Welcome to another installment of what is going to be a long series. This time, I’ll be covering the extremely talented assistant director of Fate/Grand Order Babylonia: Miyuki Kuroki.
Kuroki’s career is quite straightforward: she started as an inbetweener at A-1 Pictures in 2008 and since then she has pretty much exclusively worked at the studio, with some exceptions here and there. After a couple of years, she became a key animator and being on most of A-1 productions, she inevitably worked on The Idolm@ster. While there’s no doubt you can consider Kuroki a core member of the Im@s crew, she’s clearly here because she’s connected to the studio to begin with. Her works as an animator are fairly undocumented but we know for a fact she’s an extremely gifted talent, to the point industry legend Akira Hamaguchi praised her works on Magi. No big deal since she’s now mostly handling director’s duties, with her first major role being the assistant director on Kyouhei Ishiguro’s Occultic;Nine and then taking the director seat for The Idolm@ster Sidem, which was hardly a surprise considering her love for the idol group Jupiter. For FGO, she returns as assistant director but don’t see it as a downgrade, she was clearly chosen for her valuable skills and the second episode is a solid proof of that.
Kuroki started drawing storyboards only five years ago but her output is already incredibly strong. And it was the case from the beginning: Shigatsu wa kimi no Uso #16. To give some context, Kuroki was a regular key animator on the series, presumably handling some parts of the performances. In episode 09, she got the chance to handle directing duties for Mamoru Kanbe’s boards. 7 episodes later, she made her full-fledged debut as a storyboard/director. A fantastic episode that was praised a lot in the japanese sakuga sphere. It balanced dramatic moments and comedic ones creatively and masterfully, ending in a powerful scene that exposes the key theme of the show: grief.
As anyone who worked extensively with the Im@s crew, she inherited the sense of staging and timing from Nishigori and Takao, though, like Akai, her episode of FGO couldn’t really show that. That doesn’t mean it was devoid of her own touch, quite the opposite even! The pacing was brilliant, especially during the comedy part in the forest. It was slow but didn’t feel necessarily dragged out as I think presenting the world through montages worked wonderfully, especially when the backgrounds are that good!
Kuroki also pays particular attention to lightning and even uses it for thematic purposes. Portraying the evolution of a scene through lightning is both smart and pleasant for the eyes. My favorite rendition of that is in the second episode of Occultic;Nine where the depiction of Ria’s life starts with a beautiful blue and the color red appears gradually as you understand how morbid the situation really was, ending the scene the way it started, except for one thing.
All in all, Kuroki is an excellent director who is also quite ambitious, as seen with her wide layouts, often framed through objects. Even in a more modest production like The Perfect Insider, it was as present as usual which made her the perfect candidate to handle one of the biggest episodes of the series. She’s also fond of POV shots, generally using it as a way to emphasize with what the character is seeing or experiencing for a short moment. In this case, she managed to portray Mashu’s confusion as the environment completely changed and the threat is no longer here. I also cannot fail to mention the eye’s reflections achieving the same effect.
This episode of FGO was a bit slow but still quite fun thanks to Kuroki being able to handle the pacing of this episode masterfully. See you next time to cover another important figure of the Im@s crew: Isao Hayashi!