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…