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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Tuesday, May 9, 2006

05:02:25 pm , 604 words, 2885 views     Categories: Animation, OVA

SFA Generations

A little curiosity that many people may have overlooked over here is the Street Fighter Alpha: Generations OVA released here not long ago. Normally I would hardly have been curious about it, but the preview caught me off-guard. It was easily some of the best fighting action I've ever seen. My first reaction on seeing it was surprise that Shinji Hashimoto was involved and I hadn't heard about it. In fact, he's not, and most of the animators were unknown to me, but anyone interested in that school of animation will want to have a look at this, because this is obviously of that lineage.

The direcor is Ikuo Kuwana, who started out at Ghibli but quickly escaped and went freelance. I'd seen his name before, but didn't know anything about him. It feels like with this film he's officially announced his presence. It's his directing debut, but he shows that he can create some potent and convincing drama. I came away from the film feeling he had studied Hamaji's Resurrection very closely. It feels like his attempt to make the new Hamaji's Resurrection, both in terms of the realistic movement and the drawings that change dramatically from one animator to the next, and in terms of the subdued realistic directing.

The drawings are wonderfully stylized in certain cases, like the old man pictured here, with lines well used to create realistic features. In close-ups in particular they put great effort into little details that differentiate each face. It's curious, though, because at other times the drawings are sub-par and clearly went uncorrected, and it becomes obvious that they must simply not have had time to get around to it because they spent such an inordinate amount of time on the rest of the drawings. The unevenness actually feels good. It makes for a nice variety of touch.

Naturally the action is the main attraction, but what makes me happy with the piece as a whole is that the directing and drama are fairly well handled, which wasn't a given with this material. Early on, the narrative jumps without warning between different times the way the first ep of Hakkenden did, which can make it difficult to follow, but it's still effectively done, and actually reinforces the parallels. According to the interview on the disc, the voice-actors didn't understand the character interrelations until they talked about it in the interview. (I'm very disappointed that they interviewed the voice actors but failed to interview the director.)

I can't identify who did which scene because I've never heard of most of the animators except for Hiroyuki Imaishi, whose simple drawings make his scene stand out from the rest. He actually sticks out, because the emphasis otherwise is on drawing lots of lines to create realistic-seeming detail, at least in a Fist of the North Star kind of way. What's interesting about the drawings here is that they're a step beyond that sort of stereotyped drawing in a more realistic direction.

Perhaps one of the reasons I didn't hear about it was that it hasn't even been released in Japan yet. I don't think I've ever heard of such a thing. Ikuo Kuwana has shown that he could do some interesting work with this piece, so I look forward to seeing what he does after this.

Street Fighter Alpha Generations
Director & Character Design:
Ikuo Kuwana 桑名郁朗

Mitsuhiro Yamada 山田光洋

Animation Directors:
Masahiro Kurio 栗尾昌宏
Toshimitsu Kobayashi 小林利光
Daisuke Takemoto 武本大介

Key Animation:
Hajime Shimomura 下村一
Takeo Oda 小田剛生
Hiroyuki Imaishi 今石洋之
Takehiko Matsumoto
Kazuhiro Sato
Daizen Komatsuda 小松田大全
Kazuhiro Ota 大田和寛
Akinori Hosaka
Tsutomu Kikuchi 菊池勉
Shinji Shimizu
Yukikazu Yamagishi 山岸徹一
Keiichi Sasaba 笹場啓一
Takahiro Nakayama 中山岳洋
Masahiro Higashio



Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Wow, interesting. A few of them have gone over to Bones (Takeo Oda, Daizen Komatsuda, Tsutomu Kikuchi) and even Ikuo Kuwana… I remember his name from Eureka 7, and now that I check it up he was the AD for the great ep 26 (and was in OPs 3 and 4).

I’ve always wondered about that Hajime Shimomura, he did co-CDs for the GITS:SAC series and IG’S KoF thingy, but I don’t see this person around much at all. I suppose he is one of those people who draw very neatly but don’t animate much, or a penname…

05/10/06 @ 03:35
Ben [Member]  

That’s an interesting connection. I think I remembered his name from the recent Eureka ops, but it’s neat to see that he was one of the people behind 26.

There’s actually a good list of his work available here

Interesting to note he was in Dead Leaves. I’m wondering if the reason for his involvement in Eureka might not have something to do with the fact that both he and Kenichi Yoshida started out as “kenshusei” or trainees at Ghibli. Funny how both of them left on less-than-good terms with the Studio.

I’d be surprised if Shimomura Hajime was a pen name, though you’re right, it does sort of sound like one. Also, since he’s listed at the top in this OVA, that means he drew the most, so he obviously must have been responsible for some of the better animated parts in the film. Though of course, it all comes back to the question of what the order in credits means. If it’s just number of shots, as I’ve always assumed it is, it doesn’t necessarily mean the best bits are at the top… you can still have drawn the most shots and not have done almost any animation compared to another guy. Oftentimes the interesting bits by the best animators are listed in the middle somewhere. So who knows.

05/10/06 @ 14:14
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Interesting! Thanks for the link. I don’t know very much about Yoshida’s problem with Ghibli just yet, but I think I can get a vague idea. Which is quite fascinating on its own since Ghibli seems like a God of production studios in the anime industry and a lot of animators probably dream of working there. (I think.)

I’m interested in watching this episode 33 of Gallery Fake now, to see what his non-genga work is like.

From my (not vast) experience I’ve also noticed that the good/interesting animators usually seem to be in the middle, or in a special position at the end. With some exceptions like Matsumoto being at the top in ep 12? of Noein, or when it’s in alphabetical order.

05/11/06 @ 21:15
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

This is terribly offtopic, but in case you’re interested, Tatsuzou Nishida’s in episode 21 of Mushishi that aired recently. There is this nice bit with a liquid sloshing around in a bottle forming a face, and also a bit earlier where some children morph into a strange form and then into a gas, and for a few moments they look very Utsunomiyatic (though I’m pretty sure he wasn’t involved, not even uncredited)
Maybe he did those.

05/16/06 @ 11:12
Ben [Member]  

I’ve also heard that Umakoshi and Yamashita are involved (right?), so it wouldn’t surprise me if they did some nice stuff in the ep. Looking forward to seeing it.

05/16/06 @ 11:24
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Coming in 2 weeks late, yes, both of them are there. I’ve yet to catch up on the other episodes though; but I expect they’ll be of equally good quality.

Regarding your recent posts on Koichi Arai + Daisuke Nishio, have you watched this show called “Crying Freeman” (Cryingフリーマン) ? Not the movie, but the 90’s OVA. Arai is the CD and Nishio apparently did one episode. I’m guessing you’d have watched it , in which case would you say it’s worth watching (just that one episode, that is)?

I also caught up with Eureka 7 very recently. It really was well produced for a recent 50-episode show, visuals wise… Yuriko Chiba was one of the ADs in the last episode. She has a particular way of drawing the lines that really captures the essence of Yoshida’s designs, I feel.

05/30/06 @ 21:53
Ben [Member]  

That first new ep of Mushishi was pretty hard-hitting. Good stuff though. There were a few moments where I really thought I could feel Yamashita’s hand, though I can’t be certain. Those moments just had the feeling of meticulous realism that I get from Hosoda’s stuff, especially in terms of the layout.

Haven’t watched any Crying Freeman, because it didn’t interest me at the time, though I’m curious to see it now.

I tend to focus more on animators and ignore the ADs, but there are definitely some ADs out there who can bring good stuff to a show, the way Arai did with 3x3 Eyes, and Chiba’s certainly one of them, as is Yoshida. I remember quite liking the eps of Noein where Akira Takada was AD. But yes, I think it goes without saying that Eureka was technically very well produced overall. Most Bones stuff is, but with Eureka you got the feeling they were calling in lots of good animators from all over the place, and presumably Yoshida had much to do with that. The presence of Yoshida and Muraki seemed to act like a big magnet pulling in good animators.

Anyway, it’s definitely nice to finally have a female animator making a name for herself the way Chiba is. I’ve been waiting for another big female animator to appear on the scene since the days of Kazuko Nakamura and Reiko Okuyama, though natch there have been a few in the intervening years… just no ‘karisumas’. (well, apart from Atsuko Fukushima)

05/31/06 @ 14:42
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Yes, you’re right… I’ve always been wondering about female animators in anime… Yuriko Chiba has that nice way of drawing and did an excellent job with Planetes character design (which I believe you mentioned liking as well somewhere). There was that female Gainax animator you mentioned once - Ayumi Shiraishi - who did some interesting stuff in Hosoda’s One Piece film and in the Tsubasa film, but I haven’t seen anything else by her yet.

Unless a number of them have been secretly going under male pseudonyms all this time.

06/02/06 @ 00:05
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Heh, I just couldn’t help but notice this particular oddity… In an upcoming Gonzo show titled “NHK ni Youkoso", the character designs are by a Takahiko Yoshida, and a veeery strange sounding name…. Tomoo Uminato (右湊具央)? But when you look at this picture for it, I wonder if you end up seeing and thinking “Ishihama Masashi” if you don’t look closely? Especially that style of drawing.
It’s just amusing how he put a different name that looks like it but actually shares no characters… I guess he did this halfway for Gonzo and then left them, because he’s not the sou-kantoku and he isn’t even credited in some places.
Well, if I were him I’d hate Gonzo too, seeing how they treated Speed Grapher…

06/15/06 @ 23:41
Ben [Member]  

Yeah, I saw that too… pretty inventive use of a pen name. I haven’t really followed what’s going on with this show credit-wise, but maybe he just drew the hanken and isn’t actually involved? Been kind of out of it lately.

06/16/06 @ 10:15