September 22, 2012

Finished Watching Kemonozume

 It only took me four days to finish the series. Probably the closest I've come to actually marathoning any show. I planned to spread it out over a longer period of time and savour each episode a bit more, but I just couldn't help myself-- Almost every episode ends on such a riveting cliff-hanger. I'd read that some viewers weren't satisfied with the way things progressed in the final episodes, but I didn't mind the ending. The villain does get pretty over-the-top, but he was extremely entertaining while doing it so it didn't bother me. Breaking the fourth wall has been overused in comedy for a long time now, but using it just a little bit in a mostly serious work can still be effective, as he proved.

The middle of the series brought a couple of slight dips in the art and animation, but that was more than made up for in the final episodes, particularly the last two. I'm so glad I finally got around to watching this series. It somehow manages to balance drama, horror, comedy, romance, action and suspense. It's one of my favourite shows ever, animated or otherwise.

I really liked how each episode had a different mood and feeling. So many different artists with unique, but generally complementary, styles worked on the episodes, and the series really embraced that, in a way rarely seen in animation (Ren and Stimpy springs to mind as another example, in a drastically different style obviously).

I have a lot of favourite episodes. #1 and #2 felt the most purely Yuasa-driven to me. #6 was hilarious and gave us a proper introduction to my favourite character, Bon. #9 had a wonderfully light atmosphere and provided a nice breather from all the craziness in the surrounding episodes. #12 was entirely animated by Michio Mihara. I'd just seen his Okashina Hotel short, and was really excited at the chance to see so much more of his work in one place. It completely lived up to my expectations. #13 had just as much amazing animation, but in that case it was the work of several animators. It also had some classic Yuasa insane action.

I think overall I prefer this series to Kaiba. Somehow it felt both more substantial, and easier to comprehend. It's difficult-- and probably pointless-- to compare the series, since they were so different stylistically, but I did find Kaiba maintained its quality more evenly than Kemonozume. It didn't really have anything as mediocre as Episode 4 of Kemonozume, which was the one notable blemish on the series. But on the other hand I feel that Kemonozume reached greater heights and was more ambitious in its art style. And I definitely thought it had stronger characterization. One problem I had with Kaiba was that, for a show where the hero gets put into a different body in each episode, he didn't have much of a personality for the viewer to hold onto. He remained a cipher throughout the series, which made it less interesting to follow his body-switching. I do still love Kaiba though.

As I mentioned before, Bon was probably my favourite character. I was happy to see him reappear later in the series. Now I want to go through the series again at a slower pace, particularly so I can study some of the animation and direction more closely.

September 18, 2012

Spreading the Gospel of Yuasa

Considering what a huge fan I am of Masaaki Yuasa, I don't know how it's taken me so long to see his 2006 series Kemonozume. I just watched the first episode and it did not disappoint. It actually exceeded my expectations. That's the crazy thing about Yuasa-- no matter what order you see his stuff in, you can never be prepared for how amazing and different each work will be. I'm currently watching Shin-Chan and seeing some of his earliest animation work, and I love it too. Yuasa's work is consistent, but it's also incredibly varied and he seems to make a point of constantly defying his audience's expectations.

Anyway, I just had to share some images from this first episode.

 And there's plenty more where that came from. If the rest of the show is anywhere near as good as this, I will be a very happy boy by the time I get to the end.

Don't worry, I won't be posting about the whole thing obsessively the way I did with Lupin Part III. I only did that because I knew the show as a whole wouldn't be worth watching for most people, but I still wanted to share the good parts. This series is only 13 episodes!

So if you haven't gotten around to seeing Kemonozume yet, go watch it. You won't regret it!

September 17, 2012

Fun with Markers

I suck at painting but lately I've been wanting to use watercolours. First I got some watercolour pencils, then I got some fancy markers. Neither really gave me the effect I wanted, but I enjoyed using the markers.

This one is supposed to be Nick Kroll.

On a semi-related note, the reason John C. Reilly (although it looks more like Shrek) has a shirt reading "Da Reillz" is because I've been listening to old Comedy Death Ray episodes.

Yesterday I finally just bought a little watercolour kit and I like using it a lot better. The colours get kind of screwed up when I scan them, both with the markers and the watercolours.

September 12, 2012

Rambling Reviews

Time for another round of my thoughts on things I've watched lately.

Despite the main character being annoyingly passive and whiny for most of the film, I liked it. The designs are great, both in the characters and their environments. They're full of unusual shapes and angles, and the result is a film with a really unique look to it, which is rare. I want to get the art book. The story and characters felt pretty familiar, but the filmmakers did throw in a couple of clever twists. The ending sequence was genuinely creepy, and featured really impressive animation. Overall Paranorman was truly a breath of fresh air in American animation. I'm now interested in what else Laika has done, which means I have to finally see Coraline.
Directed by Rintaro, this OVA from 1992 has impressively loose, wild animation. Yoshinori Kanada did the character designs, as well as some animation. It also has some amazing Tatsuyuki Tanaka scenes, which are what made me want to track it down.Unfortunately this thing is ridiculously obscure-- it's never even been released on DVD in Japan, let alone translated into English. And obviously the name makes it difficult to look it up online. So I couldn't understand most of what was going on in the story, but it was very enjoyable to look at.

I may have covered this late 80's anime anthology before on my blog, I can't remember. But anyway, here's what I thought upon seeing it again recently-- I absolutely love the first segment, "Manie-Manie" which is also by Rintaro. It's probably one of my favourite animation pieces ever. It's packed with neat ideas in the designs, the direction, the animation and the sound work. Too bad it ultimately doesn't seem to have any real point. "The Running Man" has lots of great FX animation but again, there's not much story. This one feels longer than it is. The final segment by Katsuhiro Otomo, "The Order to Stop Construction" feels a bit like a warm-up for Akira. It's pretty fun. All three shorts work better as mood pieces than as narratives, in my opinion, but they all have great visuals. I'd say it's worth seeing.

Samurai Champloo
I'm only up to Episode 9, which has the Masaaki Yuasa animation sequence, which was just as amazing as I'd expected. Overall I like the show, but it's not quite as absurd as I hoped. There are some hip-hop elements and some funny moments (my favourite example of both being the vomit scratch-cut in Episode 6) but neither the hip-hop flavor or the comedy are as prevalent as I'd expect from a series that bills itself as "samurai/comedy/hip-hop." So far it's mostly just been a bizarrely anachronistic samurai series. I do love the main title sequence though.

Shin-Chan Season 1 Part 2
I picked this up cheap and I'm really enjoying it. Up until now I'd been avoiding the English dub because I didn't think I'd like all the extra dirty jokes they added, but so far it turns out I do like a lot of them, and I already knew I liked the original series so this is turning out to be a lot of fun. I'm now trying to get the other volumes at a decent price. The English voices are surprisingly close to the Japanese originals. My only problem is that they cut the great opening theme short.

Yellow Submarine
Every time I watch it I feel the same way-- there are a ton of cool visuals, and obviously the music is spectacular, but the script is a jumbled mess and I find it hard to watch the whole thing in one sitting. Once they get to Pepperland it feels like the movie should end much faster than it does.

(a late-70s one-off short by the staff of Lupin III)
The story is childish but the Miyazaki-animated scene near the end is fantastic. Between this and his epic battle scene in Animal Treasure Island, he's become one of my favourite animators. His early animation work is a lot more cartoony and wild than I'd have thought from his later directing style.

Roujin Z
Written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, soon after Akira. The budget is noticeably lower but there is some very good animation in certain scenes, and it's generally a well-told satire about how society treats the elderly, with a wacky science-fiction bent to it. I like the character designs, even though they're not as caricatured as the stuff I usually prefer. They don't really stand out that much but there's enough variation within the characters to keep them interesting. The ending theme has been stuck in my head for days now.

I also re-watched Shin-Chan - The Adult Empire Strikes Back and Urusei Yatsura - Beautiful Dreamer which are both still great.

In other news, I'm back to school for my final year. It's going pretty well so far. I'm also working on Scout Raskin's Bakerman and the Bunnymen short, coming up with ideas for another project and working on designs for Fester Fish t-shirts. The shirts should be available soon, I hope...

September 10, 2012

The Popes of Placeland

Here's the new trailer for a series called "The Popes of Placeland." I animated the character introduction segments and the final section. The middle section was done by Brian Kaufman. The series was created by Anthony Alfonso and Alex Alessi.

September 03, 2012

Some Lupin GIFs

I just found a bunch of cool GIFs from various Lupin III cartoons. This first bunch are animated by Kazuhide Tomonaga and taken from Episode 92.

No idea what second-series episode this one is from, but it's funny:

This is from the first episode of the recent 2012 Lupin series. Not sure who the animator is.

I got all of these GIFs from although it's frustrating going through that blog because they don't actually tell you what anime the GIF came from, or who the animator is.