Tag Archives: Sports

Sangatsu no Lion Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]

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PLOT: The protagonist Rei is a 17-year-old professional shōgi player, who lives by himself, not having a real family, and has scarcely any friends. Among his acquaintances is a family, which consists of a young woman, Akari Kawamoto, and her younger sisters, Hinata and Momo, who also keep several cats. As the story progreses, Rei deals with his maturing as a player and as a person, while developing his relationships with others, specially the Kawamoto sisters.

Animation Production: SHAFT

Directors: 

  • Akiyuki Shinbo
  • Kenjiro Okada

Series Composition: 

  • Akiyuki Shinbo
  • Fuyashi Tou

Character Designer: Nobuhiro Sugiyama

Original Creator: Chika Umino [ Honey & Clover]

Music: Yukari Hashimoto

Episode 1 Production Details

Episode Director: Kenjiro Okada

Storyboard: Shinsaku Sasaki

Script: Yukito Kizawa


I decided to change things up a bit and not post so much information on production staff regarding previous anime they’ve worked on.  Hope you all enjoy it!

One of the most anticipated series of the season finally arrives! This adaptation is quite different than what I expected from when it was first announced. This turned out to be quite a solid piece of work.

An incredible use of sound and SHAFT uses creator Chika Umino’s slow-paced story to its advantage with director Akiyuki Shinbo at the helm!  Per Umino’s request! From the trailers and now this first episode I can tell that SHAFT put a lot of restraint on how they typically animate their shows like the Monogatari series.  The first half is a beautifully animated and very subdued long morning for the protagonist Rei Kiriyama.  SHAFT certainly was the right choice in this because they were able to breathe life into Rei’s dark objectified view of the world and flip it with a superb second half.  The animation is simply designed–using a solid palette structure for its backgrounds.  At first glance this isn’t an anime with a large budget like what we’ve been seeing with Yuri!!! on Ice! , but when you see this episode you can clearly get a clear indication that a lot of time was spent on the direction of the animation.  Closeup shots of objects (especially the drinks) and facial expression techniques.  The most important develop of this show is through its use of sound effects!  From the very first scene it’s clear that there is a certain level of discomfort in Rei’s home. He’s internalized all of his emotions (if he has any) and through a very smart stylistic choice in visuals and sound direction that Rei is suffering.  Without the addition of music until the shogi match illustrates a larger picture that Rei enjoys his isolation.

I think it says a lot when a series chooses little dialogue to capture an audience into its narrative. We don’t know the man he’s playing is his father until he sees a news report later on from a tragic unrelated event. Sound was crucial here–the report established Rei’s disconnect from his own circumstances perfectly!

This transitioned nicely into the Kawamoto family’s introduction. Bubbly music score and strikingly bright animation.  Hues of pinks and yellows represents how lively the family is–the antics with the younger children remind me of 7-year old Naru from Barakamon.  The animation in the second half of this episode reverts from the dismal and dark tone that Sangatsu no Lion originally went for!  You either like the style or you don’t. 3-Gatsu no Lion is different than what we’re used to seeing with shows like Honey & Clover.

Akari Kawamoto, the oldest of the three sisters notices Rei’s disconnect from society–it is seen when she, right after Hinata had texted him, requests that he pick up vegetables for the dinner. I like how this show doesn’t force the interpersonal relationships down our throats–we given small details in doses.  The news report, the text messages, even by the end of this episode we see that Rei is gradually crawling out of his shell through the use of shadow effects and dream-state imagery.

I’m actually quite glad that this premiere didn’t shove Shogi matches to explain his character in-depth.  Using a visual narrative and a down-to-earth family to establish his grounding in the world succeeds wonderfully!  Posters of the manga on the train, Sangatsu logo on the grocery store sign. Perhaps SHAFT was taking the source material advertising a bit too literal.  Although, it certainly is one way to do it.


OP: “Answer (アンサー)” by BUMP OF CHICKEN

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Directed by: Naoyuki Asano

Storyboards: Naoyuki Asano

Animation Supervisor: Naoyuki Asano

Key Animators:

  • Hironori Tanaka
  • Tsutomu Shibuya
  • Shintaro Douge
  • Kazuki Ito
  • Atsushi Saito
  • Nozomu Abe
  • You Yamamoto
  • Naoko Masui
  • Tomohiro Shinoda
  • Naoto Nakamura

Notable Key Animator: 

  • Hironori Tanaka [ BLEACH #166 (specifically Ichigo and Grimmjow fight sequence)
    • Known for character acting and expressive animation particularly with line-work animation and hair animations.

Hironori Tanaka animated many of the opening scenes for this, notably, Rei’s drowning and the majority of sections featuring water sequences.  A bit of history about this animator. He’s well-known in the world of sakuga having worked on some very popular series including School DaysFate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade WorksGurren LagannBakemonogatari and one of my favorites The Tatami Galaxy.   I believe what stands out best as his best work as a key animator is on director Kou Matsuo’s Kure–nai.  Episode six to be exact–featuring a musical sequence.  Sometimes there doesn’t need to be -in-between frames when there are many key frames used.  Typically TV Anime do not produce this level of quality, however, there are times when this style of animation is utilized. This seems to be Tanaka’s style resulting in a very smooth flow to his sequences. He’s one of a few animators to be experienced and designs scenes with a purity to them . I say pure because he is able to draw 50 to 80 frames just to get a sequence nailed down properly.

Sangatsu‘s opening has very beautiful animation with varying shades of blues and other dark tonal colors that mesh together with a powered pigment influence.  BUMP OF CHICKEN are back for the anime adaptation reprising their role in 3-Gatsu no Lion material with both a well-designed opening and ending sequence.  They definitely delivered an emotionally-charged and well-written indie-styled rock song that matches these visuals beautifully.  Rei is drowning without a pathway to follow in life–the visual cues with the doorways represents that he has many choices in life but doesn’t have a grasp on his own life yet. I really like how the song gives an uplift with the chorus and suddenly the animation changes to firefly visuals and the family that has taken a chance on him might just give him the push he needs to figure out his life goal.

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Yuri!! on Ice Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]

Yuri!! on Ice effortlessly ignites an engaging story about figure skating with fluid animation, a compelling soundtrack, and a creative charm that works perfectly.

PLOT: Yūri Katsuki carried all of Japan’s hopes on his shoulders to win at the Gran Prix Finale ice skating competition, but suffered a crushing defeat. He returns home to Kyushu and half feels like he wants to retire, and half feels like he wants to continue ice skating. Suddenly the five-time consecutive world championship ice skater Victor Nikiforov appears before him with Yuri Plisetsky, a young Russian figure skater who is already defeating his seniors. Victor and both Yuris take up the challenge on an unprecedented Gran Prix series.

Animation Production: Studio MAPPA [Sakamichi no Apollon [Kids on the Slope]TeekyuZankyou no Terror [Terror in Tokyo], Garo: Honoo no Kokuin, Shingeki no Bahamut: GENESIS, PunchLine, Ushio and Tora, In This Corner of the World, Days, Hajime no Ippo: Rising [co-produced with MADHOUSE])

Director: Sayo Yamamoto [Storyboard and Episode Director on Samurai Champloo Episodes 5,11, 18, 22 and 26 / Storyboard on Death Note episode 22 / Series Director and Storyboards on Michiko e Hatchin / Storyboard on Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin Episode 11 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Space Dandy episodes 2 and 7 / Director and Storyboard on PSYCHO-PASS‘ first opening sequence / Director and Storyboard on Shingeki no Kyojin [Attack on Titan]’s first ending sequence / Director and Storyboard on Space Dandy‘s ending sequence / Director and Storyboard on Shingeki no Bahamut: GENESIS‘ ending sequence)

Series Composition: Sayo Yamamoto

Character Designer: Tadashi Hiramatsu (Animation Character Design and Animation Director on Cutie Honey [Live-Action Film] / Director, Storyboard, Animation Director [OP; episode 1] on Re: Cutie Honey OAV / Key Animator on Darkside Blues film / Key Animator on Master Keaton episode 28 / Key Animator on Neon Genesis Evangelion episodes 15,19, 21, 23, 24, 25 and 26 / Storyboard and Assistant Animation Supervisor on Mushishi episode 8 / Key Animator on Mushishi episodes 16 and 20 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Denno Coil episode 10 / Key Animator on Kimi ni Todoke episode 5 / Key Animator on Space Dandy episodes 2 and 17 / Animation Supervisor and Character Designer on Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakkuritsu / Storyboard on Kuromukuro episode 5)

Music: 

  • Taku Matsushiba (Composer for the following advertisements and animation projects: Asahi The Dream, Oono he Kaerou, Yokai-Watch “puni puni”, Toyota Vitz, JR Toukai, Nissin Cisco, Mix Channel)
  • Taro Umebayashi (Composer for the following works: Space Dandy [credited as ‘milk’]

Episode 1 Production Details

Episode Director: Jun Shishido (Storyboard and Episode Director on Sakamichi no Apollon [Kids on the Slope] episode 6 / Storyboard on Kingdom episode 32 / Series Director and Storyboard on Hajime no Ippo: Rising episodes 1,2, 21 and 25 / Storyboard on Kiseiju: Sei no Kakuritsu episode 11 / Episode Director on Death Parade episodes 1, 6 and 11 / Storyboard on Death Parade episodes 3,6 and 11 / Director on Ushio and Tora‘s first and second opening sequences /

Storyboards: Sayo Yamamoto

Script: Sayo Yamamoto


From the director of Michiko e Hatchin and Lupin the Third: Fujiko Mine comes a story about competitive figure skating.  Originally this project by Sayo Yamamoto was created as a music video entitled “Endless Night” for the Japan Animator’s Exhibition project from Studio Khara [Neon Genesis Evangelion] and Dwango last year.  The visuals are stunning and some of the best this year has to offer. I knew this season would be huge considering that my favorite genre Josei [Sangatsu no Lion and Fune wo Amu] would be getting the spotlight but this knocked out just about every show that’s aired so far out of the water!  Yūri Katsuki is a timid 23-year old skater admiring the talents of skating legend Victor Nikiforov.  This episode does a fine job in establishing Yūri Katsuki as someone with much to learn.  He’s more relatable than many male protagonists and adding to this realism are a few qualities that outlines director Yamamoto’s attention to characterization–he has problems managing his weight. Not to mention the effects of his dog’s death weighing on him too. Which I’m sure the anime will explore this avenue later on.  His issues can clearly be seen as we see him crying in the bathroom and during the childhood segment alongside Yuko–he’s emotional and hasn’t quite come to terms with his loss at Gran Prix. Russian figure skater Yuri Plisetsky didn’t help the situation either. However, it does set up a nice rivalry between the two of them.  We also see how affected Yūri is after losing at the competition through the episode’s stylistic direction affixed on Yūri’s own physical appearance.  This is highlighted in his face perfectly.  From a downward spiral to an ultimately uplifting skating performance that turns out very rewarding in the second half.  As the story progresses we see that Yūri still has passion for figure skating.   Spending the remainder of this episode at the Hasetsu skating rink and an unexpected encounter at the hot springs provides a solid start to the story.

The visual quality is superb–the cast is attractive and this comes across during the skating scene as well.  Transitioning from Yūri and Victor Nikiforov’s skating performances.   MAPPA and Yamamoto didn’t mess around with staffing for this anime.  Picking  two time Japanese national ice skating champion (now retired) Kenji Miyamoto to choreograph all of the skating scenes and the visual appeal is breathtaking.  This isn’t the first time Miyamoto has choreographed either as he’s choreographed show programs for Japanese figure skaters Shizuka Arakawa, Daisuke Takahashi, Akiko Suzuki and Yuzuru Hanyu.  Working as a coach and choreographer gives him a chance to shine on projects like Yuri!! on Ice!

The ice skaters move freely across the screen–extremely life-like.  From hand gestures to flowing hair, Yūri and Victor’s curvatures and clothing embellish a style that’s physically charming and sensually engaging. In other words this is a fine example at what animation can achieve–a physical style that comes off more beautifully than to sexualize its characters through fanservice framing. What’s interesting is how artistic the entire sequence is–you can see his passion through his skating and this is depicted in his slimmer figure on the rink and top-notch performance.  The animation choice during this scene was beautiful on purpose.

Off the ice, this show explores body language in a variety of ways–closeup shots of expressive facial animation and quick comedic caricatures capture ballet teacher Minako-sensei and Yūri perfectly. Hopefully, we will get to see a ballet performance from Minako in a later episode accompanied by a originally-composed Taku Matsushiba piece.  This show couldn’t be all pretty like the previews let on. The goofy animations were done by famous Ranma 1/2 and FLCL animator Hiramatsu Tadashi.  Reminding us that we’re still watching a Japanese anime.  The background designs are a pencil-sketch style and very colorful. Object are highly detailed as well.  These characteristics in animation transitioned nicely to the natural movements of the characters giving off the idea that there is beauty outside of ice skating.

Overall this was a beautiful piece of work that is an extension to “Endless Night”.  One that I highly recommend checking out.  A charming additional to the Fall 2016 Anime lineup!


 

OP: “History Maker” by Dean Fujioka

Directed by: Sayo Yamamoto

Storyboards: Sayo Yamamoto

Animation Supervisor: Sunghoo Park

Absolutely incredible. This is one of the coolest openings I have ever seen. Beautifully animated and on-point with the song by Dean Fujioka!  I love his voice it’s very smooth sounding and his English is amazing. The song was written in cooperation with Taku Matsushiba.  His style is astounding–this song is heavily inspired by classical and contemporary pop music. Providing a nice introduction in the anime’s backdrop–a modern day skating story.  Very inspiring lyrics and visuals that are filled with huge amount of artistic passion!

ED: “You Only Live Once” by Wataru Hatano

Directed by: Yoichiro Hayashi

Storyboards: Yoichiro Hayashi

Animation Supervisor: Tadashi Hiramatsu

This was a surprisingly good ending.  Really good. Coming off from the modern day musical styled opening sequence this one focuses on life outside of the ice skating element.  An entire sequence of instagram posts of the famous figure skaters featured in Yuri!! on Ice! Looks like a sequence taken from  FREE! but with a lot more heart to it.  This ending comes off super smooth with the addition of an electro-pop sound for the ending song and seiyu Wataru Hatano’s singing. Enjoyed this ending a lot. Anyone notice the “bae” acronym? Very funny.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Prince of Stride: Alternative Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]

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“Stride,” is an extreme sport that involves six people on one team who run relay races through towns. Hōnan Academy and other schools compete to win eastern Japan’s top Stride competition, “End of Summer.” However, Hōnan’s team has shut down. First-year high school students Takeru Fujiwara and Nana Sakurai attempt to restart the club, but they must recruit six members for the team. They ask Riku Yagami to join, but he turns them down by saying that Stride is the one thing he doesn’t want to do. ~ANN


Animation Production: MADHOUSE ( Aoi Bungaku SeriesBECK: Mongolian Chop Squad /  Chihayafuru/ Death ParadeBirdy the Mighty / KurozukaMoryo no HakoMONSTER NANATokyo Godfathers /

Director: Atsuko Ishizuka ( Storyboards on MONSTER episode 74 / Storyboards on No Game No Life episodes 1 and 12 / Storyboards on Btooom! Ending Sequence)

Series Composition: Taku Kishimoto ( Script Writer on Gin no Saji series / Script Writer on Boku dake ga Inai Machi [ERASED] episode 1 / Script Writer on Haikyu!! seasons 1 and 2)

Character Designer:  Gu-nyon Wang ( Key Animator on Zetsuen no Tempest episode 23 / Key Animator on Death Parade episodes 1, 2 and 5 / Animation Supervisor on Prince of Stride: Alternative Opening Sequence / Key Animator on No Game No Life episode 11)

Music: Yoshiaki Fujisawa ( Music Composer on Akuma no Riddle / Music Composer on Rail Wars!)

Episode 1 Production Details

Episode Director: Atsuko Ishizuka

Storyboards: Atsuko Ishizuka

Script: Taku Kishimoto


I really enjoyed this.  The subject of free running is interesting.  This reminds me of Air Gear back in the day. There’s only been two manga that have covered this sort of topic one is Air Gear (which received an anime adaptation and a few awesome OVAs) and its about rollerblading!  The other was a kickstarter project  entitled R.u.N. by a couple of Greek authors.  This show is pure entertainment.  Anything more than that and you might want to check out something else.  Simply because Stride’s first episode contains many tropes that tons of sports anime have overused in the past.

High school students look for club members.  This is set off with one of the only girls we see in this episode–Nana Sakurai.  The acting isn’t terrible but it could be better.  It does help that the female lead is voiced by Kana Hanazawa (Akane Tsunemori of Psycho-Pass) because she is able to develop a character nicely.  One of the other tropes used in this is what otome works are known for–lead girl meets a bunch of pretty boys that she is able to encourage throughout her journey.

The part of this show that has peaked my interest is my favorite studio MADHOUSE animating an entire sequence of a relay race.  And it looks amazing.  Also want to point out that the music is pretty solid.  Upbeat strings and pop really fit the tone of this show–the comedy isn’t all that great but the music handles these scenes without being staggeringly boring.  I’d recommend this show to anyone that wants a series without thinking too much.  We’ve already got plenty of shows that have very strong narratives this season so this is a good anime to break the mold a bit.

The sound effects are very good in this.  It sounds as if Jin Aketagawa took his transition sound samples from No Game No Life and thew them in this show.  It didn’t work for that video game-based anime but Stride‘s focus on sports screams potential for him as a sound director.

OP: “Strider’s High” by OxT

Directed by: Atsuko Ishizuka

Storyboards: Atsuko Ishizuka

Animation Supervisor: Gu-nyon Wang

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Animation is really pretty.  MADHOUSE did a great job animating this show so far.  Not really a fan of OxT’s hard rock the vocals don’t match the song very well. It’s too generic for a sports series.  As for the instrumentals they knock around that this is a sports show we’re watching. The visual transitions are fantastic and I like the direction of free running throughout this sequence. As amazing as the visuals are in this it makes sense considering there is a rookie animator that worked on a few episodes of One-Punch Man and another animator that handled part of Onna’s ice skating scene from episode 11 of Death Parade!

ED: This episode didn’t have an ending rather the credits played over the finale of the race.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 5/10