A look at the ‘sakuga’ and animation of 2014

Paeses – [Twitter]

Overall Favorite from 2014 – Space Dandy
No doubt about it. Perhaps not the content, but as a production it is BONES FULL POWER.
Episodes – It’s really hard for me to choose since there were quite a lot of nice episodes this year.
Wizard Barristers #01: This is how you hype your show, the effort put in this episode’s intro was mind-blowing, Umetsu suddenly turned to Michael Bay. Nozomu Abe’s going all out with Takashi Hashimoto’s animation supervision, plus a great line up of effects animators really helps, they all made it look like a movie.
Naruto Shippuuden #375: Hiroyuki Yamashita’s out-done himself this time as a director. Yamashita knew how to make #375 a touching episode with great storyboards, astounding music selection. He delivered one of the coolest, well-choreographed and emotional combat scenes which was animated by two great animators; Ken’ichi Fujisawa and Naoki Kobayashi.
Honorable Mention: Sword Art Online II #19, Tsuki ni Naku #03, Zankyou no Terror #01
Usual “BONES” treatment: Space Dandy #01 #13 #26, Noragami #12, and Captain Earth #24 & #25
Shows – “Space Dandy is the Sakuga, so no point talking about it”
Wizard Barristers: What makes the action in this show look so good is that Umetsu enslaved Nozomu Abe to be Action AD, resulting in some remarkable work. The first episode had the craziest intro you could see as I mentioned above. Despite the fact it collapsed at the middle. The show still had some well-animated action in almost every episode.
The verdict: Don’t watch it, just watch everything that’s on the booru taken from the BD release.
Sword Art Online II: When the show was first announced I wasn’t excepting anything from 2nd series, especially since s1’s Takahiro Shikama was nowhere to be seen as Action AD, until they assigned Tetsuya Takeuchi as the new Action AD and then I knew we were gonna see some awesome shit. He delivered big time: having a realistic animator with a unique style and perspective always pays off. The show used Takeuchi’s potential to the max, with the help off Kengo Matsumoto, Ryo Araki, and Ryuuta Yanagi.
Fate/Stay Night (2014): Ufotable said they were focusing on the animation this time and they sure did. S1 had well-animated fight scenes that showed character strength, with consistent quality all over the season. Ufotable always lay on their in-house animators, but they also depend on Nozomu Abe to deliver some really high-quality action scenes. I was expecting a lot of character animation this time but it didn’t quite pan out.
Honorable Mention: Animator Expo Me!Me!Me! (MV). Yoshimichi Kameda’s Parol no Miraijima (OVA)
Movie – Majokko Shimai no Yoyo to Nene
We don’t see Ufotable making movies often, but this time they teamed up with Hirao Takayuki. He’s a brilliant director who is known for directing Kara no Kyoukai #05. From watching his previous works, you will notice Yoyo to Nene is not the kind of show he works on. However he surprised us by giving us a great story that was mixed with lovely animation throughout the movie. Yoyo to Nene is definitely something worth checking out.
Honorable Mention: The Wind Rises, Kaguya Hime no Monogatari.
OP/ED
Ping Pong OP by Shinya Ohira
Naruto Shippuuden OP31 Norio, Naoki Kobayashi showing off his skills, and others.
Captain Earth ED2 by Perspective Master Norimitsu Suzuki

Animator Discovery – Atsuki Shimizu [Booru]
What attracted me to this young animator was the familiarity to his style but I never quite knew who he was, he even did a scene on Guilty Crown which I thought is a NC work by Yoh Yoshinari. While watching Tokyo Ghoul I started noticing his style again. After some deep research I found out who he was, Shimizu is an animator influenced by Yoh Yoshinari’s style (similar to Rapparu), he started working with Studio AIC and he was a regular on Tokyo Ghoul. I think his style is a toned down version of Yoh Yoshinari’s style, but he still has more time to develop and flourish. For me personally, I’m really happy to see more animators influenced by Yoh Yoshanri working in the industry.
Unexpected Animation – Mikakunin de Shinkoukei
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting anything here, but who am I to question the goodness of a DogaKobo production. If you thought won’t look impressive because it’s a romance comedy like I did, you’re surely mistaken. The team behind this show did incredible work drawing all kind of silly scenes and it was constant overall. It even had many scenes done by Masayuki Nonaka. Just watch it.
Recommendation – Noragami
You can’t go wrong with this show; it’s pretty funny, it’s got an interesting story and it’s from “BONES”. This is one of the shows I really enjoyed watching this year. You can expect some great sakuga moments too (holy shit that final episode!). I totally recommend this show along with the OVAs.
2014 was a good year and it was hard to pick from, with more cool specials were released and many shows with cool moments, but not place to mention them.

Disgaeamad – [Twitter]

Episode – Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso #5
It was hard to decide between this and half of Yamasusu S2’s episodes, but I went with this in the end by nature of it being a really great solo ep directed by based Ishihama himself. Takeshi Kojima’s work on the show really compliments its visuals, especially the sketchy style we see now and then, so it was a real treat. And as if that wasn’t enough, it had the added bonus of pissing off anibloggers all over the internet who were genuinely upset about the show being ‘too animated’!
Seriously, check it out: http://sakuga.yshi.org/pool/show/27
Show – Mikakunin de Shinkoukei
I’ll just say that Mikakuking wasn’t the best animated show this year, but my reason for putting it here is that it was my first experience with the Dogakogods magic, and thus I felt it’s the most fitting show for this category in terms of the impact it had in me taking an even deeper plunge into the sabuga rabbit hole. The animated music video they made for it technically doesn’t count for 2014, but hey, it was still tops. The show itself had the kind of style that really appeals to me, too. Very bouncy animation everywhere courtesy of NO NA KA and a wealth of smears that worked super well with the character designs = yes please.
Movie – The iDOLM@STER Kagayaki no Mukougawa
The only 2014 movies I watched were this and Tamako Love Story, so I’ll represent imas while everyone talks about Kaguya. Admittedly, the live scene didn’t quite live up to what we were blessed with in the TV series, but it still had some good stuff, such as Isao Hayashi’s insane moving camera cuts. The fake movie PV at the start though is just YOOOOOOOOO, featuring top level stuff from the likes of Yuki Komatsu and Megumi Kouno. I don’t even dislike Komatsu’s rotoscoped stuff that set some people off, so hey.
OP – Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
http://vimeo.com/115022299
Special mentions: Yama no Susume S2 OP1 (dat Ishihama effect) and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (Ryochimo’s last work before he passed on).
ED – Sora no Method

Ryouma Ebata delivers what is easily one of my favourite EDs, period. The song is nice too, and it fits with the animation perfectly, so that makes it even better. I’m also going to cheat here and mention that Ebata should be in my Animator Discovery list too, because this combined with his Yama no Susume #17 work makes his output this year easily some of the best.
Special mention: Yama no Susume S2 ED1 for TaNonaka, Sword Art Online II ED1 because I’m awful and the Kouno bit in it is really good.
Animator Discovery – There’s a lot of people I can list here considering I’ve spent years liking sabuga without ever learning names and the like, but I’ll limit it to three for the purpose of keeping things short:
1. Masayuki Nonaka
Otherwise known as NO NA KA of the Dogakogods Alliance. Bouncy character animation combined with solid use of smears makes for a guy whose work appeals to me in pretty much every possible way. This happens to be one of my favourite bits from him that shows off his style well:
2. Enishi Ooshima
Another member of the Dogakogods Alliance. I couldn’t help but be really impressed after seeing his work on Gochiusa #04 and GJ-bu ED3. Considering both of these are solo and easily some of his best, it’s obviously a sign that he’s an animator who can only unleash his true power when soloing stuff.
3. Takahiro Shikama
Pretty much everyone knows about Shikama I guess, but I’ll still mention him as I didn’t know his name until this year. Easily one of the best people when it comes to action, he’s so good he can even break robots free from their snorefest shackles. A MAD says a lot more than words though, so I guess I’ll just link this even if it’s pretty old https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6gAAbkc_ko
Unexpected Animation – By far and large, Yama no Susume S2.
I signed up for cute girls climbing mountains and got cute girls climbing mountains while looking really good. Stuff like Kazuaki Shimada’s solo #4, the outright silly party for #13 and Ebata’s solo #17 alone were really surprising, let alone the fact that there’s been plenty of other solo episodes with some distinct visual flare to them too. Considering the variety of styles we’ve seen throughout this show, one could say that it’s Space Dandy but actually good.
Recommendation – Yozakura Quartet Hana no Uta/Hoshi no Umi/Tsuki ni Naku
I’m basically recommending everything I’ve mentioned in this post already, and I missed out on the chance to write about YZQ last year, so there. Go watch all of YZQ if you haven’t already because it’s really really fun show where the visuals only serve to make the experience even better than it already is.

Braves – [Twitter]

Recommendation – Masaaki Yuasa’s 2014 output
My entry last year covered Masaaki Yuasa’s short film, Kick-Heart. Little did I expect Yuasa to produce three separate pieces of work the following year: episode 16 of Space Dandy, the “Food Chain” episode of Adventure Time, and Ping Pong: The Animation. Yuasa wrote, storyboarded, and directed all three of these projects and at one point he was working on all three of them at the same time. For somebody whose art style is not the most commercially attractive, it is exciting to see that he has been able to produce so many works within a short of time. One cannot help but feel that the success of Kick-Heart helped Yuasa find these new opportunities. By working on Adventure Time, Yuasa has been able to expose his work far beyond the typical anime viewer. Although the animation in Food Chain still retains the main visual look of the main show, Yuasa still manages to put his touch with his visual gags and sense of humor. Yuasa’s Dandy episode showcases even more of Yuasa’s creativity—particularly in the alien fish’s world design. Shinya Ohira makes a memorable appearance in the episode as well.
Space Dandy episode 16 – Key Animation: Shinya Ohira

Something to keep an ear out for when watching a Yuasa work is the music and sound effects. The soundtracks for Yuasa’s work have always had a great way of complimenting the show’s mood (from the jazz music in Kemonozume to the experimental tunes in Kick-Heart)—and Ping Pong is no different. Further, the opening and ending sequences for Ping Pong are particularly noteworthy with Eunyoung Choi (assistant director on Ping Pong, creative director on Food Chain) animating the ending and Ohira (storyboard/unit director/animation director) handling the opening. The opening has a mix of veteran animators (Yasunori Miyazawa, Shinya Ohira, and Shinji Hashimoto) and a number of younger animators (Hokuto Sakiyama, Tomoyuki Niho, etc.) who took inspiration from some if not all of these veterans.
The main visual detraction from Ping Pong is the show’s poor production schedule. While Space Dandy gave its staff plenty of time to work on each episode in advance, it is clear in Ping Pong’s presentation that the show struggled to make its deadlines. Nobutaka Ito’s designs suffer greatly from cut to cut. Even the spectacular opening by Ohira does not make its appearance in the show until episode 3, as they were still trying to finish it once the show started airing.
Ping Pong OP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2v6iOVhw6mQ
The staff list for Ping Pong does not read like the ones for Kaiba or even The Tatami Galaxy (you may well blame Space Dandy’s production for sucking away talent from other studios), so it is also clear a lot of the staff on-hand does not have the skills to handle Ito’s designs on such a tight schedule. However, the visual emphasis and framing of the show still feels like Yuasa is in control thanks to him storyboarding every episode of the show.
In 2014, Yuasa also co-founded the animation studio Science Saru with Eunyoung Choi. The studio produced Food Chain, along with co-producing Yuasa’s Space Dandy episode, and assisting in the 2014 Shin Chan film and Ping Pong. Hopefully Yuasa and the studio can take the work done in 2014 and have a prosperous future.

Arasan – [Twitter]

Episode: Wizard Barristers 11 Nishi-ogikubo(Animator Expo)
The sixth short of the Japan Animator’s Exhibition series featured key animation by some of Japan’s finest animators and it sure showed. Packed with energetic character animation, the short was a blast to watch with Ohira and Hashimoto’s consecutive scenes stealing the show. Takeshi Honda also did a really impressive bit of running and background animation in it. Overall, I give it three thumbs up.
Takashi Kojima’s solo episode of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is also worth a mention, his work caught my eye since Shinsekai Yori and I was pleased to see Kojima teaming up with Masashi Ishihama to work on an episode again. The episode had a handful of good (and somewhat smeary) character animation, with some interesting water animation later in the episode.
Show: Space Dandy
This one was pretty easy to nominate, nearly every episode of Dandy had some bit of interesting animation at the very least with the best episodes delivering a variety of well-animated cuts coupled with interesting visuals. I’m sure other sakuga fans will be able to sing praises about this show better than I can though, unfortunately I don’t remember all details of this show as well as I should for some reason.
2014 also brought the return of the much-loved Sword Art Online, this time with Tetsuya Takeuchi overseeing the action animation. It’s always a pleasure to watch Takeuchi’s work and he definitely worked his magic of character animation and action throughout the show.
Special mentions: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, Barakamon, Mikakunin, Haikyuu!!
Movie: Kaguya-hime no Monogatari
Most filthy gaijins were late to the party on this one, myself included, but Kaguya-hime was worth the wait. A beautiful film all-round with every shot looking like it was straight out of a painting. Shinji Hashimoto and Norio Matsumoto’s cuts were mighty impressive, but Takayuki Hamada’s charming animation of the infant Kaguya in the film’s early sequence also stood out to me.
Special mentions: The Wind Rises, Majokko, Tamako Love Story
Animator Discovery: Naoki Kobayashi
Sakuga MAD:

Ever since Hiroyuki Yamashita’s promotion to episode director on the Naruto TV series, Naoki Kobayashi has stepped up to regularly provide good action animation. The talented youngster did his first key animation for the Naruto series in last year’s episode 322 which was also Hiroyuki Yamashita’s debut as episode director. Since then, Kobayashi has mostly done work in Naruto episodes with Yamashita’s involvement, though he has occasionally slipped away from the Studio Pierrot dungeons to do some key animation for other shows like Zankyou no Terror and Shingeki no Kyojin.
Kobayashi has shown a knack for depicting melee combat and effects, with his work in episode 375 being his best show of hand-to-hand combat yet. Shades of influence from Yutaka Nakamura can be seen in his work, particularly with the way he draws debris and effects coupled with the occasional impact frame. Being a sucker for melee action animation, I’m pleased to see a young animator showing such skill in this sort of animation and it’ll be interesting to see his development as he matures as an animator. Time will tell if he can be as good as his predecessor, Hiroyuki Yamashita or perhaps even reach the heights of Norio Matsumoto or Yutaka Nakamura.
OP: Ping-Pong
Best rotoscope of 2014, thank you based Ohira.
I’d also like to mention Mikakunin’s OP just for Masayuki Nonaka’s work at the beginning. It’s so delightfully bouncy.
ED: Sora no Method
I didn’t watch this show past the first episode, but the ED was an impressive solo work by Ryouma Ebata. Lovely realistic character animation and effects.
Unexpected animation:
I don’t think anyone expected Tomoyuki Niho’s Garo opening. It was a full minute and thirty seconds of web-gen style animation by Kenichi Kutsuna, Shintarou Douge and Niho himself, the opening was quite the sight- even the characters were looking like effects animation at times.
Recommendation:
Stop watching anime and become a productive member of society.

 

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9 Responses to A look at the ‘sakuga’ and animation of 2014

  1. vinhnyu says:

    End of year tradition:
    – Watch TV
    – Go to shrine
    – Read about this year’s sakuga

  2. Crofesima says:

    I’d like to take this chance to thank you all for, well… basically existing (as creepy as it may sound). I’ve learned A LOT about animation this year and it’s all thanks to the sakuga community 🙂 I appreciate your patience and willingness to share knowledge. Oh, and of course big thanks to Kraker for this entry – it was a fantastic read.

    And while we’re at it – Happy New Year!

  3. Pingback: Climbing to the Peak of Mt. IRN-BRU | The Non-Stop Road

  4. Mayo says:

    Very interesting read, I love all the cuts you posted from the sakuga website. I wish I knew all these Animator’s names. I need to work on that. Is there a place I would be able to find the key animator list for certain episodes?

    • Henry says:

      Try Sakuga@wiki.
      It’s a Japanese wiki site, but they’re the main source of animator information.

    • Kraker2k says:

      In English there is little to go by. You can try to use AnimeNewsNetwork’s staff database but they don’t organise their data very well.
      The sakugabooru often notes the animator’s name on the left hand side in yellow.
      The sakuga@wiki is a good source but it’s in Japanese only: http://www18.atwiki.jp/sakuga/
      There’s also the ‘Anime Staff Database’ that is a community edited Japanese wiki, but focuses more on modern shows: http://seesaawiki.jp/w/radioi_34/
      Hope that helps!

  5. Pingback: A look at the ‘sakuga’ and animation of 2015 | The Vanishing Trooper Incident

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

  7. Pingback: Como nasceu o melhor episódio de Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – Otaku Pós-Moderno

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