A look at the ‘sakuga’ and animation of 2013


Little Witch Academia KA from Shūhei Handa

As we come to the end of 2013, it’s time to look back on the year. Here’s a post dedicated to looking at some of the exceptional 2D animation that came from Japan over 2013.

For those that are uninitiated, fans often use the word ‘sakuga’ to refer to moments where great looking animation shines through, be it on a TV show, movie or OVA.

Like last year I have gathered contributions from several sakuga fans. I gave them some criteria, a rough word limit and asked them for their thoughts, picking out any kind of highlights and personal favourites, on Japanese animation from 2013. Most of the categories are pretty self explanatory. With the intro done, let’s jump right in!

Yuyucow – [Twitter]

Episode – Kyoukai no Kanata #11
First of all, allow me to say that we’ll look very silly picking an episode before Norio Matsumoto’s Yozakura 12 airs, since it’s likely to become everyone’s favorite. That said, I’m very grateful to Kigami for delivering an episode with such incredible animation despite its mediocre content. As I was wondering what to pick I got 20 minutes of crazy action, great art and amazing effects animation. Kyoukai no Kanata at its best is a very impressive sakuga MAD with an unfortunate choice of audio, and that’s exactly what this episode embodies.
Shout-out goes to the stellar Yozakura, LoveLab, Muromi and Yusibu episodes. I’d feel bad for not giving them at least a mention.
Show – Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~
Easier choice than expected. While it doesn’t have Kyoukai no Kanata’s consistency, Yozakura has been an almost constant delight to watch. I jumped onto it expecting occasional excellence and ended up getting several episodes that could very well have ended as this year’s best; from subtle character animation to amazing FX, Yozakura has a wide enough range to please any animation fan. Not only that, but Hoshi no Umi being technically part of it means Yozakura as a whole also has my favorite piece webgen animation out there. Hell, it even has a Trigger episode that was way better animated than anything in the Trigger show!
Movie – Star Driver The Movie
Last year was exceptional in regards to movies and 2014 already has some amazing releases lined up like Kaguya-hime, Majocco and Imas. To make up for that, this year blew hard. So hard I was torn between something that isn’t really a movie like Little Witch Academia and a recap like Star Driver. I’m going with the latter since a) it’s an actual movie b) a polished up Star Driver with some top tier new footage is good enough for me c) I have a mecha quota to fill here.
OP – Kuroko’s Basketball 2 OP

ED – Kyoukai no Kanata ED

Animator Discovery – Masayuki Nonaka – [野中正幸]
If 2D animation is dying then I’m afraid Japan didn’t get the memo. It’s really encouraging seeing shows like Muromi-san, Yuyushiki and Yozakura bringing up youngsters and giving them a chance. We’ve seen rapparu debut on TV anime and I’ve gotten to know promising animators like Ryu Nakayama and Ikuo Geso, but I’d like to go with someone else. Not so much of a discovery but a person that I now actively look for, since I know for a fact he’s going to deliver. Masayuki Nonaka has a really vibrant style that shines the most when he puts his expressive character animation to use. Since last year I voted for the Utsumi/Kadowaki duo and they got to debut as director and designer/chief AD, I hope this means I’m getting Nonaka leading a show at Dogakobo soon.
Unexpected Animation – Uchouten Kazoku
I feel the recurring theme this year has been shows with potential delivering even more than expected. Yozakura’s the obvious example, but it also applies to series like LoveLab. The biggest surprise – positive one at any rate, so the Trigger disappointment doesn’t count – has to be Uchouten Kazoku. It’s for the most part not impressive animation-wise, but the Toshiyuki Inoue episodes (especially 12) are pure eyecandy. His contribution to the show stands out like a sore thumb, but it’s hard to argue against excellent work like that.
Recommendation – Yuyushiki and Kyousougiga
Two visually impressive shows, although not entirely because of the animation. Yuyushiki’s polish and thoughtful layouts surprised me, it’s just so well put together it makes the show a lot more engaging. It’s coupled with solid direction and even some bits of great animation, making it one of the best series of its kind.
And then there’s Kyousougiga, which doesn’t qualify as a surprise at all because Rie Matsumoto’s genius is no secret. While most of the outstanding animation is on the old footage, the entire series is beautiful entirely due to its style. Art direction strong enough can carry even the infamous Toei Phils, so Kyousougiga at its cheapest is still charming. Matsumoto magic.

Braves – [Twitter/Blog]

Animator Discovery –
Arifumi Imai (今井有文, Twitter) & Yasuyuki Ebara (江原 康之)

Arifumi Imai MAD

While plenty of jokes can justifiably be made at the expense of Attack on Titan’s production, Arifumi Imai and Yasuyuki Ebara’s work were clearly a part of the high points in the show when it was actually animated. Imai joined Production I.G. in 2008, starting out as an in-betweener. After coming over from I.G., Imai served as one of three action animation directors on AOT. Ebara was also one of the action ADs on the show. He previously worked for Studio Plum, DEF.C., and briefly for Studio Cockpit before becoming a freelancer. Before AOT, both Imai and Ebara worked extensively with Testuro Araki on Guilty Crown.
The 3D Maneuver Gear scenes, even with some potentially suspect background work at times, were some of the best sequences that aired this year. They gave a sense of scale and space that is so sorely lacking from a lot of TV action series. Araki has always had a penchant for showcasing scenes with a moving camera that gave viewers a more inclusive look at the environment surrounding the characters in an action scene. Working together with animators like Arai and Ebara, Araki was great fit for AOT’s action scenes. If the same staff is on board for the second season, I can only hope most of the animators are allowed to have more time in order to be able to match the level of work these two were able to produce the first time around.
Movie – Kick-Heart
After the NTV acquisition of Madhouse and Masao Maruyama leaving Madhouse thereafter, I was wondering which studio would give Masaaki Yuasa a chance to do new projects. While he was in charge of the first five episodes of Shin Chan Shin Men after directing The Tatami Galaxy, I was still waiting for Yuasa to go back to working on original ideas. Kick-Heart reminds me so much of why I’m such a fan of Yuasa. He and Hiroyuki Imaishi are the main two directors in anime whose work is a prime example of the joy that comes along with showing stories through animation. They have the perfect vision and mindset in order to present narratives and ideas that you can only find in animation.
Although it is only twelve minutes long, the success of the Kickstarter for this movie was a nice indication that Yuasa has a much more widespread audience than I had previously assumed. Here, Yuasa is doing what he does best—taking a humorous approach to an oddball concept. Yuasa is seen by a portion of the anime fandom as being a ”crazy” or “wacky” director. But such a simplified view of Yuasa’s approach totally ignores his greatest appeal, which is his comedy. Although he did delve into more serious works such as Kemonozume and Kaiba, comedy is still Yuasa’s bread and butter. In Kick-Heart, Yuasa keeps finding ways to perfectly complement his comedic timing with his visual creativity—whether by visual metaphors or exaggerated portrayals. It reminds me of why I enjoy anime in the first place.

Kyouray – [Twitter]

Episode –
Without a doubt Little Witch Academia. No need to say more, just watch it for yourself.

Every year TV anime tends to have several stand out episodes, I think it’d be interesting to do a top 10 episodes rundown as some Japanese blogs usually do every year but if I had to pick only one episode animation-wise, it would be Shinsekai Yori #19. They managed to create such a terrifying atmosphere and the animation helped a lot. A talented animator I discovered on Shinsekai Yori was Takashi Kojima. He really shined in this show, especially on this episode where Kojima drew many cuts. The lively animation depicts the sense of fear so well, using expressive gestures & strong strokes used for the faces. The episode also featured some great effects animation.

However I can’t ignore Toshiyuki Inoue’s animation in Uchouten Kazoku #3. His work is still impressive as usual, the scene where Benten pulls the whale was stunning.
Show –
Kyoto Animation series are the first coming to my mind. Once again they managed to deliver series with consistent good animation. Tamako Market was more ‘fluffy’ and offered a diversity of character animation thanks to the cast whereas Kyoukai no Kanata displayed nice action. I have a preference for Tamako Market, they really put life in their characters, I’m still amazed by the beginning of the first episode. I’d also advise you to read the KyoAni directors talk translated by ultimatemegax since it’s really fun & interesting.
Hataraku Maou-sama was also a solid show and had some great episodes delivering beautiful action, White Fox have some good in-house animators. Yuyushiki was great too.
Movie –
I will cheat for this one since I only watched one movie this year. Niji-Iro Hotaru is a 2012 movie though most people “managed” to watch it some months later. In a nutshell the movie visually is splendid, it was love at first sight. Hisashi Mori’s design, art direction, animation, colors, everything is perfect. It’s sad there wasn’t a Blu-ray release.
OP – Psychopass OP 2

Naoyoshi Shiotani at his best.
ED – Attack on Titan ED 1

The 2nd OP was pretty cool but the first is a tour de force. Sayo Yamamoto usually does interesting OP/EDs but the most amazing thing here is the animation & art. Tadashi Hiramatsu & Kouichi Arai did a great work with this charcoal render. Especially Hiramatsu who experimented with Conté crayons and managed to deliver some unique animation.
Haiyore! Nyaruko-san W ED 2(Slightly NSFW) was also a surprise since it was Hiroyuki Kitakubo‘s work. A great sense of volume and a 3 dimensional feeling without using 3D software. Delicious.
Animator Discovery – Takayuki Kitagawa [北川隆之]
When Yuyushiki’s first trailer aired, the can scene caught my eye. 2ch initially claimed it was Takayuki Kitagawa’s work and when the episode finally aired but we got confirmation it was him. I believe Kitagawa somehow has a connection to ahoboy (Hiroshi Ikehata) since Kitagawa often appears in his episodes. Kitagawa knows how to animate bodies and giving weight without exaggeration, making the body motion seem delicate and natural.
Taichi Ogawa – [小川太一]
My other discovery is Taichi Ogawa but it’s rather about the direction. He is a KyoAni rookie but he’s already showed interesting direction & storyboard skills. I first noticed this guy on Tamako Market #3 where he used full horizontal compositions & simple layouts like he did with Chuunibyo demo Koi ga Shitai #11. Then he added more characteristics like the jump cuts from episode #10. His work on Kyoukai no Kanata #6 makes you feel he’s trying new techniques; like more daring layouts or the use of harmony cels thus polishing his style. I’m looking forward to his next work.
Unexpected Animation –
Maou-sama & Yu-sibu in a way. We could have expected nice character animation typical to comedies since both series have talented character designers (Atsushi Ikariya & Tetsuya Takeuchi) but both series also delivered awesome fantasy action animation in the introduction scenes from both their first episodes. It makes you wish both shows were entirely like this. It’s kinda fun when both series are similar and Maou-sama’s director, Naoto Hosoda has connections to Takeuchi going back many years.
Recommendation –
Niji-Iro Hotaru since it belongs to pinnacle of animation.
If you like ‘cute girls doing cute things’ series, Yuyushiki & Yama no Susume were refreshing should be in your watch list.
Uchouten Kazoku and Kyousougiga have to be watched too. Both series may be less impressive animation-wise but both have strong production and globally very enjoyable.

Liborek – [Twitter]

Show – Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~
Shingo Yamashita and his army of young animators in their early 20s at full force. I have no idea where Yamashita found these animators, but all of them are really talented and their animations are very lively and powerful. Now you just have to bring in some talented known names like Kenichi Fujisawa, Shingo Fujii, Akira Hamaguchi and no one less then Norio Matsumoto and you know you’re in for an animation feast. Bravo Ryo-chimo.
Episode – Kyoukai no Kanata #11
Not a huge fan of KyoAni, but this looked great. Especially the FX animation was really, really impressive and the whole episode visually looked more like a movie then a TV episode. Maybe the most impressive thing KyoAni has ever done.
Movie – Star Driver The Movie
Does this count? Is it unfair? Maybe, BUT. The first 5 minutes of the movie are by far the best showcase of Japanese animation this year. It’s one long, incredible mecha action scene that keeps on delivering.
Special mention goes to Little Witch Academia, where Trigger’s young animators together with Yoh Yoshinari and 3 other experienced animators delivered 20 minutes of really pleasant and fluid animation.
1. Naruto Shippuuden OP #13

Director: Shingo Yamashita
Yama and his gang again. This was their debut work.
2. Kuroko’s Basketball 2 OP
Director/Solo KA – Kazuto Nakazawa
Really excellent character animation. Use of digital effects and filters is similar to his Apollon OP, but here it’s more toned down.
3. Kyoukai no Kanata OP

Director: Taichi Ishidate
Ishidate proves here again how good he is.
Special mentions:
1. Attack on Titan ED
Director Sayo Yamamoto, KA: Kouichi Arai & Tadashi Hiramatsu
Yamamoto told Hiramatsu and Arai to make this ED look like a picture book. And boy does it look pretty.
2. Gatchaman Crowds OP

Director: Naoki Yoshibe (yotube)
Name one better directed OP from this year (you can’t).
Animator Discovery – Takashi Kojima
He’s been around for a while, but what made me notice him was his fantastic work on Shinsekai Yori #19 (animation director, key animator) and Magi S2 #2 (key animator). His scene from Magi can be seen here. Impressive stuff, isn’t it?
Unexpected Animation – Uchouten Kazoku #12
I wasn’t too impressed with Toshiyuki Inoue’s work on episode 3, but episode 12 delivered fantastic vehicle animation animated by the legend himself. Not many animators can do it so well.
Recommendation – Gundam Build Fighters
Maybe not as impressive as this year’s best, but look. It’s the only mecha action series this year that does have hand-drawn mechanical animation. Yeah, it’s quite sad, but that fact makes this series stand out more.

AnimeBlue – [Twitter]

Series –
The series that has been truly impressive on all fronts, from the clever use of animation to its direction, was Birdy the Mighty: Decode 2013 whoops I meant Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~.
Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~ has been stellar on using its medium to enhance the storytelling through its visuals and animation. Take episode #6 and episode #10 for example; #6 showcased its tenacity for high flying action animation and interesting camera angles while episode #10 displayed its knowledge on how to express the character emotion through its animation. Scenes like where Ao was angry towards the schoolgirls or Juri’s youth and desire to grow up.
Honorable mentions: Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san, Yu-sibu and Kyoukai no Kanata.
Kyoukai no Kanata lives up to KyoAni’s production values, but falls short of expectations. Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san is a decent comedy with pretty strong direction & animation while Yu-sibu is your typical otaku bait show with spectacular production quality.
OP – NARUTO Shippuden OP#13
NARUTO Shippuden OP#13 is the most artistic and creativity opening that I’ve seen in while. The color palette and textures were a really nice change of pace from what we normally see in the openings. The opening also nicely depicted current state of the series and Naruto’s mind set.
Honorable mention – Kuroko’s Baskeball 2 OP
Kuroko’s Baskeball 2 OP has some of best animation in an opening that I would like to see in an series itself.
ED – Kyoukai no Kanata ED
The ending for Kyoukai no Kanata is really not too mind blowing or not too creativity ending, in matter in fact quite bland actually. But its walking animation is very solid
Honorable mentions – Haiyore! Nyaruko-san W ED#2
Nice character animation and spectacular use of the camera.
Episode –
I guess the saying “a great animator makes a great director” is true because my favorite episode of the year is by two talented young animators that made their directorial debut this year.
The first is an animator who directed two episodes this year that left a big impression on me, they were Shingo Yamashita’s Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta episodes. Episode #1 showcase Shingo’s good sense of timing. While episode #10 demonstrated his understanding of animation.
The second being episode #322 by Hiroyuki Yamashita on Naruto Shippuden. The animation wasn’t as glorious as Shingo Yamashita’s episodes, but the attention to detail and the way the episode illustrated the disbelief, the hopelessness of the terrified soldiers on the battle field is really something to noticed. For example the facial expressions of the characters, ninjas screaming to ward off the fear, a ninja letting his sword fall off, looking at the sky with disbelief, a lonely ninja finding another one falling off dead behind its magical barrier and so on.
Honorable mentions – Attack on Titan #24
As big fan of Akitoshi Yokoyama, I had to mention his Attack on Titan episode. Episode #24 is what you could expect from Yokoyama, composing some good layouts and having some great direction resulting in some nicely timed action sequences using dynamic camera angles. In particular the scene where Mikasa and co chase after Annie:

The merger of computer animation & “traditional” animation was phenomenal. In fact Attack on Titan as a whole made great use this, which I would like see more of in the future instead of going full computer animation.

Khwan – [Twitter]

Episode – Uchouten Kazoku #3 & #12
The show itself is filled with solid character animation. Episode 3 and 12 are especially great thanks to Toshiyuki Inoue’s involvement.
Yoshiji Kigami’s episodes – Tamako Market #9, Free! #4, Kyoukai no Kanata #11
Kigami continues to be The Boss of KyoAni. Kyoukai no Kanata #11 has some of the best effect animation I’ve ever seen in a KyoAni show. Kigami wasn’t credited for animation in this episode, but I suspect he also did some key animation.
Show – Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~
It might not be the most consistent show in term of animation quality, but it’s really fun to watch. The action is clearly the highlight of the show, but Yozakura Quartet has a fair amount of detailed character acting as well. Shingo Yamashita’s episode 10 is most notable episode in this aspect.
Uchouten Kazoku – Like I mentioned before, the animation is consistent and solid. I really like the way the characters in this show move in the three-dimensional space. To me it’s feel like the characters are really parts of the world they live in and not just a layer of animation drawings slapped on top of the background art which is something many anime often fail to achieve. I’m not sure why but I think it probably has to do with how the layouts were designed.
Special mentions: Love Lab, Gundam Build Fighters, Muromi-san and Kyoukai no Kanata.
Movie – One Piece Film Z
The film was released in 2012 but I only just had a chance to watch it this year, and it’s definitely better than EVA:Q! (laugh)
Special mentions: Ernest & Celestine, Doraemon: Nobita’s Secret Gadget Museum.
Naruto Shippuden OP 13 – by Shingo Yamashita
Animator Discovery – In Seung Choi
Studio MIR’s talented animator and director. He’s the one who animated the impressive intro sequence for The Legend of Korra. He seems to be heavily influenced by Japanese animation and it really shows in his works. He’s worked on many project by Studio Meditation With a Pencil. One of of the projects he worked on is “Green Days: Dinosaur and I”. He animated a scene that’s supposed to be the climax of the movie. Unfortunately, his animation for that scene is not in the final product for some reason. Instead, it got replaced with a bland CGI sequence but you can still see the pencil test of the scene on his facebook.

Jeffrey Lai – An aspiring animator from New Zealand. He took part as a key animator in an unsuccessfully funded kickstarter project called 1000 but what made him become somewhat known on the internet (especially on tumblr) is probably his Batman henshin animation.
Unexpected Animation – KAIROS Trailer
This is a 2-minute trailer for a French comic.

Recommendation –
The Making Of Little Witch Academia.

Paeses – [Twitter]

Overall Favorite from 2013 –
Kuroko’s Basketball S2 OP was a solo work by Kazuto Nakazawa. I still can’t believe that a TV series opening can be this well-animated. No matter how I look at it, this opening has movie-level animation, the details that were put into this was incredible. Especially when you look at the cloth folds and how they move, the use of smears was also just perfect. I’ve never something like this before, it felt like it was drawn to give a special impact to the movement. After watching it a few times I noticed that the players in the background were moving in slow motion, this was really unbelievable.

Episode – Naruto Shippuuden #322
This episode was Hiroyuki Yamashita’s debut as an episode director, he also drew the storyboards was the animation director and one of the key animators, he managed pull off good action-packed episode. Talking about cool choreography, the episode was full of well-animated combat, even if you don’t watch Naruto you should at least give this episode a shot.
Yu-Sibu #01 – Despite the fact this show is quite fanservice heavy, the beginning of episode #1 was something else. It was Tetsuya Takeuchi creating a really amazing action scene. The entire episode also had that T☆ETUYA magic all over it.
Show – Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~
This show is really amazing as it gathers a lot of young animators in the industry and cool Web-Gen Animators, along with a legend like Norio Matsumoto who actually animated half of episode #12. The show also had Tatsuya Yoshihara with his Muromi-san team in episode #9 using full digital animation. Many people were afraid that Tatsunoko Production might screw this thing up because of schedule problems, but the surprise was a well-directed show, with cute characters, wonderful sound direction and a totally enjoyable anime.
Little Witch Academia – As a huge Yoh Yoshnari fan of course I have to mention Little Witch Academia. It was really good and well-produced it almost felt it was a solo work by Yoshinari.
Attack on Titan – An honorable mention to AoT for trying to deliver some cool action scenes, and on some occasions they do deliver. But the show is plagued with a lot of scheduling issues which resulted in many production errors and issues leaving a show that had a few glimpses of cool animation but everything else being not so good.
Movie –
I don’t remember watching a lot of 2013 movies just Star Driver The Movie and Iron Man: Rise of Technovore. I was going say my favourite is Star Driver The Movie, but the movie was a recap with a legendary-animated beginning which I consider the best I have seen in 2013. It had animators like Norimitsu Suzuki, Yutaka Nakamura, Shingo Fujii, and Hironori Tanaka. Still not worth it. These gifs are enough. About the Iron Man Movie, if you ignore the story and ugly grey filters you might enjoy it, the movie brought big names like Yoshimichi Kameda, Gousei Oda, Se Jun Kim, Shingo Fujii, Hisao Yokobori, Shingo Yamashita and many more.
After seeing Kuroko’s Baskeball S2 OP2, I can’t think of anything else.
Animator Discovery – Shingo Fujii
I won’t say discovered, it’s more like getting interested in him. Shingo Fujii came from AIC along with Yoshimichi Kameda and Shinichi Kurita. He specializes in Key Animation, Digital Drawing (Digital Key Animation), 3D, and After Effects. What caught my eye in his animation, was the camera work in his scenes. They just doesn’t stop moving, it feels really strong and it looks like the camera work is influenced by Soichiro Matsuda. That’s not all, this also goes with the characters, when you see his work you can see that the characters are in constant motion. You can feel that his animation is digitally animated which make him special. This scene is a good example of his work. I’m also making a Sakuga MAD about him, so keep an eye out for it.
Unexpected Animation – Hataraku Maou-sama!
It wasn’t 100% well-animated, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this constant. Actually it has couple well animated action episodes. I really enjoyed it, I still remember the beginning of this show, which was quite amazing.
Recommendation – Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san & OVA
Stupidly fun, every episode had well-animated scenes, also it was full of really good young animators.

Murad – [Twitter]

Shows –
Kill La Kill: #5, #7, and #11
Hiroyuki Imaishi’s new show offers a good mix of action, humor, and fan service albeit too much of the latter. Visually, I’m digging the art style Trigger is using. Animation-wise it’s good, it’s not what you would expect from an Imaishi show, but still, lots of cool animators have worked on the show (Kudos to Mr. Takafumi Hori). With its fast pace, over the top action and likeable characters, I think this is the most entertaining show this year.
Attack on Titan: #1, #7, #17, #21, and #25
Currently this is my second favorite shōnen series, & as an anime-only, I think WIT Studio did a decent job adapting the manga, it certainly was far from being perfect, but I think some good effort was put into this, they just needed more time. By the way, Mr. Sawano did an amazing job with the music.
Episode – One Piece: #616
In my opinion, Takashi Otsuka made the best One Piece episode in 2013. Finally a director that actually puts effort into making the episode as fun as possible, this is how you make 1 chapter into 1 episode, not to forget the cool animation that he brought along.
Movie – One Piece Film Z
Ignoring my bias, I thought this was a fantastic movie. With Oda overseeing the production and Mr. Nagamine as a Director, the movie had a darker mood than Strong World. There was little to no humor, because Mr. Nagamine wanted to make a fast paced action movie. With nice character development I found myself caring about some characters, and at the same time retaining the feel of the One Piece world. I believe he succeeded and the box office results are a good indication. Plus the movie was an animation-fest, all the action sequences looked cool! Loved it from start to end!
Runner Up – Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo
Well, I didn’t watch many anime movies in 2013, I really don’t have a choice here. Anyway, I don’t know where this series is going, I was mainly impressed with the visuals, the plot is not as exciting as it was before, and I found myself not caring much. Anyway, I still enjoyed watching it.
OP/ED – Attack on Titan OP1
This was an easy decision. The only opening I’ve never skipped, OP2 was great as well. Animation and music were top notch.
Runner Up : Kill La Kill OP1, Yozakura Quartet OP2.
Animator Discovery – Shuichi Ito
I’ve known about this animator since the Thriller Bark story arc in One Piece, but it’s only since the Punk Hazard arc that he’s become quite high profile doing several cool actions scenes. I was very surprised that he got to handle some of the main scenes in this show. Check out an example of his work here –

Satoshi Horisawa – Nice animator, he participates from time to time in One Piece, but from his short cuts I can tell he is talented. The attention to details on Franky-Mecha is cool. Also, he is a very nice guy.

Unexpected Animation –
I didn’t expect to see cool freelancers like Shingo Fujii, Toshiharo Sugie and Shin Matsuo working on One Piece.
One Piece #616 – Shingo Fujii – http://sakuga.yshi.org/post/show/1854/
One Piece #619 – Shin Matsuo – http://sakuga.yshi.org/post/show/1940/
Recommendation – Simply Kill La Kill & Yozakura Quartet.

Kraker – [Me]

Show – Gundam Build Fighters
As the others have done a great job of covering most of the good looking shows from this year I thought I’d talk a little about Gundam Build Fighters. To start with, I’ll admit myself it’s not blazing with sakuga but my gosh Sunrise are really letting their mecha animators have lots of fun. Much of the same animation team has returned from Gundam AGE, albeit with some shuffling about. Hiroshi Arisawa and Se Jun Kim are now the lead mechanical animators, both a relatively young to boot. Arisawa has a realistic flair to his animation while Kim delivers flashy Hironori Tanaka-like animation with Obari-like timing. One noticeable aspect about the show is how the staff promoted the team of mecha animators on the official twitter account by having each of them draw a little doodle introducing themselves. I’ve seen character designers and other lead staff been promoted before but this is one of the few times I’ve seen animation directors, who are pretty much part of the weekly rotation, given such focus.
What’s also great is much of the rotation is full of quite talented staff. From episode 5 to episode 11 each week we were treated to some form visual treat. Be it the good mecha animation or just some really good action storyboarding and direction. Ep #5 for the Ken Otsuka mecha action, ep #6 for Iwao Teraoka’s great storyboarding, ep 7 for Obari’s AD episode, ep 8 for Arisawa leading with his more ‘realistic’ mech action, ep 9 for some cute Bearguy action, then ep 10 brought back Kim who delivered some amazing FX animation and so forth. To me it’s just great to see each episode’s mecha AD splice in their own blend of mecha animation each week.

One other great turn out I’ve seen from this show is how it’s managed to get several other animators want to work on the show simply because how fun it seems. Since Gundam Unicorn comes to an end soon and Valvrave has already wrapped up, I hope this has freed up some of Sunrise’s other mecha animators to come work on the show.
Episode – Gundam BF #2
Keeping with the previous theme, I’ll mention episode 2 of Build Fighters where Se Jun Kim was the Mecha AD, but he also did lots of key animation himself. The fight at the end between the Gundam and the red Zaku was simply amazing. Kim was already an impressive animator from what he showed us on AGE, but he seems to have gotten even better. His work on episode 10 was also quite outstanding. I can’t wait to see more of his episodes.
Honourable Mention – Saint Seiya Omega #51
For the first year of this show Yoshihiko Umakoshi was on the main staff and as a result the show looked quite good from time to time. Over the first year we were treated to about 4-6 nice looking episodes. The finale of the first year is probably the best looking of the bunch. Toei allowed Umakoshi and co to go all out and deliver quite an action packed episode. It helped that Studio Pablo were also the background team as they also managed to draw some amazing artwork for the animation to move about on. Unfortunately after episode 51 Umakoshi left the show and as a result the show has had a considerable drop in animation quality. Not even the stock footage looks good any more.
Movie – I’ve seen several anime films this year, but none of the ones from 2013 struck me particularly impressive. Patema Inverted was a very nice film over all, but simply in terms of ‘animation’ I wouldn’t place it as the best.
Honourable Mention – Garden of Words
I gave this a mention as Shinkai’s artwork and detail is always really impressive. However it’s starting to feel like there’s becoming a set pattern with him. Perhaps some enjoy the whole ‘tragic drama set to beautiful art’ but to me it feels as though it’s starting to become a limit and constrain him.
OP/ED – Honestly most of the ones mentioned above by the others are quite excellent. Attack on Titan’s ED1, Naruto Shippuden’s #OP13, Kuroko’s Basketball 2’s OP, Kyoukai no Kanata’s OP and so forth. But one I’ll personally mention is, yes you’ve guessed it, the Build Fighters OP.
It features most of Sunrise’s current crop of mecha animators and it looks great. Directed by Obari with Kim as the mecha AD. That first shot of the Gundam flying forward by Kim looks fantastic.
Special mention to the Project x Zone opening, not quite as good as the Namco x Capcom opening but it does great job of introducing all the different characters. Produced by Studio Trigger as well.
Unexpected Animation – Uchouten Kazoku episodes 3 and 12 simply because of Toshiyuki Inoue’s appearance as animation director and key animator. Here’s a guy who almost exclusively works on movie level productions and has done for the last decade or so. If I am recalling correctly, Inoue was asked almost 3 years in advance to work on this show simply because how much demand he is in.
Recommendation –
Simply give Little Witch Academia a go. Get Yoh Yoshinari + 6 months + a team of talented young animators and this 20 minute episode is the result. It is charming, cute and of course features some amazing animation. Also try out Uchouten Kazoku, a great little show with a charming cast and is generally well made.

So that’s a wrap for 2013. It’s been an interesting year, it might have started off a little slow but the 2nd half of the year definitely has had a lot of excitement for fans. The community has maintained more or less the same momentum from last year but now there’s a sakuga IRC channel, do come and visit #sakuga@irc.rizon.net if you have the time! A sakugabooru has also come to life in the last few months, it’s a place for people to post gifs and images about Japanese animators and their animation, its even managed to get some notice over in Japan as well. Meanwhile the guys who brought us the ‘introduction to sakugas’ videos are back again this year revisiting their work and creating even more content and have been slowly uploading it all to their youtube account. It’s well worth a watch if you want a primer into the whole ‘sakuga’ business.


Now it’s over to you, I’d like to know what you guys thought of 2013. Leave a comment and let us know your favourites or tell us if anything was forgotten!
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6 Responses to A look at the ‘sakuga’ and animation of 2013

  1. disgaeamad says:

    imas was my favourite 2011 sakuga show of 2013

  2. Yuyucow says:

    Before anyone complains, I refuse to take responsibility for jinxing Norio Matsumoto’s Yozakura ep.

    • aye says:

      Not complaining, but for the record, this is all your fault. You bear full responsibility for doing this. You must apologize by committing seppuku in front of Matsumoto sensei (apology not accepted). This is very personal and you must take this very seriously for the greater good.

  3. XX says:

    Thanks for every piece of nice information you always bring, everyone. And have a Happy New Year… looking forward to what you provide for us on 2014! 🙂

    Ah, so glad to see KAIROS represented. All those similar CM/PV/MV made to showcase little nuggets of sometimes purely unexpected and also untamed animation! Just for Japanese animators this year we had things from yotube (https://twitter.com/yotube/status/413621913844334593), his friend rapparu’s onslaught of effects in various commercials, more Mr. Shinkai spots (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umJlY87-0Hs), Onehundred MobPsycho manga video promotions (http://www.youtube.com/user/KENJADESUYO), Yoko Kuno and her thousands of cuts (http://vimeo.com/70463623), a Devil Survivor related videoclip featuring omnipresent Hironori Tanaka (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ-NG0kZURg), the very recent DOGAKOBO efforts on a music video… and many more.

    Sometimes these are like condensed animation goodness without having it associated with anything else from films or series (overall plots, settings, inconsistency) that I don’t feel like bothering myself with. 😀

  4. Pingback: A Look at the Sakuga and Animation of 2016 – Sakuga Blog

  5. Pingback: A Look at the Sakuga and Animation of 2017 – Sakuga Blog

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