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« What makes animation interesting?Kaiba #11 »

Thursday, October 30, 2008

11:22:25 pm , 1565 words, 4248 views     Categories: Animation

Run

Bones is one of the most consistent studios active today in terms of maintaining a high standard of quality from one show to the next, and from one episode to the next. I can't say I'm always into the shows they produce (which is not to say they don't dedicate an equal amount to creating intricately thought-out characters, worlds and stories - and their use of original material is all the more notable in an industry drowning in manga adaptations), but I am impressed by their dedication to bringing on a variety of staff both young and old from all over the industry to maintain the quality of their work. It would be too much work to go through all the talent that's been involved at various times over the years in Bones shows, both in the animation and directing and other roles, but I find that there's always good work being done somewhere or other, whether I recognize any names or not. They are also innovative in organizing staff and bringing on people in unusual configurations to bolster the quality, creating staff configurations suited to the project at hand. Just as they seek out good animators, they also seek out good directors. Sometimes they'll gamble on young staff like ex-Ghibli directors, while other times they'll bring in time-tested talent like Toei alumni Takuya Igarashi.

What I most like about them, of course, is that the quality of the animation is always paramount in every project, and there are always a number of figures with proven talent supporting the animation, whatever the project. Bones is unique in that in almost all of their projects they always have a featured "main animator", if not several. Yutaka Nakamura is the most veteran and most identifiable linchpin of Bones' animation, but there are many other talented figures featured prominently, like Yasushi Muraki, Hidetsugu Itoh, et al. More often than not in their projects these days, though, I don't recognize the names, so in addition to using veterans, they're clearly training a lot of younger but talented animators, which creates a great balance that keeps the quality getting better. I suspect there's a sort of self-perpetuating aspect to the cycle of bringing on good main staff - the good people know the quality they need, so they in turn want to bring on talent that can provide that quality.

Indicative of their unique focus on the animation is a special page they've put up on their site for their latest big project, Xam'd, featuring the raw (inbetweened) key animation for a number of good scenes from the show so far. They're deservedly proud of the good work they do, and it's a respectful gesture to the fans of good animation who like to see this sort of thing that they've put up the little feature.

In episode 5 of Xam'd, there was an excellent piece of animation around midway of a character running that I wondered about in a comment not long ago. I didn't recognize any names in the credits, so clearly it was by someone I'd never heard of. I was dying to know who it was, but didn't think I'd ever find out. Lo and behold, I was happy to discover that Bones recently added a shot from that exact scene to the key animation page on their site (#05 C-212), revealing that it was the work of a young animator named Yasuo Muroi. I would never have known, as I don't know him at all - although upon looking into it I realized that he was apparently heavily involved in the second half of Denno Coil. (Again, a subsequent episode featured good work by other ex-Coil folks. The show's defining feature, though - if it wasn't obvious enough from the surface - is that its staff is dominated by ex-Ghibli people.)

The short commentary text by the main animation director, Masashi Okumura, reveals what was very clear from the animation - that Muroi studied himself in the mirror acting things out to help get the expressions and actions right. This sequence stands out dramatically not just from the rest of the animation in the show, but from most anime. It's the kind of animation I'd wish more animators would create - particularly so in anime, where a convincing feeling of timing and weight of the kind that makes Muroi's work here feel so great, with the reactions happening exactly in the right way to convince you of a particular movement or moment, making the character's behavior believable and by extension pulling you into the moment of the narrative, seems obviously to be something that would be critical in many situations where the audience has to believe in the 'reality' of the situation, but is all too often completely lacking. It's an amazingly important thing, but there doesn't seem to be much interest in digging deeper to figure out how to give the movement real conviction, or perhaps knowledge of how to go about doing it.

What I like about this innocuous shot is that I can believe in every little detail of the movement. The character slows down gradually with his body facing forward but his head tilted backwards just so, bounding forward a few times on momentum, as he scans behind him and pauses to see what the monster is going to do next. Then, in an instant, as soon as he realizes it's not down for the count, first his head snaps around, and his arms jump up for a frame or two as he gets in gear to start running again. It's the way he nails these little split second reactions that makes me like the movement so much. Every little element of the motion down to the millisecond-precise timing of how he snaps his head around at exactly the right moment, is totally convincing. You get the sense that Muroi has sat down, thought about what's going on, and thought through how he might behave in such a situation. It seems like an obvious thing to do, but I've long been baffled why I didn't see more animation in anime imbued with this sort of convincingly enacted, thought-through behavior. Muroi here proves that it's entirely doable and even a stylistic fit within the context of anime. TV anime is so special because you can run across so many different approaches to animation. From one shot to the next like this you are privy to the mind of an army of animators, each with their own predilections and skill levels, and if you've got talent, you can show it off. I can't think of many industries where that is not only the case occasionally, but a defining feature.

I've been enjoying Bones' other show, Soul Eater, too, as it also maintains a consistent level in terms of the animation and directing. Yutaka Nakamura's occasional presence is always exciting, but even besides this the animation is always stable and works very well with the show's sleek directing and visual style. I've been impressed how the directing in particular has been quite consistent across the board, with almost no exceptions, which I suspect is partly testament to chief director Takuya Igarashi's skills as a director. Most of the episode directors I'm not familiar with, although that other flamboyant ex-Toei director, Kunihiko Ikuhara, was in for a great storyboard recently. The latest episode, #30, was really nice in every sense, a classic case of the stable quality of the show, so I was wondering who was behind it. The episode was storyboarded and directed by a person named Shin Matsuo. He was also listed first in the animator credits, revealing that he animated a large portion of his own episode.

I'd never heard of Shin Matsuo, but upon looking into it I now realize that I've probably seen his name quite often, as he's actually something of a veteran, having been working as an animator since about the time of Zeta Gundam in 1985. He's been quite prolific, having been involved in everything from Venus Wars to Dangaioh to Genocyber to Run Melos to Lain to Death Note. Like many animators do, lately he's shifted to directing, and this is just the latest episode he's storyboarded/directed over the last few years. I guess it's revealing of his background as an animator that in addition to storyboarding and directing he should have gone so far as to do animation, too, and the most animation at that. He reminds me of Akitoshi Yokoyama in that sense.

Matsuo also did eps 11 and 23 of Soul Eater, as well as Samurai Gun 9, Gallery Fake 37 and Host Club 23, which was incidentally the first Igarashi joint for Bones. He's got a dynamic and kind of whacked out style, so it made sense to discover that he was behind a show I used to like when I first started watching anime - the whacked out KO Century Beast. He directed and animated the two openings, and did storyboard/directing/animation directing/animation for episode 3 of the first series. He had a pretty wild style back in the day, echoes of which can actually be felt in this latest episode of Soul Eater, with its extreme angles and constant motion. This is another example of Bones using talented veterans in the industry, not to mention an example of how hard it is to remember so many people.

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12 comments

Seb
Seb [Visitor]  

The scene in Xam’d that you are highlighting was one of my favorites in the entire show so far, I’ve rarely seen a chase sequence so well thought out these days. Incredibly convincing. There are also some very nice moments in episode 13 that focus on running as well.

I’m excited to see the show to its end as it appears ex-Coil member Kazuya Nomura, who did episode 11 of Xam’d, will be responsible for episode 20 in all aspects (Storyboard, directing and animation director) as well as Storyboard episode 25 and direct episode 26.

11/01/08 @ 11:20
Leedar
Leedar [Visitor]  

Looking for the ‘illusion of life’ are you, Ben? :-)

I don’t think any of those scenes have inbetweens.

The series has probably benefited significantly from a higher budget, being a promo for Sony’s PS3 Internet shop. It looks like it is being made with feature film production resources (e.g. larger paper); much more extravagant than Denno Coil.

11/01/08 @ 20:52
h_park
h_park [Member]

From reading this post, I think diversity of talent and ever-shuffling of staffs makes the industry vibrant. It seems like Japanese animation gets better every year. If Bones’ strength is developing original shows at high quality, I think that is the one reason why it attracts so many talented people. Of course Bones has good relationship with Aniplex, a Sony subsidiary, so it’s not surprising to see Xam’d on PS3 Internet Shop.
In short run, original shows allows staffs to be more flexible in creative process. In long run, the production studio can benefit from having original rights.
Leedar, I think Bones gained higher budget having good track record and word of mouth among freelance & contract production staff.
I’m pretty sure that Xam’d budget is not even near “Sponge Bob Square Pants".

11/03/08 @ 07:35
Ben [Member]  

I’d say that what I’m looking for in any movement is to be convinced. One of the big factors in this case is that this is a human being running, and all of us know innately how a human being is supposed to move. With the monster, the animator has more freedom to come up with the movement. There’s no way of saying whether a movement is right or wrong. But with a person, we can tell immediately. I think this shot is a great example because it shows an animator being forced to address both cases. To me, the shot succeeds because Muroi is able to make that distinction, on the one hand filling the movement of the human with lifelike nuance, and on the other using his imagination to make the monster’s movement convincing according to its own characteristics. I’ve seen brilliantly convincing animation of mecha and monsters from animators like Yutaka Nakamura, to say nothing of brilliant abstract animation like Fischinger’s that convinces in its own context. I myself still am not sure what I’m looking for, to be perfectly honest, but I think to an extent it’s simply that the animator have a feeling for the material at hand in order to create movement that best convinces in that context. In the end, I just know that I liked this animation as soon as I saw it, and it fulfilled its role more successfully for me than most of the rest of the scenes.

I think Takahata’s films contain good examples of animation where a lot of thought has been put into every little detail of how a person would move, based on factors such as sex, age, situation, experience, and consequently creating very convincing characters, all without necessarily being photorealistic or even very detailed animation. I don’t think budget is how convincing animation comes about, however, although it’s certainly true that Xam’d probably benefits from a relatively higher budget, at least compared to other anime productions. It’s all about whether one bothers to try to think the details of the movement through to such an extent, which most people (including not just the animators but those who come before the animators like the storyboarder, who is to a great extent responsible for choosing whether to set up or omit situations where such movement could be created) obviously can’t or don’t care to because it doesn’t occur to them as being necessary.

It’s quite possible that this shot doesn’t contain inbetweens. I thought it did because it was so smooth, but the page does say “genga satsuei douga", which means “key animation photography animation". I’ve compared the final animation with the shot on the page, and I can’t be sure. I suppose that would wind up meaning that Muroi drew everything himself, without inbetweens, which would account for why this movement felt so good in every little nuance of the movement, the way Iso’s animation does. I’m still confused, though. I take it the yellow drawings are “genga shuusei” or corrected keys by the animation director, and the white ones are Muroi’s keys (they’re much rougher, and the yellow ones are obviously the ones that were inbetweened in the final product), but I can’t figure out why they’re interspersed. Judging by the final product it seems like everything was corrected. Perhaps they left those in to show his drawings, or the sakkan only corrected a few and left the douga to draw the rest accordingly. Confusing. I’d have to see the time sheet to be sure.

11/03/08 @ 13:04
Leedar
Leedar [Visitor]  

I believe the white paper drawings are the rough breakdowns (for the Muroi scene). It seems to be partially key frames and partially straight-ahead.

(It looks like I am wrong about the paper thing - I’m just used to widescreen being the cinematic type, but it seems everyone went ‘HD’ not too long ago.)

Anyways, I don’t think, of course, that money makes good animation, but I do think it can make better animation. :-)

11/03/08 @ 21:46
LainEverliving
LainEverliving [Visitor]  

Stepping into the discussion…

My guess on the “genga satsuei douga” is that what they’re talking about is a pencil test, i.e., running the rough (key) animation through to get a sense of how it will look pre-inbetweens. The corrections done by the animation director are frequently added into the pencil tests if it turns out that the original genga were too off-model (or the AD wanted to change something) for the test to look right. Remember: the test is meant for the episode or film director to know what the scene will look like before they send it to be inbetweened (which might be at a subcontracting studio), so they want to know what the actual ‘final genga test’ will be like. That’s probably why there are the yellow corrections in there. As for the white pages, those are Muroi’s originals that didn’t need to be changed. Usually, after all, a good AD will only attempt to put things on-model or add detail to the roughs, and not alter the fundamental movement, so there’s no need to alter all the drawings. Notice particularly that the corrections become very abundant once the character has turned toward the camera, since in the earlier section of the shot, it is only his back facing the camera and thus doesn’t need to be done over again for detail or correction.

Look also at the monster. There are only a very few drawings that aren’t corrected, because the monster has a lot of details. Only when it is static is there no need to correct anything. The key animator’s job, after all, isn’t necessarily to make the character look exactly as he / she / it should. The goal is always on the movement. This is why a good AD is really needed, so that good key animation is seen as good art, and not just thrown out by the viewer because it looks weird and off-model.

As for the inbetweens or lack thereof, I’m quite sure that there’s no need for them here. I haven’t watched ‘Xam’d’ yet, so I don’t know what the final shot looks like, but watching this here, there’s no obvious need for inbetweening. The motion is smooth and already all there, so why add anything to it? At most, there’s probably only a handful of inbetweens in the final shot, likely for the falling debris after the monster impact, and maybe just as the character is starting to turn to run (this would help smooth things out). Of course, though, since inbetweeners do both this work and what in western animation is called “clean-up,” the final shot will have been totally redrawn if it is like 95% of most TV anime. Only rarely does the actual genga end up scanned and colored, since even with corrections it’s usually too rough. So yeah, the final will look different no matter what in that regard. I think only in the cases where the production didn’t have time or budget (or the AD had a specific artistic goal in mind) are the genga actually seen in the final show. This is, needless to say, why shots that are of short duration but have hundreds of genga (due to an over-eager key animator) are usually rejected by the AD or director, since they will all have to be redrawn and the production inbetweeners will thus be overstressed (not to mention the costs associated with doing all that extra work).

This is where one starts to get into the value of inbetweeners. Ben, I read your recent interview on Anime News Network for the Chicks on Anime column, and I think from the overall discussion that people (at least on the ANN forums) have gotten the wrong idea about inbetweeners. They don’t just ‘fill in’ the missing motions between keys, they actually do establish the motion and follow-through on what the key animator wants to do. If the key animator gives good guidance with the timing sheets or by meeting directly, or if the studio has a quality inbetween checker / supervisor (like Production I.G. has in each of their studio units), then the inbetweeners can make good on what they’re given. Take, for example, Ryoochimo’s shot in ‘Noein’ episode 12, where the two protagonists are fighting. One of them creates an energy ball and flings it as the camera pulls out from him. Watch that scene in pencil test form for the keys, and it’s impressive in it’s posing, but it isn’t anything like the final, explosive finished shot. Then, look at the pencil test for the inbetweens. Whether or not Ryoochimo personally met with the inbetweeners, or if the AD had a meeting with them, or if it was just obsessive notes and timesheets passed on to them, whoever did that shot really went to town and more than tripled the movement. That’s an example of good inbetweening: super smooth, dynamic, emotional, and completely true to the key animator’s intent. It’s the best single shot in the entire ‘Noein’ series, in my opinion. Likewise, the inbetweeners have to redraw the genga and genga corrections, and it is at this time that the drawings, while losing their wonderful roughness, take on the uniform polish of the final product. While some shows pull off the rough look wonderfully (’Gurren Lagann’, you know I’m talking about you), imagine how bland anime would become if everything were done like that. Clean would become the new rough for fans looking for something different. So, the clean-up duties of the inbetweeners are also very important. This gets overlooked, but it’s central to the final look of all anime, so it can’t be ignored. It’s also important to realize that in America, inbetweening and clean-up are done by different people with no overlap, so having the same people do both in Japan is not only very challenging and different, but also good training for people who want to advance. It encourages both the skills of interpretation of movement and forethought about follow-through (if the inbetweening is well done), and it prepares animators to do smooth, clean work that can prepare them to be ADs or key animators who require less reworking and interpretation in the long run. It’s no surprise that many of Japan’s best key animators started off doing inbetweening.

This is also where Korea comes in. Look at what DR Movie does in Seoul. There work is as smooth and well-executed as it comes, and all that’s lacking right now is a sense of how to initiate the movement. But that’s starting to change as more productions are being done completely or semi-completely over there. I’ve been watching ‘Claymore’ recently (as it’s been released in the US), and since nearly all the key animation and most of the ADing is done by DR Movie’s staff, I’ve noticed the different sense of timing, of structuring of movement. Much of it is very standard, but once in a while, I see the hints of something coming closer to uniqueness. It’s particularly evident in the action scenes, where the most talented animators are getting a chance to strut. Watching it reminds me very much of looking at animation that was outsourced to Japan by American production companies back 25 or more years ago. Consider: at that time, Japan’s native animation buisness was still in infancy. But, the need for animators was high, and so lots of people got into the business. From the business of outsourcing came some of the first crop of animators, who passed on their skills to the next generation, who became the elder statesmen of today’s anime industry. I will bet you anything in predicting the same will happen in Korea and elsewhere that anime is sending production work. Out of the factory will rise the individual, and from that individual will be inspired many more who are unique creators. My word of advice to those who want to anticipate the coming trend in anime: watch Korea, watch the shows that are mostly done over there, and see which names start appearing again and again in the quality episodes. Those people will be the forerunners to a great Korean animation industry, one that in time may even overtake Japan. Let’s face it: they already have the smoothness down. DR Movie’s inbetweens are second to none in the world. As soon as they master the key animation, that industry will be a force to be reckoned with. This is why Madhouse wants to be involved financially in their future, I suspect, beyond the immediate concerns of cheaper labor.

I realize this is a bit of a ways from ‘Xam’d’ and Yasuo Muroi, but in a way, I think it’s an important factor to consider when we’re talking about young talent. It’s also partly a response to the comments on the ANN forums, which seemed rather negative toward inbetweeners and not understanding of the importance of their role in creating quality art. If anyone comes to AniPages from there are reads this, my comment is at least partly for you. As to the original topic, I do completely agree that CUT-212 is a wonderful piece of movement, and I will eagerly follow Yasuo Muroi from this point on. It’s always great to find new people to be excited about. I also will say, regarding money, that having more money allows not only for more key animators to come in and thus specialize on the scenes they most want to do, but it allows the animators to spend more time on each scene perfecting it if they are working at a studio that pays wages (versus ‘per piece’). Even if it is a ‘per piece’ studio, a bigger production budget can allow for each ‘piece’ to command more money, and thus let animators profit more by drawing fewer scenes. In general, the more you can specialize on crafting “your part” of the movie or episode, the better that part will be and the more it will reflect you. But of course, there are some people who like to do it all (Michio Mihara, anyone?), and that thrive under those opposite circumstances. There’s also the argument for the Kyoto Animation approach, where a small team (usually 8 key animators) will revolve from episode to episode and work together as a unit on a fixed time and budget. So, there are ways of getting good quality without a lot of money… but certainly, the money can really help, since it allows the animators more time and compensation to craft exactly what they want. If you don’t have those ideal conditions, then it’s only the spirit and dedication of the animators themselves that will pull the project through (and certainly, if the last two episodes of ‘Evangelion’ are any indication, that spirit and dedication can be tremendous and enough to cross the finish line even when no money is left).

11/05/08 @ 16:26
Leedar
Leedar [Visitor]  

It doesn’t matter all that much, but I must insist that the ‘uncorrected’ drawings are rough breakdowns. Breakdowns, if you are not familiar with the terminology, are the ‘important’ inbetweens, usually the first one between keys, that establish arcs and such. Step-framing the line test shows that these drawings at the least act like inbetweens, interpolating the yellow paper drawings before and after, with no new movement.

It appears to be a trend in all the genga line tests I’ve seen for the animator to provide rough breakdowns - to help see movement in the line test and/or help the dōgaman to see what was envisioned.

Also, I don’t think one ever sees final genga on the screen, excepting projects like Kid’s Story. The dōgaman do a clean trace of the final genga for the final dōga.

And… I’m sceptical of the outsourcing hypothesis, at least in relation to Korea.

11/06/08 @ 01:13
Peter  Chung
Peter Chung [Visitor]  

I’m amazed at the intensity of interest in the minutiae of studio animation technique by non-animators. I actually think this level of parsing is a bit obsessive.
The goal of the animation production system is to blend the contributions of individual artists into a seamless whole. I’m not sure I understand the drive to pick apart scenes and attach names to every individual frame - or in this case, each production phase of every frame.

The scene from Xam’d highlighted by Ben is excellent. The movement is well-observed and precisely executed. The important thing here is that it suits the style of the project for which it is used. It looks very much like the way an actual person would move if shot by a live action camera. Which is to say that, if an actor or stuntperson had moved in precisely this way in a live-action film, it would be completely unremarkable. Which may have been the animator’s goal.

What may not be understood by aficionados of animation technique is that most professional animators would prefer their efforts to be simply enjoyed by the broadest mainstream audience possible rather than gain the esteem of a small cult of fanatics. So to address the points raised by LainEverliving regarding the artistic growth of Korean animators– I’ll mention again that the majority of the Koreans choose to work on U.S. productions, and consider their level of success in that market superior to anything Japan can offer.
One of the motivators (apart from better pay) has been the high level of recognition Korean animators receive from the U.S. industry.

Yu Mun Jeong and Sang-Jin Kim have received Emmys for Clone Wars and Avatar. They are flown to Hollywood and attend the black-tie ceremonies.

http://www.variety.com/profiles/TVSeries/main/168550/Star+Wars:+Clone+Wars.html?dataSet=1
http://www.variety.com/profiles/TVSeries/main/175507/Avatar:+The+Last+Airbender.html?dataSet=1

Yu Jae Myung got the TV character animation Annie award for Avatar.
(I’ll also mention Li Hong’s storyboarding– he’s Chinese, he’s a good friend and a name to watch)
http://www.annieawards.org/34thwinners.html

Two more friends, both major talents, have been recruited by U.S. studios and are designing and directing in L.A.

Ki Hyun Ryu
http://blacksataguni.blogspot.com/
Ryu’s animatics for Boondocks:
http://blacksataguni.blogspot.com/search?q=boondocks

Oh Seung-Hyun

Most of these guys (and many more I won’t mention) have done their tours on Japanese shows. None of them have expressed an interest in going back.

11/06/08 @ 03:21
Random person
Random person [Visitor]  

Okay, it’s been so long since I’ve commented here that I’ve forgot whether my handle had a space in it or not.

But I just had to ask: LainEverliving, have you considered getting a blog/column to write all that stuff in? It really seems like a bit of a waste to have it all stuffed in the comments section of someone’s blog, as great of a blog it is. I really would urge you to start one; that’s much more likely to spread the interest and enthusiasm in animation as far as I can see.

While I’m here, I did have one reaction to Ben’s thoughts: I’ll try keep it short, but with regards to why animators don’t seem to aim for Muroi’s type of conscious, meaningful movement, I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest… that maybe most animators “can’t afford” to have that kind of interest in producing such animation. Both literally and in terms of cultivated mindset (not entirely their fault imo). Perhaps it overlaps a bit with what you mentioned, I think it does - unfortunately I’m entirely out of time now so I’ll just leave it at this (also I think I understand where Peter Chung is coming from but would like to politely disagree with the comparison to live-action film, although for probably pedantic reasons)

11/06/08 @ 07:03
Andrew
Andrew [Visitor]  

Bones is one of my favorite studios. They created Eureka 7 which is my favorite anime ever.

I also enjoy watching Xam’d and Soul Eater, although admittedly even though Xam’ds animation and soundtrack are awesome, I don’t really enjoy the story and I find the whole humanform/xam’d thing to be plain disgusting at times :o

11/06/08 @ 08:00
pete
pete [Member]

First I declare I am no film or animation expert.

Akira Kurosawa (and also Alfred Hitchcock though a little differently) said : “With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. With the same script, a mediocre director can produce a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can’t possibly make a good film".

This is why I feel sometimes confused with animation. in a live-action film or even theater it is easy to use the same approach, eg. say that scene is particularly artistic thanks to the acting of the actor or the direction or the photography or even the good script. Even though the film as a whole can leave a bad impression. But it seems to me that in film it is much harder to deconstruct and separate those elements than in animation and judge them individually.

But in animation things are really more varied. I think that is the main reason animators are overlooked. In film it is the actor who acts and interacts on his/her own but in animation the interaction is more difficult to produce.

In the interview you said Ben that you put more importance in directors at first and much later in animators. But I wonder in animation what is really the factor that makes a film good?

Are not also the scriptwriters (not the animators that are responsible for the screenplay) but those who write the script? I wonder whether a scriptwriter who except in animation works also in live-action or theater or graphic novels or literature can really be main the factor for the success of a film. Because script is the main thread the whole animated feature follows, guiding everything and helping also the director. Also the animators need to adapt to that specific script.

Because in film too, all pay attention to the director, the actors, the music etc, but no one bothers with the scriptwriter or the photographer. In animation something similar occurs too. But I think that in both cases scriptwriters are the ones to be ignored.

11/06/08 @ 11:04
Ben [Member]  

Just a quick comment about the money thing. I’m not by any means versed about budget issues or anything, but I’m quite aware of the obvious fact that having more budget can be an asset, if merely because it can give the animators more time to work their material. But what has long intrigued me about anime is that much of the best animation that I have seen was the result not of extended budgets, but precisely the opposite - of animators in the pressure-cooker of rolling TV anime deadlines creating some of the most spontaneous, fun and exciting animation I’ve seen from Japan or anywhere. Some of my favorite animation ever is Yoshiyuki Momose’s animation in Dokonjo Gaeru, where he regularly churned out a quarter episode’s worth of animation, filling it to the brim with as much fun movement as he could, as did all of the rotating animators on that show, which was one of the quintessential examples of how in anime the animators transformed limited animation into a richly expressive (and highly varied) means of expression belying the descriptor ‘limited’. Toshiyuki Inoue’s averment to the effect that it would actually probably not particularly change his work if he had more schedule kind of made it click in my head what it was about Japanese animation that I appreciated - it’s the way they’ve taken limited deadlines, limited animation and so on, and turned these constraints into an artistic challenge to create the most interesting work they could within all the constraints. In a general sense, all of anime has to some extent been impacted by this ‘holistically limited’ approach where they try to make the best out of little.

11/10/08 @ 11:41