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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Saturday, June 30, 2012

03:01:00 pm , 662 words, 4956 views     Categories: Animation, TV, Lupin III

Lupin III: A Woman Called Fujiko Mine #11

Fujiko goes on a spree impersonating Lupin, Lupin cuts himself shaving, and Oscar dreams of wedding dresses. That, and lots and lots of owl men.

This episode is devoted to exploring Oscar's character with a story about how he impersonates Fujiko in an attempt to get Zenigata to try to kill Fujiko. Why he has a vendetta against the "spitpot" I'm not exactly sure, other than that she slept with his heartthrob Zenigata. A little bit of back story is finally revealed about the relationship between Oscar and Zenigata, but it feels like too little too late. The character remains just as annoying and misplaced as before, with his overplayed melodramatic screaming and shouting that don't make any sense and ridiculous costume that doesn't look like a regulation police uniform to me. (high heels?) The writers may be telling a very deep and powerful story through Oscar and Fujiko, but it's too bad they forgot to let us in on what it is.

It feels completely arbitrary how one of the side-characters will without fail be absent. This time Goemon and Lupin were there so Jigen had to be absent even though he and Lupin seemed to have formed a pretty close relationship already by the time of the previous episodes. Goemon's and Lupin's scenes were reminiscent of the old show, with Goemon going around splitting things and Lupin defusing a bomb, and wound up being the parts of the episode that were the most fun to watch, which is to say the least annoying. The shot where Goemon buys a falafel right before Lupin does the same was fun, reminding that they still haven't met each other. The odd thing is that Fujiko doesn't play a very big part in her own show. She's either absent or zoned out and doesn't do anything a lot of the time other than have flashbacks.

They're obviously trying to do something very postmodern with the schtick about the owl-men observing Fujiko as if they were the author of a story observing the character whose story they were writing, but it is done so repetitively without any clear meaning that it just comes across as a pretentious attempt to be artsy and sophisticated. Scenes such as the infant Fujiko being electroshocked in a room full of stuffed animals are clearly meant to, well, shock, but they occur over and over without us understanding the context, so they have no impact other than to seem like self-indulgence for shock effect on the part of the writers.

The episode was fairly competently directed and interesting otherwise, even with a cute little section done in Michel Ocelot cutout style explaining how Oscar planned to steal the wedding dress. Whoever storyboarded and directed the episode decided to use a silly pen name, so I don't know who it was. The storyboarder was 袋小路ピーチク and the co-director was 梟小路パーチク, which is a pun that's hard to translate, but basically involves cul de sac, owl, and the onomotopoeia for a bird's chirping - which is an obvious reference to the line in the episode where Oscar sits down on the stairs in despair when cornered by the owl men and asks them, "Go on, chirp away!" Clearly this suggests the point of this episode - about exploring how Oscar came to feel cornered.

The episode also featured another person using a pen name, Hiromichi Kojinanokuni, which is Tomonori Kogawa of all people. He has apparently gotten a second wind after an extended period away from the front lines and now does lots of animation on various TV shows using pen names. I'm curious what part he did, although I'm sure his style is nothing like what it used to be during the days of Ideon and Xabungle.

Another person present was Kaichiro Terada, whom I presume animated the water effects during the bridge scene at the beginning and the smoke effects during the tiara scene. I like his effects work. Motohashi Hideyuki was again present.

Friday, June 29, 2012

11:51:00 pm , 1123 words, 4064 views     Categories: Animation, OVA, Anime R

Good Morning Althea

I tend to write about the good OVAs, but they're in the minority. Most OVAs are justly forgotten. The 1987 OVA Good Morning Althea is a prime example of an OVA misfire boasting terrible storytelling and animation. Colony Drop just recently did a write-up on exactly why this show is so bad, so I won't go into the details here, but I thought I'd write my own thoughts as I just had a look at it.

It's not the worst thing I've seen, but it doesn't have much to recommend it. The poor directing and hackneyed and jumbled story weren't even the worst part of it to me. it's the drawings. They're awful. It looked like fan anime to me. It was impossible for me to take most of the scenes seriously because the character drawings consistently had the amateurish quality of fan art, with the features of the faces and the body proportions drawn all wrong, and clumsy linework.

The directing is admittedly pretty weak. Hideki Tonokatsu doesn't do a particularly great job of making the story flow interestingly, making it coherent, making the action exciting, or making us invest in the characters and their situation. A show with a stupid story can be saved by good animation, and vice-versa. Althea boasts a lethal combination of bad drawings and bad directing.

It's not that the animation is bad, though most of the animation is lackluster. There are actually a few shots of decent mecha action, like this one. The mecha look pretty cool, and there's competently drawn most of the time. The fact is, the OVA has some pretty good staff in the credits, which makes it hard to understand why the show turned out so bad. Anime R is a strong presence: Moriyasu Taniguchi is the animation director and Hiroshi Osaka is the mecha animation director. There are a few talented people in the credits including Yasuchika Nagaoka, Hideaki Sakamoto, Atsushi Yano and Hiromitsu Ota, but for the most part it's a mixed bag. It feels like one of those shows where there were issues behind the scenes at the last minute that led to some sudden drastic staff changes. It feels like it was produced in a big scramble.

The mecha drawings are usually OK, but there's something fundamentally wrong with the character drawings here. I had a hard time placing my finger on why the drawings in this OVA feel 'off', but I've come to the conclusion it's because of the inbetweens. I have a hunch Althea is a case of animation ruined by bad inbetweening.

Most of the names in the credits of Althea are Japanese, but but presumably due to time or budget constraints, the inbetweening alone was outsourced to a South Korean studio. Anime is known for using South Korea for its inbetweens. I'm not sure when this began, but it was probably in the 1980s. Althea was made at an early stage in the industry when the quality was far worse than it is today, and even today it's common knowledge that there are tremendous limitations on what inbetweeners can or will do.

Animation drawings of a high caliber like those of Okiura or Ohira apparently require very talented inbetweeners to get the drawings right. If their keys were outsourced to a cut-rate studio, the animation would be ruined. They simplify lines and subtle actions, as you can see if you closely compare the animation of this shot by Bahi JD with the final product.

I've long heard that the inbetweening stage is a surprisingly important stage that, beyond merely being there to 'fill out' the movement drawn by the key animators, can actually kill the animation if done wrong. Inbetweening is a skill that requires talent in its own way, like key animation, and it has its share of hacks doing lackluster work. To many people, inbetweening is (understandably) a paycheck far more than it is a labor of love. At the same time, if you outsource something for very little money and want it back the next day, don't expect good quality.

In anime, you never see the lines drawn by key animators (or you do only in special cases). What you are seeing in most anime is the lines drawn by the inbetweeners. The inbetweeners re-trace the key animation drawings. They don't just shoot the key animation drawings interspersed with inbetweens; they re-draw the keys and draw the inbetweens from scratch (or from reference drawings).

I've been examining Anime R in detail over the last few weeks because in a way they embody the anime paradigm, something that has been lost in today's atomized and outsourced and freelance age: the master-student relationship of inbetweener and key animator - an animator beginning at a studio as an inbetweener, learning the ropes under talented animators, and eventually working his way up to key animation. The inbetweeners and the key animators worked together under the same roof. Anime R's episodes were always inbetweened by Anime R. Hiroyuki Okiura and Hiroshi Osaka were inbetweeners inbetweening Toru Yoshida and Kishi Fumiko's animation before they acceded to drawing key animation.

With a very small team that knew each other's skills very well, they achieved beautiful results in those Sunrise (and other) shows of the 1980s. That has been the traditional situation in Japan, and it fosters a more deep knowledge about the process, but with inbetweens more likely to be outsourced today, it feels like the unique paradigm of the craftsman-student relationship has become a victim of progress. If I'm right about Althea, it shows the perils of corrupting that relationship.

Althea was apparently pitched by Ichiro Itano, and perhaps even initially planned to be directed by Itano. After starting out as a groundbreaking mecha animator, he went on to direct or otherwise back a number of OVAs in the 1980s, starting with Megazone 23. He created a number of overweening adult epics filled with violence and action that sound cool on paper and shine briefly technically but wind up being pretty disappointing and forgettable. The thing I've noticed is that the quality of the OVAs he was involved in is consistently uneven. There are occasional moments of strong animation that bring alive the concept, but often his projects feel rushed and awkward somehow or other, not to mention being in poor taste sometimes. Good Morning Althea is the prototypical Itano production in that sense.


Good Morning Althea (OVA, Dec 1987, 50min, Animate Film)

Concept:板野一郎Ichiro Itano
Storyboard & Director:殿勝秀樹Hideki Tonokatsu
Character design:菊池みちたかMichitaka Kikuchi
Settei Design:池田一成Kazuya Ikeda
亀垣一Hajime Kamegaki
Animation Director:谷口守泰Moriyasu Taniguchi
Assistant A.D.:柳沢まさひでMasahide Yanagisawa
Mecha A.D.:逢坂浩司Hiroshi Osaka
Key animation:浜川修二郎
Shujiro Hamakawa
垪加等
Hitoshi Haga
山下悟
Satoru Yamashita
佐藤雄三
Katsuzo Sato
坂本英明
Hideaki Sakamoto
長岡康史
Yasuchika Nagaoka
品田広志
Hiroshi Shinada
大平直樹
Naoki Ohira
矢野淳
Atsushi Yano
和田浩一
Koichi Wada
溝呂木浩章
Hiroaki Korogi
塚田明
Akira Tsukada
土屋幹雄
Mikio Tsuchiya
太田博光
Hiromitsu Ohta
福島豊明
Toyoaki Fukushima
奥村四郎
Shiro Okumura

Saturday, June 23, 2012

10:36:00 pm , 894 words, 4356 views     Categories: Animation, TV, Lupin III

Lupin III: A Woman Called Fujiko Mine #10

"The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk" - Hegel

Philosophical musings and trippy imagery are the order of the day in this episode, which is a mindf*** and a half. This episode is also the best in the series so far in my opinion. Too many of the previous episodes have been either side-stories which although fun seemed merely to be biding time, or else hobbled by weak directing or animation. This episode didn't have fantastic animation per se, but it felt strong overall in every respect - directing, script and animation - and most saliently, it finally did what this series should have done a lot sooner, and that's dig into the meat of the show's hinted-at running story.

After so many coy hints in previous episodes, this time clear revelations are made about what the deal is with the owl-men and Fujiko's flashbacks. It's still impossible to piece everything together clearly, but for the first time in the series you come away feeling like what you're seeing makes sense - not in terms of the story, which is still unfolding, but in terms of the show's identity. The show didn't seem to know who it was much of the time. I feel they waited to long to tip us in on the very basic premise of the show. Instead of doing 9 meandering episodes with little progress in the main story save hints in flashbacks, the whole series should have been devoted the main story. It feels like in this episode, for the first time, they've created an episode squarely focused on the main story of this series, and done it in a way that's entertaining rather than merely clumsily artsy.

This episode was difficult to penetrate, but also undeniably brilliant and engrossing. I think it's the most cleverly and methodically constructed episode so far. The script and directing work in sync to create a labyrinth of the mind in which you never know what is real and what is imagined, all while the back story gradually comes into light. The episode teases you about what is real and what is imagined, and how to piece together the confusing information and strange images you're presented, much as Lupin doesn't know whether he's finally woken up to reality or is still dreaming yet another dream within a dream. Your expectations are constantly upturned, and the truth is hidden somewhere within the haze.

The script courtesy of Dai Sato is dense and full of literary allusions and quotes and foreign words and witticisms. The storyboard is by Yoshimitsu Ohashi. Ohashi has had a long and prolific career directing and animating dating back to Nadia of the Blue Water. Most recently he directed Sacred Seven. He was also character designer and chief animation director of one of my favorite anime, Green Legend Ran.

Ohashi's storyboard does a fantastic job putting Dai Sato's script into dramatic form and playing off the allusions and hidden meanings in the script. Every moment seems to drip significance both visually and verbally in a complex cross-hatching. A butterfly drifting across the screen at a certain moment echoes something in the script on the tip of our understanding. The episode has many striking images such as the candyland of the infant Fujiko, Lupin transpierced by an owl, and the actual photos of flowers that litter the episode. (Mixing in live action bits at significant moments is a tactic used previously in Kemonozume.)

With its references to arcane literary, philosophical and mythological figures and foreign words from Minerva and Glaucos to Hegel and memento mori and Fr?ulein Eule, this episode is ripe for analysis. It downright begs the audience to (try to) deconstruct its various hidden meanings. There's also a fascinating repetition of images and words throughout the episodes, such as the butterfly that appears at various moments, and the repetition of the word Fr?ulein Eule. It's a great script and impressive in a different way from Dai Sato's already impressive script for episode 7, showing Sato Dai's versatility.

At a more basic level, it was nice to see Lupin finally given a big role, and the interaction with Zenigata was satisfying, especially the surprise moment where right as they're facing one another off, they're attacked and wind up having to join forces. The only disappointment is that none of the other side-characters were present. It seems to be policy in this series that only two or so of the main characters are present in each episode, never the whole gang together.

Incidentally, in terms of the animation, there's one lovely bit of animation at the point I mentioned above where the masked men leap up from the flowers and blast away at Zenigata and Lupin with machine guns. I assume this must have been animated by Shin Itagaki. I wish the whole show moved like that scene. Other notable animators in the episode included Hideyuki Motohashi and Kenichi Shima. Kenichi Shima is a youngish animator about whom I don't know much other than that he was involved in Tatami Galaxy, Redline and Brave Story - as well as this cool little vid with music by Satoshi Murai. He just seems like an animator worth keeping an eye on for some reason. (What a coincidence I singled him out - I just noticed he is the animation director of the next Fujiko episode.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

11:58:00 pm , 3690 words, 4586 views     Categories: OVA, TV, Anime R, Dove, Toshifumi Takizawa

SPT Layzner

After Armor Trooper Votoms (1983-1984), Ryosuke Takahashi continued making robot shows at Sunrise, although from what I've seen none of them were quite the same as Votoms and tended to adhere more closely to the Sunrise robot template. The next show he did after Votoms was Panzer World Galient (1984-1985), which seems to mix fantasy with sci-fi. Then came SPT Layzner (1985-1986). I just had a chance to watch Layzner for the first time and enjoyed it, though it's very flawed and far from a classic like Votoms.

What Layzner has going for it is some tremendously strong animation from Anime R. Essentially, the animation of Lazyner was provided by three studios: Anime R, Dove and Bebow, in descending order of importance.

Anime R is by far the most important presence on the show. This is perhaps the show with the highest concentration of Anime R animation. 21 out of the show's 38 episodes were entirely (or mostly) animated by Anime R. The opening and ending were animated by Anime R animators Kazuaki Mouri, Toru Yoshida and Fumiko Kishi. The character designer was Anime R founder Moriyasu Taniguchi, who was invited back to design his own characters because of his great work as sakkan on Votoms. Taniguchi would also go on to be character designer of Mellowlink, in which Anime R provided about half of the animation. The other half was provided by Dove.

The story

Layzner is an odd show. I want to like it, but the story is too cliched and too much of a mess, largely due to circumstances beyond the control of the writers and director. When it works, it works well, and comes across as a more realistic version of the alien invasion story. The writing is fairly strong thanks to the sci-fi anime masters Hiroyuki Hoshiyama, Yoshitake Suzuki (AKA Fuyunori Gobu), Yasushi Hirano and Tsunehisa Ito. The characters feel individual and the urgency of the situation is convincing. The biggest problem is that it isn't consistent to the initial premise. To be more blunt, SPT Layzner jumps the shark big time. The last half of the show is a classic example of a show jumping the shark. It feels like two shows crammed into one, neither of them very happy about being forced to abide one another.

Part one begins as your typical Sunrise show: An alien army is coming to invade the earth, but a mixed alien-human named Eiji defects from the army to warn the earth of the impending danger. Along the way he saves a group of children visiting the Mars base, and enlists them to pilot giant robots and fight their way back to Earth. Sunrise was apparently so pleased with the setup of Round Vernian Vifam, in which a group of children visiting space one day suddenly find themselves caught in the middle of a war, that they decided to copy it almost verbatim in SPT Layzner. Anime advances by small variations on successful formulae.

The setup is hardly original, and it tested my patience for a while, but eventually I got into it on the strength of the animation and the fact that the story is told in a fairly hard-boiled and no-nonsense way. It proceeds very slowly, meticulously depicting each step of the way as the kids battle their way back to earth. By the time we get to episode 24, the story has gotten fairly interesting, taking on a bit of sociopolitical commentary. The protagonist Eiji is interrogated by a suspicious U.S. army rather than welcomed with open arms as he expected, and a lot of the drama comes across as an angry satire about the atmosphere of international suspicion during the Cold War. The writers do a good job with this material. I was starting to like the show by this point.

Then bam. Right when the story seems poised to finally start coming to a head after such an extended and even plodding setup, suddenly things do a 180. All of the many character interrelation and plot element threads that had been patiently built up and interwoven over the course of two dozen episodes are peremptorily dropped without any warning. Part two begins abruptly after a recap episode in episode 25. Suddenly all the characters are grown up and we're in a post-apocalyptic future in which the earth as been taken over by the aliens and everyone has big hair, shoulder pads and hockey masks straight out of Mad Max, or more relevantly, Fist of the North Star. Masked police go around burning books just like in Farenheit 451. (Oddly, some animator drew Katsuhiro Otomo's Highway Star as one of the books being burned. Otomo's influence apparently extends into the post-invasion future.)

Fist of the North Star is the appropriate comparison. It was airing simultaneously, and was likely copied intentionally. It seems that sales of the kind of toys the show was advertising had begun to drop across the industry, and so at midpoint into the series they decided to completely change the show's story and opt for the popular post-apocalyptic formula in a desperate attempt to increase ratings and hence boost toy sales. The story is now about Eiji leading a resistance against the occupying aliens. It's basically Fist of the North Star meets Gundam, without the exploding heads.

The change in tone and style is so radical and without warning that it's difficult to take the show seriously from this point on. And not long after they begin the second part, suddenly the show gets cancelled, and they have to rush the ending. Part 2 was probably planned as two seasons, but was reduced on short notice to one, so they had to suddenly skip ahead in episode 35 and jump right to the ending in episode 38, without explaining how we got there. The Ideon movie was famously released to complete the story after the TV series was unexpectedly canceled just short of completion. So it went with Layzner. After the show ended, two 60-minute recap OVAs were released (one for part one and one for part two) followed by an OVA telling what happened between episode 37 and 38. Many shows during the ensuing years did the same, but in the OVA rather than theatrical format, and Layzner was one of the first.

If anything, the show is an interesting case study of the way in which forces greater than the director and his staff have historically controlled the length and content of TV anime. Seasons are added and canceled capriciously and on short notice, causing the staff to scramble and come up with ad-hoc solutions. Ironically enough, this sometimes produces a happy ending. The final Ideon movie and final SPT Layzner OVA wound up bringing their stories to a conclusion in better quality than could have been expected within the originally anticipated TV schedule. But it should be remembered that both were made only at the insistence of their directors, who felt compelled to give their audience their rightful catharsis.

Episode 26: Hiroyuki Okiura

Anime R in SPT Layzner

If there's one reason to watch the show despite the story's flaws, it's because Layzner is in a way the summum opus of Anime R.

Moriyasu Taniguchi's characters have never gotten such a grand stage, and they've never been so appealing. Taniguchi's characters are pleasingly stylized, with elongated heads and angular features. This dude in episode 37 is the most extreme character design in the show, but gives a quick sense of his style. I like his designs far more than Norio Shioyama's, which seem bland and old-fashioned. Taniguchi had verve and his characters felt more cutting edge for the time, although he was clearly influenced by Tomonori Kogawa, and by Masami Suda of Fist of the North Star by the time of part 2.

The real star of the show, though, is of course the mecha and the mecha animators. Designed again by Kunio Okawara as in Votoms, the robots are brought alive with energy by the young animators of Anime R. Just about every episode of the show has some pleasing mecha animation, and a handful of the episodes have some of the best mecha animation of the entire period. Layzner is one of the feasts of mecha animation of the 1980s.

Basically the Anime R staff is the same as Votoms, except that everyone has been bumped up a notch in the hierarchy. Toru Yoshida is now a mecha sakkan and Hiroyuki Okiura is now a genga man.

The Anime R episodes of Layzner are split into three teams, each headed by a different animation director, to enable them to cover the whole show:

SakkanKey Animators
谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi

Mecha sakkan:
吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
岩村幸子 Sachiko Iwamura
野中幸 Koh Nonaka
小森高博 Takahiro Komori
村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise
大島康広 Yasuhiro Ohjima

There is some variation in the arrangement early on, but this is the basic arrangement they settled into. There's one strong mecha animator in each group who was usually in charge of the mecha in their team's episodes, with the rest handling the characters: Hiroyuki Okiura under Moriyasu Taniguchi, Toru Yoshida under Fumiko Kishi, and Sawako Yamamoto under Hiromi Muranaka.

Note that, soon after this, the Hiromi Muranaka group split into a separate but affiliated sister studio called Studio Mu. At this point in time the Muranaka team is still credited as Anime R, but Studio Mu has shown up in the inbetweening credits.

Episode 17: Toru Yoshida

Toru Yoshida was involved in episodes 1, 6, 11, 17, 21, 28, 34, 38. He apparently did some of his best work on Galient between Votoms and SPT Layzner, but sadly I skipped over that one, so I'm missing an important piece in the evolution of his style, but I will get to that show eventually. Episode 17 with the unmanned robots attacking the kids on the moon is one of his best episode, with very stylish and exciting mecha drawings and effects. As impressive as Yoshida's work was on Votoms, you can see significant improvement here. The mecha animation is among the most powerful and detailed of the era. I like that by this point Yoshida has gone beyond his Kanada-school influence and developed his own style: more realistic but still extremely exciting and thrilling, with a focus on densely packing the screen with effects and movement.

Sawako Yamamoto was involved in episodes 7, 14, 19, 24, 29, 36. I wasn't familiar with this animator prior to watching Layzner, but she apparently went on to do a lot of mecha work later in her career, a rarity for a female animator. Sawako Yamamoto was the mentor of another of R's many alumni, Asako Nishita, who was one of the more prominent female animators of the 1990s and 2000s. Yamamoto was one of the mecha sakkans on Ryosuke Takahashi's recent Gasaraki, which was apparently his ultimate attempt to do a 'real robot' show and do it right. Episode 36 of Layzner in particular features some great mecha fighting in the streets presumably of Yamamoto's hand. Episode 29, meanwhile, doesn't feature any mecha animation and is all focused on character animation, showcasing what the Mu team was better known for.

Hiroyuki Okiura was involved in episodes 12, 16, 20, 26, 33, 38. He actually acted as mecha sakkan in his episodes from episode 20 onwards even though he is not credited as such. Okiura had similarly actually drawn key animation on Votoms (1983-1984) and Galient (1984-1985) even though he was still being credited with inbetweening. His official debut as a genga-man came on Bismark (1984-1985), in which he drew all of the mecha action scenes in the episodes in which he is credited. So technically Layzner is his sakkan debut, although his official sakkan debut only came with Black Magic M-66 a year later.

Okiura is the star mecha animator of Layzner. If you watch nothing else of the show, Okiura's scenes are worth seeking out on their own merits, especially episode 26. What made people sit up and pay attention still comes through loud and clear almost 30 years later. Even amidst all of the great work by Yoshida et al. on the show, there is something fundamentally different when Okiura's work comes on the screen. First of all, it just moves more. Okiura was inspired by Takashi Nakamura, and his goal was to create the richest and most dense animation he could. Due to the restrictions on the number of drawings (about 6000 in Layzner, still way more than the average episode today), Okiura had to work closely with his fellow animators to calculate the number of drawings in each shot. He had them use less drawings for the character scenes so that he could use more drawings on the mecha scenes. On top of this, the mecha animation feels more realistic in its movement. The movement is more detailed and weighty, and more precisely calculated. Whereas many mecha animators just threw their mecha about in whichever way - whatever looked coolest - Okiura had a patently more methodical way of moving his mecha. The camera angles feel more realistic and have more variety. You already sense that Okiura is one of those animators who animates like a director. Okiura had apparently convinced the director of Bismark to re-storyboard the last episode of Bismark so that it had more action scenes because Okiura felt it did not have enough action. He wanted to be challenged, not given an easy way out.

His work on episode 26 in particular is one of the classics for the ages. His scene starts from the point where Layzner comes out of the water. The maniacal level of detail in the fragments should immediately remind of his mob scene in Akira. I recommend watching some of the other mecha scenes first for comparison purposes so you can see how different Okiura's animation is, but even if you don't, I think it should still come through loud and clear how impressive Okiura's animation is. It was this episode that first revealed his true powers to the world and showed that he had some uncommon skills that surpassed even those of the many other great Anime R animators who inspired and taught him. Episode 33 is also notable for being the only episode with mecha action from start to end. The animation isn't as powerful as episode 26, but the sheer amount of movement packed into the episode is impressive.

The remarkable thing: he was aged only 19 when he worked on Lazyner. He turned 20 during Black Magic M-66. Anime had a lot of early bloomers, but Okiura is one of the most memorable.

Bebow

The other episodes are all decent, with some good animation here and there, but nothing that equals the best R episodes. Bebow's good work was mostly done in the character animation. Bebow handled episodes 23, 32 and 37. Notable names in their episodes include Akihiko Yamashita, Masahiro Yamane and Masanori Shino. Episode 32 was actually Masahiro Yamane's debut. He is one of the best mecha animators of the 1990s, during which time he did a lot of work with Masami Obari on Sunrise 'yuusha' shows, helping define their mecha animation as mecha designer and mecha sakkan. The best Bebow episode is probably episode 32, which features the bad guy you love to hate, Gostero, who seemed to die several times in the series only to keep coming back, hamming it up with a whole episode of his outrageous antics. The drawings all feel patently Bebow, and they show how good they are at drawing the body and face in various poses.

There is one oddball episode in the bunch: episode 15. It was sakkan'd by the Studio Z5 team of Hideyuki Motohashi and Chiharu Sato. It stands out for the more Kanada-style effects work and mecha posing and the way the characters are drawn in a more 'bikei' character style that is obviously the work of Hideyuki Motohashi.

On the directing side of things, the series features episode storyboarding/ directing work by Tetsuro Amino early in his career, prior to debuting as a series director. Other storyboarders/directors include Takashi Imanishi, who I mentioned in my post on Votoms, and Katsuyoshi Yatabe, who went on to direct many of the same Sunrise 'yuusha' shows I mentioned earlier. Toshifumi Takizawa pays a brief surprise visit in episodes 12 and 17 as storyboarder, and as usual, his episodes stand out for their more cinematic feeling. Episode 12 in particular is a very fine Takizawa episode, while in episode 17 the combination of Takizawa's storyboard and Toru Yoshida's fantastic mecha animation makes for riveting viewing. I think the series would have benefited from his more serious style of directing, but obviously he was busy with other projects.

The final OVA

The final OVA is a combination of footage from the last TV episode with new footage interspersed to flesh out the scenes that they had not had enough time to elaborate upon. The character animation appears to have been re-drawn, but the mecha animation was re-used.

For the new bits, there are some impressive mecha action sequences. Okiura surprisingly didn't animate any mecha scenes, although some of the footage he animated for the final TV episode (the part where Layzner is flying through space surrounded by a halo at the very end) was re-used in the OVA. He animated the fistfight in the cylinder. This is because he was too busy at the time working on Black Magic M-66. The mecha sequences were presumably animated primarily by Toru Yoshida, Sawako Yamamoto, Hiroshi Osaka and perhaps some others including Hiroshi Koizumi of Dove. Toru Yoshida is only credited as an animation director alongside Moriyasu Taniguchi and Kishi Fumiko, but this presumably means mecha sakkan.

I'll close by noting that you can see future director and producer Shinichiro Watanabe and Masahiko Minami here in the credits as animation runners. Both started out as runners at Sunrise before evolving in their respective directions.


Blue Comet SPT Layzner 蒼き流星SPTレイズナー (TV series, 38 eps, 1985-1986)

StoryboardDirectorSakkanKey Animators
1あかい星にてアニメ・アール Anime R
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
岩村幸子 Sachiko Iwamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
2彼の名はエイジスタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
高橋幸治 Koji Takahashi
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
3その瞳を信じて長崎重信 Shigenobu Nagasaki
布告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
杉山東夜美 Mayami Sugiyama
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase伊東誠 Makoto Ito
4心のこしての脱出谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
横山健次 Kenji Yokoyama

アド・コスモ Ad Cosmo
直井正博 Masahiro Naoi
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
5まもられても、なお…スタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
高橋幸治 Koji Takahashi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani

遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
6とり残されてアニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
岩村幸子 Sachiko Iwamura
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
7血はあかかったアニメ・アール Anime R
中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
8彼の叫びに応えて寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
佐藤千春 Chiharu Sato
杉山東夜美 Mayami Sugiyama
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
9生きる道を求めて長崎重信 Shigenobu Nagasaki
遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
布告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe桜井美知代 Michiyo Sakurai
10エイジ!?と呼んだスタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
高橋幸治 Koji Takahashi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase
江上潔 Kiyoshi Ekami
八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
11地球の艦が来た!アニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
岩村幸子 Sachiko Iwamura
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
12さよならの赤い星アニメ・アール Anime R
逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa
滝沢敏文 Toshifumi Takizawa今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
13宇宙にむなしくスタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma
中野美佐緒 Misao Nakano
西村誠芳 Nobuyoshi Nishimura
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
14異星人に囚われてアニメ・アール Anime R
村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
15蒼き流星となって遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
佐藤千春 Chiharu Sato
杉山東夜美 Mayami Sugiyama
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi本橋秀之 Hideyuki Motohashi
佐藤千春 Chiharu Sato
16月よ!こたえてアニメ・アール Anime R
逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa

青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
長崎重信 Shigenobu Nagasaki
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino江上潔 Kiyoshi Ekami谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
17群がる殺人機アニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
岩村幸子 Sachiko Iwamura
滝沢敏文 Toshifumi Takizawa加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
18そして地球へスタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma
中野美佐緒 Misao Nakano
西村誠芳 Nobuyoshi Nishimura
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
19とどかぬ想いアニメ・アール Anime R
村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise

遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
杉山東夜美 Mayami Sugiyama
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
20レイズナーの怒りアニメ・アール Anime R
逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa

青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
21我が名はフォロンアニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
岩村幸子 Sachiko Iwamura

長崎重信 Shigenobu Nagasaki
佐藤千春 Chiharu Sato
長谷川浩司 Hiroshi Hasegawa
加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
22フォロンとの対決スタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma
中野美佐緒 Misao Nakano
西村誠芳 Nobuyoshi Nishimura
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino江上潔 Kiyoshi Ekami八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
23奇跡を求めてビーボォー Bebow
沢田正人 Masato Sawada
筱雅律 Masanori Shino
南伸一郎 Shinichiro Minami
山下明彦 Akihiko Yamashita
山本正文 Masafumi Yamamoto

遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
佐藤千春 Chiharu Sato
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe中村悟 Satoru Nakamura
24光になったエイジアニメ・アール Anime R
村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise

スタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
25駆けぬけた宇宙
高橋良輔 Ryosuke Takahashi
26時は流れた!アニメ・アール Anime R
逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa
加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
27華麗なるル・カインスタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
藁谷均 Hitoshi Waratani
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma
中野美佐緒 Misao Nakano
西村誠芳 Nobuyoshi Nishimura
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe江上潔 Kiyoshi Ekami八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
28クスコの聖女アニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
野中幸 Ko Nonaka
今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
29再会・謎の招待状アニメ・アール Anime R
村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise
大島康広 Yasuhiro Oshima
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
30ベイブル奪回作戦青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
佐藤千春 Chiharu Sato
杉山東夜美 Mayami Sugiyama
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino藤本義孝 Yoshitaka Fujimoto谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
31仕組まれた聖戦スタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma

宇津木勇 Isamu Utsuki
阿部和彦 Kazuhiko Abe
山田浩嗣 Hirotsugu Yamada
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
32ああ、ゴステロビーボォー Bebow
矢木正之 Masayuki Yaki
辻清光 Kiyomitsu Tsuji
筱雅律 Masanori Shino
河上裕 Yutaka Kawakami
山根理宏 Masahiro Yamane
山下明彦 Akihiko Yamashita
佐藤敬一 Keiichi Sato
小曽根正美 Masami Kosone
沢田正人 Masato Sawada
加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase沢田正人 Masato Sawada
33死鬼隊の挑戦アニメ・アール Anime R
逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino江上潔 Kiyoshi Ekami谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
34狙われたアンナアニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
野中幸 Ko Nonaka
小森高博 Takahiro Komori
知吹愛弓 Ayumi Tomobuki今西隆志 Takashi Imanishi貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi

Mecha sakkan: 吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
35グラドスの刻印スタジオ・ダブ Studio Dove
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
佐久間信一 Shinichi Sakuma

遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
山内貴美子 Kimiko Yamauchi
臼田美夫 Yoshio Usuda
加藤義貴 Yoshitaka Kato
川手浩次 Hirotsugu Kawate藤本義孝 Yoshitaka Fujimoto八幡正 Tadashi Yahata
36敵V-MAX発動アニメ・アール Anime R
村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
中島美子 Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子 Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉 Kazuchika Kise
大島康広 Yasuhiro Oshima
網野哲郎 Tetsuro Amino加瀬充子 Nobuko Kase村中博美 Hiromi Muranaka
37エイジ対ル・カイン青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi

ビーボォー Bebow
矢木正之 Masayuki Yaki
沢田正人 Masato Sawada
河上裕 Yutaka Kawakami
山根理宏 Masahiro Yamane
谷田部勝義 Katsuyoshi Yatabe谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi
38歪む宇宙アニメ・アール Anime R
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
吉田徹 Toru Yoshida
井上哲 Tetsu Inoue
逢坂浩司 Hiroshi Osaka
山田香 Kaoru Yamada
浜川修二郎 Shujiro Hamakawa
高橋良輔 Ryosuke Takahashi江上潔 Kiyoshi Ekami谷口守泰 Moriyasu Taniguchi

Mecha sakkan: 沖浦啓之 Hiroyuki Okiura

Blue Comet SPT Layzner ACT-III: The Seal 2000
蒼き流星SPTレイズナー ACT-III 刻印2000
(OVA, October 21, 1986)

Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Character Design:谷口守泰Moriyasu Taniguchi
Mechanical Design:大河原邦男Kunio Okawara
Storyboard:網野哲郎Tetsuro Amino
加瀬充子Nobuko Kase
Technical Director:加瀬充子Nobuko Kase
Animation Directors:谷口守泰Moriyasu Taniguchi
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
貴志夫美子Fumiko Kishi
Key animators:山田香Kaoru Yamada
野中幸Ko Nonaka
沖浦啓之Hiroyuki Okiura
逢坂浩司Hiroshi Osaka
 
浜川修二郎Shujiro Hamakawa
井上哲Tetsu Inoue
糸島雅彦Masahiko Itojima
佐々木一浩Kazuhiro Sasaki
小森高博Takahiro Komori
 
村中博美Hiromi Muranaka
中島美子Miko Nakajima
山本佐和子Sawako Yamamoto
黄瀬和哉Kazuchika Kise
大島康広Yasuhiro Ohshima
 
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano

Thursday, June 7, 2012

04:23:00 pm , 680 words, 6761 views     Categories: Animation, TV, Lupin III

Lupin III: A Woman Called Fujiko Mine #9

Lupin and Jigen save a mute tattooed girl from the inexplicable wrath of a possessed Fujiko as the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. They're in no rush to disclose the gimmick too quickly, though, and we don't learn much new information in this episode aside from seeing just how deeply disturbed and disturbing a character Fujiko is in this version, seemingly driven mad by her inner demons. The script even makes a joke about how slow the revelation is coming, when Jigen, voicing the audience's impatience, asks Lupin to confess what he knows about Fujiko, but Lupin rejoinders tauntingly in the voice of the writers, "I'm not going to give it away that easily."

Aside from more of the same disturbing flashback sequences, I fairly enjoyed this episode. The whole episode proceeded in the form of an extended action sequence that was fairly well paced and choreographed and entertaining to watch. The production values remained stolid at best, but were probably above average for this series.

Lupin and Jigen got a lot of screentime and exchanged entertaining banter. The dynamic felt good, like in the old Lupin. Their behavior and actions also brought alive their personalities well. The sequence at the beginning with a disheartened Jigen trying and failing to win a prize at the shooting gallery was funny in the spirit of the old Lupin, and the story about the freak show actually being a pretense for a secret auction reminded of a similar setup in an episode in the first series. Not to mention there were several smuggled goods auction plots in the second series. The script was written by main writer Mari Okada.

The only odd thing about the episode was Fujiko, unsurprisingly, who behaved like a bizarre stone-faced zombie the whole time, like a sexy Terminator out to kill the girl for some unknown reason. We never even find out why in the end. The trauma of some kind of sexual or physical assault is hinted to underpin her personality in this show, a serious subject that sits uncomfortably beside the old Lupin gang antics.

The storyboarder was Yoshitomo Yonetani. He's a veteran from the 1980s who started out at Toei and did a lot of work for Shin-Ei, but I'm not very familiar with his work. I haven't seen almost any of his work until this, but in looking him up I read that one of the recurring motifs in his work is foreigners speaking bad Japanese, and what do you know, there are foreigners speaking bad Japanese in this episode. There isn't really any narrative need for that scene to have been there, so it's obviously his trademark that he wanted to insert. Kind of a lame trademark, if you ask me. I like how he managed to create fairly interesting action throughout the episode. The action scene on the gondola was pretty nice. It's a great idea for an action scene. It's just that the scene lacks tension for some reason, perhaps because he didn't process his own storyboard, or because the animation of those scenes isn't very dynamic. I particularly liked how during the chase at the onsen in the second half Lupin is constantly making wisecracks and pulling faces, never taking it all seriously. Also, the avant jazz music complemented this scene very well.

There was one bit of animation that caught my eye. It's where the movement suddenly turns to ones in slo-mo as Lupin, Jigen and the girl run away from Fujiko in the room. It was strangely out of place and unexpected, although Yonetani did storyboard much of the action in this episode using slo-mos. That seems to be his style. Their run down the corridor right afterwards also had a nice feeling to the timing. Yonetani even inserted one more joke about gaijins in Japan during this chase, as the group leaps into a room where a gaijin is dancing with a geisha. This guy really has a weird obsession with making fun of gaijins in Japan. Which I can't really fault him.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

01:49:00 am , 1886 words, 3881 views     Categories: Animation, Anime R

Anime games

I don't play games anymore, but I'm interested in the dynamic between animation and games. Games owe a lot to animation. Yoichi Kotabe brought Mario alive. Animated openings to games remain common, and many narrative-style games incorporate cut-scene animation (Popolocrois IMO being the crowning example), but most interesting to me are games where the actual game play consists of hand-drawn animation. LD games were the first of this kind.

After the release of Don Bluth's groundbreaking Dragon's Lair laserdisc arcade game in 1983, there was a brief fad for this new format up until about 1985, when it fizzled out due presumably to the limitations of the gameplay. Between 1983 and 1985, several Japanese games were made in the same mold as Dragon's Lair using LD technology. Although obviously none of them were anything near the level of the amazing animation in Bluth's game, some of them had impressive animation.

Initially, in 1983, the releases were hacked together from previously extisting movies: Cliffhanger from bits of Cagliostro (and also Yuzo Aoki's car chase scene from Mamo) and Bega's Battle from Harmageddon (Yamato and Galaxy Express 999 also later got this treatment), but in 1984 they started putting out original titles. Some of these like Ninja Hayate and Badlands had bad animation and generally sloppy production of the kind you'd expect from a cheap knockoff made as a quick cash-in, but Cobra Command, Road Blaster and Time Gal had impressive animation.

Time Gal (1985, Taito/Junio, Arcade LD Game)
Director:今沢哲男Tetsuo Imazawa
Character Designer:我妻宏Hiroshi Wagatsuma
Animation Director:毛利和昭Kazuaki Mouri
Animators:毛利和昭Kazuaki Mouri
井上俊之Toshiyuki Inoue
うつのみやさとるSatoru Utsunomiya
...?...

Full Game Play: Past - Present - Future

Time Gal is my favorite of the Japanese LD games. It features a girl travelling around different eras of history, riding on the wings of Zero fighters, fighting pirates, dodging asteroids and aliens and dinosaurs and giant robots. Stylistically it's closest of the Japanese laserdisc games to the Don Bluth originals. It's a lighthearted romp starring a spunky heroine running around evading various colorful enemies, whereas the other games tend to be dry affairs without humor or personality, with you just driving or flying around shooting things. The creators admit to deliberately modeling Time Gal after Space Ace.

Time Gal also has some of the best animation of any of the Japanese LD games. The animation comes courtesy of none other than the selfsame Kazuaki Mouri I just talked about, who was the animation director. In addition, the animators include no less than Toshiyuki Inoue and Satoru Utsunomiya. The animation appears to have been produced by Studio Junio (The Fox of Chironup, Hermes, Wings of Love), although they are not credited, because the director and animation director are Junio people, and of course Toshiyuki Inoue was at Junio at the time. As it happens, so was Utsunomiya. He had apparently just joined Junio because he admired Inoue's animation on Gu-Gu Ganmo and wanted to work near Inoue. These two had an interesting rivalry going at the time. Inoue had similarly become aware of Utsunomiya at the same time. He had wondered who the amazing animator was behind the good genga he'd seen turned in on Around the World in 80 Days, whose chief animation director was Junio founder Takao Kosai, and later discovered it to be Utsunomiya.

The game has 16 stages, five each of which take place in the past, the present and the future. Satoru Utsunomiya's section is Stage 4 with the mammoth, while Toshiyuki Inoue animated Stage 7 with the god of death, as well as possibly Stage 13 with the giant robot in the tunnel and Stage 16 with the last boss.

I particularly like Inoue's stage with the giant zombie skeleton swinging a scythe. The forms are beautiful and the timing feels incredible, and the whole thing takes place in the middle of this slow animated panning effect, as if it wasn't challenging enough to just draw the action by itself and he wanted to pose himself the further challenge of maintaining proper proportion and perspective in motion. It's a great snapshot of just how amazing an animator Toshiyuki Inoue already was at this early stage in his career. (he had just debuted a year before)

Satoru Utsunomiya's brief but intense segment with the mammoth is quite an eye-opener and reveals a side of him that we're not used to seeing anymore. This was before he developed the distinctive solid style for which he's become known. At this stage he was still drawing very wild and free animation full of comically exaggerated effects and timing.

I suspect Kazuaki Mouri may have animated some of the other sections, but I don't know for sure. The very first stage with the dinosaurs, for example, has some very nice movement that was perhaps of Mouri's hand.

Cobra Command (1984, Data East/Toei, Arcade LD Game)
Director:高山秀樹Hideki Takayama
松浦錠平Johei Matsuura
Animation Director:亀垣一Hajime Kamegaki
Assistant Animation Director:今隅眞一Shinichi Imakuma
Animators:亀垣一Hajime Kamegaki
白土武Takeshi Shirato
白浦烈Baik Nam Yeul
佐々木正光Masamitsu Sasaki
大島城次Joji Ohshima
八島義孝Yoshitaka Yajima
本橋秀之Hideyuki Motohashi
青鉢芳信Yoshinobu Aohachi
Road Blaster (1985, Data East/Toei, Arcade LD Game)
Director:高山秀樹Hideki Takayama
Chief Key Animator:稲野義信Yoshinobu Inano
Background Design:Yoshiyuki Yamamoto
Animators:白浦烈Baik Nam Yeul
今隅眞一Shinichi Imakuma
的場茂夫Shigeo Matoba
金大中Kim Dae Jung
Kaoru Shinbo

Full Game Play: Cobra Command - Road Blaster

These two titles were produced by Data East, who farmed the animation out to Toei. Toei had actually prior to this been put in charge of the animation of Ninja Hayate, but they had really botched that one. These two are in a different league. Both are challenging and fast-paced games packed with nonstop action. The animation also doesn't stop in either one. There isn't a still moment - every moment is animated, because the motion of the vehicles is all depicted by hand-drawn animation.

It would have been inconceivable to animate a conventional anime production the way these are. Storyboarding long shots that go on for upwards of a minute and consist entirely of nonstop animated backgrounds would have been a sure ticket to being fired. These games were in a unique position of being able to be lavished with an unprecedented density of animation for a Japanese production. There were occasional moments in TV productions where a wild animator like Masahito Yamashita would create a crazy sequence of background animation, but these games pushed background animation to a whole new level.

The person behind the quality of Cobra Command was Hajime Kamegaki, the Kanada-school animator who together with Hideyuki Motohashi (here also present as an animator) did so much good work on TV shows in the 1980s from their legendary Studio Z5.

The person behind the quality of Road Blaster was Yoshinobu Inano, one of the greatest animators nobody has ever heard of. He was one of the most talented animators at Toei in the late 1970s/early 1980. He pioneered a unique kind of quasi-realistic animation that went on to influence many later great animators including Mitsuo Iso. You can see his style most clearly in the opening of the game where the punks wreak havoc in the city, sending bystanders running.

Captain Power: Battle Training (1988, 3 VHS tapes, AIC)
Animation Directors:大平晋也Shinya Ohira
矢野淳Atsushi Yano
Key Animators:Vol. 1
西井正典Masanori Nishii
伊藤浩二Koji Ito
田野雅祥Masayoshi Tano
生亀信幸Nobuyuki Namakame
山中英治Eiji Yamanaka
Vol. 2 & 3
逢坂浩司Hiroshi Osaka
毛利和昭Kazuaki Mouri
糸島雅彦Masahiko Itojima
濱川修二郎Shujiro Hamakawa
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
沖浦啓之Hiroyuki Okiura
貴志芙美子Fumiko Kishi
太田雅三Yuzo Ohta
伊良原正也Masaya Irahara
山中英治Eiji Yamanaka

By 1988 when the three VHS tapes of this game were released, LD anime games were dead. This game is basically just straight animation without any branching or death scenes. You were supposed to aim your toy gun at the screen and a sensor in the gun would detect when you had properly targeted the flashing missiles on the screen and eject the pilot from your toy if you had not.

Captain Power: Battle Training picks up where the latter two titles left off: it's one long, extended, nonstop torrent of background animation and explosions. I'd go so far as to say it's the crowning achievement in background/effects animation in anime. Where the previous two titles were actually pretty iffy in a lot of the background animation, almost all of the BG animation here is impressive, and much of it is downright stunning. I already wrote about this a long time ago, so I won't re-hash my gushing, but I really love this thing. It's my bible of anime FX animation.

Shinya Ohira is of course the big name behind the incredible beauty and power of the animation here, but the fact is that he was backed up by some of the best mecha and effects animators of the day. Most significantly, Anime R was behind the animation of parts 2 and 3. Hiroshi Osaka, Fumiko Kishi, Masahiko Itojima, Hiroyuki Okiura, Toru Yoshida, Kazuaki Mouri - all the best Anime R animators worked on parts two and three. That makes this another great introduction to the style of Anime R at their peak after U-GAIM (and SPT Layzner if you have a little more time to spare), although in this one it can be a little difficult to distinguish between the Anime R bits and the Ohira bits.

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, the entirety of Captain Power: Battle Training can be viewed online.

Yarudora series (1998-2000, 6 volumes, Production I.G, PS & PS2)

Vol. 1: Double Cast (1998, PS)
Vol. 2: Kisetsu wo Dakishimete (1998, PS)
Vol. 3: Sampaguita (1998, PS)
Vol. 4: Yukiwari no Hana (1998, PS)
Vol. 5: Scandal (2000, PS2)
Vol. 6: Blood: The Last Vampire (2000, PS2)

Many years after the LD game boom, Production I.G. picked up the torch of animated games with their Yarudora series from 1998-2000, plugging animation into the popular formula of anime-styled but illustration-based sim games. Rather than a reflex-based adventure game where you were dodging foes like in the early days, this time you were guiding your character through a complicated story. You made choices at key junctures, which led to different possible outcomes: anime via Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. The stories were alternately psychological and violent. The last two volumes Scandal and Blood were action outings as opposed to the more psychological preceding quartet.

The highlight of the series is Yukiwari no Hana, which looked very different from all of the other volumes due to the beautiful Jin-Roh-esque pared-down realistic character designs and dark-hued visual concept of Masatsugu Arakawa. I'd still like to see more anime that look like this.

The last outing in the Yarudora series was a game tie-in with Hiroyuki Kitakubo's Blood: The Last Vampire movie. In a curious coincidence, it happened to be Shinya Ohira's comeback to animation after several years of absence. He animated the scene here and his style is unmistakable. The animation is reminiscent of Hamaji, which was the last thing he had done before leaving the industry a few years earlier. Anime games have marked two significant points in Ohira's career - the peak of his FX period and the start of his current character-as-FX period.

Bringing things full-circle, Ohira was even behind the next step in the evolution of animated gaming: He directed a playable animated stage of the recent Asura's Wrath game that is not only a monumental new piece of animation in its own right (a worthy companion piece to Wanwa), but that also pushes the neglected genre of traditional animated gaming forward into the new millennium, with its more involved gameplay and the fact that it is an online download. The short seems to hark back to the LD games of yore, since it involves an extended sequence of fast action requiring quick reflexes.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

10:20:00 pm , 1140 words, 3510 views     Categories: Animation, Pilot, Anime R

Pony Metal U-GAIM

Pilots are among my favorite form in anime. From the Lupin pilot to Tomonaga's Nemo pilot, many pilots are amazing creations that have become classic shorts in their own right. They capture the full energy of the staff in the early stages of enthusiasm for a production before they hit the brick wall of deadline and production-floor reality that often makes the actual production pale in comparison.

Pilots for productions that eventually got made usually see the light of day, like Masaaki Yuasa's Nanchatte Vampiyan pilot, which is a classic instance of the pilot being better than the actual production turned out to be.

Pilots for productions that fizzled, though, often never do, or are taking eternally long to do so - as is the case for Mahiro Maeda's R20 Galactic Airport pilot and Umanosuke Iida's Spirit pilot. There's every possibility the reason they remain unreleased is because they're not impressive, but the inability to see them makes you curious. Many items that remained hidden for years turned out to be amazing when re-discovered.

I just discovered another pilot for a production that never got the green light that is a shining example of the pilot form: Pony Metal U-GAIM. Watch it here.

The 3-minute pilot was produced in 1986. It's not difficult to see why this pilot didn't get produced. It's actually difficult to believe that a show with this premise was seriously being pitched. It almost seems like they just did it as a parody for fun.

The story is apparently a crossover between Heavy Metal L-Gaim and Creamy Mami. The heroine of magical girl show Creamy Mami, Yuu Morisawa, was killed in a car accident, and like Tetsuwan Atom, she is brought back to life by her genius scientist father in the form of a super-powerful crime-fighting robot.

What makes this pilot great is that it's 100% Anime R, and was produced by Anime R at the height of its powers, so it's packed full of Anime R goodness. Anime R's work is mostly buried in Sunrise robot shows from the 80s that don't get much play from fans anymore, so they've never received their due respect over here (though the same could be said for many great subcontractors of yore). This pilot offers a dense summation of what made Anime R great, so it's the perfect introduction to this studio.

The actual animation only lasts for 1 1/2 minutes, but it's all very densely packed and lovingly produced. All of the big names at Anime R at the time were involved, including Kazuaki Mouri, Hiroyuki Okiura, Toru Yoshida and Hiroshi Osaka. Oddly enough, Hiroyuki Kitakubo even helped a bit with the animation. This was just a year before Kitakubo turned to Okiura and Anime R to do the heavy animation lifting on his Black Magic M-66. Mouri had previously helped on Kitakubo's Pop Chaser under a pseudonym.

Everything that made R great is packed in here: quasi-realistic and lovingly animated mecha, missiles and explosions, insanely detailed shrapnel, and crazy-ass idiosyncratic character animation, all of which is unified by its consummate craftsmanship.

The most obvious section is Hiroyuki Okiura's section. This was only his second year as a key animator, but it didn't take long for his animation to stand out. Right from the beginning in SPT Layzner in 1985 his animation stood out for its more realistic style and the incredible density of his drawings and animation. You can see that clearly in the scene here where the robot erupts up from the pavement, with the fluid movement, very detailed depiction of the cement cracking into little bits, and the more realistic style of the animation as opposed to the more playful and deformed style of other parts of the pilot. Compare it with the two shots Okiura animated for the opening of the Zillion TV series the next year in 1987. He drew those shots smack when he was super-busy working on Black Magic M-66. One of Okiura's identifying traits at this period was that he drew crazy-detailed fragments, and the fragments had this way of just disappearing in mid-air. He presumably learned this from Takashi Nakamura, one of his great influences at the time.

The episode is also filled with nice explosions and other effects work, presumably much of it of the hand of Toru Yoshida, although the effects work does not look like what I've seen of his very early work in Votoms. His effects work appears to have evolved very quickly over the ensuing years.

What I most like about this pilot, though, is that it provides the key to Kazuaki Mouri's style. He was the character designer, animation director and lead animator, so it's really Mouri's baby. Mouri's section is also extremely obvious, but you have to know what you're looking for. I suspect Mouri drew the opening scene with the bystanders, the shot of the father operating his crazy machine, and the shot of the two dudes running. If you look at the bystanders, they are drawn in a very distinctive way that is without any doubt of the same hand as the animator who drew the arcade brawl scene in episode 1 of Sukeban Deka that I wondered about in my post on this 1991 OVA, where Mouri was credited. The style of movement of the father operating the machine also reminds of the style of movement in the Sukeban Deka scene. I'd like to find at least another piece Mouri worked on where this style is evident to feel totally convinced it's him, but it seems fairly likely. The action here also has the speedy feeling of the action in Dragon Slayer, where Mouri was the combat supervisor.

Mouri is something of an opening specialist, having animated quite a few near-single-handedly, including SPT Layzner (1985, with Toru Yoshida), Mister Ajikko (1987, with Masahiro Kase), Samurai Troopers (1988, with Moriyasu Taniguchi) and Carimero (1992), as well as directing the opening of Taa-chan (1993). Mouri left Anime R and joined Group Tac in 1989, which is where he did the latter two items. He is another great Anime R animator deserving of more recognition.

Kazuaki Mouri select works
Ideon (1982)
Tetsujin 28 (1981)
Dougram (1981)
Game Center Arashi (1982)
Sasuga no Sarutobi (1982)
Votoms (1983)
Ranpo (1984)
Bismark (1985)
Pop Chaser OVA (1985)
Karuizawa Syndrome OVA (1985)
Genmu Senki Leda OVA (1985)
Dream Hunger Rem OVAs (1985-1992) CD
Dancougar (1985)
SPT Layzner (1985)
Gu-Gu Ganmo movie (1985)
Pastel Yumi (1986)
Windaria movie (1986)
Zillion (1987)
Black Magic M-66 OVA (1987)
Mister Ajikko (1987) Char des/sakkan chief
Watt Poe OVA (1988)
Cleopatra DC OVA (1988)
Five Star Stories movie (1989)
Moomin Adventure Diary (1991)
Dragon Slayer OVA (1991)
Yadamon (1992)
Moldiver (1992)
Nintama Rantaro (1993)
Biograpy of Gusko Budori movie (1993)
Fatal Fury movie (1994)
Irresponsible Captain Tylor (1994)
Tobe! Isami (1995) Character designer
Voogie's Angel OVA (1997)

Pony Metal U-GAIM (Pilot, 3 mins, 1986, Anime R)

Producer:大町光徳Mitsunori Ohmachi
Created by:Project-U
Char Design & Sakkan:毛利和昭Kazuaki Mouri
Mechanic Design Assist:山下育人Ikuto Yamashita
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
明貴美加Mika Akitaka
今南二Nanji Kon
Art:横瀬直士Naoshi Yokose
Key Animation:毛利和昭Kazuaki Mouri
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
沖浦啓之Hiroyuki Okiura
柳沢まさひでMasahide Yanagisawa
逢坂浩司Hiroshi Osaka
北久保弘之 (ゲスト)Hiroyuki Kitakubo (Guest)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

10:45:00 pm , 725 words, 2444 views     Categories: Animation, TV, Lupin III

Lupin III: A Woman Called Fujiko Mine #8

There goes my punctual schedule of blogging this series each week. But I'm not going to give up like I did on Denno Coil. I'm going to catch up. There's not much left to go anyway.

The story this time is about a fortune-teller who supposedly can predict the date of a person's death. There have been a few fortune-teller stories in the old shows, and the main character here is a little reminiscent of Pycal from episode 2 of the first show, the famous foe whose magic powers were the product of technological trickery. The nice thing about this episode is that it's a fairly intriguing story, and it manages to involve Lupin and Jigen in addition to Fujiko. I wouldn't say I exactly loved the episode - it was a little slow and the quality was typically low - but at least it was written in a way that forces you to pay close attention.

The thing I liked about this episode is that Lupin was Lupin-like, with his Monkey Delivery Service rescue of Jigen, disguise, comical cooking scene (his gnocci didn't look very appetizing), and the way he sees right through the fortune-teller's tricks and describes various ways of killing someone on a foretold date. Also, starting with this episode Lupin and Jigen seem to begin to warm to each other and develop into their familiar odd couple relationship.

The story was not bad, but I found the script a little confusing. Even after watching it a second time knowing what was about to happen, I was still lost. There were a lot of oblique references to plot points the audience has no way of knowing as of yet, obviously meant to prompt speculation. It feels like they went a little too far into the ellipsis. The scriptwriter is Junji Nishimura, who has been a director all his career. It seems he started writing scripts in the last few years. It's not a bad script, it's just really challenging to follow, partly because so much of what's mentioned you have no way of knowing.

Beginning with this episode, the show is finally bringing the back-story into focus. Only hints have been dropped here and there so far in the flashbacks about what exactly went on in Fujiko's past, but this episode finally reveals the name of the mysterious owl-man character who seems to have done something unwholesome to Fujiko when she was a little girl, and hints at a complicated web of control and manipulation involving the fortune-teller, Fujiko, Lupin and the owl-man. This Fujiko back-story seems to be the whole point of the show, so it feels weird to me that they only drop hints about it stammeringly for 3/4 of the series rather than diving right into it, and finally begin actual storytelling just a few episodes from the ending.

I like that Fujiko has been decisively given a refreshingly more complex personality. She's not an easy character to read. The problem is I find the directing of her personality a little erratic and inconsistent. I think they need to be prepared to follow things through with elaborate detailing of the intricacies of her thought process if they're going to bother to do a radical overhaul. It feels to me like they're skimping on the difficult character writing pretending that they're just being stylish and subtle about it. If Fujiko is to be perfectly OK with cold-bloodedly shooting the guards in the face when there probably wasn't any need for her to do so, which is obviously pretty shocking, then her personality has to have been elaborated in a way that her doing so makes sense. As it is, that scene just comes out of the blue, and passes without any comment by the directing. Even Jigen says he doesn't want to have to pull the trigger unless absolutely necessary. I got a similar feeling of confusion when Oscar, a police officer, casually menaces to kill one of the other officers in an early episode, and the directing treats this as if that were completely normal and acceptable.

The animation was as weak as usual. Sadly, it's clear that a low level of animation is the norm for this series. They must really have had no schedule for this show. At this rate, we'll be lucky if we get one more really well-animated episode.

Friday, June 1, 2012

12:51:00 am , 6777 words, 7120 views     Categories: Animation, OVA, TV, Anime R, Dove, Toshifumi Takizawa

Votoms

In the shadow of Gundam, one of the most successful and long-lived of Sunrise's real robot shows has been Armored Trooper Votoms. I finally had the opportunity to watch Votoms for the first time just recently, and find it still holds up very well after all these years, especially as a contrast with the overwrought style of Yoshiyuki Tomino. Where Yoshiyuki Tomino's Gundam is filled with flamboyant intergalatic drama and angst and robotic heroics, Ryosuke Takahashi's Votoms is earthy and dark and anti-heroic.

Watching Votoms made me realize what I found tiresome about Sunrise's shows: they're always full of kids, and the drama is hence full of puerile antics and melodrama. Votoms is refreshing because all of its characters are adults, and the drama is for the most part cool and restrained and intimate rather than grandiose and theatrical. It's one of the great classics of hard-boiled realistic sci-fi in anime.

The protagonist of Votoms is a cold-hearted soldier by trade, not a kid forced against his will into battle. Where the kid protagonists of the various Gundam outings are against war initially but eventually seem to succumb to the temptation of glory and become heroes, the protagonist of Votoms, Chirico Cuvie, is an anti-hero from the outset: a stone-faced soldier with blood on his hands who finds himself most alive in the heat of battle. Rather than the violence-glorifying heroic action of a Star Wars, the world of Votoms seems closer to the inglorious mud and blood of a Vietnam war film like Apocalypse Now. Flag is one of the best anime of recent memory, with its realistic style and believable geopolitical drama, and the roots of the war documentary style of Flag go back to Votoms.

What I like about the show is that it's one of the most original amid the huge crowd of 1980s robot shows. The characters are all adults, and are for the most part relatable without behaving in an unduly exaggerated way. The story is a refreshing change from the cliched Sunrise formula. Rather than being a grandiose space opera filled with philosophical banter, the essence of the show is a small-scale story about the dirty everyday life of soldiers. The eternally defiant protagonist embodies a kind of anarchic heroism out to destroy all hegemony. There is a lot of good animation throughout the show's various outings. It's a pleasure to finally be able to discover this gem of a saga.

The story of Votoms is simple in outline: The mercenary Chirico seeks the truth behind why he was betrayed by his comrades, and eventually this transforms into a quest to discover the truth of his own identity. Many people have written about Votoms in more insightful detail about the show's political overtones and story intricacies than I possibly could, so I'll skip over the details of the story focus on what really interests me, and that's the technique.

Initially broadcast as a one-off TV show from 1983 to 1984, Votoms spawned a nearly overwhelming number of sequels, prequels and offshoots of various lengths and styles, making it a daunting show to dig into, since unlike Gundam most of these actually take place on the same continuum and feature the same characters. I didn't know where to start initially, since a number of the followup OVAs take place before the TV series, but I found it best to go in production order to appreciate how the staff's technique and approach to the material evolved over the years.

The style changes dramatically over the years, since the show has been in production almost continually since 1983 right on down to last year with the most recent outing, Alone Again. Initially it was all hand-drawn, but starting with Pailsen Files in 2007 they switched to using CGI for the robots. This post will focus on everything that was done in the hand-drawn period:

- The TV series (1983-1984)
- The three ensuing one-shot OVAs:
      The Last Red Shoulder (1985)
      Big Battle (1986)
      The Roots of Ambition (1988)
- The 5-episode OVA series The Radiant Heresy (1994-1995)

The only thing I haven't watched from this period is Mellowlink, produced 1988-1989, as it's a side-story not involving Chirico. The CG outings starting with Pailsen Files appear to have been produced by the same team that did Flag.

The animation subcontractors behind Votoms

There are two basic stars of the animation of Votoms: Anime R and Studio Dove. Although other subcontractors worked on the show, these were the two studios whose animators provided the most impressive animation in the series.

In the TV series, Anime R is the real star. Studio Dove is present, but they don't start shining until the later OVAs. The Last Red Shoulder featured good animation from Anime R, Studio Dove, Bebow and Magic Bus. Big Battle and The Roots of Ambition were mostly animated by Studio Dove. Mellowlink was animated by Anime R and Studio Dove. The Radiant Heresy from several years later features a completely different animation staff, so its animation looks and feels distinct within the Votoms saga. The next outing came more than a decade later with Pailsen Files, which had CG mecha.

The escalating quality of the mecha animation in Votoms is a beautiful thing to behold. You can see with each passing year the animators becoming stronger at their craft. Anime R shines in the TV series, Studio Dove shines in the last two one-shot OVAs, and Mellowlink was evenly divided between Anime R and Studio Dove. I have yet to see Mellowlink, but I assume it is the culmination of these respective studios' work on the show.

I've written about Anime R many times in the past (Black Magic M-66, Dragon Slayer, Sukeban Deka), and their work on Votoms is one of their defining moments. It was their work on robot shows like Votoms and then Bismark and SPT Layzner that propelled Osaka-based Anime R to fame as one of the best mecha animation subcontractors in Japan, and THE best animation subcontractor outside of the Tokyo region.

Anime R was one of big supports of Ryosuke Takahashi's Sunrise robot shows. They were involved right from the start with his first 'real robot' show Dougram (1981-1983). They worked on his Votoms (1983-1984), Galient (1984-1985) and SPT Layzner (1985-1986). Incidentally, it was after having proven their mettle on all these Ryosuke Takahashi robot shows that Anime R was called in to work on Black Magic M-66 in 1987.

Founded near the end of the 1970s by Moriyasu Taniguchi 谷口守泰 and Harumi Muranaka 村中博美, the studio initially featured talented animators like Kazuaki Mouri 毛利和昭 and Fumiko Kishi 貴志夫美子 on shows like Ideon and Dougram. It was right around the time of Votoms that many of the names that went on to propel Anime R to fame joined the studio: Hiroyuki Okiura 沖浦啓之, Kazuchika Kise 黄瀬和哉, Hiroshi Osaka 逢坂浩司, Toru Yoshida 吉田徹 and Masahiko Itojima 糸島雅彦. Their work was so impressive that many of these animators left Osaka for Tokyo because they were in such demand. Although Anime R is in the distant past for them, without Anime R we might not have gotten some of our best animators.

The Votoms TV series (1983-1984)

The defining characteristic of the show is of course the unusual mecha. Rather than one-shots like a Gundam, the scope dog in Votoms is a mass-production model. So although some might be customized with different weapons, they're all essentially just mass-production bipedal armed military vehicles. Hence they don't have the heroic nuance of a Gundam. The unique scope design is also quite interesting and refreshing, as I always found robots with faces ludicrous.

This doesn't change the fundamental fact that this show was a commercial to sell robot toys, but at least the robots were a refreshing change from the typical humanoid robots. The various details of the mecha such as the pivoting action and camera lens-inspired eyepiece were clever and made the mecha feel like a military weapon where each part had a practical use, rather than a hero robot whose parts were just there to look cool. The scary-looking infrared goggles the pilots have to wear also added to the impression of utilitarian accuracy in the paraphernalia, not to mention creating a sort of emotional distance appropriate to the more emotionally stark atmosphere.

The irony is that the toys saved the show. Ratings were low, but strong toy sales saved the show from being canceled. I would have thought they wouldn't have sold because they're not the kind of cool toys I wanted as a kid - I loved transforming toys like the Autobots and Transformers.

The TV series is roughly divided into three arcs: episodes 1-13, 14-26, and 28-52. Each arc has a different tone and setting. The first is a Blade Runner-esque story set in a future overrun by motorcycle punks, the second is a Vietnam war movie-style story, and the third is in more of a conventional Sunrise space opera style reminiscent of Ideon.

My favorite by far is the second arc, the Vietnam arc, and that's where I feel the show shows its true potential and intent. I feel like this is what Ryosuke Takahashi really wanted to do with this material. I wish the entire series had been like this arc. The other arcs we've seen done to death in other shows, but there's nothing quite like the Vietnam arc of Votoms in any other anime. Rather than a space opera or post-apocalyptic action movie, it's a realistic and gritty war movie.

Episode 16 I think is the exemplary episode in the Vietnam arc. It tells a story similar to what we've seen in Vietnam war movies like Apocalypse Now, and focuses on the whole guerrilla war aspect in a way that none of the other episodes do sufficiently. The team is going upriver when they run across a small village and decide to investigate. The complexity and pathos of the situation comes through well in this episode, with the locals being brutally threatened with execution by the military outsiders because they're suspected of hiding guerrillas. Episode 21 touches on this again with an incident where they investigate a temple and find it to be an arms stockade. It's in the moments inspired by reality like this that the conflict at issue in this arc comes alive the best.

When I feel the show works its best is when the side-characters are absent and we're focused on Chirico and his army platoon. There are three side-characters who show up on and off throughout the show. I never got used to them and continued to find them immensely distracting and annoying. It's the moments in the show that they were absent, particularly during the Vietnam arc, that I liked the show the best. These characters felt like a mindless concession to the convention of comic relief, when this show didn't need any such thing.

The first arc is my least favorite because the post-apocalyptic situation is cliched and the side-characters are particularly annoying. The last arc building towards the climax starts out somewhat boring, but gets interesting eventually despite feeling like it cops out on being a hard-boiled military series in favor of becoming a grand space opera with supernatural overtones.

The sub-plot involving romantic interest Fiana didn't wreck the atmosphere as I thought it would. I thought their relationship worked rather well, especially in episode 29 where it's just Chirico and Fiana. They made an odd but interesting couple, drawn to one another for a reason that is never entirely made clear, and both equally emotionally distant.

The mecha star of Votoms TV: Toru Yoshida

Toru Yoshida was a mecha/fx animator in episodes 14, 22, 29, 33, 39, 46, and 52

With remarkable consistency, he was responsible for the most exciting mecha animation scenes in the show. Almost every episode that I had singled out as having particularly impressive animation I later discovered to have been of the hand of Toru Yoshida. The reason it wasn't immediately obvious to me was that he is not credited in many of the episodes he worked on.

Toru Yoshida had just begun as an inbetweener at Anime R in 1983 working under Kazuaki Mouri on the gag show Sasuga no Sarutobi. Anime R at the time was divided into two sections: one working on Sarutobi and another working on Votoms. Yoshida wound up being called over to work on the Votoms section because Yoshida had drawn some mecha in Sarutobi and Moriyasu Taniguchi suspected Yoshida might be of more use on Votoms.

Although he is credited as an inbetweener for a few episodes, and receives his first genga credit in episodes 33, 39, 46 and 52, Yoshida in fact drew key animation in several episodes prior to this. He drew uncredited key animation in episodes 14, 22 and 29. I had noted the effects animation in these episodes but couldn't for the life of me figure out who was responsible for it. Later on, I discovered that Yoshida confessed on his personal web site to having drawn key animation uncredited on these episodes, and it dawned on me that it was Yoshida who had drawn virtually all of the parts in the show that struck me as being particularly well animated.

Yoshida started out distinctly a Kanada-school animator in terms of his style of FX, presumably influenced by his mentor Kazuaki Mouri, but quickly developed his own very unique take on FX animation that would go on to influence the likes of Shinya Ohira. He is one of the great FX animators of anime history, one of the pioneers of a quasi-realistic approach to FX leavened by thrilling Kanada-style timing and forms.

Episode 14 features some of the earliest good mecha action work on the show, with an exciting scene in the forest at the end full of zippy movement and lively FX. This was Toru Yoshida's uncredited genga debut. Episode 22 features a great battle scene in the river at the climax. Episode 29 has some nicely drawn mecha in space at the end of the episode, though there isn't much action. The first half of episode 33 features the beautiful smoke FX that Yoshida was so good at. Episode 39 features a good battle in the second half with lots of angular effects and lush smoke. Episode 46 is the climax of the show's animation: it's the biggest bash of good animation in the show. If you only check out one episode for the animation, it's this one. It's packed head to toe with great mecha and fx shots.

Just about the only episode with good animation that I can't attribute to Toru Yoshida is episode 27, the climax of the Vietnam arc. It has a number of very cool shots of flowing smoke as well as nice mecha action. Although Bebow is not credited, this was clearly a Bebow episode going by the staff involved, none of whom was involved in any other episode.

In an interesting side-note, Toru Yoshida was apparently one of the inbetweeners of Daicon IV. Yoshida isn't part of the proto-Gainax group, so I didn't see how he could have gotten involved, but it makes a bit more sense knowing that Daicon IV was made as the opening film of the Japan Science Fiction Convention, which was held in Osaka that year.

The character animation star of Votoms TV: Moriyasu Taniguchi



Taniguchi's Chirico versus the standard Shioyama Chirico

Anime R founder Moriyasu Taniguchi acted as the sakkan on all of the Anime R episodes: 2, 9, 14, 22, 29, 33, 39, 46, and 52.

The remarkable thing is how much Taniguchi's drawings stand out. His episodes are one of the classic examples of how a good sakkan can elevate the quality of an episode. His drawings look very different from the original designs by series designer Norio Shioyama, but the funny thing is, they look better. Taniguchi actually upstaged the character designer. His drawings have a much more sharp and refined look in terms of the facial features, and he even invests his character animation with more subtelty and nuance than the other episodes. The characters look and behave in a more convincing way in Taniguchi's episodes than in any of the others. In many of the other episodes, the characters are quite badly drawn, and their acting and expressions don't match what is happening in the script. It's only under Taniguchi's hand that the characters come alive and become more expressive in a way appropriate to the given situation.

Episode 29 is one of the best episodes in the show, with some of the best Taniguchi drawings in the show. It's a superb episode all-over, probably my favorite in the show due to fantastically moody directing by Masashi Ikeda 池田成 that gives the episode real atmosphere and tension. I wish more of the episodes in the show had felt like this episode. I like that the episode features only the two protagonists. There are no other characters to ruin the atmosphere with hijinx or other distractions. On top of that, there are some Toru Yoshida mecha drawings at the end. Masashi Ikeda went on to become the director of the smash hit Samurai Troopers (again with character designer Norio Shioyama) as well as the latest entry in the Votoms saga from last year, Alone Again.

I sense the influence of Tomonori Kogawa in Taniguchi's drawings in such things as the way the eyes are drawn, and in the way he draws the face when looking up at an angle, something Tomonori Kogawa pioneered in Ideon. His drawings just feel better stylized than Norio Shioyama's. Evidence to how highly Ryosuke Takahashi thought of Taniguchi's work is the fact that Taniguchi sakkan'd the last episode, rather than the character designer, as is normal. The series closes with Taniguchi's radical interpretation of the characters, rather than the original character designer's own drawings. Ryosuke Takahashi wound up coming back to Taniguchi and appointing him character designer a few years later for one of his other triumphs, SPT Layzner, in which Anime R provided a tremendous amount of good animation (alongside Dove). Perhaps in honor of Norio Shioyama's generosity with Taniguchi's liberties on Votoms, Taniguchi apparently refused to act as chief animation director on the show to respect the individuality of the individual sakkans.

The directing star of Votoms TV: Toshifumi Takizawa

In addition to being the "chief episode director", Toshifumi Takizawa 滝沢敏文 drew the storyboard for no less than 13 episodes: 4, 6, 9, 13, 18, 27, 30, 33, 35, 38, 45, 51, and 52.

I wrote about Takizawa extensively before in my posts on Dirty Pair and Crusher Joe. I love his directing style, and Votoms is one of his biggest projects from his Sunrise period.

His work on the TV series comes between his early work on Ideon and his work on Dirty Pair. I'm not sure exactly what the nature of his work consisted in this show, but I presume it to have been something along the line of 'director of the episode directors'; maintaining a consistent tone to the episodes by guiding the episode directors. In the episodes he storyboarded you can clearly see his distinct approach to directing at work even though he did not do the actual processing of any of his episodes. The episodes are full of the focus on visual storytelling and forward momentum that made the last Ideon movie so powerful, not to mention the Dirty Pair and Crusher Joe OVAs.

Takizawa drew the storyboards for the climax of the three arcs of the TV series: 13, 27 and 51. Each of these is a great example of his directing style at its finest. He brings each arc to a conclusion in magnificent form with extended action sequences that unfold largely through visual storytelling without relying excessively on dialogue. Episodes 27 and 51 are particularly impressive in this regard.

Votoms OVA 1: The Last Red Shoulder (1985)

The first of the many OVAs to be released came out just a year after the TV series ended. Chronologically, it takes place between the end of the first arc (the Blade Runner-style Udo arc) and the beginning of the second arc (the Vietnam-style Kumen arc).

Story-wise, this is one of my favorite Votoms outings because it doesn't feature any of the annoying side-characters, and it's exclusively about Chirico and his soldier comrades on a mission. This is the episode where they introduce the character of Pailsen, who played a big role in Chirico's past. He just recently got an extensive prequel OVA series with 12 episodes in Pailsen Files, which chronologically is the earliest outing in the saga. It's all quite confusing to try to organize. Here in The Last Red Shoulder, Chirico and his former war buddies go after Pailsen to kill him for using and then discarding them when they were no longer needed.

This episode features some good action animation in the climax, which is presumably of the hand of Toru Yoshida, who here receives his sole Mecha Animation Director credit in the series. (if you don't count Mellowlink) The animation only credits Anime R as a studio without crediting any of the specific animators. Similarly, the credits list Studio Dove, Bebow and Magic Bus without listing who from these studios was involved. Studio Dove was involved in the TV series and went on to do the animation for the next two OVAs, and its star mecha animators were Hiroshi Koizumi 古泉浩司 and Hitoshi Waratani 藁谷均, so perhaps they were the ones involved here. Perhaps the Bebow animators were those in episode 27.

Unfortunately, the episode was not directed by Toshifumi Takizawa because he was busy directing Dirty Pair, but he would come back with the next OVA. It's not as exciting as the Takizawa-directed episodes, but still quite enjoyable.

The assistant technical director here was Takashi Imanishi 今西隆志, who started out as runner on Votoms. He switched career to directing with this episode, going on to become the technical director of Roots of Ambition, episode storyboarder/director of Mellowlink and finally full-fledged director of Radiant Heresy.

Votoms OVA 2: Big Battle (1986)

In the next OVA outing, Chirico and his sidekicks fight a maniac driving a gigantic tank. Chronologically, this episode depicts the events that transpired between the climax of the third arc of the TV series (the space opera-ish Quent arc) and the cold sleep depicted in the last episode as having taken place a year after the events of the TV series climax.

Takizawa comes back as the storyboarder and director of this episode, so this is probably the most thoroughly Takizawa outing in the whole Votoms saga. The directing is indeed fantastic. The scene where a minute goes by wordlessly as water floods in and the characters hold on for dear life is full of amazing tension, and I love the attention to little details such as where Chirico has to crawl backwards on his back with his shoulder when he's pinned to the floor, or Fiana's aghast reaction when her hand quickly jerks under the control of the machine. Takizawa also meticulously depicts how the time bomb is armed: twist two knobs, press them down, then press a button on the side. The climactic episode of the TV series was also a meticulously detailed depiction of Chirico going around pushing in rods to shut down a massive computer. I also like how when the bad guy gets shot in the head, his cyborg implant deflects the bullet and you can see the metal peeking through his skull.

The animation is really strong throughout, and this time it's not Anime R who's to thank, it's Studio Dove. This perhaps makes sense because Takizawa had since formed a close relationship with Studio Dove during the course of his work on Dirty Pair. Indeed, they provide excellent work here in no way inferior to Anime R. Norio Shioyama's drawings here are also far better than they ever were, and the characters look fantastic as a result, almost reminiscent of the style of Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, with great feature definition and more nuanced character acting. It feels like we're finally seeing Norio Shioyama's characters brought alive in a way that does them justice, as opposed to being re-invented through the lens of Moriyasu Taniguchi.

The scene where the protagonists drive up to the big tank are particularly impressive for the amount of detail packed into the shots and the precision with which effects are layered on top of one another. The scene feels very dense visually, with every little element being controlled carefully. It makes for an exciting scene that vividly conveys the speed at which things are happening.

The only problem with this otherwise excellent and supremely entertaining OVA is that it doesn't really feel like what I want to see from Votoms. It's too fun for that. I expect dark, bleak soldier action from Votoms, not the madcap action we're regaled with in this episode. The episode essentially feels more like a Crusher Joe episode than anything. That's not a bad thing per se; it's just different. This is essentially an entertainment side-story rather than a beefy story contributing to chronicling Chirico's past like the previous and next OVAs.

Votoms OVA 3: Roots of Ambition (1988)

The third of the one-shot OVAs following the TV series is chronologically the earliest in the saga. This is the starting point of the whole story. Here we find out how Chirico came to have a vendetta for Pailsen.

This is by far my favorite single outing in the Votoms saga. This OVA pins you to your seat, as well as digging into the nitty gritty of Chirico's sordid past. None of the previous Votoms are quite this bleak and intense. It delivers exactly the kind of story I want to see from Votoms: a hard-boiled story about Chirico and other soldiers told through tight dramaturgy and fierce mecha battles, without silly antics. Hard-boiled indeed, this is by far the bloodiest Votoms outing. Blood and death are depicted here more bluntly than ever before.

The quality is also the best of any of the Votoms OVAs. The animation this time is entirely done by Studio Dove, and this OVA singlehandedly proves that they are one of the criminally underappreciated subcontracting studios of the 1980s. With a mere five animators, they manage to provide a level of quality that is nothing short of stunning. The mecha and effects animation is far more intricate and nuanced than anything before. This is clearly the culmination of Dove's work on Sunrise mecha shows. The mecha animation here would have been the work of Hiroshi Waratani and Koji Takahashi, while in the previous OVA it would have been the work of Hiroshi Waratani and Koizumi Hiroshi. The other Dove animators listed would have done the characters.

By 1988, mecha animation was becoming more and more realistic. It was only a year later in 1989 that Mitsuo Iso drew his groundbreaking realistic animation for the opening scene of War in the Pocket. The speed of the evolution of mecha animation in the 1980s was remarkable. Just a few years earlier this level of detail would have been inconceivable.

Helping to give this amazing animation its impact is the fact that the episode was storyboarded by Toshifumi Takizawa. His storyboard creates a perfect balance between the drama and the episode's thrillingly choreographed action sequences. Takizawa didn't direct the episode; that was done by Takashi Imanishi, whom I mentioned before. This was one of his first steps towards the director's chair. Together they make this episode into a magnificently crafted piece of entertainment.

Votoms OVA series: The Radiant Heresy (1994-1995)

After The Roots of Ambition, the last Votoms outing the Dove and R team worked on would be Mellowlink, but I haven't seen that, so I'll leave that for another time. Several years later, this new 5-episode OVA series came out. This time the staff was pretty much completely different except for the leads of director Ryosuke Takahashi and character designer Norio Shioyama, so this outing feels quite different from everything that came before. There is a lot more connection with the present in terms of the staff. People like Jiro Kanai, Norio Matsumoto, Yutaka Nakamura, Yasushi Muraki, Akitoshi Yokoyama, Masami Goto, Isamu Imakake, Toshihiro Kawamoto and Akihiko Yamashita are all still very active in this or that production today.

Toru Yoshida is another element of continuity. He is the mecha animation director again. A few other Anime R names are scattered throughout the credits, including Takahiro Komori and Fumiko Kishi, while one or two Dove names are also to be seen, but for the most part it's new faces.

As the preceding list indicates, the genga staff is pretty impressive, although the animation isn't the extravaganza this would seem to suggest. The animation is rather strong at some fundamental level even when the animation isn't particularly impressive. I think that's due to one of the most surprising names in the credits: Hisashi Nakayama. None other than Hisashi Mori. He was involved in each episode doing key animation and/or layout assistance. I suspect it's his hand in maintaining the quality of the layouts that gives much of the animation its vague feeling of fundamental strength.

I'm not able to identify his animation with complete certainty this early on, but the scenes with Loccina in episode 3, for example, jumped out at me the first time I saw them, and feel like they might be of his hand. They're my favorite scenes in this series. There's a strange dynamism and roughness to the animation that doesn't look like any other scene in this OVA series. It was great seeing this character brought back from the TV series, as he's one of my favorite characters, and interesting to see him come back in the form of a half-crazed monastic scholar of all things Chirico. The gritty drawings in the scene combine with the gravelly, possessed voice-acting of Banjo Ginga to great effect. Of course, this doesn't jibe with the fact that Mori started out as a mecha animator, so maybe he just handled the mecha scenes. Some of the effects in the first half of episode 2, for example, feel like Mori, as do the gorgeous explosion and flame effects near the end of episode 1.

The character drawings of Chirico and Fiana here are a little disappointing. It feels like after the peak of Big Battle Norio Shioyama never quite managed to draw the characters as impressively again. They feel somewhat bland and expressionless. Some of the side-characters like Loccina are a notable exception.

The battle at the beginning of episode 5 has a really nice timing to it, though I can't pinpoint who it might be. Masami Goto maybe? It's the same with the other episodes. There are nice bits here and there, though it's hard to say which animator in the above list did them as this is still pretty early in most of their careers.

The mecha animation overall doesn't feel like it tops what was achieved by Studio Dove in The Roots of Ambition, even though there are moments were the mecha animation clearly shows a new and more modern take on FX and movement compared to the animation in that 1988 OVA. The animation of the Dove animators and Toru Yoshida just felt good to watch in a way that most of the mecha animation here doesn't, and it was done by way fewer animators.

The story of the episode is fairly interesting. Taking place many years after the events of the TV series, it places Chirico in a world in which he has come to be viewed with something approaching religious fear. The story makes some smart commentary on the political use of religion, a subject Ryosuke Takahashi came back to in Flag, but the directing is somewhat lacking in dynamism and it makes me long for the days of Toshifumi Takizawa's directing. Takashi Imanishi's directing isn't bad per se, it's just a little plodding. Even in the action scenes there's never a feeling of real tension.

The episode does benefit from impressive attention to detail in the spirit of the Sunrise productions of this era, with highly detailed backgrounds and stills of the mecha being packed with far more detail than pre-1990 mecha were.

The story ends on a real downer, I must say, and I wish they hadn't done what they do at the end.

In memoriam Hiroshi Koizumi

I'd like to take a moment to remember Hiroshi Koizumi. He will not be familiar to anyone over here because he died suddenly in 1988 not long after working on Big Battle. He was killed in a freak car accident when a truck rear-ended him while he was stopped at a red light on his motorbike on his way home from work.

Hiroshi Koizumi was one of Studio Dove's great animators, and certainly one of the best mecha animators of the 1980s in Japan. However, due to the fact that he worked at a small subcontractor and died so early into a short career (he only debuted in 1983), even in Japan among animation aficionados he is not very well known, to say nothing of over here.

Koizumi was responsible for drawing no less than 10% of the animation of that classic of mecha space operas, Char's Counterattack. That is an astounding amount of animation by any standard, especially by the standards of such a high-quality film. Apparently much of the climax of the film in this video is his work, including the magnificent hand-to-hand mecha combat at the beginning. He drew many shots in the first half of Five Star Stories, another movie from this era with impressive mecha animation. As the best animator in the studio, he was the only Studio Dove animator working on these two prestigious feature films. His last job was as mecha animation director of episodes 2 and 4 of Mellowlink, although he is not credited as such and only Studio Dove is credited as the mecha animation director for some reason. He was scheduled to be the mecha animation director for each Dove episode.

Here are some links to a few genga drawings by Koizumi that never got used. They were uploaded by Nobuyoshi Nishimura of Studio Dove.
Anna from Layzner
Kei from the Dirty Pair TV series
Doodles on a genga for Ninja Senshi Tobikage

Hiroshi Koizumi works:
Dougram (1981-1983)
Votoms (1983-1984) 8, 12, 18, 20, 23, 28, 31, 35, 41, 45, 49, 51
Dorvack (1983) 31
Vifam (1983) 30
Bismark (1984) 4, 26, 33, 37, 43, 47
El Gaim (1984) 22
Galvion (1984) 14, 21
Galient (1984) 5, 10, 14, 18, 21, 24
Tobikage (1985) 2
Z Gundam (1985) 8, 13, 17
SPT Layzner (1985) 2, 5, 10, 13, 18, 22, 27, 31, 35
Votoms: The Last Red Shoulder (1985)
Dirty Pair TV (1985) 8, 9, 25, 26
ZZ Gundam (1986)
Galient OVA (1986)
Votoms: Big Battle (1986)
El Gaim OVA (1986)
Dead Heat (1986)
Dragnar (1987)
Dirty Pair movie (1987)
City Hunter (1987) 7, 8, 16, 12, 19, 22
Kimagure Orange Road (1987) 5
Mister Ajikko (1988) 33
Gundam: Char's Counterattack (1988)
Mellowlink (1988) Mecha Sakkan 2, 4
Five Star Stories (1988)

I hope this can help in small part to get him some recognition, even if it's a little late after all this time.


Armored Trooper Votoms 装甲騎兵ボトムズ (TV series, 52 eps, 1983-1984)

StoryboardDirectorSakkanKey Animators
1終戦 War's end清水恵蔵 Keizo Shimizu
川筋 豊 Yutaka Kawasuji
牟田清司 Seiji Muta
京 春香
Kyo Haruka
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
清水恵蔵、塩山紀生
Keizo Shimizu, Norio Shioyama
2ウド Udo上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
松野達也
Tatsuya Matsuno
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
3出会い Encounter森 安夫 Yasuo Mori
山中英治 Eiji Yamanaka
奥田万里 Mari Okuda
松野達也
Tatsuya Matsuno
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
4バトリング Battling布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
神宮 慧
Hajime Jingu
5罠 Trap加藤 茂 Shigeru Kato
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
木のプロダクション Kino Production
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
上村栄司
Eiji Kamimura
6素体 Protid中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
西城 明
Akira Saijo
7襲撃 Raid谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
新田敏夫 Toshio Arata
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
谷沢 豊、新田敏夫
Yutaka Tanisawa, Toshio Arata
8取引 Transaction青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
9救出 Rescue上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
10レッド・ショルダー Red Shoulder多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
金子紀男 Norio Kaneko
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
鈴木英二、塩山紀生
Eiji Suzuki, Norio Shioyama
11逆襲 Counterattack中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
吉田 浩
Hiroshi Yoshida
桐野克己
Katsumi Kirino
西城 明
Akira Saijo
12絆 Bonds布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
吉田 浩
Hiroshi Yoshida
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
神宮 慧
Hajime Jingu
13脱出 Escape青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
二宮常雄 Tsuneo Futamiya
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二、塩山紀生
Eiji Suzuki, Norio Shioyama
14アッセンブルEX-10 Assemble EX-10上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
松野達也
Tatsuya Matsuno
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
15疑惑 Doubt中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
吉田 浩
Hiroshi Yoshida
桐野克己
Katsumi Kirino
西城 明
Akira Saijo
16掃討 Search and destroy谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
新田敏夫 Toshio Arata
金子紀男 Norio Kaneko
笹木寿子 Masako Sasaki
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
17再会 Reunion多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
高橋資祐
Motosuke Takahashi
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
神宮 慧
Hajime Jingu
18急変 Turn of events八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
上村栄司、塩山紀生
Eiji Kamimura, Norio Shioyama
19思惑 Anticipation中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
康村正一
Seiichi Yasumura
西城 明
Akira Saijo
20フィアナ Fiana中村プロ Nakamura Pro
アニメ・アール Anime R
マジックバス Magic Bus
加藤 茂 Shigeru Kato
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
-高橋良輔
Ryosuke Takahashi
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
21遡行 Upstream青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
加藤 茂 Shigeru Kato
笹木寿子 Masako Sasaki
山崎享子 Ryoko Yamazaki
清島孝一郎 Koichiro Kiyoshima
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二、塩山紀生
Eiji Suzuki, Norio Shioyama
22触発 Contact上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
桐野克己
Katsumi Kirino
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
23錯綜 Complication八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
神宮 慧
Hajime Jingu
24横断 Crossing中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
富沢雄三
Tomizawa Yuzo
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
西城 明
Akira Saijo
25潜入 Infiltration谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
金子紀男 Norio Kaneko
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
上村栄司
Eiji Kamimura
26肉迫 Closing in八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
福井享子 Ryoko Fukui
清島孝一郎 Koichiro Kiyoshima
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
27暗転 Turn for the worse寺東克己 Katsumi Terahigashi
所 智一 Tomokazu Tokoro
矢木正之 Masayuki Yaki
遠藤栄一 Eiichi Endo
坂本英明 Hideaki Sakamoto
詫 祐二 Yuji Tsuge
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
28運命 Destiny青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
二宮常雄 Tsuneo Futamiya
マジックバス Magic Bus
アニメ・アール Anime R
中村プロ Nakamura Pro
-高橋良輔
Ryosuke Takahashi
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
29二人 Two上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
30幻影 Illusion中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
西城 明
Akira Saijo
31不可侵宙域 Forbidden zone布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
スタジオダブ Studio Dove
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
32イプシロン Ipsilon青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
清島孝一郎 Koichiro Kiyoshima
福井享子 Ryoko Fukui
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
上村栄司、塩山紀生
Eiji Kamimura, Norio Shioyama
33対決 Showdown上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
吉田 徹 Toru Yoshida
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
34惑星サンサ Planet Sansa中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
西城 明
Akira Saijo
35死線 Near death藁谷 均 Hitoshi Waratani
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
36恩讐 Love and hate神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
高橋資祐
Motosuke Takahashi
康村正一
Seiichi Yasumura
上村栄司、塩山紀生
Eiji Kamimura, Norio Shioyama
37虜 Captive多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
38暗闇 Darkness中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西城 明 Akira Saijo
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
西城 明
Akira Saijo
39パーフェクト・ソルジャー Perfect Soldier上井康宣 Yasunobu Inoue
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
河村佳江 Yoshie Kawamura
加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
吉田 徹 Toru Yoshida
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
40仲間 Friendアニメ・アール Anime R
中村プロ Nakamura Pro
オールプロダクション All Production
-高橋良輔
Ryosuke Takahashi
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
41クエント Quentスタジオダブ Studio Dove
藁谷 均 Hitoshi Waratani
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
八幡 正 Tadashi Yahata
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
八幡 正、塩山紀生
Tadashi Yahata, Norio Shioyama
42砂漠 Desert布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
福井享子 Ryoko Fukui
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
43遺産 Legacy青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
木下ゆうき Yuuki Kishita
清島孝一郎 Koichiro Kiyoshima
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
44禁断 Forbidden中村プロ Nakamura Pro
西沢 晋 Shin Nishizawa
奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
松下佳弘 Yoshihiro Matsushita
和泉絹子 Masako Izumi
時矢義則 Yoshinori Tokiya
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
西城 明
Akira Saijo
45遭遇 Encounterスタジオダブ Studio Dove
藁谷 均 Hitoshi Waratani
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
きのプロ Kino Pro
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
46予感 Intuition加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
吉田 徹 Toru Yoshida
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
糸島雅彦 Masahiko Itojima
池田 成
Masashi Ikeda
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi
47異変 Fortuity布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
加藤誠一 Seiichi Kato
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
津田義三
Yoshimitsu Tsuda
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
48後継者 Successor奥野浩行 Hiroyuki Okuno
柳沢哲也 Tetsuya Yanagisawa
石田 誠 Makoto Ishida
知吹愛弓
Tomobuki Ayumi
西城 明
Akira Saijo
49異能者 They of special powersスタジオダブ Studio Dove
藁谷 均 Hitoshi Waratani
古泉浩司 Hiroshi Koizumi
溝井裕二 Yuji Mizoi
多賀一弘 Kazuhiro Taga
康村正一
Seiichi Yasumura
八幡 正
Tadashi Yahata
50乱雲 Thunderhead波戸根良昭 Yoshiaki Hatone
松原徳弘 Norihiro Matsuhara
塚本 篤 Atsushi Tsukamoto
佐々木喜子 Yoshiko Sasaki
貴島優子 Yuko Takashima
河口俊夫 Toshio Kawaguchi
香川 浩 Hiroshi Kagawa
谷田部勝義
Katsuyoshi Yatabe
鈴木英二、塩山紀生
Eiji Suzuki, Norio Shioyama
51修羅 Battle青鉢芳信 Yoshinobu Aohachi
神宮 慧 Kei Jingu
上村栄司 Eiji Uemura
谷沢 豊 Yutaka Tanisawa
スタジオダブ Studio Dove
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
川端蓮司
Renji Kawabata
鈴木英二
Eiji Suzuki
52流星 Shooting star加瀬政広 Masahiro Kase
吉田 徹 Toru Yoshida
貴志夫美子 Fumiko Kishi
糸島雅彦 Masahiko Itojima
滝沢敏文
Toshifumi Takizawa
加瀬充子
Nobuko Kase
谷口守泰
Moriyasu Taniguchi

The Last Red Shoulder ザ・ラストレッドショルダー (OVA, 54 mins, 1985)

Created by & Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Character Design & Anim. Dir.:塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
Mechanical Animation Director:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Script:はままさのりMasanori Hama
Storyboard:加瀬充子
谷田部勝義
Nobuko Kase
Masayoshi Yatabe
Technical Director:加瀬充子Nobuko Kase
Assistant Technical Director:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Key Animation:アニメアールAnime R
スタジオダブStudio Dove
スタジオビーボオ―Studio Bebow
マジックバスMagic Bus
福井享子Ryoko Fukui
清島孝一郎Koichiro Kiyoshima

Big Battle ビッグバトル (OVA, 56 mins, 1986)

Created by & Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Character Design & Anim. Dir.:塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
Script:はままさのりMasanori Hama
Storyboard & Technical Director:滝沢敏文Toshifumi Takizawa
Key Animation:スタジオ・ダブStudio Dove
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura
藁谷均Hitoshi Waratani
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
古泉浩司Hiroshi Koizumi
 
服部真奈美Manami Hattori
福井享子 Ryoko Fukui
加藤義貴Yoshitaka Kato

Red Soldier Document: The Roots of Ambition レッドショルダードキュメント 野望のルーツ (OVA, 57 mins, 1988)

Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Character Design & Anim. Dir.:塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
Script:吉川惣司Soji Yoshikawa
Storyboard:滝沢敏文Toshifumi Takizawa
Technical Director:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Key Animation:スタジオダブStudio Dove
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
佐久間信一Shinichi Sakuma
高橋幸治Koji Takahashi
藁谷均Hitoshi Waratani
西村誠芳Nobuyoshi Nishimura

The Radiant Heresy 赫奕たる異端 (OVA, 5 eps, 25 mins each, 1994-1995)

Created by & Chief Director:高橋良輔Ryosuke Takahashi
Director & Storyboard:今西隆志Takashi Imanishi
Episode Directors:原田奈奈
中野頼道
大熊朝秀
Nana Harada
Yorimichi Nakano
Nobuhide Ookuma (Takashi Imanishi)
Character Design & Anim. Dir.:塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
Assistant A.D.:横山彰利
(+小林利充
Akitoshi Yokoyama
Toshimitsu Kobayashi in ep 2)
Script:吉川惣司Soji Yoshikawa
Mechanical Animation Director:吉田徹Toru Yoshida
Music:乾裕樹Hiroki Inui
 
Key animation:(Episode 1)
阿部邦博Kunihiro Abe
村木靖Yasushi Muraki
小森高博Takahiro Komori
舛館俊秀Toshihide Masudate
松本憲生Norio Matsumoto
松本文雄Fumio Matsumoto
加藤茂Shigeru Kato
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
中山久司Hisashi Nakayama
馬場俊子Toshiko Baba
貴志夫美子Fumiko Kishi
スタジオダブStudio Dove
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
 
A.D. help:小林利充 Toshimitsu Kobayashi
 
Layout Assistant: 中山久司 Hisashi Nakayama
 
(Episode 2)
アニメロマンAnime Roman
スタジオダブStudio Dove
安藤美行Miyuki Ando
金井次郎Jiro Kanai
尾形雄二Yuji Ogata
加藤茂Shigeru Kato
[Chinese names]
横山彰利Akitoshi Yokoyama
中山久司Hisashi Nakayama
 
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
 
Layout Assistant: 中山久司 Hisashi Nakayama
 
(Episode 3)
飯野泰造Taizo Iino
服部真奈美Manami Hattori
加藤茂Shigeru Kato
金井次郎Jiro Kanai
佐藤修Osamu Sato
永田正美Masami Nagata
[Chinese names]
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
小林利充Toshimitsu Kobayashi
中山久司Hisashi Nakayama
中村豊Yutaka Nakamura
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
京都アニ
メーション
Kyoto Animation
 
(Episode 4)
服部真奈美Manami Hattori
門上洋子Yoko Kadogami
馬場俊子Toshiko Baba
鵜飼美樹Miki Ukai
岡田和久Kazuhisa Okada
江原仁Jin Ehara
川元利浩Toshihiro Kawamoto
入江泰浩Yasuhiro Irie
中田雅夫Masao Nakata
加藤義貴Yoshitaka Kato
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
横山彰利Akitoshi Yokoyama
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
小林利充Toshimitsu Kobayashi
 
Layout Assistant: 中山久司 Hisashi Nakayama
 
(Episode 5)
門上洋子Yoko Kadogami
馬場俊子Toshiko Baba
中野美佐緒Misao Nakano
久行宏和Hirokazu Hisayuki
金田正彦Masahiko Kanada
服部真奈美Manami Hattori
加藤義貴Yoshitaka Kato
後藤雅己Masami Goto
山下明彦Akihiko Yamashita
牧野行洋Yukihiro Makino
小森高博Takahiro Komori
西村貴世Takase Nishimura
塩山紀生Norio Shioyama
横山彰利Akitoshi Yokoyama
吉田徹Toru Yoshida
中山久司Hisashi Nakayama
鈴木勉Tsutomu Suzuki
今掛勇Isamu Imakake
[Chinese names]
アニメアールAnime R
スタジオダブStudio Dove

Friday, May 18, 2012

11:49:00 pm , 880 words, 6611 views     Categories: Animation, TV, Lupin III

Lupin III: A Woman Called Fujiko Mine #7

Despite mediocre animation and barely functional directing, this was a good episode due to the clever script by Dai Sato. I'd even go so far as to say this is the best episode yet due to the script. I was wondering what had happened with the previous Dai Sato episode, which was a boring trifle, but the man shows that he is still a master with this episode.

Lupin III was a product of the cold war, with its James Bond-inspired sexy spy action and intrigue, and this episode tells an alternative version of one of the pivotal events of the cold war, the Cuban Missile Crisis, complete with Kennedy, Castro and Khruschev lookalikes in analogous roles.

The episode is true to the spirit of the old Lupin III while being smarter and packing much more of a sting. With the old shows I often felt like they were never quite reaching the full potential of the material. When not about bank heists, the stories were often inspired by the real-life geopolitics, but more often than not the satire was blunted in favor of coy and facile slapstick. The writing was never smart or edgy enough.

Dai Sato here writes exactly the kind of story I wished I could have seen in the old shows. I wonder if he might not have been inspired by the recent spate of revolutionary biographical films like The Motorcycle Diaries and Carlos. Without glorifying the revolutionary, he casts a somewhat cynical eye on all the parties. He has the Castro stand-in drop a reference to a Japanese revolutionary who was his inspiration, presumably in reference to the late 19th century revolutionary and leader of the Shinsengumi Toshizo Hijikata, so that Japan winds up retroactively laying claim to the revolution. Classic subversive Dai Sato. Don't forget that Japan had its own red revolutionaries in the 60s with the Asama Sanso Jiken. Too bad he was unable to work in some reference to that.

The story is a bit needlessly convoluted, with several confusing time shifts to explain how Fujiko and Goemon got involved, but the story is full of smart touches and keeps you on the edge of your seat with its recreation of the tension of the Cuban missile crisis.

The revolutionary figure at the head of the story at one point is greeted by a chanting crowd, prompting Fujiko to call him a "rock star", which feels like a commentary on how pop culture today has turned onetime revolutionaries like Che Guevara into nothing more than empty icons on t-shirts. Fujiko asks him what his real motivation is - world revolution or merely the thrill of causing chaos - and his ambiguous answer that he just wants to keep dancing is satisfying for having a human ring rather than sounding like pat propaganda.

Fujiko comments on the hidden motivations of geopolitics of the cold war and beyond in the more cynical and informed voice of a denizen of the post-2000 era when she remarks that the reason for all the interest in the revolution on a puny Caribbean country isn't ideology but rumored oil reserves. The comment clearly is meant to evoke Iraq and inspire a healthy skeptical view of history.

Fujiko plays a fascinating combination of roles here, a regular Cassandra representing in a single individual the conflicting hidden currents of the powers at work behind the scenes. Journalist covering the Cuban revolution on the surface, she was in fact hired to assassinate the pseudo Castro, as we know the US attempted to do, while underneath she has her own motivations that remain tantalizingly murky to the end. This may very well be one of Fujiko's best roles ever.

The only disappointment is that none of the other cast members except Goemon play a role, and Goemon's role is a bit thin and underdeveloped. He seems to have been cast only so that he could serve in the climax. The absence of Lupin and Jigen seems to confirm this - they weren't needed for this story. The climax is admittedly quite brilliant in true Sato Dai fashion. It's the craziest and most fitting thing imaginable for a samurai cutting the missiles in half to solve something as insane as the Cuban missile crisis.

The drawings were weak. There isn't much good to be said about the animation. At some points the drawings were downright bad. Castro's hand was bigger than his head in one of the early shots, and in several other places the animators were clearly having difficulty rendering the character designs. That would have been less of an issue had the sakkans had more schedule to correct the drawings. Koike may draw cool characters, but clearly drawing cool characters is different from good character design, if the object of character design is to facilitate drawing by the range of drawing skill levels likely to be encountered by a given production.

At the very end Fujiko yet again bares her inhumanly firm tits for seemingly no reason whatsoever, which seems symptomatic of why the nudity bothers me - not because I don't like nudity as much as the next guy, but because it just doesn't make any sense and seems thrown in for no reason but to meet some kind of tit quota per episode.

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