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GreenCine Movie Talk
Anime
Discuss all topics related to anime.
561

Anime Auteurs?
Topic by: ahogue
Posted: March 27, 2005 - 12:57 PM PST
Last Reply: March 29, 2005 - 9:20 AM PST

author topic: Anime Auteurs?
ahogue
post #1  on March 27, 2005 - 12:57 PM PST  
Since seeing Otomo's latest, which is not a good film, I've been wondering whether it makes sense to follow particular individual's work in anime. The idea of an auteur is justly controversial applied to feature (live action) films, which are inevitably communal products to some degree, but looking at the huge number of people who work on a single anime, and also browsing the work of various people involved in some of my favorite anime on Anime News Network, I wonder if it isn't even more misleading to think in terms of auteurs in this medium.

Apart from Oshii, ABe, Satoshi Kon (and Otomo, I suppose, and perhaps Hideaki Anno?), I'm not aware of anyone with that kind of status in the field, though there must be others. Is this idea of the auteur just as valid in anime as in other kinds of film/tv? How useful is it to think in these terms?

Does anyone have particular anime artists who they especially like and whose work they follow? Writers, artists, musicians, producers, whatever? I understand that studios tend to have certain trademark styles, but are there other individuals who consistently leave their mark on the movies/series they work on?
hamano
post #2  on March 27, 2005 - 2:00 PM PST  
I'd say anime is a bit different because the main creator that you think of for a piece could be the original manga-ka rather than the director or script writer for the anime program. I mean ABe is responsible for the worlds/stories for a variety of anime series, but he's not like Miyazaki or Oshii where he's actually hands on in the direction of the anime shows based on his works. The same could be said for CLAMP. So they're not film "auteurs" really... If you call yourself an ABe fan or a CLAMP fan, it's like you're saying you're a Charlie Kaufman fan, you know what I mean? There are also a lot of anime works based on manga by Osamu Tezuka, but I wouldn't call Tezuka an anime auteur... The same goes for Go Nagai (Devilman, Cutie Honey, a buncha big robot things, etc.) He's a manga author.

A couple of guys whose work I found both entertaining and interesting over their careers that you didn't mention...

Osamu Dezaki started working on animated versions of Tezuka's work at Mushi Pro. He did the Black Jack OAVs and movie from the mid-90's... I'd say that his biggest impact was on shoujo anime... he directed 3 series based on very influential manga by shoujo manga-ka Ryoko Ikeda, Aim for the Ace, Rose of Versailles, and Brother Dear Brother.

What ever happened to Kunihiko Ikuhara? Well he worked on one of the storyboards for GAINAX's Gunbuster 2 OAVs this year. But he hasn't lived up to the promise of the Sailor Moon R movie, Sailor Moon S series or Revolutionary Girl Utena. I hope he's working on something interesting...

Shinichiro Watanabe's work is well worth following... He's got a great resume... he started on Macross Plus and Escaflowne then came into his own with Cowboy Bebop. With Samurai Champloo he proved that he doesn't have to keep repeating himself to have a career. SamCham definitely has his stamp on it, but it's substantially different from Cowboy Bebop. You can count on this guy to keep a show good to the very end, which is a big plus personally for me.

Unfortunately I can't say the same for Koichi Mashimo... he's got a great body of work, but I think his recent stuff has been going downhill, getting repetitious... Noir, .hack//, Madlax... Did he become too dependent on Yuki Kajiura's music to sustain the mood and momentum of his shows? You could already see that happening halfway through the NOIR series, let alone the two series that followed. Hopefully he's gonna snap out of his rut with Tsubasa Chronicles, based on the CLAMP all-star manga series.
hamano
post #3  on March 27, 2005 - 2:05 PM PST  
Oh, you forgot the two main Ghiblets!

Hayao Miyazaki
and
Isao Takahata
hamano
post #4  on March 27, 2005 - 2:10 PM PST  
Hiroyuki Okiura... he's still working mainly on key animation and character design, but this guy's still pretty young, and he's already directed a really good film, Jin-roh. That's one of the few films with Oshii's name on it that I really liked, so I say Okiura is one to watch in the future.
markhl
post #5  on March 27, 2005 - 3:35 PM PST  
No Rumiko?

Always did wonder if Asamiya Kia belonged in such company as well.
jross3
post #6  on March 27, 2005 - 3:46 PM PST  
Yeah, there's really not so much of that in anime. Many creators have a fiercely loyal fanbase - CLAMP, Rumiko Takahashi, etc. - but 90% of the time these folks write the manga the anime is based on (I'm repeating Hamano, but let me try and go in a different direction with this).
That's not to say that it's meaningless to follow those animes! Certainly there's not many people that can write, produce, and direct an anime at the same time, but when the production company does a good job adapting the original work you can have some insight into the creator almost as you would by reading the original work.
For example: CLAMP is mainly focused on making manga. Lots of it; they've made a ton. But Nanase Ohkawa and Mokona Apapa often have a hand in the creation of the animes based on their work. In a fair number of these animes, Ohkawa is credited with series structure (I haven't checked all of them, but I've checked quite a few) and Mokona does some of the art design (Card and Costume Design in Card Captor Sakura (for sure), and I think monster design in Magic Knights Rayearth?); it keeps the final work authentically Clamp certified, even the parts that weren't in the original manga.

It seems to me that manga creators are given a lot more respect during the adaptations of their works in Japan than authors and others have been given in the past here in the US. (for example, Jurrassic Park was hugely successful and loved by millions, but far from "faithful" to the book by Michael Crichton)
For that reason, it's probably worthwhile to look into the past of the various manga-kas that have been brought to the US - but it would be more worthwhile to read the mangas, but the more I push manga around here the more it seems that nobody cares about it... it makes me cry.

Otherwise, do check out directors and producers. If you find a common thread... good. If not, shouldn't people be allowed to have widely varied style? (he hee)
hamano
post #7  on March 27, 2005 - 6:42 PM PST  
> On March 27, 2005 - 3:46 PM PST jross3 wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> For example: CLAMP is mainly focused on making manga. Lots of it; they've made a ton. But Nanase Ohkawa and Mokona Apapa often have a hand in the creation of the animes based on their work.

Oh there's no doubt the work of one manga-ka provides the main impetus in following a group or series of anime works over the years. That goes without question. You follow the stuff by Yu Watase (Fushigi Yuugi, Ayashi no Ceres, etc.) or Ryoko Ikeda or Go Nagai or Tezuka or Leiji Matsumoto, Rumiko Takahashi etc. etc. etc. Look at the output from the works of Kosuke Fujishima... look at the car mecha theme that runs through all his stuff, from Ah My Goddess through You're Under Arrest to eX-Driver....

That's probably the MAIN way a lot of fans classify anime, the most obvious way... a lot of the discussion on these very boards tend to, for example, group all the CLAMP stuff together.

I thought it would be more interesting in this thread to look at the less obvious oeuvres of "auteur" work. In a way that doesn't overlap with the world of manga.

The series director and producer are usually responsible for putting the team together, and not just for how the anime looks (what the character, mecha and other designers bring to the show, in addition to the original manga-ka's art if one exists). We're talking about anime here, so they have to be concerned about how the show SOUNDS too. They put the voice actors and music team together. It's important to not just show the images from the manga while actors read the lines from the manga. Good anime goes way beyond that.

Also, since so many people come into the team from different directions, I think a lot of the cross fertilizations in styles occurs in the world of anime rather than manga. Such synergy often leads to fresh ideas that go beyond the manga versions. For example, I think a lot of the blurring between shoujo and shounen classifications happen in the anime realm.

> Otherwise, do check out directors and producers. If you find a common thread... good. If not, shouldn't people be allowed to have widely varied style? (he hee)

Some people don't seem to have any kind of discernible "auteur" style at all... I always say Battle Athletes Victory is one of my favorite shows ever, but the director Katsuhito Akiyama's career is all over the place. So in the case of Battle Athletes maybe the very capable writers had more to do with how much I like the show.

I'm not knocking manga, mind you. I love manga. jross3, if you start a thread just about manga, I'll be there, man!

I follow a lot of different threads in anime... I follow composers (Yoko Kanno, Hajime Mizoguchi, Yoshikazu Suo, Yuki Kajiura, Joe Hisaishi) from show to show. I also follow some voice actors I'm fond of (Ayako Kawasumi, Aya Hisakawa, Kikuko Inoue, Megumi Hayashibara, etc.). Also performers who do the OP and ED songs (ALI Project, The Indigo, Akino Arai, Maaya Sakamoto, etc.)

But the behind the scenes guys (the really geeky quiet guys you see in the extras mumbling about the shows) are interesting, too. I mean, who would've thought that the Chief Director of Figure 17 and Steel Angel Kurumi could do Berserk as well?
markhl
post #8  on March 27, 2005 - 7:50 PM PST  
oops.. misunderstood the original post and the term "auteur" apparently. I used to think it applied to anybody in the creative process.

I've stayed pretty ignorant of these men behind the scenes (unless made painfully obvious - in the case of Anno). I'll pose a follow-up question. If you're defining the overall look and sound of the anime as what distinguishes auteurs, how valid is picking out directors and/or producers versus Studios as entities? Perhaps I just didn't pay enough attention to the individuals but there really are consistent styles or themes associated with studios like Gainax, CLAMP, BONES, etc. Wouldn't that be how you would distinguish auteurs if this was a discussion about live-action movies?
DBooher
post #9  on March 27, 2005 - 11:22 PM PST  
I sometimes tend to go by studio because that's the thing I notice (and memorize) first. As far as by person, I have no particular favorite. I am the same w/ the chapter books. I usually favor a genre rather than an author otherwise I feel like I'm narrowing my tastes.
hamano
post #10  on March 28, 2005 - 4:25 AM PST  
I think the studio has a certain style or look if there are one or two powerfully creative people there to define it. Anno defined the early direction of GAINAX, but he didn't make sense business-wise... Later GAINAX was established firmly enough to do fine without Anno (FLCL, Mahoromatic) but he definitely set the aesthetic tone of the place (he did the OP sequence for Mahoromatic). Studios that DON'T have a distinct style tend to be big and go all over the place (Production IG, Madhouse, the current post-Oshii Pierrot). The ones that have a certain "look" tend to be smaller outfits (or started out as one more recently anyway)... GONZO makes heavy use of CG and distinctly "game"like design, for example, but they've grown really big now and I think their shows are showing more and more variety.

There's still less of that "designed by committee" aspect to them, although on one hand designing by committee is standard operating procedure in Japan. All the famous shows have a "xxx seisaku i-in kai (production committee)" attached to them, if you watch the OP credits to the end.

In live action production, you don't usually follow films by studio... it doesn't make any sense unless the "studio" is so small that there's only one main producer or director. You never say, "I like anything SONY Pictures puts out".

In animation, you can certainly say, "Pixar is great!" or something like that. But that's because the animation department in even something as big as Disney is fairly self-contained, and bears the imprimatur of a relatively small number of people. Pixar is John Lasseter's baby and still bears his imprint even on recent hits he didn't direct. Disney's had a revolving door there since the days of The Lion King ended and you can really see the ups and downs in quality and style. Blue Sky is still Chris Wedge's baby all the way, since they've only got two films out... Aardman has two main principals, but the "look" is Nick Park's. Have you ever seen him? He's really got that WIDE too-many big teeth look that all his characters have (he claims he based Wallace on his dad).

So if you notice a certain "look" associated to a studio, it's because of the behind-the-scenes guys whose names you don't know. If you knew them like you know Hayao Miyazaki or Mamoru Oshii, (Nick Park and John Lasseter are almost there, don't you think?) you wouldn't just go by the studio name. I mean, hardcore Ghibli fans know that there really isn't a Ghibli "look" any more... there's Miyazaki, Takahata, and now some others (The Cat Returns).
hamano
post #11  on March 28, 2005 - 4:47 AM PST  
> On March 27, 2005 - 7:50 PM PST markhl wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Perhaps I just didn't pay enough attention to the individuals but there really are consistent styles or themes associated with studios like Gainax, CLAMP, BONES, etc. Wouldn't that be how you would distinguish auteurs if this was a discussion about live-action movies?

Not really because we've used the term loosely here, outside of its actual definition. If we were talking about "auteurs" as the term is used in film criticism, you're talking about a director or in some rare cases a producer.

A short history of "auteur theory".

Wikipedia definition.

So even if you only initially see a studio name there attached to the "look" you're thinking of, you need to examine it a bit closer and distinguish the individuals involved in order to apply the auteur theory. You might think that the films coming out of Imagine Entertainment is always interesting. But a closer look will reveal the names of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. A Band Apart is Tarantino's mini-studio.
hamano
post #12  on March 28, 2005 - 5:04 AM PST  
Hmm... I guess anime is the one instance where you can apply the term auteur to the original manga author because a lot of the story and character design and even action are lifted straight from the books. Hmm... but can you call Shakespeare an auteur just because a lot of his works have been filmed? Hm...m...m... I'm not enough of a theorist to say if that's kosher. It sounds suspect, because you can talk about the book or manga author's body of work completely separate from the derivative film or anime... But then there's the pesky phenomenon of the manga artists who also direct their own stuff, like Otomo and Miyazaki, and manga artists who take a hands on interest as pointed out by jross. But still, in a strict sense, you can only use "auteur" with the director or producer.
ahogue
post #13  on March 28, 2005 - 9:46 AM PST  
> On March 27, 2005 - 3:46 PM PST jross3 wrote:
> ---------------------------------

> For that reason, it's probably worthwhile to look into the past of the various manga-kas that have been brought to the US - but it would be more worthwhile to read the mangas, but the more I push manga around here the more it seems that nobody cares about it... it makes me cry.
>
> ---------------------------------

There seems to be a consensus that as a practical matter it's usually more useful to follow manga-kas (I hope I'm using that form of the word properly), issues of auteur theory aside.

I would like to read some of Kouhei Kadono's work, but unfortunately it's not been translated and looks like it never will be.
ahogue
post #14  on March 28, 2005 - 10:34 AM PST  
> On March 28, 2005 - 5:04 AM PST hamano wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Hmm... I guess anime is the one instance where you can apply the term auteur to the original manga author because a lot of the story and character design and even action are lifted straight from the books.


This seems like an important difference to me. Manga is a medium much more similar to a finished anime than novels, for instance, are to films.


Hmm... but can you call Shakespeare an auteur just because a lot of his works have been filmed? Hm...m...m... I'm not enough of a theorist to say if that's kosher. It sounds suspect, because you can talk about the book or manga author's body of work completely separate from the derivative film or anime... But then there's the pesky phenomenon of the manga artists who also direct their own stuff, like Otomo and Miyazaki, and manga artists who take a hands on interest as pointed out by jross. But still, in a strict sense, you can only use "auteur" with the director or producer.
> ---------------------------------

I think basically you have to have nearly complete control over a project to be an auteur in any meaningful sense, as opposed to author, a word that is somewhat more general. An auteur is supposed to stand in roughly the same relationship to a film as Herman Melville does to Moby Dick. At least that's as I understand it.

Practically speaking an auteur is many things. An author in the sense of creative control but also in the sense of leaving a distinctive mark on his or her work. And of course being famous goes along with being an auteur, since people generally don't get that kind of control unless they have a great deal of clout.

It can be very difficult to figure out who was really responsible for what in a given (ordinary) film, and I think directors are often given credit for aspects of a film that were really someone else's contribution. You can see evidence of this when a director makes one good film and then proceeds to make bad films for the rest of their career. This is often because it was really, say, the cinematographer and the writer who made the first film good, but people are a little too lazy to follow the careers of such people.

I suppose in the back of my mind there is really a more general question about artistic influence in anime. For instance, I may just not have a very good eye for this yet, but if you showed me a new series with character designs by ABe I am not sure I could tell you who did it, though I certainly wouldn't be surprised to find out it was him.

On the other hand Kino and Boogiepop have the same music director and the similarity in style is pretty striking.

But for the most part when I look up the careers of various directors and artists they seem to be all over the place. Their choice of projects doesn't seem coherent.

I suppose in the end I just don't know enough anime yet to make sense out of it.
DBooher
post #15  on March 28, 2005 - 3:23 PM PST  
Ah. I see your point Ham ham.

But what I meant is I notice it because there's a whoooole intro that most times is unskippable (when watching on DVD player). I really don't go by them. I have a fave but I don't set my standard by them. I still check releases of all equally. I simply notice that some studios release better animes than others. But I weight them all the same.
ahogue
post #16  on March 29, 2005 - 9:20 AM PST  
> On March 28, 2005 - 9:46 AM PST ahogue wrote:
> ---------------------------------
>
> I would like to read some of Kouhei Kadono's work, but unfortunately it's not been translated and looks like it never will be.
> ---------------------------------

...and I'm much too busy to learn Japanese right now.

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