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This article is a continuation from part 5

The previous part has discussed the first important factor in maintaining the quality of production, planning and management. This part will discuss another important factor: staff.

The importance of staff has been emphasised in a tweet by Chikashi Kubota, the animation director of One-Punch Man, which said the following:

“Most people have this image that the One-Punch Man anime has a large production budget but that’s not actually true and it is just at an average level. It is because of the passion and attention to detail of the animators and each of the sections involved that the anime is made. Please continue to support One-Punch Man in the future, thank you.”

Kubota’s tweet highlighted how passion, skill, and efforts from the staff often lost from discussions because of widespread belief in the decisive influence of budget. One-Punch Man is an example of a work where the animators were given the freedom to animate according to their own unique styles, which lend the show a variety of feels and effects, as exemplified by the following cuts.

One -Punch Man Episode 1 – Key animator : Gosei Oda (freelance animator)

One -Punch Man  Episode 1 – Key animator : Yoshimichi Kameda (freelance animator)

One -Punch Man Episode 1 – Key animator : Norifumi Kugai (freelance animator)

In addition, the majority of One-Punch Man’s staff had worked with the show’s director Shingo Natsume, particularly on Space Dandy. If we take a look at the works of the above staff in other projects, we can see that they also display the same personal characteristics such as the characters’ movements, brushy lines, use of comical smears, effects, camera dynamics, and even the timing. Natsume’s role in this is not to be forgotten of course, for it is in his capacity as director that Natsume chose to allow the animators (who are his own friends) to express their own styles freely. Thus, works directed by Natsume always appear wild, free, and varied.

The following are some scenes from the same animators in other projects directed by Natsume.

Fullmetal Alchemist : The Sacred Star of Milos – Key Animator : Gosei Oda

Space Dandy  2 Episode 13 – Key Animator : Yoshimichi Kameda

Space Dandy 2 Episode 13 – Key Animator : Norifumi Kugai

Other than One-Punch Man, another anime series similarly assumed to have exceptionally high budget, even if it wasn’t, is Gundam Build Fighters. With an appealing concept reminiscent of classic super robot series, as well as relatively loose directing (as director Kenji Nagasaki also provide the animators the freedom to create their animations to their liking), GBF attracted reknowned mecha animators both from Studo Sunrise itself and from outside. Names such as Masami Obari, Munetaka Abe, Ken Otsuka, Yousuke Kabashima, and others took their part in this project. Other than that, Gundam Build Fighters also provide a springboard for a number of new names among mecha animators such as Aito Ohashi and Sakiko Uda. The anime that was meant to promote Bandai’s plastic models was turned into a passion project of these people.

Episode 23  – Key Animator : Masami Obari (animator Studio G-1 Neo)

Episode 5 – Key Animator : Ken Otsuka (animator Studio Hercules)

Episode 19 – Key Animator : Sakiko Uda (animator Studio Sunrise)

It has been repeatedly stated in these articles that many Japanese animators are able to experiment and produce their own individual styles. Part two has explained the first factor that allow this to happen, the use of limited animation in anime which provides possibilities for experiiments by modifying the amount of frames. The second factor that will be further explained here is the the way division of labour among animators is arranged in anime production.

Let’s take a look first at how division of labour works in Disney to understand how anime is different in this regard. In a Disney film production, multiple animators may work together to make a single cut. If, for example, a cut in the Lion King has three animated figures: Simba, Pumba, dan Timon; one animator may draw the animation for Simba, another animator  may draw the animation for Pumba and Timon, while another animator may draw trees, insects, or other moving objects around them. This system results in consistent-looking and homogenous animation because each animators have to adjust their styles with each other to produce the result that the director wanted. But on the other hand, this system also limits the possibility for animators to experiment, or discover and express their own unique styles.

In an anime production, though, one cut is assigned to one animator only. Animators skilled in making fighting animation would work on fighting sequences while animators skilled in making walking animation would make walking sequences. Some directors would even give animators freedom to make their sequences to their own likings and styles.

As certain animators become firmer with their own styles, occasionally they would move into the position of animation directors, and keeping those styles in that position, bringing their own influences to the cuts or even to whole episodes. Take for example:

Gaiking episode #13(Right) – Animation director : Tatsuzou Nishida – compared to other episodes (left)

Nishida brought his own simpler designs with thinner lines and flat shading to Gaiking episode 13.

 

One-Punch Man episode 3 [Animation director : Yoshimichi Kameda]

As an animator, Kameda is known for playing with lines using sumi-e brush and pencils to create brushy feel to lines and shading. Thus, many scenes in OPM episode 3 which resembles Kameda’s own cut in episode 1 such as this:

With their skills, capable staff would provide valuable contributions to the production of anime. There are even cases where key animation for whole episodes are drawn only by a single person. Tetsuya Takeuchi, for instance, worked solo on key animation of Honey and Clover episode 7 while Your Lie in April episode 5 has the solo key animation of Takashi Kojima. These animators who are capable of handling one whole episodes on their own are regarded as super animator. And these super animators could play a crucial role in saving a production with messed schedule, as shown in episode 4 of Shirobako, which could have happened in an anime production and confirmed by people who worked in the industry.

Conclusion

Producing anime costs money. A number of Wikipedia articles or interviews with industry professionals can provide some insight on the cost of producing anime, and they do not give meager sums. Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex costs about US$ 8 million in the making and is said to be the most expensive anime series until now. And GiTS: SAC is indeed, an anime with excellent production quality. But does that mean GiTS: SAC has the best visual quality compared to all other anime? But truth be told, there are anime with visual quality comparable to, or even exceeds GiTS: SAC even if their costs are supposedly not as high. And GiTS: SAC itself still do have production hiccups such as off-model characters and others.

Anime production do require money, but money is not the decisive factor in execution. How the staff manage their limited time, putting their efforts in producing, correcting, and processing the drawings are often missed by anime viewers. Money is not unimportant, but not all problems can be solved with money. The truth is that money can’t buy time, money can’t buy experience (which takes time to accumulate), it can’t buy talents. Thus, do not forget or look down on the work of the staff behind the scenes, for it is their efforts that make it possible for the anime you watch to be a colorful work of entertainment that it is.

References

The Indonesian Anime Times | Original Text by Yoza Widi | Translation by Halimun Muhammad

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