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Archive for March, 2010

 

Studio GoHands latest project – the adaptation of Tow Ubukata‘s novel series “Mardock Scramble” into three theatrical films – certainly makes me somewhat excited as well as happy that a relatively new studio like GoHands got entrusted with such a big project. The staff list isn’t really surprising to me as most of the artists are either attached to Studio GoHands or were already involved with them in the past. Director Susumu Kudo also helmed their recent “Cheburashka” series, though his involvement with them goes back as far as “Koi suru Tenshi Angelique” (although they still belonged to Satelight back then). I haven’t seen any of his major directorial efforts yet (which were mostly bishoujo shows), but he did some decent episode direction and storyboard work on “Princess Lover!” and “Shugo Chara!”. Judging by the trailer he seems to do a pretty good job in establishing a strong cinematic feeling and lush visuals somewhat reminiscent of certain Gonzo series (particularly “Speed Grapher”).

 
 

Shingo Suzuki and Jun Nakai are both in charge of character design and overall animation direction. Suzuki also did the designs for GoHands‘ first independent work “Princess Lover!” and Shōji Kawamori‘s Genius Party short “Shanghai Dragon”. It seems like Suzuki designed the female characters of “Mardock Scramble” in view of the “Shugo Chara”-like style that is especially obvious in the promo pic at the top of this post (as it was drawn by Suzuki himself). Since Jun Nakai is also participating in this project and apparently has a connection with GoHands, it’s likely that he was the one that brought them in to work on Manglobe‘s “Seiken no Blacksmith” (I wrote about it a while ago), Nakai was the character designer of that show after all. Both Suzuki and Nakai are experienced animation directors who put a fair amount of effort into the drawings and go for a very ‘clean’ look while giving the animators enough room to express themselves. I guess the latter applies more to Suzuki who noticeably tried to preserve the individual animators’ touches in “Princess Lover!”, check out this post for more information.

 

 

I’m rather fond of both Koichi Kikuta‘s and Hiroshi Okubo‘s work, that’s why I’m delighted to see that they are involved as designers. Studio Biho‘s Masanobu Nomura (First Squad, Arjuna, Blue Drop, etc.) is art director and Yoshinori Shiozawa (Spice & Wolf, Heroic Age, Bamboo Blade, etc.) is doing the art setting. Did I already say that I love the background art in the trailer? Most backgrounds these days feel like you’ve seen them before (Deen & J.C., anyone?), but the ones in above trailer really help to set the mood and provide a beautiful stage for the character play. Anime become much more interesting if the designers create a world that is believable and fascinating, and it seems like this is the case here. The colour palette is beautifully chosen as well, kind of makes it feel all the more cold and gritty.

 

Original Work / Screenplay: Tow Ubukata
Director: Susumu Kudo
Concept Design: Koichi Kikuta
Character Design / Animation Direction: Shingo Suzuki, Jun Nakai
Weapon Design: Hiroshi Okubo
CGI Director: Tetsuro Kodama
Colour Design: Shigenobu Kaihou
Art Setting: Yoshinori Shiozawa (Biho)
Art Director: Masanobu Nomura (Biho)
Director of Photography: Toru Fukushi (T2studio)
Music: Conisch
Animation production: GoHands

 
 

Since there’s not much information about Studio GoHands in the western websphere, here’s a short studio profile:

 

 

Studio GoHands had originally been the Osaka branch of Satelight before it became independent in August 2008. Former Satelight producer Ringo Kishimoto serves as GoHands‘ representative director. GoHands‘ head office and animation department is still located in the former Satelight Osaka studio, though they are preparing a studio in Asagaya, Tokyo. The studio’s name is derived from Satelight‘s mascot character “Gohan-chan“. They are usually credited as “GoHands”, “GO HANDS” or “ゴーハンズ”.

 

GoHands has a guiding principle of producing only one work per year and keeping most work in-house. They have obviously adhered to latter guideline so far as their first project “Princess Lover” was almost entirely produced by their own staff. Satelight‘s Osaka studio was initially centered around former Wanpack members, that’s why that studio is one of the main origins of GoHands‘ animators. GoHands‘ main works from their Satelight period are “Shugo Chara!”, “Angelique” and Genius Party’s “Shanghai Dragon” short, minor works by GoHands‘ staff include “Macross Frontier” #8 and “Baccano!” #7.

 

List of works:
♦ Princess Lover! [TV] (2009): Animation Production
♦ Cheburashka Arere? [TV] (2009-2010): Animation Production
♦ Seiken no Blacksmith [TV] (2009): #10 Production Assistance
♦ Mardock Sramble [Movie] (2010-….): Animation Production

 

Important staff:
♦ Hiromitsu Kanazawa [金澤洪充]: Director
♦ Susumu Kudo [工藤進]: Director
♦ Yuuichi Sugio [杉生祐一]: Director, Animator
♦ Shingo Suzuki [鈴木信吾]: Character Designer, Animation Supervisor, Animator
♦ Takayuki Uchida [内田孝行]: Animation Supervisor, Animator
♦ Kazuaki Imoto [井元一彰]: Animation Supervisor, Animator
♦ Makoto Furuta [古田誠]: Animation Supervisor, Animator
♦ Hiromi Masuda [舛田裕美]: Animation Supervisor, Animator
♦ Hiroshi Okubo [大久保宏]: Designer, Animator
♦ Koichi Kikuta [菊田幸一]: Designer, Animator
♦ Tomoyuki Niho [仁保知行]: Animator

 
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Spring Season 2010 is quickly approaching so it’s time for my preliminary overview. As usual, I leave out all sequels and anime that aren’t worth mentioning in my book:

 
High Expectations
 

♦ Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei

Masaaki Yuasa (Kaiba, Kemonozume, Mind Game) finally gets another chance to show his talent, though this time it’s not an original project but based on a novel. The animation is produced by Madhouse and the character designer is once again Nobutake Ito who created absolutely lovely character models for “Youjou-han”, I’m sure they look just as great in motion. The script supervisor is a new face (at least in the anime industry), namely Makoto Ueda who has only written live-action films so far (such as the time-travel movie “Summer Time Machine Blues”). Overall, “Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei” seems to be the most promising series this season, I can’t wait to see Yuasa‘s imaginative directing again as well as the work of the countless talented artists he tends to work with. And since it airs in Fuji’s noitaminA slot it will hopefully get the recognition it deserves.

 

♦ Sarai-ya Goyou

The other noitaminA series of this season looks also extremely promising with veteran director Tomomi Mochizuki helming the project, Kazuto Nakazawa designing the characters and Studio Manglobe as animation producer. Furthermore, it’s based on a manga by Natsume Ono who is known for adult works like “Ristorante Paradiso” and “Not Simple”. While I think that it won’t have the same kind of creativity and exciting vision of Yuasa‘s new series, I still expect an interesting plot supported by moody direction and good animation.

 
 
Medium Expectations
 

♦ Senkou no Night Raid

In contrast to the first anime of the “Anime no Chikara” project (So-ra-no-wo-to), it seems like “Senkou no Night Raid” will do justice to the project’s concept of creating interesting and – above all – original anime. However, maybe A-1 Pictures deliberately chose a fan-pandering show like “So-ra-no-wo-to” for the beginning to compensate for possible losses of more risky endeavors? Who knows. In any case, this one seems like a show that has lots of potential, especially the novel setting (China in the 1930s) is something I’ve never seen before in anime. And also something I’ve never expected to see in anime since Japan’s role in East Asia during the pre-World War II period is a pretty delicate matter. I’m not too familiar with Jun Matsumoto work and don’t know what to expect on the directing side of things, but the nice character designs by Keigo Sasaki are definitely in its favor. And A-1 Pictures usually delivers solid quality so I guess it won’t fall flat production-wise.

 

♦ Angel Beats!

The premise doesn’t sound too exciting, I grant, but the involved people make me hope that “Angel Beats!” will be something worthwhile after all. Jun Maeda – who is undoubtedly a capable writer – is both the original creator and script supervisor, so I believe that the final outcome will be much better than the story description makes it sound. As far as the animation studio is concerned, I expect the same level of high quality as with P.A. Works‘ former anime. Or even better, since they obviously put even more effort into it. The character designs by Katsuzo Hirata are decent and move pretty well as evidenced by the trailer. Speaking of the PV, I really dig the music so I look forward to hearing more of it. Seiji Kishi helms the project, not the best choice but at least he has lots of experience with comedy.

 

♦ Rainbow – Nisha Rokubō no Shichinin

The story description sounds completely different from all the other stuff this season, which is of course a big plus. It seems to feature a fairly realistic and depressing setting with focus on the characters. I certainly can see some potential, the questions is if the staff is capable of making the best of it. I can’t say much about the director’s (Hiroshi Koujina) previous works, but I hope he knows how to handle this kind of material. And I guess Madhouse doesn’t put too much effort into this anime (as with most manga adaptions), meaning that the animation quality will probably be nothing to speak of.

 
 
Low Expectations
 

♦ B Gata H Kei

I wasn’t particularly interested in this show until I heard that the team of Yusuke Yamamoto and Satoru Nishizono (Welcome to the NHK!) were going to be involved. Therefore, the result could be much better than one would expect due to the weird premise.

 

♦ Arakawa Under the Bridge

Finally, I get to see Yukihiro Miyamoto as series director again, and even on a series that isn’t “Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei”. He’s one of Shaft‘s best directors (right after Shinbou and Oonuma) and sure has some good sense for appealing staging, hence I hope to see him back in the episode director’s chair as well. In the case of “Maria Holic” it was the material that didn’t hold up very well, so let’s see what he and Shinbou can get out of a (seemingly) more interesting manga.

 

♦ HEROMAN

Well, it’s Bones animating a story by Stan Lee, so one could expect a nice change for once. However, truth be told, it doesn’t look too creative and seems to needlessly use all possible stereotypes, that’s why my expectations aren’t too high even if the production will apparently have the usual Bones quality.

 

♦ Kaichō wa Maid-sama!

Directed by Hiroaki Sakurai and produced by J.C. Staff. I don’t expect too much even though Sakurai is admittedly an experienced director.

 

♦ Working!

The first episode was nothing out of this world yet good enough to watch some more of it.

 

♦ Mayoi Neko Overrun!

I’m not too enthusiastic about this one, but since the director will reportedly change every episode, I suppose that there could be some decent work here and there. At least if AIC hired some talented directors for this project.

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Hokuto Sakiyama


One of those young animators whose work I’ve really come to appreciate is Hokuto Sakiyama [崎山北斗], a member of the “aho_boy brigade” like the Japanese fans tend to call Hiroshi Ikehata‘s associates. Sakiyama started out at Xebec M2, though it was his work as key animator on Studio Feel‘s “Nagasarete Airantou” that brought him to attention. Less noteworthy among his early jobs, yet still interesting is his work on Satelight‘s “Noein”, where he was responsible for inbetweening ryo-timo‘s key animation:

 
 

Jun Arai compared Sakiyama with Shinya Ohira with good reason since their approach is pretty much similar, namely stuffing countless frames into a single cut and ignoring model sheets in favor of superior expression. Sakiyama‘s drawings have some kind of unique vibe to them that makes it easy to spot his work, in this sense he’s certainly a charismatic animator. His trademark style is characterized by very rough and jagged lines and shapes plus fluid movements which make for an extremely interesting visual experience. Ufotable‘s company president Hikaru Kondou extensively praised him and reportedly tried to win him over, but Sakiyama still remained freelance even if he worked on ufotable‘s “Kara no Kyoukai”. Below some pictures from his most memorable work:
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