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Spotlight: Yasuhiro Aoki

I’ve been hearing a lot of exaggerated statements such as “anime is dead” or “so-and-so-trend is killing the industry” from fans or by the industry people themselves (supposedly) from time to time. People also say that creativity in anime is dying, and that there’s nothing good that would come from it, aside from the more well-known creators that put out work. It’s an exaggeration, sure, but sometimes I get the feeling that some of us fans are underestimating the creative powers of the industry. Understandable (I’ve felt that way sometimes), but after thinking about it for a while, I find this thinking to be quite narrow. Say what you want about the conventions within anime, but there is also great, highly creative work being done outside their spheres.  Good animation work can still be found in the traditional framework of anime; it’s just depends on where you look.

In TV anime alone, there is the talented Ryosuke Nakamura who has taken control of mystery anime Mouryou no Hako and stamped his inventive personality into it which made it a great show. There’s also Kenji Nakamura who transformed Mononoke and Trapeze into highly energetic and psychedelic pieces of animated films. Some great animators-turned-directors also made some great productions in the recent years, such as Mitsuo Iso (Dennou Coil). There is a rich supply of talent hidden deep within the anime industry, but it seems as if they just aren’t given the chances they deserve. Only a peep into their real capabilities are oftentimes shown, as if teasing people. Shinya Ohira, for example, has shown that he not only has amazing talent and skill as an animator, but he also seems to have talent as a director, as shown by Genius Party Beyonds Wanwa the Doggy. As one of the best and most individualistic animators in Japan, he should be given a larger chance to fully express himself. But he hasn’t. This is also true for one of Studio 4C’s best directors Yasuhiro Aoki. I’ve mentioned him in passing in my rambling a week ago, but this time I wanted to highlight him and his work (the few that I’ve seen, anyway).


Kung – Fu Love (Studio 4C, Yasuhiro Aoki)

This film, had it been fully realized, would have been one of the best animated feature films in a very long time. I would even venture to say that this would have been on the same level as Yuasa’s masterwork Mind Game. But alas, that did not happen. Knowing the supposed circumstances behind this short only depresses me nowadays, especially after watching it more than a couple of times. Apparently Kung Fu–alongside Daisuke Nakayama’s Global Astroliner–was planned to be a full-length feature film, with completed storyboards and script and all (Aoki completed the storyboard for the entire film), and this short was its pilot. Unfortunately, some problems arose (most likely they didn’t find any willing sponsor) and the film never left the ground. As such, both this and Global Astroliner were crammed into another 4C omnibus, Amazing Nuts. Yet another injustice has happened. This was a legitimately great film, which had a ton of creativity and quirky fun infused into its short run time of 10 minutes.


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