The recent NHK special created quite some buzz about Yoshinori Kanada‘s succession and by which standard his ‘successors’ should be determined, i.e. if it’s sufficient to just copy Kanada‘s style or if they have to be ‘men of revolutionary talent’ themselves and expand Kanada‘s style to a whole new level. Many weren’t satisfied with NHK choosing Seiya Numata as an example of a young animator who inherited Kanada‘s blood, even some professional animators mentioned on twitter that Hiroyuki Imaishi would have been a more appropriate choice. However, while I’m an avid fan of Hiroyuki Imaishi, I can also understand why NHK chose Numata for this feature. He’s a bit younger, hasn’t directed any anime yet (as series/chief director) and thus is still more of an ‘animator’, so he’s closer to the image most people might have of Yoshinori Kanada (who never directed any anime). And of course, Numata is also a very talented animator with an unmistakeable aura on the screen and much presence in TV anime in recent years. Following some words on Seiya Numata and his work for those who want to find more about him.
Seiya Numata [沼田誠也] began working as inbetween animator at Studio Hibari around 10 years ago, at the same studio he also made his debut as key animator and animation director. After he had left Studio Hibari, he continued working as freelancer on various projects and quickly made himself a name with his flamboyant style, in particular his work on ‘Zoids Genesis’ raised his popularity among fans (especially the ending animation of the second season). Besides aforementioned series, he was also heavily involved in ‘Higurashi no Naku Koro ni’ (animation director of many episodes), ‘Futakoi Alternative’ (director/animation supervisor/key animator/inbetween checker and even inbetweener on #11) and of course his character design debut ‘Shion no Oh’. While Numata is known for often working on anime which aren’t particularly outstanding from a technical point of view, he’s really good at spicing things up with his unique style. One of the best examples is ‘Higurashi’, where he used those heavily distorted faces, warped perspective and characteristic timing to depict the characters’ madness in a powerful way. Incidentally, the NHK feature showed his rooftop fight from ‘Higurashi no Naku Koro ni’ #26 to demonstrate his Kanada-like style:
Including abovementioned ‘Higurashi’ and ‘Zoids Genesis’, Numata has always been a regular on anime with character designs by Kyuuta Sakai (female / real name: Kumiko Sakai). And even apart from those it’s quite conspicuous how often they work together (most recently ‘Shiki’ ED and ‘Needless’ #13), which has nurtured rumors that they might be a couple or something like that. At the very least, it seems like two kindred spirits found each other since both are idol otaku and both have a proclivity for drawing lolita stuff – so-called ‘Lolimators’. Maybe you’ve heard of Numata‘s obsession with Shion’s short skirt in ‘Shion no Oh’ where he even corrected drawings in order to make the belly button visible – so his reputation as ‘Lolita-kei’ animator has certainly not come about by chance. His second character design job – J.C. Staff‘s upcoming ‘Tantei Opera Milky Holmes’ – also involves rather his skills regarding drawing cute girls than displaying Kanada-esque animation.
Still, some fans fear that the usual stable J.C. quality might suffer from Numata‘s temper since he tends to go too far with deformation and individual drawing style as seen in ‘Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maō’ #7 (which wasn’t received all too well), just to name a recent example. When Numata is in charge of animation direction, everything sure moves a lot more than in other episodes, one of the most ‘extreme’ cases is certainly the super-smooth movement and lip-synch in ‘Kannagi’ #2. However, Yutaka Yamamoto wasn’t really happy with it as way too many drawings were used. Episode 1 had 6000 animation frames while episode 2 had 12000 (!) animation frames, that’s a jump of 100% (the other episodes had 4000-5000 as far as I know). On the DVD audio commentary he put the blame on Numata, but I can’t imagine that he’s the only one at fault. I mean, it’s not like Numata worked alone on that episode, there was still the episode director after all. And as director, Yamamoto himself was supposed to keep track of budgetary issues like the number of animation frames used. Apparently, he found out way too late about it since the episode was corrected for a later broadcast & DVD (some of the lip-synch was removed and such). As I said, Numata is definitely someone who loves to make everything move a lot, but I’m not sure if he would ignore instructions from the director(s) like some people accused him of. Either way, Yamakan probably prefers not to work with him anymore…
Numata‘s animation is best described as being based on Yoshinori Kanada‘s style with some significant influence from Takamitsu Kondou (who was close to Studio Hibari when Numata was still attached to it). He takes Kondou‘s style to a more extreme level with stronger distortions, more intense movement plus varying thickness of lines and doesn’t shy away from using extreme angles and warped perspective either. I scanned in the raw key animation of a cut from Osamu Kobayashi‘s notorious ‘Gurren Lagann’ #4, where Numata‘s drawings weren’t completely toned down by the animation director for once:
Below a shot from ‘Toradora!’ #16 where Numata was both in charge of animation direction and key animation, a scene which got a good deal of attention since J.C. Staff‘s anime usually don’t display that much individuality.
If you have a look at the time sheet (bottom left) you might notice that very few inbetweens were used, from C1 down to C8 the displayed C-layer key frames move well enough even without any additional frames. The drawings are far bolder and more angular than Masayoshi Tanaka‘s character models, though they perfectly match the dramatic and violent tone of the scene.
Numata has also a preference of putting homages into the scenes he is in charge of, here’s an especially good one which NHK included into their Kanada feature:
On the left side is Numata‘s animation from ‘Ninin ga Shinobuden’ – an obvious tribute to his ‘hero’ Kanada, or rather to the legendary fire dragon from ‘Genma Taisen’ which you can see on the right. If you want to see Numata‘s fire dragon (and some of the other work I’ve highlighted in this post) in motion, check out following MAD:
♦ Ultimate Girls (2005): Ep. Director #5 / Ani. Director #5 / Key Animation #5
♦ Futakoi Alternative (2005): Ep. Director #11 / Ani. Director #11 / Key Ani. #1 #7 #11 #12 #13
♦ Zoids Genesis (2005): ED animation S2 & S3 / Ep. Director #28 / Ani. Director #28 #37 #50 / Chief Ani. Director #37-#50 / Key Ani. #21 #28 #50
♦ Strawberry Panic! (2006): Ani. Director #7 #9 #16
♦ Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (2006): Chief Ani. Director Assistant #12 / Ani. Director #7 #9 #12 #13 #15 #19 #21 #23 #26 / Ass. Ani. Director #17 / Key Ani. #13 #19 #23 #26
♦ Buso Renkin (2006-2007): Ani. Director #9 #13 / Key Ani. #9 #13
♦ Kodomo no Jikan OVA (2007): Director/Storyboard/Key Ani. OP (solo)
♦ Code-E (2007): Ani. Director #2 #7 / Key Ani. #2 #7
♦ Shion no Oh (2007-2008): Character Design / Ani. Director #1 #20 #22 OP ED / Key Ani. #1 #21 #22 OP ED
♦ Mission-E (2008): Director/Ani. Director/Storyboard/Key Animation ED
♦ Kannagi (2008): Ani. Director #2 / Key Ani. #2
♦ Toradora! (2008-2009): Ani. Director #16 (coop.) #21 (coop.) / Key Ani. #16 #24
♦ NEEDLESS (2009): Technical Director / Design Works (coop.) / ED animation (coop.) / Ep. Director #13 / Storyboard #13 / Key Ani. OP #1? #13
♦ Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maō (2010): Director/Storyboard ED / Ani. Director #7 / Key Ani. ED (solo) #7
♦ Tantei Opera Milky Holmes (2010): Character Design