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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Sunday, April 10, 2005

02:03:07 pm , 276 words, 3160 views     Categories: Animation

Speed Grapher #1

Hisashi Mori and Hiroyuki Okuno, the two figures responsible for one of the more unusual creations of recent memory, Samurai Seven #7, are credited with "design works" on this new series, which makes a promising beginning with this first episode. The flat look of the animation will be familiar to anyone who has seen Mori's past work, particularly his stint as animation director/character designer for Mamoru Hosoda's 2000 film Children's War Game. Hosoda's latest film also reportedly shares a similar feeling due to the similarly-inclined animation directors involved. The basic stance seems to be to focus on the form - outline - of a shape rather than its inner details, in order to get more movement out of every moment, which is something Masaaki Yuasa was already doing as far back as his early Shin-chan work. Hosoda mentions that shadows were not used in order to enrich the colors of his film, but obviously this tactic also helps to focus on movement over detail. Not all of the animation is up to par in this first episode, but much of it is, and overall it makes for a more compelling approach to the animation. Hopefully Mori will be doing some actual animation in the series. He's too interesting an animator to relegate to mere design work.

In addition to these two figures, the character designer of the series and director of the episode, Masashi Ishihama, has a lineage stretching back to Hakkenden, FLCL, Jin-Roh and even Yoshinori Kanada's episode of Popolo Crois. The directing is convincing, and there's a refreshing feeling of distance and aloofness in the pacing and framing that sets it apart from similar fare.

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31 comments

Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Not that I doubt you, but is there any proof or site or something that might say that Hisashi Nakayama = Hisashi Mori?

I’m hoping the animation doesn’t get outsourced too much seeing that Gonzo is not the only one producing this… I appreciated the character designs. I like it how the lines don’t cut into the hair but it’s not some stupid anti-gravity blob either. Some anime characters would make up 25% of the consumer base for hair gel.

That said, and even having liked the first ep, I still don’t trust Gonzo…

04/11/05 @ 06:18
Tsuka
Tsuka [Visitor]

Original Speed Grapher character-design is by Yuusuke Kozaki, aka KYMG, a great illustrator, and also a great gif-animator since a long time.

You can watch a special gif-animation he made for Speed Grapher website here

04/11/05 @ 20:40
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

No, there is no concrete proof, only my intuition again. I added stuff to the post that might help convince. And I won’t be expecting this quality every episode either, but we’ll see.

04/11/05 @ 22:12
tim_drage [Member]

Tsuka, that gif is great…

Someone should write a piece about the Japanese gif animation scene… there seem to be loads of those type of 1-bit anime gifs, but I’ve never found out much about where they come from or who makes them… I did once find the software used but PC only alas…

I really like them, some great animation and I love the black + white style… reminds me of my old Mac Plus days!

04/12/05 @ 08:23
Tsuka
Tsuka [Visitor]

Yes, in the new version of Catsuka (which will be loaded … one day) there will be a special area about this kind of gif-animation. A lot of asiatic fans make cool animations, I like a lot this format. I like the works of Nosferatu (see this page mainly) or Dead Karl for example.

04/12/05 @ 13:35
tim_drage [Member]

Cool, I look forward to that!

04/13/05 @ 05:27
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Thanks for the link, Tsuka… I thought that gif animation was great. I’m also impressed by some gif animations out there. There’s some really great stuff out there, because gif animation can bring out the essence of animation…

Speaking of new shows, I wonder if anybody ahs watched this one called Emma. It’s produced by the better side of Pierrot… worth checking out IMO.

04/15/05 @ 23:13
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Oh! And Satoru Utsunomiya in ep 2 of Aquarion…

04/16/05 @ 06:45
Vahid
Vahid [Visitor]

Just saw Speed Grapher #2. Have to say, it seems to be a resounding success. Better than the first ep, and a great setup for the story. Quite an original, interesting and seedy world they’re building. A good mix of camp and cool.

04/18/05 @ 09:45
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Satoru Utsunomiya is busy this season it seems. Not just Aquarion ep 2, but the Aquarion OP *and* the Eureka Seven OP.
More Itano Circus-esque-ness in Eureka Seven… The ED sequence was interesting; it didn’t seem to make use of 3D even though it would have been a lot easier if they used it. Yahoo!

04/20/05 @ 05:36
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

By now I must be really spamming your blog. Well, anyway, after checking again Norimoto Tokura is also in the Aquarion OP.
Though, frankly speaking, it’s all so polished, …

04/21/05 @ 03:37
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

I wasn’t that impressed by the op. The Utsunomiya was nice, but other than that it was mainly just robot cgi and re-used animation. I can’t even imagine where Tokura might have done. I still haven’t been able to figure out his work.

I’ve missed most of the good stuff this season… Eureka Seven, Zettai Shonen, Mushiking… I did catch Basilisk, which was amazingly well animated for a TV show. (Takashi Tomioka, Hiroyuki Okuno, Yu Maruyama, Takeshi Otsuka, Satoshi Ishino) Loveless wasn’t bad, and there was an interesting bit of animation done by I don’t know who. Precure 11 had a very strange bit of action drawn by Tatsuo Yamada - dynamic movement but really badly drawn. And I’m not talking drawn in a rough way that might look ‘badly drawn’ to untrained eyes but is in fact very good a la Samurai Seven 7, I’m talking just… bad, as in the AD must’ve been asleep or something.

04/21/05 @ 09:26
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Oh, you haven’t missed Zettai Shonen yet, it’s airing in May. I’m definitely looking forward to that because it’s Tomomi Mochizuki and Asia-do.
Eureka Seven had some neat stuff, interesting OP (Which had Shuuichi Seki…?!), more Itano worship, and an interesting ending sequence you may like: it’s a moving view of the cast sitting watching the sunset (or something) and it moves as if it’s 3D but it evidently is not.

04/22/05 @ 04:16
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Yeah, I remember hearing they had a hard time finding people to do the inbetweens for that ed. Supposedly it set a record for number of drawings in an ending at Bones. Looking forward to seeing it.

04/22/05 @ 15:55
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

That’s interesting to hear. Have you also checked out the Kino no Tabi movie? It’s been recently fansubbed. I’m about to watch it.

04/22/05 @ 18:28
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Just did. Is that the movie you were talking about? It looks like just an extra episode they made to commemorate the DVDs. I was suspicious when I saw that Ryutaro Nakamura wasn’t the director, and as expected… hrm. Disappointing. Not even as good as the least good eps of the TV series. I wanted to see some good new Kino, too.

I’ll finally be watching Eureka Seven today…

04/22/05 @ 18:32
Vahid
Vahid [Visitor]

currently downloading the Kino movie… say it ain’t so!

04/22/05 @ 19:11
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Yeah, I watched it too. It certainly didn’t mathc up to the Kino TV series.

I’m very sure there was a movie, though… From what I hear it’s not the actual movie tiself (who the hell makes a movie 30 minutes long?) but rather a something-or-the-other (Endama?) that was shown at a certain fair (not TAF)…

The actual movie really does exist, according to here: http://www.kinonotabi.com/ani_jyo.html It mentions the “full version” so I assume what we watched was not the full version. Sorry for the mix up.

Hm, and looking through some stuff it seems one of the animaiton directors of one of the better series this season, Emma, did work in a few eps of Gosenzosama Banbanzai. Yuko Kusumoto…

04/22/05 @ 21:46
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Good call. Actually she is the only person who did ka in all eps of Gosenzosama. I was trying to remember where I saw her name.

Have you seen the old meisaku series? (the ones from the 70s) You should watch those if you liked Emma.

04/22/05 @ 22:18
Vahid
Vahid [Visitor]

off topic: saw speed grapher #3. a slight drop from the first two stellar eps. the story is set up now but it’s not clear how the ‘free the girl’ story is gonna be made interesting. i do have faith though… let’s wait and see.

04/22/05 @ 22:39
Vahid
Vahid [Visitor]

also just saw the kino movie. yeah that wasnt a movie, but i thought it was a good little side ep about kino’s transformation. aren’t you guys being a little harsh on it? hope there is a full movie though!

04/22/05 @ 23:33
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Oh, it may still beat the heck out of all the otaku-pandering crap we have nowadays, but it doesn’t match to the TV series (although that may be a bit of a difficult task since it was a pretty good series)…

I have watched some of the 70’s meisaku series (though only one or two eps here and there because I don’t have enough $ to buy them… yet), and I’m not the only one thinking they’re not too far apart. I enjoy the small details and good audio etc. very much.

04/22/05 @ 23:47
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

And after watching Eureka Seven 2, I have to say the folks at BOnes must be housing a collection of Itano worshippers or something. One wonders if that’s the only way to animate rockets (but I’m not complaining so far).

I’d have almost thought I was watching Macross Plus at that point of time, honestly.

04/24/05 @ 04:16
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Well, Yasushi Muraki was involved. I mentioned him before. He’s the new Itano Circus freak. He’s sort of another Itano successor, like Masami Goto. Itano trained him on Macross Plus and then Zero, and worked together with him on the Bebop movie, and he’s now credited as “action choreographer” on Eureka, like Itano was on Plus just before… Muraki Circus, if you will.

My impression after the first ep is that it’s basically what I expected, though the characters didn’t move as much as I had hoped. Nonetheless the acting and drawings were full of nuance, since Yoshida was the AD. One thing that surprised me was the FLCL-ish mood in parts. Dai Sato’s script was good, as expected. Oh, and the ending was interesting as a tour-de-force, but honestly it felt like kind of waste to use so many drawings in a way that wasn’t impressive as animation. I remember thinking Norimitsu Suzuki was really good after seeing his endings for FMA.

The only names I recognized in the first ep were Seiichi Hashimoto, Atsushi Itagaki, Toshihiro Kawamoto. The second ep had Atsushi Itagaki and Seiichi Hashimoto again as well as FX animator Takashi Hashimoto and FMA “main animator” Koji Sugiura. Itagaki I first noticed back in Ninin and just recently Futa Alt. Other than that there were lots of names I’ve seen here and there, like Takahiro Komori, Eiji Tanaka…

04/24/05 @ 09:49
Vahid
Vahid [Visitor]

Saw Eureka Seven. Yeah, Sato is a good writer, but so far the show is a TOTAL ripoff of FLCL! The kid, the voice actor even, his character design, his being stuck in a town he wants to get out of (which just happens to have a huge and strange landmark). So far it seems like FLCL with surfing robots! Someone should sue for this…

04/26/05 @ 00:14
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Yeah, a lot of people noticed the FLCL similarities. So now what, the in-thing this season is Itano Circus and FLCL? :p

04/26/05 @ 03:34
Vahid
Vahid [Visitor]

two questions: what is Itano Circus, and just out of curiosity - why do anime productions tend not to use computer inbetweens? Couldn’t they improve the animation framerate with relatively hassle free software ? I’ve always wondered what the catch is…

04/26/05 @ 14:53
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

> what is Itano Circus

http://www.pelleas.net/aniTOP/index.php?p=172

There’s debate about how to define it precisely, but if you look at the work that gave rise to the term, what defines it basically boils down to one thing: moving perspective shots following flying objects. It doesn’t necessarily have to be missiles. What made them call it a “circus” was presumably that you were watching all these different things going on on the stage at the same time, with each object moving in its own trajectory and interacting with the others, which is what made it new and interesting. There seems to be a misconception that Itano Circus just refers to multiple missiles flying around the screen, because you see a lot of people copying that, but I think that’s just one part of what he developed. What was missing from Chikashi Kubota’s shot in Dead Leaves, for example, was the moving perspective, without which it lacks the feeling of Itano’s work. It’s rarer to see anyone copy the moving perspective, for the obvious reason that it’s hard, but to me that was the most exciting aspect of his contribution. Another trait is the smoke trails behind the missiles. Anno famously transplanted those smoke trails onto swords in his Itano Circus homage in Daicon IV. You can see the moving perspective, missiles, and smoke trails in one of the last things Itano actually animated in the traditional way in the opening sequence of Mahou Tsukai Tai OVA 1. Probably the best thing he’s done since moving to digital (and possibly among the best sequences of his career) is the fight in Macross Zero OVA 5. It’s hard to explain it in words, but once you see examples it’s easy to understand - it’s all about the feeling of exhiliration you get from Itano’s work. That’s something that’s lacking from his imitators - that feeling. Nobody’s been able to do it as good as Itano, though Yasushi Muraki is a brilliant animator and great in his own right.

> why do anime productions tend not to use computer inbetweens?

I’ve never heard of “computer inbetweens” for hand-drawn animation, so I can’t tell you.

04/26/05 @ 18:16
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Um, by the way, do you know anything about “Ashita Genki ni Nare", this film coming out later? Is it good stuff or trash? The character designs are by Tomonori Kogawa, from Ideon… It seems like a WW2 story. This is the site: http://www.ashita-genki.com/

04/27/05 @ 04:21
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

I can’t know if it’s good or trash until I’ve seen it, but I gather it’s going to be a typical anti-war children’s film in the vein of Ushiro no Shoumen Daare, of which it’s a continuation.

04/27/05 @ 09:30
Owen Carson
Owen Carson [Visitor]

Apparently there’s now computer software that does correct inbetweens, but it doesn’t look right so I hear.

05/07/05 @ 17:54