Naruto Shippuuden Opening #18: Why Hiroyuki Yamashita understands Naruto better than anyone

The gem on this opening has various meanings.

The gem that the dead characters let go at the beginning is the wishes and hopes that they had while they were alive, that they want to keep alive on the world, deepened on the earth of the living. Ideals of peace, honor, freedom and justice that if it not was for their great work sharing them to others they will be lost to the time.

The gem that Naruto searches is happiness, his dreams, that he restless tries to catch through the series. The gem at the beginning for Sasuke was his dreams, of killing his brother and knowing that now that he has achieved his goal, be happy, then it changes the meaning, he is fighting with it, he has achieved his goal, but now he understands his brother and wants to actively fight against his dream, and Sakura is an intermediate on both sides, the light of both irradiate on her, she is the one that has always stood up from them, and even as her tears falls seeing them on their worst, she still want both of them alive and safe.

The transition shows Sakura being changed by Rin and Naruto and Sasuke by Kakashi and Obito, the gem that has been keeping them together -Rin- is destroyed, then Kakashi face backwards to the past, while Obito face forwards, to the future, with Madara’s plan on his head, finally Kakashi face forwards and Obito backwards, when Tobi’s identity is revealed and his motivations exposed, one is looking to the future, the other is looking to the past, then both are back to back, unknowns to each other, wanting to subsane their mistakes, finally they are both facing backwards, remembering the past and the gem that their lost appears as a reminiscent between them, then both face forwards, to the future, as they realize that that was what Rin would surely want for them, to both fight together so the pain that they felt would never been felt anymore from anyone.

Madara’s gem are his ambitions, that Kaguya took from his, as she is quietly revealed, showing that Madara’s ambitions werent his, but Kaguya’s ambitions, and that gem rightfully is her gem.

At the end we see everyone trying to catch a gem, is the gem of the peace, the ideals of peace, honor, freedom and justice that the lost ones gave to us, a torch-passing moment, also connecting with the Kakashi and Obito part, everyone tries to catch that gem, because with those ideals, nobody would have died, without war, hate, dishonor and distrust, nothing would have happened, and they need to catch it to end them all, but nobody can, even as they try, and the gem slips up from their hands, and keep falling, nobody can catch it, because nobody is free from those errors, everyone played their part on keep the cycle of blood around.

Finally, Naruto catch it surely and firmly with his hand, he get those values, and he ends the cycle of blood that has been perpetuated through the years on the Ninja world, he is the choosen to get that gem from the dead, so nobody would have their same fate again, with their lives ended early from the war and violence of the world. He also with this catches his dreams and happiness that he has been trying to find all along.

Storyboarder and director Hiroyuki Yamashita, with this, show us that he understands the series and its message better than anyone.

Do Kaiju live and die for the sole purpose of being defeated?: A small Gridman piece.

Do Kaiju live and die for the sole purpose of being defeated?


And us, humans, for what we live for?

For our personal gain? Collect as much money or prestige or friends as we can make until we die? For the sake of others? To give altruistically every part of ourselves to another person? For god? To devote ourselves to a blind faith of something that we have never seen and even never understand?

We don’t know.

And we spend all of our lives trying to find the sole purpose of our lives, we are all Akane, we are all selfish, we are all lost, we are all gods that can’t adapt to their own universe, let’s take back to the episode nine of SSSS. Gridman, and let’s take back ourselves to our teenage years.

How was you when you were a teenager?

You dreamed about having a lot friends, a boyfriend, to be good in the studies, be a good person, be adored by everyone…be a god?

How was Akane?

She dreamed about having a lot of friends, a boyfriend, to be good in the studies, be a good person, be adored by a god?

The scene where Akane’s dreams start to crumble, we look at ourselves, as we looked upon ourselves on denial after realizing that all of those dreams were all lies and tricks, unreal expectations of a perfect life.

And then we realize, searching everything that we thought it would make us happy, with what we are left? With nothing, we have nothing besides our desires, we are empty, alone, we are lost without a purpose on this world, with nothing to live or die for.

As Akane realizes, at the end of the day, we can’t reach our self-imposed expectations, we end up falling short, and when we fall short, we realize that those were impossible, that we were searching by the moon instead of just checking our pocket.

On Hopscotch, argentinian author Julio Cortazar, impersonated on his main character, Horacio, says the following:

“The hopscotch is played with a pebble that must be pushed with the tip of the shoe. Ingredients: a sidewalk, a pebble, a shoe, and a beautiful drawing with chalk, preferably colored. At the top is the sky, below is the earth, it is very difficult to get to the sky with the pebble, it is almost always miscalculated and the stone leaves the drawing. Little by little, however, the necessary skill is acquired to save the different squares (snail hopscotch, rectangular hopscotch, fantasy hopscotch, little used) and one day you learn to leave the Earth and climb the pebble to Heaven, until entering Heaven, (Et tous us amours, Emmanuèle sobbed face down), the bad thing is that just at that height, when almost no one has learned to climb the pebble to Heaven, childhood just ends and falls into the novels, in the anguish of the divine rocket, in the speculation of another Heaven to which we must also learn to arrive. And because it has left childhood (Je n’oublierai pas le temps des cérises, kicked Emmanuèle on the ground) it is forgotten that to get to Heaven you need, as ingredients, a pebble and the tip of a shoe.”

What that means?

The Heaven is the meaning of our lives, people forgot how to reach heaven, without noticing that maybe the answer is just on a pebble on our pocket that we need to push with the very tip of our shoes, Akane also forget this, we forget this, maybe the true happiness -the heaven- is not a magical whimsical fantasy of having your own world where you control everything and everyone serves you for your wishes, and if they not, you killed them with magical Kaijus.

Maybe the Heaven is something more simple, that we reach with only a pebble and the tip of our shoes, it’s happiness, it’s friendship, it’s whatever we may think of, it’s the meaning of our lives, and to reach it, we don’t need kaijus or become god, we don’t even need friends or boyfriends, we just need a pebble, a simple impulse to reach happiness.

We always live trying to reach that heaven, and until we don’t understand that, we will never reach it.

Do humans live and die for the sole purpose…of finding one?

Naruto Shippuuden’s Opening Analysis: Opening #4

Fourth Opening – Closer by Joe Inoue

An overview on the singer and song:

This is an interesting one. For start, Joe Inoue is foreign, yeah, because Joe was obviously a japanese name, he is actually ethnically japanese because his parents were both japanese but based on California rather than, well, Japan, not for nothing he shows perfect english on this song, he learned japanese from mangas, his parents didn’t talked japanese, he didn’t talked japanese, nobody on his environment talked japanese, he learned it by himself.

Another thing that he learned from himself is to play every instrument present on his songs, the keyboard, the guitar, the bass guitar, the drums, everything is 100% recorded by him, plus writing the lyrics and composing every piece of music that he mades, plus directing and editing music videos for people like Diana Garnet and himself, he is probably the single most talented person that i’m going to cover on this entire series of blog posts.

He also has an incredible work ethic, releasing 7 10+ songs albums on the last three years alone, he also has a lot of Youtube channels, for different countries, where he shows his incredible polyglot skills:

Really, this guy is talented as fuck, he is a genius.

However, the core of his sucess is not his solo stuff, but rather his also incredible work rate behind the scenes, a very in-demand music writer and producer, so, yeah, he made quite some waves despite not being incredibly succesful as a solo singer, he released three major label records between 2006 and 2010, this track is from his second album, ME!ME!ME!, the album was one week at #86 on the Oricon charts and dissapeared, the song on particular had a longer shelf-life, spending seven weeks on the charts and peaking at number twenty two, but this song, along with Kaze no Gotoku from Gintama. are his only two hits ever, both around the low points of the top fourty.

An overview on the creators:

So, for one thing, neither Tsuru or Suzuki are on this, the director of the opening was series director’s Hayato Date, let’s see a resumee of his carreer: Naruto. Yeah, he spent most of his life working on Naruto, from 2002 to 2017, that’s whole 15 years of Naruto, he previously did series like Saiyuki, Tokyo Underground and Kaze no Yojimbo, participated as storyboarder on some other Pierrot series such as Flame of Recca and Great Teacher Onizuka, he now spent his days at Pierrot’s subsidary Pierrot Plus doing things like Konbini Kareshi and Gunjou no Magmel, he is a conventional director with not a lot of personality or specially creative, he is more work man-like, rather than any kind of a directorial genius, his works are very bland and pretty boring on the visual side, but he works well for some things, openings aren’t one of them, but we will look at that on a while, the Animation Director was Yumenosuke Tokuda, all he can say about him is that…he is an animator, he sure is! nah, he has over twenty years of experience on the anime medium but he hasn’t made anything noteworthy, again, a more workman-like approach to animation, a lot of cutting corners, polish to compensate for lack of fluidy, etcetera, again, not something you will want on an opening, but we will see that later.

As the Director and the Sakkan suggest, the KA list is made exclusively of Naruto regulars: Seiko Asai, Hiromi Okazaki, Yasuhiko Kanezuka, Yuuki Kinoshita, Chiyuki Tanaka and Genichiro Kouno, with the only ones not being regulars at the time but more like “luxury animators” the duo Hiroyuki Yamashita-Norio Matsumoto, both of whom everyone knows which part they did on this opening, spoiler: is the best.

Analysis Of The Song:

I have not much to say about the song, it’s a fairly standard Pop Rock piece, a lot of loud guitars and synth melodies, a lot of drums playing on the background, in fact, a whole issue that i have with this opening in particular is that the mixing is absolutely awful, Inoue mixed himself this song, and damn, is bad, the loudness is at about 3db, that is VERY loud, and all the instruments, and even Inoue’s voice all mix together on a garrish mix when they get to the chorus, so, for the music, this song is complete trash, i just can’t stand it.

The lyric’s message is pretty well, however, just value what you got and always remember the people that left you, a pretty nice message considering the moment of the series that it was played.

Analysis Of The Video:

Ok. This video is bad. Very very bad.

The designs look a lot clunkier, the colors are very very saturated, and on a constant, it looks very bad and mediocre, including awful CGI animation, bad cutouts of the characters, stiff animation, and on general, lack of any semblance of Tsuru’s brilliance, including the last scene with Naruto running cycling through character cutouts placed over a bad CGI background, oh my god.

There is a semblance of Tsuru’s brilliance though, the Yamashita and Matsumoto scene obviously, that takes up a solid 25 seconds of the opening, but it doesn’t do a whole lot for making it better, and specially because those 25 seconds were already on the second version of the third opening.

In fact, this opening may have one of the most memorable scenes of any Naruto opening: Hidan vs Asuma, animated by Hiroyuki Yamashita, the choreography, the rotating camera, Asuma’s great facial expression when hitted by Hidan, and then, the least, but not lesser, horrified Shikamaru’s expression running to meet his dead master: Determination, then denial, and at the end, desesperation and deception are all shown on Shikamaru’s face on that cut, that on my opinion, might be Seiko Asai’s work on this opening.

After that little piece of genius work, the opening goes back to its mediocre self.


Naruto Shippuuden’s Opening Analysis: Opening #3

Third Opening – Blue Bird by Ikimono-gakari

An overview on the band and song:

This is probably one of the most interesting bands i’m going to cover there. Ikimono-gakari were founded on 1999 by Hotaka Yamashita and Yoshiki Mizuno, both of them being the main lyricists of the band, and the ones that play the instruments, while a third member was added latter on, Kiyoe Yoshioka, that is the girl who sings all of their songs. They started doing Masayoshi Yamazaki’s covers on the street, and so, after Yoshioka joining, they were two 16-year olds with their classmate’s little sister doing covers of One More Time, One More Chance on the street. Also, their name was because they did “Ikimono-gatari” duties on the school and that’s where they meet, being on charge of their local school’s plants and animals when they were 6 years old.

The band went on hiatus on the year 2000.

Then how they did this opening if they went on hiatus eight years before?

The band during this hiatus period with their two main lyricists working hard on the university and Yoshioka having issues with her throat, they started to increase their fame on Japan, and around 2003, they reunited again.

Their first show was a street show in front of a train station.

Their manager was someone that had seen them once on a live venue.

This sounds like an anime, it isn’t.

They finally released their first indie album on Summer of 2003 and performed their first normal show on 2005 and they continued to publish indie music, that’s until Epic Records signed them on 2007, with their first major record album, The Story Of A Town Where Cherry Blossoms Bloom, being released on March of 2007 to great results, sold 260,000 copies on Japan, reached #4 on the charts, they were a sucess from the beginning, even if they had to change their guitar-harmonica sound of their indie work for a more polished pop rock edge.

They have an impressive CV, 5 consecutive #1 albums and 27 top ten hit singles on Japan, until they finally decided to go on a hiatus on 2017, to rest a little from all their overexposure, since they are one of the biggest bands on Japan, even having their own fan club Ikimonogatari Fan Class 1-2, they made music for sport evens, for anime, for movies, they won all kind of prizes and recognition from everywhere, they were big.

Yoshioka decided to go solo, realising her first album Utairo on October 2018, Mizuno is an happy married man living peacefully, probably making use of his Sociology title, and so is Yamashita, Sociology title too and everything.

This song was the biggest song of their third studio album, it sold 90,000 copies and reached #3 on the japanese charts, an overall success for an already giant band at this point.

An overview on the creators:

Toshiyuki Tsuru directed it. Hirofumi Suzuki sakkan’d it. Water is wet. Also, most of the animators of the previous opening also appear on this one, the main difference there is the KA work from legendary animators Tetsuya Nishio and Norio Matsumoto, altrough other interesting creators such as Gainax-breed Hirokazu Kojima, Tsuru’s friend Hiroto Tanaka, who has such a talent for layouts that has been consistently through the episodes Boruto’s main “Layout Animation Director” and series regular animator Seiko Asai.

The Song:

The music on this is very interesting, as it stray away from the normal j-pop song, Yoshioka has a very distinctive tone of voice that differentiate itself from the slog of half-baked j-pop singers around there, and interesting mixture of violins, harmonicas and acoustic guitars with the more traditional Pop Rock sounds of drums (that for once, sounds like a real person is playing the drums and is not computer-generated by some hack on FruityLoops) and electric guitars.

The lyrics are quite interesting as well, for once, they sound a lot more poetic and structured once they are translated that your usual j-pop lyrics

"Vowing never to return once I have taken flight, 
what I aim for is that blue cerulean sky.

Having yet to remember "grief", I have begun to understand "agony". 
The feelings I hold towards you are now starting to change into "words".

As I awaken from my wandering in this unknown world's dreams, 
I spread my wings, and take off into the sky."

The theme of this song is pretty clear as well, is a song about freedom and taking off any limitations that you may have, to go on with your life and go to a bright future, with freedom and peace, even being aware of your own personal failures but still trying to reach the best that you can be, find peace, love, and solace on the fact that, at least, you tried to fly.

The Video:

The video starts right after the last opening, with Sasuke refusing to go back to the village and Naruto’s feeling sad about it.

As a lot of Naruto’s openings show, this opening’s main visual motif is Naruto’s falling, remembering the people that he meet on the way and then coming back to his senses, this motif gets played as well on the eight and thirteen openings, and i understand it very well, Naruto is always tiptoeing the idea of entering the darkness, falling to it, of becoming a villain, but in a true hero fashion, his moral convictions wouldn’t let him fall on those dark waters, he has always trived to fly, go higher than he ever did, and his friends, the people that he meet on the way, are the ones that keep him always by the bright side.

The second part of this opening is just fighting with filler randos.

However, on that second part, i find the most exciting piece of animation on the entire opening, Sora’s animation around the 0:52 mark, the expression and the volume of Sora’s body movements just constantly impresses me, i think this may be Tetsuya Nishio’s work, but since people always tell me he did a different part of this opening and that that is actually Hiroyuki Yamashita’s, i don’t know.

On pretty wide terms, this is good, altrough a large chunk of the opening is useless.

Naruto Shippuuden’s Opening Analysis – Naruto Shippuuden OP#1-#2

First Opening – Hero’s Come Back by nobodyknows+


An overview on the band and song:

nobodyknows+ is a japanese rap group founded on 1999, at the point of this recording, they had six active members, that dropped to five around the time this song’s single was released, rappers Hidden Fish, Crystal Boy, Yasu Ichiban, Nori da Funky Shibire-Sasu (A fan of Del Funky Homosapiens eh?), and G-Ton, plus producer DJ Mitsu, i’ve listened to some of their work, is mostly very 90s hip-hop inspired, althrough, at around this time they were getting an heavier and sharper edge to their songs.

This song belongs to their third studio album vulgarhyhm, that reached as high as #32 on the charts, with the song itself being the main single of that album, reaching #17 on the japanese charts, making it a comfortable hit for them, as expected from a song of this series.

An overview on the creators:

This video was directed and animated on his totality by two animators, Hirofumi Suzuki and Toshiyuki Tsuru, the latter being the one that SB’d it, Suzuki famously started at Studio DEEN around the late stages of the 80s decade, with famous animator Atsuko Nakajima acting as his mentor and best friend Tokuyuki Matsutake practically animating everything with him, he worked a lot on the Ranma 1/2 series, worked on the beautifully animated You’re Under Arrest OVA series and was involved on a lot of OVAs at the time, and he particularly linked with colleague Toshiyuki Tsuru on the 90s, someone that he will eventually will end up working together with him during the rest of his carreer, specially on Hayato Date’s series, that ended up with him becoming the Naruto’s character designer along with Production I.G’s very own Tetsuya Nishio. Tsuru meanwhile, or, as he likes to call himself whenever working on those things, Yasuaki Kurotsu, started around the same time as Suzuki but on a completely different environment, he started on Studio Giants, along with people like Masayuki and Kazuya Tsurumaki, working on things like Takashi Nakamura’s Peter Pan or Hideaki Anno’s Nadia, and he is like, the most talented of the two, he is one of the pioneers of the use of digital technologies on Anime, using various times on Naruto and animes like Kaze no Yojimbo, also by Hayato Date, a very like, prehistoric, now really aged badly CGI, but that at the time was pretty much revolutionary, the Gaara vs Rock Lee fight, for example, couldn’t  be made without CGI rotation effects and CGI sand all over it, for example, or the scene where Zabuza’s fights with Gato’s lynchmen, he has this very cinematic vision of Anime that can’t be reached without instruments like CGI and Digital Photography, that he also uses on this opening, and that can’t also underestimate is merit of also being a great animator, again, keeping with his cinematic theme, he is an overrealistic animator, on the same way as people like Hiroyuki Okiura and Tetsuya Nishio, with a lot of tridimensionality and volume to his work, that some people can even confuse by actual CGI, so, yeah, the guy is a genius.

The Song:

Yeah, i don’t think i’m going to surprise anyone saying that this song is a great pump-up anthem, lyrics about stomping and making noise, and fighthing, and going all your will to your enemy, is a great Shonen song, and a great song to boost, DJ Mitsu’s production is very clean and powerful, just the correct emphasis on the correct beats, and the energetic shouting-like delivery style of the MCs do great accompanying DJ’s Mitsu great producing work. It’s fantastic, actually.

The Video:

This video is just a great introduction to Tsuru’s work, a lot of digital photography and editing is used on there, and most if not all of the information is conveyed through the movements and the photography, for example, Sakura around 0:33 moving weirdly-puppet like, hard spoilers on the inversed images a few seconds after that, including spoilers that wouldn’t happen until a few episodes after this opening closed out, so, yeah, that was kind of a miss, but there are two main scenes there: Gaara’s dissapearing into sand “Mr. Stark, i don’t feel well” style, with everyone trying to capture him until Naruto’s does, and the Akatsuki revelation that is one of the most badass scenes on any opening of Naruto, it’s fantastic, a rotation shot around the members finishing on a close-up of Deidara’s hand, a fantastic move (if they didn’t already showed it on the fillers leading to this, but well, who watched them anyways?).

So, yeah, this was really nice, nothing great tbh, but good.

Second Opening – Distance by LONGSHOT PARTY

An overview on the band and song:

Long Short Party is a japanese Ska band that was founded on 1998 and broke up around 2010, like nobodyknows+, they also had six members: vocalist Sasaji, guitarrist 秀一, bass player SAITARO, drummer PxOxN, trumpetist Ken Iikawa and sax player KJ,  and unlike nobodyknows+, their experiment with success went awful, like, they were independent for nine whole years before they signed with DefStar records, they released the first single, this one, a year later, and broke up just three years after it, with their debut big label album being postponed during three years until its release on 2010, the same year the band eventually broke up, their had four album-less years between 2006 and 2010, that absolutely killed them, their last independent album reached #294 on the charts, their first major label one wasn’t even on the charts to begin with, and this was their biggest single ever, reaching #25 on the charts, having just two top fourty hits, this one, and their Natsume Yuujinchou song, a two hit wonder, if you can call it that way.

They are probably really regretting this song now, well, i can believe that they were already regretting this song then, seeing that DefStar gave zero fucks about them during three stale years.

An overview on the creators:

Toshiyuki Tsuru directed it, Hirofumi Suzuki sakkan’d it, nothing new over the sun, a quick overview of everyone involved on its animation: Hiroyuki Yamashita, then promising new animator of the show, everyone already knows him and loves him, Naruto legend, spent the last twelve years stuck to this series and nothing else (except Colorful and a few cuts around there on Osomatsu-San, but you get the point). Kazunobu Hoshi, another Ranma animator like Suzuki, with less spotlights, Naruto opening regular. Takahiro Chiba, one of the shining gems of Production I.G, a graduate of the Tokyo Animator Gakuin, main guy behind Pro I.G’s Matsushita studio excellence during the past few years on series like Haikyuu, Run In The Wind and Ballroom E Youkoso. Keiko Shimizu, with very few spotlights, a trusted enough movie animator that well, animates on a anime movies for a living. Tokuyuki Matsutake, Suzuki’s best friend, Ranma guy too, really prolific, a great animator and director on its own right, now on Studio Silver, you know that you are something when Kou Yoshinari follows you everywhere. Yuu Yamashita, also known as charozo, graduated from YAG, he pretty much belongs to the same animator group as Koji Masunari and Koji Yabuno, which everyone knows are great character animators, very delicate, the Besame Mucho group, group that Suzuki, Matsutake and Chiba also belong to. Chiyuki Tanaka and Takeshi Ito, Pierrot animator, Naruto’s regulars. Hirofumi Masuda, effects specialist. Tsuru himself with his Kurotsu pen-name and Suzuki.

The Song:

This is song isn’t even close to Ska, and is also overblown as hell, with as much as instruments as you can fit in thrown loosely and very loud on the mix over Sasaji’s voice, it isn’t garrish because it has certain calm moments but it can be headache-inducing on the long term, the lyrics are just about being distant with a close friend and always wishing the best for him, well, i’m pretty sure that Naruto does, but i don’t know if Sasuke does too.

The Video:

It’s bland. Weird naked-sasuke-with-a-snake-on-his-crotch things aside, this video mostly works on a constant bombast that i’m not really fond of on anime openings, i mean, the animation is fantastic, but the video really doesn’t do anything creative with anything, like, it just hyping for the Sasuke’s re-encounter and nothing else, with actually a very nice parelism of the first and the last scene, but everything else, it’s just a one minute and half foreshadowing on the entire arc.