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Archive for February, 2010

Cream Lemon 4: Pop Chaser

 

The fourth part of the “Cream Lemon” series – which was the first X-rated anime in Japan – is an interesting little OVA from 1985 and still one of the very few ero-anime that are really worth watching. The lively mood and playful animation make it a real joy to watch and, fortunately, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s rather some kind of slapstick comedy than a fully-fledged ero-anime, even though there are two sex scenes with half-serious tone. “Pop Chaser” is set in some kind of SF-western setting vaguely reminiscent of the “Wild Arms” games, but all in all with a very conventional story setup. More remarkable is the fact that this OVA was the directorial debut of Hiroyuki Kitakubo who is known for anime like “Roujin Z”, “Golden Boy” and the “Blood” movie. Besides his responsibilities as director he also wrote the script, created the storyboard, supervised the animation and even did the key animation for some parts. Many involved key animators are just as famous with young talents (at that time) such as Toshiyuki Inoue, Masayuki, Mahiro Maeda, Hideaki Anno, Takeshi Honda and Katsuhiko Nishijima working under pen names. The animation quality is correspondingly very high, particularly the action parts stand out with some nice effects and punchy movements.

 

Script: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Storyboard / Direction / Animation Direction: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Character Design: Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Yuji Moriyama
Key Animation: Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Shinji Otsuka, Yuji Moriyama, Katsuhiko Nishijima, Tsukasa Dokite, Toshiyuki Inoue, Takeshi Mori, Hideaki Anno, Mahiro Maeda, Masayuki, Hiroyuki Kitazume, Hiroaki Gohda, Hiroshi Watanabe, Takeshi Honda, Hiromi Matsuhito
Production: Fairy Dust

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I finally watched this 3 episodes long TV special from 1992 which is an adaption of Shungiku Uchida‘s same-named horror manga. The story itself isn’t that remarkable even if Uchida is a talented mangaka/writer and famously associated with the avant-garde manga magazine “Garo“. Howsoever, “Noroi no Onepiece” has a very traditional approach to horror as it wasn’t serialized in latter anthology, but in Asahi Sonorama‘s shoujo magazine “Halloween“. The three short stories are all about a cursed one-piece dress that brings their owner doom, so nothing out of this world. The true reason why I checked it out was the fact that it’s Kyoto Animation‘s first significant work, or more precisely a production by order of Shin-ei Douga and TBS. Latter is a close business partner of KyoAni to this day, and Shin-ei Douga was not only one of their most frequent clients for subcontract work (e.g. on Doraemon, Ume hoshi denka movie and more recently Haré+Guu), but also had considerable influence on their approach. Shin-ei Douga – a studio famous for anime like Doraemon and Shin-chan – still carries on the legacy of the pivotal Toei Douga era (late 1950’s and 1960’s) and has been nurturing many talents over the years. Many anime fans may not be familiar with Toei Douga, so let me explain it with a few words since it’s something very important in anime’s history. The Toei Douga “philosophy” was a trend in Japanese animation to stay closer to Disney’s principles, which means – as opposed to Tezuka‘s limited and over-expressionistic animation – to breath life into the characters through fluid movements and more literal acting. As we all know, it’s Tezuka‘s (cheap) way of producing animation that gained acceptance in the end since it allowed for economic mass-production of animated TV series, but Toei Douga‘s tradition still lives on in certain studios and artists, particularly in Studio Ghibli (Miyazaki himself started out at Toei Douga) and the aforementioned Studio Shin-ei Douga. I see a lot of the Toei Douga spirit in KyoAni‘s works as they always try to make everything move as much as possible and invest much time into establishing character-based movement sensibilities. Both Noriyuki Kitanohara and Hiroyuki Takahashi – who are lecturers at KyoAni‘s animation school – were frequently involved with Shin-ei Douga at the beginning of their careers, which certainly influenced the animators they trained over the years. Yoshiji Kigami, one of the most respected persons inside KyoAni and member of the board of directors, started out at Shin-ei Douga and was probably instrumental in establishing a similiar philosophy at Kyoto Animation. And with Kigami we come back to “Noroi no Onepiece” since he was its director and animation supervisor as well as character designer. The storyboard work was shared with Shin-ei Douga‘s female director Kyoung Park. “Noroi no Onepiece” brought – for the first time – Kyoto Animation to the attention of anime fans due to the high quality work they are famous for up to the present day; the 1992 Animage article at the top of this post introduced KyoAni and was probably one of the first articles ever about them, including a group photo.
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Okubyo na Venus OVA

 

Only a quick post about a nice OVA from the 80’s I stumbled across, namely “Okubyo na Venus” by Hiroyuki Kakudou (Digimon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, etc.) and Toei Animation. What it makes somewhat interesting is that the “plot” is solely communicated through the visuals, meaning that there’s absolutely no dialogue. It’s just images and music, so something like a few music videos joined together. And it works – particularly due to the good animation. Main Animator was Michi Himeno who is especially known for his work on Saint Seiya (character design). The other Saint Seiya character designer – Shingo Araki – worked also on it (as key animator), as did the talented Kouichi Arai.

 

Director: Hiroyuki Kakudou
Character Design: Hiroyuki Kakudou
Main Animator: Michi Himeno
Key Animation: Shingo Araki, Michi Himeno, Kouichi Arai, Yoshitaka Yashima, Nobuyoshi Hoshikawa

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Top 10 Anime Episodes 2009

 

A bit late, but I still want to write down my list of the most outstanding TV episodes of 2009. The reason why I make a list of single episodes and not whole anime is due to the fact that full series hardly reach the same kind of perfection because of the largely different staff working on the individual episodes (which leads to varying quality). It’s usually talented staff that makes an episode stand out from all the others, but also other factors like time – that’s why first and final episodes have generally more polished animation. Below are 10 episodes of 2009 that impressed me in one way or another (in no particular order):
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