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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« Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei #6Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei #4 »

Thursday, June 24, 2010

11:37:00 pm , 988 words, 3186 views     Categories: Animation, TV, Director: Masaaki Yuasa, Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei

Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei #5

That's me running a Tatami Galaxy marathon. Going to see how quickly I can get through the remaining episodes.

The story of this episode had the most immediate hook for me, personally. I thought its depiction of this cult hiding behind the facade of selling health food was surprisingly believable and well done. It isn't far from reality either here or in Japan - just take a bit of the pyramid scheming madness of Amway, a pinch of the reincarnated thetans of Scientology, and the doomsday auguries of Aum Shinrikyo, and put them together, and voila - Honwaka. Not too far-fetched at all.

It's in moments like this episode that cast satirical light on actual social issues and situations in real life that get my juices running. I was really into the story this time around. Basically, the story this time felt like something anybody could watch and find interesting. The humor was genuinely funny, and the directing did a great job of pulling you in. I think it plays on the feeling of distrust we all have in those people we meet occasionally who are just a little too friendly, and you begin to feel something is a little suspicious about their motivations... The buildup was perfect, leading to the big reveal of the secluded cult headquarters, complete with blindfolds, brainwashing/affirmation sessions a la Lifespring, and an avuncular, charismatic cult leader with a Noah's Ark who plays up fears about the latest ecological and sociopolitical problems and makes even eschatological pronouncements sound so nice and comforting.

Great quality as usual. Very different staff, though. Storyboard was by the director of Texhnolyze and Shigurui, who is obviously involved because this is a Madhouse production and he was on hand, and because, well, he's quite talented. I didn't like either of the latter two shows, but he's done a splendid job adapting to this material.

As has Masashi Ishihama as animation director. I would not peg Ishihama as having the sort of stylistic penchant that would make him a candidate for a Yuasa production, but he has considerable flexibility and is able to adapt to just about anything, from Denno Coil to Welcome to the NHK, and he's been involved in just about every major project in the last ten years. (Speaking of Welcome to the NHK, the comparison with the pyramid scheme in that show is inevitable, and it's interesting that Ishihama was involved in the drawing side of both.)

There were a lot of great moments in this episode, like the cat lounging in the bowl when the narrator is talking about the rumours the ramen-ya uses cats to make his dashi was clever and subtle. And I loved those ridiculous bee antenna caps.

The colors seemed particularly well handled, with the sudden b/w gradient when the protagonist says a faux pas, the all white in the royal jelly factory, the dark blue that night, etc. I liked the visuals in the sequence on the bridge in particular. The colors of the backgrounds and passers-by are a delicately blend of muted yellows setting off the cult members and the protagonist in his bee costume. And there's the colors of the cult members at the end when they're letting out the venom against one another. That scene has great impact combined with the insane animation by Yasunori Miyazawa.

The drawings of the characters in that bridge scene felt really delicately honed and showed off Ishihama's drawings well. It's interesting that he manages to instill each of the cult members with a distinct face despite the fact that each one has the same ^_^ expression stamped on their face throughout. Ishihama is very skilled at that kind of thing. He has a subtle and delicate touch without going overboard in the detail, and he can be really loose with the forms when necessary. There's a lot of personality showing through in the drawings, too, presumably because he lets good drawings by the animators through. There were a lot of great drawings throughout that are fun to go back and step through more carefully after watching the episode, like the sketchy sequence at the end after that very strange and surprising moment that I won't mention here, and the montage of jobs the protagonist has to take to pay for his expensive pyramid scheme lifestyle.

As usual, it's fascinating to see how the characters of this episode either reference or recall select aspects of what has happened in the previous episodes, and the way certain recurring motifs like the fortuneteller and the Mochigumon are repeated almost but not quite verbatim, with subtle changes in phrasing or pacing. You feel this incredible tangle of references and lives and past and present building in your memory, and being twisted around and re-remembered and rewritten.

Good animators included Nobutoshi Ogura, Takashi Mukouda and Ryotaro Makihara. Ogura probably did the very opening section. There were a lot of nice little bits of movement, and great drawings moving in a subtle way in every shot, but no big showoff scenes. It's interesting to see Tokuyuki Matsutake there. He is ubiquitous and was bound to be involved. He is one of the most prolific animators in Japan, I'm sure. His works list is massive. Coincidentally, I just saw him in the most recent episode of Naruto Shippuuden, 166. There were a few good action bits in there and I don't know any of the other animators so I figure it might be him. Heads up: 167 will be the first Wakabayashi episode since Naruto l33t.

Was it my imagination or is the ramen stand owner wearing Mickey Mouse pants?

Storyboard: Hiroshi Hamasaki
Director: Tomoya Takahashi
Animation director: Masashi Ishihama
Supervising animation director: Nobutake Ito

Nobutoshi Ogura, Ryotaro Makihara
Tokuyuki Matsutake, Kenichi Yamaguchi
Toshiharu Sugie, Mieko Hosoi
Takashi Muratani, Kenichi Shima
Mie Kana, Ippei Ichii
Shouta Ibata, Natsuko Shimizu
Naoko Masui

Chiaki Nakajima, Masashi Kariya
Takashi Mukouda, Yasunori Miyazawa
Masashi Ishihama



braves133 [Member]

Heh, sorry to come up with another correction, but Hirotsugu Hamasaki should be read as Hiroshi Hamasaki (according to his JP wiki, sakuga wiki and the Madhouse column). I spend a bit too much time on the ANN encyclopedia, so I tend to remember these things.

And yeah, episode 5 is a real winner. The scene with the members confessing to each other was my favorite, though I couldn’t identify that Miyazawa was responsible.

When I first heard of Wakabayashi coming back to Naruto, I was ecstatic and maybe in tears. Is it too much to expect for Matsumoto to come back and to do quite a bit more than he’s done in Shippuden? I don’t think so….

06/25/10 @ 06:26
Ben [Member]  

Curses, you’re right again. I’ve seen his name spelled every which way, so off the top of my head I couldn’t remember which was correct. The Madhouse column is a reliable source, and an article in Animation Note that I just checked confirms the Hiroshi reading.

Miyazawa seems to use the same timing every time, this really widely spaced timing, either 4s or 5s. It’s like he has an aversion to inbetweens or something. So it’s easy to identify for me. I suspect he also did the one shot of the Honwakas playing baseball after “and no leaving in the middle". Often the screen pans eratically during his shots for some reason, maybe to harmonize his odd movement a little.

I dunno, I didn’t see any action in the preview at the end of 166. Maybe 167 will be a drama episode with no action. (ha)

06/25/10 @ 08:26
braves133 [Member]

Ah, I rewatched those scenes and I definitely get a feel for Miyazawa’s timing there with the help of your description. Thanks.

As for the upcoming Wakabayashi episode, the content that he’s going to be adapting (judging from the title of the episode and the one that comes after it) should provide plenty of opportunities for him to show off some neat effects. As you might have guessed from the preview, Naruto goes into Kyuubi mode and loses it. He should be covering around 40 pages of manga, but I’m sure there will be room for him to add and subtract as he likes. Some of the best parts in ep. 133 weren’t even present in the manga and I expect that he’ll continue with that mentality.

06/25/10 @ 12:42
gwern [Visitor]  

> The story of this episode had the most immediate hook for me, personally. I thought its depiction of this cult hiding behind the facade of selling health food was surprisingly believable and well done. It isn’t far from reality either here or in Japan - just take a bit the pyramid scheming madness of Amway, a pinch of the reincarnated thetans of Scientology, and the doomsday auguries of Aum Shinrikyo, and put them together, and voila - Honwaka. Not too far-fetched at all.

Felt kind of old hat to me. After some thinking, I remembered where I’d seen this before: it was an episode or two of _Welcome to the N.H.K.!_.

06/27/10 @ 15:06
Ben [Member]  

How embarrassing (for you). I mentioned the precedent of Welcome to the NHK in my post. Maybe you should try to read the post you’re commenting on before commenting.

06/27/10 @ 20:29