Archive for April, 2010


All four episodes of ‘K-ON!!’ that have aired so far were truly impressive in terms of production quality and very enjoyable as well. Somehow I feel that Kyoto Animation has changed a bit since their last series (Haruhi 2009), maybe it’s the experience of working on a theatrical movie. There has always been this absence of technical limitations in their approach – like how they don’t shy away from animating really complex shots that (nearly) nobody else would dare to attempt in TV anime – which is somewhat more noticeable in ‘K-ON!!’. I guess it’s indeed the spirit of their first movie project that carries over. Judging by the staff’s comments, KyoAni put even more effort than usual into ‘The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya’, so considering that they worked on it directly before ‘K-ON!!’ I’m not really surprised that their directors and animators still seem to stick to a more detail-oriented and movie-like approach.


As great as the first three episodes were, I still found episode 4 to be the most satisfying up to now. Katsuhiko Muramoto‘s script moved along in a nice pace and added some nice touches to the characters (particularly to Mio). The staging was really great as well since no one less than Ichirou Miyoshi aka Yoshiji Kigami was in charge of episode direction and storyboarding. As expected of such a great veteran animator with 30 years of experience, Kigami visualized the script with his usual care for details and fine sense for framing. There’s always something going on on the screen plus dense and nuanced movement everywhere, so quite in the tradition of Shin-Ei Douga (Shin-chan, Doraemon, etc.) where Kigami began his career. It’s not just one character that moves at one time (like in most other anime series), but several characters move at the same time which makes for this warm and lively mood. What I’ve always appreciated about KyoAni‘s work is that they keep the typical anime/manga exaggerations at a bearable minimum and concentrate instead on more or less realistic low-key acting. Investing so much effort into the acting makes even ‘K-ON!’s unrealistic characters seem more believable and adds a lot to their personality as well.



Anyway, Kigami and animation director Futoshi Nishiya filled this episode with wonderful animation that is quite effective in expressing the characters’ comical interplay. Really loved how Mio laughed and such, I felt that they paid extra attention to her drawings in this episode. The countless nuances both in the acting and staging probably originate in Kigami‘s detailed storyboarding. Just have a look at the maniacal preciseness of his storyboard of ‘Kanon 2006’ #17, these drawings have almost the quality and exactness of key frames.



The key animator list was quite short this time with only seven people credited. Chise Kamoi was there, I’m pretty sure that she animated the scene in the girls’ room near the end when they go to bed and Ritsu scares Mio with the flashlight. Those wobbly lines and red cheeks leave little doubt (the picture at the top of this post was drawn by her, btw). Kigami drew some key animation himself, though I’m not sure which parts he did since the whole episode feels pretty much like him. If I had to bet, I would say that he animated the pillow fight. For some more information on Kigami, check out this post.



Besides its impressive animation quality, it’s also the background art of episode 4 that caught my attention. They sure drew some beautiful artwork based on Kyoto locations. The backgrounds were created both in-house (Naoki Hosokawa) and external (Anime Workshop Basara). I assume that Hosokawa was in charge of the more recognizable Kyoto locations (like the temples) as they really stood out. And it shouldn’t be too difficult for Kyoto Animation‘s in-house staff to go location hunting in Kyoto…


Script: Katsuhiko Muramoto
Episode Director / Storyboard: Ichirou Miyoshi aka Yoshiji Kigami
Animation Director: Futoshi Nishiya
Key Animation: Yoshiaki Urata, Teruyoshi Shidou, Fumie Okano, Kunihiro Hane, Chise Kamoi, Ichirou Miyoshi, Futoshi Nishiya

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Umi Monogatari #13


The DVD-only episode of “Umi Monogatari” had – as Ryoutarou Makihara announced on his blog a while ago – a really wonderful staff with Shingo Natsume directing and storyboarding and a team of talented animators backing him up. Strictly speaking, it’s even his directorial debut. I’ve always enjoyed Natsume‘s work as animator due to the loose lines of his drawings and versatile nature of his animation (check out “Welcome to the NHK” #4, his debut as animation supervisor) so I’m pleased to see that he also gives directing a shot. Such visionary animators tend to have a very special approach to directing as well, therefore it’s always interesting to see what they can do if they have control over an episode. What raises Umimono #13 above most other episodes are not just the great drawings throughout the episode, but also the way Natsume refined the visuals to give every scene an appropriate mood and feeling. The scenes in broad daylight, for example, are processed with a very warm tint that makes you literally feel the sensation of summer. He’s also quite skilled in framing the shots in a way that emphasizes the characters’ presence on the screen and highlights the nuanced acting. Even if he wasn’t the animation director, his involvement is certainly noticable in the vivid animation filling this episode with life which makes the character interplay real fun to watch.



Considering the animation staff of Umimono #13, this is more or less an episode that falls into the category “Web-kei” anime as some Japanese fans tend to call it. An episode can be considered as “Web-kei” or “Web-style” anime if the director lets young animators with web/gif animation background do as they please (more or less) which usually leads to highly interesting work. Good examples are Hiroshi Ikehata‘s episodes like “Soul Eater” #34, “Hayate no Gotoku” #39 or “Zettai Karen Children” #27 that are full of great individual work by young animators. As for Umimono #13, there’s a bunch of energetic young talents involved including Shingo Yamashita (alias yama) and Kenichi Kutsuna (alias coosun) who started out as gif-animators, Gainax animator Akira Amemiya and Shin-ei Douga regular Ryoutarou Makihara. Furthermore, there are several animators that seem to be involved due to Natsume, for instance Hiroyuki Okuno (they worked together on “Welcome to the NHK”) and Erukin Kawabata (assistant director of “Bokurano”, Natsume did quite some work on it). Oh, and Tamotsu Ogawa is also there who obviously did the key animation of this part:


Akira Amemiya probably did the part before that (Sam fleeing from the shark). The first encounter with the dugong and the water current in the second half feel like Shingo Yamashita. Don’t know about Kenichi Kutsuna, but someone on 2ch belives that he animated the scene on the boat where Kanon and Kojima put on their diving equipment.


One of the animation supervisors – Gainax-associated animator Kikuko Sadakata – wrote on mixi that the number of drawings of Umimono #13 exceeded 10000 sheets. Actually, that is not really surprising considering the constant high-quality movement throughout the episode. Lately there have been a few episodes with that many drawings (Angel Beats! #1, Senkou no Night Raid #1), but I felt, nevertheless, that the animation in those didn’t come off as interesting after all.


Script: Reiko Yoshida
Episode Director / Storyboard: Shingo Natsume
Animation Director: Kikuko Sadakata, Haruko Iizuka, Masato Katou
Key Animation: Hitomi Odashima, Yuka Ashikuchi, Toshiyuki Sato, Sayaka Tokunaga, Takahiro Kuroishi, Yuuki Komatsu, Shingo Yamashita, Akira Amemiya, Tamotsu Ogawa, Shingo Fujii, Hiroyuki Okuno, Kenichi Kutsuna, Erukin Kawabata, Satoshi Nagura, Ikuko Ito, Ryoutarou Makihara, Giko Oosugi, Yusuke Yoshigaki, Shintarou Douge, Yousuke Okuda, Shingo Natsume

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Since Shin Itagaki posted information about this opening on his style.fm column some time ago and I’m quite fond of it too, I thought that I could as well summarize and visualize his statements here. I love the energetic and lively nature of this opening which comes about thanks to the fun movements the animators created, but have a look yourself:


The opening was directed and storyboarded by Shin Itagaki (Devil May Cry, Black Cat, Basquash!) and the animation was supervised by Haruka Tanaka.



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