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, June 12, 2004

10:38:21 pm , 460 words, 1861 views     Categories: Animation

Yasuo Otsuka Documentary

I'm exhausted from a thorny legal translation, so I'll keep things short. I'll just mention a DVD that's being released at the end of the month: a documentary about Yasuo Otsuka, one of the greatest Japanese animators of the last 50 years. It's unfortunate (though understandable) that he isn't just as well known as his longtime comrades who went on to form Studio Ghibli, while he stayed on at Telecom as a teacher spreading his knowledge about animation to a whole generation of eager students, because he is with no exaggeration one of the most important and influential animators currently alive in Japan. Otsuka possesses a knowledge of the history of the anime industry during the period in which he was active that is quite simply second to none, so a documentary like this is sure to be equally informative as a capsule history of that period of anime. And with his avuncular demeanor and open and likeable personality, it's the ideal medium for presenting Otsuka's work to a wider public, simultaneously serving as a timely followup to Otsuka's autobiography, Sakuga Ase Mamire, which was released in a revised edition three years ago. While essential reading in itself, the book can now serve as an ideal next step for people coming from the DVD looking to learn more about the master.

(drop me a line if you're thinking of publishing it in English and you're looking for a translator ;D)

Here's a short list of his scenes in the Toei films:

  • Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke - the salamander monster
  • Saiyuki - the bull monster
  • Anju & Zushiomaru - the crab monster
  • Little Prince & the 8-Headed Dragon - the dragon
  • Hols, Prince of the Sun - the fish monster

Notice a trend? Otsuka always animated the big ugly monsters.

After leaving Toei in 1969, Otsuka did animation for a number of TV series at TMS animation subsidiary A Pro - Tensai Bakabon, Dokonjo Gaeru, Ore wa Teppei, Gamba no Boken, Samurai Giants - before going on to focus on animation directing. His animation of the opening of Samurai Giants remains particularly renowned. His work as an animation director is more widely known, but I'll just mention in passing one that isn't as well known: the 1969 TMS version of Moomin. Although the material was highly unusual for Otsuka, and he wasn't too keen on it (too fluffy), this series should not be overlooked, because Otsuka was never one to take the easy way out, and the level of quality is just as high as anything else Otsuka ever did.

I should also mention that the DVD is relatively inexpensive as Japanese DVDs go, like Yanagawa Horiwari Monogatari, which was released a few months ago, so kudos to Ghibli for continuing to release essential non-animated fare like this on DVD.


1 comment

Enrico Casarosa
Enrico Casarosa [Visitor]

many thanks … I just put a nice order with Amazon japan …
Great blog you have …


08/11/04 @ 13:21