Welcome to a new regular feature on the Sakuga (作画): Technically drawing pictures but more specifically animation. Western fans have long since appropriated the word to refer to instances of particularly good animation, in the same way that a subset of Japanese fans do. Pretty integral to our sites' brand. Blog! After buying all sorts of magazines and scrutinizing social media, we’ll be pointing out episodes of ongoing anime with interesting staff and thus lots of potential for you to look forward to; the best episodes don’t happen by chance, as all productions try to give the strongest material to their most capable people. Things do fly under people’s radar all the time of course, but these are some episodes you should definitely watch out for!
- Little Witch Academia: LWA is unfortunately not featured in anime magazines, but we’ve still got some interesting pieces of information about it. Not only is the schedule reportedly rather solid for a studio Trigger episode – with both Studio Wanpack and a certain key animator wrapping up their work for episode 8 around late Dec ~ early Jan – but there’s also specific names to look out for. Episode 3 storyboarded by Gainax/Khara’s Masayuki of Evangelion fame will feature some of the studio’s famous figures doing some animation, like Hiroyuki Imaishi (3 cuts) and sushio, with excellent guests like Toshiyuki Sato and the young ちな. It’ll also be the Animation Direction (作画監督, sakuga kantoku): The artists supervising the quality and consistency of the animation itself. They might correct cuts that deviate from the designs too much if they see it fit, but their job is mostly to ensure the motion is up to par while not looking too rough. Plenty of specialized Animation Direction roles exist – mecha, effects, creatures, all focused in one particular recurring element. debut for Kai Ikarashi, a Kanada-style Trigger animator with a captivating old-school style. The GEEKS crew will be leaving LWA‘s production for good (as they’ve announced in rather amusing roleplaying fashion) but we’re getting a bit of a goodbye gift in the form of episode 3. Should be excellent! In less good news, episode 5 appears to be outsourced to Liden through Ultra Super Pictures’ link, but hopefully they did a decent job considering they’ve got time.
- Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: As per KyoAni standards, no big surprises when it comes to the upcoming staff – there’s little room for that when your shows are all made by your staff! That doesn’t mean there’s no reasons to get excited, however. Next week we’ll likely see Noriyuki Kitanohara personally handle some cool sequences and that tends to be quite the spectacle, while episode 4 handled by Takuya Yamamura and Kazumi Ikeda will represent the first chance for their Osaka branch Animation Do; not as strong as the Kyoto output as of late, but with a stylized series and with people like their animation ace Tatsuya Sato we should at least get some spectacular scenes. If there’s one episode to look forward to due to its lineup we undoubtedly have to talk about 5 though, directed and storyboarded by Taichi Ogawa (with some support by Taichi Ishidate) and Chiyoko Ueno supervising the animation. Perhaps this isn’t a project naturally compatible with Ogawa’s cinematic sensibilities, but it’s an all-stars staff list nonetheless. Naoko Yamada said it was a very cute project so we might see her direct an episode in the second half of the series, but that’s something to be excited about later down the line.
- Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: Episode 41 will have animation outsourced to Nakamura Production, but as usual the mecha sequences will be handled in-house. The talented Sakiko Uda will be in charge of the mechanical Animation Direction (作画監督, sakuga kantoku): The artists supervising the quality and consistency of the animation itself. They might correct cuts that deviate from the designs too much if they see it fit, but their job is mostly to ensure the motion is up to par while not looking too rough. Plenty of specialized Animation Direction roles exist – mecha, effects, creatures, all focused in one particular recurring element. despite working on the new season of Blue Exorcist as main animator, so that should be something to look forward to. Noein‘s Kazuki Akane is co-storyboarding the episode, probably also being in charge of the mechanical action parts. That’s of course under the assumption that the episode will feature any action at all!
- Precure: The franchise hasn’t exactly been treated well this year, but as the yearly iteration comes to an end it’s time to reunite its strongest assets. It seems like episode 49 will be the actual finale of the series, since it’s in the hands of the Series Director: (監督, kantoku): The person in charge of the entire production, both as a creative decision-maker and final supervisor. They outrank the rest of the staff and ultimately have the last word. Series with different levels of directors do exist however – Chief Director, Assistant Director, Series Episode Director, all sorts of non-standard roles. The hierarchy in those instances is a case by case scenario. Masato Mitsuka and its character designer Emiko Miyamoto. Takashi Otsuka will be assisting on Storyboard (絵コンテ, ekonte): The blueprints of animation. A series of usually simple drawings serving as anime's visual script, drawn on special sheets with fields for the animation cut number, notes for the staff and the matching lines of dialogue. More duties, undoubtedly excellent news as Smile Precure‘s director has proved his worth over and over. He left his full-time job at Toei and kept on doing good work as a freelancer in episodes like Haikyuu S1 17, but his link with Toei has been maintained through One Piece. He still adores the Precure franchise, so it’s always nice to have him back. Episode 50 is arguably in even better hands with Masato Mikami directing and Animation Direction (作画監督, sakuga kantoku): The artists supervising the quality and consistency of the animation itself. They might correct cuts that deviate from the designs too much if they see it fit, but their job is mostly to ensure the motion is up to par while not looking too rough. Plenty of specialized Animation Direction roles exist – mecha, effects, creatures, all focused in one particular recurring element. by Sailor Moon Sailor Stars‘ character designer Katsumi Tamegai – expect a strong epilogue! We also have confirmation that the first episode of 2017’s Kirakira ☆ Precure a la Mode will be handled by its series codirector Kohei Kureta alongside Naoko Yamaoka, who already was the main animation director in Smile Precure. Starting strong as well.
- Classicaloid: Ex-Madhouse staffer migmi seems to have left the Hunter x Hunter team for good and joined Bandai Namco Pictures/Sunrise. They seem to be storyboarding and directing episode 15, and knowing migmi, it should be good at worst.
- Tiger Mask W: The exceptional youngster Akihiro Ota will be the animation director of episode 17; just the second time he handles the role, on the same show where he debuted a while back. Definitely an episode to watch out for.
We plan on making these writeups monthly. Expect them about a week earlier than this one, around the dates anime magazines are released as those are still the main source of information.
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