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Wow, thanks for the post! I watched “Bakabon” (the first three series) regularly as a kid, so this post speaks to me.
Nice to know who worked on what.
I guess I just appreciate animated works much differently from you; I’m surprised to read you say that EVERY story is boring almost as an afterthought. I’m inclined to call that a fatal problem. I started Lupin series 3 a little while ago and I’m not enjoying it very much for exactly that reason.
This is such a good review,made me really want to see it; I do get jaded & finding the existence of such a fine old series is a pleasure. Can’t find it available anywhere, even in French.
Thanks, Aaron. I’m sure you would enjoy this show. All of the A Pro gag shows starting from Tensai Bakabon are worth checking out. It’s too bad none of them are available over here: Tensai Bakabon, Dokonjo Gaeru, Hajime Ningen Gyators, Ganso Tensai Bakabon… And Gamba no Boken, though not a straight gag show, had some great slapstick/experimental episodes.
Thanks, Pete. I don’t know if it had any influence, but it’s an amusing anti-war piece.
Great article!! This show looks like a a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed reading about the distinctions of each animation house’s style. These gag shows are a big gap in my knowledge of 70s anime.
Plus, lots of staff cross-over with Lupin, which is always cool. I love how crazy and playful a lot of the distortions are on the characters in these stills.
I had read about the influence of “Bunpuku Chagama Daimaoh” on “Tatami Voyage", but I’d never actually seen it until now. It’s interesting to see the result of that inspiration and makes me imagine what Hashimoto might have done with an adaptation of “Bunpuku” (or even some of Santa Inoue’s other early work).
Nice review Ben. I think this short film must also have had some sort of influence. I wanted to see it for ages, but only recently was it uploaded. Made in 1969 btw:
Mickey Mouse in Vietnam
Puppetry in Japan has a long, wonderful tradition. There are many fantastic films using puppets. Here’s a Youtube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ruxx1Jog0oM of Kihachiro Kawamoto’s films. Enjoy!
Ben, I would probably say the film IS worth seeing for the consistently worked animation style. And the overall art direction is fairly subtle and nice(if a bit middling). But all the same, I just wasn’t terribly excited about the whole.
I guess it’s just one of those anime productions I find kind of frustrating. Because it’s actually kind of creative and well-crafted up to a point, but nevertheless feels oddly arbitrary and halting.
I guess you could make a similar claim about something like Green Legend Ran. But with Ran, I did feel the best aspects, or parts were so awesomely convincing they outshined the unevenness or flaws.
Btw, he has a kickstarter out for a video game, its adequately funded, (no thanks to having a very popular developer that he teamed up with), but still interesting nonetheless. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1307515311/night-in-the-woods
One of my animator friends actually hangs out with him on skype sessions where he gathers non-LA animators, its really cool what he’s doing - doing excellent work far removed from the traditional centers of the industry (he’s based in Pittsburgh).
I think the schedule was super rushed, so he didn’t really give it that much conceptual thought, and he was after all a first time director. The big hands were a thing at the time among this school of animators - you see huge hands in Hakkenden, Ys II, etc. The transformation scene may have been done by Kakita. Utsunomiya may have done something before then. Not quite sure.
The tone of the piece is definitely peculiar, deliberately so, with the strange offbeat music and the bizarre scene of the stranger confronting that thug like a schoolteacher reprimanding a bad child. I actually like the strange tone, though it’s never developed enough. Ohira’s short is definitely more confidently conceived and executed. But I give Hashimoto credit for going in a daring direction that he conceived himself and doesn’t really have any analogue to copy from.
A happy ending where the salaryman’s future was changed or something would have been silly, so the bleakness doesn’t bother me. I just wonder what happened after the short ends and his friends are looking at him holding a fetus on the street! I agree, maybe it’s a little petty of me, but I like how Ohira makes the vomiting as gross sounding as possible. I completely understand what you mean about the touch of this film without the Yuasa touch. I envision Masatsugu Arakawa’s pared down style in Yukiwari no Hana would be a good match with the pared down realism Ohira created here. Maybe Arakawa was even influenced by Ohira.
My pleasure, glad you enjoyed it. The Hashimoto short is amazing, and the Picasso observation is interesting. There is indeed a 20th century art feeling to the compositions.
I see your point. The stories do have a similar direction, like a Haruo Sato pitiful watakushi-shosetsu played through he filter of a ghost story. Personally I love pathetic stories about lost souls, so I didn’t mind.
Yes, I knew about the Tanaka bit. It’s nice and all, but I don’t really think it fits in the scene and kind of wrecks the atmosphere. The show turns all cartoony and bouncy right at the climactic moment when it’s supposed to be heaviest and darkest. I love Tanaka’s work at this period, but I think he fits better in Download, Hakkenden, Ran, Explorer Woman Ray.
Good point about the impressionistic designs being grounded in realistic posing and acting. The root is still realism, but with a surface of artistic stylization. I guess in a sense that’s Hashimoto basic style. His movement is always real and the acting down to earth and believable, but he never draws photorealistically, usually quite the opposite. He can even make characters like the Yamadas move realistically.
I don’t doubt you’re probably in large measure right about the Christania film. I confess I didn’t bother to rewatch the film and OVAs for this post, so my memory is somewhat vague about the particulars of the story, directing and animation style. Maybe it’s not as good as I remember. I think my memory of being bowled over by the unusual Utsunomiya/Miyazawa animation dominates my memory of the show, so I should probably revisit it to see.
I agree, children’s anime seems to bring out the more creative side in Japanese animators. That’s why most of my favorite anime are kids shows - Little Jumbo, Slime Adventures, Gamba no Boken, Manga Sekai Mukashibanashi, etc.
He did cover a lot of bases in his career, and if anything didn’t seem to have hit any home runs recently, so you can’t say he was cut off short, but I still think he had a lot left in him. Maybe he just wan’t able to get interesting projects off the ground as easily after 2000. You’re right about stalled projects not being anything uncommon, but getting a whole movie completely made only to have it shelved without being seen by anyone, that’s a different story. (though the film was shown in halls)
I guess by its nature background art is meant to be in the background and not the focus of attention, so most of the time it rightfully doesn’t receive much focus from fans. An artist like Kimura whose vision is compelling enough to stand on its own feet is more the exception. There are probably many good artists doing quality work on backgrounds that aren’t necessarily interesting in their own right like Kimura’s more eyecatching style. I also think most anime today don’t require particularly artsy backgrounds, or don’t have the interest in exploring novel visual concepts in the background art. In the 70s there were artists like Shichiro Kobayashi creating very hand-drawn, expressive art almost by default on each production they worked on.
Thanks for pointing out those artists. I myself don’t watch enough new shows to be able to say who is interesting today, but I’m sure there must be a lot of noteworthy art directors and background painters that deserve more recognition. I will bring the subject up if I see an anime with art direction that strikes me as particularly good, but I’ll admit it doesn’t happen that often to me.
The Gotham Knight short is very nice, but the credits seem a little off to me… maybe I’m wrong.
Thanks, that’s very nice to hear. It’s good to be back writing again. I’ve actually written about things other than the animation since the very beginning, but I guess the animation part gets focused on. I try to give an overall picture including the writing, directing, art and animation, though I guess in the end my main interest is the animation. What I most like to see is a production where all these elements are compelling. I don’t much go in for great animation in a show I don’t like anymore like I did in the old days. I just don’t have the time/patience any more.
Yes, the writing of the Blue Exorcist movie was charming and pleasant without straying far from formula, which I don’t particularly mind. I’m the same, it’s not unless a background really sticks out like this that I pay attention to it, which is perhaps doing a disservice to the talented background artists out there who slave away producing beautiful and meticulous art that functions as a part of the whole rather than being more expressive than the rest of the production like Kimura’s art is here. I still think 80s Madhouse productions struck an ideal balance between art, animation and directing in which each is expressive in its own right while contributing to the whole. I don’t see that many anime these days that feel that way. There’s too much focus on getting all the little details right and people lose sight of the forest for the trees. Any random roughly drawn/lightly animated ep of Manga Nihon/Sekai Mukashibanashi seems more appealing to me.
Great to finally see the OVA in its entirety. My only real critique is that they’re all kind of about the same pitiful man, at various points of losing/loss with his life and his ephemeral/doomed/past woman symbol (I know, I know, adapted material). Thematically, it’s sound. I just would’ve liked to see some variance, even if I can appreciate the familiarity of the message and the careful presentation.
I’ve only seen a cut of Ohira’s piece in a Tatsuyuki Tanaka MAD: the shot of the woman being shoved into the table. Supposedly, he animated that part, along with the shot of the fetus in the man’s hand. It’s saved here on Catsuka (bless ‘em) if you want to maybe verify: http://www.catsuka.com/player/mad_Tatsuyuki_Tanaka2 (at about 1:09-1:30) Anyway, much love for Ohira, and anything more would just be repeating what you said.
As for the others, Hashimoto’s short surprised me by how much I liked it; particularly everything after the opening. Martin’s Picasso comment is pretty apt; my favorite thing is the impressionistic look of the characters grounded by the naturalistic poses and increasingly vibrant movement. That final sequence is real visceral stuff, even if I’m left rather unsatisfied on the whole. It’s probably the most radical I’ve seen Shinji Hashimoto.
I can even like Suzuki’s part, despite my rather limited understanding of Japanese (wasn’t the best student, a-heh). On a personal level, it reminded me of the hiking/camping trips my father would take, often alone, and some of the ones I’ve been on. I’m sure it’s even more suspenseful with the dialogue.
Also, ditto on Umetsu. That guy is so frustrating; like you said, he’s technically very good. His understanding of the character, pose-to-pose, and in relation to the environment/plane is all really solid. He’s also never lost his ability to direct punchy action sequences, or his bold use of light and shadows. But his works are flawed and so very much pap. It’s all superficial sheen that never goes far enough as a visual or personal statement. I feel like his best work is between AD-ing for Megazone 23 and his Mezzo Forte OVA, where he’s at his most honest about his love for pulp/noir goofiness.
i loved the tatami voyage short. in regards to the character design, the style looks like it was partly influenced by pablo picasso and maybe van gogh’s early figure sketches.
thanks a bunch for covering this OVA. it was a treat to watch.
So the full omnibus is finally available. I had only seen Ohira’s short before, but Hashimoto’s is quite nice. I didn’t watch the other two because without understanding the dialogue they are a bit hard to get through.
Hashimoto’s short was interesting in its approach, though I wish he’d had the chance to flesh out the style a bit more as it seemed like he was still playing around and seeing what he liked. I liked the big, plump limbs (and hands) that were exploited in the acting, and the constant shifting of the faces which moved enough without having the characters ‘flail around randomly’ to use your words. Even when they only used few drawings, the expressions are timely and fitting. I liked the short bit where the man is telling the girl not to open the door, for example.
The transformation scene looks like it could only be Utsunomiya, I can’t think of anyone else who draws the lips and ‘dolljoints’ like that.
The story seemed quite silly from what I could gather, and those synth tunes contributed to the cheese. Completely different to Ohira’s short which feels more accomplished as an overall package, and more confident in its directing.
I really like Ohira’s. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and tells a depressing but real story skilfully. Although I don’t see the ‘loving’ you speak of, the short’s world-view seems almost nihilistic in how none of it really mattered at the end- he’ll still be a depressed salaryman without purpose the next day.
I really liked the sound effect used for the vomiting. It contributes just as much if not more than the animation in making that bit visceral and gross.
The design is, as you said in your previous post about the short, going in the direction of Hamaji with its pared down realism highlighting little features. I would have liked to see something more developed along these lines, but without the Yuasa touch that is present in Hamaji. I like Yuasa but he does a different kind of thing; something like the shot of the woman above. It’s more plain, but also more down to earth, while a lot of Hamaji feels more surreal and out-there. I guess each of the approaches fits the film they were in. Of course Ohira’s own animation is undisputed when it comes to this brand of realism (he actually went back to a Hamaji-like look in his cut for Rainbow Fireflies, you might like what he did there!).
I’m 16 and currently wondering what I want to do with my life. I have always loved watching anime and even reading manga. This interview has inspired me to aim to become an animator. Thank you so much for all your insight on this topic, it has helped me greatly, Bahi.
A few follow-up comments:
If it seemed like I was being overtly disparaging of the animation style in Crystania, then yeah, my impression was probably coloured somewhat by my overall lukewarm experience of the film. But no doubt it’s the single most compelling component of the film. And puts in a noble effort in guiding and maintaining the viewer’s interest throughout.
Maybe it didn’t quite knock me over in this particular context, but it’s obvious there was a lot of effort and creativity involved. I should probably get around to re-watching the follow-up OVA, which I seem to have more fond memories of.
On another note, Nakamura seems to be the director who really understood how to fully utilize the talents of Takahiro Kishida. Though perhaps it was also the spirit of the period.
Following the OVA experiments of the early 90’s, the immediate post-Evangelion era also seemed a pretty exciting time in anime. With Anno following it up with KareKano. And directors like Nakamura crafting highly artistic tv shows like Lain that used a sparse and effortless sort of aesthetic in a powerful manner that seemed to point at anime as a highly potent medium of artistically imaginative storytelling.
That was a beautiful film. Very Sanrio-esque. Children’s fantasy really brings out that conceptual side of animators that I feel gets so heavily filtered elsewhere. Unless, you’re like Masaaki Yuasa, who’s married his childishness to his genius. And I mean that as a compliment.
Barring Lain, Nakamura’s work as director always seemed to be really understated. Or maybe it’s his flexibility, as you say. He reads like the kind of guy who could work with just about anyone, something any industry would be blessed to have.
I was talking to a friend about Satoshi Kon the other day. About how I wished The Dream Machine could be finished, even if it wasn’t very good. But you hear all the time that it’s common for artists to have hundreds of projects that get shelved or filed away; for one reason or another. As far as careers go, it sounds like he left in a good way. Thanks for the education.
Interestingly, I’d just recently re-watched The Legend of Chrystania film.
And yeah, pretty depressing that Nakamura died. Guess we’ll never see his promised second collaboration with Yoshitoshi ABe.
The Twin Stars is a simple, lovely piece. A good channeling of talent focused on creating an unassuming but rich Little film. Kishida really is a multi-talented guy.
On the topic of the Legend of Chrystania film though…I must say, I don’t really feel it’s among his strongest works. As far as I remember I do think I liked the sequel 3-part OVA a good deal more…But having just sat down and watched he original feature film, I honestly can’t say I think it’s a particulary convincing or engaging piece of storytelling or filmmaking.
The style is fairly interesting on its own terms, and technically it’s put together competently. But I’m far from convinced that anything about it is really channeled or executed in a manner that elevates the whole.
The animation style is certainly fairly consistently unique. But unlike, say, YS II, it doesn’t feel like it’s conceived or directed in a manner that really brings alive each moment from the ground up. And yeah, I suppose it studiously avoids typical anime stylings and such, but that’s hardly a helpful evaluation of its overall merits. Generally, I find there’s something a Little too plainly pared-down and middling about the design and staging. It’s not that it’s incompetent, it’s just not terribly compelling. Except in a purely “let’s follow the unique forms & motion patterns"-sort of microscopic view…
The overall staging/storytelling fall into simple truncation rather than assiduous distillation: The staging/direction of the characters personalities, feelings/motivations and interactions tend to feel either vague or arbitrary and is only sort of half-followed through. And there’s generally a dangerous amount of exposition as characters yak on about their particular situation, allegiances, past events or the convoluted workings of the fantasy world. The theme about the desire for power and its corrupting influence is not brought alive or developed in any compelling manner.
I might have felt it worked better if the direction was more visually idiosyncratic and style-conscious in a Rintaro-esque way. But Nakamura mostly seems to politely and modestly relate the story, shot for shot(though the animation itself is certainly stylish).
It’s not that I find the film uninteresting, but I’m uncomfortable calling it “great". There is a notable difference between this and Ys II or 3x3 Eyes(or Lain for that matter…)
Don’t think you’ve written about The 08th MS Team. I liken it to a short space suite as opposed to the bloated confusing other Gundam Operas. Its got a fun familial Mospeada feel to it too. I’ve watched a few of the Votoms OVAs but nothing along the lines of a full 12 episode Mellowlink. From what you are wrote it sounds at least as good or even better than The 08th MS Team.
I had an all red (I think) Dunbine toy when I was a kid in the ’80s. I barely remember the cool box in came in, but I’m pretty sure it said Dunbine. My famiy may have bought it in the Philippines and then we brought it home back to the states. It had wings and that vented back pack and the gnarly tri-talon feet below the bell-bottom mecha legs. Might have to finally watch a few episodes in remembrance of that toy. Pretty sure I never saw the show as a kid. All I remember watching before VHS & Robotech was Battle of the Planets, Voltes5 & Grendizer.
I visited your blog occasionally for quite some time and I’m glad that you’re back after your long break. Also good to see that you’re talking about other things too. (Great) animation is still a factor which made me really happy, but I “discovered” direction and writing too. When it’s done right, you can have wonderful things.
Anyway, I watched the Blue Exorcist movie and it was quite nice. Shounen in general or such simple stories are usually not something I would watch or even like, but it helped that the writing wasn’t that bad as it is normally the case with such movies. Reiko Yoshida has experience with easygoing stories and it showed here. The action parts were quite typical for it’s kind, but otherwise it was a decent-written calm and charming plot - especially when you compare it to other fellows. Though as you and the comments section already said, the true highlight were the backgrounds. Absolute fantastic work from Shinji Kimura. Been a long time since I saw backgrounds of that level, if ever. My first reaction was: With such a talent it would be possible to make a Blame! anime (lol).
As duckroll said it already, I also usually don’t give much attention to backgrounds, unless it’s really good or noticeable. And Shinji Kimura’s work is the first thing you would notice in the Blue Exorcist movie. It’s unbelievable. For the direction I would agree that Atsushi Takahashi’s style fits very well with that art. There are many good shots and camera positions which not only shows off the art, but are also a sign that Atsushi Takahashi was the right man for that job. Aside from the movie I don’t know much of him (can’t remember his Kemonozume work), but it seems he has a knack for the right shots. The action wasn’t bad, but not as good as from some proved and/or talented action directors. Above average thanks to some scenes would be the right choice of words I think. The movie had a good budget as it seems, therefore he could do what he wanted - if he was the Storyboarder of course.
Last but not least a great article. :)
nice summing up Ben. I also played the video games. I was surprised how close to the original game the first OVA was. In the first OVA they even used the video game music at the exact same spots as the video game. I wish there was a Zelda OVA similar to this at that time.
The irony is that the second video game features a much larger story than the first.
But it is the first OVA that lasts 7 episodes, while the superior second OVA is condensed to 4 episodes.
Hm. Just had the opportunity to watch Wasurenagumo. It’s a well-done short film. Though it isn’t the sort of thing given over to stylistic excess or experimentation. The story is smart and knows exactly what it wants to do. The tone of the piece deftly balances brisk and lighthearted humor with a (subtly)sinister atmosphere. The pacing is right without rushing things or lingering awkwardly. The climax in the abandoned house and the denouement is plain old-fashioned good filmmaking. The characters are expressive, the style is subservient to the telling of the story but appropriate and efficient(the drawings are particulary strong near the climax) and never really inadequate or distracting(though perhaps fashionable bias insist we should feel it is).
At any rate, it’s certainly not indicative of the worst shortcomings of anime filmmaking.
Cool, thanks for that. I agree, in all the interviews I’ve read with him, he comes across as a real character. I’m not at all familiar with Obari and G1, so it’s great to hear about a side of Nakazawa I wasn’t familiar with. I certainly don’t see the Obari influence in him, but then, animators seem to usually grow and evolve out of the people who influenced them early on, e.g. I don’t see much Yamashita Masahito in Ohira anymore, even though I think he still professes to being a Yamashita fan first and foremost.
I remember you mentioning it way back when. You put it perfectly and succinctly. It’s the perfect melding of exciting visuals with epic storytelling. All the elements come together as a satisfying whole. It’s the perfect anime in many ways, an epic flight of fantasy that truly feels epic and uses all the visual and directing tricks of anime to create a memorable story.
You can safely skip the first one, I just thought I should write about it for completeness’ sake. It’s laughable how different the two are. It was playing at the Austin anime club one night, and that’s where I caught a glimpse of it, but I never managed to track it down afterwards (or didn’t bother) until now.
Hiroyuki Nishimura is really talented, but I don’t feel like I’ve been that impressed by anything he’s done since Ys II apart from his work as a lone action animator. Maybe I just haven’t seen the right thing. Like Deltora Quest, I couldn’t get past the first episode, even though it seems like it’s an anime very much in the spirit of Ys II. Maybe it got better afterwards? The drawing at the top of his homepage from Deltora Quest really has that same feeling, with the jagged and dynamic lines and intense feeling in the expression of the character.
Great write up, and I’m glad you enjoyed the movie. I was surprised by how self contained it felt too, since I didn’t know anything about Blue Exorcist before watching it.
Regarding the discussion about Art Direction in anime, I too feel that it’s a subject which is often not given much attention because people prefer discussion animation and character/mechanical design. It’s understandable though, since those are usually the main visual elements people notice and relate to.
I personally really like the work by Shigemi Ikeda from Atelier Musa, and Kentaro Akiyama from Studio Pablo. Ikeda has been in the industry for a long time, but it was the work on the backgrounds of the X-Men anime which really got my attention. It had a lot of nice hand drawn backgrounds which was a bit unusual considering the quality of the other Marvel Anime series. Studio Pablo probably doesn’t need much introduction though, since they’ve done fantastic work on Penguindrum, Sengoku Collection, and more recently Flowers of Evil.
Another Shinji Kimura work which I don’t see mentioned muched is the Gotham Knight short he worked on, where he also did the character designs, storyboards, and layouts for. It’s very distinctly Kimura, and has some pretty cool variations on Batman’s design as well as Gotham’s design in general. :)
This review surprised me. I haven’t watch the first OVA series, but I was really impressed with animation and color choice of second OVA series even though I’ve watched it as VHS fansub back in the days.
Hiroyuki Nishimura has a website called Westvill Graphics, but he hasn’t updated it for 4 years. He had a column page too, but he removed it
Well, this made my day.
Delighted to see Ys II finally getting the exposure it deserves. It’s arguably the best fantasy anime that almost no-one has seen.
Out of the many memorable OAVs of the period, Ys II is quite possibly the one that impressed me the most. By and large, it actually seems to get everything right and succeeds on a great number of levels. The story has a genuine epic and poetic flavour, while also managing to stay tense and focused at every moment as we follow a cast of characters who are sketched in a highly compelling and endearing manner with a remarkably concise and tasteful use of cinematic tools.
There’s a genuine feeling of every facet of production(story, art, direction) coming together to create an intensely enjoyable and satisfying animated fantasy film.
And it’s very ANIME, not in a generic or pandering or ironic sort of way. But in a manner that subtly(but powerfully) channels the most iconic and transcendent aspects of the medium.
Your Welcome, They sure did, Tom Ruegger said so him self ( I asked him my self, link here http://cartoonatics.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-jetsons-50th-anniversary-his-boy.html ) ; As for the ad, that has not been uploaded but Ruegger said that the ad’s placement was the case.
I have got my info from many sources, Telecom’s own web site (before they redid it), 2Ch, this site, Otsuka’s book’s and watching TMS’ other shows and matching up to their styles in terms of staff & outsourcing studios like how fans of golden age US animation spot out animators like Bob Mckimson & Rod Scribner when Virgil Ross was the only animator listed (as was the case with A Wild Hare).
I really adore Telecom like part of my family, and so I put alot of effort of putting as much care to the company as others do for Ghibli (well, before Miyazaki retired anyway, Takahata still has a film coming out this fall, but still) and Gainax (now Khara & Trigger as thats where everyone that made Gainax big is now at).
Nakazawa’s a curious guy. When I was writing those Obari articles, I ran across his name a few times and it turns out he spent some time with Obari’s Studio G1. There’s a magazine illustration he drew for Dominion Tank Police in 1993 where it says “G1″ next to his name.
Given he is more of a character animator he seems to have worked closely with Ishida Atsuko who was also another Studio G1 member. Back then she had that nice wavey character animation style, I wonder if he absorbed some of that essence. I recall reading an anecdote about their time at the studio where she had to scold him because he candidly asked Ishida, “Who’s this Kanada guy everybody’s talking about?” haha. She temporarily came out of retirement when she did some KA on the final episode of Champloo where Nakazawa was also working, that perhaps shows the strength of their friendship.
There’s that line on the Sakuga@Wiki that says his biggest influence was Obari, though given how differently these two people draw and both hailing from different animator pedigrees I’m not sure what kind of influence it refers to. Though they do both appear to be friends and share a love of wrestling.
Interestingly Obari himself says he learnt a lot from Nakazawa, especially the way Nakazawa uses colors. He also recalls they were both asked to work on an episode of Evangelion back in the mid 90s. Certainly they teamed up often during the 90s.
Oh and looking Nishimura up seems he does drop into some of Nakazawa’s works with Studio G1, especially when he was the AD on a project, the Fatal Fury Movie and Battle Arena Toshinden OVA’s first episode specifically.
I don’t really know what they teach at animation schools in Japan. That’s a good question. It’s basically vocational school, so I assume it must be tailored to the industry conventions and not discovering your crazy inner indie. A school like Geidai is where the indies are coming from these days, which I suppose would be the equivalent of the stop motion/experimental animation class.
My pleasure. Thanks for the link. Funny to see they credited the studio in parentheses, just like I did! The parentheses were my addition; those aren’t in the credit roll on the OVA. Good to see I was mostly right. The only one I got wrong was Tetsuo Kadoya, whom I had to guess about; the only one I haven’t been able to figure out is Hiroshi Kanezuka.
I doubt many other western fans have seen this one. Even back in the day I never ran across this one in fansubs or even otherwise.
I discovered Scott Benson with this film and I’ve become very enamored with his work after going through his back catalog, not to mention his blog, in which he eloquently expounds on the plight of the indie animator today.
The reasons for all the callbacks to Night still evade me and are actually one of my main beefs with the film. I think it undermines the film’s integrity to build it from elements pilfered from another film.
I also feel that this approach to pacing worked well for Night on the Galactic Railroad, but here it feels more self-indulgent than effective at creating atmosphere. The court scene near the end, though beautiful, I also felt to be incomprehensible and self-indulgent. The use of dialogue from a completely different story in a different context only confused me, not to mention being pointlessly repetitive. Everything seems to have its parallel in Night, so Ame ni mo Makezu seemed to be simply inserted out of necessity as his most famous poem and to parallel the insertion of Spring & Chaos in Night on the Galactic Railroad, though I suppose it is a poetic analogue to the stoic message of selfless sacrifice and perseverance in Budori.
There were beautiful images in Night on the Galactic railroad that don’t have an obvious meaning, like the clock in the corn field, but still feel satisfying as visual poetry, so it doesn’t feel like they need to be explained away. They work as visual storytelling.
I see your point about the supernatural elements undermining Budori’s agency. The self-sacrifice at the end hardly seems his decision in this version. Budori plays a more ‘active’ role in his fate in the Ryutaro Nakamura version and seems a more compelling character overall compared to the sleepwalker in this film.
I guess that has to do with the fact that it was originally planned as an anime (or was it a drama), and the game actually came afterwards, but wound up coming out first. It’s not a bad concept, it just needed to be better fleshed out and have better production quality.
Thanks a lot for this info! That explains it. I’m surprised that they actually bought an ad in a paper saying such a thing, although I realize you must be paraphrasing and they must not have said it in so many words. It’s great to hear about how and why TMS got into producing those Tiny Toons episodes etc. over the 1990s. Where did you learn all this? The info on that tvtropes page for Tiny Toon Adventures is remarkably specific. I can’t imagine that the Japanese animators were credited by section that way.
Fascinating post on a wonderful film. Thanks for sharing this, I really enjoyed C. The 80s atmosphere was a lot of fun, and of course those practical effects were great.
OK, I’ll be fair to Araki. I actually did watch all of Highschool of the Dead and thought it did a good enough job keeping up movement and being engaging. Even if I feel it might have been a more convincing “film” if they’d wrapped it up in about half the episodes.(the show just STOPS anyway once they reach the end of the one-season tv episode count)
And it’s a show that is just too easy to make cheap shots at.
Maybe the reason I brought it up was that for the decidedly more somber or serious-minded narrative of SnK, it’s really the same blunt tools and pile-it-on tactics that in this case seem to sour the experience in a more notable way.
Thanks for posting this! I was pretty blown away by this anthology as well, it was like all the great indie animated music video guys from vimeo got together and made an anthology with just as innovative an animation and storytelling, but without the music video side of it.
I’m particularly a fan of Scott Benson’s other work. http://vimeo.com/bombsfall
Shocking to hear such statements about a great series like Kemonozume, my second favorite show of the last ten years behind only Paranoia Agent. I remember being totally thrilled and enchanted by that episode along with the entire series and its story.
I’ll definitely be watching this at some point because of that.
Thank you for the review. I have always wanted to see this and was not sure if ANYONE has. I am still going to go “treasure hunting” to seek this out. I cant find it anywhere. Here is an ad from the 2/1986 issue of Newtype that has the staff credits in English just how you described.
Thank you and welcome back.
I’m happy to see you enjoyed this. Kimura’s work is certainly the standout. I must say, though, I don’t detect any hint of irony or satire in him. He obviously revels in lush, rich, colorful urban landscapes full of life and personality, which perfectly meshes with the festival setting. When the city is damaged, whether after the opening battle or during the climax, it is a painful wound that needs to be healed, not a victory against the superficiality of urban life. The crowded image of street signs you post speaks to me of magic, the city as a purveyor of a million wonders. Now I’ve been in Times Square in New York and felt distaste at the garish neon lights lit everywhere, but I don’t get that same feeling from Kimura’s art, in contrast to, say, Blade Runner. It’s difficult for me to believe that someone who obviously takes so much pleasure in fleshing out a city is secretly condemning it.
I don’t like Kemonozume 12 either, but I wouldn’t blame Takahashi for that. The story and the series were already too far gone by that point for him to salvage.
“I’m not very familiar with Atsushi Takahashi’s resume, but in my mind his name is synonymous with episode 12 of Kemonozume, which is the standout episode of the show, and probably one of the greatest TV anime episodes ever…. His style is artistic and stylish, but without the in-your-face formalistic flourishes of Toei-school directors such as Mamoru Hosoda. Style seems subservient to creating a feeling of the reality of the world inhabited by the characters.”
I’m baffled. I just watched Kemonozume 12 after reading this post. I’d earlier given up on the series after about episode 7.
I’m sorry, but your glowing description of the directing is the exact antithesis of what I experienced. At every moment, involvement in the story and characters was being undermined by very in-your-face stylistic showboating. The drawing never lets you forget that there’s an animator furiously scribbling the shapes on screen. In fact, after sitting through the first 6 minutes, I had to start again from the beginning because I was getting so distracted by the style that I couldn’t understand what was happening. Then I saw that 90 percent of the copious dialogue consists of exposition - descriptions of people and events that we don’t get to witness ourselves. Motivations are bluntly declaimed, nothing is allowed to be understood through context. There were moments of intense violence during which I felt not a thing. To round out my summary, I’ll try to cut this short– multiple flashbacks, non sequiturs, and histrionic voice acting. This was not a well directed episode by any objective standard. There was some very nice character and background drawing and certainly expressive movement– but in the context of the whole, it didn’t matter.
I haven’t seen the movie, but Shinji Kimura’s art is always recognizable. To me, all those dirty urban setting since Tekkon Kinkreet has become his signature look.
Come to think of it, we never talked much about art director in Japanese animation. It would be nice if we can talk more about their style, techniques, and thought process.
When you brought up the animator named Cedric Herole, I thought it was a pen name. It sounds so similar to a character from Little Lord Fauntleroy when it was written in Katakana. So he is real deal.
Glad you liked it, and you’re right, this is pure background-driven anime (not to downplay the directing either, but as you say it’s fairly subservient to Kimura).
There are a lot of different animators with their own particular brand of movement in Japan’s commercial scene, but I’m not all that familiar with many art directors displaying such levels of individuality and creating their own cohesive ethos with their backgrounds. Kimura’s art is a breath of fresh air in that sense and I think that aspect shines brightly on a less idiosyncratic, more commercial film like this (compared to Tekkon, or Deatthic 4). It’s a testament to his talent that he can produce such excellence in this environment, similar to how the great animators can captivate you with a brief sequence in any show, of any quality.
“For some reason, Telecom clearly didn’t put their best animators on this project.”
That is because by July-August of 1990, most of Telecom A-game were focused on Tiny Toons when the rest were on Peter Pan And The Pirates, The era between Chip n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers (which they did after Nemo as filler as around this time Disney was opening up their own Japanese studio) and Tiny Toons was a sight to take notes; After Nemo’s bombing TMS neaded a Dragon Ball Z size hit badly to bail them out of Nemo so they placed a ad in the paper saying “We just lost a bunch of money on Little Nemo and we need a replacement now, other wise were going out of business” that lead Tom Ruegger and co to fly to Tokyo to mead up with Yutaka Fujioka (Picture of him here http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/fujioka_sama_9191.jpg and here http://cartoonatics.blogspot.com/2010/09/warner-bros-animation-staff-circa-1990.html ) and other TMS staff members, TMS will only do Tiny Toons if TMS got 30% of the show’s rights and they asked Spielberg if it was ok and he said yes and TMS was saved.
As for Her Wacky Highness (Telecom’s first “in production” episode of Tiny Toons) The unit TMS used was their B unit and the episode was done by Shojiro Nishimi as their A unit was doing Shin Jarinko Chie at that time but when they seen how big Tiny Toons was doing, the A unit jumped shipped and Shin Jarinko Chie was pushed back to 1991 because of it; More info about Telecom’s Tiny Toons efforts here http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Trivia/TinyToonAdventures
Ben, it’s interesting that you should reference Miyazawa’s search for his sister. The nonsensical dialogue in the train sequence that the “ghosts” speak is all drawn from Aomori Elegy, Miyazawa’s poem about the death of his sister. I suppose I hadn’t actually considered this as a deliberate choice - I rather thought of it as “reference porn", as with all the other callbacks to Night in particular (I’m afraid I’m not literate in Miyazawa by any means; I just looked up things that made no sense to me…)
I rather felt that the supernatural elements, amongst other things, undermined the story. The point of Ame ni mo Makezu (the poem read at the beginning and towards the end of the film), and the original Budori story, is that one should aspire to a life of asceticism and hard, self-sacrificing work. The intrusion of the supernatural feels as though it takes away Budori’s agency - it doesn’t help that his voice acting is so passive, and most of his “work” is conveyed through montage sequences, but he comes across as a total milquetoast.
I suspect I’d have fewer problems with the supernatural intrusions if it weren’t for that last scene in the court (thank you for pointing out the reference - I knew it had to have something to do with another Miyazawa story as it’s so pointless otherwise IMO). The fantasy sequences allow for the film’s more interesting visuals, but that sequence in particular feels totally superfluous; lots of repetitive dialogue ("Be quiet!” “Bring back Neri!” over and over again) and just hammering home the message over and over again that she’s died.
Perhaps I’m too prosaic a viewer, but I felt the supernatural additions weakened the film’s narrative and basically made it rather boring, a didactic story with all the didacticism taken out and not much else left. I admired the film’s technical merits and Sugii’s fearlessly deliberate pacing, but I just can’t rate it very highly.
That is one interesting find, Ben.
I didn’t even know there was animation based off from Far East of Eden game franchise. Game has that manga look, so its animation adaptation perhaps inevitable? It surprised me that Otsuka worked on it.
I only watched dramatization of Far East of Eden game development years ago on Fuji TV.
Ben’s back! Thanks for the posts. Can’t wait to read everything. I’ve got some catching up to do.