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