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, November 7, 2011

05:56:00 pm , 929 words, 2766 views     Categories: Animation, TV

Guilty Crown #4 / Idolm@ster #18

Ryotaro Makihara and Akitoshi Yokoyama, two of my favorite people in the anime industry right now, both played major parts in Masaaki Yuasa's last two TV series Kaiba and Tatami Galaxy. In the absence of a Masaaki Yuasa project to work on, they haven't been idle. They both just directed a TV episode for different studios that just happened to air right around the same time. Ryotaro Makihara directed episode 4 of I.G.'s Guilty Crown and Akitoshi Yokoyama directed episode 18 of Gainax's Idolm@ster.

Guilty Crown #4

Ryotaro Makihara's episode of Guilty Crown was pretty impressive. It's a nice show of force from an up-and-coming young director. This is only his third episode storyboarded/directed. He started out as an inbetweener in 2002, did his first key animation in 2004, debuted as a sakkan in 2008 on Kaiba episode 11, debuted as an enshutsu in 2009 on Umimonogatari #11, and debuted as a storyboarder/enshutsu on Tatami Galaxy episode 3. He also acted as sakkan once more on Tatami Galaxy episode 9. It was just earlier this year that he storyboarded/directed his second episode, Fractale #7. I also talked about his animation throughout both shows in my posts on Kaiba and Tatami Galaxy. Incidentally, Makihara started out at Telecom before going freelance, which perhaps in some small measure helps account for his unique approach.

Many parts of the preceding episodes were actually rather impressive as well, but in a more stiff and sanitized way. They were technically well made, with obviously a lot of work put into the visuals, but somehow they didn't really 'wow' me the way episode 4 does. It's hard to put your finger on what it is. Makihara just has a sense for how to create a great rhythm and flow, and you can sense his personal touch in the episode in various subtle ways, without it becoming distracting.

I like the way Makihara controls the flow of the action and the visuals. The layouts guide the eye effortlessly without being overly stylized or striving for effect. The lighting in the dark building is carefully handled in each shot to build a tense atmosphere, with the mixture of red and yellow emergency lighting. The acting is more convincing and intimate in Makihara's hands due to the way he stages and times the line delivery. The timing of the characters' reactions feels more 'right' than usual. The screen also has more depth than usual - for example, the people on the subway fade away in the distance. Even the stills that come on screen during the expository monologue about what happened in the past feel particularly nice for some reason.

The part that really blew me away is the climax, which is full of splendid animation and action choreography. The way the protagonist uses the clumps of water floating in the air to propel himself upwards was ingenious and exciting. The character animation where the protagonist plunges his hand into Kenji Kido's chest was convincing in the acting and timing, for example the way he at first stares in shock before yanking his head back with his eyes shut. I love the layout of the action of the shot where the protagonist shoots the gun for the first time and the recoil kicks him out of the fountain. The animation of the protagonist as he shoots the gun twice afterwards towards the oncoming mecha is really beautiful. The tension builds and builds until the moment when he steps on the floating globule of water and runs upwards. Quite an amazing sequence.

Animators in Guilty Crown episode 4 include: Natsuko Shimizu, Mamoru Kurosawa, Isao Hayashi, Itazu Yoshimi, Fumiaki Kota, Yasunori Miyazawa, and Ryotaro Makihara himself. Did Itazu Yoshimi perhaps do the part with Kenji Kido? It felt Denno Coil-ish.


Idolm@ster #18

Akitoshi Yokoyama's episode of Idolm@ster was well produced, but not really worth going out of your way to watch just for his work like Makihara's episode of Guilty Crown. I find other episodes showcase Yokoyama's prowess better (see the list below). I guess that's as it should be: This audience of this episode isn't Yokoyama fans; it's the viewers of this show.

I personally would prefer to see more personal work showcasing Yokoyama's unique vision as a director, but what I can say is that this episode showcases the consummate professional in Yokoyama. He can switch between radically different projects and deliver work that is not only true to the spirit and style of the project, but that one-ups everything else with its quality. That's simultaneously the good thing and the bad thing about Japanese anime professionals: they come in and do great work on even shows whose content isn't interesting to me. That's what I love about anime, but at the same time I can't help wishing more of them were a little more picky about what projects they did. If nobody cares what material they do, no wonder we don't see more ambitious projects. I guess putting food on your family comes first, especially when times are tough and interesting projects are few and far between.

Here's a list of episodes storyboarded and directed by Yokoyama. He also drew storyboards for many other episodes without directing them, but the ones he directed as well are the ones where his personality comes through the most so I'll just list those here. He debuted as an inbetweener at Studio Gallop in 1985, drew his first key animation in 1987, and drew his first storyboard on Turn A Gundam in 1999.

Episodes storyboarded and directed by Akitoshi Yokoyama

2002: Rahxephon 6, 12, 18, 24
2003: King Gainer 14
2004: Samurai Champloo 21
2006: Kemonozume 5
2007: Tenpo Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi 12
2007: Denno Coil 3
2008: Kaiba 2 3 7 9
2009: Naruto Shippuden 131
2010: Tatami Galaxy 2 4 9
2011: Deadman Wonderland 11
2011: Idolm@ster 18

Sunday, November 6, 2011

05:51:00 pm , 1362 words, 24370 views     Categories: Animation, OVA, Telecom

Grampa's lamp

I just wrote about Telecom's very early work on Lupin. Well, they're still very active as both a subcontractor doing animation work on other people's shows and producing their own projects. Their latest was one of the other four Project A films released in 2010: Grampa's Lamp.

Set in the early decades of Japan's period of modernization around 1900, Grampa's Lamp traces the advent of modernity to Japan during its so-called "bunmei kaika" period in the late 1800s. It does so through the story of a boy growing up during those times. He begins by embracing the flood of changes entering his country, only to soon find himself irresistibly overtaken by that same flood. With surprising subtlety it paints a picture of the double-edged sword of modernization: for every step towards the future, something else is irretrievably lost.

Historical anime for children of this ilk is often heavy-handed and reductive, presenting an anti-war or other message in a way that is lacking the complexity and subtlety of real life, but I found Grampa's Lamp did a better job than most other period anime in balancing narrative clarity and simplicity with moral ambiguity and psychological complexity. I enjoyed it and found its characters believable. My only disappointment is that the drama leading towards the climax felt forced and unnecessary. It's like they felt obliged to create a dramatic climax but couldn't figure out how to do it.

Grampa's Lamp is pretty much unrecognizable as Telecom if you're looking for the hallmarks of late 70s Telecom like high-energy car chases and exhiliratingly improbable character calisthenics. The studio itself has gone through much over the intervening years, and this project itself much more low-key and down-to-earth in its goals. The film is more Only Yesterday than Cagliostro.

But what hasn't changed is the studio's philosophy of creating rich character animation. Everything moves, and moves in an interesting or meaningful way. The characters act out their emotions and personalities, and the way they behave is more realistic and believable than in typical anime, where the animators often fall back on stock movements. They behave like people, not anime characters. The directing isn't geared towards creating pretty images, but rather towards bringing the characters to life in animation.

Crowd scenes actually have moving people, not just a single drawing. Kids playing cops and robbers zip around adopting all sorts of poses. The old lady running the shop moves differently from the way the middle-aged waitress moves. When the protagonist assembles a lamp, each component of the action is meticulously depicted - pouring the lamp oil through the sieve into the body, wiping off the sieve, replacing the ladle into its bin, screwing back on the lamp, twisting the knob to raise the thread. And he does all these things with an ease and fluidity that clearly is the product of many years of experience. That's what it means for animation to communicate personality.

Kazuhide Tomonaga, who after his work on the second Lupin series went on to become one of Telecom's most important members through the decades, was the "Acting Supervisor" in Grampa's Lamp. This is a role I've never before seen in anime, and the presence of this role goes a long way to accounting for the quality of the character animation.

Unlike in a typical production, prior to drawing the layout and the genga, each animator was first obliged to draw a thumbnail outline of the action they intended for a shot. Only after Tomonaga inspected the thumbnails and approved them was the key animator allowed to move ahead with drawing the actual key animation. It might seem at first sight like adding this extra step might slow down production, but it probably actually has the opposite effect. It also avoids waste by making sure there's no need for retakes after the key animator has begun drawing a more finalized key animation drawing. On top of that, it increases the overall quality of the movements by forcing the animators to think about the movement first, separate from the drawings.

Drawing thumbnails was one of the tasks the animators of Grampa's Lamp were assigned as a part of Project A. The idea of using thumbnails was apparently something recommended by Yasuo Otsuka. He finds that many young animators today are unable to create everyday character acting. People draw cool poses or drawings, but forget the bigger picture. He suggested using thumbnails as a way to train their skill at conceptualizing movement. Having a thumbnail sketch of a movement also makes it easy to get input from superiors or colleagues about how to improve an action.

The first person credited in the key animation credits is Hisao Yokobori, who is a veteran Telecom animator who has done much good work in recent years. Presumably many of the names under him are the new faces who were being trained on the project.

I also had a chance to watch Production I.G.'s outing, Wardrobe Dwellers, but it was excruciatingly boring and uninteresting. I was looking forward to it to see what Kazuchika Kise would do as a director, as he's a fine animator, but the material just wasn't interesting enough to support the slow pace.


Earlier this year it was announced that four more films in the series will be released together next year under the moniker "Anime Mirai". Luckily Telecom is back with another film next year, and I was surprised to find out which film it is they're producing:

Telecom: Buta (d. Kazuhide Tomonaga)
Production I.G.: Wasurenagumo (d. Toshihisa Kaiya)
Shirokumi: Feigned Ignorance (d. PON Kozutsumi)
Answer Studio: Juju of the South Seas (d. Hiroshi Kawamata)

Six years ago I wrote a post about a project called Buta headed by a Frenchman named Christophe Ferreira. It would appear that the project had a rough time getting off the ground, and sadly Christophe is only credited with "Created by" in this particular film, so it is not the vision that he had originally been working towards. But it is nonetheless Telecom, and directed by Kazuhide Tomonaga no less, so it looks like it will be an exciting and fun action piece going back to the roots of what made Telecom so great.

You can see some images from the episode up on the official page at animemirai.jp. Apparently the project is now called Anime Mirai (Anime Future).

It would be nice if this could lead to an ongoing project that would foster the production of more episodes in that vein of freewheeling action adventure. I find it hard to believe they'll be able to revive the brilliance of the early Telecom films, but it's great to see they're trying to go in that direction. Interesting to note is that this film is presumably serving as on-hands training for several younger animators - which is basically what the early New Lupin III Telecom episodes were.

Speaking of which, supposedly a new Lupin III series is in production, so with any luck we may be able to see some new Telecom Lupin III episodes.

I must say I'm also quite curious about the Shirokumi film. It looks very beautiful, with its pared down black-and-white sketchy aesthetic. It's the only film in the project so far that doesn't look like regular anime. I'm glad they're greenlighting more visually unorthodox and creative projects like this too. The director directed many episodes of Manga Nihon Mukashibanashi under his real name, Kazuaki Kozutsumi, so he's a good choice for this kind of visual material. I'd like to see more Manga Nihon Mukashibanashi OBs given the chance to do this kind of higher-quality production. More recently he did an amusing series of super-short animation inserts about a monk and his cat. I love what he's able to do with so little. Just a few drawings in three seconds and each one tells a little story.

I was hoping to see Kazuyoshi Takeuchi's name when I saw that Answer Studio had done one of the films, as I liked what he did in Flag, but he's not involved. I'm still quite looking forward to it. Production I.G.'s film looks the least interesting, though I'm sure it will be competently done.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

04:43:00 pm , 1448 words, 2850 views     Categories: Animation, OVA

Kizuna Ichigeki

Hyperkinetic action animation so fast it blurs the outlines of its characters into an abstract painting. You might expect to see this in one of the latest Street Fighter outings, not in a family show. But that's what makes Kizuna Ichigeki so unique. The tagline phrases it well: "Hard-boiled action comedy for the whole family".

This deceptively diminutive, densely packed little 25-minute gem is one of the films produced under the auspices of the so-called "Project A" or Young Animator Training Project being run by the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Bunkacho. The Bunkacho has done much to support their native animation industry over the last decade or so, most notably running the Japan Media Arts Festival that has rewarded exceptional productions like Mind Game, Summer with Coo and most recently Tatami Galaxy.

The action is hard-boiled, and the family fun is quite soft and fuzzy. It sounds like a guaranteed disaster, but it actually works fairly well thanks to the two veterans helming this unique project: Director Mitsuru Hongo and Animation Director/Character Designer Yuichiro Sueyoshi.

The director does a good job of fleshing out each character as an individual and creating an appealing and fun atmosphere of a family that works together as a unit. The animation director meanwhile keeps the visuals interesting at all times with his creative approach to character designs, with heads and bodies drawn in all sorts of delightfully odd shapes.

The action scenes are truly thrilling to watch. They're intricately animated, full of interesting poses as the characters attack and parry, and the camera zooms around following the action. Fights never drag on to the point of self-indulgence, but always feel satisfying, without being gory or bloody. It's a clean, safe kind of action that's nonetheless extremely satisfying for action fans.

The film segues seamlessly between family drama and truly hardcore martial arts action as the little Kizuna has to participate in title fights to pay to keep the family together. A tiny little whisp of a girl, she deals out whoop-ass with an assurance and skill well beyond her years and size. The scenes where she stands off men three times her size (literally) are amazing for not being completely laughable. The magic of animation makes you believe she could do it. The show has an effortless and genuine atmosphere of whimsical fun.

Mitsuru Hongo was the one who made the Crayon Shin-chan film series into the long-running hit it's become. His Shin-chan films were suprisingly sophisticated packages of oddball fantasy, witty whimsy, exciting action and believably handled drama that attracted adults and children equally. The glue holding together this bizarre melange was the unexpected inventiveness and creativeness of the visuals and the animation, the product of the imagination of a brilliant animator and designer who would soon afterwards go on to make a name for himself: Masaaki Yuasa.

Yuichiro Sueyoshi started out as an animator in Shin-chan TV series and movies, and has in recent years been involved in several notable feature films: first Mind Game under the self-same Yuasa, and then in a very different turn, Summer with Coo under Shin-Ei compatriot Keiichi Hara. Keiichi Hara himself got his start under Mitsuru Hongo storyboarding Hongo's Shin-chan movies until finally graduating to directing them himself. Hongo is a remarkable director for not only his own work but also for his fostering of talent.

Kizuna Ichigeki's success comes in large part because it follows something of the same pattern of creative seeding as the early Shin-chan films. The visual concept is laid down by a talented animator, and Hongo then comes in and builds a drama around the visuals. Yuichiro Sueyoshi is credited with "gensaku", meaning "Created by Yuichiro Sueyoshi". Hence this project was his concept. It's a project created by a great animator, obviously intended to be a vehicle for producing interesting animation.

A one-off like this is nice, but what would be better would be if this would lead to a TV series. We need a TV series like this that creates a simple framework of a story and situation, and provides the animators with pliable and easy-to-animate designs that predispose towards more freedom and fun in the animation. You sense that different animators would have the freedom to do each episode in their own way without worrying too much about adhering to model or atmosphere. That's what makes this concept really interesting: It's carefully crafted to be open-ended and to inherently promote more exciting and adventurous animation. Providing such a platform on a long-term basis would be the best way of fostering the young animators of Japan.

Although of course Kizuna Ichigeki was intended to foster young animators, the key animation credits are headlined by three veteran animators: Masahiro Sato, Hideo Hariganeya and Nobuhiro Osugi. They are presumably there as the guiding spirits of the animation, the lead animators. The remaining six, who are credited separately, are presumably the young animators who were being 'trained' on the project. I don't know to what extent the veterans were involved in the training of the young animators, or whether they just did their own thing like usual and weren't actually involved in any training, which isn't their job normally anyway.

The three veterans have been involved in the Shin-chan movies over the years. Masahiro Sato in particular has come to prominence as one of the great action animators of our time. Masahiro Sato's section here is easily identifiable for its excellent draftsmanship, choreography and sense of assurance - the fight with the redhead. I'm not sure what the other two did, but there were two nice sections: the fight with the red-coated guy, and the amusing section where the grandfather tells stories that turn out to have nothing to do with Kizuna - one of them a clear parody of K-On and the other a parody of generic robot shows, with its dramatically anguished protagonist piloting a mobile suit against his will.

What's nice about this show is how each of these sections display a distinctly different approach to animation in terms of the timing and the choreography and even the drawings, yet they all blend together beautifully in the final product, and the heterogeneous styles even lend the film strength. Masahiro Sato's section isn't drawn all sketchy like the rest of the episode, and the animation is much more straight-through and fluid. The fight with the red-coated guy is quite different yet equally enjoyable - sparer and not as weighty, full of sprightly poses of Kizuna and more Yuasa-esque loose, angular character drawing. Hongo and Sueyoshi have created a framework in which animators can work freely in their own style, and it not only doesn't wreck the atmosphere, it fits in perfectly.

One of the things that jumps out at you about the animation is the sketchy style. It's kind of reminiscent of Tweeny Witches OVA 3 done by Yasuhiro Aoki, as well as Windy Tales, Kemonozume, and most recently Shoka. The finished animation is drawn in a way that deliberately looks unfinished and sketchy. Yet the drawings are strong and the characters are well drawn from all sorts of angles. I like the variety of the faces in the crowds. The crowd scenes were very fun to watch.

I like the cat character. That's something I think they did a good job in getting the audience to want to see more of. He looks and behaves very much like Kotetsu in Jarinko Chie. At certain moments he stands up on his hind legs and strikes some wicked-looking karate poses. I left the episode wanting to see more stories about the cat in action.

The production studio behind this film is a new kid on the block: Ascension. The producer heading the studio is one Hitoshi Shigeki. Although Sunrise was the studio that produced Keiichi Hara's latest film Colorful, the animation was actually outsourced to Ascension. They have two home-runs with their first two productions, let's hope they can keep that record up. They're a studio worth looking out for. They don't have an official home page yet, only a Twitter feed and a Facebook page.

You can see some cleaned up key animation alongside the finished image on the Janica page for Kizuna Ichigeki. It's quite interesting to compare the corrected keys with the finished picture. You can see what kind of work an inbetweener has to do in terms of cleaning up the lines, removing stray marks, etc.


Kizuna Ichigeki (25 minutes, 2010, Ascension)

Producer: Hitoshi Shigeki
Created by, Animation Director, Character Design: Yuichiro Sueyoshi
Written by, Storyboard, Director: Mitsuru Hongo

Key animators:
Masahiro Sato
Hideo Hariganeya
Nobuhiro Ohsugi

Ho Yeong Park, Keiko Tamaki
Hidekazu Ebina, Satohiko Sano
Ryota Sakaguchi, Norifumi Kugai

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

05:31:00 pm , 5691 words, 9412 views     Categories: Animation, TV, Lupin III, Telecom

The animation of the second Lupin III TV series

The second Lupin III TV series ran from October 3, 1977 to October 6, 1980 - a tremendous run of 155 episodes in 3 years. It can be hard to know where to dig into such a long show to find the quality episodes if you don't have time to sit through all 155 episodes, so I thought I'd provide a guide to the animation of the second Lupin III TV series. (this is an updated version of this old post)

Essentially, the animation of this show was provided mainly by four studios: Tokyo Movie Shinsha, Oh Production, Telecom, and Topcraft. There may have been some freelance staff or other misc studios involved.

Tokyo Movie Shinsha was the main studio producing the show; the others were subcontractors, although Telecom was closely affiliated with TMS, having been formed just prior to the start of this show by the owner of TMS as a branch of TMS. You can pretty much tell which episode is done by which studio by looking at the names in the key animation credits, to say nothing of the animation, which differs dramatically depending on the animator and studio. Here's a basic breakdown of which animators belonged to which studio.

Animators of the four main Lupin III Part 2 studios

Tokyo Movie: Junzaburo Takahata, Yokoyama Hiromi, Koichi Maruyama, Hitoshi Oda, Masayoshi Arai, Sachiko Kodama, Toyoaki Emura, and others.

Oh Pro: Koshin Yonekawa, Tomonaga Kazuhide, Tsukasa Tannai, Kenichi Okamoto, Higashi Numajiri, Toshio Yamauchi, and Joji Manabe.

Telecom: Koichi Maruyama, Atsuko Tanaka, Michihata Yoshinobu, Nobuo Tomizawa, Yoko Tsukada, Keiko Hara, Yasunao Aoki, Tomonaga Kazuhide, Toshio Yamauchi, Masako Shinohara, and others.

Topcraft: Kazuyuki Kobayashi, Hidemi Kubo, Masahiro Yoshida, Hidekazu Ohara, and Mitsuru Hosotani.

Basically the episodes to really seek out are the Oh Pro episodes with Kazuhide Tomonaga, the Telecom episodes, and the Yuzo Aoki episodes. I've also heard that Junzaburo Takahata did a lot of good work on the show, though I haven't explored his episodes yet. Here's a short overview of some nice bits in each group.

Lupin III Part 2 Oh Pro episodes

EpisodeKey animators
#4: ネッシーの唄が聞こえる
I can hear Nessie's song
Koshin Yonekawa, Kenichi Okamoto, Kazuhide Tomonaga
#8: ベネチア超特急
Venice super-express
Koshin Yonekawa, Kenichi Okamoto, Kazuhide Tomonaga
#13: サンフランシスコ大追跡
Great chase in San Francisco
Tsukasa Tannai
#14: カリブ海の大冒険
Adventure on the Carib sea
Kazuhide Tomonaga
#16: 二つの顔のルパン
The two faces of Lupin
Tannai Tsukasa
#20: 追いつめられたルパン
Lupin cornered
Kazuhide Tomonaga, Kenichi Okamoto
#25: 必殺鉄トカゲ見参
The killer iron lizards
Kazuhide Tomonaga, Kenichi Okamoto
#31: 白夜に向かって撃て
Shoot into the dark of the night
Kazuhide Tomonaga, Tsukasa Tannai, Kenichi Okamoto
#37: ジンギスカンの埋蔵金
Genghis Khan's buried treasure
Tannai Tsukasa, Kenichi Okamoto, Numajiri Higashi
#41: かぐや姫の宝を探せ
Find the treasure of Kaguya Hime
Tannai Tsukasa, Kenichi Okamoto, Numajiri Higashi
#45: 殺しはワインの匂い
Killing smells like wine (Yuzo Aoki storyboard)
Tannai Tsukasa, Kenichi Okamoto, Numajiri Higashi
#55: 花吹雪 謎の五人衆(前篇)
Snowstorm: The mysterious five (1/2)
Tannai Tsukasa, Kenichi Okamoto, Numajiri Higashi
#63: 罠には罠を!
A trap for a trap!
Tsukasa Tannai, Kazuhide Tomonaga, Higashi Numajiri, Toshio Yamauchi, Kenichi Okamoto
#67: ルパンの大西遊記
Lupin's great journey to the west
Tsukasa Tannai, Higashi Numajiri, Kenichi Okamoto, Toshio Yamauchi
#71: ルパン対新選組
Lupin vs. the New Shinsengumi
Tsukasa Tannai, Higashi Numajiri, Kenichi Okamoto, Toshio Yamauchi
#92: マダムと泥棒四重奏
Quartet for madam and thief
Toshio Yamauchi, Higashi Numajiri, Kenichi Okamoto, Kazuhide Tomonaga, Joji Manabe
#98: 父っつあんのいない日
A day without pops
Toshio Yamauchi, Higashi Numajiri, Kenichi Okamoto, Kazuhide Tomonaga, Joji Manabe

I wrote about Koshin Yonekawa and Murata Koichi's studio Oh Pro before. Oh Pro was heavily involved in the first half of the second Lupin III series as an animation subcontractor. There was one particular animator who was working at Oh Pro at the time who stood out from the pack. His presence made the Oh Pro episodes something to look forward to when they rolled around: Kazuhide Tomonaga.

Kazuhide Tomonaga: Oh Pro's rising star

Kazuhide Tomonaga was unmistakably the most flamboyant and exciting animator to work on the second Lupin III series. He did a large amount of animation on the show from Oh Production between episodes 4 and 98, virtually all of it very distinct and thrilling to watch. After a gap of a few dozen episodes he then returned with a little bit of work in the last few Telecom episodes. The Oh Pro episodes to look for are the ones with him in the credits.

Kazuhide Tomonaga is best known as the animator who created convincing animation of spaceships flying realistically in the original Yamato series as well as other Toei robot shows. He created the lavishly animated catastrophe scenes in Galaxy Express 999 movie. He was one of the pioneers of more realistic mecha and effects animation. Toshiyuki Inoue is among the many animators influenced by him. Yoshinori Kanada and Kazuhide Tomonaga were, surprisingly, kindred spirits in the 70s. They had a friendly rivalry going. The climactic catastrophe scene in the Galaxy Express 999 movie sees them doing a tag-team of incredible animation as one animates one shot and the other then animates the next shot, etc.

As if it weren't enough that he influenced many of his compatriots, he went on to do a lot of work in foreign co-productions like Winnie the Pooh, Batman, Animaniacs, Superman, etc. that was widely hailed in the west. A few years ago he returned to a Telecom TV show and did animation on Tide-Line Blue under the late Iida Umanosuke. He continues to be very active as an animator, although he is no longer the wild animator he once was. His early work is particularly delightful to re-visit because it is so playful and free and full of youthful vitality.

Tomonaga's work in this show reveals a side of him that might not be as well known. He creates hilarious and exciting character animation full of inventive posing. He uses very quick timing to pack short moves full of fun postures that make the movement exciting to watch and revealing to step through in slo-mo. At other times he creates minutely precise realistic mecha and effects animation that seems to foreshadow what would come in things like the Nemo pilot. He is one of those people like Yasuo Otsuka who has movement in his blood, who was born to be an animator.

Kazuhide Tomonaga episode highlights

Tomonaga did one solo episode in the show: episode 14. It's pretty low-key most of the time, but there are little bits here and there where the animation suddenly zips to life. He creates quick movements that are full of fun drawings and poses that pass by very quickly. The movements are fun to watch, and even more fun to step through in slo-mo to appreciate all the drawings he's packed in. Choice moments include the policeman choking on his cigar pictured below, the scene in the airport, Zenigata kicking down the door and trying to grab Lupin, Zenigata running into the cave entrance wall, and Lupin falling into the trap.

Incidentally, when Zenigata bangs his fist on the table and causes the policeman to choke on his cigar, his hand lands next to an inkpot labelled "OH". Why would a policeman have an ink pot on his desk? And why is it labelled "OH"? It's another little in-joke like the one pictured above. (The one pictured above is from episode 25.)

Episode 20 has a lot of funny drawings of the German soldiers and the Fuhrer character, but there isn't one particular section that screams out Tomonaga like in some of the other episodes. His work seems to peek through here and there. The shot where the soldiers attack the dummy Fujiko and Lupin is particularly nice, though I'm not exactly sure it's by Tomonaga. The timing of the animation where Zenigata hits the water after he's thrown out of the window by Lupin and Fujiko is great - he stops dead for a moment when he hits the surface, and only after a second slowly sinks down. Another nice part is the Charlie Chaplin Dictator homage sequence where the Fuhrer dances with the globe but winds up getting smacked in the face with it and knocked off the table. Tomonaga also may have done some of the tank action and explosions in the second half.

Episode 25 is also pretty low-key in terms of the animation, but there are still little bits here and there in the first half that have a nice feeling, like the part where the officer announces that Lupin has escaped. The part obviously screaming Tomonaga comes in the second half with some very nice animation of a boat. In particular, the shot of the boat jumping over the missiles chasing it shows off Tomonaga's genius for very quick timing the likes of which few people this side of Toshiyuki Inoue can achieve.

The dogfight in the next Tomonaga episode, episode 31, is another great mecha action sequence like the boat sequence that shows off Tomonaga's skill at very detailed and realistic animation. One shot in particular where a plane gets shot is amazing in the perfect timing of the animation. These two shows make you realize why Tomonaga was such an influence on people as a mecha/effects animator in the 1970s. He was one of the first people in Japan in the modern age to draw such detailed and realistic animation that at the same time was incredibly exciting to watch.

Tomonaga also seems to have done little bits here and there throughout the episode, such as the still shots of the vikings and the delightfully ludicrous animation of Zenigata riding the torpedo at the end of episode 31. There seem to be two animators in Tomonaga: an animator who creates crazy character antics full of hilarious poses, sort of in the vein of Yoshinori Kanada but more fluid and thought-through rather than pose-to-pose, and an animator who creates realistic effects and mecha animation. Kanada himself was also known for both his character and FX animation.

There are lots of other nice Tomonaga bits buried here and there in the Oh Pro episodes, but I won't go into too much detail save to mention that episode 8 has a considerable amount of good early Tomonaga character animation work, and the musical sequence at the very end of episode 63 is short but sweet.

Lupin III Part 2 Telecom episodes

EpisodeKey animators
#72: スケートボード殺人事件
The skateboard murder mystery
Yoko Saeki, Miwako Takagi Masami Ozaki, Keiko Shimazu, Atsuko Tanabe, Harumi Shibata
#77: 星占いでルパンを逮捕
Arrest Lupin using horoscope
Koichi Maruyama, Atsuko Tanaka, Keiko Hara, Yoko Tsukada, Yoshinobu Michihata
#82: 最後の差し入れはカップラーメン
I'll have cup ramen for my last meal
Tsukasa Tannai, Koichi Maruyama, Keiko Hara, Yoshinobu Michihata, Toshiyuki Biruma
#84: 復讐はルパンにまかせろ
Leave revenge to Lupin
Nobuo Tomizawa, Atsuko Tanaka, Yoko Tsukada, Yoshihiro Shida, Miwako Takagi
#99: 荒野に散ったコンバット・マグナム
Combat magnum scattered in the field
Nobuo Tomizawa, Koichi Maruyama, Atsuko Tanaka, Keiko Hara, Yoko Tsukada, Yoshinobu Michihata
#105: 怪奇鬼首島に女が消えた
A woman disappears on eerie Demon Head island
Yoshinobu Michihata, Yoko Tsukada, Toshiyuki Biruma, Yasunao Aoki, Yayoi Kobayashi
#143: マイアミ銀行襲撃記念日
Miami bank heist memorial
Nobuo Tomizawa, Koichi Maruyama, Kazuhide Tomonaga, Yayoi Kobayashi
#145: 死の翼アルバトロス
Albatross, wings of death
Nobuo Tomizawa, Koichi Maruyama, Eiko Hara, Junko Tsutsumi, Yayoi Kobayashi
#151: ルパン逮捕ハイウェイ作戦
Arrest Lupin Highway Plan
Kazuhide Tomonaga, Yoshinobu Michihata, Eiko Hara, Ryoko Kashiwada
#153: 神様のくれた札束
The god-given bills
Nobuo Tomizawa, Atsuko Tanaka, Masako Shinohara, Junko Tsutsumi
#155: さらば愛しきルパンよ
Farewell, dear Lupin
Kazuhide Tomonaga, Toshio Yamauchi, Yoshinobu Michihata, Masako Shinohara, Atsuko Tanaka, Ryoko Kashiwada

The best known of the Telecom episodes are the two late episodes directed by Miyazaki under the pen name "Terekomu" or Telecom: 145 and 155. These are indeed the crowning jewels of the show, but prior to these episodes Telecom produced some of the finest episodes in the show. Pretty much every Telecom episode is worth seeking out.

Background about Telecom's involvement

If you noticed some overlap between the animators of TMS, Oh Pro and Telecom, it's because there was a gradual migration of animator staff from TMS and Oh Pro (and Nippon Animation) to Telecom over the course of 1979 when Telecom started to work on the TV show. The reason why is because Telecom didn't have any good staff.

Telecom had been formed not long before, and when Yasuo Otuska arrived at Telecom at TMS head Yutaka Fujioka's invitation after finishing his work on Hayao Miyazaki's Conan to train the animators, he found that the 40 or so newly hired (amateur) animators were essentially useless. They'd been working on the Mamo movie until December 1978, when the movie was released, but they had made life a living hell for animation directors Yuzo Aoki and Yoshio Kabashima.

Otsuka decided the best way to train them in short order was not to give them lectures about animation, but to set them to work on an actual TV production. So he chose 6 of the animators and set them to the task of animating episode 72. The results were so execrable that Otsuka had to redraw most of the animation himself, and he maintains that it is the worst piece of animation he ever worked on in his career.

Obviously not wanting a repeat of that, Otsuka started to bring in outside staff one by one to bring up the level of things. (Incidentally, the six animators of that episode never show up in the credit rolls again.) The first of those were Atsuko Tanaka and Keiko Hara, who had left Shin-Ei for Telecom just prior to Otsuka's arrival. Koichi Maruyama, who had been working mostly alongside Junzaburo Takahata on the TMS episodes, appears in the Telecom episodes from this point onwards, though I don't know whether he was officially Telecom or worked from TMS. This team did their first Lupin work for Telecom on for episode 77.

More staff came in with each new episode, raising the quality gradually with each episode: Tannai Tsukasa joined from Oh Pro in episode 82. Toshio Yamauchi joined from Oh Pro later after first working on Cagliostro. Nobuo Tomizawa joined from Nippon Animation in episode 84. Nobuo Tomizawa had worked on almost every episode of Miyazaki's Conan alongside Masako Shinohara. Masako Shinohara stayed on to work on Takahata's Anne before finally also leaving for Telecom to work on Miyazaki's Cagliostro. She then worked on two of the remaining Telecom Lupin episodes.

The first six Telecom episodes (72, 77, 82, 84, 99, 105) were animated between January and June 1977 and aired between March and October 1977. After this there's a gap of several dozen episodes without any Telecom episodes as the team switched to animating the Cagliostro movie that had gotten OKed 3 days after the release of Mamo.

For Cagliostro, Otsuka set his best Telecom animators to the task of animating the movie. Kazuhide Tomonaga temporarily left Oh Pro to work on the film. Tomonaga had presumably caught the eye of Otsuka due to the remarkable work Tomonaga had done on the series from Oh Pro up until that point. Tomonaga wound up staying and he worked on the remaining Telecom episodes. By this time all the big animator stars of Telecom were there: Atsuko Tanaka, Kazuhide Tomonaga, Toshio Yamauchi, Michihata Yoshinobu, Masako Shinohara. These are the folks who make the late Telecom episodes so impressive.

Cagliostro was animated between July and October 1979 and released in December 1979. Afterwards the staff immediately set to work on more Lupin episodes. The Telecom episodes that follow the work on Cagliostro are heavily influenced by Miyazaki's work on the film in terms of the drawings, acting, layouts, and directing. Miyazaki himself returned to direct two of these episodes.

Telecom episode animation highlights

Most of the Telecom episodes are must-see in terms of the animation, though they get better towards the end, reaching a peak in the two Miyazaki-directed episodes. If you liked Cagliostro and Plot of the Fuma Clan and are clamoring to see more Telecom goodness, this is the place you want to be.

Thought it might not seem apparent from the finished product, episode 72 was nothing short of a disaster in Yasuo Otsuka's book. But honestly, it doesn't look that bad. It's clearly rough around the edges and the movement is lacking and ill-developed, because for one the great animators hadn't arrived at Telecom yet, and Otsuka had his hands full bringing the drawings up to par. But this episode is nonetheless a delight to watch because most of the drawings are Otsuka's. Episode 72 features the most Otsuka drawings in the whole series. In other episodes Otsuka helped out with the mecha like the cars and guns, but in this episode he did actual drawing correction. The ineptness of the animators of this episode may have been a burden to Otsuka, but it leaves us with one more episode of Otsuka drawings to savor. Otsuka had just finished working on Conan, and a lot of this episode looks like it could have come straight out of Conan. The Colombo-styled kid detective even looks like Conan and is voiced by the same voice-actor, adding to the impression.

Episode 77 features the first animation in Lupin by Atsuko Tanaka. Tanaka didn't have much experience by the time she worked on the Telecom episodes of Lupin, and she didn't work on nearly as many episodes as Tomonaga did - she only worked on 77, 84, 99, 153 and 155. I suspect she did part where Goemon tries to slice Lupin up in the second half of episode 77. It's short but sweet. You can sense that whoever did it, if it was her, has an instinct for animated movement.

Episode 84 features some animation by Atsuko Tanaka, but it's not an exciting action scene. The scenes with Zenigata guarding the jewel and falling asleep in episode 84 have a lot of fun facial expressions presumably by Atsuko Tanaka. If they're not by her, I don't know who could have done them. Yoshinobu Michihata turned into a great animator, but I don't know if he was drawing this kind of thing back then.

Episode 99 is probably the best of the six early Telecom episodes, the ones done before Cagliostro. The reason is partly because it's storyboarded and directed by Shigetsugu Yoshida, who would be the assistant director of Cagliostro and direct two of the post-Cagliostro episodes. The highlight of the episode is the closing scene where Jigen runs around collecting and re-assembling the pieces of his magnum while being fired upon by the baddie. It's one of the most exciting sequences in the series thanks to the fast-paced animation, quick cutting and the way Jigen is carefully depicted assembling each piece of the magnum back together. This section may have been animated by Nobuo Tomizawa. It's got a great feeling of tensions as an action scene should have. The Luger the baddie is firing is realistically rendered with equally maniacal detail, down to the unique toggle-joint action of the Luger.

After then doing episode 105, the Telecom team set to work on Cagliostro. The first episode of the TV series they did after coming back was episode 143, which is a neglected minor masterpiece of slapstick Telecom comedy action. It's got a great combination of writer-storyboarder-director-animation the likes of which only came around once in the series. It's scripted by Yoshio Urasawa, storyboarded by Yuzo Aoki, directed by Shigetsugu Yoshida, and animated by Telecom. More gag action masterpieces might have been born if this team worked together a few more times. It's funny how in the late Telecom episodes Fujiko looks and behaves completely differently; she's not the sexy backstabber of the rest of the show, she's just another member of the gang.

Most of all, it just moves like crazy. The first half of the episode alone feels like it used more animation drawings than most TV episodes. The Telecom episodes typically used more than 7000 drawings per episode. This episode in particular feels like it's moving all the time, and the movement is all interesting. The opening scene at the bank is hilarious, with the way something breaks unexpectedly every once in a while. The underwater chase with Zenigata on the beach is full of lively movement. And the rumpus in the bank in the second half is full of crazy animation. As is typical with Yuzo Aoki's storyboards, you have a scene that makes great use of space, with the people flying around, giving the animator freedom to have fun and pack the scene with lots of silly antics.

Kazuhide Tomonaga is involved, but pretty much all of the animation in the episode is fun and lively. I think the credits in the late Telecom episodes are listed in the order, rather than as usual by the amount of animation drawn, because of the way Telecom assigned their animation - each person had a big chunk of 50 or so shots. So you have one big section by Nobuo Tomizawa, followed by a big section by Koichi Maruyama, etc. Accordingly, and judging by the style, Tomonaga probably did the part in the bank where the money flies all over the place. You can identify him from the wild drawings of the faces and the hands, which look like the fingers are growing straight out of the wrist.

Episode 151 is an exciting episode full of great Telecom car chases and fine attention to detail in the directing and the acting. This episode feels very different from all the Lupin episodes that came before because the characters do things not dictated by the story. For example the way Lupin walks over to the pickup truck while waiting for Jigen to get it started and idly pokes it. The directing is just more convincing, the characters feel more alive and real. Unlike before, all of the animation in the episode has a nice feeling, be in the acting or the staging, even the quiet scenes. All of the staff had clearly been invigorated and inspired by the experience of working under Miyazaki, most notably the storyboarder and director, Shigetsugu Yoshida.

Tomonaga's section in the episode is a real delight. After Tomonaga worked on Cagliostro on the opening car chase sequence where the car famously climbs the cliff, and he somehow manages to make it look almost plausible thanks to his incredible animation, in episode 151 Tomonaga drew a kind of encore to this sequence, with a Lupin driving full-bore through fields, a river, over cliffs, etc. Tomonaga had this weird habit of drawing the humans really big in comparison with the vehicles. He did the same in Cagliostro, but it's more extreme here. Jigen and Lupin look like they barely fit into the car. The sequence where the car leaps over the cliff in particular is pure genius and one of my favorite Tomonaga bits.

You can also see little Yasuo Otsuka touches in this episode here and there, notably the loving detail lavished on the vehicles like the Fiat that Lupin drives and the old pickup truck that Jigen picks up. Anyone else would have drawn some generic pickup, but Otsuka, historical car buff that he is, took it as an opportunity to draw one of his favorite cars, the Bedford QLT military tractor-trailer.

Looking different from the rest of the show is something that can be said about all of the Telecom episodes, especially the Miyazaki-influenced later ones. The reason is supposedly that Otsuka requested that the show's animation directors not touch the Telecom episodes. I've heard rumors that the TV station airing the show even refused a few of the Telecom episodes at first when they saw them due to how different they looked before finally relenting, though I'm not sure if that's true or not. Shots like this from episode 151 could have come straight out of Cagliostro:

Episode 153 is the last of the four Telecom Lupin episodes storyboarded and directed by Shigetsugu Yoshida (82, 99, 151, 153). Where episode 143 is slapstick comedy and episode 151 is action, episode 153 is a more drama-oriented episode. It's not dramatic in the sense of high-drama. It's just more leisurely and low-key, without a big action scene or wild antics. The acting style of the characters feels close to the feeling of Miyazaki's interpretation of Lupin.

Attention to detail is one thing about this episode that makes it enjoyable to watch despite the fact that it's actually a little slow and tedious compared with the other more action-packed Telecom episodes. The beautiful backgrounds and gentle pacing make it one of the most watchable Lupin episodes. There's the way the money is all realistically depicted as different currencies, the way when the armored car is lifted by the helicopter the wheels shift down subtly as the weight of the car is taken off the wheels. Then there's the little things the characters do that are unrelated to the story or script that make them seem like living people, and make the scene fun to watch by filling it various behavior at all moments. For example, the way Goemon swats a mosquito as he's waiting, or the way Lupin tosses back popcorn and then looks at the empty bag, blows it up and pops it while he's talking to Jigen.

If you noticed the way the highlights in Lupin's eyes swish around in a circle once while he's giving the faux inspirational speech about building a church, that was something that was invented around this time. It's come to be a stock action in a lot of anime when a character is experiencing strong emotions. Tetsuya Takeuchi took it to the extreme in his Honey and Clover episode where the highlights swirl around like a whirlpool.

The animation highlight is the acting of Zenigata in the first half after he's given the laxative. There are a lot of really great expressions there. The animators do a great job of capturing Zenigata's anguish. For example, when he gets a sudden urge to go while talking to his superior, he doesn't just turn around and walk out the door, he bolts for the door, first smashes flat into it out of excess eagerness to get through the door before he's finally able to unlatch the bolt, and then he flies out. Telecom's animators were great at making their characters act out their feelings like this in a way that is fun to watch as animation.

Episode 145 and episode 155 were the two episodes directed by Hayao Miyazaki. I recommend watching these after you've watched everything else, because otherwise you'll be disappointed with everything else. These episodes did indeed set a new gold standard for the quality of a TV episode, which was perhaps only met by Miyazaki's own episodes of Sherlock Hound a few years later.

I won't bother describing these, as they're the two episodes of the second Lupin TV series that everybody has seen, but I'll just point out which spots were done by two of the star animators, Atsuko Tanaka and Kazuhide Tomonaga.

Episode 145 begins with the memorable sequence of the Lupin gang peacefully eating some sukiyaki when they're rudely interrupted by a passing gunfight. After doing the spaghetti scene in Cagliostro, Miyazaki decided that Atsuko Tanaka was his animator for eating scenes. He had her animate the sukiyaki scene at the beginning of episode 145, though for some reason she isn't credited. A few years later in the Jarinko Chie movie Takahata used her to animate the scene were the okonomiyaki cook starts sobbing while he's cooking and winds up dripping snot all over the okonomiyaki, which his unwitting customer scarfs down with gusto. In the climactic last episode, 155, in contrast, Tanaka animated the scene where the Lupin gang faces down their imitators.

Tomonaga Kazuhide seems to have been the one who animated the mid-air battle and Fujiko's fight in episode 145, even though he, too, isn't credited. In episode 155 he animated the scene at the beginning of the episode where the tank goes on a rampage in the middle of town chasing down the flying contraption. Both are among Tomonaga's best. It's baffling why both Tanaka and Tomonaga weren't credited in 145 even though they contributed some of the episode's best animation. Masako Shinohara also supposedly did uncredited work in episode 145.

Lupin III Part 2 Yuzo Aoki episodes

EpisodeKey animators
#20: 追いつめられたルパン
Lupin cornered
Uncredited key animation?
#30: モロッコの風は熱く
The wind in Morocco is hot
Key animation (first half)
#35: ゴリラギャングを追っかけろ
Chase after the gorilla gang
Key animation (second half)
#45: 殺しはワインの匂い
Killing smells like wine
Storyboard
#50: 私が愛したルパン(前編)
The Lupin I loved (1/2)
Storyboard
#51: 私が愛したルパン(後編)
The Lupin I loved (2/2)
Storyboard
#57: コンピューターかルパンか
Lupin or the computer?
Storyboard
#69: とっつあんの惚れた女
The woman pops fell for
Key animation (second half)
#74: 恐怖のカメレオン人間
The terror of the chameleon people
Key animation (only a little)
#78: ロボットの瞳にダイヤが光る
When diamonds sparkle in the robot's eyes
Storyboard
#96 ルパンのお料理天国
Lupin's cooking heaven
Key animation (second half)
#106: 君はネコぼくはカツオ節
You're a cat, I'm a dried fish
Storyboard
#107: 結婚指輪は呪いの罠
The wedding ring is a cursed trap
Storyboard
#117: チューインガム変装作戦
Chewing gum disguise plan
Storyboard
#124: 1999年ポップコーンの旅 1999
A Popcorn Odyssey
Storyboard
#128: 老婆とルパンの泥棒合戦
Thieving contest between Lupin and the old lady
Storyboard
#129: 次元に男心の優しさを見た
Jigen has a kind heart
Storyboard
#134: ルパン逮捕頂上作戦
Plan to arrest Lupin at the summit
Storyboard
#138: ポンペイの秘宝と毒蛇
Bombay's hidden treasure and poisonous snake
Storyboard
#143: マイアミ銀行襲撃記念日
Miami bank heist memorial
Storyboard
#146: ルパン華麗なる敗北
Lupin's lovely defeat
Storyboard
#149: ベールをはいだメッカの秘宝
Unveiling Mecca's hidden treasure
Storyboard

Yuzo Aoki the animator

Yuzo Aoki stands out in stark contrast from the style of the Telecom episodes. Aoki's work is highly stylized, abstract and cartoonish compared with the fluid action and sleek dramaturgy of the Telecom episodes. He uses a minimum of drawings to achieve his impact, rather than relying on fluid animation like Telecom, creating sometimes jarringly spare animation. Aoki is at his best when creating bizarre angular poses. He creates an irresistible rhythm with his strange, stuttering timing. His physical forms are angular, full of straight lines and unexpected symmetries. His layouts are also quite appealing and formalistic rather than naturalistic. He's one of the great representatives of the A Pro school, obviously strongly influenced by his mentor Tsutomu Shibayama, who created the highly stylized designs of the characters in Ganso Tensai Bakabon. As it happens, in a telling coincidence, Ganso Tensai Bakabon just happens to have been the show that preceded the second Lupin III series, which took over in exactly the same time slot on the same TV station, NTV.

Here are some of the best Aoki episodes. He supposedly drew episode 30 all by himself, but I think he only did the first half. The first half has a lot of great drawings of the Gadaffi lookalike and his mercenaries. The car chase at beginning of second half of episode 35 has some great layouts. The scene in the barn in the second half of episode 69 is one of his best scenes in the show. Everything about it is great - the drawings, the timing, the way the story ties into the animation. Classic Aoki. He drew some of the funny poses of the Lupin gang pretending they drank the poisoned water in the second half of episode 74. And he drew a lot of fun drawings of the crazy banquetgoers who want to eat Lupin in the second half of episode 96, which ends with a pie fight straight out of the Three Stooges.

Aoki also appears to have done little bits of animation uncredited here and there to help fill in the gaps. For example, the part in episode 20 after Lupin fishes the wig off the Fuhrer character during his speech where the Fuhrer hides under his podium and the soldiers shoot down the helicopter feels very much like Aoki.

Yuzo Aoki the storyboarder

Those are all episodes where you can sample Aoki's drawings. But Aoki's work in the latter half of the show is mostly storyboards. He did draw some uncredited animation here and there, but for the most part it's not quite as easy to sniff out the Aoki character in these episodes. What they do have in common is that they usually provide for a lot of crazy animation making extensive use of lots of character animation and physical space.

The aforementioned episode 99 was a Yoshio Urazawa script; his scripts are usually totally outlandish. There are several other Aoki-Urasawa pairings (78, 106, 117, 124, 128, 138, 143), and they're mostly all crazy slapstick episodes like this. The best one is undoubtedly 78, which features animation by Yoshio Kabashima. One of the craziest is episode 124, which features an inventor who invents a popcorn machine that launches itself into orbit. The animation by Topcraft is very active and exuberant, if sloppy and not particularly exciting per se. My mouth was agape at the insanity of what I was seeing during the secenes where the popcorn machine went out of control and rocketed into the sky, and where the popcorn machine goes berserk at the end, filling the building with popcorn. The music in this episode is also unique. They abruptly stick in clips from famous classical pieces at certain spots in a way that does a great job of heightening the absurdity of the whole situation.

Aoki Yuzo also storyboarded, directed and animated the fourth opening, which is a good place to get a starting sense of how to identify his style, with the interesting timing and more stylized forms. It's a big contrast with the much more fluid and movemented animation in the previous opening where Lupin jumps into the car and the camera does a 360 around his head. Aoki's opening is all about interesting forms and colors. It's stylized rather than realistic, with retro colors and shapes and a playful atmosphere. The shape of Goemon's oni mask is deliciously Aoki, as is the very squared shape of his body. Aoki's characters often have a very squared, blocky or angular appearance. I love the extremely limited timing and flat form of the car bomb explosion at the beginning.

Yuzo Aoki's roots with Lupin go deep. He was the animator of the very first scene in the first Lupin III series, the racing scene. At the age of 19 he was called a genius by Yasuo Otsuka, who remarks that Aoki was the only person other than himself able to draw Lupin's car in the show, the Mercedes Benz SSK. Prior to the second TV series Aoki was an animation director of the Mamo film alongside Yoshio Kabashima, helping to give that film its unique look with his lanky character drawings. Aoki went on to be heavily involved in the third Lupin III TV series aired 1984-1985. He set the tone for the show by bringing the characters closer to the original Monkey Punch designs than they'd ever been or ever would be again. He was also the character designer, animation director and storyboarder of the Babylon film produced as a companion-piece to the third TV series. He's one of the few people who were deeply involved in every one of the canonical early Lupin III productions.

Here's a selection of images from these episodes to give a sense of Aoki's visual style.


Lupin III Part 2 full key animator listing

Color codes: Oh Pro, Telecom, Yuzo Aoki


1横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
児玉兼嗣
Kenji Kodama
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
2田中享
Atsushi[?] Tanaka



3山崎猛
Takeshi Yamazaki
大宅幸男
Yukio Ohyake
一川孝久
Takahisa Ichikawa

4米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto
友永和秀
Kazuhide Tomonaga

5児玉兼嗣
Kenji Kodama
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama

6横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata


7朝倉隆
Takashi Asakura
伊藤誠
Makoto Ito


8米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto
友永和秀
Kazuhide Tomonaga

9朝倉隆
Takashi Asakura
伊藤誠
Makoto Ito


10山崎猛
Takeshi Yamazaki
大宅幸男
Yukio Ohyake
一川孝久
Takahisa Ichikawa

11児玉兼嗣
Kenji Kodama
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama

12横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata


13丹内司
Tsukasa Tannai



14友永和秀
Kazuhide Tomonaga



15佐々木正広
Masahiro Sasaki
辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji


16丹内司
Tsukasa Tannai



17横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
18野沢和夫
Kazuo Nozawa
雨宮英雄
Hideo Amemiya
春山行雄
Yukio Haruyama

19佐々木正広
Masahiro Sasaki
辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji


20友永和秀
Kazuhide Tomonaga
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto


21山崎猛
Takeshi Yamazaki



22横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
23佐々木正広
Masahiro Sasaki
辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji


24小林一幸
Kazuyuki Kobayashi
河田章子
Shoko Kawada


25友永和秀
Kazuhide Tomonaga
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto


26横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda

27佐々木正広
Masahiro Sasaki
辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji


28井口忠一
Chuichi Iguchi
田辺由憲
Yoshinori Tanabe


29小林一幸
Kazuyuki Kobayashi
吉田正広
Masahiro Yoshida


30青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki
31友永和秀
Kazuhide Tomonaga
丹内司
Tsukasa Tannai
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto

32横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
33佐々木正広
Masahiro Sasaki
辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji


34小林一幸
Kazuyuki Kobayashi
野田作樹
Saki Noda
横山準一
Junichi Yokoyama

35青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki
田辺由憲
Yoshinori Tanabe


36横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
37丹内司
Tsukasa Tannai
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto
沼尻東
Numajiri Higashi

38辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
佐々木正広
Masahiro Sasaki
木下ゆうき
Yuuki Kinoshita

39正延宏三
Kozo Masanobu
野田作樹
Saki Noda


40横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
41丹内司
Tsukasa Tannai
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto
沼尻東
Numajiri Higashi

42辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
佐々木正広
Masahiro Sasaki
木下ゆうき
Yuuki Kinoshita

43坂井文雄
Fumio Sakai



44正延宏三
Kozo Masanobu
野田作樹
Saki Noda


45丹内司
Tsukasa Tannai
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto
沼尻東
Numajiri Higashi

46横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
47辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
佐々木正広
Masahiro Sasaki
木下ゆうき
Yuuki Kinoshita

48横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
49野田作樹
Saki Noda
高倉健夫
Takeo Takakura


50丹内司
Tsukasa Tannai
高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
51辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
佐々木正広
Masahiro Sasaki
木下ゆうき
Yuuki Kinoshita

52横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
松田重治
Shigeharu Matsuda

53横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai

54若原真吾
Shingo Wakahara
池上栄一
Eiichi Ikegami
林弘
Hiroshi Hayashi

55丹内司
Tsukasa Tannai
沼尻東
Numajiri Higashi
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto

56辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
佐々木正広
Masahiro Sasaki
木下ゆうき
Yuuki Kinoshita

57若原真吾
Shingo Wakahara
池上栄一
Eiichi Ikegami
林弘
Hiroshi Hayashi

58藤岡正宣
Masanobu Fujioka
沼尻東
Numajiri Higashi


59横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai

60尾形重夫
Shigeo Ogata
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura

61辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
佐々木正広
Masahiro Sasaki
木下ゆうき
Yuuki Kinoshita

62若原真吾
Shingo Wakahara
池上栄一
Eiichi Ikegami
林弘
Hiroshi Hayashi

63丹内司
Tsukasa Tannai
友永和秀
Kazuhide Tomonaga
沼尻東
Numajiri Higashi
山内昇寿郎
Toshio Yamauchi
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto
64高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
尾形重夫
Shigeo Ogata
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
65辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
坂巻貞彦
Sadahiko Sakamaki

66横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama



67丹内司
Tsukasa Tannai
沼尻東
Numajiri Higashi
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto
山内昇寿郎
Toshio Yamauchi
68高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
尾形重夫
Shigeo Ogata
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
69青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
坂巻貞彦
Sadahiko Sakamaki

70辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji



71丹内司
Tsukasa Tannai
沼尻東
Numajiri Higashi
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto
山内昇寿郎
Toshio Yamauchi
72佐伯洋子
Yoko Saeki
高木美和子
Miwako Takagi
尾崎真佐美
Masami Ozaki
島津佳子
Keiko Shimazu
田辺厚子
Atsuko Tanabe
柴田春美
Harumi Shibata
73高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
74横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
尾形重夫
Shigeo Ogata
坂井文雄
Fumio Sakai
青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki
75藤岡正宣
Masanobu Fujioka
佐久間信和
Nobukazu Sakuma
飯山嘉昌
Yoshiaki Iiyama

76辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji




77丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
田中敦子
Atsuko Tanaka
原恵子
Keiko Hara
塚田洋子
Yoko Tsukada
道籏義宣
Yoshinobu Michihata
78椛島義夫
Yoshio Kabashima
山崎タケル
Takeru Yamazaki
小野隆哉
Takaya Ono
大武正枝
Masae Ohtake
79高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
80横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
尾形重夫
Shigeo Ogata
坂巻貞彦
Sadahiko Sakamaki
大島聡
Satoshi Ohjima
81山内昇寿郎
Toshio Yamauchi
沼尻東
Numajiri Higashi
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto

82丹内司
Tsukasa Tannai
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
原恵子
Keiko Hara
道籏義宣
Yoshinobu Michihata
比留間敏之
Toshiyuki Biruma
83辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji



84富沢信雄
Nobuo Tomizawa
田中敦子
Atsuko Tanaka
塚田洋子
Yoko Tsukada
志田欣弘
Yoshihiro Shida
高木美和子
Miwako Takagi
85高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
86山内昇寿郎
Toshio Yamauchi
沼尻東
Numajiri Higashi
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto

87横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
尾形重夫
Shigeo Ogata
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
大島聡
Satoshi Ohjima
坂巻貞彦
Sadayoshi Sakamaki
88辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji



89高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
90横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
尾形重夫
Shigeo Ogata
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
大島聡
Satoshi Ohjima
坂巻貞彦
Sadayoshi Sakamaki
91山崎猛
Takeshi Yamazaki
小野隆哉
Takaya Ono
大竹正枝
Masae Ohtake
宮林英子
92山内昇寿郎
Toshio Yamauchi
沼尻東
Numajiri Higashi
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto
友永和秀
Kazuhide Tomonaga
真鍋譲二
Joji Manabe
93藤岡正宣
Masanobu Fujioka
佐久間信和
Nobukazu Sakuma
飯山嘉昌
Yoshiaki Iiyama

94辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
野崎温子
Atsuko Nozaki


95高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
96青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki
坂巻貞彦
Sadahiko Sakamaki


97横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama
尾形重夫
Shigeo Ogata
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
大島聡
Satoshi Ohjima
98山内昇寿郎
Toshio Yamauchi
沼尻東
Numajiri Higashi
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto
友永和秀
Kazuhide Tomonaga
真鍋譲二
Joji Manabe
99富沢信雄
Nobuo Tomizawa
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
田中敦子
Atsuko Tanaka
原恵子
Keiko Hara
塚田洋子
Yoko Tsukada
道籏義宣
Yoshinobu Michihata
100辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji



101高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata



102横山広実
Hiromi Yokoyama



103辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji



104若原真吾
Shingo Wakahara
池上栄一
Eiichi Ikegami
林弘
Hiroshi Hayashi
坂巻貞彦
Sadahiko Sakamaki
105道籏義宣
Yoshinobu Michihata
塚田洋子
Yoko Tsukada
比留間敏之
Toshiyuki Biruma
青木康直
Yasunao Aoki
小林弥生
Yayoi Kobayashi
106高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
107辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
野崎温子
Atsuko Nozaki


108横山広美
Hiromi Yokoyama
尾形重夫
Shigeo Ogata
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
大島聡
Satoshi Ohjima
109小林一幸
Kazuyuki Kobayashi
窪秀己
Hidemi Kubo
佐々木よし子
Yoshiko Sasaki
吉田正広
Masahiro Yoshida
110高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
寺司重幸
Shigeyuki Teratsuka
荒井政良志
Masashi Arai
111坂巻貞彦
Sadahiko Sakamaki
川筋豊
Toyoda Kawasuji


112藤岡正宣
Masanobu Fujioka
佐久間信和
Nobukazu Sakuma
杉山京子
Kyoko Sugiyama
石山しげ子
Shigeko Ishiyama
113辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
野崎温子
Atsuko Nozaki


114小林一幸
Kazuyuki Kobayashi
吉田正広
Masahiro Yoshida
坂田筆男
Fudeo Sakata
金子紀男
Norio Kaneko
115横山広美
Hiromi Yokoyama
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
大島聡
Satoshi Ohjima

116高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
117辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
野崎温子
Atsuko Nozaki


118藤岡正宣
Masanobu Fujioka
佐久間信和
Nobukazu Sakuma
杉山京子
Kyoko Sugiyama
石山しげ子
Shigeko Ishiyama
119窪秀己
Hidemi Kubo
小原秀一
Hidekazu Ohara
佐々木よし子
Yoshiko Sasaki
細谷満
Mitsuru Hosotani
120横山広美
Hiromi Yokoyama
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
大島聡
Satoshi Ohjima
寺司重幸
Satoshi Ohjima
121高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
鈴木寿美
122小林一幸
Kazuyuki Kobayashi
吉田正広
Masahiro Yoshida
坂田筆男
Fudeo Sakata
金子紀男
Norio Kaneko
123辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
野崎温子
Atsuko Nozaki


124窪秀巳
Hidemi Kubo
吉田忠勝
Tadakatsu Yoshida
小原秀一
Hidekazu Ohara
細谷満
Mitsuru Hosotani
125横山広美
Hiromi Yokoyama
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
大島聡
Satoshi Ohjima
寺司重幸
Satoshi Ohjima
126高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
127辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
野崎温子
Atsuko Nozaki


128小林一幸
Kazuyuki Kobayashi
吉田正広
Masahiro Yoshida
金子紀男
Norio Kaneko

129坂巻貞彦
Sadahiko Sakamaki
山内昇寿郎
Toshio Yamauchi
岡本健一
Kenichi Okamoto

130辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
野崎温子
Atsuko Nozaki


131窪秀己
Hidemi Kubo
小原秀一
Hidekazu Ohara
細谷満
Mitsuru Hosotani
佐々木よし子
Yoshiko Sasaki
132横山広美
Hiromi Yokoyama
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
大島聡
Satoshi Ohjima
寺司重幸
Satoshi Ohjima
133高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
荒井政良志
Masayoshi Arai
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
134小林一幸
Kazuyuki Kobayashi
吉田正宏
Masahiro Yoshida
坂田筆雄
Fudeo Sakata
金子紀男
Norio Kaneko
135藤岡正宣
Masanobu Fujioka
佐久間信計
Nobukazu Sakuma
秋本進
Susumu Akimoto
石山しげ子
Shigeko Ishiyama
136窪秀己
Hidemi Kubo
佐々木よし子
Yoshiko Sasaki
小原秀一
Hidekazu Ohara
細谷満
Mitsuru Hosotani
137辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
野崎温子
Atsuko Nozaki
138横山広美
Hiromi Yokoyama
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
大島聡
Satoshi Ohjima
寺司重幸
Satoshi Ohjima
139高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
江村豊秋
Toyoaki Emura
140小林一幸
Kazuyuki Kobayashi
吉田正宏
Masahiro Yoshida
坂田筆雄
Fudeo Sakata
金子紀男
Norio Kaneko
141辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
窪秀己
Hidemi Kubo
142藤岡正宣
Masanobu Fujioka
佐久間信計
Nobukazu Sakuma
秋本進
Susumu Akimoto

143富沢信雄
Nobuo Tomizawa
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
友永和秀
Kazuhide Tomonaga
小林弥生
Yayoi Kobayashi
144辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
野本温子
Atsuko Nomoto


145富沢信雄
Nobuo Tomizawa
丸山晃一
Koichi Maruyama
原恵子
Keiko Hara
堤純子
Junko Tsutsumi
小林弥生
Yayoi Kobayashi
146横山広美
Hiromi Yokoyama
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
大島聡
Satoshi Ohjima
寺司重幸
Satoshi Ohjima
147高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
坂巻貞彦
Sadahiko Sakamaki
148辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
野崎温子
Atsuko Nozaki


149高畑順三郎
Junzaburo Takahata
鈴木寿美
Sumi Suzuki
児玉幸子
Sachiko Kodama
坂巻貞彦
Sadahiko Sakamaki
150横山広美
Hiromi Yokoyama
小田仁
Hitoshi Oda
大島聡
Satoshi Ohjima

151友永和秀
Kazuhide Tomonaga
道籏義宣
Yoshinobu Michihata
原恵子
Keiko Hara
柏田涼子
Ryoko Kashiwada
152知笛愛弓
Ayumi Tomobue
杉山京子
Kyoko Sugiyama
斉藤明美
Akemi Saito
門上洋子
Yoko Kadogami
153富沢信雄
Nobuo Tomizawa
田中敦子
Atsuko Tanaka
篠原征子
Masako Shinohara
堤純子
Junko Tsutsumi
154辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
野崎温子
Atsuko Nozaki


155友永和秀
Kazuhide Tomonaga
山内昇寿郎
Toshio Yamauchi
道籏義宣
Yoshinobu Michihata
篠原征子
Masako Shinohara
田中敦子
Atsuko Tanaka
柏田涼子
Ryoko Kashiwada

Sunday, October 30, 2011

07:47:00 pm , 1219 words, 4552 views     Categories: Animation

Chris Robinson's Japanese Animation: Time Out Of Mind

"What does it matter what is truth or fiction? We can learn just as much about our past, present and future from fiction. Facts don't matter. Fiction can take us beyond the facts and reveal the essence of a time and place."

Your opinion of this book will depend on what kind of truth you come to it looking for: the hard facts kind, or the poetic insight kind.

In his latest book, Chris Robinson takes you beyond the hundrum facts and figures about indie Japanese animation to a place of the mind - his own mind, and through his mind's eye, the imagined mind of the various independent animators he encounters on a metaphysical journey through Japan.

Chris Robinson kicked animation criticism in the ass with his unconventional approach to writing about animation during his days as the animation pimp, and he's continued to do so with his various book outings. Time Out Of Mind is no exception.

This is like no animation book you've ever read. Chris actually traveled to Japan and interviewed many of the figures in this book, and after his trip he could easily have published a fact-based book full of interviews with the leading indie animators of the day. But he was visited with an insight that has apparently eluded many an author of an animation book: Nobody wants to read that sort of thing. It's boring.

Instead, Chris has fashioned a fascinating and unique journey through a landscape of the mind constructed from the shards of his experience with indie Japanese animation. His trip to Japan is re-fashioned into a metaphoric journey through the funhouse mirror reflection of modern Japanese culture and society that is indie Japanese animation.

The title of the book comes from the fact that this whole experience was a time when the author was out of his mind from the grief of having lost his brother. Beyond being technically about Japanese indie animators, the book shows the author on a hallucinogenic odyssey as he copes with grief and tries to make sense of it all.

Personal recollections about his brother and imaginings mingle with shards of interviews and descriptions and analysis of films into a narrative thread neither purely fiction nor purely fact. The animators become a figment of his imagination, sometimes speaking their own mind in obvious quotes, sometimes speaking through his mind as he digs deeper into what they're really about.

There is no replacing solid historical documentation of animation facts, but there's also no doubt that that sort of thing is boring to read, and it was high time that someone de-geekified the whole enterprise by injecting a vein of poetry and personality into writing about animation.

The thing I most learned from his writing back in the day is to never forget that it's an individual who is writing. Don't hide behind the animation like a kid immersed in a video game world. It has to be about how a specific individual encounters and interprets animation. Never try to hide the history and baggage we all bring that colors our perceptions and interpretations. That's actually the most interesting part of it - like in quantum physics, each person is a personal history whose gaze affects the broader history. Chris's book is really about a personal journey, and healing through art - one that just happens to take place in the context of indie Japanese animation.

When Chris talks about animation, it feels like it's straight from the gut. There's no mincing words. If he finds Yoji Kuri tedious, he says so. (Ah, that's the word I was looking for all this time.) At the same time, he shows that he understands and appreciates what Yoji Kuri achieved. He takes sly digs at artsy fartsy animation festival darlings like the Brothers Quay. He minces no words about anime: He has no time for it. I don't blame him.

He likes Atsushi Wada and Naoyuki Tsuji, the punks of Japanese indie animation who care little about pretty drawings and actually seem to say something about the world around or the world within. He seems baffled by Keita Kurosaka. I'm not quite sure what he thinks about Taku Furukawa, other than the fact that Furukawa is a huge baseball nut. I was happy to read his sensitive and thorough analysis of Tadanari Okamoto. This must be one of the first places anyone has written so extensively in English about Okamoto. Most of all, I was happy to hear he appreciated Okamoto's films as much as I do, from one animation fan to another.

I knew about much of what he said in the book, but I also learned about animators I wasn't so familiar with like Renzo and Sayoko Kinoshita. He also talks about Kei Oyama, Mizue Mirai, Kunio Kato, Kihachiro Kawamoto, Maya Yonesho, Nobuhiro Aihara, Keiichi Tanaami, Koji Yuri, and three anime pioneers - Noburo Ofuji, Yasuji Murata and Kenzo Masaoka. I came away with more insight into what makes all of these great artists tick.

Then there's the simple, baffling fact of the near-neglect of publishing about indie Japanese animation, which Chris's book rectifies in one swoop. His book is willful and tantalizing more than meaty in its descriptions and analysis, but at the same time it whets the appetite and does a good job of highlighting the remarkable, flourishing variety of indie Japanese animation that has been hidden behind the shadow of the anime for so long.

Although this book is technically about Japanese indie animators, it's really about how a certain individual with a unique perspective and insight views these artists' work, never feigning to be giving you the Objective Truth. It's about having fun on the journey and meeting a few interesting souls with a different way of looking at and dealing with all the good things and the bad things life throws at them.

It's also about the remarkable insights that animation can provide us about the world we live in, in the hands of talented artists. It's about having pride in the fact that animation can be a genuine, deep, meaningful artistic platform for talking about life and the issues we face.

The only disappointment was that it was such a quick read. It's an eminently readable, entertaining introduction to the world of indie Japanese animation, through the mind of one of the most honest and trustworthy champions of artistic animation in the world today. The way I see it, this book that didn't need to be and will probably have a small audience is an homage to all the Japanese artists who toil in virtual anonymity for little reward to create interesting and moving animation the likes of which we've never seen before. Thanks for bringing us along on your trip, Chris.


Buy Japanese Animation: Time Out Of Mind on Amazon


Anipages posts related to the artists talked about in this book:

Tadanari Okamoto
Tadanari Okamoto: Towards the Rainbow
Koji Yamamura: A Country Doctor
Koji Yamamura: Your Choice
Kihachiro Kawamoto
Naoyuki Tsuji
Taku Furukawa
Mirai Mizue
Keita Kurosaka
Maya Yonesho
Keiichi Tanaami & Nobuhiro Aihara
Animation Battles of Keiichi Tanaami & Nobuhiro Aihara
Tokyo Loop
Alt Anime
Thinking & Drawing
Imagination Practice
Otogi Pro and the rise of indie animation in Japan
The First Wave of Independent Japanese Animators
Winter Days
Old Anime

Saturday, October 29, 2011

06:48:00 pm , 1807 words, 2547 views     Categories: Animation

The seconding system at Toei Doga

Toei Doga's animators at work circa 1960

Animation in anime is simple in structure compared with its western counterparts. Basically speaking, you have genga and doga, and that's it (plus quality checkers in the form of the sakuga kantoku and doga check). It's not like in the west where a single character might be animated by a dizzying array of people. But in the early days of Toei Doga, when the role of sakuga kantoku that's unique to Japan was invented, they were using a seconding system, like in the west, though it came about as a product of necessity and was not modeled after the western system. It's just that it wasn't credited, so it's not a very well-known fact. Then for a long time in anime seconding disappeared (though there were certainly a lot of instances of rough genga being given to a key animator), until recently when seconding has resurfaced in the form of the increasingly common roles of daiichi genga and daini genga.

I thought I'd write a bit about the early version of seconding at Toei Doga since I just talked a bit about daiichi genga and daini genga.

The seconding system was adopted for the first time during production of Hakujaden in 1958. It was adopted purely because of the lack of experienced staff. Only Yasuji Mori and Akira Daikuhara, carryovers from Nichido, were experienced animators. Most of the 30 animators they'd just hired had less than a year's experience in animation. The only exceptions were Chikao Katsui and Takashi Yamauchi, who had worked briefly at Nichido before the takeover. Many of the rest were still in basic training.

Animation began on December 10, 1957. Sanae (previously Zenjiro) Yamamoto, ex-president of Nichido, conferred with top management and came to the conclusion that the only way they could make a film with this shortage of experienced staff was to appoint seconds who would clean up the rough key animation of the two key animators, as well as drawing some of the more difficult poses, before handing the key animation to the inbetweeners. Six of the more experienced animators were chosen for this role:

Yusaku Sakamoto, Shuji Konno and Masatake Kita were appointed seconds under Yasuji Mori.

Kazuko Nakamura, Chikao Katsui and Yasuo Otsuka were appointed seconds under Akira Daikuhara.

Each second in turn had four or five inbetweeners working under them. The desks were arranged into six groups, one for each second. The seconds were the leader of the group. They would go to the key animator to get the key animation themselves and bring it back and distribute it to the inbetweeners in their group.

The key animators were given scenes according to their style and personality. Yasuji Mori handled mostly the scenes involving the animals and the male protagonist Xu Xian (Shuu Sen) that required more delicate and nuanced animation. Akira Daikuhara handled the scenes involving fights and other scenes involving more broad and loose action.

Yasuji Mori's keys tended to be more nuanced and detailed about the actions in a shot, whereas Akira Daikuhara's keys were rougher and more spare, leaving more to the imagination of the second.

Seconds working under them were also assigned based on their skill and tendencies. Akira Daikuhara gave shots with more vivid movement to Chikao Katsui, gave shots of natural phenomenon to Yasuo Otsuka, and gave Kazuko Nakamura primarily shots involving the characters Bai Niang (Pai Nyan) and Xiao Qing (Shao Chin). Yasuji Mori gave his more movemented shots to Masatake Kita, and gave Shuji Konno more quiet and delicate shots requiring less broad movement due to his more detail-oriented style. Consistently assigning shots in this way helped maintain consistency despite the absence of an animation director.

In Hakujaden, after the inbetweeners finished their work, the key animators Yasuji Mori and Akira Daikuhara checked their animation, essentially also serving as the animation directors for the film. Daikuhara was less strict with his inbetweeners. He gave them more freedom to draw what they wanted. Mori was more strict. He's reported to have almost never accepted an inbetweener's work the first time, often asking for two or three retakes. After a few retakes he would say, "OK" because it would be awkward to continue asking for retakes, but later on you could spot Mori surrreptitiously fixing the inbetweens at his desk. He was exacting but kind about it.

Even in later years, seconds were never credited as seconds. They were credited as inbetweeners. Only when you acceded to key animation were you credited as a key animator. The only exception to this rule was the rebellious Daikichiro Kusube. After he had alienated all the other seconds with his bluntness and work was no longer coming to him to be inbetweened, he leapt over this hierarchy and, a mere 3 months after having been hired, convinced Yasuji Mori to let him draw key animation for certain shots of Hakujaden, without going through the seconding stage. In Hakujaden Kusube drew the key animation for those shots entirely by himself, and handed his key animation to the inbetweeners working under him.

So even though Kusube is credited as an inbetweener, Kusube actually drew key animation in the first three Toei Doga films - Hakujaden (1958), Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke (1959) and Saiyuki (1960). He first gets a key animation credit in Anju to Zushiomaru (1961). In later films he gave his inbetweeners some of the shots he had been assigned, and they drew the key animation for those shots. Sadao Tsukioka and Gisaburo Sugii drew their first key animation under Kusube on Saiyuki even though they were still credited as inbetweeners. Kusube gave Yoichi Kotabe his chance to draw his first key animation on Little Prince and the 8-Headed Dragon (1963) even though he's also still credited as an inbetweener in the film.

Makoto Nagasawa, the animator who would later go on to animate the impressive cave dance scene in Little Prince and the 8-Headed Dragon, was an inbetweener in Shuji Konno's section under Yasuji Mori on Hakujaden, but starting with Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke the next year was transferred to Yasuo Otsuka's section because he was deemed more suited to that style of working. I've heard it often said that Mori's drawings look simple and easy to draw, but can be wickedly hard to get right, and Nagasawa relates that he felt the same way: he liked Mori's drawings, but didn't like having to draw incredibly detailed movement. He was an animator more suited to working under Yasuo Otsuka. It was because he was working under Akira Daikuhara and Yasuo Otsuka that Nagasawa, still an inbetweener, was able to experiment and play with the timing of his shots a little in Saiyuki and inject some personality into the animation. He inbetweened the key animation of Sagojo writing in pain after Goku shrunk down and entered his body.

The strictures became looser starting with Saiyuki, just as the more old-fashioned look of the old films began to be modernized with Tezuka's flavor in this film. The last scene of Saiyuki features some of the more fun work on the film. Five of the animators more interested in movement were apparently given freedom to do whatever they wanted with the scene, as the storyboard for this scene was sparse and there was a big crunch on to get the film done. Those five were: Yasuo Otsuka, Kusube Daikichiro, Gisaburo Sugii, Makoto Nagasawa, and Sadao Tsukioka. Makoto Nagasawa drew some of his first key animation here, even though most of the rest of the work he did on the film was inbetweening. Otsuka famously drew the bullfight, and Tsukioka drew the striptease. Nagasawa officially became a second in the next film, Anju to Zushiomaru (1961), skipped Sinbad's Adventure (1962) to work on a short, and then became a key animator and did the dance scene in Little Prince and the 8-Headed Dragon (1963).

Yasuo Otsuka was the only one of the seconds in Hakujaden who acceded to key animation in Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke in 1959. Two other experienced key animators were brought onboard for this film: Masao Kumakawa and Hideo Furusawa. (Furusawa was another ex-Nichido animator.) Thus there were five key animators on the second film, each with their own seconds and inbetweeners under them. The first five inbetweeners listed in Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke were in fact the seconds on that film: Daikichiro Kusube, Chikao Katsui, Kazuko Nakamura, Shuji Konno and Masatake Kita.

Accession to key animation happened slowly, and could take a few years. Dissatisfaction with this is partly what led Gisaburo Sugii and many others to leave for Mushi Pro before they became key animators (on paper). Many others were weeded out by this stringent trial period and gave up on animation altogether, realizing that they were interested in the drawing side of animation, but to work in animation you had to be fundamentally interested in and capable of creating movement the way Sadao Tsukioka and Yasuo Otsuka were.

Saiyuki (1960) featured the same 5 key animators plus Osamu Tezuka. The first 7 inbetweeners listed were probably the seconds on this film: Shuji Konno, Masatake Kita, Daikichiro Kusube, Reiko Okuyama, Chikao Katsui, Michihiko Yoshida, and Kazuko Nakamura.

Anju to Zushiomaru (1961) saw Kusube bumped up to key animation alongside the aforesaid five key animators. Makoto Nagasawa and Reiko Okuyama meanwhile were bumped up to seconding. The first six inbetweeners listed in this film were presumably the seconds: Shuji Konno, Masatake Kita, Reiko Okuyama, Makoto Nagasawa, Chikao Katsuio, and Michihiko Yoshida.

Next year's Sinbad's Adventure (1962) saw three of those seconds bumped up to key animation: Reiko Okuyama, Masatake Kita and Chikao Katsui.

Little Prince and the 8-Headed Dragon (1963) featured the seven key animators of Sinbad minus Akira Daikuhara and plus Makoto Nagasawa. From this point on I'm unclear who the seconds were.

The seconding system continued at Toei Doga until at least Wan Wan Chushingura (1963). I'm not sure at what point it was abandoned. It's possible it happened around the time of the start of TV anime, as there were considerable staff changes that occurred over the next few years, with many people moving to doing TV work and the studio abandoning the focus on quality animated filmmaking of the early years.

Interestingly, during the first few Toei Doga films, key animators were responsible for drawing the storyboard for their sections. Hence, they had the freedom to expand their sequence as they wanted to fill it with all sorts of shots and actions. People took this to such extremes that director Taiji Yabushita was obliged to call in an editor from Toei's Kyoto photography studio for Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke (1959) to have a non-partisan third party produce the film's final cut. In Gulliver's Space Travels (1965) you could even say this freedom and absence of directorial control made the film uneven and lacking in narrative force. Each section is drawn with great freedom and vivacity, but little is done to unify the film.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

11:27:00 pm , 4697 words, 121055 views     Categories: Animation

The anime production line

I was asked to talk about the hierarchy of anime production, so here is a very basic explanation of some of the key steps in anime production. As a way of outlining the basic workflow, I'll give a brief rundown of what each of the terms that you find in anime credits entails. The terms are ordered in basic production order, from pre-production tasks to animation tasks to final assembly.

I'll limit this discussion to the terms that pertain to the animation without touching on the other aspects like writing, production, art, etc., because otherwise it would take way too long to write, and I know less about those. Please take this as what it is: the gleanings of an enthusiast. I've never worked in anime; this is just what I've been able to piece together from reading and watching anime for a long time, so please forgive any inaccuracies or vagaries.

I'm sure more detailed versions of this information are available, but I thought I'd write my own brief version for any readers of this blog who might feel they don't know enough about what each production task entails. I don't know as much as I wish I did about all this, but I've written what I know.

Read Peter Chung's posts in this thread on my forum to learn more details about this from someone who has actual experience on the Japanese production floor.

設定 Settei = Groundwork or Designs

The pre-production stage involves drawing lots of drawings to get a sense of where to go with the production, from drawings of the world to character sketches. Settei is a catchall term for pre-production work, although it can also be used to mean 'design', as in character design. The character design sheets are a type of settei. Bijutsu settei 美術設定 are another type of settei - they're line drawings serving as the basis for background art. Often nowadays the English word design is used in place of settei. You see numerous other types of design credits of many TV shows nowadays: Bijustu design, prop design, etc.

イメージボード Imeeji Boodo = Image Board

Image boards are another type of pre-production drawing, but unlike settei, image boards are basically concept art not intended for actual use in the production. They are drawings made to flesh out production, to come up with ideas, to establish the direction for the production's visuals and atmosphere. Hayao Miyazaki famously draws lots of rough watercolor image boards before each film to flesh out where he wants to go with the film.

絵コンテ Ekonte = Storyboard

After a script has been written, the storyboard is drawn. Ekonte literally means picture continuity. It is the blueprint of every anime. You can see a small example of a storyboard panel by Yoshiyuki Tomino here. Basically, it consists of a summary of what happens in each shot: a drawing showing the visuals, the length of the shot, the dialogue, sound effects, and camera instructions. Satoshi Kon once said that the storyboard is like another script; it should tell its own story.

Some storyboards like Tomino's are rougher and others more detailed. Satoshi Kon's were very detailed and could almost double as layouts. Most anime ekonte are in the same format. Each storyboarder has his or her own style. Some directors who can't draw get a talented animator to draw their storyboards based on the director's instructions. The storyboard for Isao Takahata's Only Yesterday was drawn by Yoshiyuki Momose, the one for his Gauche the Cellist by Toshitsugu Saida.

Different storyboarders have different standards for the amount of information they provide about what is supposed to happen in a shot. For a particularly important sequence, a storyboarder might devote several pages to visually depicting a single long shot that requires a particular succession of character movements, essentially creating a spare rough genga. Other storyboarders might leave it up to the animator to give them more freedom to have fun with the animation.

Knowledge of your animation staff's capabilities can affect the way a film or TV episode is storyboarded. You don't storyboard scenes requiring tricky, nuanced character acting if you know you don't have staff capable of bringing that sort of thing to life. Instead, you wind up storyboarding things in a 'safe' way that winds up being proportionately less communicative in terms of the directing. Conversely, storyboarders who know how to storyboard in a way that will involve the animation in the directing and who know they will be able to rely on good staff can produce more ambitious work. Satoshi Kon was only able to storyboard Tokyo Godfathers with all those long static shots of character acting because he knew he had staff like Hideki Hamasu and Shinji Otsuka who would be up to the task of animating his challenging shots.

Storyboards can be drawn by the same person who will go on to process the episode or movie (the enshutsu or technical director) or by a different person. Toei Animation is famous for not crediting storyboarders, only episode directors, because their episode directors are all expected to draw their own storyboards. (Not only this, Toei's episode directors are also supposed to take care of the voice recording sessions, something usually handled by the audio director, which perhaps helps account for why so many Toei directors developed into such auteurs.)

Normally the sequence in the storyboard is the final say, although I've run across some rare instances where storyboard shots were slightly altered by an ambitious key animator and kept in the final product. This happened in two instances I know of - in Soul Eater and Xam'd - and in both instances it was obvious why it was kept as is (because the animation was awesome), so although uncommon, it does happen occasionally if the animator really does something good with it. Usually I doubt this will be tolerated, and most animators would not do this.

Usually in Japanese animation, the storyboard for a movie or TV episode will all be done by the same person. On occasion, storyboards are done by several people. For example, in Bones' Tenpo Ibun Ayakashi, Akitoshi Yokoyama was given the credit of sento sekkei 戦闘設計 or battle design, a roundabout way of saying that he drew the storyboards for the battle sequences throughout the show. (In other words, one person would draw the storyboard for the episode, but just the battle portion would be storyboarded by Yokoyama.) He was given this unusual task due to his uncommon skill at conceptualizing action sequence in a way that makes exciting use of three-dimensional space. Norio Matsumoto storyboarded his action sequence in the third Naruto movie, as did Yutaka Nakamura in the Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shambala movie.

Between storyboard & animation: Assigning shots and animation meetings

The next step after the storyboard has been drawn is to assign shots to animators. This is done by either the director or storyboarder or producer, or a combination of the like; I'm not sure exactly. The allocation is usually done according to animators' aptitudes. A storyboarder might even storyboard a sequence with a particular animator in mind.

After an animator has been assigned certain shots, the animator has a sit-down meeting with the director to talk about what the director wants from those shots. This is called a sakuga uchiawase 作画打合せ or animation meeting (saku-uchi 作打 for short). If an animator is unsure what is required of them from the storyboard, it's important for them to talk to the director or storyboarder at the animation meeting to find out what exactly is required of them so it doesn't cause problems down the line.

Animators are always given entire shots or sequences of shots, not just certain parts of a shot like in the west. They animate everything in a shot. In the old days, it was common for entire TV episodes to be animated by one or two animators. As time went on, more and more people were used to animate TV episodes. Nowadays it's not uncommon to see TV episodes with 30 key animators, many of whom may have only done one or two shots to help fill in the holes. Sometimes an animator did only one shot in an episode because that shot was particularly difficult or was something they're specialized in. (For example the way Hideki Kakita was called in in that recent Bleach episode to draw just one important shot of an explosion.)

The sakkan is occasionally credited at the end of the key animation credits to indicate that they drew a few shots to help fill in the holes. Key animation credits in anime are normally ordered according to number of shots animated. Sometimes a group of animators who contributed particularly significantly to an episode will be credited separately as a group.

Oftentimes, if an animator is assigned a shot, it's because the director knows what to expect from that animator, and that animator's particular style is desired for those shots. An animator who's particularly good at explosions, or robot kung fu, might be called in to do just those shots in an episode, and their animation won't be corrected despite looking slightly different from the rest of the show. Hence the trait that makes anime so unique: You'll find entire sequences animated in a style different from the rest of the show.

The extent to which this is tolerated or desired depends on various factors such as the nature of the production, the schedule, the director, and the episode director. Sometimes, as in the case of the first half of Samurai 7 episode 7, various circumstances led to the creation of a whole half episode in a very idiosyncratic style that didn't jibe with the rest of the show, but was very interesting as animation. That episode's director, Hiroyuki Okuno, is obviously the one who brought Hisashi Mori on to that episode, as they'd been associates for a long time.

Note: The term storyboard originally referred to color drawings pasted up on the wall to flesh out a film's direction, as they used to do it at Disney. Japanese ekonte are different. They're not brainstorming. They're the skeleton of the film; the final word on the length and content of every shot in a film. But storyboard has come to be used as the translation for ekonte.

レイアウト Reiauto = Layout

After a key animator has been assigned a shot, the first thing they have to do is to draw a layout, or a more detailed version of the image for that shot in the storyboard. The layout determines the relationship between the characters and the background. The background art will be drawn by the art department (bijutsu 美術) based on the layout. The layout gets checked by the director for content and then is passed on to the animation director to make corrections before it is given back to the key animator to proceed with drawing the actual keys.

In anime, the layout is almost always drawn by the key animator except in rare cases where a separate layout man is credited. The most famous examples are Isao Takahata's Heidi (1974), Marco (1976) and Anne (1979), in which Hayao Miyazaki drew the layout for every episode. Tsutomu Shibayama drew all the layouts for Osamu Dezaki's classic Gamba's Adventure (1975). The term gamen kosei 画面構成 or 'scene structure' was used in Heidi and Marco but the English word layout was used in Gamba. This may have been one of the first uses of the term in anime. 'Layout' was used in Anne.

原画 Genga = Key Animation

The next step after the layout has been approved and/or corrected by the animation director is for the key animator to draw the genga or key animation. Key animation is the heart of animation in anime. Many people have a hand in every shot of animation, but it's the key animator who creates the personality of that shot. To take character animation as an example, the key animator essentially draws the most important poses along the arc of a character's motion in a particular shot.

The key animator learns what he or she is supposed to draw in a particular shot from the storyboard and from the animation meeting held when their shots were assigned. The key animator needs to understand the story and what the director wants to convey in those shots before they start working.

Key animation isn't necessarily a place for flamboyant personal expression. Most of the time, the requirements are quite specific and leave little room for improvisation. But if an animator with an idiosyncratic style produces a piece of animation that stands out but is still good, there are many production environments that will not only allow it through, but not correct it. This depends on not only the sakkan but also the director to whom the sakkan is responsible. In other cases, they might just correct the faces but leave the basic movement intact. That's obviously what Hiroyuki Okuni did with Hisashi Mori's animation in Samurai 7 episode 7 in an attempt to make it more acceptable.

Different key animators have different aptitudes. Some are good at drawing faces on model and are called in for shots that require good character drawing skills but not necessarily good movement skills. Other animators are good at drawing vigorous physical actions. Others are good at effects like smoke and explosions.

In the early days, an animator would often do a whole episode or half episode. Nowadays, an animator typically handles a handful of shots in sequence. Nowadays if you see a solo episode outside of shows where that regularly occurs, it's usually a special thing like in Kaiba or Kemonozume, where the whole production is quite unique and artistically minded and the director gives a certain animator permission to animate a whole episode by themselves as a personal challenge.

Inbetweeners advance to key animation, and particularly talented key animators can then advance to working as animation directors or assistant animation directors, helping to correct the drawings, if they wish to.

第二原画 Daini Genga = Second Key Animation

Traditionally in anime, after key animation, the next step would be for the animation director to check the key animation and apply the necessary corrections to bring the characters to model. A new role was recently invented as a buffer between the key animator and the animation director: second key animation.

Nigen 二原 for short, second key animation is a relatively new concept in anime. This person does what in the west is known as "cleanup" - cleaning up the rough genga before they're passed on to the animation director to be checked. This step permits key animators to pump out more animation than if they had to produce a more polished shot. For example, an animator who might be good at action can draw several complicated shots in rough form in the time it might take them to draw one polished shot. A nigen would then clean it up. Infrequently you will also see a daiichi genga 第一原画 or first key animation credit, which is presumably a way of distinguishing between the people who drew the rough key animation intended to be cleaned up by the daini genga crew and the people who drew regular key animation.

(Note about the term Sakuga 作画: Sakuga is used among some western fans today to refer to flamboyant or particularly nice animation in anime, presumably something learned from the online Japanese community devoted to following animators, but in fact sakuga is just a generic word meaning "animation". You can have good sakuga and you can have bad sakuga; sakuga isn't a term of approbation. In old anime pre-dating Toei Doga (pre-1957), sakuga was one of the words used to credit the animators. Literally, it means "the person who drew the drawings". When used alone in latter-day anime, it often means that the person credited with sakuga drew all of the animation. Normally, animation would be broken down into genga (key animation) and doga (inbetweens), but if someone draws all of the animation themselves, they will be credited with sakuga.)

作画監督 Sakuga Kantoku = Animation Director

The sakuga kantoku or sakkan 作監 for short is the person who is in charge of looking at all of the key animation handed in by the key animators and, if it is too badly drawn or strays from the character design, correcting the drawing in part or in whole. The literal translation "animation director" can be misleading, because it seems to imply more of a creative say in filmmaking decisions than is actually the case. The movie Jin-Roh more accurately translated the term sakuga kantoku by using a less literal translation: "key animation supervisor".

The job of the animation director can be an arduous task, especially if working with animation outsourced to iffy studios who send in bad animation that needs to be thoroughly revised to be passable. Many animators would much prefer to draw animation than do sakkan work, even though presumably a sakkan may be better paid.

Every sakkan is different. They technically can correct everything if they want, including the time sheets, so the key animation could wind up looking completely different in the final product. Some sakkans correct everything, while others are more permissible and only correct the really bad work, either because they don't think it's necessary or don't have enough schedule. Tomonori Kogawa famously threw away much of the key animation he was given for the Ideon: Be Invoked movie and drew it from scratch himself because of his exacting standards, and because for him it was actually faster to do that than struggle to correct someone else's drawings.

Sometimes key animation is corrected, other times not. Sometimes a piece of animation may be flamboyant and stick out, but the animation director won't correct it because it's good animation by a well-known animator. In the past, key animators' work often went straight through into the final product. The Yuzo Aoki episode I blogged yesterday is an example, but there are many more. Aoki was sometimes credited as sakkan when he did solo key animation. An extreme example is Hajime Ningen Gyators: Takao Kosai is credited as the animation director, but he didn't correct any of the animation. Everything in the show is raw key animation by the animators. Credits in anime can be deceptive and ambiguous this way. Sometimes key animators aren't even credited due to some unknown behind-the-scenes circumstances.

Animator personality comes through often in action scenes because sakkans, who are often also the character designers, are more likely to devote their energy to correcting the faces than the movement, especially if the movement and drawings are good.

The term sakuga kantoku was coined in 1963, again at Toei Doga, for the role played by Yasuji Mori on the film Little Prince and the 8-Headed Dragon. Prior to that there was no single person overseeing the animation of an entire animated film in Japan as has become the norm today.

In recent days, the animation director role itself has become atomized into specialties. Common sub-credits include "mecha animation director" and "effects animation director".

総作画監督 Sou Sakuga Kantoku = Chief Animation Director

In the old days, when schedules were longer and there was not as much burden on the sakkan, it was only necessary to have one sakkan per TV episode or movie. In recent years, it has become common to see many sakkans in a single TV episode or movie. Yet another role was invented to supervise all these sakkans: the chief animation director.

This role was presumably created to ensure that this added level of supervisory complexity doesn't wind up having the opposite effect of creating visual disparity. The sou sakuga kantoku oversees all of the sakkans and maintains uniformity between them by adding corrections to their corrections, in much the same way as the sakkan does with respect to the key animators.

動画 Doga = Inbetween

After the drawings of the key animator have been checked by the director and the animation director(s), the next step is for the animation to be inbetweened by the doga or inbetweener.

Genga and Doga are an inseparable unit. The inbetweener fills in the movement of the key animation. How this is done isn't arbitrary. The key animator determines what poses the inbetweener is to draw, and where, using what's called a time sheet and a tsume shiji つめ指示 or timing chart. See this set of key animation drawings from my post on Shoichi Masuo for an example of a tsume shiji, and this one for its accompanying time sheet. The tsume shiji is the part that looks like this in the key animation drawings: ├────────┼────┼─┼┼┼┼┤ (see here for a more detailed explanation of what this means.) The key animator may also draw nakawari sanko 中割り参考 or inbetweening references for particularly complicated shots. The inbetweener is also responsible for cleaning up the lines of the key animation and preparing the drawings to be handed to the next department, the coloring department.

Unlike key animation, inbetweening doesn't leave much room for personal expression. It's where you are supposed to bring alive the expression of the key animation. The inbetweener draws the instructed drawings, and that's all. But inbetweening does require considerable skill in its own way. Badly inbetweened animation can ruin a shot of perfectly good key animation, while good inbetweens can improve mediocre key animation.

Traditionally, animators in Japan go through a period of apprenticeship as inbetweeners before acceding to key animation. One day they're offered the chance to give key animation a shot, and from then on out they're key animators. How quickly this happens depends on the studio and the animator. Some turn in bad animation and are sent back to inbetweening. Some choose to remain inbetweeners. You'll often spot a random famous animator in the inbetween credits if you watch a lot of old shows. Some of today's young talented gif animators like Kenichi Kutsuna and Ryosuke Sawa (Ryo~timo) skipped the inbetweening apprenticeship step and did key animation right off the bat.

After the inbetweener has done his or her job, the doga kensa 動画検査 or inbetween checker inspects the inbetweens. They're like the animation director for the final inbetweened animation. After that, the animation is sent to be colored by the shiage 仕上げ or finishing (now sometimes called digital paint) department and then to the photography (now sometimes compositing) department.

The term doga literally means 'moving drawings'. Doga was coined by Kenzo Masaoka (1898-1988) so that the Japanese would have their own word for animation instead of having to borrow the western word animation. Kenzo Masaoka is considered the father of anime for his pioneering work in the 1930s and 1940s. Thus, initially, doga actually meant simply animation in the broad sense of the term. It seems to have been around the time that Toei Doga (=Toei Animation) was founded in 1956 (when Toei purchased Nichido) that the genga/doga duality came into play and doga began to be used exclusively to mean inbetween animation.

(Aside: Sometimes a DVD will contain footage of the actual raw animation drawings. The term Genga Satsuei 原画撮影 or Gensatsu 原撮 for short refers to footage of just the key animation drawings, without backgrounds, sound effects, music or anything. Similarly, the term Doga Satsuei or Dosatsu 動撮 for short refers to footage of the fully inbetweened animation (i.e. key anmation + inbeteweens).)

演出 Enshutsu = Episode Director (TV) or Technical Director (movie)

監督 Kantoku = Director

There are various terms for director in anime, which can be confusing. The kantoku or director is the one who oversees the whole project, steering it towards completion by coordinating the various main staff, and making important creative decisions about the project as a whole. The enshutsu or technical director is responsible to the director, and does the physical work of putting together all the components (art, animation, sound) into the final product. As I mentioned above, the animation director is not a 'director' in the same sense. The animation director mainly just corrects key animation. Animation directors answer to both the director and the technical director.

In a movie, the kantoku or director has most of the creative control. The enshutsu or technical director in a movie is there mostly to alleviate the burden on the kantoku by handling the technical tasks that the director might not know about or might not have time to take care of. The director might now know certain photographic techniques, and would rely for this on an enshutsu with more experience in such matters. The enshutsu might also check layouts or key animation for the kantoku and correct lines of dialogue or drawings in a pinch. Ko Matsuo and Shogo Furuya helped Satoshi Kon tremendously in this role on his films.

Among other things, the director is there to make sure things are on track. The director of a TV series checks the storyboards for each episode, and may in fact re-do them or have them re-done if they're not satisfactory. Satoshi Kon had to re-draw the storyboard by Shogo Furuya in episode 2 of Paranoia Agent, and Hayao Miyazaki reportedly re-drew the storyboards submitted by Yoshiyuki Tomino on Future Boy Conan from scratch even though Tomino is still credited. These rejected storyboards might have gotten accepted under other circumstances (Tomino was widely relied upon for his storyboards), but the chief directors happened to be auteurs with exceptionally exacting artistic standards.

In the old days, enshutsu was used to refer to the director of a whole TV series. Nowadays, the word kantoku is used for that purpose, and each episode of a TV series has its own sub-director who oversees that particular episode. The episode director is referred to as the enshutsu. I assume the more holistic and supervisory role of kantoku evolved in the natural course of things as productions became more complex and production methods evolved accordingly.

Enshutsu seems to entail something quite different in a TV environment. The basic job of episode director is to hold meetings with and coordinate the heads of the different sections - animation, art, coloring, photography - in such a way as to achieve the objectives of the storyboard, which is ideally drawn by the episode director, but often these days is drawn by someone else. The episode director checks layouts and key animation as they are handed in to make sure the key animator drew what was required in the storyboard, calling for a retake if not, otherwise passing the key animation on to the sakkan. After everything is assembled, the episode director is responsible for getting any mistakes taken care of and putting together the final package.

Other tasks of an episode director incllude marking the rush copy used during voice actor recording sessions in such a way that the voice actors know when to read their lines. If everything isn't ready by the time of dubbing, they put together a provisional rush copy of an episode using raw materials like key animation or inbetweens so that the voice actors will have some visual material to work with. Episode directors also put together next episode previews by choosing which shots to use in the preview from those that are complete.

Episode directors in a TV series seem to have comparably much more control over the creative outcome of an episode than the enshutsu in a movie. They're essentially a mini kantoku. Thus you can get an episode like Mitsuo Iso's episode of RahXephon that's remarkably different in tone and style from the rest of the series due to the tight control exercised over the episode by the director of that particular episode. Although naturally, the director of the series would have to approve whatever the episode director decides to do. Talented storyboarders/directors like Keiichi Hara, Hosoda Mamoru and Atsushi Wakabayashi honed their talent working on TV shows where they were allowed to direct episodes in their own particular style.

Almost all anime TV series have a director supervising the whole show and a separate episode director for each episode. TMS's Hajime Ningen Gyators Group Tac's Manga Nihon Mukashibanashi are among the few examples I know of that didn't have a series director, only episode directors.

Yet another level was added to this already complicated hierarchy with the recent creation of the role of Sou Kantoku 総監督 or chief director. Some productions have a chief director, a director and a technical director.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

09:52:00 pm , 737 words, 2014 views     Categories: Animation, TV, Lupin III

Lupin III Part 2 episode 30

Ever since I watched episode 78 of the second Lupin III series the other day, it got me wanting to watch more, so I've started going through the series, though not in order yet. I just watched episode 30, one of the episodes mostly animated by Yuzo Aoki, and I really enjoyed Aoki's drawings, so I thought I'd just post some snaps from the show since I don't have time to write anything long today.

This episode finds Zenigata and Lupin captured by a Gadaffi lookalike trying to mount a revolution in the middle of the desert in Morocco. Yuzo Aoki's style comes through best in the Gadaffi character and his minions. He doesn't have to worry about drawing them on model like Lupin and Zenigata. Maybe he even designed the sub-characters for this episode himself.

The hilarious thing about this episode is that the Gadaffi character evokes Tensai Bakabon. I don't know whether it was intention or not, but the drawing style of the face is similar in a lot of the shots, and they use the same voice-actor, Masashi Amenomori. So the whole time he's talking about starting a revolution with his army of foreign mercenaries, all you can think about is Bakabon Papa. I guess I got this because I've been watching TMS's amazing Ganso Tensai Bakabon series from 1975-77. (See an image from the legendary 'gekiga' episode of that was entirely drawn Sanpei Shirato style by Manabu Ohashi, watch the crazy opening featuring the moon crashing into the earth directed by the late Osamu Dezaki.)

Even just in the general mood and looseness of the drawings the second Lupin series reminds me a bit of Bakabon as well as the other mid-70s TMS shows - Gyators, Dokonjo Gaeru, Gamba's Adventure, etc. It reminds me far more of those than it does of Cagliostro or any of the latter-day Lupin outings. Those mid-70s TMS gag shows were all so dynamic, free and unconcerned with being pretty and orderly. You didn't really see anything as free and crazy in the 80s, much less later.

I used to dislike the second series because of that wackiness - I preferred the more grounded first series - but now I appreciate it a lot more. It's a very different show. It's much looser in its stories, the quality is much more uneven, and it doesn't take itself seriously at all. They take the implausibility of the show's various gimmicks to absurd extremes. In the first show they tried to make it at least somewhat plausible when Zenigata showed up at the most unexpected moments to try to arrest Lupin. Now they just say 'The hell with it.' It's almost like watching Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny.

I just like the roughness of the lines in these opening close-up shots of a jeep. And the fact that the little details are right. It's very Yasuo Otsuka-esque, lavishing loving detail on a jeep. Otsuka actually did a lot of uncredited animation and correction work throughout the show.

General Gadaffi via Tensai Bakabon. I like the way his head looks like it's coming out of his chest. Yuzo Aoki has a way of stylizing certain elements of the body like the hands here that you start to be able to identify as his work after you've seen it a few times.

I like this gnarly drawing of his hand.

Zenigata surrounded by the mercenary army.

Zenigata and Lupin captured.

Look at this terrible drawing. It's from the second half of the episode. It looks totally different from the first half. The shapes are loose in all the wrong ways. There's none of the obvious instinct for stylization borne of experience that Yuzo Aoki learned working on all those A Pro gag shows. At one point around the middle of the episode the drawings suddenly get really bad like this. The weird thing is that Yuzo Aoki is the only animator credited, but obviously this couldn't have been drawn by him. Maybe they forgot to credit the other guy, or he didn't want to be credited because he did such a terrible job. Still, I kind of like the fact that in this series you can see such dramatic changes in drawing style from one moment to the next. It's not always great, but at least the drawings are full of variety and personality, and occasionally there's some better animators like Yuzo Aoki to show how it's done.

Monday, October 17, 2011

03:44:00 pm , 2031 words, 10168 views     Categories: Animation, Movie

Doraemon 2011 movie: Nobita and the Robot Army

Doraemon 2011 movie: Nobita and the Robot Army

I've just watched the latest Doraemon movie, this year's Robot Army movie, and it's a well made film. I enjoyed it much better than 2009's Spaceblazer film directed by Kozo Kusuba, which I found insipid and bland. Unfortunately, Kozo Kusuba is directing next year's film. It's too bad, because every other film since 2006's Nobita's Dinosaur has been quite fun and entertaining as well as featuring quite a bit of good animation. The 2011 film gets back to the standard set by the earlier films.

Nobita and the Robot Army is directed by Yukiyo Teramoto, who returns for a second stint after 2007's Underworld movie. This time she has not Kaneko Shizue working under her as animation director but a bigger team headed by up-and-coming animator Naoyuki Asano. Naoyuki Asano has staged a blazing ascent since doing his first work on Doraemon as a key animator in the 2008 Green Giant movie under director Ayumu Watanabe and animation director Shizue Kaneko. The next year he was one of four animation director under Shizue Kaneko, and the year after that he became the chief animation director supervising five animation directors.

The line of development of the new 'look' of the Doraemon movies cam be traced thus: Ayumu Watanabe -> Kenichi Konishi -> Kaneko Shizue -> Naoyuki Asano.

Kaneko Shizue, already a great animator in the movies, did a good job of carrying on the more pliable, hand-drawn look Kenichi Konishi created in 2006, and the newcomer Naoyuki Asano seems like he's continuing to do so. I'm not exactly sure what he does as the chief animation director. An animation director's job is obvious - they correct key animation - but I don't know what the job of a chief animation director entails.

For once I've seen the original movie of which this is a remake (movie #7 from 1986). Dialogue has been rearranged and scenes completely re-staged, but otherwise the remake is identical to the original in the broad strokes. And a big improvement. Usually re-make spells disaster, but the Doraemon films from the 1980s needed updating, and they've done it well here by adding lots of nuance to the character acting and simply updating the technical aspects. The art is of better quality, the directing is tighter.

What before felt two-dimensional and static now feels three-dimensional and dynamic. More effort has been put into bringing out the characters' emotions. Where before they seemed to move like expressionless robots, now they react with anguish and more complex emotions. Their body language and facial expressions are far more pliable and various than before.

There is a bit of a disconnect between the simplicity of the concept of Doraemon and the new look. Doraemon was in step with its simple stories when it was drawn simply and two-dimensionally. The quality of the art now seems to outstrip the material. Before it didn't take much effort to believe it when Doraemon stepped across the Anywhere Door to another place or Nobita put on the Takecopter and flew in the sky. Now it requires an extra dose of suspension of disbelief.

But there's no denying that the films needed updating, and the better quality makes the films much more watchable. They did a good job taking the basic traits of the old show, such as the way they draw a circle around the pupil when a character is surprised, and built on and expanded the range of expressions while still keeping the core of the characters.

Yukiyo Teramoto has brought to this film a sense of lyrical beauty that the original was missing. There is a scene where we watch fog rolling down a valley onto the surface of a lake in the morning light. There's a scene where we watch Nobita walk in a dark forest in silhouette. Neither of these scenes serve any narrative purpose, but they're among the more beautiful in the film. Then there's the scene, pictured above, where Nobita walks through the ruins of his hometown. It's quite a striking scene because the nuanced, realistic rendering of the ruins isn't something we'd expect to see in Doraemon.

The characters not only look more three-dimensional, they move in a more three-dimensional way. They bend their bodies into all sorts of configurations the likes of which you never used to see in the old Doraemon. The opening scene is a good example:

This kind of fun character acting is the essence of the new Doraemon. Even scenes that don't jump out as being flamboyantly animated are full of amusing posing like this that keeps the animation lively throughout.

Aside from the character animation, the effects animation and action sequences in the new Doraemon are also a big improvement over the old movies. For example, the scene where Shizuka accidentally causes the robot to destroy a building is basically the same as the original. Except that now, when the building explodes, it explodes and crumbles with an Akira level of maniacally detailed animation.

This was probably animated by Takashi Hashimoto. The animation of the explosion seems like his style. The animation of the building collapsing is impressively detailed. I haven't seen this level of detail of a building collapsing since Shinya Ohira's animation in Akira. Doraemon isn't where I expected to see it.

Another example featuring good effects and good action is the scene where the enemy robot breaks through the mirror leading to the real world. In the old film, it wasn't very excitingly animated or directed. Action scenes were never Tsutomu Shibayama's forte. In the new film, the scene was animated by a flamboyant animator who makes it a hair-raising experience.

The effects in this scene are quite interesting. Instead of drawing a simple laser beam as in the original movie, this animator makes it a pulsating line of star-shaped energy. The forms are quite beautiful to watch. I suspect this scene was done by Hidetsugu Ito, though that's just a guess and I'm not sure.

The FX throughout the film are generally quite nice, as there was an FX & Mecha Animation Director, a role that you don't normally see in anime. Suzuki Tsutomu, whom I recall for his work on Outlaw Star (op, 12, 23), played this role. Perhaps he is the one who invited another great action animator who did good work on Outlaw Star to the film - Susumu Yamaguchi. Robot Army featured a lot of outside faces like this who have never worked on Doraemon before.

The 2008 Green Giant movie also had an FX Animation Director - Hiroshi Masuda, who played the same role in the 3rd and 4th Naruto movies around the same time (which I wrote about here). Hiroshi Masuda has been involved in most of the recent Doraemon movies. In Robot Army he is credited as one of the animation directors. Incidentally, Hidetsugu Ito also acted as FX Animation Director in the 4th Naruto Movie.

The 2006 Dinosaur movie was notable for the slew of outside animators it brought in. There are a lot of other talented outside animators in Robot Army: Takashi Hashimoto, Hidetsugu Ito, Susumu Yamaguchi, Manabu Ohashi, Fumiaki Kota, Tatsuya Tomaru, Junichi Hayama, etc. Fumiaki Kota has been a regular in the films since Green Giant in 2008. Then there are all the regular faces like Masami Otsuka and Masakatsu Sasaki. Masami Otsuka in this movie was almost exclusively devoted to animating the low-key scenes of interaction between the main characters. It was good casting - it allows him to show off what he's really good at.

"Good animation in Doraemon" used to be an oxymoron. Now it's common sense. Over the last decade, I've come to expect that each new Doraemon film will feature quite a bit of good animation by talented in-house and freelance animators. Ayumu Watanabe's 2006 dinosaur film is probably the best known of the recent Doraemon films, as it was the most flamboyantly animated of the whole series, but pretty much every successive film over the last decade has had a lot of good animation.

That didn't used to be the case. For about the first two decades of the yearly movies, the animation was stodgy and perfunctory. It seems like it was around the time Ayumu Watanabe became involved in the Doraemon movies, at the end of the 1990s, that that animation in the Doraemon movies started to become more active and interesting. Masaya Fujimori was one of the animators who helped spice up the animation in the movies around this time.

It's not coincidentally with the 2003 film, directed for the first time by Ayumu Watanabe, that things really started picking up. The animation director system switched from Sadayoshi Tominaga handling everything to a 4-person system. Talented animators were brought in from the outside like Yuichiro Sueyoshi and Hiroyuki Aoyama. This trend continued with the next film in 2004, which featured Masaaki Yuasa and Kenichi Konishi. Things exploded with the next film, the 2006 remake of Nobita's Dinosaur, and from there onwards each new film has hewed, to a greater or lesser extent, to the standard of more dynamic directing and animation set by the 2006 film. (I wrote about the 2008 movie and the 2010 movie before.)

Here is a summary of the key credits for the Doraemon movies over the period during which the staff transformation took place that led to the improvement of the quality of the Doraemon movies. For more about the Doraemon films, refer to my post on A Production.


Doraemon movie staff 2003-2011

2003 #24 Wind Riders
Dir: Tsutomu Shibayama / Chief AD: Ayumu Watanabe / AD: Tetsuro Karai, Shizue Kaneko, Masaya Fujimori, Yoshiaki Yanagita
Notable animators: Yuichiro Sueyoshi, Masaru Oshiro, Toshiharu Sugie, Atsuko Tanaka, Yoshinobu Michihata, Hiroyuki Aoyama, Yuichiro Yano, Toshihiko Masuda, Hiroshi Nagahama, Koichi Murata
2004 #25 Wan Nyan Spacetime Adventure
Chief Dir/Line Dir: Ayumu Watanabe / Dir/Storyboard: Tsutomu Shibayama / AD: Tetsuro Karai, Shizue Kaneko, Masaya Fujimori, Masayuki Sekine
Notable animators: Masaaki Yuasa, Yuichiro Sueyoshi, Kenichi Konishi, Sachiko Kamimura, Masaru Oshiro
2006 #26 Nobita's Dinosaur (Remake of movie #1 from 1980)
Dir: Ayumu Watanabe / AD: Kenichi Konishi
Notable animators: Masami Otsuka, Tetsuro Karai, Shizuka Hayashi, Tatsuzo Nishita, Hideki Hamasu, Shingo Natsume, Masakatsu Sasaki, Shizue Kaneko, Masaru Oshiro, Ryotaro Makihara, Hisashi Mori, Shinji Hashimoto, Yasunori Miyazawa, Norio Matsumoto, Takaaki Yamashita, Shogo Furuya, Hiroshi Masuda, Tsutomu Suzuki
2007 #27 Underworld (Remake of movie #5 from 1984)
Dir: Yukiyo Teramoto / AD: Shizue Kaneko
Notable animators: Ryotaro Makihara, Masami Otsuka, Hiroshi Masuda, Masaru Oshiro, Shingo Natsume, Masakatsu Sasaki, Toshihiko Masuda, Shizuka Hayashi, Hiromi Hata, Ayumu Kotake
2008 #28 Green Giant
Dir: Ayumu Watanabe / AD: Shizue Kaneko / FX AD: Masuda Hiroshi
Notable animators: Masami Otsuka, Shizuka Hayashi, Masakatsu Sasaki, Ryotaro Makihara, Tamotsu Ogawa, Norio Matsumoto, Fumiaki Kota, Masahiro Sato, Yoshihiko Umakoshi, Ikuo Kuwana, Kiyotaka Oshiyama, Shigeru Kimishima, Nobutaka, Naoyuki Asano
2009 #29 Spaceblazer (Remake of movie #2 from 1981)
Chief Dir: Kozo Kusuba / Chief AD: Shizue Kaneko / AD: Naoyuki Asano +3 others
Notable animators: Masami Otuska, Hiromi Hata, Yuichiro Sueyoshi, Shizuka Hayashi, Satoru Utsunomiya, Nobutaka, Motonobu Hori, Masashi Okumura, Fumiaki Kota
2010 #30 Mermaid Legend
Dir: Kozo Kusuba / Chief AD: Naoyuki Asano / AD: 5 names
Notable animators: Masami Otsuka, Masaru Oshiro, Yasuo Muroi, Shizuka Hayashi, Majiro, Yu Yamashita, Hiroyuki Morita, Fumiaki Kota, Tetsuro Karai, Hiromi Hata, Hiroshi Shimizu
2011 #31 Robot Army (Remake of movie #7 from 1986)
Dir: Yukiyo Teramoto / Chief AD: Naoyuki Asano / AD: Hiroshi Masuda +5 others / Mecha & FX AD: Tsutomu Suzuki
Notable animators: Masami Otsuka, Susumu Yamaguchi, Ito Hidetsugu, Tomaru Tatsuya, Kota Fumiaki, Masaru Oshiro, Manabu Ohashi, Shoko Nishigaki, Takashi Hashimoto, Takaya Hirotoshi, Tobe Atsuo, Shigeki Kudo, Hiroyuki Morita, Junichi Hayama, Masakatsu Sasaki, Nobutake Ito, Motonobu Hori, Hiroki Harada, Ayako Hata, Shinichi Kurita, Takashi Mukoda

Doraemon: Nobita and the Robot Army (2011) main staff credits

Director: Yukiyo Teramoto
Script: Higashi Shimizu
Chief Animation Director: Naoyuki Asano
Art Director: Makoto Tsuchihashi
Storyboard: Yukiyo Teramoto, Tetsuo Yajima
Line Director: Minoru Yamaoka
Character Design: Shizue Kaneko
Animation Directors: Masahiro Kurio, Tomofumi Nakura, Hiroshi Masuda, Aya Takano, Hiroko Yaguchi, Shingo Okano
Mecha and Effect Animation Director: Tsutomu Suzuki
Key Animators:
Masami OtsukaTakayuki UragamiSusumu Yamaguchi
Hidetsugu ItoTatsuya TomaruKoichiro Ueda
Masahiro EmotoFumiaki KotaYukari Karai
Masaru OshiroNobuhiro OsugiYumi Chiba
Hisashi KagawaManabu OhashiTakeo Oda
Yuki ItoOsamu MiwaHitomi Kakubari
Mai TsutsumiDaisuke MatagaKanako Watanabe
Takayuki GotanTetsuhito SatoEmi Kamiishi
Hiromi TaniguchiMasahiko ItojimaMasayuki Koda
Masashi EguchiAki KukiJun Ishikawa
Yuko YoshidaYukihiro IshidaHanako Enomoto
Yujiro MoriyamaKunihiro AbeAkiko Matsuo
Misato AbeTakahiro TakamizawaShinichi Yoshikawa
Toshiyuki SatoShoko NishigakiRiki Matsuura
Takashi HashimotoHirotoshi TakayaAtsuo Tobe
Shigeki KudoHiroyuki MoritaJunichi Hayama
Masakatsu SasakiNobutake ItoMamoru Sasaki
Kazuo SakaiMotonobu HoriHiroki Harada
Ayako HataShinichi KuritaTakashi Mukoda

Saturday, October 15, 2011

06:14:00 pm , 676 words, 5088 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, Music Video, Animator, Short

Satoshi Murai

My latest indie Japanese animator discovery is Satoshi Murai. In 2009, one year after graduating from the Graphic Design Department of Tama Art University, he animated a beautiful, dreamy music video for the song A Play by Japanese alternative electro-hop outfit ALT (ALT home page).

It's a ravishing video that doesn't scream "music video" the way most do. It comes across more like a visual poem. I didn't even realize it was a music video until after looking into it.

The video begins with a woman's voice saying, "There are an infinite number of worlds over here, over there, and inside you. But they're also nowhere. The curtain will soon fall. The journey will soon end. It's time for bed."

In a city somewhere in the world, a child is tucked into bed in. This soft, faint scene from our plane of reality then fades out, and the screen explodes into color as a bubble floats up and bursts into a dream-creature that's half television/half beetle. A male voice launches into a rambling, monotone recitation of disjointed poetic images, and the visuals echo his strange words and rhythm, morphing between abstract and identifiable forms. It's like we're witnessing the ether from which the images of dreams are created as our brain pieces together the shards of our everyday experiences into a bizarre visual collage.

Like the words, the hazy images morph quick and fast and create an intoxicating experience that evokes the fertile, poetic creativity of the brain as it cooks up dreams at night. "Nobody remembers the beginning. It's dark outside now. That day I lost something and I gained something in exchange." Sometimes the images directly mirror the words, other times go on their own trajectory: A coffee thermos hovers in mid-air pouring coffee, and morphs into the eye and beak of a bird. A fish runs with human legs. A black and white TV shows a flickering image of a pair of trousered legs walking. For just a second we catch a glimpse of a house hidden in the trees at dusk.

The video feels so unlike a regular music video because of the abstract song. Rather than a catchy pop song, it's a glitchy wash of ambient synths through which a voice swims in a monotone random-walk recitation of playfully alliterating, randomly rhyming chockablock phrases that evoke disjointed images. It's the Japanese answer to alternative hip-hop bands like Clouddead. The visuals and audio are a perfect match with one another, neither making sense but both seeming to make sense together.

The visuals occasionally remind me of Gianluigi Toccafondo, with broad splotches of paint tracing distorted renderings of familiar objects that transform into other objects by stretching and warping. But A Play is far more varied and flexible in its technique and texture. It isn't exclusively produced by painting over and transforming live-action images the way Toccafondo's work seems to be. It switches between very broad abstract painted strokes and more minutely detailed traditional animation, such as the moment where ants are meticulously drawn milling about in a grayscale pencil cross-section of the sleeping boy's head.

As it turns out, Satoshi Murai himself is part of the ALT collective, and he either did or helped with the music of this video. He also does his own solo music. Satoshi Murai's Soundcloud page features the same brand of pleasingly glitchy ambient electronica. So he's an animator-musician, like Ryu Kato. The ALT collective have a number of other visually interesting music videos available on their home page.

I don't know if Satoshi Murai is still part of ALT, but he's currently part of another collective - the Tymote collective, an 8-member group that does cutting edge creative work in motion graphics, illustration and music. You can see more work like A Play in the Palm station ID that Satoshi Murai did at Tymote for the 24-hour music station Space Shower TV. Explore Tymote's home page to see more of the outstanding visual inventiveness of this group.

Like most animators working today, Satoshi Murai has a twitter feed.

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