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Archive for September, 2009

Princess Lover

 

Some words about series I completed recently:

 
Princess Lover

Princess Lover
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):

 

Princess Lover 9
Princess Lover 9
Princess Lover 9
Princess Lover 9
Princess Lover 9

 

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.

 
 
Aoi Hana

Aoi Hana
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.

 
 
Nadia – The Secret of Blue Water

Nadia - The Secret of Blue Water
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.

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Blazblue

 

To return to this topic, let’s proceed with an opening which also features some amazing work by Kou Yoshinari, the animator/illustrator I highlighted in my first entry:

 

Sakura Wars 3 Opening (2001)
‘Amazing’ is the best word to describe this intro, the direction and animation are top-notch and considering the year of production the hand-drawn 2D animation and 3D CG work are successfully merged. It contains lots of things I would like to see more often in Japanese animation, in particular interesting camera work which makes use of the possibilities of the medium. Eye-catching is also the very fluid animation as it consists of 4000 drawings, which is about the average number of a typical 25 minutes TV episode. The high quality of the opening makes it difficult to pick out favorite parts, but not surprisingly Kou Yoshinari‘s cuts even stand out among so much outstanding work, he obviously did the dancing scene with the stunning camera work, which feels incredibly realistic through the polished, nuanced and fluid animation. Other remarkable parts are the nice explosions and many of the scenes with fantastic camera motion, most sequences wouldn’t be possible in usual TV works due to the budget and time restrictions. The production was directed by Atsushi Takeuchi, who worked on many of Mamoru Oshii‘s movies as animator and in the case of Ghost in the Shell 1 & 2 and The Sky Crawlers he did the mechanical designs; Takeuchi created also one short of the Ani*Kuri15 collection.
Apparently some of the key animators are credited with a pen name (“Takapon” is obvious, but some other names like Takada Hiroshi have no trackable record of other works), but that is pretty common for games and especially for everything with erotic content (though Sakura Wars is no H-Game of course).
The opening of the forth Sakura Wars game was also produced at Production I.G, but is nothing that spectacular yet still worth mentioning.

 

Storyboard / Director: Atsushi Takeuchi
Animation Supervisor: Kanta Kamei
Key Animation: Kazuchika Kise, Katsumi Ikeda, Kouichi Hashimoto, Masatsugu Arakawa, Sumiaki Tsubata, Ako Kagiyama, Sekiguchi Masahiro, Takada Hiroshi, Hideki Sadai, Yuuji Ogata, Takepon, Yasuhiro Saiki, Yae Ootsuka, Osamu Kurosawa, Kenji Yokokawa, Keiji Gotou, Hiroyuki Horiuchi, Kou Yoshinari

 
 
 

Wild Arms 2 Opening (1999)
This opening was directed by Tensai Okamura (Darker than Black, Wolf’s Rain, etc.) who created the storyboard together with Masahiro Ando (both did also key animation themselves), they also worked together on Andou’s TV show Canaan recently. There are some very nice bits of action animation in this opening, but have a look yourself:

 

Supervision: Tensai Okamura
Storyboard: Tensai Okamura, Masahiro Andou
Key Animation: Takahiro Kishida, Masahiro Koyama, Seiichi Nakatani, Masahiro Ando, Asako Nishida, Yoshiyuki Ito, Tomoaki Kado, Toru Yoshida, Kenji Irie, Hiroyuki Nishimura, Itsuko Takeda, Takayuki Hamana, Takuya Saito, Tensai Okamura

 
 
 

Wild Arms 3 Opening (2001)
The opening animation of Wild Arms 3 doesn’t need to hide from the intro of the second game, it’s a bit different in style but still a brillant piece of animation. A look at the staff reveals some truly interesting people from Kazuya Tsurumaki (FLCL, Rebuild of Evangelion, etc.) as director to Fumitomo Kizaki (dir. Basilisk) as animation director to animators like Toshiyuki Inoue, Hiroyuki Imaishi and Sushio. There are five different versions of this opening, so be aware that the staff list below are the overall credits. I picked my favorite version which includes animation by Hiroyuki Imaishi, his parts stand out for the “Kanada style” as he is a follower of late animator Yoshinori Kanada, meaning the distinct posing, exaggerated movements and glare effects (he did the Dead Leaves-like duel scene around 1:06 among some other things).

 

Storyboard / Director: Kazuya Tsurumaki
Animation Director: Fumitomo Kizaki
Key Animation: Toshiyuki Inoue, Hiroyuki Imaishi, Tatsuya Oka, Kikuko Sadakata, Hideki Kakita, Fumitomo Kizaki, Masahiro Satou, Sushio, Katsuichi Nakayama, Tetsuya Nishio, Fumihiro Suzuki, Gaku Fukazawa, Yuusuke Yoshigaki, Yasunori Miyazawa, Masayuki Yoshihara, Toshiya Washida

 
 
 

BlazBlue – Calamity Trigger Opening (2009)
I have to admit that it’s not quite on par with above openings, but it’s outstanding for being pretty much a solo work by Hiroki Tanaka, a young and very active animator these days and notorious for doing the key animation of whole episodes himself (School Days #6, Akane-Iro ni Somaru Saka #3, Saki #20). I have come to like his animation style, it’s very rich, fast and detailed due to the use of inventive shapes and contorted lines, which make his animation very interesting to look at. Also, he moves the characters wildly over the screen when there’s some kind of action going on, a good way to make these sequences much more exciting.

 

Chief Animator / Animation Character Design / Storyboard / Director / Animation Supervisor / Key Animation: Hiroki Tanaka

 
 

To be continued…

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Kara no Kyoukai key animation

 

Recently I bought the key animation book of the first Kara no Kyouaki movie to cast a glance at the raw drawings and get some additional information on which animator did which scene, though the book doesn’t provide much (new) information in the latter case. I like to look at the original and unaltered drawings as it gives a good feel for the different approaches and styles of animators. The “taste” and the personality of the individual drawings are usually lost in the process to the finished animation since everything has to look uniform in most cases, that’s why the system with the animation supervisor or “sakuga kantoku” (who corrects the drawings to match the models) was introduced. There are some cases like the notorious action scenes of “Tetsuwan Birdy: Decode 2” where the directors decided to leave the frames as they are and give the animators a free hand in animating, which lead to an interesting – but not well-received – result. I think sometimes that most anime fans seem to favor well-drawn still drawings more than sophisticated movements, though that’s not really surprising as much Japanese TV animation is very limited and basically nothing more than moving manga.

 

Hereinafter several scanned in excerpts of some interesting parts from an animation viewpoint (sorry, quality isn’t that good):

 

Let’s start with a very nice shot of Shiki trying to eat Häagen-Dazs one-handed, this scene works pretty well considering that there’s no dialogue and the movie has to communicate solely through the visuals. Such silent parts are important as they give the audience and the movie itself a chance to catch a breath, but it’s hard to achieve the desired result if they aren’t directed and animated in the right way. This scene with well thought-out key animation by Katsuya Kikuchi stands out in its own way without being overly fancy or something.

 

Kara no Kyoukai key animation
Kara no Kyoukai key animation

 
 

Here’s a scene which I really like, especially the nice way the action is shown, stricly speaking with a moving camera which follows Shiki as she is running and slashing the ghosts in her way, key animation by Atsushi Itagaki:

 

Kara no Kyoukai key animation

 
 

Next an impressive series of shots of Shiki sliding in the water after her roof to roof jump, the way the water is depicted is well done with nice digital work to add transparency and light effects. The basic hand-drawn key animation is interesting as it shows how the animator makes water move on the screen. It’s pretty difficult to animate water in a satisfying way, many animators developed their own approach with varying results. Norio Matsumoto is an animator who perfected his own technique of depicting water, especially his work on Naruto #133 is a good demonstration as the two main characters fight on the surface of a lake.

 

Kara no Kyoukai
Kara no Kyoukai key animation

 

Kara no Kyoukai key animation
Kara no Kyoukai key animation

 

Here’s an image that shows the composition of above shot:

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The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya 2009 #24

 

The final episode of “The Sigh” – respectively the last new episode of the 2009 rerun of “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” – happens to be the best one of that “new season” of sorts, finely crafted and well directed with lots of nice animation work and a good script by Tatsuya Ishihara (director of Clannad, Air, Kanon and Haruhi) himself. I have to admit that I wasn’t fully satisfied with most new episodes, not only due to the “Endless Eight” arc, but I rarely had the feeling that they gave everything they got like in the original Haruhi or their other major works. Not that “season 2” was much worse in terms of quality and animation, but especially during “Endless Eight” I felt some kind of inappetency in their work in comparison with their other anime which clearly show that they had fun in making them as you can see the carefulness and attention to details everywhere. The episodes after “Endless Eight” were better, especially #23 and #24 are on par with most of the first season.

 

Episode #24 has the quirkiness and imaginativeness that I love about most of their works, the writing is well thought out with Kyon’s usual funny commentary and the animation does well in making the characters and their traits believable. Take for example the last conversation in that episode between Kyon and Haruhi where he sort of “plays” with Haruhi by telling her that Itsuki is an esper, Mikuru a time-traveler and Yuki an alien. You can tell by Haruhi’s body language and facial expressions how her anger is building up to the point where see flies into rage and leaves the table.

 

This episode is directed by Taichi Ishidate [石立太一], a truly talented Kyoani staff member. Like most other directors he started out as animator and did key animation for many projects, beginning with Kiddy Grade, Inuyasha and Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu. He is a skilled effect animator so he did a lot of work on such scenes, especially his combat scene in FMP: The Second Raid #12 is worth a watch. He uses digital/computer effects quite extensively in many of his scenes to intensify the hand-drawn (effect) animation, his animation and episodes of the original TMoHS are also a good example for his style. Ishidate directed and created the storyboard for episodes #7 and #10 plus he animated some parts in both single-handedly, to be exact the fight against the giant bug in #10 and following outstanding scene with great effect work in #7:

 
 

More recent work includes his episodes of K-ON! (#4 and #9) and he animated the wonderful pre-opening part of the first episode which is very lovely in the way the animation expresses Yui’s character, I uploaded it on youtube by way of illustration:

 
 

His approach on framing is not only visible in the episodes he directs, but also in the way he creates the layouts for his key animation. He tends to move the characters a lot over the screen and does well in conveying the depth of space by altering the distance to the “camera”.

 

But to come back to Haruhi 2009 #24: his background as skilled effect animator shows also in the way he directs his episodes as they are skillfully processed and full of interesting animation, which make for a visually rich experience. He’s very successful in establishing different moods in a single episode and likes to use inventive compositions, here some screenshots of Haruhi #24 for visualization:

 

 

Now and then he does key animation for the episodes he directs, though this time he left that to other animators like Nao Naitou (even credited on second position in the key animation credits) who is one of Kyoani’s most talented up-and-coming animators and frequently working on episodes directed by Ishidate or Touko Takao. There are also some other Kyoani talents like Shouko Ikeda (character designer of Haruhi) and some relatively new key animators in the credits, here’s the full staff list of this episode:

 

Screenplay: Tatsuya Ishihara
Episode Director/Storyboard: Taichi Ishidate
Animation Director: Saiichi Akitake
Assistant Animation Director: Futoshi Nishiya
Key Animation: Fumie Okano, Nao Naitou, Emiko Nakano, Masatoshi Tsuji, Nobuaki Maruki, Rika Oota, Shouko Ikeda, Yoshiaki Urata, Natsumi Tada, Yukako Nakagawa, Taichi Ogawa

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Fall line-up 2009

 

My season ‘preview’ of sorts is not so much about simply copying the synopsis and other trivial data, but about my expectations on the upcoming titles, I’ll leave out all series which are mass-produced low-quality anime in my eyes. And sadly that applies to many titles of the fall line-up, though there are also some promising anime by the usual suspects like Bones and Production I.G. around. But overall it seems to be one of the weakest fall seasons for years, a lot of cheap sequels and a lack of original projects show the uncertain condition of the current Japanese animation industry.

 
High Expectations
 

Kuchu Buranko
Kuchu Buranko
It’s the ‘noitaminA’ series of the season and further by the same team who were responsible for Mononoke, namely director Kenji Nakamura and character designer/animation director Takashi Hashimoto working with studio Toei. If you’ll find anywhere creativity this season then it’s certainly in Kuchu Buranko, I expect refreshing and inventive visuals in the same vein as Mononoke. But not only the presentation will be great as the synopsis reads very interesting, too. The original material is Hideo Okuda’s Naoki award-winning-novel, it’s great to see acclaimed and more serious literature turned into anime besides the usual superficial light-novel stuff.

 

Darker than Black: Twins of the Shooting Star
Darker than Black 2
One of the few original projects of the upcoming season and sequel to the first DtB by talented director Tensai Okamura. It’s very rare these days that the original creator and the director of a TV series are one person, but that can lead to very interesting results as there are lower restrictions to the creative process. The animation is produced by Bones (respectively the team of season 1), so I’ve no doubts that the quality will exceed most other series.

 
 
Medium Expectations
 

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun
To Aru Kagaku no Railgun
I didn’t watch “To Aru Majutsu no Index” as it’s a typical light-novel adaption in every aspect and far from being anything special with the usual poor directing and trite script, but there’s one thing that makes me confindent that this spin-off will be more than a typical unimaginative bishoujo series. To be exact, it’s the participation of Tatsuyuki Nagai (Toradora!, Idolm@ster Xenoglossia, Honey & Clover 2) who happens to be one of my favorite directors for this kind of material. His sharp approach on directing and his emphasis on character animation to make the characters lively through multifaceted animation makes the comedy so much funnier and the drama much more engaging than in the usual bishoujo/moe stuff, especially the episodes he directs himself have a wonderful sense for gags and interesting character acting. I only hope that the material proves to be worthy of this skilled director…

 

Seiken no Blacksmith
Seiken no Blacksmith
Don’t know why manglobe chose to do an adaption of a generic light-novel instead of doing another interesting original project, but that has probably economic reasons as it’s easier to get a project with successful source material funded. Studio manglobe projects are always highly interesting since staff from all over the industry comes together. The PV shows decent animation quality, though as usual ups and downs are to be expected, depending on where the episode is produced and who is the episode/animation director. Director Masamitsu Hidaka has a decent record of works to some extent, but the generic source material sorf of limits the potential.

 

Kobato.
Kobato.
Another Madhouse Clamp manga adaption supervised by Mori Asaka (Card Captor Sakura, Chobits, NANA, etc.) and directed by Mitsuyuki Masuhara. Latter has still to prove his skills, but the rest of the project staff is certainly promising with character designer Hiromi Kato of “Clamp in Wonderland 2” fame and the experienced scriptwriters Nanase Ohkawa (Clamp member) and Michiko Yokote. The animation quality will probably be not too high as manga adaptions are usually of secondary importance to them, but middling Madhouse quality is still better than most of the other stuff out there.

 

Kimi ni Todoke
Kimi ni Todoke
Manga adaption by Production I.G. It’s the first job as series director for Hiro Kaburaki who did some decent work on “Welcome to the NHK” and “Le Chevalier d’Eon”, but nothing too outstanding. Apparently it’s not a high priority anime for I.G. in the vein of their original projects, though the quality of their works never disappoints anyway.

 

Anyamal Tantei Kirumins
Anyamal Tantei Kirumins
Despite having a weird premise, this one could be a surprise. It’s an original project by Shoji Kawamori (Macross, Basquash!, etc.) and directed by talented director Soichi Masuo (Scrapped Princess), produced by Satelight, Hal Fim Maker and JM Animation. They seem to go with the current trend of ‘uber moe’ little girls in cute costumes, but the execution could be pretty good due to the promising project staff. Director Soichi Masuo is someone who did a lot of interesting work in the past, and Hideaki Anno even invited him to do storyboarding for “Evangelion 2.0”.

 

Fairy Tail
Fairy Tail
Fairy Tail has certainly a lot of potential, not only due to the nice source material, but because of Shinji Ishihara who really knows how to direct action stuff. Recently he did a lot of outstanding work on “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, particularly on the fight scenes which have a great sense of perspective and staging. Recently both Satelight and A-1 Pictures delivered pretty mediocre works (especially animation-wise), so I hope they make good for that with Fairy Tail.

 

Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra
Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra
The trailer is pretty promising with lots of nice animation / backgounds and clearly shows Toshiya Shinohara‘s (Kuroshitsuji, Gunparade Orchestra) directing style. The studio david productions is pretty young and consists mainly of ex-Gonzo people. Quality-wise I don’t expect that the quality of the trailer will be uphold over the entire series as their former works are rather weak in terms of animation, although the synopsis sounds more interesting than in most other upcoming anime and I have faith in Shinohara’s skills as director.

 

Jungle Taitei: Yuuki ga Mirai wo Kaeru
Jungle Taitei: Yuuki ga Mirai wo Kaeru
Adaption of Osamu Tezuka’s classic “Kimba the White lion” with some very interesting staff members like Goro Taniguchi (Code Geass, Planetes) and screenwriter Osamu Suzuki.

 
 
Low Expectations
 

White Album 2
White Album 2
I haven’t come around to finish season 1 yet, but the episodes I’ve seen were decent and much better than any other anime by Seven Arcs. The presence of Kou Yoshinari (character designer) and his animation is one of the reasons for this, so I hope we’ll see more of his work in season 2.

 

Natsu no Arashi! Akinaichuu
Natsu no Arashi! Akinaichuu
Another unnecessary sequel, I wouldn’t mention it here if it weren’t for Shinbou‘s directing.

 

Winter Sonata
Winter Sonata
A joint production of Japanese and Korean companies so I don’t expect too much quality-wise, though it could be a welcome change at least regarding story and content.

 
 

The rest of the upcoming series are of little interest to me since they are either cheaply produced and/or the 100th incarnation of the same garbage.

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Muv-luv alternative

 

Animated game openings are one of the fields in commercial Japanese animation that offer regularly remarkable works thanks to the usually higher budget and lower time restrictions compared to TV animation. In many cases, game openings have also been a chance to give great animation artists more freedom in creating their work, therefore I want to highlight some exceptional game openings in this entry.

 

Let’s begin with a great animator and illustrator who has worked on many game intros and created some of the finest examples of this kind, namely Kou Yoshinari. He’s one of the most famous and skilled active animators nowadays and the twin brother of You Yoshinari, another great animator usually working on Gainax projects.

 

Akiiro Renka Opening (2005)
The opening for Purplesoft’s eroge “Akiiro Renka” is a good showcase of Kou Yoshinari‘s style and work procedure as he tends to do the digital processing of his shots himself to give the animation some kind of three-dimensional CG look. That’s a great way to enrich the visuals with the additional substance of CG works without loosing the advantages of hand-drawn animation (in particular the more refined movements). His animation is always very dense and fuller than in most other Japanese productions which makes his work very distinctly looking and often mistaken for CG work. This opening is certainly not his best work as there’s little movement in the first half, but as I said it’s primarily a showcase for his style and besides there are some bits of very good animation in the second half as the two other animators are his twin-brother You Yoshinari and Noriyuki Matsutake.

 

Director / Animation Supervisor: Kou Yoshinari
Key Animation: Kou Yoshinrai, You Yoshinari, Noriyuki Matsutake

 
 
 

Flower Album Opening (2001)
It’s basically the same here: Kou Yoshinari‘s usual fluid animation and the digital processing gives the characters a strong three-dimensional feel and there’s also some shaky camera motion to get a stronger sense of realism, he did something similiar in his running sequence in Nanoha #1.

 

Opening Animation: Kou Yoshinari, Hironori Yamamoto

 
 

Muv-Luv Alternative Opening (2006)
This one is very interesting animation-wise, there are many sequences that are well worth seeing. I don’t know if Kou Yoshinari did also animation work himself as he’s only credited for “mechanical designs”, but some parts are so well-made that I’m pretty sure that he animated some scenes single-handedly. I really love the digitally processed explosions, they look the same way as in his stunning piece in Eureka Seven #49. One of my favorite parts is the projectile flying through the clouds and deforming them, it feels so real in every possible way.

 
 
 

Ghost in the Shell Opening (1997)
The opening to the PS1 game “Ghost in the Shell” is certainly one of the most famous game openings since it’s a work of pure brilliance. Many great animators – such as Kou and You Yoshinari, Mitsuo Iso, Toshiyuki Inoue and Koichi Arai – were working on a single project and the result is nothing less than spectacular. The director was no one less than Hiroyuki Kitakubo (Roujin Z, Blood movie, Robot Carnival, etc.) who certainly knew how to use the skilled animators efficiently. I think his approach on this opening had influence on the animators as Kou Yoshinari and Mitsuo Iso began to work in the same vein some time later, in particular doing the digital postprocessing and such of their shots themselves. The animation is also unusually full and every second is filled with amazing movement and details, especially Motoko Kusanagi’s animation is superb in giving the character a distinct feeling of realism.

 

Original Work / Character Design: Shirow Masamune
Movie Supervision / Director / Storyboard: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Animation Supervisor: Toshihiro Kawamoto
Key Animation: Kouichi Arai, Toshiyuki Inoue, Hisashi Ezura, Toshihisa Kaiya, Toshihiro Kawamoto, Masahiro Koyama, Kazunobu Hoshi, Hiroyuki Horiuchi, Yasushi Muraki, Kou Yoshinari, You Yoshinari, Mitsuo Iso, Kouji Komurakata, Yuriko Ikehara, Kayoko Nabeta, Takayuki Hamana, Shigeki Kuhara, Akiharu Ishii, Masahiro Kurio

 
 

To be continued…

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Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei #8

 

One of the most interesting things that I’ve come across in Shinbou/Shaft‘s recent work is the c-part of ZSZS #8 which was created by the independent team “Gekidan Inu Curry” (or alternatively Theatrical Company Dog Curry) consisting of the former Gainax animator Ayumi Shiraishi and Tanto Do-GA Studio member Yousuke Anai, but they normally go with their pen names “2shiroinu” [2白犬] and “Doroinu” [泥犬]. They are oriented towards Russian and Czech animation and thus usually focus on art films, but sometimes they also work on commercial productions, for the most part on shows directed by Shinbou who justifies the unusual art style of their work. Apart from some minor work on Bakemonogatari they are also responsible for the ending animation of Maria Holic:

 
 

In the case of ZSZS #8 they used a cut-out style animation combined with some pencil strokes, traditional 2D animation and digital effects, which makes for a very refreshing result for Japanese TV animation. It’s thanks to Shinbou that also more unconventional artists get the opportunity to expose their work to a larger audience. I get the feeling that he uses the SZS franchise meanwhile as a vessel for more bold and experimental work, though the other parts of season 3 I’ve seen (which isn’t much) aren’t that interesting. Actually I dropped the franchise after season 1 since the jokes and visual approach felt boring and reused after a while, but the kind of work shown in ZSZS #8 makes me curious again, so maybe I’ll check out some more of it someday.

 
 

But coming back to “Gekidan Inu Curry“, I’ve still to mention the work which introduced me to this two-artist-team, namely the animated promotion video for Maaya Sakamoto‘s song “Universe“, a stunning piece of animation which was created in cooperation with Production I.G. I really like the fancifully designed world, the nicely choreographed movements and the flow of the imaginative visuals with the music, every single image is really well corresponding to the beautiful song.

 

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