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, June 13, 2004

01:37:56 pm , 752 words, 2488 views     Categories: Animation

Stand-outs

It's pretty rare for me to watch a whole series from start to end. More often than not with anime, there's simply no need, because once you've seen one episode, you've seen them all - and sometimes even one episode is more than you wanted to see! The first episode is often a good place to stop, too, because it's often the best produced in the entire series. Occasionally, however, you get one-shots in the middle of a series that stand out from the rest for whatever reason - usually because of the staff that were involved in that particular episode. Today I'll point out a few such instances in recent anime to illustrate my point.

Naruto #30, #71 - The two episodes that stand head and shoulders above the rest of the series in terms of extravagant and kick-ass action animation. And what army was responsible for it all? An army of two: Atsushi Wakabayashi (storyboard, director, animation director, animator) and Norio Matsumoto (animator). (check out this site for a selection of clips from episode 30)

Popolo Crois (2004) #6 - In this much-talked-about episode, famous animator Yoshinori Kanada, using the pseudonym Isuke Togakushi, staged a sort of comeback to the genre of wild action that had made him famous in the 70s/80s after many years of absence. Alongside him were a number of animators in the Kanada "school" - animators who had grown up watching Kanada, and had become animators because of Kanada: Hiroyuki Imaishi, Masahito Yamashita, Yo Yoshinari. A very moving meeting of like-minded animators, the episode is a wild bash of kinetic freestyle animation of the sort that you just don't see anymore, which is something I for one miss. Where has this sort of freedom gone?

Rahxephon #15 - One of the great realistic animators of the last decade or so, Mitsuo Iso, mounted his directing debut in this episode, which is radically different (and better) than the rest of the episodes in terms of both directing and animation. The animation is subtle and realistic, as befitting the style Iso has pioneered. Iso himself presumably animated the absolutely spellbinding part where the rocks crumble into the water. Nobody can draw animation like this but Iso. No contest: the best episode in the series, without even having seen any of the other episodes.

Puchi Puri Yuushi #7 - Hiroyuki Imaishi turned this episode of an otherwise ordinary moe Gainaix show into an action free-for-all that stands out in stark contrast to the rest of the series.

Abenobashi Shotengai #3 & #12 - Maybe each episode of this series was purposely made in a unique style to match the gimmick of the week, but none of them were half as good as Hiroyuki Imaishi's episodes, which really stand out from the rest.

Haibane Renmei #8 & #13 - This series (an instant classic, to be sure) had a stable but rather monotone animation style, whereas for some reason these two episodes were conspicuously better animated - although some actually complained about this because they found the stylistic change jarring. Rumors have it that Norio Matsumoto, the most important TV animator of the last decade, was responsible, though he isn't listed in the credits. Take particular note of the short but superb cut of the crow alighting from the windmill around 15 minutes in to episode #8. To say nothing of the shot of flying into the well, and the extraordinary animation of the climactic train scene in the last episode.

Kareshi Kanojo no Jijo #19 - The infamous paper cutout episode by Hiroyuki Imaishi needs no explanation.

Digimon #21 - Although not a stand-out in terms of the animation, this episode is definitely one of the more famous stand-outs of recent years in terms of the directing, by up-and-coming director Mamoru Hosoda (the guy who declined Ghibli's invitation to direct Howl's Moving Castle, and who went on to direct the first two Digimon movies, which I intent to write about later). The sense of stasis and distanciation created by the frequent framing of shots using a wide-angle lens (or its animated simulacrum), the sense of rhythm created by staccato cuts between slow pans, the characteristic use of photorealistic backgrounds modeled directly on existing housing projects, the pervasive silence and background buzz of ambient sounds, the focus on everyday life, the minute attention to detail - all of these things, so unexpected within the context of Digimon, make this episode a classic instance of a stand-out episode, for which reason our picture of the day comes from here.

I think that'll do for now.

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2 comments

Nikko
Nikko [Visitor]  

Your comment on RahXephon #15 really irritates me. Do you often watch only one episode in the middle of a series, and ignore the rest, while simultaneously praising that one episode as the “best"?

No offense though, I like the blog. =)

08/07/07 @ 17:53
Ben [Member]  

Sorry about that. That was certainly an obnoxious thing to say. I had actually watched the first three or four episodes of Rahxephon when I wrote that, in addition to a few episodes surrounding episode 15. In fact I’ve watched (at least) a number of episodes of all of the other shows I mention here. That’s why I thought these episodes were stand-outs, because I knew how different they are from the other episodes.

08/14/07 @ 16:32