The director of this series is none more than Hiroshi Ikehata, one of the most promising directors of the last years, being one of the main people behind the actual webgen movement, the 37 year old director is a instant iman for talented webgen animators, and Kanada-style animators, thanks to his Gainax links with Hiroyuki Imaishi and Akira Amemiya, that have benefited his career, being always the episodes directed by him a visual spectacle, previously he fully directed the series Sore ga Seiyuu!!, that presented animation by the likes of Tamotsu Ogawa, Hironori Tanaka, Akira Amemiya, Tatsuya Miki and Hajime Mitsuda, the last one is the one that is going to be the Character Designer of this new series, a new and talented webgen animator with an speciality on character acting, his designs, loose, round, and easy to animate, are perfect for what it seems like an webgen animation heavy series.
Studio NUT is a newly founded studio created by Death Parade’s producer Takuya Tsunoki, and as that, it features a lot of peculiar talents linked to MAPPA and Madhouse, that will make this a very interesting production:
The director is Yutaka Uemura, a ex-GAINAX director, that, after directing Dantalian no Shoka, left GAINAX and joined MAPPA, working on Zankyou no Terror and Shingeki no Bahamut before doing his own series: Punch Line, that is filled with fun animation all over the place, even with the production issues here and there, assisting him is another Ex-Gainax animator, Kana Harufujii, a very consistently good director, but inexperienced, i’m really expecting to see how good she has turned out with the years since her debut on 2012 as Episode Director on Medaka Box.
The series composer is Kenta Ihara, one of the most young and promising talents on the scriptwriting crew, already demonstrated his talents on Death Parade and Zankyou no Terror, this is his second time adapting someone else’s work, after writing 6 episodes of the Polygon Pictures’s Ajin .
Between the animation crew, the character designer is Yuji Hosogoe, that started out on Production I.G on the 90s, doing a buzz as an consistently awesome animation director on his last years with the studio, until departing and being trusted with sub-character design on Shingeki no Bahamut and GATE, two series with consistently awesome character designs, so that departament is in good hands!, assisting her will be a big team consisting of the great Ryouma Ebata, a great animator with is destacable bouncing style that can be recognizable everywhere, even if his experience as character designer on Mahou Sensou was not very good, Hiromi Taniguchi, an amazingly talented ex-GAINAX animator, that was trusted with the totality of Kurage no Shokudō earlier this year, great OVA, go to watch it, You Moriyama, Tetsuro Araki’s friend, an stylish and in general, amazing designer, Haruhito Takada, a veteran, but fairly average Madhouse animator, and Takao Maki, another really veteran animator, with 30 years of experience, that was previously trusted with Donten ni Warau designs.
The Effects AD is none but the major effects animator of the industry: Takashi Hashimoto, with over 30 years of experience, he’s one of the most experienced and solicited effects and mecha animators of the industry, with his awesomely detailed effects that always looks great. Between the main animators, there’s 3 big talents: Shinichi Kurita, one of the best animators of the industry, that was the Character Designer of Death Parade, Shosuke Ishiibashi, another amazing animator, that showed his great talents on One Punch Man and Death Parade, with great effects works along with pretty character acting, and Hiroyuki Horiuchi, an incredibly versatile animator, capable of doing everything, from Mecha to complex character animation, and from animals to incredibly detailed effects animation.
Let’s talk about two things: Shingo Natsume and a little concept called “Human capital flight”, but aplicated at anime studios, alright, let’s get started!
First i want to talk about Shingo Natsume, his story and his persona on the actual anime scope.
He started on the studio J.C Staff as inbetween animator, starting to slowly create his style, maintaining a consistent, but nothing spectacular quality when he was ascended to Key Animator, his first major works were on Gonzo, though, where he KA’d about seven episodes of Speed Grapher and then KA’d other seven episodes of Welcome to the NHK and Sakkan’d another one, the episode #4, making his debut as Animation Director under the direction of Masahiro Sonoda and with a nice team of animators, between them, Kazuhiro Miwa and himself.
His scenes and episodes on Welcome to the NHK were loose, fun, and incredibly well animated, with a lot fluidity and inspiration on the first wave of webgen animators that was occurring at the time, but different, this being moderately loose and having a very representative thick black highlights that separate him for the rest of the crowd.
The other major piece of his career was Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, where he ended up thanks to his friendship with then Gainax animator Akira Amemiya, who was one of the major animators of the series, his work on this series was heavily praised, by fans, critic and even Hiroyuki Imaishi, which said that resemble none but the work of Shinya Ohira and Hisashi Mori, a new star animator was born. Also was on that time where he know Chikashi Kubota, a ex-XEBEC animator, that follow his steps since then, and also became friends with other talents, like Kenichi Kutsuna.
On Shingo Natsume’s Book Of Friends [No Pun Intended], the next steps were Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Sengoku Basara, where he made even more friends along the way, like Yoshimichi Kameda and Gosei Oda, the undoubted stars of One Punch Man.
He skipped a few steps and slowly started to being interested on direction, after being placed on charge of Yuu Kou’s Umi Monogatari final episode, and on the episode 6 of Masaaki Yuasa’s Tatami Galaxy, which were two awesome episodes full of incredibly webgen animation with a director with clear understand of how animation works, which make them shine even better.
His first work as something bigger than an Episode Director was on the movie of Fullmetal Alchemist, which was full of Shingo Natsume’s friends, all commanded by the character designer Kenichi Konishi, who is friend of Natsume since 2006, were both coincided on Doraemon: Nobita no Shin Makai Daibōken – Shichinin no Mahōtsuka, one of the 1000 movies of Doraemon, and then, they became acquainted and started working together in various instances.
His debut as director was on Hori-san to Miyamura-kun, with old friend Erkin Kawabata as storyboarder and episode director on the second episode, and Kenichi Kutsuna as character designer and animation director on all of the eps, a nice piece of webgen animation, but not with a lot of general charm or spectacle, not like Shingo Natsume‘s other works.
Then he exploded, the moment was there, he was chosen by none other but the ultra-super-famous Shinichiro Watanabe to co-directed Space Dandy series, one of the major animation spectacles of the last decade, with a lot of crazy varieties of animation and direction all over the place, with Shingo Natsume’s Book of Friends at full power, calling his friend of all over the industry for an awesome 26-week spectacle, that impressed everyone, of normal anime fans to critic and to sakuga fans to industry people, at this point, it became the standard of super production on anime.
He’s one of the big directors right now, but not thanks to his technique, but by his power of attract talent and make them work, that is a direction skill that fews can pull off, and Shingo Natsume, is one of them.
Space Dandy was also aired on Toonami, that helped to get his second anime series and his first major work adaptation: One Punch Man, which featured amazing animation by a lot of Natsume’s friends, but lacked one thing: For being of Madhouse, there’s was an awesome lack of in-house talents, with only Taiki Imamura, Hidehiko Sawada, Norimoto Tokura and Shosuke Ishiibashi up to the task of create work equal of better than the freelance talent that was brought to the series, which is horrible for a studio that until 5 or so years ago, was full with freelance talent, starting with our second theme on this preview: Human Capital Flight on Madhouse.
The studio himself was founded of a departure of talents of the studio Mushi Pro, were basically, all the talented people of the studio ended up on Madhouse, nurturing their talents, like Osamu Dezaki, and all the no-so talented people of the studio, but that were really prolific, ended up on the other side of the spectrum: Sunrise, which starting to make itself a name by creating a full new genre of anime: Mecha, and started out milking it out at maximum speed, now for almost forty years, with guys like Yoshiyuki Tomino and Ryousuke Takahashi, ex-Mushi Pro, being two of the major exponents of a genre where designs and animation are a lot more important than direction itself, so, they can get away with subpar direction along it has nice animation and designs, but let’s go back to Madhouse…
That group of talented Mushi Pro people founded their own studio: MADHOUSE, with the letters of the name of their founders: Shigeyuki Hayashi, Osamu Dezaki and Masao Murayama, there’s also Yoshiaki Kawajiri, but there was no space for him on the name:
MA – MAsao
D – Dezaki
H – Hayashi
O – Osamu
U – MUrayama
SE – ShigEyuki
The studio became the standard of good direction with the years, thanks to the input of Osamu Dezaki, that created one of the most revolutionary styles of anime: The Dezaki Style, that people like Kunihiko Ikuhara, Akiyuki Shinbo, Mamoru Hosoda, etc, popularized with the years, marking a importance on the direction over the animation, clashing with the styles of the other directors at the studio, Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s emphasis on animation and Rintaro’s experimental and never quite consistent style.
Of the four original members, the things started falling apart with the years, most exactly, after Osamu Dezaki’s death on 2011, that was followed by Masao Murayama leaving the company, disappointed with the purchase of the studio by NTV, that now controlled the studio projects, and founded his own studio: MAPPA, which he posteriorly leave on 2016 to fund M2, but that’s another story! and Rintaro’s retirement on 2012, 3 years after directing his last movie: Yona Yona Penguin, a stop-motion experimental movie, leaving Yoshiaki Kawajiri like the last founder member on the studio, that now usually storyboard between 2 and 6 eps on every Madhouse series, in the case of One Punch Man, he storyboarded 4 episodes on a row, that’s dedication!.
The death of Osamu Dezaki and the leaving of Masao Murayama, as the purchase of the studio by NTV, started out a big departure of animators and directors of the studio: Masaaki Yuasa, Eun-Young Choi, Tetsuro Araki, Ryousuke Nakamura, Mieko Hosoi, Mamoru Hosoda. What have these names on common? They are talented, and they are not on Madhouse anymore, a lot of them created new studios, other make a name for themselves on another studios, etcetera, on that time, Madhouse got two options: Or freelancing/outsourcing or overload they few in-house starts, they opted by both, having his in-house talents duplicating their work on these years, while the freelancing and outsourcing practically dominating the studio, watering down Madhouse’s style to the point of being unrecognizable.
Now, we’re going back to the present, ACCA is the union of these two things: The freelancers Shingo Natsume, Gosei Oda and Kanako Yoshida are the director and Chief AD of the series, while destacable Madhouse talent Norifumi Kugai is the character designer, that’s the face of the studio from now, and with the creation of Studio NUT and M2, i can’t really see how much time the studio will maintain with this system until it will not become sustainable anymore, the fall of a +40 years old studio is here, and we can do nothing but watch it.