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 7, 2011

05:56:00 pm , 929 words, 3763 views     Categories: Animation, TV

Guilty Crown #4 / Idolm@ster #18

Ryotaro Makihara and Akitoshi Yokoyama, two of my favorite people in the anime industry right now, both played major parts in Masaaki Yuasa's last two TV series Kaiba and Tatami Galaxy. In the absence of a Masaaki Yuasa project to work on, they haven't been idle. They both just directed a TV episode for different studios that just happened to air right around the same time. Ryotaro Makihara directed episode 4 of I.G.'s Guilty Crown and Akitoshi Yokoyama directed episode 18 of Gainax's Idolm@ster.

Guilty Crown #4

Ryotaro Makihara's episode of Guilty Crown was pretty impressive. It's a nice show of force from an up-and-coming young director. This is only his third episode storyboarded/directed. He started out as an inbetweener in 2002, did his first key animation in 2004, debuted as a sakkan in 2008 on Kaiba episode 11, debuted as an enshutsu in 2009 on Umimonogatari #11, and debuted as a storyboarder/enshutsu on Tatami Galaxy episode 3. He also acted as sakkan once more on Tatami Galaxy episode 9. It was just earlier this year that he storyboarded/directed his second episode, Fractale #7. I also talked about his animation throughout both shows in my posts on Kaiba and Tatami Galaxy. Incidentally, Makihara started out at Telecom before going freelance, which perhaps in some small measure helps account for his unique approach.

Many parts of the preceding episodes were actually rather impressive as well, but in a more stiff and sanitized way. They were technically well made, with obviously a lot of work put into the visuals, but somehow they didn't really 'wow' me the way episode 4 does. It's hard to put your finger on what it is. Makihara just has a sense for how to create a great rhythm and flow, and you can sense his personal touch in the episode in various subtle ways, without it becoming distracting.

I like the way Makihara controls the flow of the action and the visuals. The layouts guide the eye effortlessly without being overly stylized or striving for effect. The lighting in the dark building is carefully handled in each shot to build a tense atmosphere, with the mixture of red and yellow emergency lighting. The acting is more convincing and intimate in Makihara's hands due to the way he stages and times the line delivery. The timing of the characters' reactions feels more 'right' than usual. The screen also has more depth than usual - for example, the people on the subway fade away in the distance. Even the stills that come on screen during the expository monologue about what happened in the past feel particularly nice for some reason.

The part that really blew me away is the climax, which is full of splendid animation and action choreography. The way the protagonist uses the clumps of water floating in the air to propel himself upwards was ingenious and exciting. The character animation where the protagonist plunges his hand into Kenji Kido's chest was convincing in the acting and timing, for example the way he at first stares in shock before yanking his head back with his eyes shut. I love the layout of the action of the shot where the protagonist shoots the gun for the first time and the recoil kicks him out of the fountain. The animation of the protagonist as he shoots the gun twice afterwards towards the oncoming mecha is really beautiful. The tension builds and builds until the moment when he steps on the floating globule of water and runs upwards. Quite an amazing sequence.

Animators in Guilty Crown episode 4 include: Natsuko Shimizu, Mamoru Kurosawa, Isao Hayashi, Itazu Yoshimi, Fumiaki Kota, Yasunori Miyazawa, and Ryotaro Makihara himself. Did Itazu Yoshimi perhaps do the part with Kenji Kido? It felt Denno Coil-ish.


Idolm@ster #18

Akitoshi Yokoyama's episode of Idolm@ster was well produced, but not really worth going out of your way to watch just for his work like Makihara's episode of Guilty Crown. I find other episodes showcase Yokoyama's prowess better (see the list below). I guess that's as it should be: This audience of this episode isn't Yokoyama fans; it's the viewers of this show.

I personally would prefer to see more personal work showcasing Yokoyama's unique vision as a director, but what I can say is that this episode showcases the consummate professional in Yokoyama. He can switch between radically different projects and deliver work that is not only true to the spirit and style of the project, but that one-ups everything else with its quality. That's simultaneously the good thing and the bad thing about Japanese anime professionals: they come in and do great work on even shows whose content isn't interesting to me. That's what I love about anime, but at the same time I can't help wishing more of them were a little more picky about what projects they did. If nobody cares what material they do, no wonder we don't see more ambitious projects. I guess putting food on your family comes first, especially when times are tough and interesting projects are few and far between.

Here's a list of episodes storyboarded and directed by Yokoyama. He also drew storyboards for many other episodes without directing them, but the ones he directed as well are the ones where his personality comes through the most so I'll just list those here. He debuted as an inbetweener at Studio Gallop in 1985, drew his first key animation in 1987, and drew his first storyboard on Turn A Gundam in 1999.

Episodes storyboarded and directed by Akitoshi Yokoyama

2002: Rahxephon 6, 12, 18, 24
2003: King Gainer 14
2004: Samurai Champloo 21
2006: Kemonozume 5
2007: Tenpo Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi 12
2007: Denno Coil 3
2008: Kaiba 2 3 7 9
2009: Naruto Shippuden 131
2010: Tatami Galaxy 2 4 9
2011: Deadman Wonderland 11
2011: Idolm@ster 18

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