Thursday, 17 December 2015

Top 10 Favourite Cuts (Animated Sequences) of 2015

Well that certainly was quite a year for anime. Continuing on from how good 2014 was, 2015 was yet another good year with lots of shows to enjoy. Plenty got ridiculously popular. Yutaka Nakamura had a particularly noteworthy year producing some of the best work of his career and that's saying something since his work is always exceptional. On the movie front we got a meh Psycho Pass movie that at least was a decent action movie rather that total shit like season 2. Miss Hokusai came out, Studio Wit didn't completely screw up with Seraph of the End. Ufotable shit the bed on God Eater and i laughed for days. A lot went on this year but overall for me this year i probably watched a lot less anime than i did last year. Mostly down to personal preference as there were less shows i could really get into but the ones that were there for me entertained me to no end. My favourite anime of the year is a four way tie between Shirobako, Seven Deadly Sins, One-Punch Man and Ushio and Tora. Ushio and Tora specifically started a bit slow but i've grown to really love it despite the fact it hasn't been giving me much sakuga to sustain me. The good scenes we have gotten were by Yoshihiro Kanno and Kanno is whats keeping that show afloat with his episodes as animation supervisor being the best by far. Now like last year, the 3 simple rules i set for myself are as follows:
  • I have to have watched the show (no just seeing a cool clip on sakugabooru, i have to have watched a good amount of the thing).
  • The show must have aired this year (only episodes of a continuing show that aired this year count).
  • One sequence per show.
Warning before we continue as usual, there will be spoilers for many shows including but not limited to Seven Deadly Sins, One-Punch Man, Shirobako and more. Now without further adieu.

10. Fairy Tail: Yuya Takahashi continues his transformation into mini-Shida

This year was the year i got back into Fairy Tail after skipping the majority of the ending of the last couple of arcs. That was thanks to the Tartarus arc which is when everything that's built up over the series to this point finally comes to a head and sets up the direction the series is heading. During the course of the run of the current Fairy Tail series i was mad as hell. Not only because the plot was garbage but also because for the most part the animation was also bad. It wasn't until the end of the first cour that Yuya Takahashi first got noticed but since then Takahashi has only improved. This year in particular in his work in the series (openings especially) he's started to really mimic Naotoshi Shida's famous style and brought that quality to all his Fairy Tail work with this particular scene being where that comparison is most clear. 

9. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works: Nozomu Abe distracts viewers from the fact the show turned to shit

As a pretty casual fan of the whole Fate franchise having only seen Fate/Zero, i was excited when they announced that there would be a new adaptation of Fate/stay night. I sure as hell wasn't gonna watch the uglyass Studio DEEN adaptation from 2006 so i was hopeful. Over the course of the first half of this new adaptation i was pretty hooked. I liked all the characters and was kind of okay with ufotable's penchant for overusing post processed digital effects that distract a lot from what one is actually meant to be looking at to the point that at times i couldn't tell what the flying fuck i was watching. When the second half started however, red flags were raised when all of a sudden the quality of the writing became so juvenile and Shiro became so bloody obnoxious that i was taken aback. This motherfucker is seriously the worst character i've ever had the displeasure of watching have his worldview not challenged enough by a show. Rin all of a sudden became incapable of defending herself and i found myself rooting for Archer to show Shirou some goddamn sense. As my hate for the show grew however my love for Nozomu Abe's contributions to the show grew. The scene i enjoyed most was one of the more visually arresting encounters between Lancer and Archer which showcased Abe's adept command of layered effects animation so spectacularly that upon my first viewing of it i watched the scene several times. Abe continues to be one of the best effects animators working in the industry and this show was lucky to have such a talent because by the end the quality of animation (however hampered by digital effects it was) was the only thing that kept me going.

8. Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade: Charmingly cartoonish character animation

As the sequel to one of the most charming one offs i've ever seen, Yoh Yoshinari's Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade has a lot to live up to. Thankfully it delivered in spades. Yoh Yoshinari's hand as the director is all over this thing and a s a lover of Yoshinari's style of animation the Little Witch Academia franchise is like eating some really good cake. I really enjoyed the new installment and not just because the new school of mini-Yoshinari's did a fantastic job with all the effects animation but also because of the aforementioned charmingly cartoonish character animation. Its full of squash and stretch, cool smears and has a bouncy quality that really gives the characters life. This seen by Shouta Sannomiya specifically has such personality that it makes Akko even more likable than she already is with the goofy little expressions and exaggerated movements. This is probably the most recent thing i watched and there was no way this scene wasn't gonna make it on here. Brilliant stuff.

7. Death Parade: Nona's Lament

Death Parade managed to show me something that i don't think we see often enough in animation and i think this wasn't something i'd ever seen in animation before. Ice skating i feel is something that would be especially hard to do because it would require conveying a sense of graceful speed and some unique camera movements to look right in animation. Takashi Kojima being the talent that he is managed to get this across very successfully even if the great cuts are interspersed between the static cuts. The way that this strengthened the story moment also couldn't be more overstated. Seeing animation this good for a scene that is conveying to the viewer the beauty of this sport and how much the character enjoyed it only further breaks your heart as you realise that this is what she lost. As a continuation of an Anime Mirai project like Little Witch Academia this show was one of my favourites at the start of the year and its really stuck with me. I really liked the way the characters were designed (courtesy of Shinichi Kurita) and the direction overall and look forward to what Yuzuru Tachikawa does next.

6. Sound! Euphonium: KyoAni at their best with great use of lighting and a splendidly delicate quality to their animation

This show was basically what i wanted K-On! to be when i watched the first season of that show on the recommendation of a friend years ago. It has more focus on the music and life around it rather than messing about like K-On! did during the first season. As the series progressed i was continually impressed with how they rendered the performances and the detail with which they presented the instruments. At the start of the year it was my favourite show and as the year progressed and i watched other shows i've slowly calmed down on my opinion of it but still very much enjoy it. Kyoto Animation is a studio i have always respected as they always manage to put out great work on almost every show with consistent quality no matter the genre. This show was very well directed and also very well animated and they just absolutely dazzled me with the ending scene of episode 8. There were many other moments i could have put here instead such as the performance sequence in the last episode, Kumiko's running scene in episode 12 and great moments such as Yuko's outbursts. This scene however had a delicate quality to it that really struck me. The character animation also has a very soft quality to it that works tremendously for a scene like this and as the moment when these 2 character finally click for me it was a great sequence. The scene works even better with the splendid use of lighting and the aesthetically pleasing backgrounds. KyoAni at their best.

5. Seven Deadly Sins: Shikama decimating Torii to my chagrin

As Seven Deadly Sins progressed it became fairly evident to me that Takashi Torii wasn't gonna get the opportunity to truly let loose and show us what i've come to love him for. The sword fights became more and more just displays of the users elemental superpowers than a genuine show of skill with a sword so Torii was stuck doing mostly decent effects cuts. Meanwhile out of nowhere, this scumbag Takahiro Shikama upstaged Torii is episode 13 and then did it again to a more ridiculous degree in episode 20 with Gilthunder letting Hendrickson witness the full extent of his power. I was figuratively sobbing when i first saw this scene not only because it was confirmation that Gilthunder hadn't betrayed Meliodas after all and i was relieved but also because i was mad as hell Torii didn't get to shine after all. Shikama continues to show flourishes from one of his evident inspirations (Yutapon) but has a unique craziness in this scene that makes it awesome to behold. So while i love this scene i will forever stay mad because now Torii is doing what i wanted him to do here in the first place in a shitty light novel adaptation. I shall stay mad.

4. Shirobako: Making me cry like a baby

Like i stated in my review of the show earlier this year, Shirobako is one of the few shows that has actually made me genuinely cry and stay in that state for hours after the fact. The scene that elicited that response from me was the culmination of Zuka-chan's arc over the course of the season in which she finally got to work on the same show as her comrades and got a decent role in a show. You could see how euphoric she was in the moment as she performed her dialogue but as she was finishing she looks back and see her friend there and she smiles. In that moment both Aoi and i had the exact same reaction. After episodes and episodes of watching Zuka struggle to make her dream come true it finally happened and in the best way possible. She got the part of her own merit and not because any of her friend helped her get there and she was genuinely happy and that feeling was too much for both Aoi and me. I cried like a baby and ain't even ashamed. Yuriko Ishii animated Aoi's scenes so effectively that it could elicit that reaction in me and Ayumi Nishihata's drew Zuka's smile so perfectly. This was absolutely one of the most powerful moments in any show i watched this year and that's why i'll forever love this show. 

3. One-Punch Man: Norifumi Kugai earns his place on the pantheon of WebGen greats

One-Punch Man is one of my favourite shows of the year by far. The fact that they were able to produce something that works as well in the medium of animation as ONE and Murata's version worked in the comics medium is truly a miracle. Shingo Natsume was definitely the only director that could have pulled this whole thing off with his endlessly talented industry connections. Norifumi Kugai first got my attention last year when he was working on Space Dandy with a lot of great work on that show more specifically also the best dancing cuts in the music video for that show's opening song. Here however he cemented his status as one of my favourite newer animators with this amazing display in episode 1 of One-Punch Man. While Yoshimichi Kameda produced some spectacular work in the scenes proceeding Kugai's you can definitely see the difference in the 2 animators styles. Kameda has very strong pencil work while Kugai and many Webgen folks are able to portray weight much more effectively thanks to the advantages of using digital animation techniques. This scene in particular is breathtaking. The fact that Saitama is barely visible but the monsters are so effortlessly defeated shows just how bottomless his power is in a fantastically visual way. There were many cuts in the various episodes that i love to bits especially Mumen Rider's incredibly effective character animation cuts in episode 9 by Toshiyuki Sato but this moment exemplifies the appeal of One-Punch Man in one sequence for me. It was masterfully done. 

2. Kekkai Sensen: Yutapon flexin'

The fact that this wasn't even Yutaka Nakamura's best work this work is mind boggling. I would have put his work on Concrete Revolutio here however i haven't even bothered with the show though i hear my apathy is somewhat justified. Yutaka Nakamura continues to prove why he's the one of the best action animators currently working in the industry. His animation is incredible. Even his other shorter cuts in the show were very good. For a first episode though as is customary you have to go all out and boy did he go all out. The sense of speed, the effects animation, the poses!! Man this is just a spectacular display and there isn't much more i can say about it. It was a great way to hook viewers even though i kinda dropped off at about episode 7 so it barely qualifies using my criteria for this list but it is most of the show technically because i got just past the halfway point so whatever.

1. Go! Princess Precure: Kazuhiro Ota's Cure Scarlet Transformation is absolutely dazzling

This topping my list may be blasphemous to some (Shingo Fujii stans) but out of all the amazing work that's been coming out of Princess Precure this year, Kazuhiro Ota really did outdo himself with this amazing display of fire effects and fabric animation. Although Shingo Fujii did outstanding work all throughout the series i was just absolutely astounded by the quality of work on display here. Ota already got my attention for his work on the final fight of Happiness Charge Precure which is a show i haven't watched but kept up with through sakugabooru. Ota and his cohorts Fujii and Nishiki Itaoka all worked hard to make the show a joy to watch and for once Ota managed to produce some of the best work on the show let alone some of the best animation of the year. While i'm praising Ota though i do have to praise Fujii for his outstanding work making the fights he worked on feel very three dimensional thanks to the faux 3D camerawork he excels at. This show has been such a joy to watch this year. You can watch the Kazuhiro Ota Sakuga MAD i put together below.

Well, I hope you all have a happy holiday season. This time for sure i promise my next post will be the Architecture in Anime one. That one will be done before the year ends so look forward to it and thanks for reading. ^_^

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