If you are looking for great effect animation in recent years, then there is absolutely no way around Rebuild of Evangelion. The first two movies brought some of the best FX animators ever together, even the overall director Hideaki Anno himself is a master of this field. Besides animators like Takashi Hashimoto, Masayuki and Takeshi Honda it’s also the “special effects director” himself that is responsible for the incredible effect animation in the first two movies, namely Shoichi Masuo.
One of my favorite FX animation scenes ever is the bit in Evangelion 1.0 where Ramiel fires with full power at the mountain after Shinji failed to destroy the angel’s core with the first shot. When I first saw it I was stunned due to the power and intenseness of this cut, it’s so short yet very impressing. It was animated by Takashi Hashimoto – who has already done lots of incredible stuff in the past – but this one is a real masterpiece. The look at the key animation and time sheet of this cut shows us its complexity and sophistication which is far beyond most other FX animation I’ve seen in key animation books (most Japanese animators are doing explosions and such in one or two layers). The featured key frames and artwork of this single cut take up over 10 pages of the Eva 1.0 KA book (more than any other presented cut), and the corresponding time sheet reveals that it consists of 16 (!) different layers, from layer A to P (he even had to add a “P” column by hand because the standardized 15 columns weren’t enough for this almost crazy endeavor). It’s hard to imagine how much work it must have been to plan this scene and not to lose the overview over so many different drawings.
For those who have never seen a time sheet: As I said above, the letters A to P at the top of each column are indicating the different layers of the shot, each of them depicts a certain piece of animation (for instance, E layer shows the melted part/hole in the mountain, F layer depicts the smoke that “flows” out of the impact site, etc.). Each line represents 1/24 of a second, meaning that 24 lines amount to one second of animation (so this time sheet lays the groundwork for 7 seconds altogether). The various numbers and strokes in each column indicate the key drawings and the use of inbetweens. I scanned in two pages showcasing some of the E/F layer key frames just to illustrate how complex the composition is.
Another spectacular cut which caught my interest was Shinji’s final shot at Ramiel, it’s amazing how many drawings are used for these 4 seconds: