of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood) If that’s really what you want. Personally, I think you’re making awesome little pieces of animation on your own already, and I’d like to see how far you can go in developing your own sensibility outside of an industry context. I’m really looking forward to your color short.

12/08/09 @ 12:26
Ben [Member]  

Hey Tim, if you want to see something interesting watch this:

http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm1152207

Some insane kickass ninja action for ya.

Otherwise, it has been kind of a dead year, yeah. I think all the interesting people are working on stuff and we’ll hopefully have a blitzkrieg of awesome animation next year.

12/08/09 @ 13:10
bahijd
bahijd [Visitor]  

Thanks Ben.
Your reply motivated me a lot and gaved me more power! (^o^)/

I haven’t much time to watch series right now but I checked out ep. 33…..the backrounds looked interesting and I saw some good animation works but nothing fantastic. I miss Yutaka Nakamura animations…….

About my color animation…..it will take me some time to finish it but I will get more time at christmas vacation to work on it………..I will make an short animation for my diploma project next year too….it’s for the school….without an diploma project I can’t graduate(finish school).

It’s the passion to anime’s why I want to work on commercial projects too but I will keep make my independent animations too.

__
That Puppet Princess OVA was really awesome.
I’ve never saw it before. It was great animated and all those CRAZY faces! (^.^)
It was fun!

12/08/09 @ 13:59
bahijd
bahijd [Visitor]  

I don’t know much about Hiroshi Ikehata…(~_~)
Is he animation director or key-animator too?

12/08/09 @ 14:00
Ben [Member]  

Hiroshi Ikehata also did episode 34 of Soul Eater, Zettai Karen Children 27, Hayate no Gotoku 39, to give you some point of reference. I believe he started out as an animator and has recently been focusing on work as an episode director, using a lot of gif animators whom he met via his own web site (which I remember visiting before but can’t seem to find anymore, sorry). I particularly remember Zettai Karen Children 27 being full of crazy animation by a lot of animators I’d never heard of before. I actually haven’t watch FMAG 33 yet.

I’m looking forward to your color film even more knowing that you’re taking your time to make it as good as possible! Honestly, your last film was easily one of the most interesting pieces of animation I saw this year.

(Edit: Actually, I was thinking of Zettai Karen Children 37, not 27. I haven’t seen 27, although it was also done by Ikehata and is probably also interesting from an animation standpoint.)

12/08/09 @ 15:04
bahijd
bahijd [Visitor]  

OH! (^_^) Glad to hear that from you Ben.
I think one of the biggest challenges for me on my new work will be the sound and the coloring of course…but more the sound. But there will be a lot of new challenges this time.

And it’s the first time I focused on shadow animation….there is only one scene in Shithead action where the character is in a dark place and light shines on his face with creates shadows….but that wasn’t so good.

Actually there are a lot of new challenges for me this time and one of the biggest challenges this time is that I’m working on this during school. I have to concentrate on both, school and my animation but right now, more on school.

And I have to be carefull with the character on each frames. The characters face have to be the same on each frame and not changing completely even if no one would mention in a fast scene.

I’m really interested to see the rough key-animation frames uncorrected, from animators like Toshiyuki Inoue, Hiroyuki Okiura, Tetsuya Nishio, Yutaka Nakamura, Shinya Ohira and Shinji Hashimoto.
I would like to see their progress.
I saw Ryo-Chimo making very simple cuby characters on Noein. But I wonder how the other animation artists work….I personally draw more detailed, even on my sketches. I just don’t like characters without faces so much but such simple sketch animations are always good for some complex movements.

What I always think about is….why the animation wasn’t as good as now in the earlier times like the 1920’s??????
Was it because, the people never wanted to make realistic animations at that time or because they just couldn’t, how much they tried. I think we developed very fast but when I see people like Michelangelo and others……I don’t know if we really developed our drawing skills and our sense to reality. Maybe it’s not the time.
I really don’t understand why the old “animes” from the 20’s to 50’s looked so weird….I was watching some old japanese animation works from the 1920’s. Why is everything so slow???? It takes 4 seconds for a guy who jumps from 1 meter to the ground on those animations. I don’t want to say that those guys animation skills were worst…maybe for us when we compare them with the new animation works but I think this was a real challenge for them at that time.
But I couldn’t find any old pieces wich I could compare with those of our time from the realistic aspect.
Somehow I miss those old-school crazy fluid disney animations…..but I actually miss the good old times (^_^).
It was the time where animation made his first footsteps into our idustrial world.
I would like to be there and see why the animation looked like that.
Is there some interview with Walt Disney?
Who was actually the first commercial animator?
I’m going to search and find out about the history of animation and it’s development….

I just hope that 2D animation will live forever and develop more and more.

____
About Ikehata, no problem. I will search on the internet and ask some animators, maybe they know about him and then try to contact him, if you say that he takes gif. animators. That would be great.
But I’m not the only young animator with big dreams I guess. MAKING ANIME MOVIES IS GREAT!!!!
____

Ben do you know Cindy Yamauchi?

12/09/09 @ 14:07
Manuloz
Manuloz [Visitor]  

His webpage went down apparently. It’ was open like 2 weeks ago… don’t know what happened. it was there :

http://members3.jcom.home.ne.jp/ahoboy/

If it doesn’t come vack. You should try his last discoveries. I suppose you have them on your pixiv watchlist, Yotsube (luckgaki) or desuran.

12/10/09 @ 00:22
Ben [Member]  

I’m no historian of western animation or anything, but I’m pretty sure there must have been people making more realistic animation in the 30s, and certainly thereafter (Snow White & Gulliver’s Travels, which used rotoscoping extensively to create realistic movement, are from 1937 & 1939). Heck, very little animation made today comes close to the quality of some of the quasi-realistic animation I’ve seen from 40s Disney films.

Art is a cumulative thing. Just like your animation wouldn’t look the same had you never seen animation from Hiroyuki Okiura, Yutaka Nakamura, et al., they themselves each developed their own styles only after learning and absorbing the work of their predecessors. Art inches forth by slow steps, with the great artists helping to push things a little further in a new direction people hadn’t considered before. And don’t forget how different a situation we’re in today than were the animators of the 30s or whenever - today we are able to study at our leisure the vast body of animation made over the last 100 years, not to mention having the handy tool of the computer making it easy for us experiment with any number of approaches animation.

The whole reason I focus on discussing the individual animators/directors/artists working in animation throughout the decades is that they’re the fabric of history. When you try to find out why the animator you love is as amazing as he is, and you dig into their influences, you find that before them came other figures who each similarly made their own unique contributions. Often, what seems banal and obvious to us now was a momentous discovery at some time in the not-so-distant past. Each of those little artistic discoveries pushes the quality forward by adding to everyone’s collective consciousness, providing people with the foundation to imagine far beyond the scope of their predecessors.

Inform yourself as much as you can about the history of animation, and about the history of art. And watch as much animation as you can. It’s good to ask questions. And you’re posing some pretty fundamental (i.e. important) ones.

2D animation isn’t dead so long as someone like you loves it and is carrying on the torch and making great 2D animation.

I don’t know who ‘the first’ commercial animator was, but Ub Iwerks was one of the seminal figures in animation history, so you might want to look into his history. In Japan, I would recommend you the works of Yasuji Murata. I feel that he is the first great animator craftsman in Japanese animation history - at least, from the very little that I’ve seen. I’ve actually always kind of disliked old animation from the 20s precisely because of what you’re saying - the timing is so bad and weird and so far removed from reality. Disney from 10 years later seems disproportionately better. It’s amazing how quickly the art progresses. In Japan, at least, Murata’s animation has some of the best timing and drawing that I’ve seen from this period. Other animators from Japan at the same period exhibit the same kind of bland, thoughtless timing you mention as a turn-off. He seems to have been one of those seminal figures who thought deeply about his art and made little innovations that revolutionized the art one inch at a time, by improving the staging of shots, creating a stronger narrative flow, improving the quality of the drawings, and bringing in a more realistic feeling of timing. I don’t know to what extent overseas developments from his contemporaries were available to him, or whether he came up with these things on his own, but his work doesn’t resemble much anything else out there, either in the west or Japan.

Nope, I don’t know Cindy Yamauchi.

12/10/09 @ 15:46
bahi JD
bahi JD [Visitor]  

Thanks Ben. You are absolutely right.
I didn’t knew about Iwerks and Yasuji Murata. Thanks.
I always thought that Disney was the absolute animator on that time but Iwerks was actually very skillful at that time.
I will try to get see some of Murata’s works.

….now I understand why we are how we are.
It really takes some time and a lot of progress to invent and develop your own animation style.
When I see Shinya Ohira’s, Toshiyuki Inoue’s or Okiura’s old works I see that there was a time where they were just studying the style of their predecessors.
All of us start like this……we have to learn from our predecessors and then we are able to develop or continue where our predecessors have finished…..I saw that in a documentary…but for crocodile’s and animals that’s different….they start everything again…..but we humans have the ability to continue where the others stopped.
___

Thanks Manuloz! So Yotube-san and Desuran have worked for Ikehata (°_°)!!!! I will ask them, I have talked with desuran some weeks ago but I thought he works on Gainax…is he freelancer.
Well…..that’s one of my big problems…..I can’t speak fluid japanese fluid japanese yet…only some sentences.
Thanks for the info…I will ask them how I can contact Ikehata-san.

____

Ben Cindy Yamauchi is animation director and also in contact with the american industry.
She wrote articles about the japanese anime industry wich were very interesting for me—>
http://www.animestylepro.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=80&Itemid=83

http://www.animestylepro.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=35&Itemid=45

http://www.animestylepro.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=36&Itemid=46

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/people.php?id=63416

and she is the creator of region free
http://www.regionfreejan.com/
____

12/11/09 @ 16:08
Ben [Member]  

You can actually see one of Yasuji Murata’s films online, uploaded by DigitalMeme, who released the Japanese Anime Classic Collection 4DVD set, which I recommend picking up:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SRqmpK6nn8

Kenzo Masaoka is one of the figures from slightly after Yasuji Murata that you might want to look into, if you’re curious to trace the evolution of technique in Japan. Anido released a DVD of his work.

Thank you for pointing out Cindy Yamauchi’s page. I knew she was an animation director and animator, but I didn’t know she had a blog filled with such in-depth information about the experience of working as an animator in Japan - and at Madhouse, no less. (big Madhouse fanboy here)

Good luck with contacting Ikehata. Hope something comes of it.

12/11/09 @ 16:46
bahi JD
bahi JD [Visitor]  

Thanks for the link.
I will check out Masaoka’s DVD. I found a lot of other classic animators through your link (^.^).

I would like to ask something about a specific MADHOUSE work.
Nasu: Summer in Andalusia……ok actually about Kitaro Kosaka.
Is Kosaka-san the man behind all this typical Miyazaki faces?
He some kind of developed Miyazaki’s style…..that style came from Miyazaki’s Nausicaae and the character-face design was first created by Miyazaki right?

But when I saw Nasu for the first time…I was really surprised and thought that some Miyazaki guy leaved Ghibli and used Miyazaki’s design for a non-ghibli production.

Why didn’t they made Nasu on Studio Ghibli???
I haven’t watched Nasu yet….and I havent heared much about it.

12/11/09 @ 17:10
Manuloz
Manuloz [Visitor]  

Kosaka was animator and animation director on a number of Ghibli’s movie that’s probably were the connection is.

On the production of Nasu. You should ask yourself the question on this terms : “why not". Most of Ghibli ressources are spend on Miazaki or Takahata movies, maybe there was no chance for him to direct something there. Imaishi’s Dead leave was produced at Production IG even thought he is part of Gainax. Sometimes you just go for it.

Desuran started on those Zettai Karen Children directed by ahoboy. He was looking for young animators so he launched the abe48 contest to look for some. They just had to send in a short clip of animation which were online on his HP (too bad it’s down). There was 4 winners selected by Akira Amemiya & one animation producer i don’t remember the name. The prize was working on ZKC as key animator.
As of now, he is part of Gainax, yep. He was inbetweener on Mahoromatic Tadaima.

12/12/09 @ 02:30
Tim Merks
Tim Merks [Visitor]  

Took me awhile to work out how to watch those ninjas but it was worth the effort. Really interesting animation style for just the character animation, some really funny stuff.

Oh the ninjas made me think of this website
http://www.realultimatepower.net
The type of ninjas that just REALLY FLIPOUT and kill people :P Thanks for that!

12/13/09 @ 00:03
pete
pete [Member]

bahi, regarding the old Japanese animation (nice summary Ben) you also have to consider that during that time animation was mostly an individual effort, tied to the short film format. It was meant just like in the West mostly for entertainment and it was tied to japanese comics. So it did not have the government funding of the later era. All were influenced by Ukiyo-zoshi (ukiye in panel style), that were popular in the 19th century
Some comic artists were:

Yoshitaka Kiyama who learned from American comics while in San Fransisco (1904-1924) and published some works in America

http://www.sequart.com/members/graphics/57/kiyama1sm.png

Also Rakuten Kitazawa, who was one of the first to transfer the American comic strip style to Japan in the Jiji manga magazine, since 1902.

Also Suiho Tagawa (Norakuro was his main creation), who was influenced by Animal Funnies trend in the US.

http://w00.middlebury.edu/ID085A/gallery/manga/Norakuro2.jpg

Most of those artists were second generation Japanese grown in America, who transferred the American comics style to Japan

there was also a much older technique in Japan but I do not know the name:

One narrator narrates a story, while an artists draws at the same time pictures on rice-paper, relevant to the story, while the audience watches in awe.

12/14/09 @ 10:22
leedar
leedar [Member]  

Although still a little cartoony and awkward by modern standards, Windor McCay’s Sinking of the Lusitania is a surprisingly accurate and well-timed piece of effects and mechanical animation, made around 1918 (a mere 30 years after the first known celluloid film)! People are often misdirected by his more famous Gertie the Dinosaur.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN-KdPBhyjc

It has already been said, but I would reinforce the position that artists always have to build on the predecessors to some degree. A modern animator might feel like he works ‘naturally’ but there has been conscious and unconscious absorbtion of technique from other animators, film, etc.

As also aforementioned, technology has given the modern animator massive advantages in learning. The sort of stuff you can do with EasyToon (infinite materials, immediate playback, etc.) would have been impossible for anyone before the 80s.

12/26/09 @ 12:09