Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Monday, August 9, 2004

04:54:55 pm , 282 words, 813 views     Categories: Animation

Fantastic Children

I talked about Nippon Animation's Peter Pan a while back. Well, Takashi Nakamura returns to NA starting next month with a new series, Fantastic Children. This time it's a purely Nakamura project, directed by Nakamura, based on an idea by Nakamura, designed by Nakamura. One interesting staff member to note is Nizo Yamamoto, the art director of Ghibli films like Laputa and Grave of the Fireflies.

I will remain skeptical so as not to be let down. Palme no Ki was a very mixed bag that left me longing for the good old days of Nakamura the animator. It had a lot of elements that I really appreciated -- the convincing sense of trauma and pathology motivating the actions of many of the characters -- but was overwhelmed by the hopelessly confusing story (repeated watchings do not help to figure things out) and the patchwork nature of the story. Take a little from Akira, Angel's Egg, Gandahar, Pinocchio and voila! Palme no Ki. Influences are fine, but they were not digested enough to make them work.

The animation was of a very high order, with quite a few excellent spots (key animators included Toshiyuki Inoue, Nobutake Ito, Michio Mihara, Hisashi Nakayama, Hideki Hamasu and Ohashi Manabu) but overall it just didn't have the sense of wonder or the unique bite of the early animation drawn by Nakamura himself, which is perhaps what disappointed me the most. All that said, there are better films that I don't like as much. I still enjoy the film, however incredibly flawed it is. Nakamura's valiant attempt should be saluted. Also, I loved the use of the Ondes Martenot in the soundtrack, and found it very affecting.

Monday, August 9, 2004

04:42:16 pm , 518 words, 1178 views     Categories: Animation, Movie

The Killing Stone

Here's an anime I'm willing to bet money nobody reading this will ever have heard of, much less seen: The Killing Stone (殺生石, Sesshoseki), an 81-minute film produced in 1968. There's not a single mention of it on the internet in English or Japanese. Okay, maybe it's mentioned in one of the English-language anime encyclopedia type books, so all bets are off. In any case, here's a film that never gets talked about, that failed at the box office and was promptly tossed in the dustbin of anime history. You would have to make serious efforts to uncover this one. There are a number of early anime curiosities like this that don't quite fit into the usual anime history narrative. Neither Toei nor Tezuka, they tend to be overlooked. For the most part they probably deserve to be forgotten. But still, one is curious. This one is rather intriguing.

The film was adapted from a novel by Kido Okamoto based on a legend surrounding a sterile patch of land at the foot of Mt. Chausu, an active volcano located in Tochigi Prefecture. Since the Heian period the spot has been known to exude poisonous gas (hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, arsenic) that has killed animals and people who happened to wander near the area. A legend arose at one time that long ago in China a kitsune transformed itself into a beautiful maiden, seduced the emperor and caused numerous misfortunes to befall the kingdom, then found her way to Japan, transformed herself into a beautiful maiden called Tamamo, and seduced the emperor etc., before finally being unmasked and killed. Upon her death she cursed her killers and transformed herself on this spot into a poisonous stone called Sesshoseki.

The film was produced by a studio called Nihon Doga, headed by one Gentaro NAKAJIMA, who also happened to be the president of Fuji Heavy Industries(?!). It was originally proposed to film studio Daiei as a live-action film starring Fujiko YAMAMOTO. Adaptated by two famous live-action screenwriters, Hideo Suzuki and Yasuzo Masumura, the film apparently benefited enormously from the considerable efforts put into the screenplay, which went through no less than seven versions before being finalized. The drawings were hand-traced with extreme care, and the film featured highly stylized visuals inspired by old Japanese emaki picture-scrolls.

The animation director and character designer was Taku SUGIYAMA. Makoto NAGASAWA, one of the more important Toei animators from Hakujaden to Gulliver, was also involved as the animation supervisor. (The credit is unusual, one I've never run across: 作画主任, which means "person in charge of drawings".) Latter-day World Masterpiece Theater character designer Shuichi SEKI was here as one of the animators, probably one of his first credits, as was Norio HIKONE, who was in the Toei films from Magic Boy to Doggie March.

The whole reason I even wrote all this was because I discovered that Masami HATA was one of the animators, a fact that had totally slipped by me until now, and which got me to want to look into this production. It'd be nice to see this one day, though I won't hold my breath.

Sunday, August 8, 2004

10:52:01 am , 1100 words, 3541 views     Categories: Animation, Animator

Kazuo Komatsubara

Galaxy Express 999 Movie climaxToday I just had a few things to say about Kazuo Komatsubara (小松原一男). I apologize, this is a pretty rambling post. I'm hardly an expert on him, so if anyone who knows more than me spots any mistakes or can provide a better overview, feel free to post a comment.

After an illustrious career spanning three decades, Komatsubara passed away in 2000. His death was a second blow to the anime world, coming as it did two years after the equally premature death of Yoshifumi Kondo, whose career overlapped almost exactly with that of Komatsubara.

To summarize his career, during the seventies he focused on giant robot shows like Go Nagai's Mazinger and Grendaizer (1975) and then on Leiji Matsumoto series like Captain Harlock (1978). At the end of the decade he did one of his most famous series, the TV and movie version of Galaxy Express 999. In the eighties he was involved in a variety of projects, notably Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind (1984), Tongari Boushi no Memoru (1984), and Hare Tokidoki Buta (1988), while in the nineties he was less prolific, his main works being Junkers Come Here (1995) and Chinese Ghost Story (1998). His last work was Dynamic Robot Taisen (1999), apparently some sort of homage to those early robot shows.

The early robot shows were big in France for a long time, and must have left their mark on French animation fans, because there was an exhibit of his key animation in Toulon, France in 1995, and another in April 2001 as a memorial, and there's a French web site that provides a detailed biography.

To most people Komatsubara is perhaps best known as the animation director of Nausicaa. Among Japanese animation buffs, however, his fame rests perhaps even moreso on his work as the animation director of these 70s anime, particularly Galaxy Express 999, especially the film version of 1979. The latter is perhaps one of the earliest and best crystallisations of the Komatsubara style, with its rough and dynamic lines and delicate attention to detail in the animation, and therefore presents a truer picture than Nausicaa of what it was that made Komatsubara unique and great as an animation director.

In addition, this film features one of the best pieces of animation by two of the best animators of the period: Yoshinori Kanada and Kazuhide Tomonaga. Together they animated the catastrophic climax. Kanada was perhaps the most influential animator of his generation, and would go on to work under Komatsubara as one of the animators in Nausicaa. Tomonaga, on the other hand, while a fellow animator of Komatsubara's at animation studio Oh Production, went in a very different direction, and there is little overlap of their careers other than this.

Komatsubara had the ability to bring out the best in an animator like Kanada, because he understood how to integrate Kanada's idiosyncratic style into the fabric of the film's animation without compromising the unique flavor of Kanada's drawings and motion. During his time at Toei Doga apparently Komatsubara had been taught by Yasuo Otsuka, which is where this ability may have sprung from. Otsuka also taught Komatsubara the value of variety, of forcing yourself to do lots of different projects with different styles so as not to grow moribund in your little niche, and the large variety of the projects in which he was involved in the 80s and 90s is certainly indicative of his continued efforts towards this end.

Komatsubara's name will perhaps be remembered among western fans due to one of his last jobs as an animation director, Junkers Come Here (1995), directed by Jun'ichi Sato, with whom Komatsubara has been associated at least since Tongari Boushi no Memoru (1984). Personally I have mixed feelings about the film due to certain aspects of its production history, but Komatsubara provided the film with a compellingly universal character design and an incredibly even level of animation, showing that he retained his magisterial skills right up until the end, so it would be ridiculous to dismiss the film, which is a very good film with solid directing and a good story and deserves to be seen. The film was lost in obscurity for too long and fully deserves the attention it's finally getting.

Junkers Come Here Pilot

My problem was that this film could have been the feature debut of Shinya Ohira, who did the pilot. Ohira was removed from the job and replaced by Komatsubara because he spent too long on the pilot and was deemed unfit for the job. If Ohira had had the chance, this film would almost certainly not have been merely the good film that it is now, but instead might have become downright revolutionary. But you never know when misfortune may lead to fortune, and as it happens, this misfortune gave Ohira the opportunity to create one of the most important films of the 90s, episode 10 of the Hakkenden OVA series, and afterwards to go on exploring the new frontier of realism that he had pioneered in the pilot. Instead, we are left with a truly worthy parting gift from one of the great masters of the last 30 years. And that's good enough for me.

The film's animation is obviously altogether different from that of the pilot due to the different animation director, but it nevertheless features all of the animators from the pilot providing high quality work: Osamu Tanabe (dinner scene), Shinji Hashimoto (Hiromi coming home from school), Mitsuo Iso (Hiromi confessing on the beach), Manabu Ohashi (flying over the city) -- even Shinya Ohira himself is there (the extremely detailed animation of Hiromi riding the bike that accompanies the credits). Oddly enough, I noticed that Takashi Nakamura is listed as one of the animators. How did he get involved in this??

There used to be a really cool page at that provided a bunch of key animation scans, including yellow-paper corrected key animation by Komatsubara. It was a really great site, but it seems to be gone now, perhaps due to the intervening release of the DVD in Japan about a year ago. Up until that it was a fairly unknown film. It had been badly treated on its original release, with just a few weeks in the theaters and virtually no publicity, so almost nobody had seen it, which was a shame considering the high quality work that went into it. Because of that there was a big fan movement behind the film right up until the DVD release, with lots of web pages devoted to getting the film better known, fans holding screening of the film, petitioning for its release on DVD and so on, which I guess finally bore fruit.

Saturday, August 7, 2004

06:29:46 pm , 441 words, 721 views     Categories: Animation, Mind Game

Mind Game: Day One

Mind Game Official SiteSpent a lazy Saturday enjoying a cool breeze and listening to John Dowland songs.

Mind Game has now opened. Here a few snapshots of the man himself on the occasion of the talk he gave before the Cine Quinto première. He's flanked by the voice-actors Koji Imada (Nishi) and Toshio Sakata (Yan's father). Love the life-sized Yan-chan! After the talk Yuasa was off to the next stop on the campaign trail -- er, I mean... you know what I mean -- to present his next talk at the Osaka première.

Mr. Sakata was reported to have made a comment regarding ambitions towards something called the "Academy Award".

I've already read tons of Japanese reviews of the film from people who saw the preview screenings. One of the common threads throughout the reviews, besides the flood of superlatives, was the way many of them stated, without embarrassment, even proudly, that they left the theater in tears. Not tears of sadness, but of joy. I cried after Grave of the Fireflies, but those weren't tears of joy. I can't think of a film that has ever made me cry tears of joy.

One of my favorite reviews also happens to be the only negative one I've read so far. Well, nominally negative. After establishing his basic stance early on in the review, the reviewer goes on to write what, for the life of me, sounds like a rave review, capping it with the comment, "Damn, I feel like I'm handing ammunition to the enemy. In any case, there's no doubt that to certain people this film is going to be one of those rare towering masterpieces that comes along maybe once a decade, if you're lucky."

I've done my civic duty and purchased the Mind Game Remixed DVD, soundtrack and original manga, but they're all up on the top shelf until after dinner. In other words, I'm waiting until I see the film to look at them. From everything I've read, and from what I've seen of the manga, it appears to be a masterpiece in its own right, so I hope it gets translated after the movie comes out. It's clear that Robin Nishi is a truly original mind, and that his comic is one of the great Japanese comics of the last fifteen years. Which makes it all the more miraculous that a movie has been made of this manga, which was languishing in obscurity for ten years, and that the movie has reached equally towering heights in its own medium. A movie masterpiece from a comic book masterpiece. That's sort of like getting all the planets perfectly aligned.

Friday, August 6, 2004

04:33:47 pm , 931 words, 1140 views     Categories: Animation, OVA

Eternal Family

Studio 4°C's mini-mini-series Eternal Family (1997-8) is finally available, and thankfully not in a limited edition like many of Studio 4°C's releases. I've watched it twice now to catch everything and figure out the story. I could accept people complaing about the story, that it's not well developed, that it's difficult to follow; but really that's like complaining that Tarkovsky is slow. That's just the nature of the beast. It certainly isn't for everyone.

It's for me, though. I loved it. For me this is probably the first piece longer than 3 minutes by Studio 4°C that I felt truly reflected the real spirit of the studio. That unchecked experimental spirit that just throws in every interesting idea. Experiencing the labyrinthine world of this anime is similar to wandering around that crazy Beyond C web site of theirs.

The way the series came to be actually is pretty easy to figure out, once you've watched it all. I suppose that beforehand they set up the basic outline, maybe some details, just to have in the back of their minds; then they just came up with funny gags and let the person in charge of each episode have fun with the characters. That's really the heart of the series: letting the animators have fun with the basic premise and set of characters. One animator draws each episode. That's what I like most about this series. That every time you get to see the personality of an animator fully expressed.

One of the big reasons I was looking forward to this was to see Tatsuyuki Tanaka in action as an animator. He's one of those animators whose reputation far outpaces the actual volume of his work. Since he drew his first key animation in Battle Royale High School (the one cut of the school exploding) he did Tetsuo's arm in Akira, then the classic smoke-through-the-nostrils scene in Download, the opening gunfight of Green Legend Ran, and the dojo fight in Hakkenden #9... but not that much else. Since then doing Eternal Family five years ago he's been busy working on his feature film debut at Studio 4°C, as well as drawing illustrations and manga. (Tanaka's fertile imagination also being the reason why he's been called on to do a lot of layout and conceptualization work for various anime, like Roujin Z.) So the fact that the total number of cuts (shots) he's animated can practically be counted on the hands and feet goes far to suggesting the special, truly outstanding quality of his animation. For animation buffs like myself, he's remained an animator first and foremost, so it's been lonely not seeing him animating, and I hope he comes back to animation one day.

Here I think he's done some of his best work. I have a list of exactly what he did in his episodes thanks to a memo on Yuichiro Oguro's diary, though his episodes are easily identifiable once you've seen the whole thing through twice.

11 - Dad apologizing to doll (animation)
13 - Mom doing aerobics (animation)
19 - Changing the lightbulb (animation)
20 - Fishtank (storyboard, directing, animation)
24 - Family in the water (animation)
29 - Children finding doll (storyboard, animation)
32 - 2 million reward offer (storyboard, animation)
38 - Dad bellydancing (storyboard, animation)
44 - This way to the bathroom (storyboard, animation)
52 - Crazy boss dance (animation)
53 - Dad running (animation)

The most conspicuous is #20, for which he did everything. The ideas, the layout, the sepia tone - everything is totally, unmistakably the work of Tatsuyuki Tanaka. It's like one of his drawings come to life. Animation-wise the most impressive are the ones where Tatsuyuki draws vigorous body motion, eg, the episodes with mom and dad dancing. I was stunned, to be honest. I knew he was incredibly good, but I wondered if his work here would measure up to his other work. Not only does it measure up, it proves decisively that he's one of the best animators of realistic physical motion in Japan. This is one of those guys who was good right from his very first key animation. After his fourth episode he storyboarded most of his episodes, and the wonderful atmosphere he creates via his storyboarding leaves one feeling one has had a tantalizing foretaste of what is to come in his film, if it ever gets done.

Interesting to notice that here he was given another underwater scene to animate. Presumabily this is due to the excellent quality of the underwater scene he did just before in Noiseman. There's a part in the latter where there's a psychedelic, distorted zoom-in on the protagonist's eye. It looks like it could have been done by CG or camera tricks, but no, he drew it all himself. Another animator from Noiseman we find here again is Jiro Kanai, with whose work I'm not well enough versed to be able to pick it out.

And I'm happy to even see Aoki Yasuhiro! He's one of my latest discoveries, if you'll rememember my comments on his episodes of Studio 4°C's current TV show Tweeny Witches. Eternal Family is his earliest work I know of, coming as it does a few years before Animatrix, which was immediately followed by Tweeny.

Also, one of the things that makes the series work despite its very one-off, fragmentary nature, is the zaniness of the writing. Even when the jokes are really crass, they're funny because of the deftness with which they're presented. I got the same feeling from certain episodes of Samurai Champloo - which? Yes, Dai Sato's. He co-writes the series with director Koji Morimoto.

Thursday, August 5, 2004

05:55:22 pm , 1041 words, 1227 views     Categories: Animation, Movie

Yasuo Otsuka documentary

First of all, thanks to Cartoon Brew and Alan for really nice write-ups of my blog!

My ship came in from the Amazon a few days ago, and so far I've had a chance to watch Eternal Family and the Yasuo Otsuka documentary I talked about in a previous post. Seeing as I'd mentioned a lot of Otsuka's animation in the Toei Doga posts, I thought I'd start with the latter. Everyone with an interest in either Toei Doga or Ghibli or anime history or even just animation in general should pick up this documentary if it's tempting. It's got English subs, and it's a solidly-made documentary offering a good look into how a master animator animates.

The film progresses in simple chronological order, beginning with Otsuka's childhood sketching steam locomotives, and ending with his latest endeavor as the head of Telecom Animation's online animation school Anime Juku. For me the most moving part of the film was seeing Otsuka in action drawing Goemon. I was impressed by the speed with which his pencil flies through the drawings, and the perfect clarity with which he explains how he comes up with the movements. This is what makes him a great teacher -- a knack for knowing how to clearly articulate his methods, and showing you exactly how to do it. It was also really neat to see him flipping through his old childhood sketchbooks. I already knew that he had taught himself how to draw by continually sketching jeeps and trains and things from an early age, but they were far more impressive than I'd imagined. It makes you realize that certain talents really are more nature than nurture.

As a fan of Otsuka, it was nice to finally get to see the real live Otsuka, after having reading so much about him and seen just about everything he's done. He comes across as just the sort of warm and effusive person you would imagine from his work. Maybe that's something that can be said about most great animators -- that their personality comes through in their work. It can certainly be said about Mori (viz Otsuka's interesting comments about Mori's "introverted" and Daikubara's "extroverted" drawings) and about Toei Doga-era Miyazaki, with all his barely restrained energy and free-flowing ideas.

As I thought, the film also doubles as a good capsule history of Toei Doga, covering a lot of the basics covered in Otsuka's autobiography (and my posts), even delving quite deeply into Yasuji Mori's importance. Also, watching this film really makes you want to try your hand at animation. Otsuka's openness is very encouraging. The way the film steps you through the process of animation, one drawing at a time, at various moments throughout -- particularly so the scene where Otsuka goes through the entire process of conceptualizing and drawing Goemon drawing his sword -- really gives you a feeling for the rush of creating movement from still drawings; or, as the film's title is cleverly translated, JOY IN MOTION. It was so nice to see those students tittering in innocent glee upon seeing the sequence they just drew move, "My drawings moved!" and to hear Otsuka respond "That's the reaction we all had when we started out as animators."

One thing that I learned from the film was that Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Gainax regular and CD of Evangelion) got into animation due to Otsuka, having joined Telecom circa 1984 as a student in order to study under Otsuka (they showed his impressive student pieces), which creates an intriguing link between Otsuka and the animation in Honneamise.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is the one where Otsuka is giving a lecture at the Multimedia Art Institute. What he says in this scene captures one of the things I like about Otsuka's approach, and conversely, what I dislike about most anime, so I'm going to transcribe the english subs for the scene here.

While drawing on a white board to explain how most people draw characters in Japan:

Everyone tries for perfection. Nine out of ten draw these beautiful characters. They put in a lot of details with a fine pen. You've all seen this kind of character. They add pretty highlights to the eyes. They pick a hair style. The person at the next desk is doing the same. Maybe ponytails, or parted in the middle. Here's what I do with a character like this. I just fill in the eyes. Add a nose, eyebrows and a mouth. Takes a few seconds to draw. That's a character too. If you follow the crowd, you won't think of this. Everyone in Japan draws the same big eyes. Cute hairstyles with lots of detail. Maybe this looks like heresy. But it's original. It stands out.

It's funnier when you're watching it.

Finally, listening to Otsuka urging students at Ghibli to learn to draw things roughly, quickly, freely -- to learn not only the virtues but the appeal of rough drawings -- I got to wondering what Otsuka will think of Mind Game. Because I can't think of a Japanese animated film in the last decade that better embodies the ideas Otsuka talks about in this film. At least, that's my interpretation. Mind Game goes much further than Otsuka would, admittedly, and towards altogether different horizons, but I think the fundamental idea behind the film -- the thrill of animation that effectively integrates kinetics -- comes from Otsuka, if you go to the fountainhead. Yes, I've heard of Disney, but, as this documentary reveals, Otsuka was an assiduous student of animation techniques who, while learning the ropes at Toei Doga, slowly and carefully studied and digested everything that came before him (he copied out by Preston Blair's Animation by hand as a mnemonic aid!), thereby gradually discovering his own very distinctive and personal approach to animation -- sparer yet more realistic, rougher yet more thrilling -- that was to go on to exert a major influence on all Japanese animation that followed. So, if you go out on a limb with me here, it's not too difficult to see in Mind Game merely another stage in the evolution of the style pioneered by Otsuka. But I'll leave that thought in the interrogative.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

04:38:11 pm , 801 words, 625 views     Categories: Animation, Mind Game

Only two more days till Mind Game!

Mind Game Official SiteI'll be keeping an eye on things to follow people's reaction over there as Mind Game finally hits the cineplexes -- er, I mean the cinematheques. All the difference in the world, unfortunately. Let's hope word of mouth will get those seats filled. The film will almost certainly reach at least discerning moviegoers looking for the most original film of the year, but I hope it reaches much, much more people than that, because it's a movie with the scope to speak to just about anyone, not just cinephiles. Whenever the movie hits our theaters -- which it should, due to the Joel Silver thing (sometime next year hopefully?) -- I'm hoping word of mouth (well, the internet) will have done at least a bit to help towards getting people out to see the film. This is one of those rare cases when the underdog has shown that he can make a film 10 times better than the big guns, so it absolutely deserves the whole-hearted support of fans.

To help build up the excitement, I thought I'd pass along an amazing anecdote that comes to me via Anime Style; more specifically, from Dezore-san, el capitán of the Mind Game Cheerleader Squad (応援団), of which I happen to be enlistee #00001!

There he was, strolling along in the broiling heat one summer's day around Asagaya, when suddenly he remembered, "Hey, Madhouse is around here!" So he decided to head over to sneak a peek at the famous studio. As he was walking along the main road, he began to notice the festive sound of a taiko being drummed, and caught sight of a group of figures standing by the side of the road wearing matching jogging sweats, apparently rehearsing some kind of cheer routine. On each of their backs was embroidered a set of mysterious golden letters, such as "MM" and "DN" and "DH". Baffled, he continued to watch. When all eight figures finally turned their backs to him, he was finally able to see all the letters lined up properly, and he was stunned to realize what the letters said: "MADHOUSE MINDGAME".

He later learned that these madmen were Madhouse employees out on the street advertising Mind Game. Apparently a certain famous Madhouse producer had seen the test screening and been so overwhelmed and moved by the experience that he decided to start a Mind Game Cheerleader Squad!

Don't beleive me? Look at Madhouse's home page: They've put up a "SPECIAL!!" page to support Mind Game!

Do you realize? Madhouse had nothing to do with Mind Game. They were just so friggin' amazed by the film that they decided they were going to start doing tons of activities to support the film and get people to see it!! Like standing out on the road during the Tokyo summer wearing sweats with "MADHOUSE MINDGAME" written on the back!!! I'm pretty sure this is a first, folks. A studio going all out to publicize a film they had nothing to do with. Maybe now you realize the magnitude of the event at hand. I've never heard of a film that has the power to energize people this way.

Way to go, Madhouse!! Rah rah rah!

I was so moved by this that I'm going to translate the text on their page for you (I know it sounds wooden, but I'm trying to keep it literal):

Mind Game, the new movie by genius animator Masaaki Yuasa, opens shortly on August 7. What Masaaki Yuasa has created here in this film, which is staffed by the cream of the crop of today's animators and features the offbeat voice talents of the Yoshimoto Kogyo, is nothing short of a colossal masterpiece. After dying a humiliating and pointless death, the hero of our story, Nishi, ignoring God's pleas, hurtles himself back to life in a mad dash of sheer will power, vowing this time to live life to its fullest, "straight ahead, with everything I've got!" How will Nishi deal with all the hurdles thrown in his path?! Uninhibited imagination and astonishing storytelling combine with a massive impact that will invite tears of gratitude! A visual experience of super-colossal proportions awaits you!!


With that out of the way, well, there you have it: We've decided to start a Madhouse Mind Game Cheerleader Club. Nobody asked us, we just wanted to. Isn't it normal to want to support something that's good? How can I convey these feelings? We just had to express our support somehow. Even on the sidelines is fine, just please let us!! Anyway, that's all for our first column. Today was just an introduction to the film, but next time we'll start telling you about the many activities we have in store to cheer the hell out of this film, so check back in a while.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

12:03:33 pm , 455 words, 977 views     Categories: Animation

Goku no Daiboken DVD box

Scenes from episode 4I made a statement in a previous post about how the Japanese aren't very good with extras on their DVDs. Well, one exception is the recent DVD box release of the classic Goku's Big Adventure (悟空の大冒険 / Goku no Daiboken), my favorite PTA-boycotted anime series (which I talked a bit about in the context of my Masami Hata filmography). This release is actually pretty emblematic of a new trend of releasing impressively produced DVD box sets of classic old anime series. Presumably fans over there have played a large part in bringing this about.

The Goku set is surely one of the most impressive releases so far. Usually in a good case you may get some extra archive material, maybe some bonus footage, maybe an interview. Well here they dug up an entire episode that got produced but never aired, and hence was not released on previous occasions, like for the LD box.

I've talked about episode 4 in my review of the series, the way it's one of the single most striking and unforgettable anime episodes I've ever seen, considering the date at which it was made. Well, the bonus episode in question was also done by Osamu Dezaki, the person who did episode 4, and reportedly it goes infinitely further in terms of exactly the things that made episode 4 so great: the elliptical storytelling, the surreal humor, the joyously cynical satire, the political subtext. So far, in fact, that the TV station flat out refused to air it.

That's the main attraction of this release, but as an added bonus the DVD set even includes the comic version of episode 4 drawn by Dezaki and published at the time. Needless to say, until now it has been merely an obscure footnote that nobody had the chance to see anymore. Nobody even knew there was a missing episode until now. All in all, this DVD set is great news for one of the greatest anime series ever.

This is just the sort of value-added purchasing incentive that you'd excpect from a box set, and you could never have expected something like this from a US production due to the rarity of the source material. So it's a really welcome release. The only problem being the exorbitant cost of DVDs in Japan. Japanese LDs were outrageously priced, and I hoped, moving into the DVD era, that Japanese DVDs would be more moderately priced, but by and large, especially compared with prices over here, such has not turned out to be the case. Owning the LD box already as I do, $500+ is simply too much to pay for 23 minutes of anime and a comic. And it seems highly unlikely that a series like this will ever be released here. Oh well.

Monday, August 2, 2004

06:43:54 pm , 288 words, 1004 views     Categories: Animation

Animatrix key animator memo

I'm always trying to remember who was in what in Animatrix, so here's a simple memo of the ones that interest me.

Kid's Story
CD/AD: Shinji Hashimoto
KA: Hidetsugu Ito, Shinya Ohira, Kazuto Nakazawa, Hideki Hamasu, Miwa Sasaki, Norio Matsumoto, Shin'ichiro Yamada, Masashi Ando, Yasuhiro Irie, Osamu Tanabe, Norimoto Tokura, Kyuma Oshita, Shinji Hashimoto, Chie uratani

This lineup never fails to amaze me. Ohira's chase. Matsumoto running into the bathroom. Hashimoto landing on his feet. I wonder who did breakfast? Nakazawa?

In an interview about the piece Hashimoto made the statement, "If you've got good key animators, you don't need an animation director." Which sums up what I like about the piece. You really get to see everything in the raw.

AD: Takeshi Honda
CD: Koji Morimoto/Takeshi Honda
KA: Makoto Yamada, Satoru Utsunomiya, Ken'ichi Yamaguchi, Jiro Kanai, Ushio Tazawa, Hideki Futamura, Hideki Sekiguchi, Yasuhiro Aoki, Isao Oishi, Chie Uratani, Atsuko Fukushima, Yumi Chiba, Takeshi Honda, Daisuke Nakayama, Koji Morimoto

Honda's AD is so good it's hard to figure out who did what. (where's my smirk smiley?) The only one I can guess at is Utsunomiya - talking on the phone?

Second Renaissance
AD/CD: Mahiro Maeda/Hideki Futamura
KA: Yuichi Tanaka, Mahiro Maeda, Yuichi Takayama, Chie Uratani, Taro Takagi, Hideki Futamura, Hiroshi Nakanishi, Takeshi Honda, Naoto Takemoto, Daisuke Nakayama, Hideki Sekiguchi, Masae Nakayama, Kazuya Nomura, Jiro Kanai, Yasuhiro Aoki, Masaji Tada, Minoru Murao, Toyohiro Okada, Kazuto Nakazawa, Hiroyuki Okuno, Yasushi Muraki, Takehiro Noda

Interesting to notice Yasuhiro Aoki in both Second Renaissance and Beyond now that I've seen Tweeny Witches. I wonder how long he's been active? I've always wondered who did the part where the robot lady gets attacked on the street. Honda? Maeda?

Sunday, August 1, 2004

05:19:34 pm , 312 words, 1253 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, Movie



Honey: A short film by Evan Cagle

Today I have the pleasure of being able to bring your attention to a remarkable new independent animation project. Honey, the debut creation of Austin-based independent animator Evan Cagle, announces itself as one of the most distinguished fruits to come to bear from the cultural cross-pollination that is the west's ongoing love-affair with that nebulous and enigmatic thing we call anime.

Not here the litany of clichés that more often than not defined the stillborn assays of other western fans, but rather a thoroughly original creation informed by a compelling and well-defined vision that immediately convinces. Nor is it a corporate co-opting of a profitable fad, but an individual labor of love borne of inner necessity; a moving personal tribute to the artistic creation of another culture.

I can't help but be reminded of a certain man who planted trees as I contemplate the vast labor embodied by the film in its present state. Simply consider that one person worked for several years in total obscurity to produce the images you see in the trailer (which is only a fraction of the extant material). Every background; every drawing; everything was done by one person. The final product successfully combines 3D animation with designs that look and feel hand-drawn to produce evocative, moody visuals that are quite pleasurable, and leave one looking forward to the full story.

Honey is an independent production; the work of one person. But there is only so much one person can do, in terms of effort and in terms of financial self-sacrifice, no matter how dedicated. Which is why a studio has been formed, and they are now looking for animators to help complete the film. So hop on over to the newly-created web site and have a look at the impressive trailer, and then help spread word about this film by telling your friends about it.

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