Some words about series I completed recently:
If there was any surprise this summer season, then it’s certainly Princess Lover. It’s the debut project of studio GoHands as main animation producer, and despite being a generic H-Game adaption it has its share of strong points. GoHands originated from the former Osaka branch of Studio Satelight (which was involved in projects like Arjuna, Noein, Aquarion and many episodes of Shugo Chara) and thus has some very talented people under contract, from veteran Torapezoid animator Hiroshi Okubo to former gif animator Kouichi Kikuta. I was especially impressed by the work of those two animators, in particular the first and the last episode feature lots of interesting layout work and excellent animation thanks to both of them. But also most other episodes showcase unexpected good work, particularly the nice compositions and use of background animation here and there make it visually more appealing than the usual standard fare of this genre, not forgetting the loose animation direction which gives the animators more freedom in expressing and creating interesting movement and drawings.
Noteworthy (besides #1 and #12) are especially episode 4 and 9, former is a solo (key animation) work by Makoto Furuta and latter was done by three extraordinary animators, namely Tomoyuki Niho, Norio Matsumoto and Kenichi Kutsuna. Niho in particular has a similar approach as Hiroshi Okubo (especially concerning framing/camera work) as they are in some kind of master-student relationship. Here he finds also the possibilty to create more individual and interesting animation, though not to the same extent as in the case of his notorious work on Birdy the Mighty Decode:02 #7. The other two animators of Princess Lover #9 worked also on that Birdy episode, though this doesn’t mean that the animation is equally good. As usual still pictures can’t show the actual animation quality, but at least they give some information about the different drawing styles (I would provide a video if the good parts were one chunk, but they are spread all over the episode):
The first episode was also done by only three key animators (Hiroshi Okubo, Shingo Suzuki and Koichi Kikuta), former two with Satelight background and latter of Xebec origins. It’s pretty easy to identify the individual work in this episode, Okubo relies as usal heavily on much camera motion and interesting layout work, Shingo Suzuki‘s parts have strong Shugo Chara vibes as he did lots of work on that series, the influence is also very obvious in the character designs. And Koichi Kikuta‘s drawings are pretty rough and not very refined during movements (rather typical for a former gif animator), but the movement itself is very sharp and interesting.
I uploaded the impressive chase scene by Hiroshi Okubo from episode 1 as it’s undoubtedly worth watching:
Next the nicely animated magical girl parody from the beginning of episode 6, key animation by Okubo and Takayuki Uchida:
The last episode features Okubo‘s great dance sequence from the opening in its full version and glory, the superbness of the camera work and animation speaks for itself:
Okubo had a special place in the credits for the last episode (alone on the top), which pretty much describes his work as there are cuts by him all over the place, though alone the above dance scene would justifiy that position in my opinion.
And concluding some words about the overall direction, script and content of Princess Lover: The rather good production quality certainly can’t cover the flaws and triteness of the plot as it’s basically nothing more than a generic H-Game storyline with the usual character stereotypes and ridiculous scenes, but fortunately the director didn’t make the mistake to strive for a serious undertone. His approach is more self-ironic and parody-esque, especially in the episodes he directed himself like the very exaggerated but actually funny #6. I think that Princess Lover takes the right path and doesn’t fall into the same trap as so many similar anime, and despite not having any noteworthy character or plot development it was enjoyable in its own way.
I haven’t come across any good or watchable ‘yuri’ anime before, but Aoi Hana certainly falls in that category thanks to Kenichi Kasai‘s directing and some decent writing. I won’t deny that it has its share of rather ridiculous scenes, however, overall the show is pretty much plausible and establishes some convincingly acting characters, which isn’t a given these days. It’s the composed pacing as well as the laid-back storytelling that give the whole series a very natural feel which is quite different from most similar anime. Visually it’s also convincing thanks to the nice art direction by Shichiro Kobayashi and decent animation in the crucial parts, Hiroki Tanaka did some work on nearly every episode so there are some bits with good acting here and there.
For everyone who wants to check out a more mature and slice of life-ish approach to love between girls, Aoi Hana is a good point to start.
Haven’t (re)watched it since its airing on German TV in 2001, so I decided to check it out once more… and it still holds up its quality and charm even to this day. Hideaki Anno managed to create a fantastic series with lots of memorable characters, good animation quality (for the most part) and a rich story based on an outline by Miyazaki dating back to the ’70s, which was inspired by Jules Verne‘s novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”. Anno‘s hand is clearly visible in the overly detailed mechanical designs and an emphasis on science (fiction) as well as the believable characterization and nice balance of dramatic and funny sequences. Lots of things that make Evangelion so outstanding are basically also present in Nadia, at least in the parts of the show directed by Anno. The notorious “Island Arc” (23-34) which was directed by Shinji Higuchi is clearly worse than everything before, as Higuchi had a very different approach and conception which destroyed many things (especially regarding the characterization) that had been achieved to this point. The animation in that episodes is likewise not as good as in the rest of the show, but here and there you can find some nice bits by skilled animators like Masayuki‘s parts in episode 30. Nadia features lots of work by many talented people like Mahiro Maeda, Takeshi Honda, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Tadashi Hiramatsu, etc., that and Anno‘s great sense for strong visuals make it truly interesting on the animation side of things. He’s really good at depicting huge scales on the screen, in particular the gigantic explosions are presented in a very powerful and seemingly realistic way, which isn’t surprising since he has the same kind of approach as animator.
All in all, Nadia is one of the great classics of anime and undoubtedly worth a (re)watch, it’s the kind of anime that I’m missing in today’s line-up.