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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Saturday, August 14, 2004

05:20:48 pm , 714 words, 4175 views     Categories: Animation, Animator

Tomonori Kogawa

Been feeling blah and hot, so I sat around reading a book by Kazushige Abe. The gears have been resting.

Not that this matters, but I've always wondered who did the animation in Yanagawa Horiwari Monogatari. Personally I suspect Kondo, but I've got no proof. Have people seen this movie? Takahata's documentary. It's probably my own favorite documentary, not that I'm a documentary expert. Made on the funds earned from Nausicaa, generously donated by Miyazaki, it's an incredible achievement on Takahata's part that articulates and further develops the ideas in Nausicaa in the context of the real world, and definitely deserves to be seen. It's also available from the "Ghibli ga Ippai" DVD series with English subs.

Today I thought I'd mix things up and translate an interview with Tomonori Kogawa (湖川友謙), the animation director of my favorie robot anime, Ideon. But it's late and it's long and I changed my mind, so just a few thoughts. I was struck by this anime -- well, mostly by the last movie, Be Invoked (発動篇) (1982) -- first of all because of the pitiless story and relentless forward drive of the directing, which is fundamentally unlike anything I've seen elsewhere (I still find it rather enjoyable to submerge myself in now and then), but also in terms of the unusual designs and animation style of the characters. I liked the very original use of colors -- tracing with colors rather than black, basing characters on a white background -- the uncute character designs with a realistic flavor (the original designs were photorealistic, apparently, and subsequently simplified), and especially the novel ideas he brought to animating the characters, such as having their whole jaw move when they're talking rather than just having them "do the goldfish".

I usually have an allergy to Tatsunoko school animators, but I find his stuff surprisingly watchable and full of interesting ideas. There's real passion for his work in there, a desire to try new things. In the interview he makes a comment about Yoshiyuki Tomino (director of Gundam in 1979, whom he worked with for the next five years on this and a few other series) to the effect that while other people complained that they didn't like his storyboards because they challenged the animators, he said he loved his storyboards because they challenged the animators. I loved that attitude.

This guy was originally an art person, a painter, and not an anime person, and I think that shows up in his work. Often in anime the freshest ideas have come from people who bring in new blood from different places like this. Oh, and I remembered correctly. Whenever Kogawa was displeased the key animation an animator sent him, and whenever possible, he would redraw all the key animation himself from scratch because it was faster to do that than to correct the key animator's drawings. (This applies only to the characters. The mecha action was animated by people like Yoshinobu Inano and Ichiro Itano.) You can see clearly that almost all of the close-ups and important dramatic scenes (Sheryl's breakdown, the climax) were drawn entirely by Kogawa. And a famous spot near the end where a small child has her head incinerated was apparently something of an ad-lib on his part. The storyboard was not so ... specific. The film benefits immensely from his devotion to filling out tiny details like this. And this despite the fact that he admits to not completely agreeing with or understanding many of Tomino's decisions as the director, especially his bizarre mystical ideas about karma.

Kogawa's credit on this film is in fact a first in anime, I think. He is credited as "Animation Director" in katakana. This gives his role a broader connotation than that usually associated with the post of "Sakuga Kantoku"; almost the co-director. From this can be extrapolated the degree of influence he had on the final product. The quality of the animation in this film was something of a new watermark for anime films at the time, and it's still an eminently watchable film, albeit deranged and incomprehensible in typical Tomino fashion. But that's kind of what I like about it. This despite the fact that this series is at the root of a lot of what I most dislike about all subsequent anime.

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5 comments

William Masssie
William Masssie [Visitor]

(wonder if he’ll even read this?)
Wonderful post here, Kogawa’s stuff is very well designed. I don’t know what you think of Yasuhiko Yoshikazu’s stuff, but they are just a few of the designers that produced interesting idosyncratic characters back then IMHO (cant forget Akino Sugino’s adaptions though).
I noticed you had a grudging admiration of sorts of Tomino, i like his stuff although before I read your blog outlining his finer traits really the only thing that stuck out about him to me was the material that he work on (tragic, mature robot stories).
Btw, what is it exactly that you dislike about most subsequent anime (besides the over reliance on manga for source material).

03/25/07 @ 23:09
Ben [Member]  

I read every comment. Thank you. I admire Yoshikazu Yasuhiko for the way his drawings combine spontaneous feeling with power, though I prefer Kogawa for some reason, maybe for the elegant sharpness of his drawings and the slightly more realistic touch and rendering of the faces. Yasuhiko’s work really moves nicely and is impressive as animation, whereas Kogawa is much more still and relies on realistic timing and posing. They’re two very different approaches. Perhaps it feels like I can understand what Kogawa is thinking when he draws a drawing, and what he’s trying to convey, whereas with Yasuhiko often I’m not too sure. But still they’re both obviously great. Just recently re-watched ep 1 of Giant Gorg and was re-impressed by the work he put into it. Yasuhiko’s characters are really alive and drawn with conviction. I agree that Akio Sugino also deserves to be talked about more.

I don’t quite remember what I was thinking when I wrote that, but I guess what I was getting at is the way this show seemed to pave the way for a lot of the overblown, angst-ridden feeling many later shows are stuffed with as an easy way of pulling in a certain type of viewer.

03/28/07 @ 23:22
DRMECHA
DRMECHA [Visitor]  

Tomonori “Tomo” or “TOIIIO” Kogawa is one of my favorite characters deigners of the 80’s with Yoshikazu Yasuhiko ("Yas"). Your legacy (with Yas) is very important in the later 80’s sci-fi anime.
Much great designers passes under the kogawa instruction (Toshihiro Hirano, Narumi Kakinouchi, Ichiro Itano, Hiroyuki Kitazume, Hiroyuki Ochi, Naoyuki Onda and others).
His first works is for TMS in 1968/1969 (inbetweener in Kyoshin no Hoshi, Tiger Mask and Attack Number One), after passes to AC Planning, a freelance studio and works for the studio in Ketsudan (Tatsunoko) and the first Lupin III TV series (TMS). After is a freelance animator and works for the diferent animes of Nishizaki’s Office Academy (where meets Yas and tomino) and numerous works of Tatsunoko (Gatchaman, Time Bokan, Polymar, etc). In tatsunoko (i suposses) Kogawa meets your most influencial designer: Ippei Kuri (the home designer of Tatsunoko) ¡view these eyes and eyebrows!! and kogawa trasmites for his disciples (Kitazume, Onda, Ochi).
In 1978 founds his studio Bebow where include very future important animators like Hirano, Itano and Kakinouchi in the first period of Bebow (1978-1981), and Kitazume, Onda, Ochi in the second period (1981-1985).

03/23/08 @ 06:26
MachinePopeMagnus
MachinePopeMagnus [Visitor]  

You also forgot to mention Hidetoshi Ohmori who was also part of the Bebow alumni. Kitazume,Onda,Ochi,and Ohmori were all Sunrise studios animators under Kogawa’s influence who worked with Tomino as animators for his later projects like Dunbine,L-Gaim,Gundam Zeta,Gundam Double Zeta, and Char’s Counterattack (While of course each of them getting their artistic wings spread hypthecticaly in other OVA/movie projects in the 80s.)

And I have to agree, Kogawa himself is even a in fluence on how I draw figures i my own personal illustration, and I wish that contemporary animation in this day and age looked as sleek and elegant as it did in those times.

10/24/08 @ 00:50
drmecha
drmecha [Visitor]

Yes, Ohmori is a Bebow member and founder member of the efimer studio Atelier Giga with Kitazume!! In 1987 (March to December!!). Disciples of Kitazume and Ohmiri in this period: Masami Kosone, Koichi Usami, Tomokazu Tokoro, Atsushi Yamagata, Keiji gotoh, Akira Oguro, Norifumi Naka, Yuu Honda, etc…

11/03/08 @ 11:16