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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Category: Director: Toshifumi Takizawa

Friday, October 18, 2013

07:39:00 pm , 2099 words, 14735 views     Categories: OVA, Studio: Anime R, Studio: Dove, Director: Toshifumi Takizawa, 1980s

New Story of Aura Battler Dunbine

In this day and age when every other anime is fantasy anime, it's hard to conceive of a time when there was no fantasy anime. But such was the case around the time of Aura Battler Dunbine in 1983.

Created and directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino at Sunrise in 1983, Dunbine was one of the pioneer fantasy anime. Tomino pumped out one classic show after another during these years when he came unto his own as a creator and director. Just the year before in 1982, he directed the classic Xabungle TV series and Ideon: Be Invoked movie. His work prior to Dunbine was basically sci-fi robot anime, but with Dunbine he went in a new direction.

Largely influenced by Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa manga (the movie wasn't released until the year after), Dunbine was one of the groundbreaking fantasy anime, made at a time when audiences weren't used to fantasy anime, and the show paid the price for it. With its daring insectoid mecha designs, kids hated the toys. This placed pressures on the show's toy sponsor, Clover, that appear to have led to Clover shortly going out of business. The show was forced to switch the setting from the fantasy world of Byson Well to modern-day Tokyo in the second half.

Despite this shaky start, Dunbine continued to live on in various media, most notably the novel format. The 1980s were the auteur boom in anime, and Tomino attempted to blossom into an auteur. He penned novels to flesh out the world of Byston Well, two of which eventually got adapted into anime: Garzey's Wing (3 eps, 1996) and The Wings of Rean (6 eps, 2005-2006).

But the very first anime continuation actually came just a few years after the TV show: the 3-episode New Story of Aura Battler Dunbine. Tomino had a habit of releasing compilations of every TV show he directed, and Dunbine was no exception. A novel approach explored with the Dunbine collection was to include a new 30-minute OVA with each compilation.

New Story takes place 700 years after the events of the TV series, and tells the story of a young boy and girl who fight a group of so-called "Black Knights" seeking to recover a legendary Aura Battler to conquer the land of Byston Well. The characters are mostly new, but apparently the boy and girl are a resurrection of the protagonists of the TV series, and the evil mummy who seeks to re-open the door connecting Byston Well to our world is a character who was doomed to eternal life at the end of the TV show. It's actually all rather confusing because you are just plunged right into the action without any explanation. A basic knowledge of the premise of the Aura Battler mecha is obviously assumed, since these OVAs appended compilations of the TV show.

The story progresses quite quickly and without any undue exposition, not wasting a minute of its meager three episode allotment. The fantasy world is richly expressed, with many colorful creatures and settings. The whole story evolves over one quick arc of action, with the tables turning several times leading up to the cataclysmic denouement that you expect of a Tomino production. The influence of Nausicaa is quite palpable in the overall world view, style, and monster designs. A millipede-like underground monster immediately reminds of the flying millipede monster that attacked Nausicaa underground. For good or ill, however, the story avoids the thematic complexity of Nausicaa, opting instead for stock heroism and nonstop battle.

Directed by erstwhile Tomino associate Toshifumi Takizawa, New Story is a visually unique and intense fantasy that for all its cacophany of constant action comes across as underwhelming somehow. What New Story has going for it is that it's a tautly directed sprint across the land of Byston Well, with far more of a focus on the hardcore fantasy elements than the original TV series. Cramming in so much story into three episodes is a risky endeavor that I can't say pays off completely, but it's an intense ride that grips you from start to finish. Tomino regretted not having started the TV show out with more of a bang, and felt the show never recovered from starting on the wrong foot, so perhaps this is what led to the peremptory dash of New Story.

By 1988 Takizawa was a great talent in his own right, but he never had pretensions of auteur-dom like Tomino, so he didn't have the sort of identifiable traits that help make such directors popular, but rather remained a pliable craftsman, adapting himself to whatever he worked on to invest it with his own brand of taut cinematic storytelling. In New Story, Takizawa does a good job of emulating a Tomino-esque style of directing. The show has all of the breakneck pacing and manic cutting that are staples of Tomino's work - the cinematic framing with characters engaging in actions while talking rather than straight shots of talking heads, the sequences of pans and zooms to maintain a feeling of forward narrative momentum. The presentation is so determinedly oblique and frenetic, in fact, that it renders the story somewhat hard to follow at times, true to the Tomino aesthetic.

What sets the series apart and makes it notable is its production style: The mecha are mostly drawn with background drawings rather than animation drawings. Typically in anime you have the animation drawings, drawn on cels with flat colors, overlaid over the backgrounds drawn by the art department. Sometimes if you need a bush or something "in front of" a character, you will have something called a "book" - basically a piece of background art drawn by the art department, but with its outline cut out so that it can be placed on top of the animation drawing. This makes it seem like the background surrounds the characters.

What seems to be happening in New Story is that they've drawn all the mecha as books. Either this, or they invented some new technique to allow them to paint on cels the way Tadanari Okamodo did in The Soba Flower of Mt. Oni (which I obviously doubt). So you basically have the mecha drawn as background art in the midst of a shot in which all of the rest of the character and effect animation is drawn on cels, which have a completely different color scheme that makes the difference quite stark. It actually contributes well to giving the OVA a more fantastical atmosphere befitting the material. We're accustomed to seeing mecha in the simplified forms and flat colors of cel animation, so it feels sumptuous to see the mecha rendered this way. Rather than a toy advertisement, it actually feels like a fantasy world. The monolithic, plodding movement that results from having to use a single drawing also contributes to imparting a feeling of the vast size of the mecha.

Above you can see some examples of the art mecha drawings interacting with the cel drawings. It makes for a slightly unsettling experience, as it upturns how we've been trained through experience to parse the animation screen. Normally the cel drawings can affect the backgrounds, but not vice-versa. Here, the background drawings are affecting the background drawings. For example, in the left drawing, the art mecha crashes into the art wall, producing cel bricks and dust.

This is an unusual choice for a mecha show, since the whole point of using animated drawings is so that you can simplify the drawings to complete the animation in a shorter time. It's not unprecedented, though. Nausicaa was the show's big influence in many ways, so it's possible that the Ohmu were the inspiration behind this technique. It also brings to mind the way the castle in Howl was animated with patches of background art to give it that special look. Coincidentally or not, the photography director of most of the great Sunrise OVAs of this period, including New Story, was Atsushi Okui, the guy who went on to come up with that special way of animating the castle in Howl.

This technique must have been adopted in order to bring alive the unique mecha art drawn by Yutaka Izubuchi. The original mecha designer of the TV show was Miyatake Kazutaka, and he is the one who pioneered the more daring, organic, non-linear designs that make Dunbine unique, but Izubuchi gradually wound up taking over as designer on the TV show. A book of his artwork called Aura Fhantasm pushed this design aesthetic even further, featuring far more organic and daring drawings than the original TV show, really bringing out the insectoid nature of the designs.

Above is an example showing the contrast. The only way to bring these drawings alive would be to draw them as background art, and I assume that is what led to this approach being adopted for this OVA series. This would have been impossible in a TV show, but perhaps the OVA format allowed them more liberties. I'm curious whether this would have had the effect of lengthening or shortening the production process, since it cuts down on the number of drawings but conversely requires more complicated drawings.

There are actually some shots where the mecha are drawn as usual on cels, which is confusing. I'm guessing that rather than this being a time constraint thing, there were simply occasional shots that required actual movement to convey the action, which wouldn't be possible with a single art drawing panning across the screen. Apparently the stylistic mismatch didn't bother them - it's actually confusing when suddenly, from one shot to the next, the mecha look completely different, with the flat colors of cel shading. This highlights the fact that, although visually sumptuous, the downside of this technique of using bg art for the mecha is that it is somewhat static and lacking in dynamism. No sprightly mecha fights when the mecha are art drawings - only looming pans.

The staff side of things is fairly different from the TV series, which contributes to making the OVA feel distinct. The character designer is Takehiko Ito (under the pen name Hiroyuki Hataike) rather than Bebow's Tomonori Kogawa, and the mecha designer is Yutaka Izubuchi rather than Miyatake Kazutaka. The music is by Reijiro Koroku rather than Tsubonou Katsuhiro. (Koroku was a student of Koichi Sugiyama, who did the music for Ideon) And of course, the storyboarder/director is Takizawa Toshifumi rather than Tomino. I'm rather fond of the music, which has a stridently modernist sound that reminds of a contemporary composer like Wolfgang Rihm.

The animation is the product of the same studios I talked about last time: Anime R and Dove. Not surprising given how constant a presence they are in (non-Tomino) Sunrise productions of this era. Anime R basically sakkans Dove's animation. Moriyasu Taniguchi is the sakkan and Toru Yoshida is the mecha sakkan, while the animators are the main Dove animators in Mellowlink: Hiroshi Koizumi, Nobuyoshi Nishimura, Misao Nakano and Shinichi Sakuma. Mellowlink was produced by this same team immediately after New Story. Of course, due to the nature of the production, that doesn't leave Toru Yoshida much to do, but perhaps the mecha animation wasn't entirely handled by the background department, but rather done like a Dezaki 'harmony' shot, in which they key animator draws a drawing, and this is painted over by the art department. Perhaps Yutaka Izubuchi himself even helped with the mecha drawings. The credits are unhelpful in this regard.

The annoying thing is that something went wrong with the animation and the character drawings are not up to the level that they should be in view of this staffing. There is some decent animation, but much of it is marred by sub-par drawings in which the proportions seems to be wavering dangerously close to falling apart. The drawings are wobbly and weak in a way that reminds me of Good Morning Althea, which leads me to suspect that the inbetweens are the problem. But the inbetweens are by Dove, so I'm not sure. Whatever the reason, this is not nearly as good a showcase of Anime R and Dove as their next project Mellowlink.


New Story of Aura Battler Dunbine (OVA, 3 eps, 1988, Sunrise)

Creator & Supervisor:富野由悠季Yoshiyuki Tomino
Director & Storyboard:滝沢敏文Toshifumi Takizawa
Line Director:篠幸裕Yukihiro Shino
Script:五武冬史Fuyunori Gobu
Character Design:幡池裕行Hiroyuki Hataike
Mechanical Design & Special Advisor:出渕裕Yutaka Izubuchi
Animation Director:谷口守泰Moriyasu Taniguchi
Mecha Animation Director:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Music:小六禮次郎Reijiro Koroku
Key Animation:(ep 1)スタジオ・ダブStudio Dove
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
(ep 2)スタジオ・ダブStudio Dove
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
(ep 3)スタジオ・ダブStudio Dove
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
 佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
 アニメ・アールAnime R
 吉田徹Toru Yoshida
 糸島雅彦Masahiko Itojima
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

05:48:00 pm , 3236 words, 13813 views     Categories: Animation, OVA, Studio: Anime R, Studio: Dove, Director: Toshifumi Takizawa, 1980s

Armor Hunter Mellowlink

I've already written about the canonical analog outings of Armored Trooper Votoms: the TV show, the three early one-shot OVAs, and Radiant Heretic. The only show from the early period I didn't cover in that post was Armor Hunter Mellowlink, which is a side-story not involving the main characters in the rest of the Votoms productions. I just had the chance to watch it, and it was every bit as good as I was expecting. As much as I love the Votoms saga, it's a huge endeavor to get into it. Mellowlink is a dense, high-quality, 12-episode summation of what makes Votoms best in a one-shot series format that doesn't require piecing together a long, complicated story. It might be the best place to start for newcomers.

Mellowlink is a more unmitigatedly serious story than it might seem at first sight from the bland, boyish character design of its protagonist, who looks like a young Shirotzugh. It makes for nice viewing because it focuses largely on pushing forward with its uncomplicated linear narrative arc without wasting too much breath on side-stories or world building or other genre conventions. It's mostly a straight-up hardcore military revenge flick. Despite being borne of a robot show, it's largely devoid of robots. It's more realistic, if not completely realistic per se, with a more down-to-earth, unglamorous style of storytelling. I've always wanted to see this kind of show done in an unmitigatedly realistic style for once, without the token hijinx and predictable storytelling elements, and this show comes closer than most shows, though it still inevitably falls victim to many genre conventions. It's not purely hard-boiled and has some moments of predictably jarring comic relief. However, for a Sunrise production, it's largely devoid of mecha robo tomfoolery, and its tone is for the most part quite serious-minded and unadorned in a pleasing way.

Mellowlink is essentially a story of revenge. Mellowlink Arity was a member of a platoon that was sent to certain death to cover the theft of a military arsenal by a band of corrupt military commanders. The skilled platoon fights valiantly but is eventually overcome, and all but Mellow are killed. Mellow's unexpected survival throws a wrench in the plans, so Mellow is made the scapegoat in a show trial to deflect blame for the scandal. However, he escapes and vows to hunt down the men responsible for the death of his comrades. The series is essentially broken down into two halves. Each of the first six episodes are stand-alone episodes in which Mellow hunts down a military commander involved in the scandal, while the second half is a continuous story that gradually ties all the threads together and reveals the sordid machinations of the military.

Mellowlink is set in the same universe as the rest of Votoms, but features a completely different cast, and presumably takes place on the sidelines of the main show. Whereas Votoms features sci-fi trappings like spaceships and teleportation in addition to more realistic Vietnam-style stories, Mellowlink omits the sci-fi and hones things down to the (IMO more appealing and characteristic) realistic war-story facet of the saga embodied by the 2nd arc of the original TV show, the Kumen Arc. Indeed, the Kumen jungle features in episode 3 of Mellowlink, while episode 2 of Mellowlink harkens back to the first arc of the TV show, the Udo arc, with its dystopian future city and AT battling arena.

Directed by Takeyuki Kanda rather than Ryosuke Takahashi, Mellowlink does for Votoms what The 08th MS Platoon later did for Gundam: explore the down and dirty world of the grunts of their respective universes in a high-quality OVA side-story. Kanda had helped Ryosuke Takahashi direct his first robot show Dougram from 1981 to 1983 and later worked with Takahashi on the two sub OVAs Silent Service and Deep Blue Fleet. He died midway through production of The 08th MS Team. He is perhaps best known for Round Vernan Vifam, a classic 1980s Sunrise robot show.

Despite being set in the far future, Mellowlink feels cut from the cloth of a WWII film in design and atmosphere. Mellowlink rides around in a motorcycle-sidecar combination, and the outfits and architecture seem to be a mix of Victorian and mid-20th century. If Votoms attempts to eliminate the yuusha/heroic element from the robo anime genre by making the robots nothing but mechanized weapons in the form of mass-produced bipedal tanks, Mellowlink seems to go one step further by creating a robot anime in which the hero doesn't even pilot a robot. The hero specializes in killing ATs with nothing more than his wits and an anti-AT rifle, the robo anime equivalent of an anti-tank rifle.

Mellow studiously avoids killing anyone except his intended victims, namely the ranking commanders who ordered his platoon's death. He never kills any underlings, only targeting the higher-ups who use foot soldiers such as himself as throwaway pawns. In true kataki-uchi samurai movie fashion, before killing his victim, he hands them the dog tag of one of his fallen comrades to drive home the justice of his revenge. He is a stoic combination of commando and MacGyver. Overwhelmingly outgunned, he he uses his wits, his surroundings, and his foot soldier training to outwit his opponents. At the final moment, he smears his face with blood, oil or whatever liquid is available and makes it a point to kill his victim not with a bullet but with the bayonet-like Pile Bunker on the end of his anti-AT rifle. This is critical to his revenge. His platoon was stripped of its ATs and sent to certain death armed with nothing but these archaic weapons, so Mellow makes it a point of pride to kill his enemies in the overwhelmingly outgunned state in which they left him.

Mellow is a simple character both in design and script. His expression is one of permanent glowering, he never smiles, and on the rare occasion that he speaks, it only in relation to his cause. His personality is not very complex, and we don't learn much about him beyond his single-minded quest. He is a no-nonsense revenge machine deliberately pared down to steely sinew and purpose. The show fills the void of personality with the mysterious side characters whose significance is revealed apace. Mellow is there as a vehicle to tell a story about military corruption and to provide for a charismatic hero in the spirit of Chirico Cuvie, his obvious model. Mellow is a more likeable character because he is not a superhuman like Chirico. His wits and military training are what keep him alive, not some supernatural agency. A tragic sense of purpose lies behind Mellow's strong, silent personality, but deep down he's a sensitive kid who can get flustered by a beautiful girl.

The series feels tight and well structured. Its pacing feels just right for the story it tells. It's entertaining, with nice action sequences, and the plot about military cover-ups that gradually unfolds is satisfyingly believable, perhaps having vaguely been inspired by the recent Iran-Contra affair. It's not a space opera with battling heroes, but a grimy story about the dirty underbelly of political machinations within military organizations, which see soldiers as nothing more than cannon fodder. Mellowlink is the kind of anti-hero who we want to root for: simple and oblivious to political intrigue, he is only out to do what is right by his sense of basic human justice, and single-handedly faces down the powers that be with the ingenuity and determination of a lone wolf.

The recurring character Kiek is interesting, as he develops into an important plot element later on, but to the end the female sidekick/romantic interest Lulucy felt as superfluous and distracting as the side-characters in Votoms. The story of a girl of royal lineage who ran away to become a roving card dealer seems thrown in and poorly developed, and it never feels believable for a girl like her to be tagging along with Mellow as he sprints around killing ATs with a giant rifle. That aspect feels like one of the show's weakest points.

The episodic nature of the show makes each episode a surprise by providing Mellowlink with new terrain in which to work his battle tactics. The pithy one-word English episode naming seems appropriate to the terse atmosphere, and also serves to indicate the new battlefield of each episode. It's very entertaining watching how a lone individual can outgun an AT using the most basic of technologies (an AT rifle and mines) through clever tactics. In episode 1 he infiltrates a military base and lures out its commander, engaging in a one-on-one in desert-like terrain. In episode 2 he fights in the jungle. In episode 3 he battles it out in the arena.

Episode 4 is perhaps my favorite in the series. Storyboarded and directed by Shinji Takamatsu, it's a masterful example of visual storytelling. Most of the episode transpires without dialogue. The hunter becomes the hunted as Mellow is lured by one of his targets into the interior of a wrecked battleship with its nose rammed into the earth. The ship is tilted at an angle, so all of the action in the episode takes place at an angle, creating a disorienting effect that makes the action all the more tense and unpredictable, as the characters are struggling at every moment to maintain their balance in their surroundings. The best part is that no mecha whatsoever are present in the episode (except as physical obstacles). This seems like the ultimate expression of the whole Votoms universe to me. First you turn the heroic mecha robo into nothing but war machines, then you have the hero not even pilot a robo, then you strip away the robos altogether, and you get to what, deep down, the show was about all along: a tense, realistic, detail-oriented action-heavy hard-sci-fi thriller, devoid of the MacGuffins.

Episode 5 is a flashback episode that fills us in on the background. Written by Ryosuke Takahashi himself to get the details of this important setup episode right, it avoids being a straight "flashback" episode by having Mellowlink wandering through the desert and supposedly hallucinate a dream in which he re-lives the events that led to his platoon getting massacred. The death of Mellowlink's platoon doesn't have much emotional impact because we had never seen the characters until a minute before they're killed, but I don't mind this. It was obviously done this way due to length constraints, but I prefer this to being regaled with episode after episode of meaningless character development that is obviously merely there to manipulate me into feeling for characters whose fate is to die. The flashback ends just as Mellowlink escapes from the courtroom, cleverly avoiding the task of fleshing out precisely how he achieved such an improbable feat, surrounded as he was by armed soldiers.

Set in a prison, episode 6 is one of the weaker episodes, although there's nothing technically wrong with it. I just don't like its ill-conceived mix of brutality and cutesiness. It has some powerful torture scenes that set a heavy tone for the episode, only to be followed up immediately by scenes of cute anime girls dancing on a stage. It's like going from Violence Jack to Creamy Mami in the same episode. Obviously it wasn't possible for Takahashi to excise all of the conventions and create something of a truly uniform tone until later with Pailsen Files, although Takahashi is an entertainer first and foremost, and has himself said that he doesn't want to make dark stories, so I'm sure he signed off on the lighter elements in Votoms as well as here. I obviously have expectations of Votoms not on par with those of the creator.

The episodes from 7 onward continue with a continuing story that comes to a head with the gradual revelation of the truth behind the scandal.

The animation

Mellowlink is the summum opus of the two studios behind the best of Votoms: Anime R and Dove. This is the ultimate expression of their work on the show, as the two never worked on the show again in such a solo fashion, although Toru Yoshida did act as mecha sakkan on Radiant Heretic along with a few scattered R/Dove animators. The combination of good storytelling and animation by R and Dove make Mellowlink a supreme pleasure to watch, one of the best OVAs of the period that nobody has seen.

The mecha action scenes that are the calling card of the show are thrilling and dense. There's a style of hand-drawn mecha action here that was a product of the age and can no longer be seen anywhere. Even within a few years on a show like Gundam 0083 the style of the mecha action is already very different - heavier, more laborious, less dynamic and pliable. The years around 1988-1989 are among my favorite years for mecha animation.

Moriyasu Taniguchi's characters meanwhile are appealingly designed without being quite as idiosyncratic as SPT Layzner. Character animation was never the forte of Dove or R, per se, but the characters are for the most part satisfyingly animated due to Taniguchi's stylish corrections, even if sometimes you wish the expressions and body language were a little more dynamic. R seems to invest the characters with a little more spontaneity and verve that is the product of the studio's culture that was more forgiving of personality and play than Dove. That comes through in the animation. Dove's animation remains solid and professional, while R's is more willful and nuanced.

R and Dove essentially alternate handling an episode, although there is a lot of overlap, some of which is due to the extenuating circumstance of the death of Hiroshi Koizumi midway through production. This is the last Votoms outing featuring the two studios that defined the show up until that point. The next outing, Radiant Heretic, switches up the staff.

The main differences between Mellowlink and the rest of Votoms is: the characters here are designed by Moriyasu Taniguchi of Anime R, rather than Norio Shioyama, and the director is not Takahashi Ryosuke but Takeyuki Kanda (who also storyboards episodes 2, 5, 8 and 11 under the pen name Yuichiro Yokoyama). Also, Soji Yoshikawa is not involved as a writer. Otherwise, Ryosuke Takahashi handles the series structure and writes two episodes, episode 5 and 11. Hiroki Inui provides another lovely noodling avant-jazz score, and Kunio Okawara designs the mecha, as in the rest of Votoms.

Toru Yoshida of Anime R is the mecha sakkan for the Anime R episodes, and his mecha and effects are beautiful. At this period of time Anime R still had most of its best animators, and they put their all into their episodes here. Hiroyuki Okiura even shows up for a bit in the last episode. Dove, meanwhile, was at the height of its powers, and Hiroshi Koizumi did the last work of his tragically brief life in episode 6. It seems the show was originally supposed to be produced entirely by these two studios, but this changed with the death of Hiroshi Koizumi, and they had to start calling in other studios from episode 6 onwards to finish the episodes on time. Studio Dove is credited as mecha sakkan in episodes 2 and 4, but this actually means Hiroshi Koizumi.

Apparently the reason for this is that the president of Dove, Tadashi Yahata, had this thing against any single individual gaining attention at Dove; he wanted the studio as a whole to receive credit. Yahata had no need for star animators or individuality, and he placed arduous demands on his animators and was the first to open the door for them to leave if they complained. This is just one aspect of the unforgiving, hard-nosed atmosphere at Dove that drove many animators away from the studio. It's also why you could get talented animators like Hiroshi Koizumi toiling away there and yet not receiving much recognition for their work in their time. It's a philosophy that's the antithesis of a more easygoing and artist-centric studio like Anime R, where play was not just permitted but understood to be the driving force of creativity. And yet the two studios produced magnificent animation that blends perfectly together on a string of Ryosuke Takahashi shows in the late 1980s. It's a strange and beautiful mystery.

The Dove mecha sakkan credit in episode 6 stands for Nobuyoshi Nishimura, who stepped in as pinch hitter to fill in the void left by Hiroshi Koizumi. Toru Yoshida acted as the mecha sakkan on all of the remaining episodes, in which Dove was mostly involved in piecemeal fashion alongside other subcontractors, obviously under considerable systemic stress due to the loss of their lead animator.

On the directing side of things, Takizawa Toshifumi storyboards episode 1, but Takashi Imanishi, Shinji Takamatsu and Shinichiro Watanabe/Takeyuki Kanda take over from there on out, and for the most part do a very fine job indeed. I'm particularly impressed by the Watanabe/Kanda episodes for a reason I find hard to pin down. They have a feeling of more deliberate cinematic presentation. This was only Watanabe's second job as episode director after the Dirty Pair OVAs the previous year. He drew his first storyboard immediately after Mellowlink in 1990.


Armor Hunter Mellowlink 機甲猟兵メロウリンク
(OVA, 12 eps, 1988-1989, Sunrise)

Director:神田武幸Takeyuki Kanda
Created by/Series Structure:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Character Design/Sakkan:谷口守泰Moriyasu Taniguchi
Mechanic Design:大河原邦男Kunio Okawara
Music:乾裕樹Hiroki Inui
Art:平川英治Eiji Hirakawa


Episode 1: Wilderness

Storyboard:滝沢敏文Toshifumi Takizawa
Director:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
 
Mecha Sakkan:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Key Animators:スタジオダブStudio Dove
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
木口寿恵子Sueko Kiguchi
 
アニメアールAnime R
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
毛利和昭Kazuaki Mouri
貴志夫美子Fumiko Kishi
糸島雅彦Masahiko Itojima
浜川修二郎Shujiro Hamakawa
小森高博Takahiro Komori
小川瑞恵Mizue Ogawa
福江光恵Mitsue Fukue
木村貴宏Takahiro Kimura
能地清Kiyoshi Noji


Episode 2: Colosseum

Storyboard:横山裕一朗Yuichiro Yokoyama
Director:渡辺信一郎Shinichiro Watanabe
 
Mecha Sakkan:スタジオダブStudio Dove
Key Animators:スタジオダブStudio Dove
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
木口寿恵子Sueko Kiguchi


Episode 3: Jungle

Storyboard:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Director:
 
Mecha Sakkan:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Key Animators:アニメ・アールAnime R
井上哲Tetsu Inoue
貴志夫美子Fumiko Kishi
木村貴宏Takahiro Kimura
小森高博Takahiro Komori
福江光恵Mitsue Fukue
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
 
スタジオ・ムーStudio Mu
黄瀬和哉Kazuchika Kise
山本佐和子Sawako Yamamoto
大島康弘Yasuhiro Oshima


Episode 4: Leaning Tower

Storyboard:高松信司Shinji Takamatsu
Director:
 
Mecha Sakkan:スタジオダブStudio Dove
Key Animators:スタジオダブStudio Dove
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
木口寿恵子Sueko Kiguchi


Episode 5: Battlefield

Storyboard:横山裕一朗Yuichiro Yokoyama
Director:渡辺信一郎Shinichiro Watanabe
 
Mecha Sakkan:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Key Animators:アニメ・アールAnime R
木村貴宏Takahiro Kimura
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
貴志夫美子Fumiko Kishi
小森高博Takahiro Komori
井上哲Tetsu Inoue
吉本拓二Takuji Yoshimoto
 
スタジオダブStudio Dove
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
木口寿恵子Sueko Kiguchi


Episode 6: Prison

Storyboard:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Director:
 
Mecha Sakkan:スタジオダブStudio Dove
Key Animators:スタジオダブStudio Dove
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
木口寿恵子Sueko Kiguchi
 
堀沢聡志Satoshi Horisawa
武藤照美Terumi Muto
筱雅律Masanori Shino
河村佳江Yoshie Kawamura


Episode 7: Railway

Storyboard:高松信司Shinji Takamatsu
Director:
 
Asst Sakkan:八幡正Tadashi Yahata
Mecha Sakkan:スタジオダブStudio Dove
Key Animators:西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
木口寿恵子Sueko Kiguchi


Episode 8: Ghost Town

Storyboard:横山裕一朗Yuichiro Yokoyama
Director:渡辺信一郎Shinichiro Watanabe
 
Mecha Sakkan:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Key Animators:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
井上哲Tetsu Inoue
小森高博Takahiro Komori
木村貴宏Takahiro Kimura
福江光恵Mitsue Fukue
吉本拓二Takuji Yoshimoto
光岡玲子Reiko Mitsuoka


Episode 9: Forest

Storyboard:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Director:
 
Asst Sakkan:山田きさらかKisaraka Yamada
Mecha Sakkan:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Key Animators:スタジオマークStudio Mark
中西賢治Kenji Nakanishi
林伸昌Nobumasa Hayashi
森脇賢治Kenji Moriwaki
高梨光Hikaru Takanashi
 
グループゼンGroup Zen
野田康行Yasuyuki Noda
福原惠次Keiji Fukuhara
藤田正幸Masayuki Fujita
 
武藤照美Terumi Muto
筱雅律Masanori Shino
中沢登Noboru Nakazawa


Episode 10: Castle

Storyboard:高松信司Shinji Takamatsu
Director:
 
Mecha Sakkan:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Key Animators:スタジオダブStudio Dove
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
木口寿恵子Sueko Kiguchi
 
タイガープロダクションTiger Production
宮崎龍四郎Tatsushiro Miyazaki
本間正Tadashi Honma
大戸幸子Yukiko Oe
鈴木佐智子Sachiko Suzuki


Episode 11: Base

Storyboard:横山裕一朗Yuichiro Yokoyama
Director:渡辺信一郎Shinichiro Watanabe
 
Mecha Sakkan:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Key Animators:スタジオダブStudio Dove
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura
藁谷均Hitoshi Waratani
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
木口寿恵子Sueko Kiguchi
津幡佳明Yoshiaki Tsubata


Episode 12: Last Stage

Storyboard:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Director:
 
Mecha Sakkan:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Key Animators:アニメ・アールAnime R
沖浦啓之Hiroyuki Okiura
河村佳江Yoshie Kawamura
木村貴宏Takahiro Kimura
小森高博Takahiro Komori
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
吉本拓二Takuji Yoshimoto
 
スタジオダブStudio Dove
木口寿恵子Sueko Kiguchi
 
福井享子Ryoko Fukui
1 commentPermalink

Friday, June 22, 2012

11:58:00 pm , 3690 words, 6280 views     Categories: OVA, TV, Studio: Anime R, Studio: Dove, Director: Toshifumi Takizawa, 1980s

SPT Layzner

After Armor Trooper Votoms (1983-1984), Ryosuke Takahashi continued making robot shows at Sunrise, although from what I've seen none of them were quite the same as Votoms and tended to adhere more closely to the Sunrise robot template. The next show he did after Votoms was Panzer World Galient (1984-1985), which seems to mix fantasy with sci-fi. Then came SPT Layzner (1985-1986). I just had a chance to watch Layzner for the first time and enjoyed it, though it's very flawed and far from a classic like Votoms.

What Layzner has going for it is some tremendously strong animation from Anime R. Essentially, the animation of Lazyner was provided by three studios: Anime R, Dove and Bebow, in descending order of importance.

Anime R is by far the most important presence on the show. This is perhaps the show with the highest concentration of Anime R animation. 21 out of the show's 38 episodes were entirely (or mostly) animated by Anime R. The opening and ending were animated by Anime R animators Kazuaki Mouri, Toru Yoshida and Fumiko Kishi. The character designer was Anime R founder Moriyasu Taniguchi, who was invited back to design his own characters because of his great work as sakkan on Votoms. Taniguchi would also go on to be character designer of Mellowlink, in which Anime R provided about half of the animation. The other half was provided by Dove.

The story

Layzner is an odd show. I want to like it, but the story is too cliched and too much of a mess, largely due to circumstances beyond the control of the writers and director. When it works, it works well, and comes across as a more realistic version of the alien invasion story. The writing is fairly strong thanks to the sci-fi anime masters Hiroyuki Hoshiyama, Yoshitake Suzuki (AKA Fuyunori Gobu), Yasushi Hirano and Tsunehisa Ito. The characters feel individual and the urgency of the situation is convincing. The biggest problem is that it isn't consistent to the initial premise. To be more blunt, SPT Layzner jumps the shark big time. The last half of the show is a classic example of a show jumping the shark. It feels like two shows crammed into one, neither of them very happy about being forced to abide one another.

Part one begins as your typical Sunrise show: An alien army is coming to invade the earth, but a mixed alien-human named Eiji defects from the army to warn the earth of the impending danger. Along the way he saves a group of children visiting the Mars base, and enlists them to pilot giant robots and fight their way back to Earth. Sunrise was apparently so pleased with the setup of Round Vernian Vifam, in which a group of children visiting space one day suddenly find themselves caught in the middle of a war, that they decided to copy it almost verbatim in SPT Layzner. Anime advances by small variations on successful formulae.

The setup is hardly original, and it tested my patience for a while, but eventually I got into it on the strength of the animation and the fact that the story is told in a fairly hard-boiled and no-nonsense way. It proceeds very slowly, meticulously depicting each step of the way as the kids battle their way back to earth. By the time we get to episode 24, the story has gotten fairly interesting, taking on a bit of sociopolitical commentary. The protagonist Eiji is interrogated by a suspicious U.S. army rather than welcomed with open arms as he expected, and a lot of the drama comes across as an angry satire about the atmosphere of international suspicion during the Cold War. The writers do a good job with this material. I was starting to like the show by this point.

Then bam. Right when the story seems poised to finally start coming to a head after such an extended and even plodding setup, suddenly things do a 180. All of the many character interrelation and plot element threads that had been patiently built up and interwoven over the course of two dozen episodes are peremptorily dropped without any warning. Part two begins abruptly after a recap episode in episode 25. Suddenly all the characters are grown up and we're in a post-apocalyptic future in which the earth as been taken over by the aliens and everyone has big hair, shoulder pads and hockey masks straight out of Mad Max, or more relevantly, Fist of the North Star. Masked police go around burning books just like in Farenheit 451. (Oddly, some animator drew Katsuhiro Otomo's Highway Star as one of the books being burned. Otomo's influence apparently extends into the post-invasion future.)

Fist of the North Star is the appropriate comparison. It was airing simultaneously, and was likely copied intentionally. It seems that sales of the kind of toys the show was advertising had begun to drop across the industry, and so at midpoint into the series they decided to completely change the show's story and opt for the popular post-apocalyptic formula in a desperate attempt to increase ratings and hence boost toy sales. The story is now about Eiji leading a resistance against the occupying aliens. It's basically Fist of the North Star meets Gundam, without the exploding heads.

The change in tone and style is so radical and without warning that it's difficult to take the show seriously from this point on. And not long after they begin the second part, suddenly the show gets cancelled, and they have to rush the ending. Part 2 was probably planned as two seasons, but was reduced on short notice to one, so they had to suddenly skip ahead in episode 35 and jump right to the ending in episode 38, without explaining how we got there. The Ideon movie was famously released to complete the story after the TV series was unexpectedly canceled just short of completion. So it went with Layzner. After the show ended, two 60-minute recap OVAs were released (one for part one and one for part two) followed by an OVA telling what happened between episode 37 and 38. Many shows during the ensuing years did the same, but in the OVA rather than theatrical format, and Layzner was one of the first.

If anything, the show is an interesting case study of the way in which forces greater than the director and his staff have historically controlled the length and content of TV anime. Seasons are added and canceled capriciously and on short notice, causing the staff to scramble and come up with ad-hoc solutions. Ironically enough, this sometimes produces a happy ending. The final Ideon movie and final SPT Layzner OVA wound up bringing their stories to a conclusion in better quality than could have been expected within the originally anticipated TV schedule. But it should be remembered that both were made only at the insistence of their directors, who felt compelled to give their audience their rightful catharsis.

Episode 26: Hiroyuki Okiura

Anime R in SPT Layzner

If there's one reason to watch the show despite the story's flaws, it's because Layzner is in a way the summum opus of Anime R.

Moriyasu Taniguchi's characters have never gotten such a grand stage, and they've never been so appealing. Taniguchi's characters are pleasingly stylized, with elongated heads and angular features. This dude in episode 37 is the most extreme character design in the show, but gives a quick sense of his style. I like his designs far more than Norio Shioyama's, which seem bland and old-fashioned. Taniguchi had verve and his characters felt more cutting edge for the time, although he was clearly influenced by Tomonori Kogawa, and by Masami Suda of Fist of the North Star by the time of part 2.

The real star of the show, though, is of course the mecha and the mecha animators. Designed again by Kunio Okawara as in Votoms, the robots are brought alive with energy by the young animators of Anime R. Just about every episode of the show has some pleasing mecha animation, and a handful of the episodes have some of the best mecha animation of the entire period. Layzner is one of the feasts of mecha animation of the 1980s.

Basically the Anime R staff is the same as Votoms, except that everyone has been bumped up a notch in the hierarchy. Toru Yoshida is now a mecha sakkan and Hiroyuki Okiura is now a genga man.

The Anime R episodes of Layzner are split into three teams, each headed by a different animation director, to enable them to cover the whole show:

SakkanKey Animators
谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi

Mecha sakkan:
吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
岩村幸子 Sachiko Iwamura
野中幸 Koh Nonaka
小森高博 Takahiro Komori
村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise
大島康広 Yasuhiro Ohjima

There is some variation in the arrangement early on, but this is the basic arrangement they settled into. There's one strong mecha animator in each group who was usually in charge of the mecha in their team's episodes, with the rest handling the characters: Hiroyuki Okiura under Moriyasu Taniguchi, Toru Yoshida under Fumiko Kishi, and Sawako Yamamoto under Hiromi Muranaka.

Note that, soon after this, the Hiromi Muranaka group split into a separate but affiliated sister studio called Studio Mu. At this point in time the Muranaka team is still credited as Anime R, but Studio Mu has shown up in the inbetweening credits.

Episode 17: Toru Yoshida

Toru Yoshida was involved in episodes 1, 6, 11, 17, 21, 28, 34, 38. He apparently did some of his best work on Galient between Votoms and SPT Layzner, but sadly I skipped over that one, so I'm missing an important piece in the evolution of his style, but I will get to that show eventually. Episode 17 with the unmanned robots attacking the kids on the moon is one of his best episode, with very stylish and exciting mecha drawings and effects. As impressive as Yoshida's work was on Votoms, you can see significant improvement here. The mecha animation is among the most powerful and detailed of the era. I like that by this point Yoshida has gone beyond his Kanada-school influence and developed his own style: more realistic but still extremely exciting and thrilling, with a focus on densely packing the screen with effects and movement.

Sawako Yamamoto was involved in episodes 7, 14, 19, 24, 29, 36. I wasn't familiar with this animator prior to watching Layzner, but she apparently went on to do a lot of mecha work later in her career, a rarity for a female animator. Sawako Yamamoto was the mentor of another of R's many alumni, Asako Nishita, who was one of the more prominent female animators of the 1990s and 2000s. Yamamoto was one of the mecha sakkans on Ryosuke Takahashi's recent Gasaraki, which was apparently his ultimate attempt to do a 'real robot' show and do it right. Episode 36 of Layzner in particular features some great mecha fighting in the streets presumably of Yamamoto's hand. Episode 29, meanwhile, doesn't feature any mecha animation and is all focused on character animation, showcasing what the Mu team was better known for.

Hiroyuki Okiura was involved in episodes 12, 16, 20, 26, 33, 38. He actually acted as mecha sakkan in his episodes from episode 20 onwards even though he is not credited as such. Okiura had similarly actually drawn key animation on Votoms (1983-1984) and Galient (1984-1985) even though he was still being credited with inbetweening. His official debut as a genga-man came on Bismark (1984-1985), in which he drew all of the mecha action scenes in the episodes in which he is credited. So technically Layzner is his sakkan debut, although his official sakkan debut only came with Black Magic M-66 a year later.

Okiura is the star mecha animator of Layzner. If you watch nothing else of the show, Okiura's scenes are worth seeking out on their own merits, especially episode 26. What made people sit up and pay attention still comes through loud and clear almost 30 years later. Even amidst all of the great work by Yoshida et al. on the show, there is something fundamentally different when Okiura's work comes on the screen. First of all, it just moves more. Okiura was inspired by Takashi Nakamura, and his goal was to create the richest and most dense animation he could. Due to the restrictions on the number of drawings (about 6000 in Layzner, still way more than the average episode today), Okiura had to work closely with his fellow animators to calculate the number of drawings in each shot. He had them use less drawings for the character scenes so that he could use more drawings on the mecha scenes. On top of this, the mecha animation feels more realistic in its movement. The movement is more detailed and weighty, and more precisely calculated. Whereas many mecha animators just threw their mecha about in whichever way - whatever looked coolest - Okiura had a patently more methodical way of moving his mecha. The camera angles feel more realistic and have more variety. You already sense that Okiura is one of those animators who animates like a director. Okiura had apparently convinced the director of Bismark to re-storyboard the last episode of Bismark so that it had more action scenes because Okiura felt it did not have enough action. He wanted to be challenged, not given an easy way out.

His work on episode 26 in particular is one of the classics for the ages. His scene starts from the point where Layzner comes out of the water. The maniacal level of detail in the fragments should immediately remind of his mob scene in Akira. I recommend watching some of the other mecha scenes first for comparison purposes so you can see how different Okiura's animation is, but even if you don't, I think it should still come through loud and clear how impressive Okiura's animation is. It was this episode that first revealed his true powers to the world and showed that he had some uncommon skills that surpassed even those of the many other great Anime R animators who inspired and taught him. Episode 33 is also notable for being the only episode with mecha action from start to end. The animation isn't as powerful as episode 26, but the sheer amount of movement packed into the episode is impressive.

The remarkable thing: he was aged only 19 when he worked on Lazyner. He turned 20 during Black Magic M-66. Anime had a lot of early bloomers, but Okiura is one of the most memorable.

Bebow

The other episodes are all decent, with some good animation here and there, but nothing that equals the best R episodes. Bebow's good work was mostly done in the character animation. Bebow handled episodes 23, 32 and 37. Notable names in their episodes include Akihiko Yamashita, Masahiro Yamane and Masanori Shino. Episode 32 was actually Masahiro Yamane's debut. He is one of the best mecha animators of the 1990s, during which time he did a lot of work with Masami Obari on Sunrise 'yuusha' shows, helping define their mecha animation as mecha designer and mecha sakkan. The best Bebow episode is probably episode 32, which features the bad guy you love to hate, Gostero, who seemed to die several times in the series only to keep coming back, hamming it up with a whole episode of his outrageous antics. The drawings all feel patently Bebow, and they show how good they are at drawing the body and face in various poses.

There is one oddball episode in the bunch: episode 15. It was sakkan'd by the Studio Z5 team of Hideyuki Motohashi and Chiharu Sato. It stands out for the more Kanada-style effects work and mecha posing and the way the characters are drawn in a more 'bikei' character style that is obviously the work of Hideyuki Motohashi.

On the directing side of things, the series features episode storyboarding/ directing work by Tetsuro Amino early in his career, prior to debuting as a series director. Other storyboarders/directors include Takashi Imanishi, who I mentioned in my post on Votoms, and Katsuyoshi Yatabe, who went on to direct many of the same Sunrise 'yuusha' shows I mentioned earlier. Toshifumi Takizawa pays a brief surprise visit in episodes 12 and 17 as storyboarder, and as usual, his episodes stand out for their more cinematic feeling. Episode 12 in particular is a very fine Takizawa episode, while in episode 17 the combination of Takizawa's storyboard and Toru Yoshida's fantastic mecha animation makes for riveting viewing. I think the series would have benefited from his more serious style of directing, but obviously he was busy with other projects.

The final OVA

The final OVA is a combination of footage from the last TV episode with new footage interspersed to flesh out the scenes that they had not had enough time to elaborate upon. The character animation appears to have been re-drawn, but the mecha animation was re-used.

For the new bits, there are some impressive mecha action sequences. Okiura surprisingly didn't animate any mecha scenes, although some of the footage he animated for the final TV episode (the part where Layzner is flying through space surrounded by a halo at the very end) was re-used in the OVA. He animated the fistfight in the cylinder. This is because he was too busy at the time working on Black Magic M-66. The mecha sequences were presumably animated primarily by Toru Yoshida, Sawako Yamamoto, Hiroshi Osaka and perhaps some others including Hiroshi Koizumi of Dove. Toru Yoshida is only credited as an animation director alongside Moriyasu Taniguchi and Kishi Fumiko, but this presumably means mecha sakkan.

I'll close by noting that you can see future director and producer Shinichiro Watanabe and Masahiko Minami here in the credits as animation runners. Both started out as runners at Sunrise before evolving in their respective directions.


Blue Comet SPT Layzner 蒼き流星SPTレイズナー (TV series, 38 eps, 1985-1986)

StoryboardDirectorSakkanKey Animators
1あかい星にてアニメ・アール Anime R
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
岩村幸子 Sachiko Iwamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
2彼の名はエイジスタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
高橋幸治 Koji Takahashi
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
3その瞳を信じて長崎重信 Shigenobu Nagasaki
布告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
杉山東夜美 Mayami Sugiyama
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase伊東誠 Makoto Ito
4心のこしての脱出谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
横山健次 Kenji Yokoyama

アド・コスモ Ad Cosmo
直井正博 Masahiro Naoi
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
5まもられても、なお…スタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
高橋幸治 Koji Takahashi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani

遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
6とり残されてアニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
岩村幸子 Sachiko Iwamura
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
7血はあかかったアニメ・アール Anime R
中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
8彼の叫びに応えて寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
佐藤千春 Chiharu Sato
杉山東夜美 Mayami Sugiyama
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
9生きる道を求めて長崎重信 Shigenobu Nagasaki
遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
布告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe桜井美知代 Michiyo Sakurai
10エイジ!?と呼んだスタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
高橋幸治 Koji Takahashi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase
江上潔 Kiyoshi Ekami
八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
11地球の艦が来た!アニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
岩村幸子 Sachiko Iwamura
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
12さよならの赤い星アニメ・アール Anime R
逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa
滝沢敏文 Toshifumi Takizawa今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
13宇宙にむなしくスタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma
中野美佐緒 Misao Nakano
西村誠芳 Nobuyoshi Nishimura
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
14異星人に囚われてアニメ・アール Anime R
村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
15蒼き流星となって遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
佐藤千春 Chiharu Sato
杉山東夜美 Mayami Sugiyama
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi本橋秀之 Hideyuki Motohashi
佐藤千春 Chiharu Sato
16月よ!こたえてアニメ・アール Anime R
逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa

青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
長崎重信 Shigenobu Nagasaki
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino江上潔 Kiyoshi Ekami谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
17群がる殺人機アニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
岩村幸子 Sachiko Iwamura
滝沢敏文 Toshifumi Takizawa加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
18そして地球へスタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma
中野美佐緒 Misao Nakano
西村誠芳 Nobuyoshi Nishimura
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
19とどかぬ想いアニメ・アール Anime R
村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise

遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
杉山東夜美 Mayami Sugiyama
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
20レイズナーの怒りアニメ・アール Anime R
逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa

青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
21我が名はフォロンアニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
岩村幸子 Sachiko Iwamura

長崎重信 Shigenobu Nagasaki
佐藤千春 Chiharu Sato
長谷川浩司 Hiroshi Hasegawa
加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
22フォロンとの対決スタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma
中野美佐緒 Misao Nakano
西村誠芳 Nobuyoshi Nishimura
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino江上潔 Kiyoshi Ekami八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
23奇跡を求めてビーボォー Bebow
沢田正人 Masato Sawada
筱雅律 Masanori Shino
南伸一郎 Shinichiro Minami
山下明彦 Akihiko Yamashita
山本正文 Masafumi Yamamoto

遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
佐藤千春 Chiharu Sato
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe中村悟 Satoru Nakamura
24光になったエイジアニメ・アール Anime R
村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise

スタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
25駆けぬけた宇宙
高橋良輔 Ryosuke Takahashi
26時は流れた!アニメ・アール Anime R
逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa
加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
27華麗なるル・カインスタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma
中野美佐緒 Misao Nakano
西村誠芳 Nobuyoshi Nishimura
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe江上潔 Kiyoshi Ekami八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
28クスコの聖女アニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
野中幸 Ko Nonaka
今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
29再会・謎の招待状アニメ・アール Anime R
村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise
大島康広 Yasuhiro Oshima
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
30ベイブル奪回作戦青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
佐藤千春 Chiharu Sato
杉山東夜美 Mayami Sugiyama
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino藤本義孝 Yoshitaka Fujimoto谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
31仕組まれた聖戦スタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma

宇津木勇 Isamu Utsuki
阿部和彦 Kazuhiko Abe
山田浩嗣 Hirotsugu Yamada
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
32ああ、ゴステロビーボォー Bebow
矢木正之 Masayuki Yaki
辻清光 Kiyomitsu Tsuji
筱雅律 Masanori Shino
河上裕 Yutaka Kawakami
山根理宏 Masahiro Yamane
山下明彦 Akihiko Yamashita
佐藤敬一 Keiichi Sato
小曽根正美 Masami Kosone
沢田正人 Masato Sawada
加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase沢田正人 Masato Sawada
33死鬼隊の挑戦アニメ・アール Anime R
逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino江上潔 Kiyoshi Ekami谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
34狙われたアンナアニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
野中幸 Ko Nonaka
小森高博 Takahiro Komori
知吹愛弓 Ayumi Tomobuki今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
35グラドスの刻印スタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma

遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
加藤義貴 Yoshitaka Kato
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate藤本義孝 Yoshitaka Fujimoto八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
36敵V-MAX発動アニメ・アール Anime R
村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise
大島康広 Yasuhiro Oshima
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
37エイジ対ル・カイン青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi

ビーボォー Bebow
矢木正之 Masayuki Yaki
沢田正人 Masato Sawada
河上裕 Yutaka Kawakami
山根理宏 Masahiro Yamane
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
38歪む宇宙アニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa
高橋良輔 Ryosuke Takahashi江上潔 Kiyoshi Ekami谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi

Mecha sakkan: 沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura

Blue Comet SPT Layzner ACT-III: The Seal 2000
蒼き流星SPTレイズナー ACT-III 刻印2000
(OVA, October 21, 1986)

Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Character Design:谷口守泰Moriyasu Taniguchi
Mechanical Design:大河原邦男Kunio Okawara
Storyboard:網野哲郎Tetsuro Amino
加瀬充子Nobuko Kase
Technical Director:加瀬充子Nobuko Kase
Animation Directors:谷口守泰Moriyasu Taniguchi
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
貴志夫美子Fumiko Kishi
Key animators:山田香Kaoru Yamada
野中幸Ko Nonaka
沖浦啓之Hiroyuki Okiura
逢坂浩司Hiroshi Osaka
 
浜川修二郎Shujiro Hamakawa
井上哲Tetsu Inoue
糸島雅彦Masahiko Itojima
佐々木一浩Kazuhiro Sasaki
小森高博Takahiro Komori
 
村中博美Hiromi Muranaka
中島美子Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉Kazuchika Kise
大島康広Yasuhiro Ohshima
 
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano

Friday, June 1, 2012

12:51:00 am , 6777 words, 12129 views     Categories: OVA, TV, Studio: Anime R, Studio: Dove, Director: Toshifumi Takizawa, 1980s, 1990s

Votoms

In the shadow of Gundam, one of the most successful and long-lived of Sunrise's real robot shows has been Armored Trooper Votoms. I finally had the opportunity to watch Votoms for the first time just recently, and find it still holds up very well after all these years, especially as a contrast with the overwrought style of Yoshiyuki Tomino. Where Yoshiyuki Tomino's Gundam is filled with flamboyant intergalatic drama and angst and robotic heroics, Ryosuke Takahashi's Votoms is earthy and dark and anti-heroic.

Watching Votoms made me realize what I found tiresome about Sunrise's shows: they're always full of kids, and the drama is hence full of puerile antics and melodrama. Votoms is refreshing because all of its characters are adults, and the drama is for the most part cool and restrained and intimate rather than grandiose and theatrical. It's one of the great classics of hard-boiled realistic sci-fi in anime.

The protagonist of Votoms is a cold-hearted soldier by trade, not a kid forced against his will into battle. Where the kid protagonists of the various Gundam outings are against war initially but eventually seem to succumb to the temptation of glory and become heroes, the protagonist of Votoms, Chirico Cuvie, is an anti-hero from the outset: a stone-faced soldier with blood on his hands who finds himself most alive in the heat of battle. Rather than the violence-glorifying heroic action of a Star Wars, the world of Votoms seems closer to the inglorious mud and blood of a Vietnam war film like Apocalypse Now. Flag is one of the best anime of recent memory, with its realistic style and believable geopolitical drama, and the roots of the war documentary style of Flag go back to Votoms.

What I like about the show is that it's one of the most original amid the huge crowd of 1980s robot shows. The characters are all adults, and are for the most part relatable without behaving in an unduly exaggerated way. The story is a refreshing change from the cliched Sunrise formula. Rather than being a grandiose space opera filled with philosophical banter, the essence of the show is a small-scale story about the dirty everyday life of soldiers. The eternally defiant protagonist embodies a kind of anarchic heroism out to destroy all hegemony. There is a lot of good animation throughout the show's various outings. It's a pleasure to finally be able to discover this gem of a saga.

The story of Votoms is simple in outline: The mercenary Chirico seeks the truth behind why he was betrayed by his comrades, and eventually this transforms into a quest to discover the truth of his own identity. Many people have written about Votoms in more insightful detail about the show's political overtones and story intricacies than I possibly could, so I'll skip over the details of the story focus on what really interests me, and that's the technique.

Initially broadcast as a one-off TV show from 1983 to 1984, Votoms spawned a nearly overwhelming number of sequels, prequels and offshoots of various lengths and styles, making it a daunting show to dig into, since unlike Gundam most of these actually take place on the same continuum and feature the same characters. I didn't know where to start initially, since a number of the followup OVAs take place before the TV series, but I found it best to go in production order to appreciate how the staff's technique and approach to the material evolved over the years.

The style changes dramatically over the years, since the show has been in production almost continually since 1983 right on down to last year with the most recent outing, Alone Again. Initially it was all hand-drawn, but starting with Pailsen Files in 2007 they switched to using CGI for the robots. This post will focus on everything that was done in the hand-drawn period:

- The TV series (1983-1984)
- The three ensuing one-shot OVAs:
      The Last Red Shoulder (1985)
      Big Battle (1986)
      The Roots of Ambition (1988)
- The 5-episode OVA series The Radiant Heresy (1994-1995)

The only thing I haven't watched from this period is Mellowlink, produced 1988-1989, as it's a side-story not involving Chirico. The CG outings starting with Pailsen Files appear to have been produced by the same team that did Flag.

The animation subcontractors behind Votoms

There are two basic stars of the animation of Votoms: Anime R and Studio Dove. Although other subcontractors worked on the show, these were the two studios whose animators provided the most impressive animation in the series.

In the TV series, Anime R is the real star. Studio Dove is present, but they don't start shining until the later OVAs. The Last Red Shoulder featured good animation from Anime R, Studio Dove, Bebow and Magic Bus. Big Battle and The Roots of Ambition were mostly animated by Studio Dove. Mellowlink was animated by Anime R and Studio Dove. The Radiant Heresy from several years later features a completely different animation staff, so its animation looks and feels distinct within the Votoms saga. The next outing came more than a decade later with Pailsen Files, which had CG mecha.

The escalating quality of the mecha animation in Votoms is a beautiful thing to behold. You can see with each passing year the animators becoming stronger at their craft. Anime R shines in the TV series, Studio Dove shines in the last two one-shot OVAs, and Mellowlink was evenly divided between Anime R and Studio Dove. I have yet to see Mellowlink, but I assume it is the culmination of these respective studios' work on the show.

I've written about Anime R many times in the past (Black Magic M-66, Dragon Slayer, Sukeban Deka), and their work on Votoms is one of their defining moments. It was their work on robot shows like Votoms and then Bismark and SPT Layzner that propelled Osaka-based Anime R to fame as one of the best mecha animation subcontractors in Japan, and THE best animation subcontractor outside of the Tokyo region.

Anime R was one of big supports of Ryosuke Takahashi's Sunrise robot shows. They were involved right from the start with his first 'real robot' show Dougram (1981-1983). They worked on his Votoms (1983-1984), Galient (1984-1985) and SPT Layzner (1985-1986). Incidentally, it was after having proven their mettle on all these Ryosuke Takahashi robot shows that Anime R was called in to work on Black Magic M-66 in 1987.

Founded near the end of the 1970s by Moriyasu Taniguchi 谷口守泰 and Harumi Muranaka 村中博美, the studio initially featured talented animators like Kazuaki Mouri 毛利和昭 and Fumiko Kishi 貴志夫美子 on shows like Ideon and Dougram. It was right around the time of Votoms that many of the names that went on to propel Anime R to fame joined the studio: Hiroyuki Okiura 沖浦啓之, Kazuchika Kise 黄瀬和哉, Hiroshi Osaka 逢坂浩司, Toru Yoshida 吉田徹 and Masahiko Itojima 糸島雅彦. Their work was so impressive that many of these animators left Osaka for Tokyo because they were in such demand. Although Anime R is in the distant past for them, without Anime R we might not have gotten some of our best animators.

The Votoms TV series (1983-1984)

The defining characteristic of the show is of course the unusual mecha. Rather than one-shots like a Gundam, the scope dog in Votoms is a mass-production model. So although some might be customized with different weapons, they're all essentially just mass-production bipedal armed military vehicles. Hence they don't have the heroic nuance of a Gundam. The unique scope design is also quite interesting and refreshing, as I always found robots with faces ludicrous.

This doesn't change the fundamental fact that this show was a commercial to sell robot toys, but at least the robots were a refreshing change from the typical humanoid robots. The various details of the mecha such as the pivoting action and camera lens-inspired eyepiece were clever and made the mecha feel like a military weapon where each part had a practical use, rather than a hero robot whose parts were just there to look cool. The scary-looking infrared goggles the pilots have to wear also added to the impression of utilitarian accuracy in the paraphernalia, not to mention creating a sort of emotional distance appropriate to the more emotionally stark atmosphere.

The irony is that the toys saved the show. Ratings were low, but strong toy sales saved the show from being canceled. I would have thought they wouldn't have sold because they're not the kind of cool toys I wanted as a kid - I loved transforming toys like the Autobots and Transformers.

The TV series is roughly divided into three arcs: episodes 1-13, 14-26, and 28-52. Each arc has a different tone and setting. The first is a Blade Runner-esque story set in a future overrun by motorcycle punks, the second is a Vietnam war movie-style story, and the third is in more of a conventional Sunrise space opera style reminiscent of Ideon.

My favorite by far is the second arc, the Vietnam arc, and that's where I feel the show shows its true potential and intent. I feel like this is what Ryosuke Takahashi really wanted to do with this material. I wish the entire series had been like this arc. The other arcs we've seen done to death in other shows, but there's nothing quite like the Vietnam arc of Votoms in any other anime. Rather than a space opera or post-apocalyptic action movie, it's a realistic and gritty war movie.

Episode 16 I think is the exemplary episode in the Vietnam arc. It tells a story similar to what we've seen in Vietnam war movies like Apocalypse Now, and focuses on the whole guerrilla war aspect in a way that none of the other episodes do sufficiently. The team is going upriver when they run across a small village and decide to investigate. The complexity and pathos of the situation comes through well in this episode, with the locals being brutally threatened with execution by the military outsiders because they're suspected of hiding guerrillas. Episode 21 touches on this again with an incident where they investigate a temple and find it to be an arms stockade. It's in the moments inspired by reality like this that the conflict at issue in this arc comes alive the best.

When I feel the show works its best is when the side-characters are absent and we're focused on Chirico and his army platoon. There are three side-characters who show up on and off throughout the show. I never got used to them and continued to find them immensely distracting and annoying. It's the moments in the show that they were absent, particularly during the Vietnam arc, that I liked the show the best. These characters felt like a mindless concession to the convention of comic relief, when this show didn't need any such thing.

The first arc is my least favorite because the post-apocalyptic situation is cliched and the side-characters are particularly annoying. The last arc building towards the climax starts out somewhat boring, but gets interesting eventually despite feeling like it cops out on being a hard-boiled military series in favor of becoming a grand space opera with supernatural overtones.

The sub-plot involving romantic interest Fiana didn't wreck the atmosphere as I thought it would. I thought their relationship worked rather well, especially in episode 29 where it's just Chirico and Fiana. They made an odd but interesting couple, drawn to one another for a reason that is never entirely made clear, and both equally emotionally distant.

The mecha star of Votoms TV: Toru Yoshida

Toru Yoshida was a mecha/fx animator in episodes 14, 22, 29, 33, 39, 46, and 52

With remarkable consistency, he was responsible for the most exciting mecha animation scenes in the show. Almost every episode that I had singled out as having particularly impressive animation I later discovered to have been of the hand of Toru Yoshida. The reason it wasn't immediately obvious to me was that he is not credited in many of the episodes he worked on.

Toru Yoshida had just begun as an inbetweener at Anime R in 1983 working under Kazuaki Mouri on the gag show Sasuga no Sarutobi. Anime R at the time was divided into two sections: one working on Sarutobi and another working on Votoms. Yoshida wound up being called over to work on the Votoms section because Yoshida had drawn some mecha in Sarutobi and Moriyasu Taniguchi suspected Yoshida might be of more use on Votoms.

Although he is credited as an inbetweener for a few episodes, and receives his first genga credit in episodes 33, 39, 46 and 52, Yoshida in fact drew key animation in several episodes prior to this. He drew uncredited key animation in episodes 14, 22 and 29. I had noted the effects animation in these episodes but couldn't for the life of me figure out who was responsible for it. Later on, I discovered that Yoshida confessed on his personal web site to having drawn key animation uncredited on these episodes, and it dawned on me that it was Yoshida who had drawn virtually all of the parts in the show that struck me as being particularly well animated.

Yoshida started out distinctly a Kanada-school animator in terms of his style of FX, presumably influenced by his mentor Kazuaki Mouri, but quickly developed his own very unique take on FX animation that would go on to influence the likes of Shinya Ohira. He is one of the great FX animators of anime history, one of the pioneers of a quasi-realistic approach to FX leavened by thrilling Kanada-style timing and forms.

Episode 14 features some of the earliest good mecha action work on the show, with an exciting scene in the forest at the end full of zippy movement and lively FX. This was Toru Yoshida's uncredited genga debut. Episode 22 features a great battle scene in the river at the climax. Episode 29 has some nicely drawn mecha in space at the end of the episode, though there isn't much action. The first half of episode 33 features the beautiful smoke FX that Yoshida was so good at. Episode 39 features a good battle in the second half with lots of angular effects and lush smoke. Episode 46 is the climax of the show's animation: it's the biggest bash of good animation in the show. If you only check out one episode for the animation, it's this one. It's packed head to toe with great mecha and fx shots.

Just about the only episode with good animation that I can't attribute to Toru Yoshida is episode 27, the climax of the Vietnam arc. It has a number of very cool shots of flowing smoke as well as nice mecha action. Although Bebow is not credited, this was clearly a Bebow episode going by the staff involved, none of whom was involved in any other episode.

In an interesting side-note, Toru Yoshida was apparently one of the inbetweeners of Daicon IV. Yoshida isn't part of the proto-Gainax group, so I didn't see how he could have gotten involved, but it makes a bit more sense knowing that Daicon IV was made as the opening film of the Japan Science Fiction Convention, which was held in Osaka that year.

The character animation star of Votoms TV: Moriyasu Taniguchi



Taniguchi's Chirico versus the standard Shioyama Chirico

Anime R founder Moriyasu Taniguchi acted as the sakkan on all of the Anime R episodes: 2, 9, 14, 22, 29, 33, 39, 46, and 52.

The remarkable thing is how much Taniguchi's drawings stand out. His episodes are one of the classic examples of how a good sakkan can elevate the quality of an episode. His drawings look very different from the original designs by series designer Norio Shioyama, but the funny thing is, they look better. Taniguchi actually upstaged the character designer. His drawings have a much more sharp and refined look in terms of the facial features, and he even invests his character animation with more subtelty and nuance than the other episodes. The characters look and behave in a more convincing way in Taniguchi's episodes than in any of the others. In many of the other episodes, the characters are quite badly drawn, and their acting and expressions don't match what is happening in the script. It's only under Taniguchi's hand that the characters come alive and become more expressive in a way appropriate to the given situation.

Episode 29 is one of the best episodes in the show, with some of the best Taniguchi drawings in the show. It's a superb episode all-over, probably my favorite in the show due to fantastically moody directing by Masashi Ikeda 池田成 that gives the episode real atmosphere and tension. I wish more of the episodes in the show had felt like this episode. I like that the episode features only the two protagonists. There are no other characters to ruin the atmosphere with hijinx or other distractions. On top of that, there are some Toru Yoshida mecha drawings at the end. Masashi Ikeda went on to become the director of the smash hit Samurai Troopers (again with character designer Norio Shioyama) as well as the latest entry in the Votoms saga from last year, Alone Again.

I sense the influence of Tomonori Kogawa in Taniguchi's drawings in such things as the way the eyes are drawn, and in the way he draws the face when looking up at an angle, something Tomonori Kogawa pioneered in Ideon. His drawings just feel better stylized than Norio Shioyama's. Evidence to how highly Ryosuke Takahashi thought of Taniguchi's work is the fact that Taniguchi sakkan'd the last episode, rather than the character designer, as is normal. The series closes with Taniguchi's radical interpretation of the characters, rather than the original character designer's own drawings. Ryosuke Takahashi wound up coming back to Taniguchi and appointing him character designer a few years later for one of his other triumphs, SPT Layzner, in which Anime R provided a tremendous amount of good animation (alongside Dove). Perhaps in honor of Norio Shioyama's generosity with Taniguchi's liberties on Votoms, Taniguchi apparently refused to act as chief animation director on the show to respect the individuality of the individual sakkans.

The directing star of Votoms TV: Toshifumi Takizawa

In addition to being the "chief episode director", Toshifumi Takizawa 滝沢敏文 drew the storyboard for no less than 13 episodes: 4, 6, 9, 13, 18, 27, 30, 33, 35, 38, 45, 51, and 52.

I wrote about Takizawa extensively before in my posts on Dirty Pair and Crusher Joe. I love his directing style, and Votoms is one of his biggest projects from his Sunrise period.

His work on the TV series comes between his early work on Ideon and his work on Dirty Pair. I'm not sure exactly what the nature of his work consisted in this show, but I presume it to have been something along the line of 'director of the episode directors'; maintaining a consistent tone to the episodes by guiding the episode directors. In the episodes he storyboarded you can clearly see his distinct approach to directing at work even though he did not do the actual processing of any of his episodes. The episodes are full of the focus on visual storytelling and forward momentum that made the last Ideon movie so powerful, not to mention the Dirty Pair and Crusher Joe OVAs.

Takizawa drew the storyboards for the climax of the three arcs of the TV series: 13, 27 and 51. Each of these is a great example of his directing style at its finest. He brings each arc to a conclusion in magnificent form with extended action sequences that unfold largely through visual storytelling without relying excessively on dialogue. Episodes 27 and 51 are particularly impressive in this regard.

Votoms OVA 1: The Last Red Shoulder (1985)

The first of the many OVAs to be released came out just a year after the TV series ended. Chronologically, it takes place between the end of the first arc (the Blade Runner-style Udo arc) and the beginning of the second arc (the Vietnam-style Kumen arc).

Story-wise, this is one of my favorite Votoms outings because it doesn't feature any of the annoying side-characters, and it's exclusively about Chirico and his soldier comrades on a mission. This is the episode where they introduce the character of Pailsen, who played a big role in Chirico's past. He just recently got an extensive prequel OVA series with 12 episodes in Pailsen Files, which chronologically is the earliest outing in the saga. It's all quite confusing to try to organize. Here in The Last Red Shoulder, Chirico and his former war buddies go after Pailsen to kill him for using and then discarding them when they were no longer needed.

This episode features some good action animation in the climax, which is presumably of the hand of Toru Yoshida, who here receives his sole Mecha Animation Director credit in the series. (if you don't count Mellowlink) The animation only credits Anime R as a studio without crediting any of the specific animators. Similarly, the credits list Studio Dove, Bebow and Magic Bus without listing who from these studios was involved. Studio Dove was involved in the TV series and went on to do the animation for the next two OVAs, and its star mecha animators were Hiroshi Koizumi 古泉浩司 and Hitoshi Waratani 藁谷均, so perhaps they were the ones involved here. Perhaps the Bebow animators were those in episode 27.

Unfortunately, the episode was not directed by Toshifumi Takizawa because he was busy directing Dirty Pair, but he would come back with the next OVA. It's not as exciting as the Takizawa-directed episodes, but still quite enjoyable.

The assistant technical director here was Takashi Imanishi 今西隆志, who started out as runner on Votoms. He switched career to directing with this episode, going on to become the technical director of Roots of Ambition, episode storyboarder/director of Mellowlink and finally full-fledged director of Radiant Heresy.

Votoms OVA 2: Big Battle (1986)

In the next OVA outing, Chirico and his sidekicks fight a maniac driving a gigantic tank. Chronologically, this episode depicts the events that transpired between the climax of the third arc of the TV series (the space opera-ish Quent arc) and the cold sleep depicted in the last episode as having taken place a year after the events of the TV series climax.

Takizawa comes back as the storyboarder and director of this episode, so this is probably the most thoroughly Takizawa outing in the whole Votoms saga. The directing is indeed fantastic. The scene where a minute goes by wordlessly as water floods in and the characters hold on for dear life is full of amazing tension, and I love the attention to little details such as where Chirico has to crawl backwards on his back with his shoulder when he's pinned to the floor, or Fiana's aghast reaction when her hand quickly jerks under the control of the machine. Takizawa also meticulously depicts how the time bomb is armed: twist two knobs, press them down, then press a button on the side. The climactic episode of the TV series was also a meticulously detailed depiction of Chirico going around pushing in rods to shut down a massive computer. I also like how when the bad guy gets shot in the head, his cyborg implant deflects the bullet and you can see the metal peeking through his skull.

The animation is really strong throughout, and this time it's not Anime R who's to thank, it's Studio Dove. This perhaps makes sense because Takizawa had since formed a close relationship with Studio Dove during the course of his work on Dirty Pair. Indeed, they provide excellent work here in no way inferior to Anime R. Norio Shioyama's drawings here are also far better than they ever were, and the characters look fantastic as a result, almost reminiscent of the style of Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, with great feature definition and more nuanced character acting. It feels like we're finally seeing Norio Shioyama's characters brought alive in a way that does them justice, as opposed to being re-invented through the lens of Moriyasu Taniguchi.

The scene where the protagonists drive up to the big tank are particularly impressive for the amount of detail packed into the shots and the precision with which effects are layered on top of one another. The scene feels very dense visually, with every little element being controlled carefully. It makes for an exciting scene that vividly conveys the speed at which things are happening.

The only problem with this otherwise excellent and supremely entertaining OVA is that it doesn't really feel like what I want to see from Votoms. It's too fun for that. I expect dark, bleak soldier action from Votoms, not the madcap action we're regaled with in this episode. The episode essentially feels more like a Crusher Joe episode than anything. That's not a bad thing per se; it's just different. This is essentially an entertainment side-story rather than a beefy story contributing to chronicling Chirico's past like the previous and next OVAs.

Votoms OVA 3: Roots of Ambition (1988)

The third of the one-shot OVAs following the TV series is chronologically the earliest in the saga. This is the starting point of the whole story. Here we find out how Chirico came to have a vendetta for Pailsen.

This is by far my favorite single outing in the Votoms saga. This OVA pins you to your seat, as well as digging into the nitty gritty of Chirico's sordid past. None of the previous Votoms are quite this bleak and intense. It delivers exactly the kind of story I want to see from Votoms: a hard-boiled story about Chirico and other soldiers told through tight dramaturgy and fierce mecha battles, without silly antics. Hard-boiled indeed, this is by far the bloodiest Votoms outing. Blood and death are depicted here more bluntly than ever before.

The quality is also the best of any of the Votoms OVAs. The animation this time is entirely done by Studio Dove, and this OVA singlehandedly proves that they are one of the criminally underappreciated subcontracting studios of the 1980s. With a mere five animators, they manage to provide a level of quality that is nothing short of stunning. The mecha and effects animation is far more intricate and nuanced than anything before. This is clearly the culmination of Dove's work on Sunrise mecha shows. The mecha animation here would have been the work of Hiroshi Waratani and Koji Takahashi, while in the previous OVA it would have been the work of Hiroshi Waratani and Koizumi Hiroshi. The other Dove animators listed would have done the characters.

By 1988, mecha animation was becoming more and more realistic. It was only a year later in 1989 that Mitsuo Iso drew his groundbreaking realistic animation for the opening scene of War in the Pocket. The speed of the evolution of mecha animation in the 1980s was remarkable. Just a few years earlier this level of detail would have been inconceivable.

Helping to give this amazing animation its impact is the fact that the episode was storyboarded by Toshifumi Takizawa. His storyboard creates a perfect balance between the drama and the episode's thrillingly choreographed action sequences. Takizawa didn't direct the episode; that was done by Takashi Imanishi, whom I mentioned before. This was one of his first steps towards the director's chair. Together they make this episode into a magnificently crafted piece of entertainment.

Votoms OVA series: The Radiant Heresy (1994-1995)

After The Roots of Ambition, the last Votoms outing the Dove and R team worked on would be Mellowlink, but I haven't seen that, so I'll leave that for another time. Several years later, this new 5-episode OVA series came out. This time the staff was pretty much completely different except for the leads of director Ryosuke Takahashi and character designer Norio Shioyama, so this outing feels quite different from everything that came before. There is a lot more connection with the present in terms of the staff. People like Jiro Kanai, Norio Matsumoto, Yutaka Nakamura, Yasushi Muraki, Akitoshi Yokoyama, Masami Goto, Isamu Imakake, Toshihiro Kawamoto and Akihiko Yamashita are all still very active in this or that production today.

Toru Yoshida is another element of continuity. He is the mecha animation director again. A few other Anime R names are scattered throughout the credits, including Takahiro Komori and Fumiko Kishi, while one or two Dove names are also to be seen, but for the most part it's new faces.

As the preceding list indicates, the genga staff is pretty impressive, although the animation isn't the extravaganza this would seem to suggest. The animation is rather strong at some fundamental level even when the animation isn't particularly impressive. I think that's due to one of the most surprising names in the credits: Hisashi Nakayama. None other than Hisashi Mori. He was involved in each episode doing key animation and/or layout assistance. I suspect it's his hand in maintaining the quality of the layouts that gives much of the animation its vague feeling of fundamental strength.

I'm not able to identify his animation with complete certainty this early on, but the scenes with Loccina in episode 3, for example, jumped out at me the first time I saw them, and feel like they might be of his hand. They're my favorite scenes in this series. There's a strange dynamism and roughness to the animation that doesn't look like any other scene in this OVA series. It was great seeing this character brought back from the TV series, as he's one of my favorite characters, and interesting to see him come back in the form of a half-crazed monastic scholar of all things Chirico. The gritty drawings in the scene combine with the gravelly, possessed voice-acting of Banjo Ginga to great effect. Of course, this doesn't jibe with the fact that Mori started out as a mecha animator, so maybe he just handled the mecha scenes. Some of the effects in the first half of episode 2, for example, feel like Mori, as do the gorgeous explosion and flame effects near the end of episode 1.

The character drawings of Chirico and Fiana here are a little disappointing. It feels like after the peak of Big Battle Norio Shioyama never quite managed to draw the characters as impressively again. They feel somewhat bland and expressionless. Some of the side-characters like Loccina are a notable exception.

The battle at the beginning of episode 5 has a really nice timing to it, though I can't pinpoint who it might be. Masami Goto maybe? It's the same with the other episodes. There are nice bits here and there, though it's hard to say which animator in the above list did them as this is still pretty early in most of their careers.

The mecha animation overall doesn't feel like it tops what was achieved by Studio Dove in The Roots of Ambition, even though there are moments were the mecha animation clearly shows a new and more modern take on FX and movement compared to the animation in that 1988 OVA. The animation of the Dove animators and Toru Yoshida just felt good to watch in a way that most of the mecha animation here doesn't, and it was done by way fewer animators.

The story of the episode is fairly interesting. Taking place many years after the events of the TV series, it places Chirico in a world in which he has come to be viewed with something approaching religious fear. The story makes some smart commentary on the political use of religion, a subject Ryosuke Takahashi came back to in Flag, but the directing is somewhat lacking in dynamism and it makes me long for the days of Toshifumi Takizawa's directing. Takashi Imanishi's directing isn't bad per se, it's just a little plodding. Even in the action scenes there's never a feeling of real tension.

The episode does benefit from impressive attention to detail in the spirit of the Sunrise productions of this era, with highly detailed backgrounds and stills of the mecha being packed with far more detail than pre-1990 mecha were.

The story ends on a real downer, I must say, and I wish they hadn't done what they do at the end.

In memoriam Hiroshi Koizumi

I'd like to take a moment to remember Hiroshi Koizumi. He will not be familiar to anyone over here because he died suddenly in 1988 not long after working on Big Battle. He was killed in a freak car accident when a truck rear-ended him while he was stopped at a red light on his motorbike on his way home from work.

Hiroshi Koizumi was one of Studio Dove's great animators, and certainly one of the best mecha animators of the 1980s in Japan. However, due to the fact that he worked at a small subcontractor and died so early into a short career (he only debuted in 1983), even in Japan among animation aficionados he is not very well known, to say nothing of over here.

Koizumi was responsible for drawing no less than 10% of the animation of that classic of mecha space operas, Char's Counterattack. That is an astounding amount of animation by any standard, especially by the standards of such a high-quality film. Apparently much of the climax of the film in this video is his work, including the magnificent hand-to-hand mecha combat at the beginning. He drew many shots in the first half of Five Star Stories, another movie from this era with impressive mecha animation. As the best animator in the studio, he was the only Studio Dove animator working on these two prestigious feature films. His last job was as mecha animation director of episodes 2 and 4 of Mellowlink, although he is not credited as such and only Studio Dove is credited as the mecha animation director for some reason. He was scheduled to be the mecha animation director for each Dove episode.

Here are some links to a few genga drawings by Koizumi that never got used. They were uploaded by Nobuyoshi Nishimura of Studio Dove.
Anna from Layzner
Kei from the Dirty Pair TV series
Doodles on a genga for Ninja Senshi Tobikage

Hiroshi Koizumi works:
Dougram (1981-1983)
Votoms (1983-1984) 8, 12, 18, 20, 23, 28, 31, 35, 41, 45, 49, 51
Dorvack (1983) 31
Vifam (1983) 30
Bismark (1984) 4, 26, 33, 37, 43, 47
El Gaim (1984) 22
Galvion (1984) 14, 21
Galient (1984) 5, 10, 14, 18, 21, 24
Tobikage (1985) 2
Z Gundam (1985) 8, 13, 17
SPT Layzner (1985) 2, 5, 10, 13, 18, 22, 27, 31, 35
Votoms: The Last Red Shoulder (1985)
Dirty Pair TV (1985) 8, 9, 25, 26
ZZ Gundam (1986)
Galient OVA (1986)
Votoms: Big Battle (1986)
El Gaim OVA (1986)
Dead Heat (1986)
Dragnar (1987)
Dirty Pair movie (1987)
City Hunter (1987) 7, 8, 16, 12, 19, 22
Kimagure Orange Road (1987) 5
Mister Ajikko (1988) 33
Gundam: Char's Counterattack (1988)
Mellowlink (1988) Mecha Sakkan 2, 4
Five Star Stories (1988)

I hope this can help in small part to get him some recognition, even if it's a little late after all this time.


Armored Trooper Votoms 装甲騎兵ボトムズ (TV series, 52 eps, 1983-1984)

StoryboardDirectorSakkanKey Animators
1終戦 War's end清水恵蔵 Keizo Shimizu
川筋 豊 Yutaka Kawasuji
牟田清司 Seiji Muta
京 春香
Kyo Haruka
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
清水恵蔵、塩山紀生
Keizo Shimizu, Norio Shioyama
2ウド Udo上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
松野達也
Tatsuya Matsuno
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
3出会い Encounter森 安夫 Yasuo Mori
山中英治 Eiji Yamanaka
奥田万里 Mari Okuda
松野達也
Tatsuya Matsuno
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
4バトリング Battling布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
神宮 慧
Hajime Jingu
5罠 Trap加藤 茂 Shigeru Kato
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
木のプロダクション Kino Production
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
上村栄司
Eiji Kamimura
6素体 Protid中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
西城 明
Akira Saijo
7襲撃 Raid谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
新田敏夫 Toshio Arata
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
谷沢 豊、新田敏夫
Yutaka Tanisawa, Toshio Arata
8取引 Transaction青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
9救出 Rescue上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
10レッド・ショルダー Red Shoulder多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
金子紀男 Norio Kaneko
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
鈴木英二、塩山紀生
Eiji Suzuki, Norio Shioyama
11逆襲 Counterattack中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
吉田 浩
Hiroshi Yoshida
桐野克己
Katsumi Kirino
西城 明
Akira Saijo
12絆 Bonds布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
吉田 浩
Hiroshi Yoshida
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
神宮 慧
Hajime Jingu
13脱出 Escape青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
二宮常雄 Tsuneo Futamiya
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二、塩山紀生
Eiji Suzuki, Norio Shioyama
14アッセンブルEX-10 Assemble EX-10上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
松野達也
Tatsuya Matsuno
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
15疑惑 Doubt中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
吉田 浩
Hiroshi Yoshida
桐野克己
Katsumi Kirino
西城 明
Akira Saijo
16掃討 Search and destroy谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
新田敏夫 Toshio Arata
金子紀男 Norio Kaneko
笹木寿子 Masako Sasaki
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
17再会 Reunion多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
高橋資祐
Motosuke Takahashi
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
神宮 慧
Hajime Jingu
18急変 Turn of events八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
上村栄司、塩山紀生
Eiji Kamimura, Norio Shioyama
19思惑 Anticipation中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
康村正一
Seiichi Yasumura
西城 明
Akira Saijo
20フィアナ Fiana中村プロ Nakamura Pro
アニメ・アール Anime R
マジックバス Magic Bus
加藤 茂 Shigeru Kato
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
-高橋良輔
Ryosuke Takahashi
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
21遡行 Upstream青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
加藤 茂 Shigeru Kato
笹木寿子 Masako Sasaki
山崎享子 Ryoko Yamazaki
清島孝一郎 Koichiro Kiyoshima
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二、塩山紀生
Eiji Suzuki, Norio Shioyama
22触発 Contact上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
桐野克己
Katsumi Kirino
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
23錯綜 Complication八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
神宮 慧
Hajime Jingu
24横断 Crossing中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
富沢雄三
Tomizawa Yuzo
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
西城 明
Akira Saijo
25潜入 Infiltration谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
金子紀男 Norio Kaneko
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
上村栄司
Eiji Kamimura
26肉迫 Closing in八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
福井享子 Ryoko Fukui
清島孝一郎 Koichiro Kiyoshima
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
27暗転 Turn for the worse寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
所 智一 Tomokazu Tokoro
矢木正之 Masayuki Yaki
遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
坂本英明 Hideaki Sakamoto
詫 祐二 Yuji Tsuge
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
28運命 Destiny青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
二宮常雄 Tsuneo Futamiya
マジックバス Magic Bus
アニメ・アール Anime R
中村プロ Nakamura Pro
-高橋良輔
Ryosuke Takahashi
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
29二人 Two上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
30幻影 Illusion中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
西城 明
Akira Saijo
31不可侵宙域 Forbidden zone布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
スタジオダブ Studio Dove
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
32イプシロン Ipsilon青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
清島孝一郎 Koichiro Kiyoshima
福井享子 Ryoko Fukui
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
上村栄司、塩山紀生
Eiji Kamimura, Norio Shioyama
33対決 Showdown上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
吉田 徹 Toru Yoshida
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
34惑星サンサ Planet Sansa中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
西城 明
Akira Saijo
35死線 Near death藁谷 均 Hitoshi Waratani
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
36恩讐 Love and hate神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
高橋資祐
Motosuke Takahashi
康村正一
Seiichi Yasumura
上村栄司、塩山紀生
Eiji Kamimura, Norio Shioyama
37虜 Captive多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
38暗闇 Darkness中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
西城 明
Akira Saijo
39パーフェクト・ソルジャー Perfect Soldier上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
吉田 徹 Toru Yoshida
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
40仲間 Friendアニメ・アール Anime R
中村プロ Nakamura Pro
オールプロダクション All Production
-高橋良輔
Ryosuke Takahashi
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
41クエント Quentスタジオダブ Studio Dove
藁谷 均 Hitoshi Waratani
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
八幡 正、塩山紀生
Tadashi Yahata, Norio Shioyama
42砂漠 Desert布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
福井享子 Ryoko Fukui
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
43遺産 Legacy青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
木下ゆうき Yuuki Kishita
清島孝一郎 Koichiro Kiyoshima
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
44禁断 Forbidden中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
松下佳弘 Yoshihiro Matsushita
和泉絹子 Masako Izumi
時矢義則 Yoshinori Tokiya
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
西城 明
Akira Saijo
45遭遇 Encounterスタジオダブ Studio Dove
藁谷 均 Hitoshi Waratani
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
きのプロ Kino Pro
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
46予感 Intuition加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
吉田 徹 Toru Yoshida
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
糸島雅彦 Masahiko Itojima
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
47異変 Fortuity布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
48後継者 Successor奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
柳沢哲也 Tetsuya Yanagisawa
石田 誠 Makoto Ishida
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
西城 明
Akira Saijo
49異能者 They of special powersスタジオダブ Studio Dove
藁谷 均 Hitoshi Waratani
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
溝井裕二 Yuji Mizoi
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
康村正一
Seiichi Yasumura
八幡 正
Tadashi Yahata
50乱雲 Thunderhead波戸根良昭 Yoshiaki Hatone
松原徳弘 Norihiro Matsuhara
塚本 篤 Atsushi Tsukamoto
佐々木喜子 Yoshiko Sasaki
貴島優子 Yuko Takashima
河口俊夫 Toshio Kawaguchi
香川 浩 Hiroshi Kagawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二、塩山紀生
Eiji Suzuki, Norio Shioyama
51修羅 Battle青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
スタジオダブ Studio Dove
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
52流星 Shooting star加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
吉田 徹 Toru Yoshida
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
糸島雅彦 Masahiko Itojima
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi

The Last Red Shoulder ザ・ラストレッドショルダー (OVA, 54 mins, 1985)

Created by & Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Character Design & Anim. Dir.:塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
Mechanical Animation Director:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Script:はままさのりMasanori Hama
Storyboard:加瀬充子
谷田部勝義
Nobuko Kase
Masayoshi Yatabe
Technical Director:加瀬充子Nobuko Kase
Assistant Technical Director:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Key Animation:アニメアールAnime R
スタジオダブStudio Dove
スタジオビーボオ―Studio Bebow
マジックバスMagic Bus
福井享子Ryoko Fukui
清島孝一郎Koichiro Kiyoshima

Big Battle ビッグバトル (OVA, 56 mins, 1986)

Created by & Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Character Design & Anim. Dir.:塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
Script:はままさのりMasanori Hama
Storyboard & Technical Director:滝沢敏文Toshifumi Takizawa
Key Animation:スタジオ・ダブStudio Dove
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura
藁谷均Hitoshi Waratani
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
 
服部真奈美Manami Hattori
福井享子 Ryoko Fukui
加藤義貴Yoshitaka Kato

Red Soldier Document: The Roots of Ambition レッドショルダードキュメント 野望のルーツ (OVA, 57 mins, 1988)

Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Character Design & Anim. Dir.:塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
Script:吉川惣司Soji Yoshikawa
Storyboard:滝沢敏文Toshifumi Takizawa
Technical Director:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Key Animation:スタジオダブStudio Dove
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
高橋幸治Koji Takahashi
藁谷均Hitoshi Waratani
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura

The Radiant Heresy 赫奕たる異端 (OVA, 5 eps, 25 mins each, 1994-1995)

Created by & Chief Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Director & Storyboard:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Episode Directors:原田奈奈
中野頼道
大熊朝秀
Nana Harada
Yorimichi Nakano
Nobuhide Ookuma (Takashi Imanishi)
Character Design & Anim. Dir.:塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
Assistant A.D.:横山彰利
(+小林利充
Akitoshi Yokoyama
Toshimitsu Kobayashi in ep 2)
Script:吉川惣司Soji Yoshikawa
Mechanical Animation Director:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Music:乾裕樹Hiroki Inui
 
Key animation:(Episode 1)
阿部邦博Kunihiro Abe
村木靖Yasushi Muraki
小森高博Takahiro Komori
舛館俊秀Toshihide Masudate
松本憲生Norio Matsumoto
松本文雄Fumio Matsumoto
加藤茂Shigeru Kato
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
中山久司Hisashi Nakayama
馬場俊子Toshiko Baba
貴志夫美子Fumiko Kishi
スタジオダブStudio Dove
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
 
A.D. help:小林利充 Toshimitsu Kobayashi
 
Layout Assistant: 中山久司 Hisashi Nakayama
 
(Episode 2)
アニメロマンAnime Roman
スタジオダブStudio Dove
安藤美行Miyuki Ando
金井次郎Jiro Kanai
尾形雄二Yuji Ogata
加藤茂Shigeru Kato
[Chinese names]
横山彰利Akitoshi Yokoyama
中山久司Hisashi Nakayama
 
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
 
Layout Assistant: 中山久司 Hisashi Nakayama
 
(Episode 3)
飯野泰造Taizo Iino
服部真奈美Manami Hattori
加藤茂Shigeru Kato
金井次郎Jiro Kanai
佐藤修Osamu Sato
永田正美Masami Nagata
[Chinese names]
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
小林利充Toshimitsu Kobayashi
中山久司Hisashi Nakayama
中村豊Yutaka Nakamura
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
京都アニ
メーション
Kyoto Animation
 
(Episode 4)
服部真奈美Manami Hattori
門上洋子Yoko Kadogami
馬場俊子Toshiko Baba
鵜飼美樹Miki Ukai
岡田和久Kazuhisa Okada
江原仁Jin Ehara
川元利浩Toshihiro Kawamoto
入江泰浩Yasuhiro Irie
中田雅夫Masao Nakata
加藤義貴Yoshitaka Kato
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
横山彰利Akitoshi Yokoyama
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
小林利充Toshimitsu Kobayashi
 
Layout Assistant: 中山久司 Hisashi Nakayama
 
(Episode 5)
門上洋子Yoko Kadogami
馬場俊子Toshiko Baba
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
久行宏和Hirokazu Hisayuki
金田正彦Masahiko Kanada
服部真奈美Manami Hattori
加藤義貴Yoshitaka Kato
後藤雅己Masami Goto
山下明彦Akihiko Yamashita
牧野行洋Yukihiro Makino
小森高博Takahiro Komori
西村貴世Takase Nishimura
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
横山彰利Akitoshi Yokoyama
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
中山久司Hisashi Nakayama
鈴木勉Tsutomu Suzuki
今掛勇Isamu Imakake
[Chinese names]
アニメアールAnime R
スタジオダブStudio Dove

Thursday, August 6, 2009

11:27:00 pm , 1839 words, 4739 views     Categories: OVA, Director: Toshifumi Takizawa

Crusher Joe

One of the classics of the 80s I never got to see back in the early days was Crusher Joe. I've been curious about it for a long time, and finally got the chance to watch the movie from 1983 and the two OVAs from 1989 today. They're both very different but very nice in their own ways, and are a time capsule of space action anime goodness from the opposite ends of the 80s waiting to be discovered by fans of good space mecha anime.

I'll start with the more recent OVAs. I wrote about Toshifumi Takizawa's work on Dirty Pair a while back, and how the final OVA from 1990 featured Takizawa's unique directing style at its pinnacle of sorts. Well, the two Crusher Joe OVAs from 1989 are like two more of those. The Crusher Joe OVAs come right after the Dirty Pair OVA series and just before the final OVA, and they all share a similar directing style and production quality, with the same tight directing Takizawa was so good at, and the same high production values from many of the same staff who did the good work on the Dirty Pair OVAs and TV series. The two Crusher Joe OVAs are probably among the best 1980s OVAs that nobody has seen.

Takizawa's directing does a great job of making both OVAs tremendously fun and exciting. Things start out slowly, but build up in both episodes to exciting climaxes that have a cinematic flow and intensity equaled only by Tomino, but more logical and restrained, without the quirkiness and histrionics. Takizawa is particularly good at putting together complex scenes in which a lot of different things are going on, with different action sequences unfolding simultaneously in different places between different characters and eventually converging, yet what's going on remains clear to the viewer all times. There is a lot of action anime out there, but Takizawa's seems unique in its elegance and strength of presentation. I love the clear sense of structure that I get from Takizawa's storyboards.

The animation in the two OVAs is truly top notch. I'm a fan of mecha anime and animation, but I'm not a fan of robots. Crusher Joe is perfect for people like me, as it's got lots of cool mecha without any robots, and the mecha are fabulously animated. Shoichi Masuo and Koji Ito of Studio Graviton, whom I mentioned before in the Dirty Pair post, provide both OVAs with superb mecha and effects animation. Masuo was in both OVAs, but Ito was only in the first. On the character side of things, we have Dirty Pair character designer Tsukasa Dokite in both OVAs, and Norio Matsumoto and Hitoshi Ueda in the second, among other people from Dirty Pair like Satoshi Isono and Dove animator Masayoshi Nishimura.

While watching the mecha animation, you will perhaps be reminded of Irresponsible Captain Tylor. The reason is obvious: Shoichi Masuo and Koji Ito were the ones responsible for the mecha animation in Tylor, which was made a few years later. Tylor featured character designs by Tomohiro Hirata, who is a Studio Graviton animator, and who was the animation director of the Crusher Joe OVAs. It's undoubtedly because of him that Masuo and Ito were involved in Crusher Joe and Tylor. Similarly, Hirata happens to have been the mentor of Norio Matsumoto, which probably accounts for his being involved in Crusher Joe and Tylor. It's amazing to think that the presence of just those three individual animators, who were responsible for most of the best work in Tylor, accounts for what makes the two items feel so similar (in addition to Hirata's designs, of course). Because the directing styles of Toshifumi Takizawa and Koichi Mashimo couldn't be more different.

The good animation in the first episodes, unsurprisingly, comes mostly in the space battle shots, which include a number of Itano circus shots that were clearly the work of Masuo Shoichi. In the second episode there are lots of great space action shots again, but in addition, there is some very nice character animation shots littered throughout, some of which are presumably of Matsumoto's hand, although I wasn't able to identify his style definitively. He's clearly identifiable by the time of Tylor in 1993, but this is still somewhat early in his career.

One of the bits of animation I most liked in the second episode was the one pictured atop, where smoke rises from the ground where bombs have just exploded. The strange thing is that it felt like I was watching the sequence of the capsule breaking open from Akira, which was animated by Toshiaki Hontani. There is an uncanny resemblance there, partly in the actual way that the clouds are drawn, but especially in the way the animation is very dense and carefully done, with each bulge in the clouds rising in a trajectory independent from the others. Hontani was the first to try animating smoke in this particular way in Japan in his Akira animation, so it seems like an odd coincidence. Akira came out the year before, so it feels like Shoichi Masuo is paying homage to that incredible smoke animation by his great sempai in the field of effects animation. Whatever the case may be, the effects work in both episodes is wonderful; especially so the climax of episode 2. Highly recommended to FX animation nuts.

There's nothing I like better than a good space action anime, and the Crusher Joe OVAs deliver big time in that field. They don't make space action anime like this anymore. Among the few space action anime I've seen from the 1990s that was up to this level was Outlaw Star from 1998, directed by Mitsuru Hongo. As I wrote in an old post, this series was not only well directed and fun and actually watchable, it had among the best action sequences I've seen in any TV series, mostly compliments of Studio Torapezoid animators Susumu Yamaguchi and Hiroshi Okubo, who played a role analagous to that played by Shoichi Masuo and Koji Ito in Tylor, filling the series with skilfully animated space battles.

Today I also had the chance to see Yasuhiko Yoshikazu's movie version of Crusher Joe from 1983, and it was quite stimulating in its own way. It was Yoshikazu's directorial debut, to be followed by Giant Gorg on TV and then his three more well-known movies. Although I was never a big fan of Yasuhiko Yoshikazu until now, because something about his work didn't quite sit right with me for some reason, watching this movie renewed my sense of respect for this tremendous animator. He is a true powerhouse of an animator. When he's behind a project, you know he's behind it 100%, and he fills every moment with his own very peculiar brand of animated nuance. There aren't many anime films that move as constantly and as richly as do Yoshikazu's films. He's the only person in Japan who has come close to doing the sort of superhuman feat that Hayao Miyazaki did in his movies, handling all of the main creative roles from script to storyboard to layout and even rough animation - even correcting the animation himself when necessary. If for nothing else, the Crusher Joe movie is an amazing accomplishment in that it seems like it was entirely animated by one person. (I'm talking about the character scenes, not the mecha scenes) In the way in which Yasuhiko Yoshikazu's individuality completely dominates the proceedings, the Crusher Joe movie feels decidedly like a child of the anime boom of the late 70s to the early 80s.

It makes me really curious to know how he managed to fill his films with so much movement that all seems like it was made by him. Perhaps he provided roughs to lay down the basic motion and then corrected the keys to get the expression or pose just right. I don't see how he could do it otherwise, but that's a hell of a lot of work. There's a reason movies nowadays have 12 sakkans. Compared to the animation of the OVAs, Yoshikazu wins hands down. Yoshikazu is credited as character designer in the OVAs, but it doesn't really feel like his work. He really has to be the sakkan for it to feel like his work. He's got this very loose line and bizarre quirky posing and expression sensibility that can't be mimicked by anyone, not least Tomohiro Hirata, whose style feels nothing like Yoshikazu's.

Apart from the look of the characters, more important is the fact that the characters feel alive in the movie in a way they don't in the OVAs. That's where Yoshikazu's genius as an animator comes in and makes his work so special. The characters' expressions are very pliable and fun to watch, the body language varied, inventive and appropriate to each character, and expressions change according to the dialogue as a shot unfolds - which hits you with reverse culture shock when you've grown used to faces remaining static over the course of a shot in most other anime out there. Not to mention that Alfin is way cuter in the movie than in the OVAs. The drawings have a certain roughness that seems unusual when looked at today. There's a perception today that movie drawings in particular need to be really well polished. You sense that Yoshikazu's priority isn't in making the faces resemble a model; rather, he wants the characters to feel alive, and for the animation to be interesting, dynamic and exciting.

The disco brawl scene was a great example of the freedom in Yoshikazu's animation. There's so much movement packed into there, and it's all so fun and amusingly presented. I like that this film feels like the freest and most playful of Yoshikazu's films. Putting aside the question of whether the film works as a film, Yoshikazu has a very unique instinct for creating this exciting flow of animation that retains momentum from shot to shot, inserting lots of different actions and ideas, and effectively using that trademark slo-mo slide of his. His action scenes are very fast, but it's not just a blur or a bunch of pans over stills - every little movement of every action is actually animated, and in considerable detail, all while maintaining forward momentum through the skillful cutting and variety of shots.

The Crusher Joe movie also happens to feature some great extended work by Ichiro Itano, from what is in many ways his best period - the period when his work was at its youngest and freshest and he was just attaining mastery. This would have been right after the Ideon movie and right during Macross, so his work here was done smack in the middle of the two items for which he's far better known. That makes it all the more interesting to discover after all these years - a whole huge chunk of great Itano you didn't know existed. It's quite good and very reminiscent of Macross, since on top of everything he's even animating mecha designed by Shoji Kawamori.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

10:35:00 pm , 3062 words, 11636 views     Categories: Animation, OVA, Movie, TV, Studio: Dove, Director: Toshifumi Takizawa

Dirty Pair

TV Series (1985)
Movie (1987)
OVA (1990)

Dirty Pair was one of the big titles for me back when I was first getting into anime. It probably doesn't get much attention anymore, as the last 'real' installment was made more than 18 years ago, but for people like me who got into anime through fansubs in the early 90s, the Dirty Pair one-offs were fresh and new and among the various titles from the 80s that embodied the mysterious attraction of the form. The movie in particular pushed all the right buttons in terms of what I was wanting to see in my anime at the time, and was stylishly directed and well animated.

Well, I had myself a little Dirty Pair marathon over the last few weeks, and I've now seen every Dirty Pair item ever made. It's a pleasant show to revisit - among the few I've lately been able to watch in its entirety - and its evolution over the five years in which the various installments were in production from 1985 to 1990 offer some insights into the industry during that period.

The director of the TV series from 1985 and the last OVA from 1990 was Toshifumi Takizawa, who more recently will be remembered for having directed Samurai 7, so he serves as a good starting point for examining the series. His directing work seems to act as the guiding spirit for the show, setting the tone at the beginning and making the last statement in the very nice final OVA.

I personally remember Toshifumi Takizawa as having been the line director of my favorite robot anime, the terminal Ideon: Be Invoked movie. Tomino Yoshiyuki is the one who is generally remembered as the director of Ideon overall, and rightfully so. But when it comes to the last movie, reading has led me to realize that, besides animation director Tomonori Kogawa, it's line director Toshifumi Takizawa who was in large part responsible for giving the movie its legendary power and tension. He's the one who did the work of what we usually term director, or 'enshutsu', namely checking the genga, putting together all the material, etc - basically everything after the storyboard.

Takizawa wasn't long after having debuted when he directed the film, having been heavily involved in the TV series drawing storyboards and directing episodes. He relates that episode 39 of the TV series, which he storyboarded and directed, is the one on which he feels he finally achieved what he wanted as a director. He clearly learned much from the speedy, cinematic flow of Tomino's storyboards, and in the film he builds on that to create one of the most terrifyingly tense and perfectly built dramatic flows of any anime movie. This is clearly when Takizawa established the tight and speedy directing style that has come to define his later work. At his best, he is unbeatable at creating a seamless flow that threads breathlessly between drama and exciting action. Notable is that he himself volunteered to direct the film. It was his first great achievement, and remains one of his most impressive.

His next major job would be on that other classic Sunrise 'real robot' anime of the 1980s, Votoms, on which he served under chief director Ryosuke Takahashi as the 'enshutsu chief', in which capacity he drew storyboards and focused on polishing the final quality of the episodes in terms of achieving the right dramatic flow - having just proven his talent for just that on the Ideon film. It's not long after this that he directed the Dirty Pair TV series.

Takizawa only storyboarded the first episode of the Dirty Pair TV series, and directed none of the episodes. He appears to have focused his skills on directing the directors and maintaining the overall tone for the show rather than been in there doing things himself. The first episode is definitely identifiable as his work in terms of the nimble pacing and variety of the scenery and action, and the rest of the series shares something of this feeling, although it's overall not as tight as his own work.

The Dirty Pair series is unique among Sunrise's shows from the 80s, for the obvious reason that it's not a robot show, and for its more lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek tone that sets it decidedly apart from the more serious and 'realistic' tone of the usual robot shows. There are transient moments of seriousness, of course, and people die, but the tone is something akin to that of the Roger Moore James Bond movies, in that the seriousness is subsumed within an encompassing atmosphere of nonchalant whimsy. It would just be ludicrous if they took themselves seriously with stories about cartoon madmen armed with laser satellites out to take over the world. It feels the same with Dirty Pair, and Toshifumi Takizawa is probably the one who guided the show in this direction as the director. He has stated explicitly his his dislike for dark, serious stories, and Dirty Pair provides a unique and grandly entertaining side-show on the menu of 80s Sunrise productions. And of course, this was a seminal show for its unusual protagonists and 'buddy movie' format. It had female protagonists, but was aimed at boys rather than girls, and they were strong female protagonists in commanding roles, rather than the docile girls of love comedies.

After directing the series, Takizawa was away from Dirty Pair until 1990, when he came back to direct the last OVA in the series. In between, he worked on various Sunrise shows, including drawing storyboard for ZZ Gundam and directing the Dunbine and Crusher Joe OVAs. Crusher Joe was originally a movie released in 1983, and it's in this movie that the first anime adaptation of Dirty Pair appeared briefly, showing up as a program on TV. Going back further, Dirty Pair was originally published as a novel in 1980.

While Takizawa was away, quite a bit of Dirty Pair got made by other directors. Right when the TV series was about to end in December 1985, an OVA entitled The Nolandia Affair was released. Revisited today, it's the blandest entry in the series, and not interesting in terms of the animation. The protagonists have a more adult design that comes across as a departure from everything else. The TV series had ended prematurely on episode 24, even though the script for the last two episodes had been written, so the last two episodes got produced and released as an OVA just prior to the release of a movie in March 1987, as a lead-in. Episode 25 in particular features some of the better animation of the entire series.

As much as I like Takizawa's work on the show, if you only watch one item of Dirty Pair, it'll probably be the movie, which is itself quite well directed by Koichi Mashimo, but just in a very different style. His distinct style with garish color schemes and loud musical interludes is on full display here and has actually never worked so well. The film also has the richest animation of the series, featuring plenty of great animators like Hitoshi Ueda, Sachiko Kamimura, Koji Ito, Koichi Hashimoto and even Satoru Utsunomiya.

A few months after the movie came a 10-episode OVA series released over the first few months of 1988. The OVA series is also directed by a different director, but holds up quite well nonetheless, and comes across as a higher quality version of the more light-hearted, variety-style TV series. Surprising names like Shinji Hashimoto and Norimoto Tokura even turn up.

Finally, after completing his work on the Crusher Joe OVAs, Takizawa returned to direct what turned out to be the final installment of the series in an OVA entitled Conspiracy on Flight 005. There was technically an OVA series entitled Dirty Pair Flash made a few years later, but it looks and feels nothing like the rest of the series, and comes across as a failed experiment to take the series in a new direction. The 005 OVA comes across as the true final word, the ultimate expression of how the Dirty Pair universe should be handled.

The final OVA is quite a nice OVA, and is one of the most satisfying installments in the series. It benefits from five years of added experience for the entire staff that was involved, including the director, the animators and the animation director, and so things have the assured feeling of the work of people who have learned how best to handle material they've been handling for years. Takizawa's directing is tighter than ever, with a dramatic finale that recalls the action of the Ideon movie, and most of all, the designs and animation are perhaps the most refined in the series. Character designer Tsukasa Dokite had by then continuously honed the character designs, and he brings to the drawings as animation director a more controlled line that gives the drawings new strength. The line and form of his work by this time kind of reminds me of Tomonori Kogawa's best work a few years earlier.

Which brings us to the other, more obvious, star of the Dirty Pair series - character designer Tsukasa Dokite, the man who created the sexy, daringly costumed designs that made the characters iconic and undoubtedly played a big part in making the series the hit it was. Dokite had worked extensively on Urusei Yatsura and then Maison Ikkoku, and this clearly influenced the development of his style, as the drawings in the TV series still have a whiff of Maison Ikkoku about them in terms of the arrangement of the features and the jawline. Dokite's drawings continued to evolve over the course of the series. The characters took a sharp turn towards the older and more realistic in the Nolandia Affair OVA, while for the movie he returned towards the younger TV series design, changed the costume a bit, and honed the design in a more cartoony direction. He continued to soften the edges over the course of the OVAs, and the 005 OVA represents his final word on the designs. You can see this evolution clearly in his character design drawings from each installment above. This evolution is obviously not something that's limited to this series, and probably to some extent is simply a reflection of evolving stylitic tendencies in the industry.

The opening for the TV series and OVA series, incidentally, are nice little films that showcase Dokite and Takizawa at their best at each particular period - Takizawa creating richly conceived, dense flows of entertaining imagery, and character designer Tsukasa Dokite providing some of his best rendered drawings of his own characters.

One of the things that most interested me in watching the TV series and examining the contrasting styles of each animation director is that so many different studios were involved in the animation of the show. Everybody knows it's common practice for the various parts of anime episodes to be outsourced, and I know it happened on other Sunrise shows of the same period (Anime R in Osaka and Nakamura Pro were major collaborators throughout Sunrise's history), but I was surprised at the extent to which this show seems to have been produced largely by outside staff, in looking up the names. It's obvious that this was not the Sunrise of today, with its ten studios allowing it to run any number of productions simultaneously.

I've been able to associate animators with no less than 10 different studios, partly because many times the studios are actually credited, and partly because I've been able to identify certain animators who were affiliated with certain studios at this time. I'm sure there are other animators who I haven't listed here who may have been affiliated with some studio at this time, but at the very least, from what I've been able to gather, the following studios were involved in the animation of the TV series. I list it here because it's an interesting list. It's testament to the intricacy of the web of interconnections that underpin anime production in Japan that they were able to produce a TV series using a small handful of animators scattered around at a dozen different studios.

Dove
  5, 8, 9, 12, 25, 26
  KOIZUMI Hiroshi, NISHIMURA Nobuyoshi, MATSUSHITA Yoshihiro, KANEMORI
  Kenji
Gallop
  10, 15, 17, 19, 24
  SATO Yuzo, TSUJI Hatsuki, ICHISHITA Satoshi, KOBAYASHI Kazumi,
  MATSUSHITA Tokuhide, SHIMURA Izumi, TSUKAMOTO Atsushi
Artland
  6, 7, 11
  MORIKAWA Sadami, OZAWA Naoko, YOSHIMOTO Kinji, YUKI Nobuteru,
  FUTAMURA Hideki
Mu
  13, 16, 25
  MURANAKA Hiromi, NAKASHIMA Miko, YAMAMOTO Sawako, KISE Kazuchika,
  OSHIMA Yasuhiro
Minamimachi Bugyosho
  2, 3, 7
  YAMASAKI Osamu, ONUKI Kenichi, TSURUYAMA Osamu
Kugatsusha
  1, 5, 8, 12, 21, 25, 26
  TAKAHASHI Kumiko
Hibari
  ISONO Satoshi
Graviton
  2, 4, 7
  SHOICHI Masuo
Doga Kobo
  18
Last House
  2
Anime Roman
  22

The proliferation of studios is enough to make you wonder if any of the show was actually produced at Sunrise, but there are plenty of staff I can't account for, and I'm sure that many of them must have been in-house animators. The first four studios listed were obviously the big ones in this series. The rest were more piecemeal. Some episodes appear to have been wholesaled out to certain studios, but mostly it's more of a mix of different animators from different studios. For example, episodes 10, 15, 17, 19 and 24 appear to have been entirely wholesaled to Gallop, whereas Dove animators handled only a portion of the episodes they're involved in. The same applies to the other studios listed above.

Studio Dove perhaps deserves special mention, as its members are credited by studio in every installment of the series from the TV series to the movie to the OVAs. The reason for this is pretty obvious - Dove was founded by an ex-Sunriser who had to move back to his hometown due to illness, where he continued to work for the company, and eventually started his own subcontractor. His company was the training ground for two of my favorite animators - Nobutake Ito and Susumu Yamaguchi. They've got numerous other Asian branches, including Seoul Dove, Shanghai Dove and Vietnam Dove.

Although some studios like Dove are credited, in other cases it took research to figure out that a particular animator was involved at a particular studio at this point in time. Dove is credited, but Gallop is not. I was able to figure out that those animators are probably Gallop animators because just the year before, most of them are listed under Gallop in the credits of Sherlock Hound, which was itself a Gallop production.

Studio Mu, the sister studio of Anime R in Osaka, is credited, and under the Mu credit you find the names of the animators involved from the studio - most famously perhaps Kazuchika Kise. Artland is credited in episodes 6 and 7, but not in episode 11, but episode 11 involves Nobuteru Yuki and Hideki Futamura, who were either credited under Artland in the previous episodes or I know to have started out at Artland. This is of course early in the career of these two animators who since this went on to make a name for themselves elsewhere with two very different approaches.

Osamu Tsuruyama and Kenichi Onuki, two of the main animation directors on the TV series, were among the founding members of subcontracting studio Minamimachi Bugyosho, whose ranks also include an animator named Osamu Yamasaki, who was involved in episode 2, 3 and 7 alongside one or the other of the former. Kugatsusha I don't know much about other than that it was Yoshikazu Yasuhiko's studio and it's where Kumiko Takahashi started out a few years earlier and was presumably still involved at this point in time.

Hibari isn't credited, but animation director Satoshi Isono of Hibari is present. He debuted as an inbetweener on the TV show and was one of the staff most ubiquitous throughout the various productions, working as an animator on the movie, as an animation director and animator in the OVA series, and as an animator in the final OVA. Anime Roman, Last House and Doga Kobo are credited, but at the bottom, so I don't know which animators credited, if any, were involved in those studios.

I wrote about Shoichi Masuo recently, and he was involved in the TV series. He was at Studio Graviton at the time. There are a few great mecha/missile action shots in episode 7 of the TV series that I suspect might be the work of Masuo. Other members of Studio Graviton were involved later in the series - Koji Ito and Tomohiro Hirata in the movie, Tomohiro Hirata and Toshiyuki Kubooka in the episodes 3, 6 (Hirata AD) and 8 of the OVA series, and Tomohiro Hirata in the final OVA.

The OVA series was similarly the product of a number of different studios. Studio Mu animators Harumi Muranaka, Sawako Yamamoto and Kazuchika Kise were involved in episodes 1, 5 and 9, credited as Studio Mu. DAST is credited in episode 4, Tatsu Production in 7, and Kino Production in 8. Katsuhiko Nishijima of Studio Live was in the movie and in episode 5 of the OVA series.

An animator named Tatsuyuki Tanaka is credited in the final OVA alongside Akira animator Hitoshi Ueda. The thing is, the last kanji in his name is different from 'the' Tatsuyuki Tanaka, so I can't be sure it's really him. But Hitoshi Ueda was involved in the TV series and movie, so it would certainly jive if he had discovered Tanaka while working on Akira between the movie and the final OVA and brought him onboard.

As far as the animation goes, there are numerous nice bits throughout the show. In the TV series, I quite liked the work of Atsushi Tsukamoto of Gallop, whom I presume to have drawn the handful of peculiarly timed but tasty mecha action shots that grace episodes 10, 15, 17 and 19. Masuo's work I mentioned before. Episode 25 of the TV series and 9 of the OVA series are two of the eps with the most interesting overall animation.

Dokite created his own home page over ten years ago, and put up a page featuring the cover sheet for the design sheets for each episode. Normally this isn't done for a TV series, but they had fun with it and got a different person to draw the cover for each episode's sheets. You can see drawings by a lot of the names mentioned above here - 1 is Dokite, 2 is probably Kenichi Onuki, 3 is probably Hiroaki Goda, 5 is Hiroyuki Kitakubo, 6 is Yuji Moriyama (who Dokite says drew one shot uncredited), 7 is Shoichi Masuo, 12 is Yuki Nobuteru, 13 is Hideku Futamura, etc... Surprising to see what kind of drawing certain figures were doing at this time.