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…