Kinpachi-sensei Intro (2004)
This nice sequence serves as the intro for the 2004 PS2 game with the extra-long title “San nen B-gumi Kinpachi-sensei densetsu no kyoudan ni tate!”, which was produced by Chunsoft who got recently some attention for their visual novel “428: Fūsa Sareta Shibuya de” and its anime spin-off “Canaan”. I especially like the calm mood of this opening sequence which was realized with a good sense for depicting everyday (school) life in a believable way, something I would like to see more often in anime. It abandons the typical anime depiction of school life by choosing a more realistic and mature approach that makes it feel similar to Ghibli works, it even has some funny scenes which establish some kind of light-hearted mood. The “Ghibli feel” is of course not a coincidence as many of the artists responsible for the Kinpachi-sensei OP worked on Ghibli works and also on “World Masterpiece Theater” series, ranging from the character designer and layout designer Satoko Morikawa (who did the same work on “The Cat Returns”) to Ei Inoue and Kazutaka Ozaki (who were animation directors of said Ghibli movie) to other talented artists like Telecom animator Hiroyuki Aoyama (animation director of Tokikake and Summer Wars). The opening is consequently full of refined character animation and different from most other game openings, they even animated it at 30 frames per second instead of the usual 24 frames what leads to a distinctive and even more realistic feel.
Character Design / Layout: Satoko Morikawa
Chief Animation Director / Character Key Animation: Ei Inoue
Animation Director / Key Animation: Kazutaka Ozaki
Director: Koujirou Tsuruoka
Storyboard / Key Animation: Hiroyuki Aoyama, Naoki Arakawa, Masahiro Kurio, Jun Uemura, Akiko Yamaguchi
Animation Check / Key Animation: Yasuko Miyazaki
Key Animation: Atsushi Sekiguchi, Takayo Nishimura, Miwa Sasaki, Katsu Oushiro, Yumi Chiba
Magical Girl Pretty Sammy Music Clip (1998)
This one is an animated bonus music clip from the Sega Saturn game “Magical Girl Pretty Sammy”, directed by no one less than Kou Yoshinari. As usual, his focus on unique aesthetics, nuanced movements and coherent drawings make the characters feel much more tangible than in your average anime. Besides himself, there were also some other famous animators working on this (like his brother You Yoshinari and Hiroshi Okubo), and accordingly, the clip is 110 seconds of great animation and a real joy to watch for any animation fan.
Storyboard / Director / Animation Director / Key Animation: Kou Yoshinari
Key Animation: Hiroshi Okubo, Kazuyoshi Yaginuma, You Yoshinari, Hiroyuki Uchida
On this occasion, I want to highlight a great opening with Kou and You Yoshinari‘s participation (though it isn’t a game intro), namely the opening of the OVA “Super Mobile Legend Dinagiga“, which is pretty similar to above clip as Kou Yoshinari created the storyboard for this one too and it was produced in the same year (1998). Unsurprisingly, the animation is no less spectacular since the line-up of animators is just as impressive with work by Norio Matsumoto, Hirofumi Suzuki, Hiroshi Okubo and others. Here are some comparison pictures:
Director: Noburo Shirohata
Storyboard: Kou Yoshinari
Animation Director: Hiroko Kazui
Key Animation: Hironori Yamamoto, Yasuhiro Okuda, Makoto Yamada, Shinya Ojiri, Shigeki Sunada, Norio Matsumoto, Hirofumi Suzuki, Nobutake Itou, You Yoshinari, Hiroshi Okubo, Manabu Ono
Sentimental Graffiti Opening (1998)
NEC Interchannel’s game “Sentimental Graffiti” is a popular dating simulation game and the opening video is correspondingly full of high school girls, but that doesn’t mean that it’s cookie-cutter stuff like most other visual novel openings out there. This one has actually good character animation and is presented in a more interesting way with the girls floating across the screen and doing cute movements, all in all much more entertaining to watch than the usual still character images, apart from that it’s hard to find properly rendered “bishoujo” designs. Kou Matsuo (director of Kure-nai, Rozen Maiden, Red Garden, etc.) directed this opening with Hiroyuki Horiuchi supervising the animators, so it comes as no real surprise that the result is decent.
Director: Kou Matsuo
Animation Director: Hiroyuki Horiuchi
Key Animation: Kazunobu Hoshi, Shinji Satou, Fanatic Gotou, Masakazu Saitou, Masayuki Kobayashi, Hiroyuki Horiuchi
Dancing Blade II Opening (1999)
Like its prequel, Dancing Blade II is an interactive animation game by Konami and animated by Kyoto Animation. The gameplay itself is pretty much the same as in most other visual novels, meaning that the “player” can influence the story’s progress at multiple-choice decision points. The main difference to usual visual novel games is that Dancing Blade isn’t just still pictures but actually animated. There’s some very good animation here and there, most notably Yoshiji Kigami‘s (Kyoani’s “ace” animator”) parts stand out. Kyoani’s staff hasn’t changed much since then, Tatsuya Ishihara (Kanon 2006, Clannad, Air, etc.) supervised the project and Kazumi Ikeda, Yasuhiro Takemoto and Atsuko Ishida designed the characters. The animation and (art) direction is remiscent of Kyoani’s respectively Ishihara‘s latter works, the fuller animation, clear visuals and layouts feel very Kyoani-ish.