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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Monday, September 9, 2013

10:59:00 pm , 573 words, 4436 views     Categories: OVA, Yasuo Otsuka

Ziria

I've always wanted to see more from Yasuo Otsuka. I never feel like I can get enough. Having seen most of his major work, I'm left to dig up obscurities from his filmography.

Though flawed, the late-career Fuma from 1987 is one of his best works. His style comes through in it very clearly, as he drew or corrected all of the layouts and checked the animation of every shot in the movie. The long-delayed Nemo occupied Telecom for the next year, and presumably Otsuka was involved in that for its duration, although his personality doesn't come through much in the film.

After that comes an obscurity I'd long wondered about, an OVA with the long and unwieldy title FAR EAST OF EDEN 天外魔境 ZIRIA 自来也 おぼろ変, released in two 45-minute installments in July and August 1990. In it, Otsuka is credited as animation supervisor 作画監修. Otsuka was credited as simply supervisor in Fuma and the earlier Mamo movie, but presumably the two titles signify a similar role.

This was released to follow up a computer RPG of the same name released not long before. In fact, it had originally been planned as an anime, but the computer game wound up coming out first. It's set in medieval Japan re-imagined as if through the eyes of a westerner who had never set eyes on the place but only heard fantastic tales about the faraway land. It's a fairly fun, harmless fantasy adventure that would otherwise have been a good ride if the quality were only a little better.

In filmographies put together with Otsuka's assistance, Otsuka has asked that Ziria not be included, presumably because he is not proud of the work. This suggested there had been some problems with the production that led to him not wanting to be associated with the OVA.

I've finally seen the first episode, and I can understand why he feels that way. This is not a film that is up to his standards. It clearly could have been much better. It's sad because you can see that he was clearly involved throughout, yet factors beyond his control keep it from rising to his level.

Although it's not terrible, it's clear that the film is a washout on the animation front. The movement is flimsy and spare, like a crappy TV episode. You can feel Otsuka's hand throughout, as he seems to have drawn or corrected the layouts for every shot. The layouts feel nice, but you really have to squint to see it through the shoddy drawings. At almost no time does the animation have the speedy, fun, cleverly choreographed action sensibility of Fuma or other classic Telecom productions. It's as if the film was produced in a rush. The foundation is strong enough, but they botched the execution.

There are a few names I recognize in the animation credits, but most of them like Kei Hyodo and Masao Okubo were at the beginning of their careers and hadn't developed their styles yet. For some reason, Telecom clearly didn't put their best animators on this project.

Despite it turning out to be a sub-par production, this was Yasuo Otsuka's last major involvement in a film, so I'm happy to have finally been able to see it. He had retired long before, and even his involvement in Fuma seems to have been more out of necessity to save the production than because he was scheduled to. The same must be the case here.

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4 comments

h park
h park [Visitor]

That is one interesting find, Ben.

I didn’t even know there was animation based off from Far East of Eden game franchise. Game has that manga look, so its animation adaptation perhaps inevitable? It surprised me that Otsuka worked on it.

I only watched dramatization of Far East of Eden game development years ago on Fuji TV.

09/11/13 @ 01:07
Mr-Famicom
Mr-Famicom [Visitor]

“For some reason, Telecom clearly didn’t put their best animators on this project.”

That is because by July-August of 1990, most of Telecom A-game were focused on Tiny Toons when the rest were on Peter Pan And The Pirates, The era between Chip n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers (which they did after Nemo as filler as around this time Disney was opening up their own Japanese studio) and Tiny Toons was a sight to take notes; After Nemo’s bombing TMS neaded a Dragon Ball Z size hit badly to bail them out of Nemo so they placed a ad in the paper saying “We just lost a bunch of money on Little Nemo and we need a replacement now, other wise were going out of business” that lead Tom Ruegger and co to fly to Tokyo to mead up with Yutaka Fujioka (Picture of him here http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/fujioka_sama_9191.jpg and here http://cartoonatics.blogspot.com/2010/09/warner-bros-animation-staff-circa-1990.html ) and other TMS staff members, TMS will only do Tiny Toons if TMS got 30% of the show’s rights and they asked Spielberg if it was ok and he said yes and TMS was saved.

As for Her Wacky Highness (Telecom’s first “in production” episode of Tiny Toons) The unit TMS used was their B unit and the episode was done by Shojiro Nishimi as their A unit was doing Shin Jarinko Chie at that time but when they seen how big Tiny Toons was doing, the A unit jumped shipped and Shin Jarinko Chie was pushed back to 1991 because of it; More info about Telecom’s Tiny Toons efforts here http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Trivia/TinyToonAdventures

09/11/13 @ 19:46
Ben [Member]  

H Park:

I guess that has to do with the fact that it was originally planned as an anime (or was it a drama), and the game actually came afterwards, but wound up coming out first. It’s not a bad concept, it just needed to be better fleshed out and have better production quality.

Mr-Famicom:

Thanks a lot for this info! That explains it. I’m surprised that they actually bought an ad in a paper saying such a thing, although I realize you must be paraphrasing and they must not have said it in so many words. It’s great to hear about how and why TMS got into producing those Tiny Toons episodes etc. over the 1990s. Where did you learn all this? The info on that tvtropes page for Tiny Toon Adventures is remarkably specific. I can’t imagine that the Japanese animators were credited by section that way.

09/17/13 @ 17:57
Mr-Famicom
Mr-Famicom [Visitor]

Your Welcome, They sure did, Tom Ruegger said so him self ( I asked him my self, link here http://cartoonatics.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-jetsons-50th-anniversary-his-boy.html ) ; As for the ad, that has not been uploaded but Ruegger said that the ad’s placement was the case.

I have got my info from many sources, Telecom’s own web site (before they redid it), 2Ch, this site, Otsuka’s book’s and watching TMS’ other shows and matching up to their styles in terms of staff & outsourcing studios like how fans of golden age US animation spot out animators like Bob Mckimson & Rod Scribner when Virgil Ross was the only animator listed (as was the case with A Wild Hare).

I really adore Telecom like part of my family, and so I put alot of effort of putting as much care to the company as others do for Ghibli (well, before Miyazaki retired anyway, Takahata still has a film coming out this fall, but still) and Gainax (now Khara & Trigger as thats where everyone that made Gainax big is now at).

09/19/13 @ 23:41