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, December 12, 2011

05:39:00 pm , 1022 words, 10966 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, TV

Rita and Whatsit

A Japanese-produced adaptation of the French picture book series Rita et Machin aired one year ago on NHK. It's about the adventures of an energetic little girl and her lazy pet dog. The pictures are appealingly spare and simple and the stories have an easy and genteel understated humor that makes them enjoyable even for an adult.

Considering how many good studios France has, I'm surprised they chose to do this in Japan. But they did a good job adapting it in a way that remains true to the atmosphere and look of the original, without 'animefying' it.

The 26-episode show was co-produced by Nippon Animation and French studio Planet Nemo, but it seems to have been mostly done in Japan. And many of the episodes were not done by Nippon Animation staff. That's what makes the show so good, actually. They got some surprising outside faces to do episodes. From Madhouse they got Toshio Hirata, Hirotsugu Hamazaki, Manabu Ohashi, Hideki Futamura and Hiroshi Shimizu. From Studio Live they got Kojina Hiroshi and Hiroaki Yoshikawa.

But the most interesting thing about the show is that someone on the show took the bold initiative of crossing the indie/industry divide to invite several indie animators I've talked about before on the blog to each do a solo episode. Ayaka Nakata, Yosuke Oomomo, Hiroco Ichinose and Tomoyoshi Joko of Decovocal, Oswald Kato and Hotchi Kazuhiro each did a solo episode. The show was co-directed by indie animator PON Kozutsumi, whose short Organic I just tweeted, and I suspect it may have been him who invited these people.

It's vindicating of the talent of today's new generation of indie animators, and suggests how much richer anime could be if there were more mixing between indie and industry, that their episodes are easily the best episodes in the show.

Episode 7 by Hotchi Kazuhiro has some of the most distinctive and pleasing animation in the show. Hotchi Kazuhiro also drew backgrounds for a few episodes. He's been active now for about 10 years as an independent animator. He has a unique graphic style with lush, densely drawn images. See his web site for some examples. Doudou from 2002 is probably my favorite short he's done.

Episode 9 by Tomoyoshi Joko of Decovocal has rich animation and clever ideas, with spoons competing over strawberries turning into a bear and dragon with horns locked. Episode 18 by Ayaka Nakata was perhaps the most impressive of the show, full of great compositions, lovely drawings, detailed animation and imaginative transformations. Episode 19 by Yosuke Oomomo was a delightful musical episode with toys that come alive and a couch that turns into a piano.

Even the episodes that didn't stand out like these were enjoyable to watch because the characters are fun and the humor isn't overdone. The show is for children but it's not kiddy and inane. That's perhaps what has made the original such a best-seller internationally. The humor translates in every language.

I like the 5-minute format of the show because, first of all, it's easy to watch. Many anime episodes feel needlessly long. Each episode here felt the perfect length. The short length also allows a talented creator to hone the episode more.

It's great to see anime creators set to the task of animating something so different like this. It can only help broaden their horizons and show that there are lots more styles out there to explore. They need to make more home-grown shows that are as visually unique as this. They've got picture books that are just as nice - viz The 11 Cats.

Planet Nemo offers one episode of the UK English dub up for viewing on their web site. It's episode 21 in the Japanese ordering, by Madhouse veteran Manabu Ohashi. Manabu Ohashi also happens to have headed the animation of the actual episode 1 that introduces the characters, and the episode stands out for its more nuanced and observed movement. His work in Little Twins similarly stood out in a subtle way.

Episode 10 headed by Madhouse animator/director Hirotsugu Hamazaki had some of the most expert animation in the show. It was restrained but you could sense the technical expertise with the complicated shots of the fishing. It was nice to see one of my favorite Madhouse figures, Toshio Hirata (whom I wrote about long ago) here with an episode, as this material is eminently suited to his temperament, with its languid pacing and gentle humor. The person who did episode 20, incidentally, Hiroshi Kojina, is a longtime Studio Live animator who replaced the late great Toyoo Ashida as president of the company upon his recent death. It was a nice surprise to see Hideki Futamura here, as I'm a fan of his work, but I don't know what his presence signifies; is he at Madhouse now too?


リタとナントカ Rita and Whatsit staff list

TitleStoryboardDirectorAnimation DirectorKey animation
#1: Rita and WhatsitMasaaki KidokoroManabu Ohashi
Saya Takamatsu    
#2: Rita and Whatsit go to the oceanJun TakagiYoshiyuki IchihashiYasuko SakumaYujiro Moriyama, Noboru Takeuchi
#3: Rita and Whatsit have a guestPON KozutsumiSaya Takamatsu
Hirokazu Ishiyuki    
#4: Whatsit's houseYoshiyuki IchihashiHiroki Fujiwara
#5: Rita and Whatsit play soccerOswald Kato (+composite)
#6: Rita and Whatsit go to the poolKazuma FujimoriYuki Hishinuma
Sonomi Aramaki    
Yujiro Moriyama    
#7: Rita and Whatsit on SundayYoshiyuki IchihashiYasuko SakumaMiho Higashi
Saya Takamatsu
#8: Rita and Whatsit go on a tripHotchi Kazuhiro
#9: Rita and Whatsit have an argumentTomoyoshi JokoDecovocal (+finishing & composite)
#10: Rita and Whatsit go fishingHirotsugu Hamazaki
Fumie Muroi    
Nobuyuki Mitani    
Hirofumi Okita    
Kei Tonegawa    
#11: Rita and Whatsit's secret hiding placeToshio Hirata
#12: Rita and Whatsit and the lost baby duckHiroco IchinoseDecovocal (+finishing & composite)
#13: Rita and Whatsit go on a picnicKazuma FujimoriHideaki UeharaHiroki FujiwaraMoe Usami    
Tomoyuki Takematsu    
Chika Nakayama    
#14: Rita and Whatsit's masquerade partyHiroaki Yoshikawa
#15: Rita's new bikeHiroshi Shimizu
#16: Rita and Whatsit go to ParisKazuma FujimoriMasaru YasukawaHiroki Fujiwara
#17: Rita and Whatsit go shoppingKazuma FujimoriYuki Hishinuma
Masahiro Shigemoto    
Yoshiaki Fukamachi    
Ayako Hata    
#18: Whatsit's birthdayAyaka Nakata
#19: Rita and Whatsit put on a concertYosuke Oomomo
#20: Rita becomes a detectiveHiroshi Kojina
#21: Rita and Whatsit go to schoolMasaaki KidokoroManabu Ohashi
Saya Takamatsu    
Chika Nakayama    
Tomoyuki Takematsu    
#22: Rita and Whatsit gardeningPON Kozutsumi
Yoichi Inada
? Park
#23: Whatsit catches a coldHideki FutamuraHiroki Fujiwara
Taiichiro Ohara    
Yumenosuke Tokuda    
#24: Rita and Whatsit wish upon a starTeppei Tani
#25: Rita and Whatsit go for a walkYuki HishinumaPON KozutsumiSaya Takamatsu
PON Kozutsumi    
Ana Yoshioka    
Sanjigen    
#26: Rita and Whatsit's ChristmasMasaaki KidokoroYasuko SakumaYoshiaki Fukamachi
Saya Takamatsu
Permalink

7 comments

pete
pete [Member]

that show caught my attention a few years ago.

If there is an English dub the better. Ironic that the series catches the quality of the older series but it is done by other animators, since NA best animators are either gone to work elsewhere or have retired.

Nippon Animation might not be the best regarding book adaptations nowadays but they are the best regarding book selections since they have a tradition of many years

NIPPON ANIMATION annually attends international TV program markets such as MIP-TV and MIPCOM in Cannes and NATPE in the U.S.A to discuss co-production and distribution of programs. We find all these markets to be indispensable in giving us an opportunity to strengthen relations with our clients and keep abreast of new developments. To look for new characters and stories for our future productions, we also attend international book fairs in Frankfurt (Germany) and Bologna (Italy).

http://www.nipponanimation.com/activities/international.html

12/13/11 @ 11:57
inactive
inactive [Visitor]  

Merry Christmas, Ben! Check Umetsu & Shinbo’s Hurricane Polymar OVA in my blog. And if you still have something particular that you want to watch, please let me know (here or on mail).

12/25/11 @ 06:57
Ben [Member]  

inactive:

Merry Christmas to you, too! Thanks again for all the interesting rarities. I might take you up on that offer… There are still a bunch of old obscure shows I’m looking for. Right now I’m really looking forward to watching Sasurai no Shoujo Nell.

Pete:

You’re right, this show does fall in line with Nippon Animation’s long history of adapting works of western literature, though it’s very different in style and much of the best work in the show ironically comes from outside of the studio. Good for them if they can find a second life creating visually appealing shows like this after I had pretty much written them off.

12/25/11 @ 21:40
inactive
inactive [Visitor]

Yes, it wasn’t included in WMT & thus mostly overlooked by fans. I released raw-set (NyaaID: 248382) and first subbed ep 3 month ago. You can also find DVD-ISOs on asiandvdclub.org. Happy Holydays!

12/26/11 @ 04:14
pete
pete [Member]

Ι’d also like to read at least 1 book of the series. It is available in bookstores here, released in 2010. though since it is so short probably I can read it in the bookstore.

happy hollidays to all.

thanks inactive for all the series you try to bring to the foreground. I really appreciate the effort.

12/28/11 @ 06:34
pete
pete [Member]

Ben, regarding Nell, it is also available in French on DVD very cheaply.

I think I’ll choose that option instead. first episode was very good and the type of series I like

12/28/11 @ 07:33
pete
pete [Member]

Pon Kozutsumi also directed the 2011 Animator Training Project Shirogumi.

Perhaps the best and most subtle out of the 4.

07/27/12 @ 09:07