Archive for the ‘Kyoto Animation’ Category


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.



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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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I finally watched this 3 episodes long TV special from 1992 which is an adaption of Shungiku Uchida‘s same-named horror manga. The story itself isn’t that remarkable even if Uchida is a talented mangaka/writer and famously associated with the avant-garde manga magazine “Garo“. Howsoever, “Noroi no Onepiece” has a very traditional approach to horror as it wasn’t serialized in latter anthology, but in Asahi Sonorama‘s shoujo magazine “Halloween“. The three short stories are all about a cursed one-piece dress that brings their owner doom, so nothing out of this world. The true reason why I checked it out was the fact that it’s Kyoto Animation‘s first significant work, or more precisely a production by order of Shin-ei Douga and TBS. Latter is a close business partner of KyoAni to this day, and Shin-ei Douga was not only one of their most frequent clients for subcontract work (e.g. on Doraemon, Ume hoshi denka movie and more recently Haré+Guu), but also had considerable influence on their approach. Shin-ei Douga – a studio famous for anime like Doraemon and Shin-chan – still carries on the legacy of the pivotal Toei Douga era (late 1950’s and 1960’s) and has been nurturing many talents over the years. Many anime fans may not be familiar with Toei Douga, so let me explain it with a few words since it’s something very important in anime’s history. The Toei Douga “philosophy” was a trend in Japanese animation to stay closer to Disney’s principles, which means – as opposed to Tezuka‘s limited and over-expressionistic animation – to breath life into the characters through fluid movements and more literal acting. As we all know, it’s Tezuka‘s (cheap) way of producing animation that gained acceptance in the end since it allowed for economic mass-production of animated TV series, but Toei Douga‘s tradition still lives on in certain studios and artists, particularly in Studio Ghibli (Miyazaki himself started out at Toei Douga) and the aforementioned Studio Shin-ei Douga. I see a lot of the Toei Douga spirit in KyoAni‘s works as they always try to make everything move as much as possible and invest much time into establishing character-based movement sensibilities. Both Noriyuki Kitanohara and Hiroyuki Takahashi – who are lecturers at KyoAni‘s animation school – were frequently involved with Shin-ei Douga at the beginning of their careers, which certainly influenced the animators they trained over the years. Yoshiji Kigami, one of the most respected persons inside KyoAni and member of the board of directors, started out at Shin-ei Douga and was probably instrumental in establishing a similiar philosophy at Kyoto Animation. And with Kigami we come back to “Noroi no Onepiece” since he was its director and animation supervisor as well as character designer. The storyboard work was shared with Shin-ei Douga‘s female director Kyoung Park. “Noroi no Onepiece” brought – for the first time – Kyoto Animation to the attention of anime fans due to the high quality work they are famous for up to the present day; the 1992 Animage article at the top of this post introduced KyoAni and was probably one of the first articles ever about them, including a group photo.

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Last week the pilot edition of BLACK★ROCK SHOOTER was released that gives us a foretaste of the upcoming animation project by Yutaka Yamamoto and his studio Ordet. The promotion video of sorts is certainly convincing production-wise, the imaginative approach on visual directing and design as well as the interesting animation style with rippling and cleft lines give it its very own feeling.


While Yutaka Yamamoto is the supervisor of the BRS project, it’s former Kyoto Animation member Shinobu Yoshioka who is the actual director. He had a typical career at Kyoani with starting out as animator (Inuyasha, Soultaker, Air, etc.) and eventually proceeding to episode direction and storyboards (Haruhi Suzumiya #4 and #6, Kanon #4, some episodes of Lucky Star) after some years of doing animation. After he left Kyoani, Yoshioka worked on various projects on behalf of his new employer Ordet, besides the more obvious and famous works like “Kannagi” (episode director of #7 and #10) he directed also an opening and ending of “Katekyo Hitman REBORN!” (the nice third opening and the rather low-key fifth ending). Furthermore, he did also key animation for aforementioned opening/ending and several other projects like Ordet’s “Shakugan no Shana II” opening (#2) or “Valkyria Chronicles” #1 (sometimes credited with a pen name), so he doesn’t devote himself to directing tasks only.


Another ex-Kyoani animator, namely Yuusuke Matsuo, designed the characters for the BRS anime project, the similarity to Kyoani’s or strictly speaking Horiguchi‘s and the Ikeda‘s approach on design is pretty obvious.


Original Creator: huke
Music: ryo
Director: Shinobu Yoshioka
Character Design: Yuusuke Matsuo
Supervision: Yutaka Yamamoto
Animation Production: Ordet
Background Art: Emi Kesamaru
Animation Inspection: Yoko Takada
Color Coordination: Kazuko Nakashima (A-1 Pictures)
Director of Photography: Takeshi Hirooka
Sound Production: Gakuonsha
Editing: Kentarou Tsubone
Video Editing: Qtec




The animation project is slated for spring 2010 and it isn’t clear yet if it’s a TV series, OVA or something else, though in the case of a TV anime some kind of cooperation with other studios is very likely as Ordet hasn’t the capacities for producing a series alone. Since the connections to A-1 are already well established – especially through “Kannagi” and more recently “Tonari no 801-chan R” – it’s probably safe to assume that they are involved as well.


On this occasion let me include a short studio profile of Ordet:




Studio Ordet was founded by Yutaka Yamamoto and several other former Kyoto Animation/Animation Do staff members – such as Shinobu Yoshioka and Satoshi Kadowaki – in August 2007 after Yamamoto‘s dismissal as the director of Lucky Star. From the very beginning it has been involved in projects of A-1 Pictures and Hal Film Maker until their first more prominent job as production assistance on A-1 Pictures‘ “Kannagi”, which made them widely known among anime fans.


List of works:
♦ Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan Second [OVA]: #3 Episode Direction / Storyboard / Production Cooperation
♦ Sketchbook ~full color’S~ [TV]: #11 Episode Direction / Animation Direction / Production Cooperation
♦ Shakugan no Shana II [TV]: OP2 Direction / Storyboard / Production Cooperation
♦ Kannagi [TV]: Direction / Production Cooperation / OP, ED, #1, #7, #13, #14 Episode Direction + Storyboard / Animation Direction / Character Design
♦ Kemeko Deluxe! [TV]: #2 Episode Direction / Storyboard / Production Cooperation
♦ Tonari no 801-chan R [OVA]: Direction / Production Cooperation (watch)
♦ BLACK★ROCK SHOOTER -PILOT Edition- [OVA]: Direction / Animation Production


List of works by Ordet-associated staff:
♦ PERSONA -trinity soul- [TV]: #6 Storyboard
♦ Porfy no Nagai Tabi [TV]: #11 Storyboard
♦ Library Wars [TV]: #8 Storyboard
♦ Ookiku Furikabutte [TV]: ED2
♦ Katekyo Hitman Reborn! [TV]: ED5, OP3 Animation / Direction
♦ Shiina Ringo PV “Gamble”: Animation (watch)


Important staff:
♦ Yamamoto Yutaka [山本寛]
♦ Kadowaki Satoshi [門脇聡]
♦ Yoshioka Shinobu [吉岡忍]
♦ Watanabe Seiji [渡邊政治]
♦ Mima Kakeru [三間カケル]
♦ Tomii Ryouko [富井涼子]
♦ Emi Kesamaru [袈裟丸絵美]
♦ Takada Yoko [高田謡子]
[♦ Matsuo Yuusuke [松尾祐輔]] (uncertain)

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