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Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for Shintaro Asanuma.
He's been giving an unforgettable performance throughout the show so far as the fast-talking narrator, but he pulled off literally a one-man voice actor episode in this one, so hats off. (not to mention talking even faster than before, if that's possible) I've heard of solo animator and solo background episodes, but this is the first time I've heard of a solo voice actor episode.
Not to sound repetitive, but this episode was again brilliant. I'm not just saying this as a Masaaki Yuasa fan. I came back to the show with this episode tonight after a two week absence not too excited, but the work won me over entirely on the merits of the directing.
I appreciated how aggressively the live-action was integrated into this episode, far more than in any previous episode (or even in Kemonozume for that matter) and how flawlessly it was pulled off. It's the latest and in many ways most extreme expression of the unique approach to blending animation and live-action that Yuasa first busted out in Mind Game. And on top of that the animation here had some of the most fun and loose work I've seen in the whole show, which made for a great contrast. Color work was amazing as usual. Animation, directing, coloring etc. all worked together to keep the viewer riveted throughout an episode that was otherwise intentionally pared down in so many ways - single voice, single setting. This material could have been monotonous and boring if not properly directed, but instead it was filled at every moment with interesting new ideas that were very inventive and kept the momentum going.
Thank Choi Eunyoung for the awesome directing of this episode. She showed exceptional talent as an animator and animation director in her very first job on Kemonozume, and proved she could direct just as well her first time directing on Kaiba. I suspect her special gift to be the product of inner talent multiplied by multicultural perspective and experience, something most Japanese animators lack. She clearly put a lot of effort into ensuring that the live action-animation dynamic here was properly handled. (Masahiko Kubo is credited as having helped with the live action) She recently directed another item associated with Yuasa, so she seems poised to take off on a directing career of her own.
Story-wise, we finally learn the basic premise. The English title Tatami Galaxy now makes some sense. I'll leave it in hands far more capable than mine to write a lengthy exegesis parsing the intricacies of the significance of the various plot devices, namely the blogger at the blog anime/otaku, who rather than assessing the technical merits of the episodes like me, tackles the admittedly more challenging task of parsing the show's tangled narrative and figuring out what it all means. It's beyond the capability of my feeble brain to pick apart the intricacies of this show the way this blogger has. At the same time, I don't think it's necessary to catch every little thing to appreciate the show. But considering the jumble of info being thrown at you and mixed up into different configurations, it is impressive to realize just how meaningful and painstakingly put together it all is. Far more than Yuasa's previous shows, Tatami Galaxy seems tailor made to get people talking about it and analyzing it.
Yuasa's third series really isn't so much about style as it as about the content. The show is full of great work in every facet, including the animation, but the technical aspects of the production seem more subservient to the story this time around. Tatami Galaxy could arguably be considered Yuasa's most tonally controlled and structurally solid TV series to date. But on the other hand, the effect would probably have been the same plus or minus x number of episodes, since it's not like every episode was essential to pushing the plot forward. There may be some ways in which this show is more honed and intricate and carefully constructed than Yuasa's previous work, but I actually like the looseness of his previous work. Tatami Galaxy is an awesome achievement as a complex, postmodern narrative, but as a matter of preference, I find myself more attracted to the graphic unpredictability and rawness and humanity of Kemonozume and the visually sumptuous and imaginative world-creation and drama of Kaiba, imperfect in terms of structure and visual consistency though they might be in comparison.
Storyboard and director: Choi Eunyoung
Animation directors: Nobutake Ito, Masashi Ishihama
Assistant animation director: Shouko Nishigaki
Hiromi Hata, Takashi Muratani
Takayuki Hamada, Sawako Miyamoto
Yumi Oka, Tomoya Nakayama
Sayaka Toda, Choi Eunyoung
Second key animators:
Natsuko Shimizu, Kenichi Fujisawa