originally posted at https://canmom.tumblr.com/post/625079...
tonight we’re gonna watch same animation by this dude!
wait you don’t know anime directors by sight? deplorable! how can you call yourself a weeb~!
So this guy is Masaaki Yuasa (湯浅 政明), who’s widely considered one of the most creative anime directors in the business. he arrived on the scene in the 90s, directing opening and endings for Crayon Shin-Chan, and popped up on a few other shows as an animator for one or two episodes. in 2004 he started directing, with the film Mind Game with our other fave Koji Morimoto at Studio 4°C, and that’s when things got cool.
Yuasa’s style varies in the different projects he works on, but there’s a few recurring points: simple character designs that allow a variety of unusual motions, limited or absent shading, bright colours, sharp editing, experimentation in style. When we watched Genius Party some weeks ago, you may remember his segments - he did the weird surreal one with the baby wandering around! ‘weird and surreal’ is basically what unites a lot of his work, though he can absolutely make it more grounded as needs dictate.
Yuasa continued to work on a number of artsy shows, and contributing to others when they wanted something trippy like the ‘everyone is high off an entire field of marijuana’ sequence in a certain episode of Samurai Champloo, but he remained a rather niche figure. He rose to greater prominence with his series Kaiba, a transhumanist body-swapping story drawn in a very stripped down style reminiscent of the early anime by Osamu Tezuku.
In 2014, Yuasa directed Ping-Pong: The Animation, which used a kind of sports anime framing to let a number of animators cut loose and do the most over the top wild visuals they could think to apply to the act of pinging tennis balls about. He was one of the first anime directors to fund a film on Kickstarter, in the form of the short film Kick-Heart about a romance between a wrestler and a nun. And at some point he caught the eye of westerners; he was invited to direct an absolutely wild episode of Adventure Time, the episode Food Chain in season 6, where Finn and Jake transform through a variety of forms as they pass through different trophic levels.
To make this episode, Yuasa founded his own studio, named Science Saru. At this studio he made some of the shows he’s best known for here in the west, like the edgy Devilman Crybaby (2018) which goes pretty quickly from superhero show to outright apocalypse, and the absolutely charming anime about schoolgirls making anime, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! (2020), which conveys the joy of animation as an art form like few things I’ve seen, and also the joy of being an autistic girl imagining a complex world rich in machinery.
Science Saru also made the main film we’re going to watch tonight, 2017′s Night is Short, Walk on Girl, which takes the framing of a night out drinking… and just takes it all sorts of places. And Ride Your Wave, which tells a story of a boy and a mermaid getting together with some incredible animation of water.
He’s dropped another show very recently, continuing to distribute with Netflix, a disaster story called Japan Sinks: 2020. No idea what that’s like yet!
You can check out some decontextualised clips of Yuasa-directed animation, by a variety of individual animators, in this video:
So the plan tonight is to survey Yuasa’s work enough to give you a taste, and decide if you feel like watching some more. We’ll watch two of his films (Night Is Short and Mind Game), and the first couple of episodes of several of his series (definitely at least Kaiba, Eizouken, Ping-Pong, and Devilman Crybaby), enough to get an impression for what they’re like. I’m also definitely going to drop in Food Chain. If people are in the mood and there’s time, we can also replay his work in Genius Party. Yuasa’s one of the people who’s really pushing animation in interesting directions so I am so damn excited to share his work.
The time is as usual 7pm UK time on 30 July 2020 (just under three hours from time of posting), the website is twitch.tv/canmom, looking forward to seeing you there!