For those of you who don’t know, Evangelion director Hideaki Anno’s Studio Khara, in conjunction with media company Dwango have been running a cool little project called Animator Expo (there is an English language version of the site) for the past couple weeks. 30 short anime productions are planned for the Expo, with a new one coming out every week starting on November 7, 2014. So far, 10 of the 30 shorts have aired, so here are my thoughts on the last five of them. Rather than giving them a standard rating, I’m just going to go with a [bad/decent/good/great] scale.
Previous Posts: Part 1
On these five shorts as a whole: Overall, I was a bigger fan of this set of shorts than the last. We basically got three music videos in this bunch, a format I think lends itself really naturally to the kind of creative experimentation that the Expo seems to want to encourage. Having “Tomorrow from there”—easily by favorite short thus far—in this group definitely bumps it up a notch, but (unlike the first batch) I genuinely enjoyed every short on this list and would recommend checking out each of them.
#6. 20min Walk From Nishi-Ogikubo Station, 2 Bedrooms, Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, 2mos Deposit, No Pets Allowed (12/12/14)—Great
Is this going to be a theme—the first short in each set of five is going to be great? This was a cute little piece with a nice sense of humor…and phenomenal animation. As you could probably guess, the Sakugabooru folks were all over this one immediately, and rightly so. As far as the story goes, it’s just a dream a woman has about being tiny and being chased by her boyfriend, who sees her as a cockroach. She eventually wakes up, but the shenanigans that ensue are amusing and displayed in fluid animation of varying styles. The one catch is that the woman is naked the whole time, but it’s more a matter of premise than a matter of fanservice, which keeps it from feeling exploitative or fanservicey. (NSFW, no link.)
Staff Notes: There’s a whole glut of key animation talent on this one; it’s very much obvious when watching the short. What’s really cool about that, though, is seeing the wide-range of backgrounds from which these animators come from. Maho Takagi and Sayaka Yamai both made their key animation debuts here after having only worked on in-between animation previously. Akira Honma, who directed the earlier Animator Expo Short “Carnage” returns for key animation on this project. Shinji Hashimoto and Shinya Ohira both have long key animation resumes, while Hiroyuki Okiura,and Toshiyuki Inoue both have a number of animation director credits. Masashi Ando is the sole key animator who’s done character design work.
#7. until You come to me. (12/19/14)—Good
Well, I haven’t seen Evangelion (at least not past the third episode), so I imagine a lot of the particulars of this short were lost on me. However, I have obviously seen enough to know this was somewhat based on NGE‘s universe—perhaps an aftermath or silent epilogue. In fact, there two distinct things I was reminded of by this short: 1) an old Christmas movie, and 2) the final credits sequence of an RPG that ended sadly. This all being said, for not having actually seen Evangelion, this short did nothing to isolate me as a viewer. It was beautifully self-contained and really just a lovely thing to watch and listen to (what a beautiful arrangement of “You Raise Me UP”). I’m sure Eva fans were able to take a lot more out of this than I was, but for me it was just a peaceful, somewhat melancholic aesthetic experience. And there’s nothing wrong with that. (One short NSFW moment, Watch it here.)
Staff Notes: Original work by Hideaki Anno, layouts by Hideaki Anno—no need to really talk about him. Tatsuya Kushida is credited as art director for this short, meaning he was responsible for the beautiful backgrounds that comprised the majority of the runtime. It’s no surprise to see that Kushida has credits for background art with Neon Genesis Evangelion, but he’s also worked on Gurren Lagann, Super Sonico the Animation, and Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises with background art, as well as having served as art director for the 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 Evangelion movies.
#8. Tomorrow from there (1/9/15)—Great
NEW FAVORITE ALERT! Oh, man, this was such a lovely piece of work. Beautiful music (I preferred it even to “until You come to me.”‘s soundtrack), graceful animation, gentle colors, a kind-hearted narrative, and a sensitive directorial touch made this easily my favorite short yet. It captures, in a subtly deep way, both the loneliness and the joy of being on your own for the first time. Between her facial expression and repeated motions, like falling on the bed, director Akemi Hayashi creates a sympathetic, likable character in just a few minutes—and does it so well that when our heroine smiles and proclaims, “Good morning!” at the end of the episode, it’s a beautiful watershed of empathetic happiness for her. (Watch it here.)
Staff Notes: Directed by Akemi Hayashi, who has worked on a whole host of notable projects as a key animator and episode director, including both Mawaru Penguindrum and Revolutionary Girl Utena. Take time to check out her credits; it’s a truly impressive list. I’m also told she directed episode Space Dandy‘s episode 5, which I have not yet seen. In any case, I loved her work here and sincerely hope we see more of her in the future.
#9. Denkou Choujin Gridman (1/16/15)—Decent
Would we expect anything less from Studio Trigger? This was basically just a rollicking bash of “how many cool robot transformations can we get into 7 minutes?” and it was a lot of fun. I don’t know much about old-school mecha and sentai shows, but I imagine Denkou Choujin Gridman is at least somewhat inspired by both of those. The music especially gave the short a kind of “we are the heroes of justice!” feel. Other than that, there’s not a lot to say about the short other than it was a lot of fun to watch—the creators certainly enjoyed what they were doing and, as what I believe to be the first Animator Expo short produced outside of Studio Khara, it turned out to be a pretty good experiment. (Watch it here.)
Staff Notes: The big name on this project is director Akira Amemiya, who also handled all the key animation along with Yusuke Yoshigaki. A former Gainax employee now working from Trigger, Amemiya has a number of different credits from Kill la Kill, Gurren Lagann, and Black Rock Shooter, as well as having worked with “Tomorrow from there”‘s Akemi Hayashi on her Gurren Lagann Parallel Works OVA. Amemiya’s also got some key animation credits on single episodes of various popular shows like Toradora! (ep 7), Sword Art Online (ep 8), and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (ep 33).
#10. YAMADELOID (1/23/15)—Good
A little bit ridiculous, a little bit awesome, a lot of cool style put to good use. Probably one of the best parts of Animator Expo so far as been the opportunity to get to see anime drawn in a wide range of styles outside of the mainstream norm. Along with “20min Walk…,” “YAMADELOID” has had one of the most unique styles I’ve seen yet in the Expo, boasting a colorful, bold aesthetic that perfectly complements the grandiosity of the music and the story of the short music video. There’s also some really lovely cinematography in the short (like the quick montage of cuts showing the singer and his lover reuniting on stage) and the brevity of the short sharpens the pacing into an exciting rush through a samurai’s story of training, rescue, and revenge. (Watch it here.)
Staff Notes: Rather than talk about individual staff members here, I want to talk about the studio responsible for the production of this short: Graphinica. The studio behind Gen Urobuchi’s recent film, Expelled from Paradise (the one that was entirely in 3-D CGI), Graphinica has a gigantic list of credits covering a huge scope of job titles for a vast number of shows—2nd key animation, in-between animation, photography, filming, 3-D animation, special effects, etc. I almost get the impression that they’re kind of a big studio (especially considering the number of shows they’re currently working on). Whatever the case may be, it’s cool to see the talent of a non-mainline studio get a chance to shine, and Graphinica really took advantage of that chance here.