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, November 13, 2011

05:02:00 pm , 862 words, 3724 views     Categories: Animation

Sadahiko Sakamaki's storyboards for Taiga Adventure

Sadahiko Sakamaki is an animator who's been active since the late 1970s. He appears frequently in the Tokyo Movie episodes of the second Lupin III series, having even done a few half-half episodes with Yuzo Aoki. In the ensuing years he worked as an animator on various shows like Belle and Sebastian and Cobra before moving to Nippon Animation, where he remained for many years, notably doing character designs for Spaceship Sagittarius and Jungle Book. Spaceship Sagittarius was a great show due to the script and Sakamaki's simple but appealing and out-there designs of the various aliens. He reportedly drew a lot of rough key animation in the show as well. His style comes through well in Jungle Book, with its simple and appealing animal character designs well-suited to creating active movement.

One of the last things Sakamaki did at Nippon Animation was a 24-episode show called Taiga Adventure that ran from October 1999 to April 2000. This show was unfortunately neglected due presumably to the fact that the producers made the greedy and unfortunate decision to attempt to associate the show with Hayao Miyazaki's Future Boy Conan by calling it Future Boy Conan II: Taiga Adventure instead of just Taiga Adventure, even though the show had absolutely nothing to do with Future Boy Conan. They just wanted to capitalize on one of their hottest properties. I myself dismissed the show out of hand because of that fact when it came out. I regret having done so now, because it looks like Sakamaki put a lot of sweat and tears into this project, and it doesn't look that bad, but the show is pretty much impossible to find now, having only been released on VHS many years back.

Sakamaki was the brain behind the whole show. He came up with the concept and the story, drew the character designs, and drew storyboards for almost every episode - not ekonte, but storyboards in the western sense of the word, as in a series of drawings to give a sense of the flow of the story, based upon which a proper ekonte was presumably drawn afterwards. The director of the show wasn't him but Keiji Hayakawa, who I wrote a post about before because of his excellent storyboarding work on Spaceship Sagittarius. The two had worked together even before Spaceship Sagittarius: Keiji Hayakawa was the chief director of Belle & Sebastian. They continue to work together even today. They recently teamed up on several episodes of The Galaxy Railways and Kyou Kara Maou, Hayakawa doing storyboard and directing and Sakamaki acting as sakkan.

Sakamaki has lately become active on the web, with his own web page. He's been kind enough to post a series of animatic-style footage of these storyboards on his Youtube page.

His storyboard videos are very nice to look at. At a basic level, it's just nice to savor his appealing rough drawings, as he's a master with the pencil, able to quickly sketch out all sorts of characters in all sorts of dynamic poses. But more than that, watching these animatics gave me a newfound appreciation for a side of Sadahiko Sakamaki I didn't know before - that of an all-powerful anime creator who can conceptualize a whole show from the ground up, including mapping out every shot in almost every episode. He's able to come up with, string together and convincingly draw so many characters and situations (I'm sure he could animate them too if he had time). Not many people have done that in anime except for Hayao Miyazaki. They make me want to see the actual show, although I suspect the actual show won't have the very nice flavor of Sakamaki's lively and skillful rough drawings.

Sadahiko Sakamaki also uploaded three 7-minute animatics for a new show he's working on called Go, Lesser!. The subject is interesting. It's about animals left behind by their owners after a nuclear disaster. It's inspired by true stories of such events that played in the news after the Fukushima disaster. I'm not quite sure whether he's doing this on the side, by himself, or whether this is a project that's actually under production somewhere.

It's a real pleasure to watch his animatics. I like his whole aesthetic and visual style. He feels like an emissary from an older time in anime, with his simply drawn but lively characters going on grand adventures. There's something in his work that reminds me of what it is that attracted me to anime in the first place, but that's been lost today. It does remind me of Future Boy Conan, but not because it mimics that style. It's because he seems one of the last living people able to create that kind of sprawling, fun, sci-fi action-adventure on a large scale.

Sadahiko Sakamaki is still active full-time as an animator and animation director. He now has his own small subcontractor production studio called Delta Peak Production, which has done the animation for episodes of many shows including Metal Fighter Miku, Ayakashi, The Galaxy Railways and Akikan. Sakamaki always acts as the sakkan for the episodes outsourced to his studio. Sakamaki even drew solo episodes in episode 2 and 8 of Akikan.


1 comment

pete [Member]

thanks for the post Ben. Nice to see a more intimate side of an animator who worked in some of the best chidren’s show worldwide, still favored by millions, but veiled in anonymity regarding the staff involved.

Even from his drawings you feel the aura that he does something special.

I was interested in the “sequel” of Future Boy Conan myself but couldnt find not even one episode.

11/14/11 @ 11:19