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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Thursday, July 7, 2005

06:56:35 pm , 582 words, 851 views     Categories: Animation

Tide-Line Blue #1

I managed to catch the various Kazuhide Tomonaga episodes from the old New Lupin series a while back, and I was surprised to find that his solo episode, 14, turned out the be the one with the most interesting and active movement of the bunch. It's the one I was most looking forward to, but I'd figured he'd probably be holding back on the volume since he had to do it all himself. But just the opposite, while somewhat restrained overall like the rest, it was the only one that had the little exhilirating dashes of movement here and there and obvious enthusiasm and fun put into the act of moving the characters that I associate with the best of Telecom and his own work, as exemplified by the Miyazaki eps and Sherlock Hound.

Ever since his work on the 1984 Nemo pilot, and to a lesser extent the film itself, completed in 1989, I haven't really seen much that really screamed Tomonaga the way his work in the late 70s and early 80s did. One of the reasons is that I think he had moved on to doing other things like storyboarding and designing and so the focus was no longer on animation. I think Telecom had also probably grown and changed and become more mature, so the kind of craziness of those early years seems to have gradually disappeared for a more clean and ordered feeling. Telecom continued to be unique in Japan, but it kind of lacked the spark that I really liked about the early stuff.

Well, there was a chase in the first ep of Tide-Line Blue that had a bit of that early spark. Watching it I got the impression Telecom was deliberately making a nod to their early work, but looking at the credits, I was surprised to see Tomonaga listed at the top, which seemed to explain things. I can't imagine anyone but him being able to create that feeling. It was the first time in a long time I'd seen a bit of animation from Tomonaga that really felt like the good, early Tomonaga. It was still a little ruly, but the timing was totally characteristic and it was the only section that made me feel I was watching something from Telecom. I hope they keep trying to do that with the rest of the show. At the very least, Tomonaga storyboarded the next ep.

Overall I like Umanosuke Iida's approach to drama. This is the only thing I've seen from him apart from Space Miners, but I can immediately identify the unifying style in terms of the pacing and mood. The mix of closely observed reality with whimsicality works in a way only this director knows how to make it work. The web of relationships feels different from anything else, more convincing somehow. He certainly goes as far as he can in depicting the birth situation. I don't think I've ever seen animated water breaking. Even Akihiro Komori didn't go quite that far in his birth-themed episode of Arjuna. It's nice to see that he's going to have the chance to see at least one of his stories through to the end. My one complaint would be with the designs, which seem typical of all Telecom productions of late in that they're a little too... bland. It's just their approach, to play it safe and try to create things that will be popular anywhere. At only 13 episodes, the quality should be quite even and high.

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