These two K-ON! key animation collections sure are obligatory purchases if you’re interested in KyoAni‘s animation and want to find out how they breath life into the characters. They cover the most interesting cuts from episode 1 to 13 of the first season, with the only downside that they don’t name any animators and don’t display any time sheets. Of course, these books feature no extravagant action cuts but mostly KyoAni‘s low-key ‘everyday life’ character animation which happens to be the studio’s greatest strength. Among all of KyoAni‘s impressive work on TV series over the last six years, ‘K-ON!’ still stands out as the most interesting in terms of animation thanks to Yukiko Horiguchi‘s designs and her talent in directing the animation. With ‘K-ON! she found a nice balance between cartoony ‘Lucky Star’ aesthetics and the more realistically toned Kazumi/Shoko Ikeda designs. The animation style is somewhere between Shin-Ei Doga, Satoru Utsunomiya and the soft movement popularized by Tetsuya Takeuchi, which makes perfect sense, though. She started out working on a Shin-Ei Doga show after all, and she likes ‘Kamichu!’ (on which Takeuchi did quite some work) and like almost everyone else at KyoAni, she has been influenced by Yoshiji Kigami whose style can best be described as a cross between Shin-Ei Doga‘s philosophy and Utsunomiya. Anyway, I’ll write a follow-up post on KyoAni‘s animation directors and limit myself to just highlighting some of the most interesting shots from the book here, beginning with this one from the opening (bottom left shows the corresponding part of the storyboard):
OP Cut 15: Yui’s guitar solo in the beginning of the opening and the part of Yui’s character introduction cut where she’s embarrassed and tries to flee from the camera are confirmed to be Yuuichi Itou‘s work, a relatively new face at KyoAni and somebody to keep an eye on. He drew all the key frames of above cut without any need for inbetweens. Characteristic for his style are the loose and chubby way he draws clothes and rendering everything quite flexibly, i.e. no stiff clothes or hair in the vein of, say, Mariko Takahashi. He also animated the music store part in the first half of ‘K-ON!’ #2 if you want to check out a more extensive scene by him. I hope we will eventually see Itou doing animation supervision work, but that depends on which career path he takes. Since KyoAni is pretty inflexible with these things, he’ll have to decide between directing or supervising animation.
#1 Cut 44: Yui hitting her head. Granted, it’s hardly an impressive cut, but interesting from another point of view. On the audio commentary of ‘K-ON!!’ #2, Tatsuya Ishihara (director of ‘Haruhi’, ‘Clannad’, ‘Kanon’ and ‘Air’) said that this scene had been animated by the same person as the clubroom scene in ‘K-ON!!’ #2 (after the girls get the 500,000¥ for the guitar until Sawako-sensei finds out). Latter scene really moved a lot and the animation was incredibly fun to watch plus Ishihara added that the animator behind this scene was his favorite, so I’m curious who did it. The staff overlap between these two episodes isn’t too big with only three key animators being in both credits, namely Mariko Takahashi, Eisaku Kawanami and Hitoshi? Kashiwagi. Takahashi can be left aside as she has a different style and Ishihara would probably have called her by name if it was her, hence it comes down to Kawanami and Kashiwagi. All in all, I think it’s rather Kawanami as he’s been much longer at KyoAni and has worked on Shin-Ei Doga projects in the past which goes well with the vibes I get from that scene. However, I’m not entirely sure so don’t take my word for granted.
#4 Cut 197: Moe moe kyun~! A very famous sequence, isn’t it. I’m pretty sure that Taichi Ishidate was in charge of this shot, who was also the director and storyboarder of that episode. Effects and linework leave little doubt. Ishidate is KyoAni‘s specialist for FX and action animation, which somewhat shines through here. He hasn’t many opportunities to show his talent with these things at KyoAni, but he sure takes every chance he gets – however small it might be – even if it’s just an exploding fan like in episode 11 of ‘K-ON!!’.
#4 Cut 214: Not confirmed, but it’s probably Nao Naitou‘s work. She’s easily one of the most talented animators at KyoAni, also proved by the fact that they often entrust her with the more complicated and/or important cuts. Naitou attracted attention with the nuanced expressions and acting in the final scene of episode 12 of ‘Clannad: After Story’ where Tomoya and Nagisa are jostling with each other. Their embrace in the climactic scene in episode 22 is also Naitou‘s work. She seems to prefer remaining animator for now as many others who entered KyoAni in the same year or even much later have already advanced to directing or animation supervision.
#12 Cut 320: I guess some frames from Yoshiji Kigami shouldn’t be missing. Above scan shows some key frames from the concert scene in episode 12, which was of course a matter for KyoAni‘s ‘ace’ animator. The ‘U&I’ performance from ‘K-ON!!’ #20 is also Kigami‘s work, for the more important episodes KyoAni still relies on his skills. If they really work on another season of ‘Full Metal Panic!’, probably even more so since he’s one of KyoAni‘s few really good action animators. He’s a real veteran, after all, with experience from many big feature film projects, most notably ‘Akira’ where he animated the action in the sewer tunnel.