Thursday, 5 January 2017

Top 10 Favourite Cuts (Animated Sequences) of 2016

Well that certainly was quite a year for anime. After One-Punch Man's excellence last year, Studio Bones decided to fight back to reclaim their place at the top of the anime industry with Mob Psycho 100, Fairy Tail's second series ended with a high note adapting the well liked Fairy Tail Zero spinoff manga, Funimation and Crunchyroll combined to form an Industry Voltron of sorts, Makoto Shinkai became the new Miyazaki apparently, Naruto kind of ended but didn't, Yoshihiko Umakoshi worked himself silly, Terumi Nishii exploded back on the scene with her designwork on Jojos Part 4 and Toei Saved Christmas. It was a bit of a tough year on many other fronts however for a lot of people (Including me) which is why I'm glad that dumpster fire of a year is gone. Lets see how 2017 treats us and just be glad it finally arrived.

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 Mob Psycho 100, Jojo's Bizzare Adventire, Sound Euphonium and more. Now without further adieu.

10. Batman Bad Blood: The Answer Studio's Finest Hour

Now i'm gonna save my overall thoughts on this for an upcoming blog post (Which i swear is coming soon you guys i promise) but Batman Bad Blood was The Answer Studio's absolute best looking movie in their series of animated Batman movies. They already raised the pretty low bar folks had after Son of Batman with Batman VS Robin which was quite an improvement but the really outdid themselves with the fights in this movie. The standout being the fight between Nightwing and Batman in the finale. I presume it was animated by Kenichi Tsuchiya who is the resident big animator at the studio, being in tight with Makoto Shinkai and working on his movies when not working on one of The Answer Studio's projects. Moreso because this scene most closely resembles Tsuchiya's animation of the climax of Children Who Chase Lost Voices. Whether or not it was him it was still the standout combining acrobatics and character animation effortlessly for a product that perfectly communicate the state of both characters at the films climax with them being beaten down and lumbering around after being dealt heavy damage.

9. D.Gray-Man: Katsunori Kikuchi is here to stay

Katsunori Kikuchi is a guy whose work i have followed since i first noticed him in episode 3 of Fairy Tail and ever since then he's only improved leaps and bounds. As he's moved up and become a regular animation director for Toei's One Piece TV Specials and worked freelance as both an animator and an animation director you can track his slow evolution as he's managed to scale back the wild and choppy nature of his early work and made it more rhythmic in its pace. He no longer goes overboard with a million key poses a second and  now has more complex but never boring and realistic poses if that makes any sense. This particular cut exemplifies the animator he has become to me and it has really been a fun journey to watch develop. Even though its not the best sequence in the show it is one of the more interesting in my eyes as a reflection on the development of the artist behind it. Well done sir.

8. Jojo's Bizzare Adventure: Highlight of a quality show

This season of Jojo's has had its ups and downs but in the latter 3rd it really hit its stride. With really strong villains and great side characters, it's proven to be a much stronger adaptation than Stardust Crusaders moreso because it was a lot less drawn out. Not every Stand battle needs to be a two-parter and without that shackle the battles stayed as long as the material allowed. The one big change from last season was the openings no longer being done by the fantastic CG Studio Kamikaze Douga. No, this time around they were done with traditional animation making the show look consistent across the board. The last opening of the show featured one of my absolute favourite pieces of background animation and while brief, this was a cut that had so much detail and added a great 3 dimensional quality that i can't help but be enchanted every time i see it. Gets me really excited at the start of every episode and also it helps that it focuses on one of my favourite character in the show, unrepentant asshole Kishibe Rohan. What a guy.

7. Space Patrol Luluco: Kai Ikarashi's Rise Begins

One of the lesser known but just as skilled young Studio Trigger animators, Kai Ikarashi dropped on my radar when i first saw his work on Imaishi's animator expo short. His action was bombastic and fun and with his work on Luluco here those are the exact same words i'd use to describe this. The extra THICK lines and great expressions and effects really make this stand out. Ikarashi regularly posts small gifs on twitter so you can get an inkling of what his style can be like but watching his work over the year the guy is really going all out as he improves. His work on Kiznaiver was just as bombastic as this and there weren't even beams and guns. He has a talent for the bombastic and i can't wait to see how he expresses this gift in the anime he works on next year. Definitely one to watch.

6. My Hero Academia: Kazuto Arai's very good not bad year

I became very anamoured with the work of Kazuto Arai this year. As a new animator he literally exploded onto the scene in a big way this year with his various impressive effects cuts. My favourites of his being His explosion cuts in Macross Delta and Gate. I didn't actually watch those shows however so including them would be cheating but i found a way to not cheat and still appreciate Arai's work. I did actually complete watching My Hero Academia (It's pretty good lol) so i can talk about how much i liked his good but short cuts here. The thing i find most interesting about this episode is the patchwork nature of all the animators work. Each animator got small parts of the action to focus on and while normally these look a tad jarring, in this case getting a bunch of webgen talent and a few analogue folks to work in the same general style turned out great. Arai's work caps off the showcase with incredible force as you can feel how heavily Nomu was Detroit Smashed the fuck outta the show. The way Arai animates him flying back with the smoke trails and his abdomen firmly pushed upwards in such an exaggerated manner. it just works. Then the impact onto the ceiling of the complex they're fighting in with the deformation before the explosions was another very well executed piece of animation. The short time between the impact and the explosion goes a long way to selling the action. This was just a little piece if his work but Arai did such splendid work this year. He's so technically adept at executing explosions. He has a thorough understanding of their mechanics in a way that very few animators can actually pull off and make look close to reality with just a little exaggeration for added effect. At times his work even looks more technically impressive than industry giants like Hideki Kakita and Takashi Hashimoto. He'll definitely be one to look out for in the coming years.

5. The Asterisk War S2: Torii's Revenge

After being severely and soundly upstaged by Takahiro Shikama in Seven Deadly Sins, Takashi Torii came back with a vengeance on The Asterisk War Season 2. While he'd already done some good work on the first season, he went beyond even his previous works quality to produce some of his best work in recent years. Part of it was helped by Shikama being otherwise occupied working on ERASED but hey lets not talk about that and instead praise Torii for an impressive comeback. He really did well for his first time really animating a character interacting with a CG background. he uses that to its fullest advantages with the shitty main character guy really moving and swinging around making great use of the environment to completely overwhelm his much bigger opponent. Torii's signature effects are all over this sequence with his yutapon inspired impact frames sprinkled throughout. 

4. Sound Euphonium: Back with a revengeance

While this season of Sound Euphonium feels a tad more segmented than the first given its adapting arcs with very specific focuses that are somewhat disconnected from each other, that didn't stop Kyoto Animation from giving us some truly gripping displays of emotion. After episodes of buildup and anticipation, Kumiko reaching her breaking point in her quest to convince Asuka to stay in the concert band was one of the very rare occasions that we've seen her really let herself be emotionally vulnerable. You can tell that by the cracking in her voice, the swelling of the music and most importantly, by the effectiveness of the animation. Folks more knowledgeable than me presumed Tatsuya Satou animated parts of the sequence but either way, the multiple shots of Kumiko's clenched fist and arms flailing goes a long way to illustrating everything she's letting out during this moment and i couldn't help but get swept up in it. This season of Sound Euphonium may not have been as great as last season but when it is the moments are still spectacularly executed. 

3. Naruto Shippuden: The Final Battle

It took me a loooooong ass time to decide what my favourite cuts from Naruto were this year. Ever since the 2 Part final battle episodes the show hasn't really looked bad. Not a single episode looked noticeably dire. The final battle episodes themselves where some of the most cathartic viewing experiences in anime last year. After all the buildup and the weeks off, we finally got what we had been waiting for all this time. The episodes were directed spectacularly by Hiroyuki Yamashita who was at the height of his powers. After much deliberation though, i realized my favourite cuts were by young talent, Huang Chengxi. I first was made aware as to his skill by his work on episode #465 but his work in the final battle was just as good. While not the most technically impressive work in the episode, it managed to stand out with its considered character acting and great fabric animation all improved by neat effects animation. As the franchise moves on this year we'll be sure to keep and eye out for more of this fellows work. The next big Pierrot animator in the making i'm sure. 

2. Mob Psycho 100: The show that got me animating again!

Mob Psycho 100 has a plethora of scenes to choose from if one were to go about trying to decide their favourite. One could choose either of Yutaka Nakamura's 2 spectacular action cuts, Yoshimichi Kameda's outstanding Background Animation in the opening and his cuts in the show proper, Keichiro Watanabe's digital background and effects cuts and plenty more. For me however, the cut that really stuck with me throughout the entire shows run and kind of switched a gear in my head back on was the background animation cut in episode 1 by Shin Ogasawara. The rotating background and effects shot just dazzled me the first time i watched it and i replayed it so many times that it got me to try doing some background animation of my own to practice some techniques and i just became obsessed with background animation in a far more intimate way than i had been before. It being one of the more difficult techniques to pull off, i paced myself and as the cuts progress below you can see me gradually get the basics more or less understood.

Now if i wanted to attempt anything more complex i'd have to take way more time and really figure this thing out but the fact that this one cut inspired me so much so that i spent weeks just messing around doing this sort of thing kind of makes it my default favourite. It now occupies a special place in my heart alongside, every Yoshihiko Umakoshi cut ever and everything in Birdy the Mighty Decode (except Tomoyuki Niho cuts lmao). Now please bring season 2 on goddammit. I ain't about to do a Durarara-style wait for 5 years for more of this absolutely scrumptious animation spectacle now y'all.

1. Nanbaka: The Year of Sugie

Toshiharu Sugie had quite the year last year. As one of the most prolific animators of the year some of his work wasn't quite up to par but when he went all out boy was it good. You'll find my good man worked on lots of projects last year (around 26) but the show that he truly got to show off on this year was Nanbaka. Featuring some of his most fun animation ever, Sugie got to do a wide variety of stuff and half of it wasn't even credited. You cannot fool me though. I've been studying his style for a little over 6 years now so i can more or less tell his work even when he's not credited. My success rate is pretty high so i call myself a "Sugie Zealot" on twitter for a reason. Getting off my high horse though, y'all niggas really would have a hard time convincing me if you tried to argue that Sugie wasn't the MVP of this year overall. Lending his talents to the now pretty good looking Sailor Moon Crystal and the initial skirmish between Gear 4 Luffy and Doflamingo in One Piece #726, In Nanbaka thus far he's done the widest variety of cuts on a single show since Fairy Tail for him. Here we got him animating the majority of the highlights of the tournament arc including Bo staff fights, debris effects, flame effects dragons ... speaking of which, thats my pick. My #1 favorite cut of the year was Toshiharu Sugie's Fire Effects Dragon. The first time i saw that i was like no goddamn way was this him. Then going frame by frame, the timing, the flame effects (curiously similar to his effects work on Saint Seiya Omega and Lost Canvas), the #SugieTiming, the motion lines coming off the limb that is in fast motion, the Sugie motion arcs ... all of it was lining up and even just the ease in of that cut was 100% Toshiharu Sugie. I almost cried y'all. My dude is really flexin and his dragon looked fierce as fuck too. Man i couldn't deal. I was so happy. Then the following episodes has great #SugieDebris and those famous twist action motion arcs of his. It was just a great time to be had for me. While others were watching Yutapon cuts with his usual quirks and ignoring other humans that draw and exist, i was just happily admiring the work of a man that comes on these small shows gives them a little flair for the fans to enjoy then off he jets to the next lower tier show to spice things up and even on the bigger ones he's holding his own. This man is a man to be admired, and while he doesn't have the unique draftsmanship of your Umakoshi's or the extremely dynamic and over the top style of a Yutaka Nakamura's, this hot shot was working on this little prison comedy and giving it his all making sure those of us that watch these shows have something nice to look at. Amen to you sir, amen ...

Well, I hope you all had a happy holiday and thanks for reading. ^_^

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