New Directors: What’s In A Resume?

Aside from perhaps the hair episode of Yami Shibai, the 5-minute preview for Go Nagai’s Robot Girls Z was the most impressive, repeatable five minutes of animation I watched last month. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s over here. Short version: it’s a 5-minute comedy which, but for the more modern cutesy character designs, could totally have been written by Go Nagai. Its style of humor, featuring excessive violence and heroes doing more damage than the monsters they fight, is what he’s always been all about.

Being that I was excited about the project (this was only the 0th episode), I flew over to ann to check the profiles of the freaks involved. As it turns out, the director, Hiroshi Ikehata, has only ever handled one TV series before (Ring ni Kakero), which isn’t a very good sample size to judge a director on. But he has held the position of episode director numerous times, on all manner of series (from A-Channel to Yuyushiki).

There are no less than 8 new directors making their debut in this Summer 2013 season with similar information about their early careers available.* One of them is Hiroko Utsumi, the director of Free! Others run the quality gamut, from C3-Bu’s Masayoshi Kawajiri to Neptunia’s Masahiro Mukai. And, lest I forget, Shishiou Igarashi made a smashing debut with The Unlimited this winter. It’s definitely possible for first-timers to post veteran-esque performances, but far from guaranteed.

This observation led me to a question; what, if anything, can we glean from a first-time director’s experience in the bullpen? If it that experience is important, what part of it is? Is it better to have worked as an understudy to a great creator on a memorable show, or to build up tons of experience grinding out lots of support roles? To attempt to answer these questions, I pulled up resumes for the 11 directors who first got their hands on a serial anime project in 2012 and combed them over to see if anything in particular was a good indicator of their respective performances. This article outlines a number of the potential performance I examined, some better than others.

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Midseason Update: This Summer in Redline Quotes

Redline is the best anime movie I have ever seen. By which I mean it is the best anime I’ve ever seen and the best movie I’ve ever seen. While this summer season is certainly one for the books, it’s not delivering anything quite like that movie (and it wouldn’t be fair to ask it to). But because the movie’s now available free on youtube,* and because this is definitely the most fun season to be a part of since subs of the movie became available roughly 2 years ago, I decided to pay tribute by summarizing how everyone’s doing at (roughly) the halfway hash in the words of Sweet JP and co.

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[Warning: Spoilers, if that kind of thing bothers you.]

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First Reactions: Dangan Ronpa Episode 6

Chihiro coming back as an AI was certainly unexpected. Said AI seemed nice enough, though you can never tell with this show. More interesting than either the revelation of the AI’s existence or the fact that it was doing research to find the party responsible for the events of the show was the way characters ended up fighting over him. It makes a certain degree of sense, given Ishimaru’s pretty unstable right now and Yamada’s just like that, but it still feels like a rather silly thing for a major plot point. I guess I would have rather seen the characters just hanging out a bit more ala episode 4 over whatever this was:

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First Reactions: Free! Episode 5

Not that it matters, since the novel Free was based on was in the Kyoto Animation Award contest, but I think they were the perfect studio for this show. Of course, it’s a given that the high-energy swimming scenes would look good.* But the motion-heavy body language is boosting the comedy along with the action. something really pronounced in the one scene where Gou and Amakata revealed they wouldn’t be sleeping outside. Hiroko Utsumi really milked those one-syllable words for all they were worth.

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First Reactions: WataMote Episode 5

This week’s installment of WataMote was probably the most painful watch yet, but offered proof-positive that Oonuma Shin is enjoying the hell out of himself. From the start, where he scattered the character design roughs over Tomoko talking about creating a character, to the ED, where he just straight-up made a viral video for the fun of it, this episode consistently spoke to how much fun the people at Silver Link making this are having.* It’s more fun than Tomoko, that’s for sure.

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First Reactions: Dangan Ronpa Episode 5

Monokuma’s background antics made this episode. But there was definitely a lot to like elsewhere.

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Somewhere out there, a terrible writer is making a joke about not being allowed to bring pot in a courtroom

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First Reactions: WataMote Episode 4

WataMote doesn’t really have a consistent sense of episode structure in a way that some comedies do. Contrary to last week’s, where the rain and the cold bits split the episode, this week’s show ran through a series of 3 skits. The underwear one invoked some legitimate pity, and had a fairly touching conclusion.* However, the others (the nightmare and the molestation one) were based around karmic payback for Tomoko’s stupidity. All of which was accompanied by the series’ typical visual panache and some nigh-flawless transitions.

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First Reactions: Dangan Ronpa Episode 4

One of the big draws of this show is its varied character designs, and up till now it’s mainly been letting each personality tell its own story. This week, it kicked things up a notch and really gave us a lot more of the characters spending time with each other. The scene showcasing the rising tension was as solid as the early episodes were, but the comedy was vintage Kishi Seiji.* Between numerous scenes proving that Shoukiin Kagerou would have a field day with every one of them and the sauna scene proving that Ishimaru and Oowada were bad enough to be right at home being captains in Kaiser Reinhard’s fleet, pretty much every joke was a dead-on critical critical. What’s even better is that including all that didn’t disrupt the series’ appreciably fast pacing.

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First Reactions: Free! Episode 4

Training-based interlude that it was, this episode did come across as extremely well-researched. It found ways outline some of the key concepts and terminology behind different swimming exercises and strokes. It also happened to include different ways people can learn how to swim. For example, I never encountered the “turtle float” method when I was learning to swim. It was a neat new angle on an old bit of knowledge.

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First Reactions: WataMote Episode 3

Kuroki is such a fun comedy character. I often struggle with anime comedies where the protagonist is a nice-guy loser because I want to root for them so much and they keep getting unlucky in ways that totally aren’t their fault. Kuroki’s a much-improved version of the loveable-but-luckless archetype; she’s got the courtesy to dig her own grave much of the time, turning situations that would be just kind of sad into some righteously hilarious karmic payback.

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