Sakuga Week in Review #1: Sept. 1, 2019 – Sept. 7, 2019

Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? #01
Key Animator: Yuki Sato (佐藤由紀)

Geth: Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru is definitely one of the more unique offerings of this season to be sure. There were a lot of impressive scenes from the premiere but if I had to choose just one, Yuki Sato’s (佐藤由紀) muscle popping bliss is the clear standout. Strangely enough, the main thing that attracts me to this scene isn’t the bulging muscles, (though admittedly they are pretty great) but actually, the incredible mileage Sato was able to get out of very simple yet appealing wind effects. In order to be truly successful in an industry where schedules are constantly tight, and time is always of the essence, knowing how and when to be efficient is crucial. Here, we see looped effects and basic smeary shapes, but they go a tremendous distance in augmenting the stressful nature of the scene.

Besides those smaller details you also have the obligatory gigantic arms all over the place, leading to foreshortening so great that I’m almost tempted to go lift some weights myself! Almost…

Enen no Shouboutai/Fire Force #01
Key Animator: Kazuhiro Miwa (三輪和宏)

Blou: Saying Fire Force’s animation caught the attention of countless anime fans would be quite the understatement given the unanimous praise it received. The first episode featured an endless number of incredible sequences and that’s without even mentioning the action-packed OP or Taiki Konno’s wonderful ED. Nonetheless, one sequence stood out in this premiere: the finisher animated by Kazuhiro Miwa.

His clear focus on dynamism could not be any more apparent, I would especially point out his use of smeary edges all over his effects, to the point even looped cuts benefit from it. Even the more static cuts maintain that energy thanks to Miwa adding speed lines to portray the rising velocity, highly economical but it works!

Moreover, his use of impact frames make every burst extremely explosive. Miwa’s animation quirks suit Shinra’s fighting style in every way possible so we can look forward to all the sequences he’s going to animate during the show’s long run!

One Piece #892
Key Animator: Takashi Kojima (小島崇史)

Mysto: Ever since the One Piece Wano Arc trailers dropped, there was one glimpse of a sequence that caught the eye of the sakuga community: Zoro‘s masterful dodging and slashing of samurais.

Everyone was immediately curious which animator could be behind it, since it was very likely not someone from One Piece‘s regular animation staff.

When the episode and full sequence were released, turns out it was non other than animation superstar and recurring guest to the series, Takashi Kojima! Kojima is no stranger to the franchise, having appearances as a guest animator on a few episodes of the Dressrosa arc, as well as the 3D2Y Special, Opening #18 and the latest Anime Openings #21-#22.

His latest appearance though is quite possibly his best contribution to the series yet. In a relatively tame (animation-wise) premiere, he shined the brightest, animating the big action scene of the episode. Utilizing absurdly cool and weighty choreography, impeccable character art, and his ever present smears, as Zoro dodges and slices left and right while making it look like child’s play for himself, and Kojima alike.

Kimetsu no Yaiba #14
Key Animator: Masayuki Kunihiro (国弘昌之)

Geth: It’s been a while since ufotable’s ace animator, Masayuki Kunihiro, last graced Kimetsu no Yaiba with his presence. His involvement in the early stages of the show was consistently strong but after dropping off from the series following episode 7, you couldn’t help but feel he wasn’t at his very best. Well that concern has been laid to rest as Kunihiro exploded back into the fray seven episodes later to animate nearly two minutes of hand-to-hand boxing between Inosuke and Tanjirou.

He’s always been an animator with a unique approach to timing, often placing overwhelming emphasis on character poses and positioning with little regard for the happenings in between them. It gives a sort of strike-and-retreat approach to his action scenes, and there’s no better example of that idea than the popular UBW Lancer vs. Archer battle. Where this scene differs greatly (for the better) from that one, can be found in pig boy’s secondary movements. That is to say, all the muscle spasms and arm twitches that occur as a result of inertia from his initial strikes. It is plain to see inordinate amounts of time went into polishing everything to ensure the frenzied side of Inosuke was on full display. Take the sheer energy exuding from this charge, for example! Masayuki Kunihiro’s idiosyncratic approach to fight scenes coincidentally lends itself perfectly to the manic creature he’s animating here.

I would also point to the grappling cuts as something refreshing, and rarely seen in animation, since staying true to the character models while they literally break-dance on each other’s shoulders is no small task! Here’s to hoping Kunihiro will continue to make appearances on Kimetsu no Yaiba now that we’re embarking on the second cour. Should Nozomu Abe do the same, we’ll be in for a real treat.

One Punch-Man #12
Key Animator: ???

Mysto: One Punch Man Season 2 has had a shaky production to say the least, although animation-wise it did have some notable highlights here and there, mainly due to the gigantic efforts of recently discovered JC staff talent Ken’ichirō Aoki and the newly discovered former studio Pierrot veteran Yuji Takagi, as well as the lovely studio LAN affiliated Western animators.

The last handful of episodes finished relatively strong all things considered, and so we thought it was worth noting the final animation highlight of a rather unfortunate sequel season.

If the climactic elder centipede killing punch seems familiar to you, Its because it is heavily referencing Yoshimichi Kameda‘s Season 1 Opening punch, to the point where for many, it may seem like traced or straight up re-used animation, however that’s not the case.

The general idea of the scene and storyboarding are almost identical, but the animation execution is quite different, having different timing, effects shapes, and a bigger focus on smears and fabric animation.

The animator for this scene was sadly not confirmed as of writing this, but the two conceivable options are either Yuji Takagi, as it has some similarities with his Kanada-esque style, or perhaps the suspiciously mysterious pen-name that was credited for the first time anywhere: 糸篠絵里.

It may feel a bit “cheap”, but considering the struggling production, it was a nice little nod to the original season and a pleasant way to wrap this sequel up.

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