We’re back yet again to highlight the most promising episodes of ongoing TV series based off their staff, including the lineups published on official magazines as well as a bit of insider info. Some action series like HeroAca and Rage of Bahamut keep on benefitting from solid schedules, and there’s also a couple of very surprising creators showing up in other series within the next weeks.
- My Hero Academia: Things are looking more promising than one would expect. It’s pretty much a confirmed matter that the animation for the first half of S2 has been finished at the time I’m writing this entry, which definitely reflects on the overall polish. Production being this ahead is a rare instance in an industry where studios are often fighting deadlines in order to finish the episodes for the broadcast. And yet, we have two shows notoriously ahead of the schedule airing this season – the other being Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul. And it shows! Staff for the upcoming episodes reveals some of BONES’ big players joining the show. Episode 17 (S2 #4) will be storyboarded by Kou Matsuo who I’ve already talked about in my previous write-up. One of the studio’s strongest assets, Star Driver and Space Dandy‘s Yoshiyuki Ito, will be in charge of 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. together with his usual partner Kazumi Inadome. Veteran action and mecha animator Ken Otsuka is providing the storyboards for episode 18 (S2 #5). A supposedly action focused episode that will require staff capable of highly kinetic animation, and thankfully that’s exactly what we’re getting. The young up-and-coming artist Takashi Mitani – one of BONES’ latest acquisitions after leaving Osaka-based studio Wanpack – is an ambitious animator who’s clearly interested in drawing action and effects work. His skills are still not on the level of the veterans working on the show, but thankfully supporting him on the animation director’s seat will be the show’s sub-character designer Hitomi Odashima. This is the episode I’m personally looking forward to the most from a pure animation standpoint. Episode 19 (S2 #6) seems to be a breather episode and will be outsourced. However, storyboards will be provided by none other than the director of Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) and Concrete Revolutio Seiji Mizushima. Seems like every episode should have something interesting to look forward to!
- Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul: Sadly, this series still isn’t properly featured in any magazine. However, we can confirm the recurring presence of Akitoshi Yokoyama as 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 artist, and thus even more creatively staged action coming up; Yokoyama had been missing from the industry for quite a while, so his comeback to a project where he has this much presence is a blessing – good enough to get over the fact that he’s the de facto replacement for Kiznaiver‘s Hiroshi Kobayashi, who this time isn’t serving as assistant director and co-storyboarder for most of the show. This is another case where we have insider comments about the first half of the 2 cours series already being animated, so the production values will certainly stay strong for now. If the reactions from the preview screening should be anything to go by, episode 4 will be a treat for the animation fans too!
- The Eccentric Family 2: The upcoming lineup for Uchouten is equally one of the most exciting ones, and just barely more informative than the shows that are featured in magazines but with no staff. The main reason is that episodes 2~5 are all credited to Team P.A. as storyboarder, a pseudonym that obviously includes 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. Masayuki Yoshihara but that hasn’t been fully disclosed. By the looks of it the first batch of episodes will all be produced in-house; episode 4 stands out in particular, since it’ll be handled by the Korean director Heo Jong who was one of Yoshihara’s best allies in the first season. The animation directors lineup for 4-5 is seemingly the same duo, which includes the rather capable Noriko Morishima – a rather capable freelance animator who often works with BONES and P.A Works, and whom I’m personally fond of because of her output in Shirobako. The first season of Uchouten quickly offered an amazing event to look forward to in the form of Toshiyuki Inoue’s supervision, and while nothing on the list approaches that level, the series still seems to fare solidly.
- Frame Arms Girl: This weird hand-drawn/CG hybrid produced by studio ZEXCS is attracting a fair amount of talented people. Director Keiichiro Kawaguchi, the man behind shows such as Zettai Karen Children and Sket Dance, is extremely hit-or-miss when it comes to the quality of his works. What you can’t deny however is the amount of notable industry connections he possesses; this already showed in this series, as Tatsuya Yoshihara directed the opening for the show. The big surprise is that episode 4 is going to be handled by Japanese-Russian industry veteran Erkin Kawabata, who has been regularly appearing on anime produced by studio ZEXCS in recent years. Taking that into account, it’s hardly surprising to see him here….but what makes this event exceptional is that he’s storyboarding, directing and supervising the animation of the episode. Last time he was on that same position – on The Legend of the Legendary Heroes’ 18th episode – he assembled a team of outstanding animators such as Hokuto Sakiyama, Tomoyuki Niho, Shingo Yamashita and Kenichi Kutsuna. Most fans nowadays likely aren’t aware that show even existed, but that episode in particular achieved a bit of a legendary status amongst animation fans. While it’s unclear whether he’ll achieve a similar feat here, I’m cautiously optimistic.
- Granblue Fantasy: Granblue‘s strongest directional lineup has already passed for now, since the very promising newcomer Toshimasa Ishii already handled the third episode last weekend. There’s an intriguing piece of information, however: according to Newtype, Takahiro Miura is in charge of the 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 of episode 5. Miura has been working exclusively at ufotable for many years, and is mostly known as the director of Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works nowadays. He’s confirmed to be busy with the Heaven’s Feel movies, so he’s either making a very rare exception and helping out someone on Granblue, or the magazine made a very amusing mistake. Which does happen, for the record! We’ll see how this turns out.
- KADO – The Right Answer: Kado is a curious mix of 2D and 3DCG animation that we might talk about more in-depth at some point, but for now we’ll simply highlight the fact that ryochimo will direct, 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 and supervise the animation of episode 5. His presence on the series was well-known and he already appeared on the second episode, but this time around he’ll have full control of the episode. He was one of the pioneers of digital animation in the industry as well as an incredibly gifted artist himself, so any new development – even in a mainly CGi series – is well worth observing.
- Hinako Note: Episode 3 of this series stands out as it’s being storyboarded by Naoyuki Tatsuwa, who used to be one of the main pillars at studio SHAFT. Tatsuwa matured as a director on projects like Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, and left a mark with shows like Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru that departed from the very particular aesthetic patterns expected of the studio at large. He left the company in 2015 after directing Koufuku Graffiti and became a freelance creator, even showing up on Your Name as a key animator. His episode of Hinako Note will also feature the ex-SHAFT animator Seiji Hagiwara as co-animation director, so we could be seeing yet another wave of talent leaking out of the studio.
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