Another look at Anime

A painting on the wall

Fascinating and intriguing, Japanese animation is too often reduced to clichés, or not taken seriously. So, for those willing to discover another face of anime, to learn easily few major things, the following panel is pure gold. Called “That Scene was Awesome: Japan’s Iron Animators (Sakuga Anime)“, it presents & explains the works of several key animators (sakuga), and why it matters. Allowing you to see details that influence your experience. Very insightful, it’s worth your time!

Thanks to Colin, Neil & Sean for their amazing work.


Intro, & Nakamura: Grandmaster Fight Animator

I’m Colin Groesbeck. This is Neil Clingerman. Sean Bires. We’ve gathered this morning to talk to you about a convention in anime known as “sakuga”. [To the audience] Do any of you know what “sakuga” is? No? Wow.

If you’re fans of anime, you might already know that Japanese productions tend to have more limited motion than the high-budget productions of, say, western animation houses like Disney. Even though anime is constrained by budgeting, extra care and production value is often given to key scenes. Have you ever been watching an anime show or movie that might look like…. this?

Naruto Shippuden, episode 210

Kinda janky, right? Then all of a sudden, in the middle of your show, during a battle or some other key scene, it starts looking more like… this:

Naruto, episode 133

Pretty stark difference right? Quality-wise? Congratulations– that was sakuga.

A lot of anime will actually feature scenes like this animated at a much higher quality. Sean is actually going to speak about the production later and better put things into context through the production process, But what you should really know is that scene was animated (drawn) by one guy, alone… He drew it all.

It’s a well-known fact that in western productions many hands touch a single scene of animation. One guy will draw Simba while another guy will take the same frames and draw Pumba in and then three apprentices will draw the stupid little dancing flowers in the background. Tra-lala-lala.

In Japanese production, scenes or camera cuts are assigned to a single animator. The animator gets a storyboard and draws the cut on their own. Some shows actually feature entire episodes drawn by 1 guy. This type of production workflow has given birth to sakuga.

A single animator left to their own devices can really shine. I want to take a look at one of these guys really quickly. We’re gonna talk about Yutaka Nakamura.

Nakamura started out as an opening credits animator. He did the opening credits to Vision of Escaflowne. As he built prestige, he started doing fight scenes. He’s been featured in a lot of popular shows. We’re gonna take a look at three of his fight scenes.

Some of the staples of his work are really complicated, interesting choreography, putting the camera down at the characters’ feet during the fight, (which looks REALLY cool!) and extremely detailed key frames. So his drawings of each individual character are actually really detailed and look really nice. Let’s take a look at three of his scenes really quick.

Now keep in mind, this is just Nakamura drawing.

Sword of the Stranger, final fight

You might be familiar with this film.Cowboy Bebop, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

And one last look…

Soul Eater

Pretty impressive for just one artist working, huh

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