Studio Ordet‘s long-awaited first project as main animation studio is finally here and it turned out pretty much as I’d expected. It’s a well produced OVA with nothing particularly new regarding content, but an enjoyable watch nevertheless. I was mildly impressed with Shinobu Yoshioka‘s directing skills, he did a pretty good job with setting the overall atmosphere. He depicted the characters rather low-key and not as forced as in your average bishoujo anime, which adds a lot to the believability and mood. I would like to see more bishoujo anime going into this direction, so more human-like characters without any disturbing, unbelievable traits. I can live with overly exaggerated characters in comedy series like ‘K-ON!!’ where they aim for a different kind of atmosphere, but in anime with a more serious tone they usually feel quite misplaced. It should go without saying that especially heartfelt and dramatic moments feel all the more stronger if the characters act in a way that the audience can relate to, and not just in the manner which the character category demands.
On the technical side of things, it’s certainly an impressive piece of animation with more than 20000 drawings used for 50 minutes of film. ‘BLACK★ROCK SHOOTER’ and its circumstances remind me of KyoAni’s first solo effort, namely Yoshiji Kigami‘s ‘Munto’ OVA from 2003. Just as Ordet, KyoAni had also been famous for doing high quality subcontract work before they eventually got the chance to produce a technically outstanding 50 minutes original OVA. However, I can hardly imagine that Ordet will go on producing TV series in the near future, it’s a fairly small studio after all. I guess their next project – most likely the upcoming Yutaka Yamamoto x Hiroki Azuma x Mari Okada noitaminA TV series – is a co-production with another studio (probably A-1 Pictures).
In accordance with KyoAni tradition, everything moved a lot, though the drawings and movement weren’t quite as polished. It had more of a raw feeling to it compared to most KyoAni stuff, and the animation direction wasn’t as strict either. Animation director Yuusuke Matsuo didn’t meticulously erase most individual traits from the drawings as KyoAni’s sakkans do, but apparently he only corrected the faces and tried to keep most of the movement in its original form. I love the rough yet energetic feeling of the animation, but judging by some fan reactions and blogs it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Even mebae‘s part (the basketball/volleyball match and the bit afterwards, around 21 minutes in) looked like it was hardly corrected and thus is easy to spot. Hironori Tanaka did the great action scene shortly before mebae’s part, but those were hardly the only shots that impressed me a lot. The action sequences were generally well-directed and wonderfully animated, not surprisingly so considering director Yoshioka‘s skills as action animator. He probably did the right thing when he left KyoAni, I don’t think that he would have had many chances to demonstrate his aptitude with action scenes there. Of course, if KyoAni ever decides to produce another ‘Full Metal Panic’ series, he (and the other Ordet expatriates) will be extremely missed. You can count KyoAni‘s action/effect animators on one hand, after all.
It was quite interesting to see who is involved in Ordet‘s first solo project, particularly since I expected that they request some help from outside. As Yutaka Yamamoto pointed out in this recent ‘Business Media Makoto’ interview, that was indeed the case since otherwise they weren’t able to complete it in a reasonable time. They even requested help from Hokkaido-based illustrator/animator mebae – a net acquaintance Yamamoto has never met in person – who is able to be active in the anime business thanks to the internet. mebae‘s real name is Yuusuke Hiroshima [広島裕介] and he’s already worked on some other commercial anime (‘Shugo Chara!’, ‘Jigoku Shoujo’, ‘Higurashi no naku koro ni kai’, etc.), though his core occupation is still illustrating. French blogger Manuloz wrote a nice post on mebae a while ago, you can also watch some of mebae‘s animation works there.
As for the other involved staff, there are some animators from A-1 Pictures in the credits (Toshifumi Akai‘s mates?) who apparently returned the favor of Ordet helping out on ‘So-ra-no-wo-to’, the staff exchange in more detail (yellow = Ordet-associated animator / green = A-1 Pictures animator):
BRS animator list divided in origin/affiliation:
♦ Satoshi Kadowaki [門脇聡]: Chief Animation Director of ‘Kannagi’
♦ Shinobu Yoshioka [吉岡忍]: Ep. Director on ‘Suzumiya Haruhi no Yūutsu’, etc.
♦ Yuusuke Matsuo [松尾祐輔]: Animation Director on ‘Kannagi’
♦ Atsushi Saitou [斎藤敦史]: Key Animator on ‘K-ON!’, ‘Lucky Star’ OVA, etc.
♦ Yoko Takada [高田謡子]: Key Animator on ‘Air’, ‘Kanon 2006’, ‘Kannagi’, etc.
♦ Ryouichi Nakano [中野良一]: Animation Director on ‘So-Ra-No-Wo-To’, etc.
♦ Asami Komatsu [小松麻美]: Key Animator on ‘Air’, ‘Kanon 2006’, ‘Kannagi’, etc.
♦ Yuugo Mizutani [水谷有吾]: Key Animator on ‘K-ON!’, ‘So-Ra-No-Wo-To’, etc.
♦ Jun Nakagawa [中川淳]: Key Animator on ‘K-ON!’, ‘Lucky Star’ OVA, etc.
♦ Mitsuru Kakuda [角田充]: Storyboarder on ‘Kannagi’, pseudonym of Ex-KyoAni person?
♦ Toshifumi Akai [赤井俊文]: Character Designer of ‘So-Ra-No-Wo-To’
♦ Shingo Adachi [足立慎吾]: Character Designer of ‘Working!!’
♦ Isao Hayashi [林勇雄]: Animation Director on ‘Birdy the Mighty Decode:02’
♦ Hideki Nagamachi [長町英樹]: Character Designer of ‘Innocent Venus’
♦ Nao Chikaoka [近岡直]: Character Designer of ‘Today in Class 5-2’
♦ Hironori Tanaka [田中宏紀]: Ani. Director on ‘Ōkami-san’, ‘Naruto Shippūden’
♦ mebae: Key Animator on ‘Shugo Chara!’, ‘Jigoku Shoujo’, etc.
♦ Daisuke Hiramaki [平牧大輔]: Key Animator on ‘So-Ra-No-Wo-To’, ‘Working!!’
♦ Asaka Kazuyuki [浅賀和行]: Ass. Animation Director on ‘Ga-Rei -Zero-‘, etc.
♦ Yuusuke Tanaka [田中裕介]: Animation Director on ‘Birdy the Mighty Decode:02’
♦ Saishi Suzuki [鈴木彩史]: Ass. Animation Director on ‘Toaru Kagaku no Railgun’
♦ Jun Mori [森淳]: Key Animator on ‘Bamboo Blade’, ‘Darker than Black 2’
♦ Yutaka Takahashi [高橋豊]: pseudonym? Different person from the same-named producer?
♦ [小田鴨瞳]: pseudonym