Sakuga Week in Review #2: Sept. 8, 2019 – Sept. 14, 2019

Black Clover #91
Key Animator: Tatsuya Yoshihara (吉原達矢)

Geth: You would be hard pressed to find a series director more involved in the tangible output of their series than Tatsuya Yoshihara. Whether it be storyboarding, animating, or even scouting new talent off twitter, Yoshihara has done it all. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that he would make an appearance for Mereoleona’s ultimate spell, also considering it’s one of the more climactic points in the manga. Not only was he able to channel that hot-blooded hype into animation, but moreover, added tons of his own personal flourishes to the scene in the process.

To understand more of those sensibilities it helps to first take into consideration where he came from. Tatsuya Yoshihara belongs to one of the earlier vanguards of web-generation animators to permeate their way into the anime industry. That self-taught background means he knows from personal experience the importance of having an open mind when approaching art. His relative veteran presence among web-related animators has led to him fostering tons of youngsters with similar experimental passion over the years and it’s culminated in Black Clover serving as their ultimate playground, for a lack of a better term. The series’ oft mentioned production is in such a dismal state that there’s little reason not to experiment with new technologies, though, I’m sure even if it were healthy this group would not be deterred. Episode 63 was proof enough of that. There, Yusuke Kawakami and Shota Goshozono infamously challenged conventional production methods through the utilization of 3D software known as “Blender”. While the fan reception was mixed, it would seem their spirit lives on despite neither being a regular member of the show.

Yoshihara has since played with the tools available in Blender and came away with a new technique that is both efficient and appealing! By creating “noise,” in other words- video interference, in a very specific pattern he is able to form these otherworldly feeling CGI wind and fire effects. Breaking convention and being wholly original in the process is something I will forever stand behind!

Pokemon: Sun and Moon #130
Key Animation: Takeshi Maenami (前並武志)

FAR: It is now almost 3 years that Pokemon Sun and Moon delights us with top level animations, both by well-known faces of the franchise like Masaaki Iwane and Aito Ohashi but also by many new animators who manage to give their best output thanks to the simple designs and the excellent production pipeline of the series. In episode 130 we can assist 3 battles really satisfying from a macro-narrative point of view but the most interesting, on the visual side, is certainly the one that sees Hau clashing with Principal Oak, completely key-animated by Takeshi Maenami.

Maenami still defines himself as a “beginner animator” but has already demonstrated within the series and in his personal illustrations to have quite a distinctive style, which is strongly based on the camera’s perspective positioning in the layouts, on the slight deformations of the characters’ faces and on character acting that makes very complete use of the musculature of the upper body.

The scene opens with the referee of the match that moves her view with a certain weight control to follow Raichu’s powerful acrobatic tricks, represented through a strong use of smears that creates an excellent contrast between the reaction level of the two.

Right from the first episodes of the series we saw how to represent the masterful speed of the surfer Pokémon. The staff preferred a more energetic and cartoonish approach to its movements than the original material but this time the body of the psycho-electric mouse seems almost to possess elastic properties equal to how much effort it’s putting in out-speeding the counter-moves of its adversary.

It is not only the Pokémon that fights energetically, even its trainer incites it with a great vigor represented through effective perspective deformations and rhythmic camera movements crowned through light smears that almost resemble vigorous brush marks. Even Principal Oak, which for the entire duration of the series is remembered mostly for its poket monster jokes-deformations, takes on a brand-new spirit thanks to movements with a slightly more complete timing and a long succession of poses in a few frames.

The launch of the Focus Blast reminded me a lot of Yuuki Watanabe and the first Bahi JD, that of Space Dandy and animated-web doodles, for how the tension is controlled by the deformed elements that in the end will tune with the final impact. The almost Kanadian ray of light was really a classy stylistic touch that nailed both for the type of move adopted and the atmosphere of that moment of the episode. The kinetic lines and the energetic exulting motions of the human characters that responded to the winner’s announcement were really a worthy conclusion as they have accosted the pokémon’s timing to that of their trainer friends, showing their unbreakable bond.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear XV #02 (NSFW WARNING)
Key Animator: Yoshiyuki Okubo (大久保義之)

Bloo: The return of a new season of Symphogear means more henshin (litt. transformation) sequences and this time, they aren’t pulling any punches when it comes to the quality. As confirmed by the staff, each animator got plenty of time to come up with a henshin of their favorite character. The one from last week, animated by Yoshitake Nakakoji, showed an incredible demonstration of strength, befitting the powerful Hibiki. Yoshiyuki Okubo‘s focus for this week’s henshin is… well… quite different to put it bluntly. Henshin in late-night anime tend to feature fan-service, as the scene involves a female character being undressed and re-dressed, but Okubo went beyond and made the sensual and glamorous aspects of the scene the focal point of his work, to the point where he admitted that a lot of his ideas got scrapped for being too risky.

Nonetheless, I believe the final version still holds up very well. The concept of pole dancing is already quite sexy in itself but Okubo’s accent on voluptuous forms as well as more fetishist parts like feet coupled with tangible tactility bring even more sensuality to the sequence. I would also note the Yasuomi Umetsu-like thigh shading. Whether it is an inspiration or a mere coincidence, Umetsu’s a master of eroticism so one of his quirks sure is a perfect fit for what Okubo wanted to do.

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