Nossos prêmios anuais de animação reuniram mais uma vez animadores, diretores, produtores, escritores, tradutores, fãs e tudo mais para escolher as maiores contribuições ao anime e ao mundo da animação em geral para o ano de 2021 —aproveite!
Entradas: — Fede
— Ken 🍁 Yamamoto
— Franziska van Wulfen
Tradutor, Coordenador de Produção Internacional, Salvador de Projetos Condenados [Twitter] Melhor episódio: Ranking of Kings/Ousama Ranking #07
Sem dúvida, uma das melhores vitrines direcionais do ano, ainda mais notável por o fato de ter sido um simples episódio de transição no papel. Ousama Ranking #07 vem pela mão fresca de Shouta Goshozono, que depois de um episódio muito intenso de Jujutsu Kaisen se jogou de cabeça nesta aventura; um com muito mais sabor de vida, mas ainda com sua visão distinta e verdadeiramente cinematográfica da animação. Não há como negar que, principalmente pelo uso de expedientes não diegéticos e pela atenção cuidadosa aos interiores e ao posicionamento da câmera, é fácil perceber paralelos com o trabalho de diretores renomados como Kunihiko Ikuhara e Mamoru Hosoda. No entanto, o episódio ainda se orgulha de uma personalidade inovadora ousada através da apresentação única de Goshozono. O principal de tudo isso é o uso fascinante do rastreamento de câmera para fornecer maior profundidade e realismo aos ambientes, e um bom número de máscaras de composição sempre cuidadosas e não intrusivas, conseguindo assim dar a cada ambiente seu próprio sabor particular. Também magistral é o ritmo da narração através de paletas de cores específicas que tornam a entrada de Bojji e Kage no arsenal um momento inesquecível.
Talvez não seja a melhor mise-en-scène do ano, mas certamente o episódio que me afetou no nível mais profundo; aquele cujas tecnicalidades mais me fascinaram, incutindo em mim o desejo de imitar sua magia. De certa forma, o Sr. Gosso.blend conseguiu me transmitir seu respeito, sua paixão e humildade para servir a um momento tão mundano do desenvolvimento do Ranking Ousama com o maior cuidado e amor, e que guardarei para sempre.
Melhor abertura: One Piece Special Opening para o episódio 1000 (link)
Quando vi pela primeira vez o corte longo e pulsante de Takeshi Maenami, onde os piratas do Chapéu de Palha mostram suas técnicas de luta, o mundo parou por alguns segundos. A segunda vez que vi chorei, assim como a terceira, quarta e quinta. Talvez seja isso que as crianças sentem quando veem seus cortes favoritos de Yutaka Nakamura? Eu me senti muito pequeno e lembrei por que ainda sou um sakugaSakuga (作画): Tecnicamente desenhando imagens, mas mais especificamente animação. Os fãs ocidentais há muito se apropriaram da palavra para se referir a instâncias de animação particularmente boa, da mesma forma que um subconjunto de fãs japoneses. Bastante integral para a marca dos nossos sites. fã.
Melhor final: SSSS.DYNAZENON ED (link)
Uma peça simples que capta habilmente o quão agridoce e precário são os sentimentos mais carregados da adolescência, mantendo um tom leve. Mayumi Nakamura conseguiu transmitir essas ideias com um humor agradável e positivo, ao mesmo tempo em que evitava minimizar os problemas de comunicação e a timidez de cada personagem. Toda vez que um episódio terminava, era como uma pequena explosão do passado.
Melhor Estética: Prioridade do Ovo Maravilha
Se há uma coisa que resta da Prioridade do Ovo Maravilha após o tempestade em que até mesmo seus fundamentos narrativos foram erradicados, é sem dúvida seu compromisso inflexível com sua estética. Um que se estende por todos os departamentos do processo de animação e talvez por isso mereça a coroa de melhor estética mais do que qualquer outro título deste ano.
No final das contas, não se trata apenas de a ideia vaga e geral de composição, mas sim a pesquisa cromática muito profunda para cada personagem principal. É sobre as constantes correções na paleta de cada membro do elenco. Trata-se de uma direção de arte verdadeiramente multifacetada, capaz de capturar com maestria uma difícil realidade cotidiana de um Primeiro Mundo cheio de pavor e sofrimento, bem como o aspecto mágico e poético mais próximo das obras de Satoshi Kon do que da KyoAni que o diretor Wakabayashi tanto adora. Talvez Ohto Ai realmente não tenha conseguido renascer como seus criadores desejavam até o final da produção, mas Ohto Ai como um ícone nunca morreu.
Por um lado, gostaria de premiar Atsuko Nozaki por seus designs Ousama Ranking, graciosos e simples, mas tão expressivos. De certa forma, não muito diferente dos designs maravilhosos de Yoshimichi Kameda em Mob Psycho 100, eles aumentam o apelo original do elenco, enquanto neste caso também interpretam de forma inteligente os arquétipos de peças de xadrez relevantes e as proporções das figuras medievais. Atraente, tematicamente adequado, simples de animar e desenhar e, sem dúvida, cheio de elegância e integridade.
Por outro lado, temos os designs muito estudados de Saki Takahashi para Wonder Egg Priority, rico em detalhes, mas sempre baseado em formas gerais simples. Vestindo suas inspirações claras em suas mangas e ostentando mil estilos de moda diferentes, repletos de significados ocultos e quase cientificamente apoiados pela teoria das cores-há muito o que apreciar neles de diferentes ângulos. O trabalho de Takahashi é herdeiro da cultura moekko, mas ainda disposto a deformar essa fofura de vez em quando em busca de um apelo unissex quase como os personagens SD de trabalhos shounen e shoujo de décadas atrás.
Duas abordagens opostas ao design mas válido e digno de representar a melhor parte da animação televisiva de hoje.
Mesmo antes de sua estreia oficial no mundo da animação comercial, os esboços e exercícios de animação de Harumi Yamazaki tinham já me impressionou fortemente. Seu olhar aguçado para poses e expressões naturais trouxe à mente o trabalho de China, um dos meus artistas favoritos de todos os tempos.
Portanto, você pode imaginar minha imensa surpresa quando a vi pela primeira vez em My Hero Academia e depois Wonder Egg Priority, principalmente no comando de cenas de ação intensas, algumas até fortemente inspiradas em Yutapon; em exibição estava uma enorme variedade de diferentes técnicas de cronometragem, desde as mais rápidas e descontínuas até as mais completas e equilibradas. Ela imediatamente provou ser uma especialista em sequências de execução, enfatizando o impacto da gravidade nos personagens de uma maneira que a fez se sentir bem diferente da maioria das outras figuras da atual onda de animadores do Twitter. No geral, seu controle muito mais preciso de corpos e formas individuais a aproxima talvez dos grandes mestres da animação de ação realista dos anos 90. Todos esses aspectos conferem às suas animações um grande senso de maturidade e solidez, adequados para os momentos mais dramáticos de qualquer tipo de encenação.
Estou curioso para saber se estamos testemunhando o surgimento de um polivalente que ainda não mostrou seu toque pessoal em outros campos, ou se estamos diante do nascimento de um especialista em ação único. De qualquer forma, continuarei torcendo por ela.
Melhor programa: A história de Heike/Heike Monogatari
Não há como negar que Heike Monogatari foi um esforço de produção gigantesco que sofreu muito com o clima abismal e caótico em que se encontra a animação da TV japonesa. No entanto, conseguiu esse difícil trabalho de sintetizar e afirmar a sensibilidade de Naoko Yamada em um contexto muito distante de suas costeletas estilísticas até então. Isso já é uma grande conquista por si só, mas é quando observo como o roteiro, a direção de arte e o design dos personagens conseguiram arrastar um diretor icônico em direções absolutamente impensáveis que só consigo chegar a uma conclusão: Heike Monogatari será lembrado como aquele ponto sem volta em que Yamada passa de um dos diretores mais singulares e fascinantes desta década para uma das figuras mais importantes da atualidade no mundo da animação japonesa.
A brutalidade , a sensação de sofrimento e fragilidade que Heike Monogatari emana através desses elementos visuais ásperos e esboçados, impensáveis tanto na KyoAni de então quanto hoje, combinam com seu conjunto de habilidades preexistentes e conseguem dar uma textura totalmente nova ao conto épico japonês. É disso que se trata a transposição moderna bem realizada de uma obra antiga: ela deve ser capaz de mostrar eventos famosos tão distantes de nós com nossos olhos como habitantes do mundo contemporâneo – e a teleobjetiva empática de Yamada consegue isso perfeitamente. Vítimas e executores abandonam seus papéis e revelam suas falhas, personalidades e sentimentos honestos, de uma maneira não muito diferente de Nozomi e Mizore em Liz and the Blue Bird. Excelente conquista.
Melhor Filme: Inu-Oh
Embora pareça trapacear ao nomear um filme que apenas alguns festivais de cinema em todo o mundo foram capazes de exibir, o fascínio que eu sinto pela carta de despedida de Masaaki Yuasa ao estúdio Science Saru excede em muito a simples simpatia que posso sentir por filmes como o novo Fate/Grand Order e o delicioso Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop, funciona para mim heart ganhou pouco mais do que menções especiais em comparação.
No que me diz respeito, Inu-Oh representa um retorno bestial, exagerado e fabuloso às origens teatrais de um diretor lendário que nos últimos anos talvez estivesse ficando mais suave; tão cru, e ainda um terno grito de amor pela Arte capaz de inspirar os outros, alcançando criadores de todo o mundo para tranquilizá-los sobre seu caminho e os sacrifícios que tiveram que fazer. A magnífica encenação, que lembra obras como Kemonozume, Ping Pong e Mind Game, é magistralmente aproveitada por nomes como Norio Matsumoto e Yoshimichi Kameda, que exploram esse poder bruto para voar livremente em direção a territórios inexplorados e incrivelmente emocionantes. Música e animação se unem, misturando-se em uma explosão sinérgica de energia bruta digna dos musicais mais experimentais.
Tudo neste episódio de PokeToon forte> parece agradável e coeso. A animação cuidadosa e mínima nunca parece excessiva e se encaixa com a ambiência dos fundos. Você vê uma tendência agora de trabalhos nostálgicos direcionados a um público agora adulto, então foi lindo ver a sensibilidade da Equipe Yamahitsuji em exibição total em uma série para crianças.
Além disso, Shoko é fofo.
Melhor abertura ou videoclipe: “Batto feat. KAF” MV (link)
Vale a pena notar que Yamano é muito fofo.
p> Melhor Estética: A História Heike/Heike Monogatari
Em uma palavra: lindo. Estou surpreso que você pode fazer uma série de TV que se parece com Heike Monogatari.
O ambiente de sentimento analógico que é o período Heian é habilmente e encantadoramente retratado aqui, tornando pleno uso das idiossincrasias das ferramentas digitais. Seu uso abundante, mas moderado de cores, fundos pictóricos e a composição que faz uso de tudo para reunir tudo são maravilhosos. Os designs de Fumiko Takano e a música de Kensuke Ushio também são provocativos, e foi uma honra fazer parte do que tenho certeza que é uma experiência única-um momento da vida. Eu fui o diretor do episódio 3, então, por favor, dê uma olhada.
Como uma observação lateral, Iko é fofo.
Quando se trata de Wonder Egg Priority
strong>, parece que eles desmembraram a linhagem atual do trabalho de design A-1, interpretaram-nos para parecerem mais tridimensionais e adicionaram os detalhes de um OVA dos anos 90. Designs incríveis, até os principais animadores que os sustentaram até o fim.
Quanto ao Mushoku Tensei, devo parabenizá-los pelo fato de Roxy ser super fofa.
p> Melhor Descoberta de Criador: Moko-chan (Storyboards/direção de episódio de The Heike Story #05), Akira Uchida (MV de”Batto feat. KAF”), Mizuki Ito (Takano Intersection)
I já estavam cientes de seu trabalho, seja de sua atividade online ou animação chave Key Animation (原画, genga): Esses artistas desenham os momentos cruciais dentro da animação, basicamente definindo o movimento sem realmente completar o corte. A indústria de anime é conhecida por permitir a esses artistas individuais muito espaço para expressar seu próprio estilo. trabalho para a TV, mas fiquei feliz em ver as coisas este ano com um foco maior neles como criadores individuais-afinal, eles são artistas para (ainda) ficar de olho! Estou ansioso pelos trabalhos futuros deles.
Melhor espetáculo: Sonny Boy
Gostei de Sonny Boy por sua impenetrabilidade. É um exercício divertido passar pelas entrevistas e filmografia do diretor Shingo Natsume e imaginar como esse anime surgiu. O design de cada episódio foi fascinante, com a personalidade da equipe brilhando em lugares como a edição provocante ou a direção de som.
Aliás, Yamabiko é fofo.
Melhor Filme: > Takano Intersection (link)
A riqueza de expressões faciais, maneirismos, e atuar no curta-metragem Takano Intersection todos têm o maior charme que eu vi este ano. As idéias para layoutsLayouts (レイアウト): Os desenhos onde a animação realmente nasce; eles expandem as idéias visuais geralmente simples do storyboard para o esqueleto real da animação, detalhando tanto o trabalho do animador principal quanto os artistas de fundo. e os fundos também são interessantes, desde o efeito de desfoque desenhado à mão nos fundos para denotar movimento, até a maneira como retrata a visão do túnel. Também atinge um equilíbrio fantástico com a história de capturar um único momento das emoções de alguém. Isso me fez lembrar de andar de bicicleta quando criança e raspar minha testa.
E, por último, mas não menos importante, o sotaque Kansai para “O que há com ela?” é fofo.
Roxo [Twitter] Melhor episódio: BORUTO #189
Eu normalmente me esforço para evitar fazer escolhas de homer nesses prêmios, mas neste caso, BORUTO #189 foi genuinamente o melhor episódio de TV produzido este ano. Hiroyuki Yamashita é um indivíduo raro para os padrões desta indústria, pois ele não apenas possui uma mente de ação brilhante, mas também os meios artísticos e as circunstâncias pessoais para realizar sua visão sem compromisso. Com isso, quero dizer que sua produção recente sobre BORUTO está efetivamente fora dos recursos e limitações criativas que quase todos os outros animadores freelancers enfrentam. O primeiro passo para esse fim é tomar o roteiro em suas próprias mãos para projetar peças de ação originais e livres de exposição que existem em mundos separados do show ao redor. Ele também contrataria os serviços de Ichiro Uno, um designer de sub-personagens e a espinha dorsal da rotação do diretor de animação da série, para renovar os designs de personagens exclusivamente para este episódio para melhor corresponder aos seus mangás sofisticados. Com a adição de uma troca de paleta de cores, a tempestade perfeita para uma experiência independente se apresenta, digna de ser laureada ao lado dos melhores episódios de TV historicamente que a franquia NARUTO teve a oferecer.
Melhor Abertura, Final ou Videoclipe: Vlad Love OP (link)
Em um ano apresentando aberturas de dois mestres da arte em Shingo Yamashita e Masashi Ishihama, meu prêmio surpreendentemente não vai para nenhum, mas não por falta de desempenho deslumbrante da parte deles. Simplificando, a sequência de abertura de Vlad Love dirigida por Kenichi Kutsuna acabou de ficar comigo de uma forma muito mais forte. A melancolia é um clima inerentemente poderoso quando se trata de expressão artística, e essa abertura canaliza habilmente isso nos desenhos dos personagens. Da mesma forma, o motivo da planta se integra bem, em grande parte devido à decisão de desenhar a maioria dos elementos de plano de fundo focados na folhagem na camada de células, em vez de confiá-los ao departamento de plano de fundo, como faria a maioria das outras situações. Como fãs de animação, temos a tendência de nos fixar muito no primeiro plano, já que essa é a parte que geralmente está se movendo, então equalizar os dois lados juntando tudo (e de uma maneira tão limpa) o torna um vencedor fácil.
Melhor Estética: A História de Heike/Heike Monogatari
Antes de chegar ao anime eu achava que tinha a melhor estética, lamento não mencionar pelo menos o Poketoon curta, que ele fez design de arte e toda a animação. O Studio Colorido é obviamente conhecido por suas proezas estéticas, mas vê-lo em uma plataforma tão popular como o Pokemon é sempre um prazer. Com isso dito, o anime mais bonito deste ano (e talvez até além disso) é Heike Monogatari. A Deho Gallery é líder mundial em arte de fundo e eu tenho diretor de arte cantado Diretor de arte (美術監督, bijutsu kantoku): A pessoa responsável pela arte de fundo da série. Eles desenham muitas pranchetas que, uma vez aprovadas pelo diretor da série, servem como referência para os planos de fundo ao longo da série. A coordenação dentro do departamento de arte é uma obrigação – os designers de cenário e cores devem trabalhar juntos para criar um mundo coerente. Os elogios de Tomotaka Kubo muitas vezes antes, então vou manter esta entrada curta. Heike Monogatari é uma façanha de narrativa visual, e toda a sua equipe merece os maiores elogios por seu trabalho.
Melhores desenhos de animação: Ranking of Kings/Ousama Ranking (Atsuko Nozaki)
As no que me diz respeito, este prêmio marca anos consecutivos com a representação da equipe do produtor de animação Maiko Okada no Studio WIT. Aparentemente em uma fase quente, Great Pretender nos impressionou com sua estética de filtro pop antes do Ranking Ousama e de seu líder carismático, Prince Bojji, conquistar a comunidade de anime de assalto. Se a série tivesse terminado de ser exibida ao escrever isso, há uma boa chance de ser mencionada em mais categorias. Independentemente disso, uma grande parte do sucesso inicial do Ousama Ranking pode ser atribuída ao refinamento de Atsuko Nozaki dos designs um tanto primitivos do mangá. Seu trabalho lembra Medarot e Popolocrois – anime de uma época passada com desenhos de personagens compostos de formas rudimentares, mas sem sacrificar o volume tridimensional de onde são desenhados. Naturalmente, diretor de arteDiretor de arte (美術監督, bijutsu kantoku): A pessoa responsável pela arte de fundo da série. Eles desenham muitas pranchetas que, uma vez aprovadas pelo diretor da série, servem como referência para os planos de fundo ao longo da série. A coordenação dentro do departamento de arte é uma obrigação – os designers de cenário e cores devem trabalhar juntos para criar um mundo coerente. Yuji Kaneko e a equipe de animação liderada por Yousuke Hatta e Arifumi Imai têm um papel enorme a desempenhar na realização do mundo do Ranking Ousama, mas a raiz de seu sucesso e o carismático O coração da série começa com os designs.
Melhor descoberta de criador: Ryohei Takeshita
Todo ano acho cada vez mais difícil premiar um vencedor para esta categoria, não porque faltam candidatos merecedores, mas sim, há muitos, e destacar um indivíduo de cada vez parece estranho! Com isso dito, Ryohei Takeshita parecia dar um grande passo à frente este ano. Depois de dirigir alguns dos episódios mais fortes de Jujutsu Kaisen, ele lidou com seu segundo final, bem como o alegre Meu Senpai é irritante,, e encerrou o ano com um ponto de exclamação no brilhante nono episódio de Heike Monogatari. Claro, Takeshita está longe de ser um novo nome no mundo de sakuga Sakuga (作画): tecnicamente desenhando imagens, mas mais especificamente animação. Os fãs ocidentais há muito se apropriaram da palavra para se referir a instâncias de animação particularmente boa, da mesma forma que um subconjunto de fãs japoneses. Muito integrante da marca de nossos sites. No entanto, pelo menos pessoalmente falando, minha percepção dele mudou de cara-que-dirigiu-Eromanga Sensei, para um diretor com uma presença formidável, capaz de se cercar de artistas talentosos, e abençoando qualquer parada na indústria em que ele pousar.
Melhor show: Sonny Boy
Se pode haver um lado positivo para o aumento no número geral de produções de anime, cada uma ano, é que o número de animes originais aumentou com ele. Costumo dar mais peso aos animes originais em comparação com as adaptações, pois além de atuarem como uma plataforma ideal para mentes criativas, eles também são ótimos do ponto de vista do espectador, pois sem nenhum material de origem, todos podem assistir no mesmo campo de jogo. Nenhum anime incorporou melhor esse último ponto do que Odd Taxi. Por meio de seu enredo de mistério emocionante, gerou uma reunião de fãs quase cult, em parte graças ao esforço que sua equipe de marketing fez para criar uma espécie de metanarrativa vinculando postagens de mídia social aos acontecimentos semanais dos episódios. Sobre o tema da escrita habilidosa, Keiichi Hasegawa e Akira Amemiya mais uma vez se uniram para acompanhar a obra-prima do drama de personagens que foi SSSS.Gridman. Como sequência, SSSS.Dynazenon enfrentou desafios relacionados a como o público o perceberia depois que Gridman deixou o gato proverbial. No entanto, parece que a equipe também estava ciente disso e mostra o quão bem eles empregaram táticas subversivas para evitar pisar nos calos de seu antecessor, mantendo a escrita de personagens matizada e profundamente humana que torna essa franquia especial.
Embora Heike Monogatari não seja considerado um anime original, a versão de Naoko Yamada sobre o conto clássico também pode ser. Comecei com quase nenhuma expectativa e, após a conclusão, sentei-me em silêncio perplexo por vários minutos sobre a catarse esmagadora vivida pelo personagem principal Biwa; que ao longo do anime assiste impotente a uma tragédia se desenrolar, impotente para ajudar as pessoas com quem ela se importa. De uma forma não coincidente, o caráter de Biwa ser análogo à própria situação pessoal de Yamada faz de Heike Monogatari uma obra de arte fascinante e facilmente uma das mais especiais do ano.
Por fim, temos Sonny Boy. Eu estaria mentindo se dissesse que o show foi impecável. Na verdade, está bem longe disso. Shingo Natsume optou por escrever os roteiros de cada episódio, em vez de canalizar suas ideias através de um escritor experiente. Por um lado, isso leva a uma experiência pessoal não filtrada, mas, por outro, também carece de muitos dos refinamentos habituais no anime. Isso ficou especialmente evidente na parte do meio da série, até me levando a colocar o programa em espera por trechos enquanto estava no ar. E, no entanto, é o meu anime do ano. Então o que dá? Deixe-me explicar, mas tome cuidado, pois preciso mergulhar um pouco no território dos spoilers.
Claro, existem os aspectos mais óbvios, como a trilha sonora inesquecível, direção inspirada e explosões de animação carismática por toda parte, mas na minha opinião, a série não se consolida como um clássico cult nos próximos anos até o último episódio. Mais especificamente, quando Mizuho finge esquecer Nagara ao retornar ao mundo real, reforçando a total banalidade da vida cotidiana de Nagara. Quando justaposta com todas as palhaçadas bizarras que experimentamos nos mundos à deriva, minha interpretação da mensagem de Sonny Boy só pode ser profundamente pessimista. O final é anticlimático, frustrante e até um pouco difícil de aceitar, com a cereja no topo sendo a frustração transbordando para o ED através de um arrepiante versão acústica de Shounen Shoujo.
Não é preciso dizer neste momento, mas nada como Sonny Boy existe no meio animado. É preciso um indivíduo especial e muita boa vontade para conseguir os meios para produzir algo tão fora do mercado em primeiro lugar. Por fim, Shingo Natsume usou esse presente para compartilhar uma parte de si mesmo e, com a ajuda de toda a equipe, o mundo da animação é um lugar mais interessante por causa disso.
Melhor Filme: Inu-Oh
Enquanto tecnicamente foi ao ar no ano passado, o lançamento em casa de Umibe no Etranger só chegou ao ocidente seis meses depois, então, por esse motivo, encontra seu caminho como vice-campeão nesses prêmios. Como fã do trabalho original de Kii Kanna, fiquei em conflito com seu anúncio, já que a maioria das adaptações de mangá que são realizadas por linhas delicadas e desenhos taquigráficos específicos do autor tendem a ser inerentemente comprometidas. Nesse caso, ainda mais quando você leva em consideração a negligência historicamente sombria que o gênero boys love recebe do ponto de vista da produção. Felizmente, Kii Kanna é um ex-animador que virou artista de mangá e esteve envolvido o suficiente na produção do filme para mais do que justificar sua existência. Deixando de lado os problemas de ritmo, a equipe conseguiu superar seu peso aqui-especialmente no departamento de fundo-para criar algo que o gênero precisava muito.
No extremo oposto do espectro, Hideaki Anno empregou seus recursos ilimitados e sua propensão para acertar os finais para entregar um final absolutamente impressionante para a franquia Evangelion . Embora meu apego ao mundo que ele criou não seja especialmente profundo (em relação à maioria dos fãs hardcore), em um nível técnico, gostei muito de me maravilhar com o trabalho que os melhores do ramo foram capazes de produzir.
O melhor filme real de 2021, porém, é o mais recente esforço de direção de Masaaki Yuasa: Inu Oh, que tive a sorte de ver no Festival Internacional de Cinema de Toronto. Como alguém que azedou o processo FLASH excessivamente limpo implantado pela Science SARU, bem como a ampla comercialização que a produção da Yuasa almejava nos últimos tempos, fiquei emocionado ao ver Inu Oh descartar principalmente o primeiro e obliterar totalmente o último. Desde que escrevo isso, entendo que poucas pessoas realmente viram o filme, apenas direi que alguns dos números musicais ainda estão presos na minha cabeça, com os visuais que o acompanham percorrendo um longo caminho para codificar a experiência geral de “concerto” que Yuasa pretendia retratar.
Ken 🍁 Yamamoto
Animador, Storyboarder, Diretor, A Leaf [Twitter] Melhor Episódio: Uma Musume Pretty Derby S2 #08, Mother of the Goddess’Dormitory #03/Megami-ryou no Ryoubo-kun
O primeiro é mais apreciado ao lado do sétimo episódio de Uma Musume Pretty Derby S2 também. Resumindo, é o episódio que conseguiu me fazer pegar um mobage pela primeira vez. Em termos de animação, o cabelo de Rice Shower esvoaçando no OP do episódio 8, bem como o clímax da cena da corrida, são lindos de uma maneira que até os fãs casuais de anime podem apreciar.
Quando se trata de Mãe do Dormitório da Deusa #03, o episódio é na verdade dividido entre dois contos:”Koushi, At A Loss”e”Koushi Goes Back to School”. Este último em particular deixou uma forte impressão em mim, simplesmente porque o calor das mãos frias é uma grande ideia. Tocar o corpo um do outro é uma situação padrão em animes de fanservice, mas há uma verdadeira elegância e beleza em dar profundidade e significado dramáticos à sensação do toque em si.
Melhor Abertura, Final ou Vídeo Musical:
Melhor Abertura, Finalização ou Vídeo Musical:
strong> Da Wang Rao Ming OP (link), The Vampire Dies in No Time A abertura de OP
Da Wang Rao Ming é atraente em sua extravagância, e parece que sua primeira prioridade era exercer seus esforços máximos em todos os níveis. Devido a restrições de orçamento e cronograma, as aberturas de animes japoneses são mantidas em cerca de 50 cortes e 1000 desenhos no máximo, então gostei de ver uma produção como essa que você não veria aqui. Em termos de animação, eu gosto especialmente do quarto corte, onde a garota separa os dedos e você vê os músculos do braço dela se expandirem, o que não é algo que você vê retratado com muita frequência em animes normais.
Quando acontece chega a The Vampire Dies in No Time, sua animação pensativa faz um bom trabalho ao apoiar os visuais simples-e o show em si também é divertido!
Melhor Estética: Sonny Boy, O Aquatope na Areia Branca/Shiroi Suna no Aquatope OP2 (especificamente o corte em que se aproxima lentamente de Kukuru arregalando os olhos) Os planos de fundo e composição de Sonny Boy são requintados. Eles são feitos para aumentar consideravelmente o charme da animação, e as cenas que você vê só são possíveis com total confiança em sua capacidade de atrair funcionários talentosos para seus departamentos, animação e outros.
Quando se trata para Aquatope, eu queria gritar especificamente aquela foto na segunda abertura. A cor azul é muito enfatizada ao longo da série como um todo. Mesmo assim, este belo corte se destaca pelo design de cores e pelo trabalho em compósito. I appreciate that either the in-betweener or the in-between checker has been thorough in minimizing the jittering in the face, where the eyes are drawn to. I think that the in-betweening and painting departments put in the most care for cuts like these.
Best Animation Designs: Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory #03/Megami-ryou no Ryoubo-kun (Maiko Okada)
Maiko Okada‘s work on Mother of the Goddess’ Dormitory is very cute, with a style reminiscent of Yuka Takashina on The Ambition of Oda Nobuna or Noriko Shimazawa on Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru, but with a more modern feel. It’s not too heavy on line count, and seems friendly to animate.
Best Creator Discovery: Kazuki Kawagoe (Komi Can’t Communicate), also OLM as a whole
Apparently, Kawagoe has been well-known for a while, but I wasn’t aware of him in my ignorance…
It struck me how talented all of OLM’s in-house animators and directors are, so I’ll probably go back and take another look at their older works.
Best Show: 86: Eighty Six
Saying that 86: Eighty Six was directed by Toshimasa Ishii should suffice as an explanation here, but nonetheless: I would sum it up by saying that it’s a series where, from the layoutsLayouts (レイアウト): The drawings where animation is actually born; they expand the usually simple visual ideas from the storyboard into the actual skeleton of animation, detailing both the work of the key animator and the background artists., timings in every sense, sound direction, editing, etc., you can very easily tell what it means for the episode directionEpisode Direction (演出, enshutsu): A creative but also coordinative task, as it entails supervising the many departments and artists involved in the production of an episode – approving animation layouts alongside the Animation Director, overseeing the work of the photography team, the art department, CG staff… The role also exists in movies, refering to the individuals similarly in charge of segments of the film. to do its job to the fullest.
In terms of visuals, there are parts that seem like they ran up against the schedule, but even then, the episode directionEpisode Direction (演出, enshutsu): A creative but also coordinative task, as it entails supervising the many departments and artists involved in the production of an episode – approving animation layouts alongside the Animation Director, overseeing the work of the photography team, the art department, CG staff… The role also exists in movies, refering to the individuals similarly in charge of segments of the film. has the power to carry it through for viewers. I wish the people who want to create visuals purely through strong animation could realize that.
Best Movie: Revue Starlight: The Movie, Sumikko Gurashi: Aoi Tsukiyo to Mahou no Ko
Revue Starlight is simply a fun time where they sing a lot, yell a lot, and the characters actually have changes of heart (thus are my shallow impressions). When it comes to Sumikko Gurashi, that’s one movie that personally struck a chord with me. In its brief runtime of 60 minutes, it manages to flesh out a serious drama, and I came away very satisfied (although the themes of losing and then rediscovering one’s identity might not be for everyone). Also, I envy how the movie has reached so many children…
Professional Yama No Susume Liker [Twitter] Best Episode: Tropical Rouge Precure #29
I jumped into watching Precure weekly a bit too late to regularly enjoy masterful episodes that the series often produced back in the day. Now, because I only know the current reality of waiting about a year for every real standout episode of the show, it feels this much better and enjoyable when they do happen.
Keisuke Mori, known to most as soty, is a generational talent whose animation director debut had been the talk of the industry for many days ahead of the episode’s premiere. It almost felt like every animator and every sakugaSakuga (作画): Technically drawing pictures but more specifically animation. Os fãs ocidentais há muito se apropriaram da palavra para se referir a instâncias de animação particularmente boa, da mesma forma que um subconjunto de fãs japoneses. Bastante integral para a marca dos nossos sites. fan had been awaiting that day, to see this diamond in the rough get polished into its final form. Between the knowledge that the episode would be helmed by the great Yuta Tanaka, renowned as one of Toei’s most inspired directors, and the fact that many of the industry’s foremost animators were sharing (not really) cryptic messages such as “soty is a god”, the hype was off the charts beforehand. As it turns out, it was worth it.
The role of an animation director is probably my favorite: the way they can change even the most mundane shots and still frames of people talking into something interesting and well laid out is an invaluable skill. And it’s precisely Mori’s input in such shots that made this episode into kind of a masterpiece to my eyes. Sure, the action was amazing, as the participation of soty’s pals made for a spectacle of huge set pieces reminiscent of Mob Psycho, but it’s the supposed downtime that stuck so strongly with me. Characters would constantly move as if Mori drew them; acting with his characteristic bounciness, and all faces corrected to have noses and mouths much lower with more space left for expressive eyes, which immediately remind me of his teachers Yuki Hayashi and Koudai Watanabe’s work. Every movement, every frame leaves you something to observe. Personality is not only established by what the characters say but also by how they move and act, and it’s exactly what soty excels at—no matter if as a key animator or as someone that corrects other people’s work, he elevates everything on screen, making it an unforgettable. Hopefully, the next step will be seeing what he can achieve as a director.
Best Opening, Ending, Or Music Video: The Heike Story/Heike Monogatari OP (link)
Prior to leaving KyoAni, I never considered openings and endings to be Naoko Yamada’s forte work. Not to say that she was bad at it: a couple of them are among my all-time favorites, but others simply didn’t even register in my mind. It was only after leaving and (presumably) directing 3 excellent openings in quick succession that my whole perception changed.
Heike Monogatari is a fast-paced story of a whole generation, and for this reason it needs to showcase the key moments of their lives. There is not much time for the peaceful moments that remind us that they indeed are just a family. Yamada decided to use the opening sequence pretty much just for that purpose: humanizing the cast by letting us experience a bit of leisure time with them, something invaluable in the times of war that they struggle with almost daily. We can see them happy and enjoying the normal life they probably wish for. Amazing in terms of the theme, and obviously just as strong technically as Yamada is one of the best directors to come out of Japan. Lens management, low-angle shots, and the perfect amount of spice in the form of chromatic aberration to give depth. We take this masterful usage of these techniques from her as granted, but it’s worth remembering that there are not many creators that get anime so close to looking like they were shot with a real camera.
Best Aesthetic: The Case Study of Vanitas/Vanitas no Carte
There is something magical about studio SHAFT directors leaving the studio and having their own projects in better environments. Sure, maybe not all of them (looking at you Naoyuki Tatsuwa!), but the directorial skills they hone under Akiyuki Shinbo rarely go to waste.
That said, I did not have strong expectations for The Case Study of Vanitas even with the backing of a powerhouse like BONES, including great character designer Yoshiyuki Itou handling the show. The reason was simple: it took a lot of time for director Tomoyuki Itamura to show his own style while heading the Monogatari franchise at SHAFT. Frankly, I’d say that it never really recovered after Tatsuya Oishi left the series in his hands.
However, Vanitas showed me—as did Fire Force had done with Yuuki Yase before—that SHAFT’s brand is more creatively restrictive for its directors than it seems, and that with a better working environment and the freedom that every director deserves, Itamura is not just a replacement for Oishi. The project allowed for more movement and more traditionally ambitious animation layoutsLayouts (レイアウト): The drawings where animation is actually born; eles expandem as idéias visuais geralmente simples do storyboard para o esqueleto real da animação, detalhando tanto o trabalho do animador principal quanto os artistas de fundo. than Itamura’s previous works, which turned out to be the missing ingredient to elevate the attractive fundamentals he’d inherited from Shinbo and company. Of course, it had plenty of two-dimensional, stage-like shots straight out of Kunihiko Ikuhara and by extension Nobuyuki Takeuchi’s book, an amazing color palette with very saturated reds and purples dominating whole scenes, and ominous usage of darkness and shadows—all perfect for the show’s theme. Great compositing staff and a director that knows how to lead them to achieve his vision are key, and not every project can say that it had both.
I would like to look at this category as more than just one-time job. Of course, it all starts with turning in attractive designs, but in my eyes it’s just as important to deliver enough helpful design sheets, and ideally being able to stick around to keep the character art on a consistent level of quality, in line with the vision for the show. And for a role like that, you won’t find a better person than Kanna Hirayama, known to most animation fans by her pen name Kappe. She quickly gained a following not only by drawing attractive and deceptively easy to animate characters, but also by giving her everything and then some during the production process; correcting frames as both animation director and chief animation director, being involved in every single episode, drawing additional illustrations, handling props such as posters and cd jackets in the anime itself—you name a job, and she’s probably doing it. I can’t even fathom how much skill it takes to sustain this level of output and quality.
Initially, Selection Project was a worrying show because it was announced right after Kanojo Okarishimasu ended; which is to say, another show Kappe provided the character design work for, with its second season awaiting in the future. Given how much she was involved in the first season, I assumed that maybe Selection Project was a bit doomed, at least when it came to her output. Of course, I turned out to underestimate her yet again. The credits may look like she wasn’t as involved as one would hope with her name missing from the supervisors list for a couple of episodes, but that’s not actually true; staff participating in the show mentioned on Twitter many times that even episodes where she isn’t credited are full of her corrections, which explains the consistent excellence of the art. Heck, she even corrected 3D dance scenes by drawing expressions over CG models.
I’ve not talked much about what these designs actually look like, but I really think that’s not what’s most important here. In the end, do Kanna Hirayama’s designs subjectively appeal to me? Sim. I love the shapes, the poses she trends towards, frankly everything. But there is something even more tangible that everyone should be able to appreciate, even if these cute designs aren’t their fancy. And that is Kappe‘s dedication to the characters she creates, one that can rarely be matched in this industry.
Best Creator Discovery: Kazuki Kawagoe
Despite the fact that kids anime have always raised tons of talented staff, some exceptional animators and directors just slip through the cracks of obscurity because they’re very dedicated to lesser-known titles in that field. Fortunately for us, though less so for all the management staff that will have to deal with the inherent messiness of latenight titles, studio OLM has been shifting priorities somewhat and allowing some previously restricted directors to grow more ambitious.
Komi Can’t Communicate is one such project, with Kazuki Kawagoe as a debuting director under the watchful eye of veteran Ayumu Watanabe. Kawagoe wastes no time to prove his real worth by directing a spectacular opening, one of the season’s best and very memorable because of it’s use of cels.
What made me bite, though, was the inspired usage of typography and the feeling that he has a clear vision of how the show is supposed to look at all time; and it better have been, because the show got away with having 8 out of 12 episodes fully outsourced without major visual irregularities. Diegetic onomatopoeias, floating text, projections on walls—you can expect that sort of quirky direction from every episode, as those precepts remain just as strong when the episode gets shipped elsewhere as when the core team is in charge. I’ve since had some chances to take a look at Kawagoe’s lesser-known past output, including Koisuru Asteroid’s amazing 5th episode and his Beyblade’s and Youkai Watch openings sequences, which left me confident in saying that the man has a brilliant future as a director ahead.
Best Show: Ranking of Kings/Ousama Ranking
Is it cheating to nominate a still ongoing series? Perhaps, and given WIT Studio’s track record when it comes to production implosions, it might even be foolish to preemptively crown the small king. And yet, I can’t bring myself to choose something else. Sure, the likes of Heike Monogatari, Sonny Boy, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S were all amazing on their own right, but I find some shortcomings in all of them; a couple of weaker episodes in the first two, and the fact that Maidragon is a sequel and thus didn’t hit quite as strongly for me, it all made it clear who stood in my heart’s throne.
Ousama Ranking already won me over in pre-production. The dazzling art direction, those cute blobs… I mean animation-friendly designs by Atsuko Nozaki, it all immediately came together into a picturesque world you can’t help but love. And once the show starts, it only gets better; the sense of scale that is both a main theme in the show and a tool for the animation to look grand and spectacular, as well as the bouncy, loose movement that makes every scene so joyful, all delivered by great guests improving WIT’s usual staff—and of course brilliant, thematically tight story. Next year better pack some amazing shows, because if you give me the opportunity to nominate Ousama Ranking again, I will do it with no hesitation.
Best Movie: Pompo the Cinephile/Eiga Daisuki Pompo-san
It’s been thousands of years since Takayuki Hirao’s last movie, a format that in my opinion fits his visual style the most. Okay, maybe it hasn’t been that long, but that’s how it feels to be deprived from one of the most brilliant directors in anime. Fortunately, our prayers have been heard by investors and producers, and thus we’ve received a new passion project of his. Whoever followed Hirao’s career and read any interviews probably knows that the real cinephile was him all along, so it’s easy to see why he was so on board for this project. Fittingly so, Pompo the Cinephile is a movie that does not hold back on Hirao’s directorial quirks.
Time being stopped or rewinded, people switching locations during a scene, or sometimes even omitting portions of time as if characters had Jojo stand that allowed them to exist multiple times in the same shot. There is more to these quirks than just being playful and visually pleasing, they also make us realize that more time passes than the movie actually shows—as it’s only 90 minutes in runtime, which is also a strong theme in the movie’s film-making story itself. Frankly speaking, the plot is not Pompo’s strongest aspect, as it leaves all the tension for the rushed finale and leaves us with a sense of everything being gifted too easily to the protagonist Gene. Rather inevitable with the scope of the title, but if you need a movie light in tone that does not shy away from playful yet deliberate direction, I’d still urge you to give Pompo a chance.
Franziska van Wulfen
Animator, Vtuber [Twitter] Best Episode: SSSS.DYNAZENON #10
Episode 10 of Dynazenon is simply incredible. Kai Ikarashi had already amazed me before with his efforts on Gridman #09, so I like many others had highly anticipated his next output on this franchise. While Gridman had a very strong antagonist in Akane Shinjo, most of its other character arcs fell pretty flat. Dynazenon has no such issue, as it smartly interweaves several interesting character tales. Many of those converge into episode #10, hitting their emotional high points as it explores the characters struggles, each with their own regret-filled, but ultimately cathartic dreamscapes.
Ikarashi’s sharp, angular drawings and animation contrast with Dynazenon’s often muted, more naturalistic tone in storytelling. A stunning means to break open the solemn dreamscapes visually in its animations and shot compositions, with the characters’ realizations that they can‘t be stuck in the past any longer.
Best Opening, Ending, Or Music Video: Horimiya OP (link)
Even ignoring the fact that Horimiya‘s opening is completely on my aesthetic wavelength, Masahi Ishihama‘s sequence sticks out for me in how effectively it delivers a narrative through its progression of visuals alone. The early parts of the opening are fragmented, the characters kept apart in separate panels and colour palettes, moving through seasons and spaces on their own. Despite being a show about relationships, there is a distinct sense of loneliness and isolation here, underlining how it is really only over the course of the show that these characters start opening up to each other. I think it’s fitting then that the OP only shows the very first step of this progression, still occupying their own spaces, but having made the decision to break out of their own from these literal boxes. Perhaps a bit on the nose, but that is easily made up for me with its stylish palette and visuals.
Best Aesthetic: Mushoku Tensei’s Setting Design
I’m cheating a little bit here, as it’s only one of the many aspects that compose a show’s aesthetic, but I really would like to mention Mushoku Tensei for its Setting Design in particular. Having actually seen the overwhelming amount of settei and reference sheets that was produced and gathered for this show, I can guarantee that it is a stand out in this department. Its muted, more grimy colour palettes it doesn‘t stick out like some of my other favourites of this year, but it works exactly for the kind of world this story decided to portray. The settings it explores are not necessarily always beautiful, but always rich in detail, telling stories of civilizations, how they live in these spaces they frequent.
In fact, as if showing the locations throughout the story wasn‘t enough, most of the episodes even have, instead of a traditional opening, a sequence just showing off the settings our protagonists have just entered; what food do the people here eat, what is remarkable about their architecture, important landmarks, what industries thrive here and so on. This show is very much in love with its world-building in every way possible. With a lot isekai titles seemingly satisfied just portraying the same carbon copy fantasy cities, Mushoku Tensei is remarkable in its eye for detail.
Best Animation Designs: Ranking of Kings/Ousama Ranking (Atsuko Nozaki)
The aspect that might have made many viewers initially disinterested in this show happens to be one of its strongest suits as far as I’m concerned. Ousama Ranking‘s character designs, despite initially appearing very simple, become amazing once you see them in motion. There is a real sense of three-dimensionality captured in their simplicity, and the lack of overbearing detail enables a wider quality and quantity of movement that wouldn’t be possible if the characters were buried in three stacks of bows and frills, as it often is the case with anime designs. And yet, despite that simplicity, every single design is unique and instantly recognizable. They cover a broad range of body types and facial features, down to sometimes not even being human-shaped at all, as is the case with Kage. It plays with shape language in ways you often may see in American cartoons, but rarely in anime. Through and through, a breath of fresh air.
Best Show: The Heike Story/Heike Monogatari
It was a surprise to me when it was announced that Naoko Yamada would be leaving Kyoto Animation, a studio she clearly thrived in. However, that shock only made it sweeter to find out that even without the strong backing of the KyoAni, Yamada is still one beast of a director. Heike Monogatari is the kind of show where every element perfectly clicks together. This is particularly important since it covers a lot of ground, telling the story of dozens of characters and their downfall over the course of a decade. There is a lot happening, and yet a sense of helplessness is expertly communicated—contrasted with a protagonist that, despite holding the most knowledge about the tragedy that is going to ensue, is mostly a passive observer.
A large tale told with delicacy, more interested in its characters’ inner worlds as the large political plots play out in the background. The thin, delicate lineart carries both subtle gestures and bold, heavy movements. The peaceful pastels that breathe life to most of the show are sharply disrupted by sudden short bursts of violence and grief. This show is a master of tone, a lot of its story being told through visual nuance alone. A feat that becomes especially impressive when you consider the wealth of developments this tale goes through its short 11 episode run.
Best Movie: Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop/Cider no You ni Kotoba ga Wakiagaru
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop really doesn’t stand out for its main storyline, a cute but otherwise unremarkable tale of love between two totes adorable, but very awkward teens connecting over their insecurities. Instead, I’d argue that it’s the group they belong to that brings them together and the portrayal of such feeling of community that makes this film shine. Despite having two very clear protagonists, there is a huge cast of side characters who are less defined as individuals, but rather how as a community they affect their surroundings and relationships. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to generational gaps, as all age groups play a role here.
It is no coincidence that this story is set in a shopping mall located in the countryside, beautifully brought to life through its distinct ligne claire aesthetic—definitely a visual stand out this year—and throughout complex layoutsLayouts (レイアウト): The drawings where animation is actually born; they expand the usually simple visual ideas from the storyboard into the actual skeleton of animation, detailing both the work of the key animator and the background artists.. A bursting, lively location in a setting that would otherwise be seen as quiet and rural; not that the viewer would notice, as the film does it darndest to always appear quirky. Be it its bubbly character animation, complex shot compositions, fun color palettes (that always seem to work together beautifully, no matter what) or just cramming as many characters as possible into a shot as possible—there is always something happening, which quickly makes the setting become a larger character than any of its individual people on their own.
The Dragon Ball Guy [Twitter] Best Episode: Star Wars: Visions #08 – Lop & Ocho
When I was younger, I used to have The Animatrix on repeat, enamoured by the ambitious creativity on display from industry legends I wouldn’t know the names of until a decade later. As a result, the announcement of Star Wars: Visions tickled a nostalgic part of my brain, and the results more than delivered. The eighth short in the anthology in particular, Lop & Ocho, captured me in a way that no other episode this year came remotely close to. It is a powerhouse of individuality, with the direction, animation directionAnimation Direction (作画監督, sakuga kantoku): The artists supervising the quality and consistency of the animation itself. Eles podem corrigir cortes que se desviam muito dos designs se acharem adequado, mas o trabalho deles é principalmente garantir que o movimento seja adequado sem parecer muito áspero. Plenty of specialized Animation Direction roles exist – mecha, effects, creatures, all focused in one particular recurring element., storyboardStoryboard (絵コンテ, ekonte): The blueprints of animation. Uma série de desenhos geralmente simples servindo como roteiro visual do anime, desenhados em folhas especiais com campos para o número de corte da animação, notas para a pauta e as linhas de diálogo correspondentes. More, and character designs all stemming from a single individual: Yuuki Igarashi.
Having skipped out on Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! due to sheer laziness, Igarashi was not someone I was hugely familiar with; as a director and central creative force that is, since I was already aware of his ability as a key animator. Whether it be the expressiveness of Lop, the wonderfully layered boards, or the most basic of emotions his direction elicited from me, it became clear to me that he is someone special, and I eagerly await his next project.
Although its narrative is ultimately what sealed the deal for me in picking it here, its visual identity gripped me from the get-go, and is perhaps the most striking aspect of this wonderful short. Many contemporary titles have tried to authentically recreate the tangible feel of cel-era animation, and almost none of them succeed. I would argue that Lop & Ocho does pull it off, thanks to a powerful combination of stellar art direction and a director of photographyPhotography (撮影, Satsuei): The marriage of elements produced by different departments into a finished picture, involving filtering to make it more harmonious. Um nome herdado do passado, quando as câmeras eram realmente usadas durante esse processo. who understands the nuances that make up traditional animation—or rather, those that you must accentuate when trying to emulate that look using a completely different set of tools. Textured linework, chromatic aberration, subtle layer shadows, and a thick layer of authentic-looking grain kick things off, and when placed against the stellar backgrounds from art directorArt Director (美術監督, bijutsu kantoku): The person in charge of the background art for the series. They draw many artboards that once approved by the series director serve as reference for the backgrounds throughout the series. Coordination within the art department is a must – setting and color designers must work together to craft a coherent world. Yuuji Kaneko, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a late 90s production. With a fantastic scene from Kai Ikarashi to wrap things up, I cannot think of a more deserving episode to take this spot. It’s the perfect example of why tight-knit productions will always reign supreme, and that sure is welcome in an industry that so often resembles a factory farm.
Best Opening, Ending, Or Music Video: Zombie Land Saga Revenge OP (link)
Believe me, I do not revel in picking a sequence from a studio with such a masturbatory presence, but something about this stuck in my mind more than any other this year. I know embarrassingly little about its creator, Shinpei Kamata, but their use of silhouettes to allow for such bold and seamless transitions is genius. It is deceptively hard to put together pop-art motion graphics in conjunction with dynamic typography, yet it’s executed super well here; Q Kawa’s sequence in particular rules! The piece so perfectly encapsulates the pure joy the show both brings me and is filled with, and while I won’t be surprised if I’m the only person who chooses it this year, I do genuinely think it deserves a mention.
Best Aesthetic: Arcane (fuck Riot)
Riot suck, but unfortunately, I do have to mention them for their collaboration with Studio Fortiche in creating this stunning show. Although this is largely a CG production with 2D elements, its art direction, colour design, and overall composite is one of the most groundbreaking and startling things to happen in the industry this year, so I simply can’t not give it a nod.
The show is packed full of the most incredible 2D painted backgrounds, with stunning detail that the artists so perfectly matched with the textural elements of their 3D models. Harmonizing that with more uniquely digital elements like dynamic lighting with such seamless precision is no easy feat, but when it all comes together, the results are undeniably breathtaking. 3D emulating 2D is often looked down upon in the anime world, and it’s understandable given the lack of successful approaches over the years, but Arcane proves it’s possible. It involves embracing 3D for its strengths, and not hiding behind decreased frame rates and mediocre shader pipelines for shallow mimicry. It’s about taking the best elements of each toolset, and working them together into a product that elevates into a greater sum of its parts. This is what Arcane excels at, and I hope it continues to push productions in this direction in the same way equally successful attempts like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did a few years prior.
Many of my picks this year come with large asterisks about some depressing aspect of the production, and I don’t think that could be any more apparent than with Wonder Egg Priority; a show with a somewhat controversial writer, an uncontroversially awful non-ending, and a nightmare production that quite literally put someone in the hospital. It’s not really possible to just cast aspects like that aside, but I do want to take a moment to highlight one undeniable positive: its character designs.
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, Saki Takahashi’s designs are a joy to look at. Delicate linework, stunning hair detail—evocative of the work that makes Kyoto Animation productions so memorable—but it’s the subtext to these designs that makes them so successful.
So, what does that specifically mean? When the main character Ai Ohto—whose very name is a pun riffing on her odd-eyed cat theme—has her hood up, she resembles an egg. This isn’t just a sly nod to the title of the show, but emblematic of the way she closes herself off from people. It’s a recurring visual motif in the show that works remarkably well while also looking mega cute. Likewise, even simpler, more on-the-nose aspects such as Kaoru Kurita featuring the colours of the trans pride flag to match his story are sweet touches. For all its flaws both behind the scenes and in its final act, Wonder Egg Priority really did stick with me, and many such details are partly to blame. Its over-ambition got the better of it, but when it worked, WEP was unrivalled.
Best Creator Discovery: Teruyuki Omine
Attack on Titan’s transition to MAPPA was anything but smooth. In fact, you might even call it a disaster. The studio was not the least bit equipped to handle a project as demanding as Attack on Titan, and yet they took it on anyway. The results were rough to say the least, but one particular director managed to consistently deliver episodes that would have you believe nothing was wrong.
Teruyuki Omine was someone I first (unconsciously) took note of on Dororo, where he likewise delivered some of the most ambitious episodes of the series despite being a relative newcomer to the role. With Attack on Titan, his standing was dramatically raised, to the point of being entrusted with some of the most important episodes—ones that required pristine direction to elevate extended scenes of dramatic dialogue, which he executed perfectly. Enduring such a workload on a brutal schedule is more than challenging enough on its own, so imagine facing the wrath of Attack on Titan fans on top of that. And yet, in spite of so many negative factors, Omine helped save the series from crumbling alongside series directorSeries Director: (監督, kantoku): The person in charge of the entire production, both as a creative decision-maker and final supervisor. Eles superam o resto da equipe e, finalmente, têm a última palavra. No entanto, existem séries com diferentes níveis de diretores – diretor-chefe, diretor assistente, diretor de episódios da série, todos os tipos de papéis não padronizados. A hierarquia nessas instâncias é um cenário caso a caso. Yuichiro Hayashi. I look forward to seeing what he can deliver on an improved schedule, and how his idiosyncrasies will develop once his experience in the role continues to pile up.
Best Show: Castlevania Season 4
I’ve always enjoyed Powerhouse’s Castlevania; the bursts of terrific animation throughout its initial three seasons were memorable, but I’d never find myself considering it for awards like these due to its lack of finesse in other areas, particularly its shoddy inbetweening work that would put a real damper on quieter scenes away from the action.
Fortunately, Castlevania’s final season is also its best. It polishes off the aforementioned issues from its prior outings, resulting in perhaps the most well-rounded show this year. The ambition on display is astonishing, with delicate character acting and ludicrous action peppering each episode, as if the team was finally operating with all restraints off. This is very much Samuel Deats’ Avengers Assemble moment, with the likes of Tam Lu, Gareth Wong, Josh Aguiler, and a host of many others leading the charge on the animation front, topped off by Adam Deats’ larger-than-life compositing work. How that man manages to turn the most unwieldy 3D backgrounds into seamless parts of a scene is beyond me.
Everyone on the team should be so proud of their work, and if any of them read this, you now owe me a Berserk adaptation for giving you this accolade. No, that is not negotiable. Thanks~
Best Movie: Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time
Perfection. Total and utter perfection. Evangelion’s final Rebuild movie is such a flawless send-off to this iconic franchise that I struggle to even find the words to express what makes it just so successful. It is simultaneously bombastic and delicate, and captures so much of the humanity that made the original Evangelion series such a landmark in anime. Watching it feels like staring into the most private parts of Hideaki Anno‘s soul. Art at its purest, most personal and unadulterated form, despite also succeeding as the sendoff for one of the biggest commercial franchises of all time.
The meticulous framing, the ambitious animation effort throughout, and the stunning art direction all come together with the perfectly penned script to form a movie that recaptures the genius first experienced with The End of Evangelion over two decades prior.
While I have many reservations about the absolute agony that Anno put his staff through in the making of this movie, I do somewhat selfishly feel glad that it paid off in such an unforgettable way. I will miss this series, but as someone who initially felt put off by the Rebuilds as a concept, I’m glad they managed to loop back around to feeling like a worthwhile, legitimate continuation of one of my most beloved franchises.
Animator, Character Designer [Twitter] Best Episode: I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level/Slime Taoshite 300-nen, Shiranai Uchi ni Level Max ni Nattemashita #06
I had been watching Slime 300 on a whim, but this episode gave off the feeling that it was really something special. A large part was the fact that the drawings were solid; however, it was also a very fun-to-watch episode that highlighted the anime-esque cuteness and humor on display. Keiichiro Saito drew more than a third of the key animation in the episode; I’d already recognized him for his episode directionEpisode Direction (演出, enshutsu): A creative but also coordinative task, as it entails supervising the many departments and artists involved in the production of an episode – approving animation layouts alongside the Animation Director, overseeing the work of the photography team, the art department, CG staff… The role also exists in movies, refering to the individuals similarly in charge of segments of the film., but watching this episode further confirmed in my mind how fantastic he is as an animator, too.
Having multiple characters on screen is difficult even with just stills, but every cut here casually shows non-main characters in motion, which helps make the series come to life.
I think Slime 300 is an excellent show in terms of character design as well, and it does a good job adapting for anime things like clothing that were very complex in the original designs. A prime example is the protagonist, whose animation design feels fairly fresh, and I see it as a sign of what anime may offer in the future.
Best Opening, Ending, Or Music Video: 86: Eighty Six OP2 (link)
I watched the entirety of 86: Eighty Six after seeing this opening, and when this sequence began to play for real after all of the episodes, I was genuinely moved, and realized once more just how amazing Ken Yamamoto is.
The structure is simple, but it packs a proper punch from the chorus to the end. Coupled with the song, it’s a fantastic opening. 86 is a brutal show with lots of grisly scenes, but there’s a dramatic backbone to it all, and it’s the kind of anime that makes you want to see the characters through to the end. For those who haven’t seen it yet, please watch the opening and let it be your gateway to watching the entire series.
Best Show: Love Live! Super estrela!!
The anime I most looked forward to watching every week was actually Love Live! Superstar!!. First and foremost, Kanon Shibuya is charismatic as a person, and the girls who are drawn to her are charming as well, so the results are as entertaining as you’d expect. The performance direction, songs, and outfits feel like a pretty big step up from previous iterations; the 3D work in particular is magnificent, and they do a good job integrating hand-drawn cuts while capitalizing on the strengths of the 3D. It’s a show that feels like it marks a point of achievement for idol anime.
I really like Atsushi Saito‘s animation designs as well, which add modern, illustration-esque elements. Love Live! feels like it was firmly established by Yuuhei Murota, so it’s amazing to be able to come up with a new visual identity that builds off of that.
Best Movie: Revue Starlight: The Movie
I had originally watched the Revue Starlight TV series back then, but I wouldn’t have called myself a diehard fan. However, after watching the movie, it’s come to mean so much to me that I’d probably call it one of my favorite works of animation of all time.
Above all, watching it is a fun and interesting experience, and the exhilarating feeling it leaves me with makes me want to watch again and again. Using Karen Aijo’s upbringing, which wasn’t touched on very much in the TV series, as the central focus, it lays out the futures of the stage girls using fanciful direction and an enchanting soundtrack.
All of the stages are rendered magnificently, and reflect the emotional intensity by changing shape accordingly. Claudine and Maya’s revue scene especially is a visual delight, and incorporates a lot of ideas that never made it into the TV series. The last act as well is nothing short of truly wonderful. I have nothing but gratitude for all the staff who brought this work to life.
Producer, International Production Coordinator, WEP Propaganda Machine [Twitter] Best Episode: Wonder Egg Priority #01
The first episode of Wonder Egg Priority is a unique experience. From the get-go, it plunges the viewers into a mystifying dreamscape; so bewitching you could get lost into each detail, and yet so thrilling to delve into thanks to Shin Wakbayashi’s propulsive sense of rhythm. The fast-paced jump cuts make Ai’s exploration digestible and easy to follow, while the slow-paced scenes ease us into her most intimate feelings. The episode mixes reality and dream, present and past, truth and lies in a way that doesn’t make them opposite but rather an extension of the other. There’s no interest to focus on one single idea—instead, the episode embraces its complexity and lets us explore it through the eyes of Ai.
Ai herself is a complex character, quickly coming across as a highly relatable person; she feels so alive and goes through so many wildly different emotions, all depicted with the utmost care and respect. Wakabayashi’s direction invites you to immerse and feel rather than understand, and that’s precisely why as unsettling this episode is, many viewers felt enamored by it and its core ideas. Despite the fact the staff was gathered after Shinji Nojima had already written 3 episodes, you can feel a lot of their touch in it. It goes without saying that this applies to Wakabayashi, who specifically inserted a lot of his own personal experiences into the show and whose direction shaped it as a whole, but also Saki Takahashi with her character designs, music composer DÉ DÉ MOUSE whose soundtrack is inseparable from the show’s identity, and then all the sub-designers and core animators brought by animation producer Shouta Umehara who made the project possible in the first place. Rewatching this episode is a good reminder that Wonder Egg Priority has a sincere desire to understand its characters and their circumstances and just for that, I will never be able to forget, let alone despise, the show.
Best Opening: Horimiya OP (link)
Masashi Ishihama made a name for himself thanks to the deluge of iconic openings and endings he directed throughout his career. Again, the man doesn’t miss, crafting a sequence as visually charming as usual, but also picking an angle that makes these tools even more effective. Horimiya‘s opening focuses on the darkest undertones of the story such as isolation and the difficulty to connect to others even when they are so close. The constant reminder of the time passing, especially with the seasonal timelapse is yet another point, as high school is an ethereal moment one only gets to live once. While his sequences are always connected to the series’ themes in some way or another, Ishihama being the series directorSeries Director: (監督, kantoku): The person in charge of the entire production, both as a creative decision-maker and final supervisor. Eles superam o resto da equipe e, finalmente, têm a última palavra. No entanto, existem séries com diferentes níveis de diretores – diretor-chefe, diretor assistente, diretor de episódios da série, todos os tipos de papéis não padronizados. A hierarquia nessas instâncias é um cenário caso a caso. in the first place feels like it granted him an even deeper understanding of the material he was working with. The opening alone is already an amazing piece, one that never fails to get me somewhat emotional; the second version of the sequence, one that’s evolved to mirror the internal growth of the cast, is what incontestably makes it the opening of the year to me. If you’re going to make an opening that underlines the themes at the core of your work, arguably becoming integral to their delivery, you really can’t fin a better director than Ishihama.
Best Ending: Jujutsu Kaisen ED2 (link)
The second ending of Jujutsu Kaisen, on top of being an excellent piece, feels like the culmination of director Ryouhei Takeshita’s obvious passion for real cameras. All his openings have cuts mimicking handheld cameras, while his Wotakoi OP had cuts that I will retroactively call—and I apologize for it—TikTok dances. With this ending, however, that silly quirk becomes an elegant framing device of its own. The camera’s purpose is to capture mundane moments and have these memories last forever. In the process, Yuji doesn’t get to actually participate in them, which is why the emotional high arrives when he joins his friends to make these memories. Previously empty places are filled with smiles and happiness, making this ending a heartwarming and comforting sequence.
Best Aesthetic: The Heike Story/Heike Monogatari
I’ll come clean with my sins. I haven’t watched Heike Monogatari yet, a mistake I shall fix as soon as possible. However, from the glimpses I’ve already caught, I can already say that it easily wins this category. The art direction is especially striking.
One of this industry’s trends that I’m not fond of is the idea of having famous illustrators and mangaka handling the designs for an original show; understandable, yet so cynical and sometimes weirdly limiting. This is why I want to praise shows like Sk8, Megalo Box Nomad, Selection Project, and of course Wonder Egg Priority for having excellent designs made by animators who have been honing their skills and style for many years—and that’s precisely the reason Wonder Egg Priority takes the cake in my eyes. Despite having been active as a key animator for a decade by now, Saki Takahashi was actually hardly known until her work on Darling in the Franxx. Likely under the influence of those she worked with at CloverWorks, Takahashi’s style is reminiscent of Masayoshi Tanaka and Yukiko Horiguchi, with her own twists such as the highly detailed hair and omnipresence of highlights. She’s now doing illustrations for renowned magazines, and personally I can only wonder if her career would have been the same if WEP animation producer Shouta Umehara hadn’t taken an interest in her. So Wonder Egg Priority, on top of having lovely and carefully thought designs (as it can’t be any other way with Wakabayashi), also allowed a talented artist to flourish; it’s this kind of story that makes being a sakugaSakuga (作画): Technically drawing pictures but more specifically animation. Os fãs ocidentais há muito se apropriaram da palavra para se referir a instâncias de animação particularmente boa, da mesma forma que um subconjunto de fãs japoneses. Bastante integral para a marca dos nossos sites. fan worth it as well.
At this point, I’ve already said my piece about Wonder Egg Priority‘s strengths, so I will simply link Harumi Yamazaki’s genga because it speaks strongly enough for itself. Yamazaki is on her way to becoming a superstar animator for sure.
Best Show: SSSS.DYNAZENON
There’s something that felt just right about SSSS.DYNAZENON. As the second entry of this franchise within a franchise, a follow-up to a beloved series like SSSS.GRIDMAN, it was only natural to have high expectations. And not only were they met, but rather even surpassed its predecessor in some respects as far as I’m concerned. The show felt immediately familiar thanks to Akira Amemiya’s direction staying similar—not a problem when it’s so idiosyncratic and effective—while also tweaking some aspects to best fit the new themes. This time around, we have a stronger focus on the ensemble cast, all of whom turning out to be very likable and fun. They also make for relatable characters, be it our past, present, or even future selves, as the age gap among the protagonists makes their struggles and worries encompass different steps of life. And of course, the show never forgets how to have a silly fun time with its colorful robots and kaiju. The question that Shizumu brings to the series is quite interesting, and links the emotional human aspects with the more fantastic parts, which is something I hope continues to be explored in future iterations of the series. But for now, and just like Gridman, the series can pride itself on having an excellent ending by itself—something rare in the anime landscape.
Ah, Satan [Twitter] Best Episode: SSSS.DYNAZENON #02
2021 anime has gifted us with a stunning variety of creative talent; we’ve seen evocative indie works, animated vtuber debuts, one-off music videos, and of course incredible original anime. That said, I still think one of the strongest things I’ve seen from this year comes from a TV anime that was widely celebrated, though it’s not quite what you might expect—not SSSS.Dynazenon’s tenth episode, but rather, its second episode: a quiet, but incredibly strong example of the traditional “show don’t tell” golden rule for storytellers.
After coming off a very cookie-cutter kind of first episode, the second episode lays tracks for what is arguably the beating heart of Dynazenon: the dynamics around its main cast of rebels. Akira Amemiya’s inscrutable attention to detail is still here: he carefully throws out parallels as morsels for old-time fans to grab on to, but also executes the pacing of this episode in a natural way where by the end of it, this cast feels familiar. What really makes this come together however, is the way these character relationships are shown through the concept of space and angles. Furukawa’s execution of Amemiya’s vision really sparks when a group of individuals—all trying to reckon with what they’ve seen, and who they have to be to each other—must come together knowingly, to create the Dynazenon robot to defeat evil. Very few episodes have shone through with such strong character work involved, but Dynazenon does it with such ease that you have to really step back and admire how talented this crew was.
Best Opening: Komi Can’t Communicate/Komi-san wa, Komyushou Desu OP (link)
It feels almost unfair for me to go with one of my all-time favorite people in the industry and what I consider to be a work where he non stop flexes his talent: Komi-san wa, Komyushou desu’s opening is a brilliant recognition of Ayumu Watanabe’s grasp of one material and being able to fully translate—if not elevate—it to another. Watanabe’s board of artists here is a stunning one: Tetsuo Yajima’s storyboards really allow us to be a part of these classmates’ bright, colorful, and optimistic world, and folks like Kazuki Kawagoe bring those cherished moments to life with snappy, but nuanced character animation. It clearly takes inspiration from Watanabe’s previous work After the Rain and its opening, but I can’t help but be charmed by such a dazzling celebration of youth.
Runner up: Link Click’s OP is enthralling both in its use of rotoscope and dizzying metaphorical color and transition usage. Lots of good stuff there.
Best Ending: Beastars ED2
The tender colors and hand drawn detail of Beastars’ second season’s ending are both heartbreaking and beautiful. It’s a testament I think, not only to Louis and Ibuki’s nuanced and tragic relationship, but to some of the core character moments of Beastars overall from this year’s season.
Best Aesthetic: Wonder Egg Priority
Wonder Egg Priority, for all of its flaws and warning flags, is still one of the most stunning things I’ve seen this year. There was an incredible mastery over color work and art direction that I don’t think any other show—even Heike Monogatari—was able to light a candle to. The ability to weave in absolute mastery over color theory, while playing with space, abstract art, and character three-dimensionality are all incredible and yet seen at different levels for nearly every episode in this show. Shin Wakabayashi‘s grasp of these fundamentals, paired with the nuance and detail of Saki Takahashi’s designs, is what made WEP shine for me, especially with an outstanding first episode.
I’m heavily biased when it comes to animation/character designs that favor simplicity but style at the same time: a weird balance that’s considerably hard to achieve, especially when you take into account the fact that you have to make them feel alive and somehow exude expression!
Sonny Boy really hits this mark when it comes to the department of 90’s-reminiscent nostalgia. All of the cast are both remarkably ordinary and yet unique in their design; they welcome that nostalgic purpose, but also fit very much in line with Sonny Boy’s continued play on animation and warping with image. As a result, while I don’t think the designs lend themselves to the most expressive character interactions, they seamlessly work with the myriad of worlds that Shingo Natsume tries to distort.
On the other hand, Ranking of Kings’ designs do nothing but expression and with such effortless charm. Riffing off classic storybook aesthetic to create familiar, but distinctive characters, and yet adding enough emphasis on shape to be able to capture weight and volume. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an anime really be able to play with its character designs and push, pull, elongate, and squish them to new proportions, but Ranking of Kings does it all with considerable nuance and fun at the same time.
Hiromatsu Shuu (Zhou Haosong) has somewhat been on top of my mind for me ever since I saw their work on DECA-DENCE from last year. That said, it’s one thing to keep an eye out for an animator, and another to watch their growth via social media as they take on more and more ambitious works and succeed at every step. From their detailed explosion work, and ability to play with frame rate to capture the volume or fluidity of body motion, to the gradual mastery of composite work: Shuu’s work on Da Wang Rao Ming’s opening has been phenomenal, if not a bit emotional, to watch. It’s also a reminder that between mesmerizing stuff like this and the exciting LinkClick, the world of Chinese animation is becoming an exciting space to follow in the coming years.
Best Show: The Heike Story/Heike Monogatari
There is no show I think that encapsulates, so vividly, the grief, rage, and trauma that we’ve all endured in one way or the other the past two years, as much as Heike Monogatari does. In that way, it is deeply unfortunate as time and time again seems to prove with my favorite series over the years—that it is also mired in an animation dilemma of its own, given the circumstances of its production and the recent responses by the studio to the health of its members.
It is also this kind of thought that makes me wonder: what kind of responsibility do we bear when we come back to anime, as these production collapses continue, and artists’ lives and health are drawn into the question of consumption? This is a question that has been plaguing me all year, and I can’t think of ironically, any other show that bears that personal realization, than Heike Monogatari. It is fundamentally a show about death, and the lack of closure we are often offered in the grand passage of time, and what we have to make do with the result. Sometimes, there are no answers. And sometimes, living is simply a means to find them. We can only hope that there’s a semblance of peace at the end of it all. Much in the same way, the only thing we can come back to with anime, and all the circumstances it’s deeply embroiled in, now more so than ever, is that knowledge, and the fortitude and prayer that things will change, no, must change, if we want to treasure what we currently have.
I don’t think I can ever fully recommend Heike for those same reasons. It is indisputably a work tied both to its creator and the trauma she had to endure—that we are still enduring —while also being a reevaluation of what is arguably one of Japan’s most beloved epics, that culturally paves the way for how we—especially as Asian women—endure grief and weave it into our daily ritual of being. It is, as a result, a product of its time and I don’t think it will hit as hard as it did for me down the line, but at the same time, I can undoubtedly say that if Naoko Yamada was a phenomenal force of the anime industry pre 2019, Heike marks her as a continued force—and one I hope to see prosper and live long—into 2022, albeit with a changed tone.
Best Movie: Violet Evergarden: The Movie
I unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to venture out and see many anime movies this year, but between Evangelion 4.0 and Violet Evergarden the Movie, I would have to say that while the former offered a more satisfying overall experience, the latter offered some incredibly satisfying animation work in terms of mesmerizing detail, stunning settings, and easily some of the best composite work I’ve seen this year.
Ishidate is a director who’s often been hit or miss for me, but I don’t think anything encapsulates thi s so vividly as the Violet Evergarden movie. Discarding an ending I feel that undoes a lot of the narrative work of the TV show, there is a solid half of that movie that just hits, whether it’s a moving scene about the anxiety, tension, and fear of meeting an old friend after years of thinking they were dead, or coming to terms with the trauma you thought you had shut yourself off from for years, but having to confront it face to face. Ishidate’s understanding of the body language that betrays us in these kinds of moments: a slight tremor of the hand, the stiffness of opening a door, or the forced smile to make at greeting a loved one – there’s empathy and kindness here, and when Violet Evergarden hovers on these moments, it’s easily some of the best in the movie landscape for 2021.
Me [Twitter] Best Episode: Tropical Rouge Precure #29, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S #10,
I’ve argued before that Keisuke Mori is so good that people don’t even bother to examine how and why he’s that good—and if they did, they’d realize that they were still underestimating him. If you want to understand why he’s the animator of the generation, look no further than his animation directionAnimation Direction (作画監督, sakuga kantoku): The artists supervising the quality and consistency of the animation itself. Eles podem corrigir cortes que se desviam muito dos designs se acharem adequado, mas o trabalho deles é principalmente garantir que o movimento seja adequado sem parecer muito áspero. Plenty of specialized Animation Direction roles exist – mecha, effects, creatures, all focused in one particular recurring element. debut—Tropical Rouge Precure #29. I’ve already said my piece: Mori simply is that good, and so is director Yuta Tanaka, who admitted that he felt the need to step up to the level of the young prodigy and all the bombastic friends that he invited.
As a side note, I’d like to shout out the Kanna-centric tenth episode of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S. Director and storyboarder Taichi Ogawa was arguably the roughest prospect at the studio when he started dabbling into directorial tasks nearly a decade ago, but by training under Taichi Ishidate first and following Naoko Yamada’s precepts later, he’s slowly become someone worthy of being considered their ace episode director. His approach to capturing moments is more pragmatic than Yamada’s, as one of his best tools is regulating the temperature of the animation. The studio is full of directors with an excellent hand for the compositing process, as well as others who can reinforce the mood through specific depictions of the climate, but Ogawa is so precise it almost feels like he’s got the order backward—physically nail the temperature first, build the right atmosphere upon it later. The episode where I believe he reached directorial maturity, the OVA for the first season of Euphonium, was defined by the running through hazy summer heat in the same way that Maidragon S #10 is inseparable from the cozy afternoon lights. Adorable, and with the terrific sense of place and time you can expect from a director like Ogawa.
The glorious excess in Da Wang Rao Min‘s opening sequence is as self-explanatory as animation gets, so all I can bring myself to do is urge people to go watch it. If I have to type something, I’d rather issue a reminder that Koudai “Hanabushi” Watanabe put out a new music video last January; emotionally, it feels like entire decades have passed, but if we’re to believe calendars, that was one of the greatest pieces of animation of 2021. Shapes let looser than ever by foregoing visible lineart, and yet a strict control of the form that enables even the most tender of animation. A gorgeous stylized aesthetic that hints at the truth of the world, while also keeping everything easily readable even with that lack of visible linework. Every creative choice this music video makes is the right one—including Hanabushi‘s decision to reinvent the wheel, when he could have simply iterated on the aesthetic of his previous work alongside Zutomayo.
Best Ending: Ousama Ranking ED1 (link)
Ousama Ranking‘s ending sequence is adorable, taking the vague picture book energy of the art direction in the show proper and approaching that idea much more literally—a great fit for what’s essentially an anime fable. It’s the direct result of studio WIT’s Ibaraki branch, a fascinating substudio where the independent animation creators meet commercial frameworks, in an attempt to produce unique family-friendly works and hopefully train some artists in the process too. Artists who’ve graduated from prestigious art programs like Geidai have been gathering there; especially on projects like Totsukuni no Shoujo, but when need be, they will assist on titles like Ousama Ranking if the main branch comes knocking at the right time. That’s the case of Akino Fukuji, one such Geidai alumni who directed and animated this sequence. One detail that stood out to me is that the ending is actually part of a larger music video that Fukuji illustrated under the supervision of Ousama Ranking‘s series directorSeries Director: (監督, kantoku): The person in charge of the entire production, both as a creative decision-maker and final supervisor. Eles superam o resto da equipe e, finalmente, têm a última palavra. No entanto, existem séries com diferentes níveis de diretores – diretor-chefe, diretor assistente, diretor de episódios da série, todos os tipos de papéis não padronizados. A hierarquia nessas instâncias é um cenário caso a caso. Yosuke Hatta. Given how complete the sequence in the anime feels, you’d never be able to guess that they cut it from a larger whole—further proof of the staff’s finesse, I would say!
Best Aesthetic: The Heike Story/Heike Monogatari
Naoko Yamada doesn’t carry a camera back to the 12th century to tenderly film a medieval epic, so much as she transports the viewer to an idealized version of it—and yet, away from her old comrades capable of the utmost delicacy, her touch is decidedly less ethereal, grounded by reality and by the new genre she’s tackling. Knowing the awful production circumstances, I don’t want to overly fetishize Heike Monogatari‘s roughness, but it’s undeniable that Yamada showed adaptability she never needed before, making the best of the new hand she was dealt. Watching her quickly put together the most beautiful show of the year regardless would be surprising if she wasn’t a well-known generational talent, and to be fair, everything is a bit easier when you surround yourself with trustworthy ex-coworkers and the likes of Deho Gallery’s background artists.
Best Animation Designs: PokeToon: “Yume no Tsubomi” and “I’ve Turned Into a Gengar?!” (Akiko Watanabe)
Akiko Watanabe‘s run on PokeToon as the character designer and animation director for its best short films feels as if she challenged herself. Taking Yume no Tsubomi‘s expressivity as the baseline, she further stylized her work to the point of no longer feeling reminiscent of Pokemon‘s visual brand, gaining a delightful feeling of effortlessness to the animation in the process. Conceptually, I’ve Turned Into a Gengar‘s designs are even better, especially with their focus on the silhouettes. Studio Colorido productions continue to be the best thing that has happened to Pokemon anime.
I’ve been asked on repeated occasions who the new bright stars at Kyoto Animation are supposed to be. After all that has happened to them, it’s natural that viewers fond of their works are looking for encouraging new faces just as much as the studio itself is. As it turns out, though, discerning budding potential isn’t all that fast on a studio that is so thorough in their training process—by all means a positive in contrast to the industry as a whole—and from an external point of view, that’s especially true when you factor in their production schedules. To put things simply: for the entirety of 2021, viewers didn’t really get to see the KyoAni of 2021. The second season of Maidragon was produced pretty much in its entirety in years prior, with a lineup of creators that no longer represents the reality of the studio. We do know for a fact that they’ve doubled down on their already core objective of raising new generations of artists, but even if a tremendously promising figure had emerged recently, we simply wouldn’t have been exposed to their work in a remotely significant way.
Rather than a complete newcomer, then, that exciting new face would have to be someone whose training process was already advanced, quietly on their way to earn higher responsibility roles—and of course, someone prepared to ace those opportunities. That turned out to be the case of Tamami Tokuyama, who had formally joined the studio around 2017. She was quickly promoted to clean-up roles and then full-blown key animationKey Animation (原画, genga): These artists draw the pivotal moments within the animation, basically defining the motion without actually completing the cut. The anime industry is known for allowing these individual artists lots of room to express their own style., but given how the studio came to a halt with the arson and then the pandemic, she remained completely unknown as she didn’t really have the platform to stand out. Move forward to 2021, though, and you’ll find her name all over the most attractive work that the studio has published recently. She was the one to animate the dynamic climax to Tohru and Elma’s arc, masterfully following up none other than the studio’s ace animator Tatsuya Sato; her comments showed her coming to terms with the holistic experience of animation, and her stunning drawings articulated every single shifting emotion with ease.
Even more impressively, Tokuyama was also the character designer and sole animation director on this delightful commercial. In a way, her ability to provide adorable designs feels like a lesser feat, especially when compared to her work as a first-time animation director; thoroughly consistent quality that more than lives up to the studio’s high standards, not just pretty on the surface but mindful of details like the simulation of tactility. Given that she was commanding a young group of animators, the same one we’d seen put together a much rougher commercial released at the same time, Tokuyama simply seems to have adapted to the role uncannily fast. Akiko Takase of Violet Evergarden fame, the latest prodigy of an animation director raised at the studio, departed from the industry for an indefinite period after the arson attack shook her to the core. As someone with clearly different sensibilities, Tokuyama will never replace her, but she’s already positioned herself as a potential new young pillar to build upon. By making good on a couple of opportunities, she went from an unknown entity to a name to keep in mind not just for the future but also the immediate present—if that’s not a creator discovery, I don’t know what is.
Best Show: Odd Taxi
I have no doubt that the greatest serialized work of 2021, and especially the one that will go down in history as the most significant one, is Heike Monogatari. And it’s with the same level of conviction that I can’t bring myself to award it such, at least not until the pain has dulled and all that remains is an exceptional work of animation. The inherent tragedy to Yamada’s own circumstances was already heavy enough to digest, and seeing her have to jump headfirst into a production disaster left an immediate bad aftertaste that gets in the way of appreciating a demonstrably amazing series. And frankly, I feel no rush to award it this year, since it was meant to be a 2022 series and that’s when its actual TV broadcast will happen. Maybe if they had stuck with that, they wouldn’t have had staff members for this series on the verge of a breakdown. Seeing how the studio’s response to being called out by one of those exploited workers was a threat to sue them, though, expecting any better might be foolish.
Coming to terms with my entirely external reservations about Heike left me thinking about which serialized work of animation impacted me the most this year. If you know me, you won’t be surprised to hear that the first one that came to mind was Nijisanji Koshien 2021. Pawapuro continues to be the perfect engine of emergent storytelling, and by involving not only Japanese content creators and audiences but also those overseas, its reach this year was larger than ever. The result felt as perfectly scripted as long time followers are used to; Shiishii’s incomprehensible luck net her the strongest player in tourney history without the need to reroll, but it also led to her putting all her eggs in one basket, crafting the perfect spokon narrative by training the ultimate pitcher Kanae—the one who would never leave the mound, powered by the most sports anime mechanic possible in the form of guts. One year after clinching the title as the undefeated dark horse school, NijiKou had become the enemy to beat, with its inhuman pitcher as the clear final boss. After his defeat, the one standing on the mound was no longer a monster but a human. As I said, if you do know me, you’ll be aware that this paragraph is somewhere between completely serious and only partially serious.
But what about, you know, titles that reasonable human beings might actually consider a TV anime? SSSS.DYNAZENON and Maidragon S were as good as you could possible expect a sequel to a title that might have very well been a flash in the pan; which is to say, they were confirmations that they were not that by any means, and that their teams were completely aware of what they were doing. Both of them have extensive coverage on this site, though, so I’d rather shout out the other series I was most invested into—one that I don’t expect to get much of a spotlight over here. Sometimes it feels that, as if overcompensating for general audiences who rarely even consider the unique strengths of animated storytelling, animation fans have narrowed their vision of the medium as well. It goes without saying that strong visual storytelling is very rewarding, that there is much room to convey information through character acting that isn’t present in the script, but I believe that there’s more room for more approaches that still feel like brilliant usages of animation. After all, animation could allow someone to draw their own furry OCs, and years down the line and with some skill and luck, they could get an entire show greenlit based on those cartoon animals. Animation allows things like Odd Taxi to exist, and despite its animation being mostly just functional, Odd Taxi is fantastic.
Since I’d rather people who haven’t seen it yet go in as blindly as possible, for the purely egotistical reason that I enjoy seeing people’s reaction to the show, I’ll just reiterate what others have already said. Odd Taxiis a brilliantly threaded narrative, genuinely one of the greatest efforts in anime series compositionSeries Composition (シリーズ構成, Series Kousei): A key role given to the main writer of the series. Eles se encontram com o diretor (que tecnicamente ainda os supera) e, às vezes, com os produtores durante a pré-produção para elaborar o conceito da série, criar grandes eventos e decidir o ritmo de tudo. Não deve ser confundido com roteiristas individuais (脚本, Kyakuhon) que geralmente têm muito pouco espaço para expressão e apenas desenvolvem rascunhos existentes – embora, é claro, os compositores da série escrevam os próprios roteiros. I’ve ever seen. Its fangs are sharp, but you might not even notice that it’s biting multiple societal woes because the musicality of the dialogue is almost irritatingly distracting; is there such a thing as dialogue too good, because I feel like there might be. That awareness extends to understanding how people consume media nowadays, hence why it got away with hiding clues to the mystery in social media accounts without feeling like a desperate gimmick to generate engagements. While Sonny Boy is the TV anime project I feel the most respect for this year, nothing satisfied me quite like Odd Taxi.
Best Movie: Revue Starlight: The Movie (But Maybe It’s Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time)
Between all-new theater releases, early film festival screenings, and of course physical&digital releases, people have had access to so many great anime movies that I wouldn’t blame anyone suffering from decision paralysis, incapable of deciding which one to even start with. The last 12 months have been so good that one can simply shrug off the fact that some historically important figures in theatrical animation have dropped the ball recently—not much of a problem when other icons did deliver, and plenty of lesser-known directors put together their best works yet. This was the year I first got to see Looking for Magical Doremi, a film completely unlike your usual nostalgia cash-grab despite being thematically and narratively built upon that feeling. It was also the year that marked the return of one of the most magnetic directors to the big screen, with Takayuki Hirao‘s fascinating Pompo the Cinephile, a movie where joy and jadedness are so deeply intertwined you simply can’t look away—especially not with Hirao’s delivery, as he thrived in a production where the artifice of cinema was at the core of everything. It even was the year where I found out that a commercial monolith like Fate/Grand Order can defy industry conventions… as long as the situation is very chaotic and the young team behind it is insane enough. I’ve caught up with so many interesting movies that this blog’s drafts are now full of essays about cool films, so I suppose you can look forward to that in the near future.
Among all those great movies, the one to win me over the most was a last-second arrival: Revue Starlight. Director Tomohiro Furukawa exudes visual charisma, which he has only been further honing since the initial TV series, but I would say that the greatest improvement was the more compelling narrative he was working with this time around. To be frank, his delivery has such tremendous gravitas that he doesn’t much more than a fundamentally sound conflict to create something amazing, which is why his career is at such an encouraging spot. After a tremendously entertaining film, he’s already teasing out a future project that builds on the iconography he developed here, but this time around aided by a renowned writer. As long as the industry doesn’t do him dirty—please keep Koide and the other bombastic animators his style requires glued to his hip—Furukawa should be one of the big names to look out for. This movie convinced me that he’s the real deal.
Was it the best movie of the year, then? Ask me again in a few months, when I’ve managed to fully process Hideaki Anno bidding farewell to Evangelion. If he toook that long to make the film, then I’m allowed a long digestion as well.
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