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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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

08:02:17 pm , 550 words, 3319 views     Categories: Animation

Yuichiro Sueyoshi's Coo sketches

Keiichi Hara's Summer Vacation with Coo the Kappa came out last summer, accompanied by the release of a few books. One was the full storyboard, which I've been poring through for a few days now. It's a voluminous affair, and quite instructive about Hara's style and approach. After you've read through a director's storyboard, it's like you feel you've gotten to know him a little better. Each page of the storyboard is accompanied by comments from Hara reminiscing about what he intended by this or that, which is quite an interesting approach, and helps greatly in getting into his mind. Reading the storyboard has mostly confirmed how much I like Hara's directing style and thematic preoccupations. I know of no more down-to-earth director. His work is a breath of fresh air in today's industry. I look forward to writing about the film once the DVD is released.

The story with the film is how Hara was forced to cut off 30+ minutes of material at a very late stage in production, after much of the animation had been completed for the shots in question. Reading the storyboard I find that many of the shots, while in many cases not necessarily essential (Hara did a very careful and good job of choosing which shots to lose), would be tremendously welcome back into the film simply because it's a film you want to go on and on, so I hope that Japanese viewers were vocal enough about their interest in seeing the 'full' version of the film that we get to see it on the DVD release, although that might entail two different releases.

Another book that came out was the Official Guide, which is a very well put-together Roman Album-style book with lots of background material on the making, from initial sketches to layouts to interviews. Among the sketches are some rough sketches by character designer Yuichiro Sueyoshi for the initial proposal for the project from 1998. They were a delightful discovery, being more cartoonish than the final designs yet incredibly vivacious and lively, showing a Coo that might have been. Sueyoshi's rough drawings are fantastic. I delight in seeing rough drawings by great animators such as Sueyoshi. With just a few lines thrown down he creates a living and spontaneous pose or a brilliant expression. Again we have an instance where some tremendously alive drawings were done in the initial stages of an animation project, but their tremendous appeal wound up being slightly lost in the transition to the final product - as brilliant as the final product may be, in this case.

I remember that one of the more recent Shin-chan films showed a selection of Sueyoshi's sketches for the funny-looking monsters that had appeared in the film during the end credits. That was the first time I'd seen his sketches, and they were unfortunately by far the most memorable thing about the film (apart from Sueyoshi's own animation of a number of scenes). I think the more realistic characters he had to create for Coo were a bit at odds with his predilection for more zany and free designs, but they are effective, if deliberately restrained due to the nature of the film. I look forward to seeing what kind of designs this great animator will come up with next.


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