Animator Spotlight: Takahito Sakazume [坂詰嵩仁]

Twitter: // Sakugabooru:

-Born on January of 1988, Takahito Sakazume is one of the youngest known animators on the industry, being only twenty-nine years old.

-Like a lot of animators on recent years, he is member of the famous webgen movement, a group of animators that got started on a non-conventional way on  anime, they started posting gifs on internet and they after some time got scout by industry people, on the case of Sakazume, he already knew Tatsuya Yoshihara since their were students, being him is senior during that time, and also Yoshihara was the first one to enter on the anime industry, calling Sakazume to participate on his directorial debut, Muromi-San, when Sakazume was only 25 years old, being one of the major players on the Tatsunoko Pro series, where he did KA 4 eps plus the OVA.

-I already mentioned Yoshihara, but the 27-year-old animators Shun Enokido and Ryu Nakayama are also fundamental on Sakazume’s development since they work together often as an animator unit, that i like to call TakaRyuShun, like if it was a megazord or something, maybe i should add Yoshihara and made it TakaRyuTatsuShun.

-After working on Muromi-San, he stayed on Tatsunoko Pro, being called to work on Ryoochimo’s directorial debut Yozakura Quartet, where he worked with the TakaRyuShun team on eps 6, 9 and 13, the second one directed by Tatsuya Yoshihara, completing the TakaRyuTatsuShun formation.

-He made his design debut on Tatsuya Yoshihara’s third TV series Monter Musume no Iru Nichijou, where he did Prop Design and participated as Key Animator on an impressive 8 episodios of the series! On this series he also did In-Between Animation for his own scene on the third episode, making it still his most impressive feat on TV anime, showing at the heights of his powers on that series.

-He gained mainstream following since the Fate/Grand Order commercials surged, animated by him and Shun Enokido, an impressive display of flashy and speedy webgen animation spectacle, that impressed even the most skeptical animation purist and the most ignorant of casual anime viewers, being known since then thanks to his Fate/ work, where he is working on right now as Action Director on the new series of the franchise, Fate/Apocrypha, series that already on the first episode animated a impressive 4-minute scene at the very beginning of the episode on team with Shun Enokido.

-His style consist of stilted animation clearly inspired by Tatsuya Yoshihara, fast paced movements and clean smears, with realistic fabric animation and impact frames reminiscent of Yutaka Nakamura’s modern style, making it a impressive combination of his inspirations.

-Tatsuya Yoshihara is directing Black Clover at Pierrot, hoping that he shows up there since i’m probably the biggest Pierrot follower on earth, and i will really happy of him being there to deliver some impressive action cuts on such a mediocre shounen series.



Script: Respecting the late Kazunori Mizuno

This was the original script for Canipa’s Respecting the late Kazunori Mizuno video, written on April 2017.

The 19th of March of 2017, on the studio Pierrot, a famous japanese animation studio known by their Shounen shows, a director of the studio was taking a nap, after working without rest during days, probably on their new series Boruto: The Next Generations, a series that was going to be the debut of young animator Hiroyuki Yamashita as Series Director, that director was a big friend of his, even doing the storyboard on the eleventh opening of the previous series, Naruto: Shippuuden, on which Yamashita did animation supervisor’s work, said director never got up and died on the studio, he was going to celebrate thirty years as Episode Director on 2018, and was going to see one of his youngsters do his debut as Series Director on the small screen with his biggest friend, Noriyuki Abe, supervising him.


His name was Kazunori Mizuno.


A few days after it, Kazuyoshi “Yagi” Yaginuma and Ken’ichi Fujisawa, two greatly talented animators that were working on the studio at the time, announced his death on Twitter, after no official announcement of the studio was made, the causes of the death are still a mystery, but everything points out that the case was a heart failure for overwork and chronic sleep deprivation, apparently he was having trouble to work properly for the amount of work that he did, and used that excuse to take a nap, where the sad event happened.


But let’s shed some light about who is this director and why should we care about it, shall we?


Kazunori Mizuno entered on the industry really young, as a Production Assistant on studio Pierrot, with only twenty-two years, he was lucky enough to receive a steady and fast promotion thanks to his incredible work ethics and talent to justify it, even being so young, he had ambition and he had the talent to be promoted to Episode Director with only one year as Production Assistant, and even more was his joy when he was permited to do his first storyboard outside of Pierrot on the Tatsunoko I.G OVA series Yagami-kun’s Family Affairs, where he worked along some of industry best animators like Yoshinori Kanada and Kazuchika Kise, and on the next years, he continued working on small OVA and TV projects with talented people, more particularly, he was a big friend of veteran animator Yoshiyuki Kishi, and he worked on everything that he was on.


A few years passed on, and then, the opportunity of his life came, Noriyuki Abe approached him on Pierrot to work on his new series, Yu Yu Hakusho, the anime adaptation of one of the hottest manga of that time, penned by Yoshihiro Togashi, its anime adaptation was hyped and Noriyuki Abe reunited a team of young, talented directors and animators to make it work, every one of them was trying to surpass each other constantly, a real race to see who does the best episode, and of the storyboaders, Kazunori Mizuno and Akiyuki Shinbo presented the strongest game, with a unique approach to photography and a ceratain beauty coming from their storyboards, even the action ones were superb with their clever use of angles and exciting as few photography.


After Yu Yu Hakusho, he directed a small, unknown AIC OVA called Kishin Corps that didn’t really take off, and returned to Pierrot on 1995 after not being present on the last cour of Yu Yu Hakusho, to work on the next Noriyuki Abe’s series Ninku, that was the debut as Character Designer of a really young and promising animator called Tetsuya Nishio, that was making waves on the industry thanks to his unique approach on character acting, that we can see even today. Kazunori Mizuno’s episodes were the most talent grabbing of the whole Ninku series, where his striking boards presented a perfect opportunity for people like the then young Yutaka Nakamura show off his talents, Kazunori Mizuno’s talent to do convincing action scenes was again probed, and he delivered, with the help of such talented animators that were always at disposition to help him out.


Some years after, on the new millenium, after passing a lot of time working at Madhouse on series like Trigun, Cardcaptor Sakura and Hajime no Ippo, where, he, by the way, did his first opening on the latter and after that while, he reunited with his old pal Akiyuki Shinbo on The Soultaker, being on charge of the very penultimate episode of the series, to show how much he was trusted by a legend like Shinbo to do striking work on his series.


Before diving into his Bleach years, let’s talk about his first full series directorial debut, Zoid Genesis, the sequel to the classic Zoids series, that at time was highly anticipated by some sakuga fans because the fact that talented animator Kyuta Sakai was on charge of the character designs, but even with the amount of talented people working on it, it didn’t worked too well, messy production was the major cause of it, a lot of outsourcing and scheduling problems ended up on a pretty regular series with only a few highlights far in-between on Seiya Numata’s episodes, most exactly, the episode twenty eight, directed by Numata’s himself, giving Mizuno one of the first chances to that young, promising animator, as Abe did with him, to direct a full episode.


While working on Bleach, he worked various time with his old pal Shinbo on Hidamari Sketch, Nanoha and the Monogatari series, developing a interesting style on his layouts and color design, with flat shadows and more profundity than before on the drawings, that reflected on his work, specially on his Bleach OPs, were all the tricks that he learned for Noriyuki Abe and Akiyuki Shinbo were put on practice on the openings six, nine, ten and twelve, all of them with a incredibly interesting and unique take on color design and photography, that make his work stand out when compared to the other directors, and created striking visuals only with the power of good color design and complex layouts.


His general work on Bleach is something to look at to: Twenty eight episodes, Four openings and Three movies during seven years, standing a lot compared with his contemporaries on the studio for his unique takes on photography and color design, creating beautiful images, and his action storyboards, that were some of the bests to look at, with over the top, well choreographed action that capture your eyes, and that are some really good examples of the Rule of the Cool, enhanced by Masashi Kudo’s excellent designs too.


After Bleach was finished, he moved to Naruto, where he did his debut on the episode 294, part of the Chikara saga, a special arc directed by Toshiyuki Tsuru that showed off the strengths of the production’s best staff, and after doing his episode on that, he continued on the series as the to-go director for important action episodes, taking part on the most strikingly directed episodes of the series, as Storyboarder or as Episode Director, his work presented dynamic camera, a unique color design and excellent layouts to elevate his episodes to another level, as well as his openings and endings, such as the 24th ending, one of what, I consider, is one of the best endings ever made.


The last aired episode of him was the episode 499, the penultimate episode of the series, a goofy light-hearted episode to end the storyline before the final episode that finished off the cycle, giving pass to a new generation.


This is another sad case of the crude reality of the industry, people are overworked and paid with the minimum, this, the case of Yuka Sugizaki last year [that was sadly ignored by a lot of the community, even when she was only twenty and so years old] and the production assistant of A-1 Pictures five years ago are not simple cases of “Animators” dying, but are cautionary tales about the possible future of the industry, or what will happen if the offer continue being more than the demand and the fans [and the staff themselves] doesn’t insist on better quality, better schedules and better work circumstances.


Studios like ufotable, Kyoto Animation, GoHands or White Fox are making waves to the change: Paying animators, production assistants & directors stable, monthly wages, doing only one or two anime for year, to keep the offer low, and not overwork themselves, and keeping their staff in-house happy and controlled, even of the driest of the situations by trying to aim for better schedules, may or not like their work, they are indeed making advances to make a better industry.


We should care about these cases because if we care about it, we are opening the industry to a brighter future, these are not simple cases of “Animators” killing themselves for their art because they are Japanese and you know, Japanese work a lot because they want, or at least, that what stereotypes says, the crude reality is that they are on a industry were you have to work to get a good pay, even if is at cost of your life, and that needs to change, is not going to change immediately tomorrow but we have to strive for change so talented creators like him or Yuka Sugizaki wouldn’t pass for the same destiny a few years from now.


Animator Spotlight – Eiji Abiko

Eiji Abiko [安彦 英二]【あびこ えいじ】

-Starting out on AIC, and then moving to Studio Junio, Abiko did his debut on the industry with the episode 27 of the anime Virtua Fighter, produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsha and aired between 1995 and 1996.
-However, he didn’t started to stand out as a animator until the early 2000s, he was a very versatile mechanical and action animator on that time, but he feels actually more in love with character animation.
-His style of character animation is incredibly subtle and realistic, the characters moves on a realistic, soft and believable way, his drawings aren’t Jin-Roh realistic either, his drawings are soft and warm.
-He has gained more attention during the last years thanks to being one of the major players behind the animation of the two mega-hits Osomatsu-San and Yuri on ICE!!
-It was said that on Osomatsu-San, there was a “Matsu Room”, where him, Kanta Suzuki, and Naoyuki Asano, played around making a lot of noise to make interesting ideas for the anime, kind of a school club, and they remember it fondly, since the studio give them freedom to do everything that they wanted.
-After being a major player on Michiko to Hatchin and being the animation supervisor of her Animator’s Expo short Endless Night, Sayo Yamamoto called him out to do the perfomances on Yuri on ICE!!
-His perfomances are pretty much the best of Yuri on ICE!!, the characters move with beauty and grace, on a realistic, yet soft and sensible way, giving it a incredibly realistic and unique feeling to the, they feel alive, even if it’s only during the perfomances, since the rest of the series is animated on a very perfunctory manner, the perfomances are something unique to look at, since you comprehend, with the animation, why the characters feels the perfomances as something beautiful, and make you feel in love with the sport.
-He also was a major player on the Mushishi anime, where he was one of the main animation supervisors, giving a it a soft, realistic aura to the animation of the characters, creating some of the most breathtaking moments of the series, such as the end of the episode #2 of Mushishi Zoku Shou, with a masterful use of background and character animation, on a very unique and perfect piece of animation, on a otherwise limited, yet, well animated, series.
-Making his first gigs as storyboarder very recently, he presents a really great understanding of framing and movement on animation, with great moments where you can really feel that he understands these -sometimes- marginated aspects of animation.
-He’s really connected with anime director Sayo Yamamoto, director Hiroshi Nagahama, animator Naoyuki Asano and anime studio Manglobe, giving the best of him where he is working with them.

Takayuki Hirao


-He, at first, wanted very hardly to be a mangaka, but with the time, he decided to instead, try a career on anime industry, entering on the Osaka Design Vocational School, after spending two years here, he was employed by Tokyo Studio Madhouse.

-He started out on the studio as a Production Assistant, as early as 1999, with him being only twenty years old, debuted on the Akitaro Daichi’s anime Jubei-Chan as a Production Assistant, and spent approximately four years on that position

-After being trained under  Kou Matsuo, he finally did his debut on TV anime with the episode eight of Hiroshi Hamasaki’s full series directorial debut: Texhnolyze

-With only one year of entering as Episode Director, he was charged with his more important role so far: Being the episode director of Paranoia Agent’s episode one, and process Satoshi Kon’s storyboard, at the end, he did a good job at it, doing assistant episode director duties on other six episodes, including the final episode and one of the best and most ambitious episodes of all time, episode nine.

-After that, he left Madhouse and joined ufotable, being his first series on the studio also his full directorial debut, Futakoi Alternative, with him on charge of the creative process while Hikaru Kondo was on charge on the planning and the technical process of the series, since Hikaru Kondo wasn’t as good as Hirao on the creative.

-His work on Futakoi Alternative presented a lot of his trademarks, including dynamic camerawork and precise control of timing and the passage of time, with slow-motion and speed-ups, tightly controlling the pacing of the scenes, and have a good sense of what you can do on anime controlling the space and the time of the series.

-He’s mainly inspired by three directors: The legendary Satoshi Kon, his friend Tetsuro Araki and Kawajiri’s student Hiroshi Hamasaki, taking clues of the screen organization of the first, the timing and the camerawork of the second and the color choices of the third to create his unique style, separated from them and incredibly recognizable, and you can feel it perfectly on his storyboards:


-On the scene of this storyboard, belonging to the fifth movie of Kara no Kyoukai, that he directed, by the way, ufotable used CG models as reference, like Kyoto Animation did about the same time for K-ON!.

-He was still tied to Madhouse, and he directed four more pieces at Madhouse: Kurozuka #9, were Araki ask to overdo the truck action, and he delivered pretty well, High School of The Dead #8, where Araki asked again to something funny with the breasts and Hirao did the best thing possible: MATRIX TITS, that is still one of my favorite scenes of all time despite its absurd, Shigurui #7, delivering one of the best episodes of said series and Death Note #36, as you can see, all of that episodes are by the series of Tetsuro Araki and Hiroshi Hamasaki, two of his best Madhouse friends.

-After being involved on the Kara no Kyoukai series for ufotable, he was put on charge of a promotional video for the videogame God Eater:


-Said promotional video was written, SB’d and directed by Hirao himself, so it’s good to check his style, with his dynamic camerawork and sense of timing, i’m going to adjunt the storyboard for the action scenes:



-After directing various OVAs at ufotable as Sakura no Ondo, Gyo and Majocco Shimai no Yoyo to Nene, he was put on charge of God Eater, which production was heavily troubled, delays and delays, unfinished episodes, difficult designs, that ended up on a horrible production that ended up its original premiere with only nine of the 13 planned episodes, with a lot of delayed episodes and weeks and weeks without episodes at all, finally the episodes 10, 11, 12 and 13 were premiered over six months later, on that series, Hirao wrote all the episodes, SB’d all the episodes and even was the sound director, being his major project to date, check it out if you want to see a talented director handling more than the production can and said production collapsing pretty fast because this, difficult designs and tight schedule, enjoy!



Animator Spotlight – Shinpei Sawa

Shinpei Sawa [澤 真平]


-He graduated from the KyoAni school on 2009, debuting as In-Betweener on K-ON!! after finished their animation course.
-On the KyoAni school, Noriyuki Kitanohara was one of his instructors, learning the ropes from him and another KyoAni animators.
-He has stated diverse times on interviews that he likes to animate scenes with effects and flashy action, much like his mentor, Noriyuki Kitanohara, who was the main Mecha and effects ace on Kyoto Animation, while the rest of the studio was more focused on character animation and layouts than on action and effects.
-Ascended to key animation on Nichijou #2, with his drawings being corrected by KyoAni’s legendary animator Yukiko Horiguchi.
-He quickly stood out on the studio, being trusted with demanding, intricate scenes, as well as action, effects and obviously, mechas, converting on one of the aces on the field of Kyoto Animation, again, unlike the rest of the studio, that’s more focused on other aspects of animation, he excels on these fields like none other on the studio -maybe only Hiroyuki Takahashi and Noriyuki Kitanohara are the better on these aspects than him-
-He has strong imagination, so he tends to designs monsters and mechas for the anime that require them, was very happy seeing the monsters that he designed for Phantom World so carefully animated by the animation team of the series, emerging a desire to create and that his creations were represented on a correct way.
-On the last year, he started to be trained as Director under his mentor back then on Kyoto Animation school, Noriyuki Kitanohara, on the episode eight of the second season of Hibike! Euphonium, and after that, he’s scheduled to debut as Episode Director on KyoAni’s new series MaiDragon, under KyoAni legendary director Yasuhiro Takemoto, let’s see what the future has for him!

Animator Spotlight – Shingo Natsume

Shingo Natsume [夏目 真悟]


-He started his career as an inbetween animator on J.C Staff, being promoted to key animator after just only one year of entering the studio, on the 2004 series The Melody Of Oblivion, Directed by Hiroshi Nishiokori and Co-Produced by GAINAX, being his drawings corrected on that occasion by the veteran animator and character designer of the series Shinya Hasegawa
-Just one year after his debut, he started working with Gonzo, Mahiro Maeda’s studio, usually collaborating with fellow young animator Erkin Kawabata, that debuted as Key Animator on 2002, and then started fast ascending roles on Gonzo, being just on some years of being there, the go-to director for both punching human drama and intricate action, being able to pull of both of them thanks to his comprehension of framing and excellent action choreographies.
-Here, on Gonzo, with Erkin Kawabata, worked on a lot of pieces, with a initial style very reminiscent of Hisashi Mori and the recent webgen movement that started to appear on these times, guys like Ryoochimo, Tomoyuki Niho and Shingo Yamashita, that started to shape their own vision of anime, self-taught rebellious kids that didn’t go with the conventions of the industry at all, having similar visions, Shingo Natsume eventually became friend of them.
-Thanks to Erkin Kawabata, Shingo Natsume perfected his understanding of layouts and action choreography, and became better on these aspects, that worked for him on his later career as director.
-A stylistic trait of him that started to appear on these time were thick black highlights on his animation, to make it standout.
-Thanks to his work on Gonzo, made friends with legendary animator Kenichi Konishi and became acquainted of Shin-Ei Animation studio, where he worked on various Doraemon movies.
-His friendship with Akira Amemiya ended up on him working on Gurren Lagann, his work was praised by Series Director Hiroyuki Imaishi, that, by Imaishi, resembled the animation of both Shinya Ohira and Hisashi Mori, two legendaries animators.
-After knowing legendary director Masaaki Yuasa and debuting as storyboarder on Tatami Galaxy #6, he shifted to direction for the next years, after doing unit direction on the movie of FullMetal Alchemist, where his friend Kenichi Konishi was working on as Character Designer, on that time, he also became friends with Gosei Oda, Yoshimichi Kameda and Se-Jun Kim, that were fundamental pieces of his next works as director.
-Thanks to Yuasa, he also became acquainted with studio Madhouse, where he shaped big part of his career on.
-The big opportunity for him came when legendary director Shinichiro Watanabe invited him to direct Space Dandy, the most ambitious project of his career, where he would take charge of general directorial responsibilities instead of Watanabe, while Watanabe was on charge of other tasks surrounding the series.
-One year after the finishing of Space Dandy, he was invited by Madhouse to direct ONE’s manga One Punch Man, with a stellar team, inviting the ex-GAINAX animator Chikashi Kubota as Character Design, and Natsume brought all his team, a entire army of young and old animators, that included from Hidehiko Sawada to Bahi JD and from Miso to the legendary Yutaka Nakamura, and became a hit, as expected by the studio.
-After finishing it, was place on charge of ACCA, the adaptation of one of the most recent Natsume Ono’s manga, inviting Madhouse’s very own Norifumi Kugai as the Character Designer, known by Shingo Natsume after he worked Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, being the rest of the staff pretty much the same as of One Punch Man, trying to show another side of his talent, a more restrained one, with less flashy animation and more appealing layouts and designs, let’s see how that one ends up!

Animator Spotlight – Gorou Sessha

Gorou Sessha [拙者五郎]/Masaharu Watanabe [渡邊 政治]

-Started out as an in-betweener on Kyoto Animation, working on various outsourced episodes made by Kyoto Animation for other studios, like Inuyasha [Sunrise], Kiddy Grade [Gonzo] and Nurse Witch Komugi [Tatsunoko Production]
-Debuted on the episode 83 of Inuyasha, outsourced to Kyoto Animation, using his real name Masaharu Watanabe, that he would use for all his non-Pierrot work, his drawings were corrected here by Shouko Ikeda, the younger sister of fellow KyoAni animator kazumi Ikeda, taken a lot of her style on his next works.
-On Kyoto Animation, he was mainly influenced by animator and director Taichi Ishidate and director Yutaka Yamamoto, appearing on their episodes constantly, and even worked as assistant episode director under the guide of Yutaka Yamamoto on the episodes #1 and #12 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
-His work on Kyoto Animation varied from wild and crazy Kanada-inspired wacky comedy sequences to detailed, complex, full character acting sequences, starting to stand out as one of the few excellent talents that the studio had to offer, taking a lot of style from Taichi Ishidate’s animation.
-He, after leaving Kyoto Animation on good terms, started working on Pierrot under a pen-name, Gorou Sessha, where he debut as Animation Director on the episode #213 of the first Naruto series, co-sakkan with Pierrot Plus animator Hidehiko Okano and that featured more young talent like Shigeki Kawai and Masayuki Kouda, that were recently ascended to key animators.
-His first full fledged Sakkan work was on Naruto Shippuuden #5, that didn’t feature a lot of outstanding work, but still featured solid drawings and nice animation all over the place, being his first destacable work the first big episode of the series, the episode #26, with the storyboarder Atsushi Nigorikawa, that’s going to be with him, helping him to develop his career from that point, giving him most of Gorou Sessha’s directorial sense for action scenes, as we’ve seen on Re:Zero recently, the episode featured young talent as Hiromi Ishigami, Ryuta Yanagi, Shigeki Kawai, Hiroyuki Yamashita and Masayuki Kouda, and some established talent like GAINAX animator Takafumi Hori, that did one of the overall best scenes of the first part of the series, that, by the way, Gorou Sessha know him thanks to working on Manglobe’s Michiko to Hatchin together.
-He still maintained his link with Kyoto Animation, helping one of his mentors, Yutaka Yamamoto, on the first series of his new-founded studio Ordet, called Kannagi, where he worked with other ex-KyoAni’s animators like Yuusuke Matsuo, Shinobu Yoshioka or Satoshi Kadowaki.
-The very first chance to direct was gave to him by Production I.G on the second season of the Samurai-themed series Sengoku Basara, where he storyboarded and directed the second episode of it, with a side of the usual staff of the series, featured work by fellow Pierrot animator Masayuki Kouda, that helped him out with said debut as Director.
-His first work as Series Director was when he replaced Masahiko Murata on gag-series Naruto SD, where he directed from episode 27 to 51, and SB’d the latter, that was a full-fledged sakuga festival, with work of Naoki Kobayashi, Yuta Kiso, Kengo and Norio Matsumoto, Toshiro Fujii, Hiroyuki Yamashita, Eiji Komatsu and Abiko, Takashi Mukouda, et al.
-He also directed the first entries of two of his friend as Sakkans, the episode 180 of Naruto Shippuuden, where Masayuki Kouda did his debut as Sakkan and the episode 363, where Tatsuya Koyanagi did his debut as Sakkan.
-He left Pierrot at the same time as fellow animators Haru Watanabe, Asuka Mamezuka and Tatsuya Koyanagi, going to the studio White Fox, where he worked on Akame ga KILL! with said animators until making his first full directorial debut on Re:Zero, a super-production of White Fox based on a popular light novel.
-There he let his influences go all out, from Taichi Ishidate, to Yamakan, Kazumi Ikeda, Tatsuya Ishihara and even Atsushi Nigorikawa, he compiled all his experiences and influences from all these great directors and animators to give his special touch to the series, to the action scenes, heavily similar to Nigorikawa’s ones, to everyday life scenes at the vein of Ishidate, ReZero was unique thanks to him, he also led the “Monster Animation Director” to his longtime friend and fellow Ex-Pierrot animator Tatsuya Koyanagi, that did a great work on the series.
-He’s still attached at Naruto, directing the wonderful opening 16, with his longtime friend Masayuki Kouda as Sakkan, and doing storyboards for sixth and seventh Naruto Shippuuden movies.

-Before ReZero he also did Wakaba*Girl, a series of 14 8-minute shorts for the programmation block Ultra Super Anime Pictures, that put out shorts anime made by the studios that belong to the japanese joint holding company Ultra Super Pictures, directing that show under his real name, Masaharu Watanabe, and being produced by Nexus, that later helped a lot on ReZero, the show featured few talented animators like Kazuya Nakanishi, Jimmy Stone or Yochi, being his debut as a series director, but not on a full series, that was, as previously said, ReZero.
-Is still growing as a director and as animator, hoping great things on his future.

Animator Spotlight – Naoki Kobayashi

Naoki Kobayashi [小林直樹]


-Animator that started out on the industry after being recruited to work on Pierrot by Naruto’s flagship animator Hiroyuki Yamashita, after graduating from a vocational school on NEEC [Nippon Engineering College]
-He unlike his master, was a wonderful animator since the very beginning, demonstrating overhuman skills since the very first scene that he did, being heavily inspired by Hiroyuki Yamashita and Yutaka Nakamura, he took the best of the two’s early styles to create a incredible  mix that blow out your eyes, on a very nice way, doing incredible action scenes constantly.
-The very first scene that he animated was on Naruto SD, the spin-off on Naruto, on the very final of the series, he was a part of a awesome festival of animation, with really big names like Hiroyuki Yamashita, Eiji Komatsu or Norio Matsumoto working with him, doing the explosion and the buildings destroyed at the very beginning of the episode, already showing a special craftsmanship, superior than any other novice animator.
-His first work outside of Pierrot was on Attack on Titan’s episode 9, produced by the outsourced studio Daume, where he worked together with the fellow animator and friend of his Toshiro Fujii, another destacable soul of this new generation of Pierrot, on that episode he did the part of Eren receiving the bullet of the cannon, of less quality this time, maybe cause the incredibly tight schedule of the series.
-He wouldn’t explode until his debut on Naruto Shippuuden, on the episode #322, directed, storyboarded and Sakkan’d by his master, Hiroyuki Yamashita, doing a lot of Madara’s fight, and being one of the animators that worked on more cuts on that episode, the animation on this is incredibly inspired by Hiroyuki Yamashita, and it really shows.
-After his debut, he keeps doing work as the same role as Hiroyuki Yamashita on his beginnings: A incredible productive and talented animator that puts out constantly quality scenes, but his output started to shrink after the number and the scope of his projects started to increase exponentially, looking the producers and directors with good eyes at his animation, he was a gifted animator since the very beginning, and Hiroyuki Yamashita known that, he, as a talented animator, sees talented where IS TALENT.
-He did is very debut as Director on the ending 32 of Naruto Shippuuden, that he solo key animated with some help of fellow talented Pierrot animators Tatsuya Koyanagi, Daisuke Tsumagari, Toshiro Fujii and Anna Yamaguchi, that cleaned up his rough drawings after he did the key animation, the ending is a incredible piece of animation in its own rights, pretty impressive, if you ask me.
-He would later do the ending 36 along with his longtime friend and fellow Pierrot animator Toshiro Fujii and the the ending 38, where he storyboarded, directed and sakkan’d it, with a team of talented animators on their own right Chengxi Huang, Toshiro Fujii, Hiroyuki Yamashita and Hirofumi Suzuki under his belt. He also was present on the debut of his friend Toshiro Fujii as director.
-After Boruto: The Movie, where he did the bulk of it along with his master Hiroyuki Yamashita and the legendary animator Norio Matsumoto, he’s now doing constantly appearances on all kinds of threatic films, from Keiichi Hara’s kind, calm, historical film Miss Hokusai, to Makoto Shinkai’s magnum opus Kimi no Wa. and Tatsuya Oishi’s long 6-years long effort Kizumonogatari, he keeps delivering quality, now on a movie field.
-His style is a very recognizable mix of Hiroyuki Yamashita, Yutaka Nakamura and fellow Pierrot animators: Rounded faces, realistic bodies and hands, fast and rhythmic movements, Yutapon cubes, very recognizable impact frames and effect works very reminiscing of Yutaka Nakamura, impact lines all over the place, a punching, realistic timing, etcetera, his style is still growing, he keeps madurating and making his own style, hoping great things for that great, gifted animator on the future.

He also knows how to animate breakdance, plus if he sometimes do dancing anime?

Animator Spotlight – Hiroyuki Yamashita




-Started out in AIC on the mid-2000s, later, he will leave AIC for Gonzo and work during a few years on Gonzo on shows like Solty Rei and Pumpkin Scissors, where he didn’t destaques a lot, at least at first, after leaving Gonzo, he joined Pierrot on 2007.
-On the same year, he debut as Key Animator on the famous long-running series Naruto, that then was beginning its second part, Naruto Shippuuden. The episode featured other young, raising animators, like Ryuta Yanagi and Masayuki Kouda, with the Sakkan being the experimented Ex-Ashi Production animator Yasuhiko Kanezuka, that later will become the Chief AD of the series.
-He started to be recognizable since the very beginning, but didn’t strike as a really talented animator until the episode 21, where he did the Neji vs Neji scene, with the same storyboarder as the episode 17, Kei Jumonji, but with the Ex-Kyoto Animation talented animator Gorou Sessha as the Sakkan, starting a relation that will is still there today between the two talented animators, that episode also featured the youngster Shigeki Kawai and Hiromi Ishigami, that will leave Pierrot to build a prestige by themselves, Hiromi Ishigami as an excellent animator and Shigeki Kawai as a director, the same happened with Gorou Sessha, that directed ReZero earlier this year.
-He since then as slowly becoming better, starting to do really impressive animation on the 2010s and then becoming one of the best animators and directors of Pierrot, the place that is now, a animator and a director of prestige, directing his very first movie with Boruto: The Movie, a awesome piece of animation with a awesome list of A-List animators, like Hirofumi Masuda, Kouichi Arai, Naoki Kobayashi, Norio Matsumoto, Arifumi Imai, Tetsuya Nishio, between others, with an awesome direction, clearly understanding what Naruto is about, and trying to expand it on many interesting ways.
-On the production of that movie, he ended up being carried by the ambulance, from the studio to the clinic three times on about one year, for over exhaustion, lack of sleep, etcetera.
-During a long time, he, along with Masayuki Kouda and another excellent animators like Kengo Matsumoto, Shigeki Kawai, etc were the backbones of the production, producing a lot of good quality episodes really fast, sometimes with only 4 episodes of separation between them, raising the bar of quality of the series for ones 60 episodes.
-He only left Pierrot one time after 2007, working on Keiichi Hara’s first non-Doraemon or Shin-Chan film, Colorful, released on 2010, being produced by Sunrise, he probably was attracted by his close friend Norio Matsumoto to work on said film.
-There are many flourishes to his style, that you can easily connect if you look closely:

  • His fingers are slender, with a very recognizable rectangular shape, and very flat, like if they were kind of paper-made fingers, and the fingernails have a half-moon shape.
  • His mouths are recognizable by their “sinking cheeks”, intersecting the corner of the mouth with an oblique line, with a lot of shading.
    Maintaining on his mouths, he has a stylized lip-synch, pretty similar to Hirofumi Suzuki and Toshiyuki Tsuru.
  • His face are detailed, with a lot of marks and idiosyncrasies, he also makes everyone look 500% more badass, frogs included [Really]
  • He uses blur and other effects, to achieve major impact, there are even scenes where the punches are so hard that the lines get out of the drawings or that the punches are so hard that the characters become a formless blur on the screen during a second!
  • He also features triangular swords, and his special effects are all with the same pattern: thin lines and rectangular shapes
  • His drawings always maintain on a zone of believable and consistent but still stylish feel to them, never going full off model and maintaing the laws of physics.
  • On battle scenes, the attacks have a certain rhythm to them, that makes you feel almost like the characters are dancing, on a series of progressive movements that seems to connect effortless one with the other.

-Directing, he often take things from cinema, with a really cinematic feel to the things that he directs, like, interchanging hits without any music, just to make you feel the tension, or amazingly ambitious mix of 3DCGI and 2D animation that makes you just feel impressed.
-He has served as inspiration to various animators, including Tatsuya Koyanagi, Chengxi Huang and Naoki Kobayashi, that had become excellent animators on their own right.

Animator Spotlight – Tokuyuki Matsutake


Tokuyuki Matsutake


Basic Information:

Date of Birth: 29/07/1967 [49 years]
Japanese Name: 松竹 徳幸
Debut: Oishinbo – In-Betweener Animation [1988]

Studios That He Worked For [Contracted]:
Studio DEEN [1988-1992]
Bee Train [1999-2003]
Studio 3hz [2014-2015]
Studio Silver [2015-]

Major Roles:
Medarot [1999-2001]: Character Designer [Bee Train]
Tales of Phantasia [2004-2006]: Character Designer [Actas]
Project Blue Chikyuu SOS [2006]: Character Designer [A.C.G.T]
Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike [2009]: Character Designer [Production I.G]
Mass Effect: Paragon Lost [2012]: Character Designer [Production I.G]
Dimension W [2016]: Character Designer [Studio 3hz]

-He started working out on Oishinbo, a long-running series about cooking made by Studio DEEN and Shin-Ei Animation between 1988 and 1992, as inbetweener animator, on 1988.
-Then, he started on Studio DEEN, under Atsuko Nakajima, his learning of the basics of the animation, along with another Atsuko Nakajima’s protegeé Hirofumi Suzuki, when they ascended to key animators, they always were credited together, and their cuts looked far better than almost every animator on the series, with a big manage of timing and a clear sense of movement, with realistic drawings, Tokuyuki Matsutake’s with a timing more similar of stop-motion than traditional japanese animation and Hirofumi Suzuki with a more puppet-like movements and timing.
-He became big friends with Hirofumi Suzuki, Atsuko Nakajima, Kazuhiro Furuhashi and Norio Matsumoto after the end of Ranma 1/2, appearing together numerous occasions, whenever the other worked.
-Matsutake’s contact list become amplified thanks to Kazuhiro Furuhashi and Norio Matsumoto, that presented him to the likes of Kazuto Nakazawa, Kanta Kamei, Yasuomi Umetsu and Kou Yoshinari, that are constantly collaborating and learning one of the others, creating a strong bond that it stills alive more than 20 years after they started.
-He’s a BIG friend of Kou Yoshinari, at the point that they even moved to the same small subcontractor studio, Studio Silver, at the same time, working together on cuts like on Gi [a] rlish Number, where Tokuyuki Matsutake did KA and Kou Yoshinari did 2nd KA.
-He’s known between Tales of Series fans for being the animation character designer of various games of the franchise, and doing the cutscenes of them.
-Matsutake is immensely prolific, if you collect all the work he has did on his 28 years of career, you would be stuck with over 10 hours of footage, participating on more than 100 series on his extensive career, never going down on quality, maintaining a perfect register of good animation.
-As various animators of his generation, he’s slowly turning out into a director, in his case, as with Yasuomi Umetsu and Masashi Ishihama, he’s becoming on a professional opening maker, after the first invitation of his friend Hirofumi Suzuki to handle the third opening of Naruto, where he was character designer, being the responsible of the OP14 and EDs 16 & 35 of Naruto Shippuuden, OPs 3 & 9 of Naruto, OP2 of Robotic;Notes, the ED of Joker Game and the OP of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu.
-As director, his most characteristic trait is the handheld camera-like recorded footage, more exactly, of a 35mm handheld camera, along with his use of colors and fascination by putting cohesively the credits on the OPs on a sumi-e like sequence.
-Finally, he’s now on the small subcontractor studio Studio Silver, where there’s his longtime friend Kou Yoshinari.