Sakuga Week in Review #3: 07/10/19-13/10/19

Hataage! Kemono Michi #02
Key Animation: ???

Geth: Konosuba author Natsume Akatsuki appears to have been blessed by the sakuga gods as adaptations of their novels and manga have thus far featured no shortage of simply ridiculous sequences. Perhaps it’s the ostentatious approach to comedy, one which attracts many fans to their work serving doubly to capture talented artists looking for fun avenues of expression. Regardless the reason, Hataage! Kemono Michi is no exception as episode 2 treated us to a goblin brawl with the stylistic inspirations of some of the greatest animators of our time. Takumi Sunakohara, Nakaya Onsen, even some Toshiyuki Sato flair… the only problem? None of them are credited. In fact not a single animator credited on this episode has anything to point to on sakugabooru either.

I threw up a poll on twitter and I can safely say as of writing this that one of the options has been privately confirmed to be correct. And while the consensus (46% of you) concluded that such a powerful scene spawned out of it’s own ingenuity, each concussive blow generated through the sheer desire to exist on a series where everyone assumed it wouldn’t, there does happen to be an artist present here. It will take a beat down on the level of this scene to get the answer from me though!

Black Clover #104
KA: Tatsuya Mori (森達也)

Geth: Another week, another notable scene out of Black Clover. Seemingly becoming a trend as the production digs just a little deeper during what is the strongest arc of the manga, (at least if you ask me). This time around it’s another pen name coming to Yoshihara’s aid while simultaneously being preoccupied elsewhere in the industry. You wouldn’t be able to tell though, as this has the makings of a fully concentrated effort, even going so far as to build spacious, sprawling background animation to give the speedy character Luck that extra zip in his step.

One thing that immediately stood out to me was the scene construction feels inspired by Blender, a tool with no unfamiliarity among Black Clover staff. We’ve seen Tatsuya Yoshihara and Yusuke Kawakami construct grand CGI environments to fill with their 2D characters and effects, and while the scene in question was not animated in Blender, rather through meticulous hand-drawn background animation, that common mentality remains and it’s something that I’ve found has permeated through a lot of the talented artists that have worked on this series.

Azur Lane #02
Key Animation: ???

Bloo: Azur Lane promised to be an ambitious production, both as an anime with designs by the talented Masayuki Nonaka and as the first production of Bibury Animation Studios, founded by director Tensho. The latter wants to create a better environment for animators and it started by raising the unit price of a cut and double it. The show also started with a strong schedule but sadly the situation worsened quite a bit, proving willingness alone might not be enough to change things. But that’s a topic for another day!

While the first two episodes of Azur Lane aren’t without faults, it still featured plenty of delightful sequences to enjoy. This time, let’s focus on the fight scene around the end of the episode. The first thing that made me love this sequence is the effects. They are kagenashi (shadowless) which puts the emphasis on the shapes and motion and I believe the animator in charge managed to convey a strong feeling of force thanks to those. Entreprise’s arrow is wild and so powerful it makes the water explode. The next cut is my favorite as it features moving water, ensuring a great transition with the wave of the previous cut. This sequence also had a strong layout as the direction of the motion is the same for the characters and the water, which creates a satisfying harmony in the shot. Something which the cuts that follow this lack: harmonic composition. The characters are fighting on a panning mess of blue and even if the animation isn’t bad, it’s quite disorienting to watch. Thankfully, the last few cuts return to the quality of the beginning with those delicious effects.

Raison d’être EVE MV
Director: Ryu Nakayama
Character Design: Mai Yoneyama
Key Animators: Keisuke Kobayashi, Sugoroku (Hayato Nishimaki), Yoshibe, Chikashi Kubota, Ayaka Minoshima, Shuu Sugita, Toru Iwazawa, Shun Enokido, Emi Tamura, Miyuki Hitomi Atsuki Shimizu, Tatsuya Yoshihara, Ryu Nakayama, Rie Ishige, Hirotoshi Arai

Geth: These EVE music videos have always enthralled me with their ability to serve as creative platforms for inspired artists, with the added benefit of being set to some pretty fantastic tunes. This time around the spotlight falls on a group of artists whom I’ve followed very closely throughout their careers, so suffice to say, this is my favorite showing yet.

Mai Yoneyama’s delicate eye for design is second to none. I mean, seriously, have a scroll down her tumblr page and realize this is an individual with just endless artistic talent. Here, it conveniently finds itself paired with a host of action-keen digital animation stars rallying under director Ryu Nakayama. While his experience in the field of directing may be limited, it’s clear he absorbed many an idea from the digitally-focused OP/ED/PV master, Shingo Yamashita, under whom Nakayama and many of his peers have spent time animating for. Not to downplay the later’s ingenuity either, as while this MV shares some ideas with grand openings such as Naruto Shippuuden OP13, and Twin Star Exorcists OP2, it absolutely takes on a meaning and purpose of it’s own, mainly in the way it depicts the identity struggle of our character.

I don’t want to spend too much time ruminating over the message of the piece, both because I think the metaphors are fairly clear, and this column’s priority is animation itself, but it’s pretty difficult to separate the two (A sign of strong directing!). Take for example, the way Naoki Yoshibe’s brilliant blender-guided background animation sequence depicts the impossibly long road to the top, where sits the ideal self according to our character. The chaotic notion of four-way split-screen while drowning should paint a pretty clear picture of the distressed mind. Traffic light signaling, mirrored reflections, I could go on but I’ve broken past the self-imposed word limit… To conclude, we’re starting to see even more of this new generation of talented animators dip their toes into the directing field, between Itsuki Tsuchigami, Takuji Miyamoto, Shun Enokido, Ryu Nakayama, and many more, it’s impossible to not be excited about what the future has in store.

One Piece #906
KA: Takashi Kojima (小島崇史)

Geth: The fiery back-half of a Takashi Kojima doubleheader saw him bless Wano once again, and much like last week, it’s quite special. The first cut does most of the heavy lifting here, and interestingly enough it’s actually not the flames themselves stealing the show like you would expect, but rather the way Kojima skillfully manipulates the shading on Ace’s knuckles. It simply would not have anywhere near the same forceful effect without that small detail going the distance. While the payoff that follows is quite limited in comparison, it’s made up for by some strong layouts. This is the second time Wano has been a topic of conversation in one of these posts, and with recent news of BahiJD throwing his straw-hat into the ring, it might not be the last either!

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