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Young Animator Training Project #4

One thing that impresses me about Jiro Matsumoto (Freesia, Tropical Citron, Keep on Vibrating) is mainly his art. He’s one of the artists I know who can draw tantalizingly sexy women using lots of rough and sketchy lines with very defined features. The faces of the women he draws are luscious and positively alluring. Probably, I can compare him to Samura when it comes to drawing humans (Samura is just more technically adept, IMO). It also helps that he isn’t averse to drawing a few sex scenes here and there. Still, I have to say the only manga of his that I can say I really enjoyed would be Tropical Citron, as the whole thing is condensed “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” set in trippy psychedelic constructs. And perhaps that manga is the most well-suited for translation to animation too. It just needs a capable set of people to take charge.

Moving on, it’s kinda rewarding to finally finish episodically blogging a series, now that I think about it…

 

this guy looks more like earthworm jim than a carrot to me

 

Young Animator Training Project #4 – Bannou Yasai Ninninman (Masayuki Yoshihara, PA Works)

Here we are at last to the last installment of the YATP animation initiative. The whole thing so far has had its fair share of slow patches, but all the parts have been consistently watchable. It shames me to say that it was only while watching Ninninman that I noticed how there was a pattern to the entire project. One one side you have the vibrant and energetic kind of animation in both Kizuna Ichigeki and Ninninman, and on the other you have the slower and more character-oriented kind in both Ojisan no Lamp and Tansu Warashi–each with varied results. I’m just really really slow, I guess.

 

While both Kizuna and Ninninman may ride on the same boat, both episodes have their own stark differences. One has a tighter focus on the animation and movement, while the other makes up for that with its content. Kizuna had a fairly quirky and interesting premise, but it’s the actual production work that carries it through and through. Animation-wise, it’s the best out of the four episodes. Ninninman, on the other hand, relies more on its color and its content to make the whole gig entertaining. It is, at its core, kid’s fare, but in anime, sometimes it’s the kid’s fare that proves to be most engaging to watch. Both of these are strong examples of what I mainly expected of the series when I first heard of this Young Animator Training Project.

Coming after the lackluster showing of Tansu Warashi, I was now really delighted to have encountered a more fascinating and more lush piece of anime here in PA Works’ Ninninman. The show had a wide array of colors, very pleasing art design and most of all, an admittedly enjoyable story. There wasn’t much in the way of amazing animation, but on every other aspect Ninninman is a strong product. It was quite the engaging little thing, even if the actual story wasn’t the most complicated thing in the world. The presentation was tight–adeptly switching from dreams to reality in quick transitions, and it never made the main conflict too melodramatic. It’s definitely kid’s fare, but delightful kid’s fare.

I liked the designs. They have this kind of retro-ish kind of feel in the way the bodies are rounded and in the way the hair is drawn. The anime kind of reminds me of those old cartoons I used to watch as a kid for some reason. They are filled in with many sorts of different colors too, which gave the characters their own sense of life beyond the script. It comes off as feeling very unified, despite the considerable color palette used. Ninninman is typical anime in that there were hundreds of colors used for the hair, but still there’s an edge to the designs. I can’t really put a finger on it, but I suspect it must be how the people themselves are drawn. It has a unique and cartoon-y vibe going on. Of course, I would have liked to see them move in a more convincing fashion considering how varied their designs were, but I guess you just can’t have them all. It’s also typical anime in that regard.

PA Works seems to have their own sensibilities when it comes to background work. The way their scenery and overall settings are drawn all appear to run on the same thread as their other anime. Now I haven’t seen Angel Beats! as frankly it’s not my cup of tea, but that background touch I seem to recall was also in their other works (True Tears, CANAAN). It must be the way they process the drawings. There’s a kind of hazy, watercolor-like quality to them that I noticed–but I think that’s just me. Anyway, the overall art of Ninninman is brimming with life, almost gripping in their colorful qualities. I would say it’s probably the most sophisticated product in terms of that out of the whole YATP series. Even much more well-realized than Telecom’s contribution. Ninninman doesn’t have the childlike and imaginative quality similar to the one seen in Kizuna, but it makes up for that with sound representations of the actual objects.

Ninninman is a friendly film. It doesn’t have many grand trappings beyond those of the vegetable creatures. At its core it’s mostly a story about some kid learning to face her fears step by step, of course with the help of her imaginary buddies. It’s most decidedly a children’s story first and foremost, but it says something relevant to all ages. The anime is endearing and fascinating, most definitely helped by the cool designs given to the fantasy creatures, though the carrot really doesn’t look like a carrot to me. The creature Milk has the design I liked most. She had this retro, cartoon-y look to her that fits her personality quite well. Her design has a mature quality to it, yet it’s still very cute. Whatever the carrot man lacked in the design, it made up for with its antics. He really gave the short its energy and its zip with his zany transformations. The creature ensured that there was at least something happening on screen.

Though sometimes I felt that the dream sequences involving the kid and her parents can be a bit expendable at times, those sequences were still enjoyable enough in their presentation. I guess they’re important enough in that they lay down the problem of the kid, but the fact that the parents don’t do anything else aside from those dreams make those sections quite disposable. You can probably cut them out of the episode orr replace them with other creatures and it would still be the same. The whole film is endearing and cute, as you follow some kid who overcomes her childish jealousy alongside dealing with her dislikes for the sake of her friend. Good thing that the anime wasn’t too overbearing with its cuteness that even the most heartwarming of stories would make it feel enormously tacky. It’s just right. The kid’s deal with the bridge was nothing but a distraction and a plot device which was kind of a let-down, since I expected the short to go somewhere more insane and unhinged, but I went away from watching it still feeling content with how the episode went down.

I’m just glad that the YATP turned out to be an interesting series. Aside from the goal of giving younger animators some valuable work experience and exposure, the initiative never forgot to think about making shows that are entertaining at their core. The YATP itself isn’t filled with experimental ideas or whatnot. I think it’s important to attempt breaking new ground in anime with drives like the YATP, but I think that it’s also important to give attention to producing pieces of animation that are enjoyable to begin with. As such, the YATP is good not because it was an extremely experimental, groundbreaking project that tore down walls in Japanese anime, but it’s mainly because in the end, the initiative produced anime that are simply fun to watch.

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