Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Saturday, April 2, 2005

08:00:04 pm , 370 words, 1807 views     Categories: Animation, Director: Yasuhiro Aoki, Director

Yasuhiro Aoki's directing

On rewatching Soultaker 1 today it popped into my head that Yasuhiro Aoki's recent artistic coming out in Arusu reminds me of the appearance of Akiyuki Shinbo on the scene 13 years ago in Yu Yu Hakusho. I hope Aoki has the chance to go as far as Shinbo has in Le Portrait de Petite Cossette, which, as unlikely as it may seem, was probably my favorite item from last year after a certain film. The subject matter isn't really the point. It's all about the style. I don't think I've seen anything in a long, long time, much less in anime, that was such a virtuosic and unrelenting onslaught of unpredictable shots and gorgeously baroque composition, and I applaud the producer who gave him the chance to finally do something 100% his own way. Shinbo is one of the most talented directors that nobody's ever heard of in anime, though there are plenty of those.

One obvious quality Aoki shares with Shinbo is the predilection for stringing together unpredictable compositions in a way that some might say distracts from the story but to me enhances it. A story can be told entirely via dialogue, but as Tadashi Hiramatsu mentioned in this interview, the locus of excitment in directing is the space between the shots, and the compositions. Aoki knows that, and that's what sets him apart. It nagged me for a while what it was that made his work feel different, why the work of the other people in the show felt boring in comparison and worse animated, and finally I hit on the simple fact that he always avoids having a character doing the goldfish on the screen. He plays around with the angles while they're talking in order to avert one of the most common and unsuspected mistakes in anime. Nobody thinks it's a mistake, but he noticed that it was, and figured out a way around it, which shows that he's thinking about his art and not just churning it out on automatic. That small invention immediately hides the quantitative limits of the animation, as he saves his resources for one of those quintissentially anime bursts of full animation that give his episodes a truly powerful feeling of buildup.


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