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|Ogawa Hiroshi, 1992||Shizuka Hayashi, 1996|
Crayon Shin-chan acts as a kind of handy petri dish for examining the stylistic evolution of a handful of animators over a number of years. Whereas most animators, freelance or studio-tied, work on a variety of shows over time, making it harder to pin down sylistic changes throughout the years, the Shin-chan TV series was drawn largely by the same group of twenty or so people throughout the fifteen years it's been broadcast since 1992, with a few figures dropping in and out along the way, so it's easy to follow the evolution of each figure as they draw the same characters over this unusually long time frame.
Generally speaking, there appears to be a basic trend of moving away from the rounded look of the early episodes, presumably based closely on the original comic, to a more angular and individualistic approach where individual style is more prone to being expressed. Not all of the animators develop a strikingly individual style, but some do, and even those who don't can nevertheless be differentiated, showing that individuality will out even in commercial animation; it's just harder to tell elsewhere.
From the little I've sampled of the early episodes, it looks like a regular show from the period, with somewhat flat, timid lines, without the traits that came to make the show look rather different from everything out there - the frilly lines, bold angular shapes, tapered limbs, personal approach to movement.
But even at this early stage you can differentiate between the animators, even though they're basically adhering to the model. In this early stage you can see people like Shizuka Hayashi and Masami Otsuka, the two regulars who later developed perhaps the most personal approach to drawing and movement in the show (alongside less frequent participants like Sueyoshi and Yuasa), still drawing somewhat like everyone else, though you can maybe catch an embryonic whiff of their later style.
Compare the early work by Yuichiro Sueyoshi in this ep with his later work in the short feature Made in Saitama (he did the Himawari A-Go-Go section), where he does his moving perspective animation thing for which he had become known by that time. At what time he began to be interested in background animation I don't know, but it was obviously under the influence of Yuasa's background animation for the Chibi Maruko-chan TV series opening and movie sequences and later Shin-chan openings. Shizuka Hayashi developed her own unique style relatively early on in the show, as can be seen in the extreme angularity and great sense for movement in this ep from 1996, and seems to have kept that style fairly evenly since then. (Compare with the most recent work of the two from last year's movie - Sueyoshi / Shizuka.) Masami Otsuka's individualism is said to have varied over the years, but I haven't seen enough of it to be able to comment.
All that said, individuality appears to be to some extent inversely proportional to output, as figures like Hiroshi Ogawa and Zenpo Higuchi, who at first sight have a more anodyne style (Ogawa is the main character designer, so that is only natural), are extremely prolific compared to the other animators. At the beginning it appears Ogawa was bearing much of the brunt of the work because there weren't enough people in rotation, though later the rotation is much more smooth. Hayashi, Otsuka, Yuasa et al. were also the people doing a lot of the animation work on the movies each year, which is probably the main reason why we don't see them as often in the TV series. Shinei knew to siphon their good movers into the films to load them with as much interesting movement as possible. There also appear to be a number of animators not even involved in the TV series but especially kept for the films because of their skill with action scenes, like Masahiro Ando and Hiroyuki Nishimura.
I would be curious to see Masaaki Yuasa's early work, as he was in fact involved right from the beginning, and nobody can be said to have developed in a more extremely personal direction than he has. He did ep 32 part b and c, broadcast 21 December 1992. By that time he had already done the Chibi Maruko-chan shorts and op/ed, which are still among his best work, so I would suspect that his work in the show might be fairly identifiable. Those of you starving for some new Masaaki Yuasa can see the TV series opening he did in 1997, "Nenju Muchi I Want You".
Modulus of Misae Angularity:
This is quite an amazing article. Now that Cartoon Brew plugged it I hope people in the cartoon community (as opposed to the “anime community") will read this. In John Kricfalusi’s blog’s comments there was some interesting talk about how modern cartoons simply don’t evolve, or become rather boring because there’s too little freedom for the artist to do creative stuff. The best example people were talking was The Simpsons, and how the series were actually more interesting and dynamic visually in its beginning, when the artists probably could try different things or just were not required to stay on model as much.
I was about to mention the Brew entry myself. I personally felt the best season The Simpsons ever had was it’s first (much like the way John K. would harp about the Flinstones’ first season being the same too), it just had so much potential but the producers just couldn’t let the animators do what they wanted (I soley miss Wes Archer’s “twister mouths").
Hi, arrived from Brew, and I absolutely LOVE Shin-chan!! It makes me (and my mom) laugh so hard! even though I’m 29, and my mom is over her forties, which shows how this show is for people of all ages… well, except kids :P
Anyway, just wanted to say that Gabriel is right. Right now there are many shows where there isn’t a character development, who I think is a natural thing to happen. Take for example “Foster’s home for imaginary friends". That show is made in Flash, so there’s no need to do many new drawings, just use some already made and voilá, done. I think that it makes you a slave of the tools instead of you being the master.
Damn, I think I went out of topic. Just wanted to say thanks for this great article :)
Wow, thanks very much Amid! I have to agree with what he says too. I’ve long felt the same way about the Simpsons. I’ve always found it became unwatchable very quickly. I distinctly remember how free and loose the drawings were in the early episodes, and miss that.
Unfortunately, in the examples above, the off model drawings aren’t very good. I don’t know if I’d want to give the animators the latitude to interpret my designs to the possible detriment of the show. It isn’t like the Chuck Jones reinterpretations of Tom and Jerry - and his design decisions had more to do with economy than style. It’s no surprise John K celebrates drawing off model, it works for his style, but for a syndicated show like the Simpsons, where episodes are likely to be seen out of order, consistency is needed.
I am a man of 30’s but I still like Sinchan.