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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Friday, July 21, 2006

10:26:40 pm , 462 words, 1031 views     Categories: Animation, TV

Welcome to the NHK

Gonzo is a reliable animation studio in a sense. You can rely on them to make a tremendously interesting first episode, and then let the rest of the series go down the toilet. I was prepared to enroll in the Speed Grapher fan club after the first episode, but was traumatized by the rest. It makes sense that Hisashi Mori didn't want to be too involved in it. Similarly, I can understand very clearly why Masashi Ishihama, character designer of NHK, didn't want to be involved in the actual series, and went so far as to use a pen name for his character designer credit. Who would want his name forever besmirched by association with a series in which his designs were guaranteed to be raped at leisure over the length of 13 or 26 episodes?

Well, it's deja vu time. I was enraptured by the first episode of Welcome to the NHK. Maybe it's far from perfect, and they seem to have compromised a lot in the adaptation, but I haven't read the original, so that wasn't a big concern to me. It was just great to finally see a show bringing the issue of hikikomori out into the bright light of day in an intelligent, non-pandering, believable fashion. I could relate to the main character in a way I haven't been able to relate to any analagous character in this sort of show in years. The humor was for the most part dead-on and not overdone. The sequence of Sato's triumphal march into the outside world to apply for a part-time job in a desperate attempt to break out of his three-year stint as a shut-in (going on four) was hilarious and tremendously poignant at the same time. I thought they really nailed the pathetic irony of the whole situation, with that great driving guitar ballad in the background. The music and sound design were great throughout. The animation was passable. The op by Ishihama was the animation hilight, with art by the Easter Gumi, who did the art for Cossette and a number of other nice ops in recent years.

In comes episode two. This is when I finally remembered that I have a short memory. Surprise surprise, it's ep 2 of Speed Grapher all over again. The dazed confusion. The disbelief. I was actually so appalled by the animation that I could not fully immerse myself in the story for a single moment. The story is interesting enough that I'll still follow it, but it's still disappointing. It is possible for a show to be worth watching for reasons other than the animation. But only barely.

On an unrelated note, the reviews have been pouring in for Goro Senki, and I've never seen so many one-star reviews of a Ghibli film.

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12 comments

Muffin
Muffin [Visitor]

Ouch ouch Ouch…poor Goro.

07/22/06 @ 01:33
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Heh, Goro Senki…
I love the irony of Hosoda’s film airing at the same time and doing so much better.

Interesting take on Gonzo. You really can rely on them to screw up shows after the first episode…

I love the whacky music too, and I always enjoy watching the ending sequence for some reason. Isn’t it nice how this aired right after Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu - one of the biggest otaku crazes in recent time?

07/22/06 @ 02:55
Eirik
Eirik [Visitor]

You should check out the manga. It’s so morbid and funny at the same time.

07/22/06 @ 04:49
Daniel Zelter
Daniel Zelter [Visitor]

The only Gonzo anime I’ve liked thus far is Hellsing, but then I’ve only seen the first three eps. Haven’t given Gankutsuou a shot, but the animation technique seems slightly gimmicky to me, and I’m not sure the story will be able to live up to it.

Anyway, the irony of the negative response to Gedo Senki is I jokingly called it the “Ghibli equivalent of Battle Royale II". But I don’t think it can be much more disappointing than Goro-san’s dad’s last two films. To be fair to Goro, though, it is a little ambitious for his debut.

07/23/06 @ 01:20
Daniel Thomas
Daniel Thomas [Visitor]

Are those Yahoo reviews from critics, or ordinary people? That’s probably the crucial thing. I wouldn’t worry one way or another until the papers start rolling in. Isn’t there a Japan equivalent to Rotten Tomatoes?

Question: just what are the implications if Gedo Senki fails at the box office? What if it’s a great success? The Ghibli studio is entering a challenging time in any event. As for me, all I ask for is a really good movie. They’ve never disappointed me yet.

07/23/06 @ 01:31
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

I think they’re from ordinary people. However, I’ve vaguely heard the same negative reaction from other places as well. I don’t know if they’re biased against a newbie directing a *Ghibli* film, or if it’s just bad.

If it flops at the box office, I hope they might think about trying something different - seeing that the old designs aren’t always going to work. Then again, they might understand it as a sign not to get “new” people to direct films, and I suppose we still won’t see any new directors for some time more.

07/23/06 @ 01:51
Daniel Thomas
Daniel Thomas [Visitor]

Well, that’s the crisis for the studio. The old masters won’t be around for much longer (although Miyazaki will never retire - clearly, he’ll die on his desk), and Ghibli needs to find a new generation of directors to continue the studio’s successes. That’s why Toshio Suzuki pushed for Goro Miyazaki to direct Gedo Senki.

The question for now is, simply, whether Goro is up to the task. Otsuka was firmly impressed, and Miyazaki pere has finally been warmed over. I don’t know if the public would accept him, or look upon him as an upstart to his father, but I assume that everyone would want to at least see the movie out of curiosity.

Then again, I could never imagine that Yamada-kun would tank at the box office. Everyone would rather go watch Jar-Jar. Sigh.

07/23/06 @ 13:57
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

I felt episode three was relatively badly done (though a valient effort with one guy doing storyboarding, direction and AD, plus #1 in genga list)

But episode four was better done in general. What was most interesting was the drawings: though it felt rushed, the AD’s approach felt very different from the others so far. There was a noticeable lack of shadows, and the movement was blocky, yet there’s something about the style of drawings that caught my eye.
There were two still frames that were my favourite: http://s01.imagehost.org/0685/NHK_04.jpg and http://s01.imagehost.org/0685/NHK_05.jpg

Speaking of which, I noticed recently I can’t write links (as in, HTML a href = blah blah) in comments. Is this a bug or, er, on purpose?

08/01/06 @ 06:23
Ben [Member]  

Yeah, I caught this ep and was actually going to mention that I was impressed by Shingo Natsume’s work on the ep. I even liked Kawabata Erukin’s work on the previous ep. I thought Natsume’s stuff felt decidedly Tetsuya Takeuchi-influenced. I particularly liked the movement & drawings around where Yamazaki is trying to get Sato out of the house. But throughout I liked the feeling of the drawings. Gonzo may be making more effort on this one. Or at least, putting a few good folks to work on it.

As for the link thing, It’s not on purpose, I just don’t know how to change it… if I figure out how to change it I will. It happened when I upgraded the software.

08/01/06 @ 09:10
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Just a bit of a heads up or something if anyone hasn’t heard… first there was Erukin Kawabata’s one-man show (AD, D and S), and episode 7 and 8 will both be similar one-man shows as well… 7 by this guy I don’t know called 祝浩司(Kouji Iwai?) and it doesn’t seem to be a penname. While episode 8 is… Hiroyuki Okuno!

I won’t put my hopes up too high after Speed Grapher, and I most certainly don’t expect Hisashi Mori to appear, but who knows.

08/15/06 @ 05:17
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Hisashi Mori actually popped in for six seconds in episode 8:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnwPIge2KQk

Wonder if he just didn’t give a damn about the in-betweeners and did it one-man.

There are suspections that he did a short FX sequence with a landing plane earlier in the ep, too.

08/29/06 @ 07:02
Ben [Member]  

Pretty interesting bits in this ep here and there… but perplexing at the same time, for reasons I need to write about as soon as I have a moment.

08/29/06 @ 09:04