In this episode of our charming parenting cartoon, their daughter starts going to school. She makes a friend and the entire family plays a fun game of dodgeball. Nothing outside of the ordinary occurs.
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, Episode Direction (演出, enshutsu): A creative but also coordinative task, as it entails supervising the many departments and artists involved in the production of an episode – approving animation layouts alongside the Animation Director, overseeing the work of the photography team, the art department, CG staff... The role also exists in movies, refering to the individuals similarly in charge of segments of the film.: Takuya Yamamura
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.: Kazumi Ikeda
Key Animation (原画, genga): These artists draw the pivotal moments within the animation, basically defining the motion without actually completing the cut. The anime industry is known for allowing these individual artists lots of room to express their own style.: Tatsuya Sato, Kayo Hikiyama, Chinatsu Morimoto, Keita Nagahara, Yurika Ono, Ryohei Muta, Seiya Kumano
— First episode not storyboarded by 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. Yasuhiro Takemoto, and yet his overarching vision seemed as strong as ever – Maidragon is still a sweet series about family. It effortlessly switches from silly gags to the heartwarming moments shared by the main 3 characters. Kanna’s role as their daughter was already established through their interactions, so seeing her becoming quite literally that felt like a natural move. The themes of acceptance were expanded further with a speech condemning xenophobia. I find it amusing how so much fiction deals with racism through tortured allusions that eventually lose any impact, yet the ridiculous show about the shameless dragon woman will directly call an idiot to all people who resent human foreigners. Still not sure how this show is real, still thankful that it is.
— As I mentioned last week, this was the first episode produced at the studio’s Osaka branch Animation Do. Takuya Yamamura and Kazumi Ikeda are becoming a recurring duo for these occurrences, and their output is unsurprisingly solid. Ikeda became an animation director during the 90s, which is particularly obvious on series like this where they can have fun with the drawings; they’re of course adapted to Kadowaki’s modern designs, but there’s a bunch of body poses and expressions very reminiscent of older works. Under her supervision the elastic cuts and looser art as the norm returned as well, she really knows how to craft a fun cartoon.
— The aspect that will stand out the most is the flashy animation reappearing, of course. The dodgeball match was a perfect excuse to portray their dragon strengths in appropriately ridiculous fashion; Tohru’s nonchalantness after catching someone’s serious attempt is followed up by still restrained yet spectacular movement. And when the humans flee and there’s no longer a reason to hold back, actual mayhem ensues. This is where Tatsuya Sato’s hand as Do’s ace animator can be felt the most, particularly with the abrupt timing of the throws. It does a good job at conveying their unreasonable power, and on a purely visual sense it’s a brief delightful spectacle.
— Besides those outrageous pieces of animation though, some of the best sequences stand out through the storyboard itself. Details like being able to see the incoming ball reflected on her eye before anything happens really enhance the experience. Thumbs up for Yamamura as well.
— Speaking of reflections, the ridiculous visual gags with her forehead should never stop. Old with the tired forehead so big and shiny it reflects the sun, make it actually produce light. This escalation of a common gag made me reminisce about Pani Poni Dash, and that’s always a good thing.
— There are still a handful of Animation Do’s key animators who haven’t shown up, so they’re likely working on another episode. I would bet on Eisaku Kawanami to direct that, since absurd comedy with a sweet touch was the field where he matured.
— They’re making my duty to praise the backgrounds every week quite the easy task, as they are still excellent. This week featured more cuts with moving 3DCG backgrounds than usual, since Yamamura often conceptualizes shots like that. It’s not an approach that naturally suits the show’s aesthetic, but the result wasn’t bad.
Ogawa and Ishidate are arriving next week, and by the looks of the preview we’re due another animation festival.
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