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matt.ishii

Auteur anime directors- an overdone list

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I've been watching Every Frame a Painting and thinking about anime directors with a strong voice and a body of work that stretches to 3 or more movies/series (who are also actually good. Get outta here, Yasuhiro Umetsu). I try to ignore 'staff directors', directors that make a few series for a single studio but don't really have anything unique within the house style. Unless they define that house style. All of Kyoto Animation's directors are kinda like that. This is the site with Tone Control and Designer Notes, so I assume anyone who's into anime on this site thinks about that stuff too.

 

Here's the list of big names I can think of. Anyone I'm missing?

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Mamoru Hosoda - Wolf Children, Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, Digimon OVAs

 

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Kunihiko Ikuhara - Mawaru Penguindrum, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Yurikuma Arashi

 

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Hiroyuki Imaishi - Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking, Kill la Kill, Dead Leaves

 

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Satoshi Kon - Millenium Actress, Perfect Blue, Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers

 

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Koichi Mashimo - The girls with guns series (Noir, Madlax, El Cazador de la Bruja), Phantom, .hack

 

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Hayao Miyazaki - You better know this guy

 

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Akiyuki Shinbo - Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei, Monogatari series Puella Magi Madoka Magica

 

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Makoto Shinkai - 5cm/second, Garden of Words, The Place Promised in Our Early Days

 

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Isao Takahata - Tale of Princess Kaguya, Grave of the Fireflies

 

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Shinichiro Watanabe - Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Kids on the Slope, Space Dandy

 

I also read through the thread with people planning a podcast, and I think evaluating an entire body of work is fun. You guys should do that. I have a much bigger list I'm gonna post later, because I obsess in that way.

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Awesome, I've been thinking about getting into anime beyond Studio Ghibli, which is what I've mostly seen so far. I guess this is a good list to start with.

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Great list. Btw for Hiroyuki Imaishi you didn't actually list Dead Leaves which might confuse people drawn to that image.

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And here's the other half:

 

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Osamu Dezaki - Rose of Versailles, Ashita no Joe, Space Adventure Cobra
 
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Shoji Kawamori - Macross, Aquarion, Escaflowne
 
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Hiroshi Nagahama - Mushishi, Detroit Metal City, Flowers of Evil
 
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Takahiro Omori - Baccano, Natsume's Book of Friends, Koi Kaze, Kuragehime
 
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Mamoru Oshii - Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell, Sky Crawlers
 
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Junichi Sato - Sailor Moon, Princess Tutu, Aria
 
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Goro Taniguchi - Infinite Ryvius, Planetes, Code Geass, Maria the Virgin Witch
 
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Yoshiyuki Tomino - Gundam, Gundam, Gundam
 
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Saya Yamamoto - Michiko e Hatchin, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine
 
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Masaaki Yuasa - Kaiba, Tatami Galaxy, Ping Pong
 
I want to include Koike (REDLINE) and Hiroyuki Okiura (Jin-Roh & A Letter to Momo), but their directorial body of work is pretty small. Decided to take Hideaki Anno off the list because Evangelion is the only thing of real note I think he's done

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Please don't overlook Koji Morimoto.

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Robot Carnival - Franken Gears, Noiseman Sound Insect, Genius Party Beyond - Dimension Bomb, Memories - Magnetic Rose, Animatrix - Beyond, Eternal Family.

 

Also no mention whatsoever of Katsuhiro Otomo? ;(

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I love that Shirow Masamune has a very distinct body of work as an artist, it's just that Ghost in the Shell is the exception. It seems like his career trajectory was to crank out GITS somewhere between making really terrible hentai.

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Decided to take Hideaki Anno off the list because Evangelion is the only thing of real note I think he's done

 

As the resident Anno fan, I'm going to say that Gunbuster (enormously popular and influential "hard sci-fi" take on giant robots... with notorious fanservice), Neon Genesis Evangelion plus the sequel movies (duh), Kare Kano (adaptation of a shoujo manga that's unorthodox to the point of experimental, using a lot of Evangelion's techniques), and the Rebuild of Evangelion tetrology (which is unfinished and uneven, but still notable for the growth and revision of Anno's work) constitutes a sufficiently broad and deep career, even without invoking stuff like Nadia that he didn't love himself.

 

I also wish I could bring up Yamamoto Yutaka, the KyoAni director who was fired after four episodes of his debut anime Lucky Star for being too much of his own person, as the exception proving the rule with staff directors, but he hasn't really done anything worthy of note since founding his own company.

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Don't forget Nadia, but IDK how much he was directly involved in that.

 

I mean, Nadia was his thing too, but he wasn't in charge of a lot of the planning there and came to hate it in the end, so I'm trying not to put it at the fore.

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Hiroshi Nagahama - Mushishi, Detroit Metal City

 

what

 

what

 

you know for all my infinite love of mushishi you'd think i'd have looked into the creators more

 

REALLY

 

DETROIT METAL CITY

 

(I love DMC I just never would've put them together on any family tree!)

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I mean, Nadia was his thing too, but he wasn't in charge of a lot of the planning there and came to hate it in the end, so I'm trying not to put it at the fore.

 

What's with that guy and hating things he make?

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What's with that guy and hating things he make?

 

Eh, it's different reasons for different shows. With Nadia, he was given to believe it would be a single cour, after which he would be allowed to pursue his own projects, but then it was popular enough that the studio asked GAINAX for another half-cour of episodes, to which GAINAX agreed without Anno's consent or even knowledge, I think. He had to throw most of his original design document outside the window and pad out of his series to accommodate this turn of events, which appears to have been the perfect hell for him and caused his mental breakdown, during the recovery of which he got the idea for Evangelion. Of course, some of the other reasons were the same. Anno hated how some fans saw Nadia as the perfect fuckdoll and a lot of that hate is poured into the characters of Rei and Asuka in Evangelion.

 

He hasn't hated all of his works. By all accounts, he was enjoying Kare Kano until the manga's author kicked him off of it for not taking her characters as seriously as she'd have liked, and he's still very proud of his Cutie Honey live-action movie.

 

 

EDIT: Okay, reading up, it sounds like I have some of the details wrong about Nadia. GAINAX seems to have committed itself to an over-ambitious pitch by Hiroaki Inoue from the start and expected Anno, their third choice for director after Inoue and Sadamoto, to pull it off anyway. He didn't, instead feeling trapped and stifled by it, and GAINAX ended up losing a ton of money, which they tried to make up by making a video game using the rights that Anno was also pressured to direct. This is why I'm reading The Notenki Memoirs, I guess!

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Please don't overlook Koji Morimoto.

 

Also no mention whatsoever of Katsuhiro Otomo? ;(

 

Oh, never heard of Morimoto actually. Any comprehensive knowledge of anime I have stretches back about 15 years, plus stuff that people still bring up a lot. So Kite, Masamune Shirow, Rose of Versailles, all of the big 90s sci-fi and 80s shonen. It's hard to watch anime and not be aware of that.  I definitely haven't filled in all of my blanks yet.

 

On Anno : Yeah, you're probably right Gormongous. I've only seen everything Evangelion, and Kare Kano. I haven't checked out Gunbuster or Nadia yet. His latter day stuff like Rebuild and Cutie Honey have jaded me to him though.

 

On short careers: Katsuhiro Otomo really only made 2 full features, Akira and Steamboy, so I didn't include him. I did give Koike a shoutout, with only 1 movie though. I'll also throw in Kazuya Tsurumaki, because FLCL is my fucking life.

 

Other artists with an active hand and long lasting influences in the anime industry are obvious: Leiji Matsumoto, Tezuka, Go Nagai.

 

I actually tried to think of through-lines for some staff directors - specifically for PA Works and KyoAni, but I couldnt think of any stylistic specifics that make specific director's works unique within the studios. I deliberately disregarded Yamamoto Yutaka.

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I love that Shirow Masamune has a very distinct body of work as an artist, it's just that Ghost in the Shell is the exception. It seems like his career trajectory was to crank out GITS somewhere between making really terrible hentai.

 

I was considering adding Kenji Kamiyama to my list as well. He directed all of the Stand Alone Complex series, Guardian of the Sacred Spirit, and Eden of the East. I fucking LOVE Guardian, as well as the first half of Eden, but that's another example for me of not seeing the voice of the director across their work.

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I was considering adding Kenji Kamiyama to my list as well. He directed all of the Stand Alone Complex series, Guardian of the Sacred Spirit, and Eden of the East. I fucking LOVE Guardian, as well as the first half of Eden, but that's another example for me of not seeing the voice of the director across their work.

 

Kamiyama has a very strong voice as a writer for all his series, but he's only really just competent as a director. That's the faintest praise ever and I hate myself for typing it.

 

Also, as far as standout staff directors, I think Mizushima Tsutomu at PA Works is the closest we get. He's directed a wide variety of work, from Joshiraku to Another to Girls und Panzer to Shirobako, but they all have similar approaches to the use of moé as a unifying aesthetic, to characterization especially of women, and to pacing. I see it myself, but I'm not really prepared to argue it as an auteur phenomenon here.

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On short careers: Katsuhiro Otomo really only made 2 full features, Akira and Steamboy, so I didn't include him. I did give Koike a shoutout, with only 1 movie though. I'll also throw in Kazuya Tsurumaki, because FLCL is my fucking life.

Well considering most experimental and auteur type directors, the ones really breaking boundaries in animation in Japan, don't do often do features or shows and tend to stick to shorts or music videos doesn't really say to me that that is the best way to judge.

 

Also Otomo has two other live action directed features to his name, World Apartment Horror which is pretty good (which Satoshi Kon made a manga of which hasn't been translated unfortunately), three full animated shorts, the five minute intro and outro shorts for Robot Carnival, writing and design for Roujin Z, screenplay for Metropolis, and plus a whole manga career as well, there's a lot to go on to define a distinct director who works in many mediums as well. It's definitely not a short career by any means and the guy's style wields some major influence globally, which is more than you can say about a lot of of anime directors out there.

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Well considering most experimental and auteur type directors, the ones really breaking boundaries in animation in Japan, don't do often do features or shows and tend to stick to shorts or music videos doesn't really say to me that that is the best way to judge.

 

That's true. An uncharitable way to look at my list would be equivocating it to something like "List of auteur Hollywood directors". Sticking to something resembling the mainstream won't give the most experimental or unique voices. I am interested in indie animators in Japan and their work, but it's a more academic interest, as opposed to the more meaty enjoyment I get out of larger works.

 

Also, as far as standout staff directors, I think Mizushima Tsutomu at PA Works is the closest we get. He's directed a wide variety of work, from Joshiraku to Another to Girls und Panzer to Shirobako, but they all have similar approaches to the use of moé as a unifying aesthetic, to characterization especially of women, and to pacing. I see it myself, but I'm not really prepared to argue it as an auteur phenomenon here.

 

'Auteur' isnt really a word I care about. The only reason I use the word is that I like looking at a body of work and seeing how an individual's voice influences and shapes the story. When it just feels like another studio work, that sort of analysis doesn't really mean anything. The authorial through-line is the fun part. If you can describe a unifying aesthetic that I miss, then I'd love to hear more.

 

Looking through Mizushima's other stuff that I've seen, I remember being majorly weirded out that Kujibiki Unbalance was getting an anime. Ookiku Furikabutte might not quite align with what you're describing, the guys in it were definitely moe. I was having trouble seeing what you meant about Another in terms of moe, seeing as it's horror, but in terms of moe character design, I get it. The female lead is definitely someone designed to be 'protected'. They also find the time for a lot of slice of life BS.

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'Auteur' isnt really a word I care about. The only reason I use the word is that I like looking at a body of work and seeing how an individual's voice influences and shapes the story. When it just feels like another studio work, that sort of analysis doesn't really mean anything. The authorial through-line is the fun part. If you can describe a unifying aesthetic that I miss, then I'd love to hear more.

 

Looking through Mizushima's other stuff that I've seen, I remember being majorly weirded out that Kujibiki Unbalance was getting an anime. Ookiku Furikabutte might not quite align with what you're describing, the guys in it were definitely moe. I was having trouble seeing what you meant about Another in terms of moe, seeing as it's horror, but in terms of moe character design, I get it. The female lead is definitely someone designed to be 'protected'. They also find the time for a lot of slice of life BS.

 

It's late and I should go to bed, but I'll try to clarify briefly. I think that Mizushima is one of the few directors willing to embrace moé fully in his anime as a means for accomplishing a holistic goal, usually a disruptive pattern of aesthetics or characterization. He uses the Rei-style moé of the main female character in Another to cause the audience to leap to conclusions about her, heightening the hypothetical horror of the turn in the last act. He uses the K-On!-style moé of the main characters in Girls und Panzer to highlight the harshness and mechanization of tank combat, as well as to emphasize the cooperation and camaraderie between members of a tank crew and between tanks in a platoon. He uses the somewhat generic moé of the five main characters in Shirobako as a grounding point for the audience while they take in the world of professional animation (and probably other things, but I haven't had as much time to process Shirobako as I'd like). There are some exceptions to this pattern (and thanks for catching Kujibiki Unbalance on that count, because it has some oddly interesting touches but is overall a weird mess without even good art to save it) but I think that most of his works have a similar "feel" that's distinct among anime of the same subgenre.

 

Granted, it appears that I was wrong to call him a staff director at PA Works, because he's worked just as much with JC Staff, Production IG, and Hal Film Maker. Maybe I don't really have a bead on his career, but I feel like his niche of "somewhat subversive moé with strong ensemble casts" is noteworthy and it's something that I've picked up in the past. The deciding element would probably be whether he seeks out these projects or they come to him, but even then... Ugh, sometimes I resent the language barrier a great deal, because the only translated interviews with him are about xxxHOLiC and Blood-C, both of which are from before I think his interesting and more coherent output began.

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Thank god for this list. I'm sick of googling "artsy anime".

 

 

It's late and I should go to bed, but I'll try to clarify briefly. I think that Mizushima is one of the few directors willing to embrace moé fully in his anime as a means for accomplishing a holistic goal, usually a disruptive pattern of aesthetics or characterization. He uses the Rei-style moé of the main female character in Another to cause the audience to leap to conclusions about her, heightening the hypothetical horror of the turn in the last act. He uses the K-On!-style moé of the main characters in Girls und Panzer to highlight the harshness and mechanization of tank combat, as well as to emphasize the cooperation and camaraderie between members of a tank crew and between tanks in a platoon. He uses the somewhat generic moé of the five main characters in Shirobako as a grounding point for the audience while they take in the world of professional animation (and probably other things, but I haven't had as much time to process Shirobako as I'd like). There are some exceptions to this pattern (and thanks for catching Kujibiki Unbalance on that count, because it has some oddly interesting touches but is overall a weird mess without even good art to save it) but I think that most of his works have a similar "feel" that's distinct among anime of the same subgenre.

 

Granted, it appears that I was wrong to call him a staff director at PA Works, because he's worked just as much with JC Staff, Production IG, and Hal Film Maker. Maybe I don't really have a bead on his career, but I feel like his niche of "somewhat subversive moé with strong ensemble casts" is noteworthy and it's something that I've picked up in the past. The deciding element would probably be whether he seeks out these projects or they come to him, but even then... Ugh, sometimes I resent the language barrier a great deal, because the only translated interviews with him are about xxxHOLiC and Blood-C, both of which are from before I think his interesting and more coherent output began.

 
I watched Joshiraku not knowing that it had the same director as Girls und Panzer, and I've only seen Joshiraku of the stuff this director's put out. I super duper liked Joshiraku and thought it was really smart, and didn't lean heavily on the moe thing. I felt like it was mostly due to the fact that the humor was too fast paced and verbal to devolve into horrible moe death. In places it directly played with the moe thing as a dry spectacle and less as a part of the presentation:
 
 
But on the whole it felt like the director was trying to have his cake and eat it too. I'm not sure if the rest of his portfolio is like this, but it kind of prevents me from seeing this kind of thing as a serious subversion of the trope.

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This list is so valuable!

 

I feel like there's a lot of people (on this forum and in general) who have a very similar disposition toward anime as I do, who see a list like this and immediately start planning view-and-discuss parties.

 

To clarify, my very specific disposition towards anime is: I know that it's a diverse medium with a deep history of artistic expression, but said diversity and artistry is expertly hidden by embarrassing schlock and not at all apparent without a guide.

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But on the whole it felt like the director was trying to have his cake and eat it too. I'm not sure if the rest of his portfolio is like this, but it kind of prevents me from seeing this kind of thing as a serious subversion of the trope.

 

Yeah, I don't really know that Mizushima is trying to make "art" or even really cares about it. As far as I'm willing to argue, he's an exceptional career director who's not afraid to take the piss on a property if he thinks it's more interesting that way, although he doesn't always have the interest in (or the ability for) seeing it through. Even with something like Blood-C, which I despised through and through, he committed himself into eleven unbelievably boring episodes of slice-of-life-cum-monster-hunting, with a shy-girl protagonist verging on moé-blob, only to slaughter every last character in the twelfth episode in what is quite possibly the least cathartic blood-orgy that I've ever watched. I don't know what he wanted to do there, but something's going on...

 

Really, he's always doing something weird or unexpected, even with the blander licenses and adaptations that he directs, but I don't know that it's out of any kind of conviction. The interview about Blood-C that I mentioned above did have him saying (paraphrased) he's sorry that people find Blood-C boring, but it's a lot of work listening to fans, so he'd rather just focus his effort on doing what he wants the best way he can. That's kind of cool, I don't know.

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If people are considering using this list as their reference for stuff to look at, a good post just went up on kotaku:

 

http://thebests.kotaku.com/the-best-anime-and-manga-for-beginners-1697769892

 

Some of the anime stuff is a repeat, and its much more manga focused. Good list, I dont disagree with any of it, though I would add stuff like Wandering Son, Twin Spica, Fullmetal Alchemist, Aku no Hana, Beck, etc etc etc

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If people are considering using this list as their reference for stuff to look at, a good post just went up on kotaku:

 

http://thebests.kotaku.com/the-best-anime-and-manga-for-beginners-1697769892

 

Some of the anime stuff is a repeat, and its much more manga focused. Good list, I dont disagree with any of it, though I would add stuff like Wandering Son, Twin Spica, Fullmetal Alchemist, Aku no Hana, Beck, etc etc etc

 

It's not a bad list at all, especially considering how far it strays from the 1997-2005 "golden age" consensus of anime, but I do find it a bit odd that a lot of Kahn's "further reading/viewing" choices are... more manga or anime by the same person? That's not really how beginner lists should work. They should make connections between works by disparate authors to give an impression of the medium's full breadth, not just guide you through Fumi Yoshinaga's full bibliography because she's so good.

 

I also question praising Michiko to Hatchin specifically for being set in Brazil, when I thought it came off as the typical "United States of South America" setting that you see in a dozen other anime from Gungrave to Black Lagoon, but that's a more personal opinion that's probably not as valid.

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