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  • In a previous video, I talked about when anime went digital and how that completely changed

  • the medium.

  • In this video, I want to look at the new generation of animators in Japan and the revolutionary

  • tools they're using to change the medium once again.

  • I'm going to look at how studios went from just getting to grips with digital animation

  • in the early 2000s to studios funding projects based on the skills of a fresh generation

  • of animators.

  • A good place to start would be at the beginning of the 00s with an individual who is now one

  • of the biggest names in the medium, but was at this time only a little known name working

  • for a video game company.

  • Makoto Shinkai found himself without a job in 2002 and took up the mammoth task of single-handedly

  • creating his own anime using commercial software like Photoshop and After Effects.

  • After 7 months of production, Voices of a Distant Star was released and set a new bar

  • for what could be done in the industry.

  • It gathered so much media attention that a professional dub was funded and the movie

  • was given an official release.

  • Shinkai had completely changed the perception of what was required to enter the anime industry

  • and inspired a whole generation of independent animators.

  • Voices of a Distant Star was just as good, if not better than a lot of TV anime coming

  • out at the time and it sent ripples throughout the industry.

  • In his book: Anime: A history, Jonathan Clements likens Shinkai's impact to Gainax's Daicon

  • 4 animation in the early 80s.

  • This is a good comparison as they both broke industry standards and revolutionised certain

  • techniques at the foot of new eras in the medium.

  • And they both succeeded not because of financial funding or studio size but i revolutionary

  • sense of passion for anime.

  • This of course is infinitely more significant as it led to a very fruitful career for Shinkai,

  • he went on to create a handful of fully realised projects, including the recent, ever successful

  • Your Name.

  • And that is what's important.

  • Before, animators would have to either go to some form of animation school or go through

  • a studio's training programme before they even given in-between work, slogging away

  • for years to step-by-step make it to the position they wanted.

  • Shinkai was one of the early cases of people revising this process.

  • Ryousuke Sawa, an animator, who came from a similar video game background to Shinkai

  • was another very important figure in this movement.

  • Ryo-timo as he's commonly known was one of the first in a generation of Web-gen animators.

  • These are animators who have entered the industry after the advent of the internet and who have

  • used the internet to break into the industry.

  • Osamu Kobayashi first scouted Ryo-timo for the series Beck in 2004.

  • Without any experience in the industry, he was thrown into a Key Animator role.

  • This was an unprecedented move and a huge risk for Kobayashi.

  • Although Ryo-timo's portfolio was strong, there was no guarantee he could perform outside

  • his specific style, or adapt to the anime working environment.

  • Thankfully, he performed magnificently and was kept on for the rest of the series.

  • This is, similar to Shinkai, a landmark change in the industry.

  • Ryo-timo had paved the way for the new generation of animators, and he would be the first of

  • many of his kind.

  • Hiring these kinds of animators is risky but if successful, produce some of the most interesting

  • animation cuts.

  • Unique creators like this are able to perform highly in unconventional techniques and whole

  • styles have been birthed from these rouge animators.

  • From now on a whole new sector of the market is born, let's look at how it evolved.

  • With new animators came new animation tools.

  • We discussed in the last video that anime had turned into a digital medium, but even

  • with all the aid of computers, the majority of the industry still use pencil and paper

  • for the fundamentals of their craft.

  • But the wave of web-gen animators have brought their own tools.

  • The most popular being Flash, an off-the-shelf animation program.

  • Now there are some misconceptions when talking about Flash animation in anime.

  • It's a very popular technique in the current industry but the software isn't actually

  • used to animate anything.

  • Animators use flash today much like how Animators on Akira used the Quick Action Recorder back

  • in 1988.

  • They draw out each frame in flash and preview the movement of each scene to make sure it

  • all flows correctly, but will then export them out and composite the animation in the

  • traditional way.

  • Much like in Akira, this is a time-saving technique that just slightly bends the traditional

  • animation process.

  • Although some creators have taken this innovation to the next level.

  • Masaaki Yuasa and his studio Science SARU have used flash as an actual animation tool.

  • Using the automatic in-between animation to create funky and unique movement that couldn't

  • be achieved with pencil and paper.

  • Yuasa used it on his series Ping Pong and SARU's recent movie Lu over the Wall that

  • showcased some of the most interesting and elegant animated sequences i've ever seen.

  • This is really smart and efficient, a perfect example of the web-gen attitude.

  • But lets look into how web-gen animators went from industry rarities to a well accepted

  • career path.

  • The evolution of web-gen animators really coincides with specific projects.

  • Shows or movies were the people in charge actively seeked out unconventional talent

  • and gave them the creative control needed to push their abilities.

  • When an animator has to stick too closely to a storyboard or specific style, they can

  • lose their personal signature and end up fitting in with everyone else.

  • It takes directors or producers to break the mold and allow them to develop.

  • One of the early and very important examples of a project like this was the anime adaptation

  • of Tetsuwan Birdy in 2008.

  • This is important for two reasons, one is that it gave Ryo-timo a considerable amount

  • of screentime to showcase his growing skill on a large platform, and it can be seen as

  • part of a stylistic turning point in anime.

  • Around this time, the medium was changing quite significantly.

  • And there's no doubt that the introduction of web-gen animators contributed to this.

  • His work here still has a long way to come but it's certainly distinct and stands out

  • as different from the standard animation of the show.

  • Ryo-timo has this style were he really puts focus on the key frames, almost having each

  • little moment of action appear in slow motion throughout the scene to highlight the key

  • poses.

  • This gives off an enormous sense of style and adds a lot of weight to the action in

  • the cuts.

  • He also quite fantastically moves the camera, almost at all times even if it's just subtle

  • camera wobble.

  • Ryo-timo's contributions were extremely valuable, and he was offering a skill set

  • that might not have developed had he gone through the usual education process.

  • Tetsuwan Birdy is certainly important but the real landmark project was in 2013 with

  • Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta.

  • This was a new adaptation of the franchise by Tatsunoko Productions, who, after decades

  • and decades of production were now in the business of bringing to life more unique and

  • interesting projects.

  • Looking at this decade in comparison to the studio's other decades shows a real interest

  • in creating experimental works and hiring unconventional staff.

  • A move than I think is overlooked by a lot of anime fans when talking about the studio.

  • More importantly, Ryo-timo was given the incredibly daunting task of taking on the roles of director,

  • chief animation director and even doing storyboard and character design work.

  • It became his project.

  • This was a mammoth task for Ryo-timo having only been in the industry a single decade.

  • And he didn't plan on cutting any corners.

  • He brought in a myriad of young, contemporary staff to work on the show and sprinkled them

  • throughout every episode.

  • I can only image what the studio looked like during production.

  • The amount of variety and the sheer size of its staff would normally be frowned upon.

  • It's a huge case of too many chefs spoil the broth, except the chefs end up creating

  • a rather tasty broth.

  • What I liked about the animation of the show was how varied it was.

  • It wasn't only action scenes or specific cuts, there were moments of impressive animation

  • in every corner of the show.

  • I specifically liked the cuts from Ryu Nakayama who specializes in energetic character animation.

  • He uses perspective brilliantly and has a real skill for animating non-human elements.

  • Sprinkling unique pieces of animation like Nakayama's throughout the series adds such

  • a personal touch to the show.

  • You really get the sense that this production was something different and new.

  • Although this was just a single tv series, it became an immensely important project,

  • paving the way for countless similar ventures in the future.

  • Ryo-timo's work here was so unique and changed the way people approached the anime industry,

  • the era of web-gen animators was now in full swing.

  • Recognising the appeal and artistic success of Yozakura Quartet, Space Dandy was released

  • a year later in 2014.

  • It shared the same idea of giving a platform to lots of different creators but had a much

  • more established foundation, with Shinichiro Watanabe came in as the general director.

  • Space Dandy attracted industry individuals from every stylistic corner, with lifetime

  • veterans to up and coming talent.

  • It was almost a celebration of the modern anime industry with every episode offering

  • something new and impressive.

  • And that's how it worked.

  • People were given a basic conceptual foundation to start with but had complete creative control

  • to take their episodes wherever they wanted.

  • Everything from the gorgeous expressionist animation of Shinya Ohira & Masaaki Yuasa

  • to Yutaka Nakamura's mesmerizing character animation to Yoshimichi Kameda's explosive

  • action animation.

  • Space Dandy has it all, there's never a dull moment.

  • And the series distinguished itself from the norm further by premiering its episodes in

  • America a few hours before they were shown in Japan.

  • With a full english dub, Space Dandy was one of the first anime shows to really acknowledge

  • this massive online overseas market.

  • Which makes it a real landmark for modern digital anime.

  • It was not only acknowledging that these markets exist but completely embracing them.

  • It was traditional in many aspects of its production but completely contemporary with

  • how it presented itself.

  • I think the legacy and success Space Dandy has left behind will be massively influential

  • in where the industry goes in the future.

  • It both pays respect to the medium's classic and looks forward to the future, it's a

  • milestone in the modern era of anime.

  • You could say that these last few projects have completely changed the way anime production

  • works.

  • We have shows every year now utilizing new and exciting staff and presenting their projects

  • in innovating ways.

  • A few years prior, in 2009, a manga artist named One began publishing a web comic named

  • One Punch Man.

  • Despite it's home-made aesthetic, the webcomic garnered a massive amount of attention and

  • in 2012 he was approached by Yusuke Murata with an offer to redraw his webcomic and publish

  • it in a popular magazine.

  • After continued popularity an anime was put into production.

  • And a very special production it would be.

  • With now legendary animators such as Yoshimichi Kameda and Hidehiko Sawada working on the

  • show, it quickly captured the community with breathtaking animation cuts.

  • In a time where the majority of TV anime productions are scarcely animated and corner cutting,

  • One Punch Man was a surprise to most viewers, something they might have never even seen

  • before.

  • And because of this, it pushed a really important message.

  • The complexity of One Punch Man's production wasn't down to a budget or staff size but

  • down to the passion of the people who worked on it.

  • It changed a lot of viewer perceptions about anime production and gave everyone a real

  • appreciation for the most important variable in a production: passion.

  • And with the industry's celebration of unique talent with projects like One Punch Man and

  • Space Dandy has come a celebration from the community as well.

  • Celebrating the intricacies and stylistic scope of animation has become a popular topic,

  • with many fans adopting the term Sakuga.

  • Now Sakuga is a term that just means animation in Japan, but, like terms such as Moe and

  • Otaku, it's gained additional connotations.

  • We now refer to Sakuga as a term of endearment for specific cuts of animation.

  • Almost to say Sakuga refers to good animation rather than just animation in general.

  • And this has formed a whole corner of the community who enjoy studying and celebrating

  • the exemplary animation coming out of the medium.

  • Animators like Kameda and Ryo-timo have gained legendary status among fans and have actually

  • become an commercial draws for projects themselves, just like directors or voice actors.

  • On the back of these pivotal careers and projects, we've seen changes in anime studios aswell,

  • who are essentially the backbone of the industry.

  • The way studios function hasn't really changed since Tezuka invented the system back in the

  • early 60s.

  • Which has led to a lot of controversy in working conditions and rates of pay as the industry

  • has scaled up, especially in recent years.

  • But a number of studios have embraced the new culture.

  • There have been older studios that have evolved into a modern, digital environment like Shaft

  • and Kyo-Ani.

  • Who have both changed the system to which they work and employed exciting staff.

  • Kyo-Ani have been praised constantly over the last few years for their unique working

  • conditions.And there are also new studios, birthed from ambitious individuals of older

  • studios like Trigger and MAPPA.

  • Founded by industry veterans to create new and experimental productions.

  • And also completely new studios that have become viable because of niche markets and

  • interest in avant-garde styles because of anime's digital era, such as Science SARU.

  • Yuasa has been able to start his own studio and really push the abilities of himself and

  • his team.

  • They've created two movies this year and have a series coming out for Netflix early

  • next year.

  • They're blurring the line between the commercial mainstream and niche obscurity.

  • I can't image this would of been viable to this consistency in previous decades.

  • And that brings us to, right now.

  • We in the midst of a digital revolution in anime were the most exciting productions each

  • year are obscure staff lists with experimental visions.

  • No longer are we constrained to the bulk production of long running anime.

  • The last few years have been jam packed with exciting new productions being made in fascinating

  • new ways.

  • And they're more easily accessible than ever with streaming services offering more

  • and more options to watch anime than ever.

  • And with big players like Netflix funding exciting projects like Yuasa's Devilman

  • now, who knows what's round the corner.

  • But we're still in the very early days of the industry shift, so please leave a comment

  • on the video with the aspect you're most excited about seeing over the coming years.

  • Is it seeing more attention given to interesting animators or have more inclusive access to

  • anime with streaming services.

  • Let me know in the comments.

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  • if you can.

  • I really appreciate everyone who's watching my content at the moment, i'm working on

  • a bunch of other really exciting projects at the moment too so keep an eye on the channel.

  • But for now, why don't you