Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Sunday, October 23, 2005

04:40:22 pm , 764 words, 814 views     Categories: Animation

Utsunomiya Eureka

I recently had the chance to revisit one of my favorite Russian shorts, Ballerina on a Boat by Lev Atamanov. Since the first time I saw the film the brilliant soundtrack by Alfred Schnittke had left a searing impression on me. It's not just raucous and modernistic but minutely detailed and constantly shifting, amazingly colorful, rhytmic like the Rite of Spring in parts and lyrical in typical Russian fashion elsewhere, daring to step into the foreground, unabashed, simply unlike any other animated soundtrack I've heard. I was already familiar with Schnittke's music, so the music itself didn't surprise me. It was the combination of that music with that animation that surprised me, and seemed incredibly refreshing and new. I got to wondering what it was that convinced Schnittke, who had a lot of experience composing film soundtracks, to go with such an approach for the film. Rewatching it this time I realized that without that soundtrack the film would almost certainly not have left much of an impression on me, though I do very much like everything about the actual animation, from the movement of the ballerina to the thick lines used to animate the ocean to the nice, simple designs to the freedom with which the characters fly freely around the screen as if on a ballet stage. Maybe that's what it is. He composed ballet music rather than a film soundtrack.

Satoru Utsunomiya's latest creation has come in an unusual place - the third season opening of Eureka Seven. One of the main selling points of this series has almost certainly been the drawings of Ken'ichi Yoshida, and Bones in general is known for having a very unified look to its animation, so it came as something of a surprise to see that they had left him to do the whole thing in his patented style. My first question was how this could have come about, and this was answered by Yoshida himself on his hime page. Yoshida just finished work on episode 26, which surely contains some of the finest animation in the whole series. He put a lot more effort into the episode than suggested by the simple credit of animation director, doing the various designs and layout and coordinating the art and animation and so on, in addition to doing animation and correcting the drawings, and this shows up in the final product. It felt like for the first time we were seeing what Yoshida was capable of, something that lived up to his CV.

It just so happened that the op was produced over the exact same time period, so it was impossible for Yoshida to correct the drawings of the op. In his own words, "Utsunomiya is an animator I have great respect for. He changed our whole notion of movement in the 90s. Both the director and I agreed that we wanted Utsunomiya to do the op in his own style. Utsunomiya has a very unique drawing style. Each line is precisely calculated to create a particular movement, and the moving result on the screen produces a tremendous feeling of catharsis. If I were to go in and correct the faces (and the proportions), that would completely change the whole dynamic of his drawings. I'd find it very rewarding if I could challenge that task one day, but that was impossible in this case... It was because Utsunomiya agreed to take on all tasks in the op that I was able to accomplish everything I wanted to accomplish in episode 26. So I'm very grateful to him for that, and I am completely satisfied with his work. I mean, what he's done is amazingly sophisticated. I think it's great. But that's just my opinion."

All in all, this has increased my respect for Ken'ichi Yoshida by several notches. You could sense a certain twinge of unfulfillment in his wording when he talked about how ep 26 was important to his continued presence on the show. Judging by the final product, it feels like the opening is not complete, and may be gradually added to as time goes on, so it will be interesting to see how it changes. I'm reminded of how they tweaked the timing of Utsunomiya's shot of the hands clasping in the first season op from the first episode to the second. Yasushi Muraki provided a bit of missile fun, as usual, and though always thrilling, it felt particularly nice here because of the different touch Utsunomiya gave it. The episode itself contained a bit of work by Yutaka Nakamura, which was as good as ever.

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8 comments

Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Thanks for the info translated from Kenichi Yoshida’s page. No wonder there’s characters looking totally off-model (dude in the white suit looks like he could be from another series)…

But I guess they will eventually “fix” the OP, there’s an unsurprisingly negative reaction to it so far. Still, it seems like Satoru Utsunomiya’s finally going in the direction of directing rather than just animation… First Aquarion, now this: I’m really excited to see what he has for us next. All the talk about him - first for Aquarion and now this - could work for him or against him…

10/24/05 @ 04:40
Manuloz
Manuloz [Visitor]

Yep! I have seen some bad reaction on the animesuki board, but overall they know what they are talking about ^^

As form me, I liked more what he has done for aquarion maybe because it was a whole episode, so it felt more integrated.

But I like some parts of it the falling,
Renton jumping from the mecha and the missiles shots were realy good.

I have seen Mushishi, first episode was good, no flashy animation but suited the pace/mood of the story. Umakoshi has done well!

10/24/05 @ 04:55
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Yeah, with Mushishi I get the feeling that they’re leaving it in safe hands (for now, let’s see if the animation quality keeps up - I hope it does, I liked the manga), which makes me even more eager to see a Tadashi Hiramatsu episode. I hope he does more than one, the show’s planned to run for 2 seasons. (Why, I do not know.)

10/24/05 @ 05:09
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

I like what he did with the op. Instead of the usual montage of various disconnected shots/sequences that you usually see in an op, the entire thing is one continuous sequence from start to finish. I though that was a refreshing approach to doing an op. I’ll be the first to admit that parts of it could do with a bit of touching up, but I think overall it’s an interesting piece. It was a challenging and daring thing to have tried to do in an op.

After Aquarion 19 Shoji Kawamori made a statement along the lines of “It just goes to show how reliant people are on visual stimuli.” I’m wishing they’d change the character design every episode in Noein. It’d be sorta like the anime equivalent of Palindromes. Now that would cause some major whiplash.

Oh, and I’m hoping I get to see Mushishi. I was looking forward to seeing what Umakoshi would do with it.

10/24/05 @ 18:54
Manuloz
Manuloz [Visitor]

Here are some of the part I think Hiroyuki Okiura animated on IGPX #1

http://manuloz.free.fr/video/IGPX-HO1.avi
http://manuloz.free.fr/video/IGPX-HO.avi

It’s like on the same level as Takeshi Honda on Naruto.

10/27/05 @ 10:24
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Thanks very much. That’s exactly what I wanted to see in that ep. Fantastic work, and quite a lot of volume! I think this is the first time I’ve seen something of that level from Okiura on TV. It does kind of remind of Honda’s bit in Naruto, doesn’t it, that slow, heavy movement with a real sense of body weight.

10/27/05 @ 12:12
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

Wow, thanks for the clips Manuloz. Really. (Now I don’t have to get te ep!) Anything I really have to say has been said…

so I guess I should suggest a viewing of Noein ep 3, particularly the first part, there’s some interesting stuff again. Generous helpings of CG, but a lot of hand-drawn stuff too… And I still don’t see Norio Matsumoto in there… (Though there is a Fumio Matsumoto, no relation I guess?) I wonder what it’ll be like if an episode had him inside - or even had him as the AD. I hope we can get that!

10/28/05 @ 05:29
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

No relation as far as I know, but who knows? That would be one heck of an inferiority complex to have a brother like Norio. Norio’s part might only come later in the series.

10/30/05 @ 10:46