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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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

10:54:37 pm , 1353 words, 3047 views     Categories: Animation, OVA

Vampire Wars & Toei Video

Another obscurity from the post-Akira period that I just discovered is Vampire Wars from 1990. I sought it out because it features Hideki Hamasu as animation director. It didn't disappoint in terms of the animation, and even as a film it's a fun romp with entertaining directing and good action. It's a nice little OVA from this period that's worth rediscovering, especially if you're a fan of Hamasu's work elsewhere, be it as character designer/animation director of Perfect Blue or as the brilliant animator of various scenes from the last two decades. This is one of Hamasu's early stepping stones. This film comes from a period of Hamasu's work with which people over here will be less familiar: his Toei period.

Hamasu actually adapted an original design by Hiroyuki Kitazume, and it does feel very much like you're watching Kitazume characters. It's not as extreme as what Koichi Arai did with his adaptation of 3x3 Eyes, in which case it feels more like you're watching Arai's characters. But Hamasu brings the characters alive well, and there's a nice feeling of reality in the rendering of the drawings throughout, just as there was in Arai's work on 3x3 Eyes. Kitazume was himself one of the main expats from Studio Bebow, the studio that pioneered an early vein of realism in the 80s prior the resurgence of realism in the 90s. As it turns out, Toei itself had a vein of realism developing throughout this period at the hands of a number of animators, so Vampire Wars acts as in interesting intersection between these two veins. Hideki Hamasu, Koichi Arai and Takaaki Yamashita seem to be among the three most important animator figures in the realistic vein at Toei during the period from 1988 to the early 90s, and they left behind a lot of good work during this period on video releases of anime produced by Toei in the years immediately before and after Vampire Wars, mostly on Toei's in-house "Toei V Anime" label.

Ever since Ken the Wolf Boy, Toei Doga has always been a company that was quick to exploit new markets, and they jumped into the OVA market fairly soon after it took off. They had a number of series being released over the years on a continuous basis, and many of the more talented animators at the studio in the late 80s/early 90s, such as Kochi Arai, Hideki Hamasu and Takaaki Yamashita, worked on these OVAs. Just as Toei proper had long produced yakuza live-action movies, much of Toei Animation's anime output in the 80s seems to have been to create versions of the same kind of content aimed at younger audiences. They did this by adapting manga about juvenile delinquents such as 'yankee' high school kids and biker gangs.

One of the earliest, and the longest-lived, was Shonan Bakusozoku, a series about biker gangs that ran for 12 episodes, each about an hour long, released semi-yearly between 1986 and 1999. Crying Freeman, a story this time about full-fledged gangster warfare, was released yearly (except 1993) in 6 episodes between 1988 and 1994, also about an hour long each. I've long meant to write about this series in particular, as it's perhaps the most impressive in terms of the animation and the densest summation of this Toei realistic vein. Two more series about juvenile delinquents, or 'yankees' as they're known in Japan, followed: Yankee Reppuutai ran for 6 episodes from 1989 to 1996, and Be-Bop High School ran for 7 episodes from 1990 to 1995.

With the exception of Crying Freeman, none of these are very well known over here. I haven't seen any of Be-Bop High School or Yankee Reppuutai, but I've had the chance to look at a number of episodes of Shonan Bakusozoku, and it appears to have been a surprisingly solidly produced series throughout, both in terms of the directing and the animation. Good animators appear throughout, including Koichi Arai, Hideki Hamasu and Junichi Hayama.

Prior to doing Vampire Wars, Hideki Hamasu acted as assistant sakkan and drew animation for the first two episodes of Crying Freeman (1988 & 1989), which featured some superb sakkan work by Koichi Arai. Arai, meanwhile, had been given the opportunity to design and sakkan an OVA with Xanadu: Dragon Slayer Densetsu in 1988 (Hamasu was co-sakkan). In 1990, around the same time as Vampire Wars (which features Arai as an animator), both Arai and Hamasu did an episode each in an OVA series adapting fairy tales entitled Hanaichi Monme. In 1991, Hamasu was an animator in every episode of Arai's 3x3 Eyes, and then for the next few years was heavily involved with Be-Bop High School and Yankee Reppuutai while Arai gradually moved away from Toei productions. It's not long after this that these two great ex-Toei realistic animators begin to be credited alongside the great realistic animators from the rest of the industry in the classic realistic productions of the 90s like Ghost in the Shell and Perfect Blue.

As this reveals, there is a lot of overlap in their work at this period. In fact, Hamasu is reported to have even worked on Akira, although he's not credited. (Arai worked on the baby room scene) So the new vein of realism coming from Takashi Nakamura et al. in Akira was undoubtedly an influence on these two animators, although the influence of in-house Toei animators such as Junichi Hayama, who had developed their own vein of quasi-realism in the rendering of the face and body on shows like Fist of the North Star and Sakigake! Otoko Juku from 1984 to 1988, can't be discounted.

Episode 5 of Shonan Bakusozoku, released in 1989 smack in the heart of this period, is a good place to start to get a sense for what makes the Toei video releases of this period appealing. It's easily the most exciting in the series. It features a good scene animated by newer animator Koichi Arai, and a climactic sequence animated by older animator Junichi Hayama, and overall it's among the more salient in subject matter (many of the episodes are kind of non-sequiturs about a character's first love or whatever - this one's about GANGS FIGHTING) and the most excitingly directed in the series. Aside from having done great work throughout these Toei video releases and on the earlier 80s Toei TV shows, Hayama was apparently a big influence on the Toei animators of this period. He mentored at the very least Yoshihiko Umakoshi, and he was the designer/sakkan on the great JoJo's Bizarre Adventure OVA series released 1993-1994 & 2000-2002, which featured much great animation work from a smattering of the best animators of the day, including Hamasu and Arai. He's more obscure than the people who came after him, but he's got an interesting style and I'd like to see more from him.

Immediately after Vampire Wars Toei released another Toei V Anime video entitled Psychic Wars featuring designs/sakkan by Masami Suda, the person behind Fist of the North Star and many of the Toei V Anime series. It's a major step down in both directing and animation and not worth revisiting. Vampire Wars has genuinely decent directing that makes the film watchable. Psychic Wars is stunningly boring. The animation is also consistently uninteresting despite featuring both Hamasu and Hayama as animators. It looks like a relic from a bygone age, with weak, directionless, rote drawings, when younger animators like Hamasu had already pushed the style in newer and better directions.

The drawings in Vampire Wars, in contrast, are tight and edgy, and every drawing and layout feels deliberate and visually compelling. The emphasis of Vampire Wars isn't so much raw realism as more the rich drawings of its characters, each line of whose faces are rendered in exacting detail that vividly brings alive their every emotion. Posing and layouts are also dynamic and stylish. The movements are rich and fluid, with less of the feeling of off-the-cuff, sparely applied raw, realistic poses that you get from Koichi Arai's work, whom in retrospect appears to have been the more innovative in his approach to character animation. The work here is rather of solid craftsmanship with a realistic hue, rather than being boldly realistic.



h_park [Member]

I wonder who did the illustration for Vampire Wars packaging. It doesn’t seem to represent the video as animation, more like live action.

10/14/09 @ 09:02
Ben [Member]  

It looks like they hired the guy who did the cover for Warriors of the Wind.

10/14/09 @ 13:18
DRMECHA [Visitor]  

I have the first OVA of “Yankee Repputai". Soon I’ll upload it to my blog where I upload rare eggs.
But is in spanish. sorry

11/18/10 @ 17:44
DRMECHA [Visitor]  

I love the Arai’s style. The movements are realistic and I love the expressions on the faces.

11/18/10 @ 17:46
drmecha [Visitor]

Here is a list of all Toei V Anime titles (in japanese sorry)

But not all titles are animated by Toei, some only produced / distributed by Toei V. Toei Video was a production and distribution company and sometimes only took care of that in other studies titles.


『湘南爆走族 −残された走り屋たち−』

『湘南爆走族 −1/5LONELY NIGHT−』
『湘南爆走族 10オンスの絆』

『マドンナ 炎のティーチャー』
『湘南爆走族4 −ハリケーン・ライダーズ−』
『Crying フリーマン』
『ハイスクール AGENT』
『ハイスクール AGENT II』

『マドンナ2 愛と青春のキック・オフ』
『湘南爆走族5 青ざめた暁』
『Crying フリーマン2 風声鶴唳』
『ヤンキー烈風隊2 二代目襲名!血染めの特攻服』

『湘南爆走族6 GT380ヒストリー』
『Crying フリーマン3 比翼連理』
『ヤンキー烈風隊3 壮絶!!仁義なき抗争』
『修羅之介斬魔剣 vol.1 死鎌紋の男』

『帝都物語 第一部 魔都篇』
『PURPL HIGHWAY OF ANGELS 湘南爆走族7 スポ根マッドスペシャル』
『Crying フリーマン4 雄首冬獄』
『ヤンキー烈風隊4 恐怖の命(タマ)取り合戦』
『捜獣戦士 サイキック・ウォーズ』

『帝都物語 第二部 震災篇』
『帝都物語 第三部 龍動篇』
『帝都物語 第四部 菩薩篇』
『Crying フリーマン5 戦場の鬼子母神』
『BE-BOP -HIGHSCHOOL 海賊版 海賊版2 十代の性典』
『DOWN LOAD 南無阿弥陀仏は愛の詩』

『砂の薔薇 雪の黙示録』

『Crying フリーマン 完結編 無明流射』
『ヤンキー烈風隊5 地の掟!遠州血゛獄(じごく)一家』


『PURPL HIGHWAY OF ANGELS 湘南爆走族11 喧嘩の花咲く修学旅行』
『ヤンキー 烈風隊 6 血の決着! 遠州血゛獄(じごく)一家』

『真奈美&ナミ スプライト』vol.1
『真奈美&ナミ スプライト』vol.2
『学校の幽霊6 最終章』
『サイコダイバー 魔性菩薩』
『新・湘南爆走族 荒くれKNIGHT 第一章』

『教科書にないッ! 』vol.1
『教科書にないッ! 』vol.2
『新・湘南爆走族 荒くれKNIGHT2 死神たちの公道レース 第二章』

『真 学校の幽霊』
『地獄先生ぬ〜べ 史上最大の激戦! 絶鬼来襲 !!』
『PURPL HIGHWAY OF ANGELS 湘南爆走族12 桜吹雪の卒業式』

 『湘南爆走族』『フリーマン』『ヤンキー烈風隊』『BE-BOP -HIGHSCHOOL』『BE-BOP -HIGHSCHOOL 海賊版』がそろった1990年前後が「不良とハードアクションのVアニメ」の頂点だな。

10/27/11 @ 05:06