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Bateszi Anime Blog

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Animated eye candy, courtesy of Kazuto Nakazawa

Over the last few weeks, I’ve started subscribing to some French anime blogs. I can’t speak a word of the language, but I know good taste, and more to the point, just how priceless it is. On the front page of Manganimation.net, there are burgeoning articles on ‘The Sky Crawlers‘, ‘Kaiba’ and Kazuto Nakazawa. Basically, the French anime fans are awesome, and just because he’s such a wonderful artist, I want to post up some clips showcasing Nakazawa‘s beautiful animation.

The 10 minute short story ‘Comedy’ was the first time I noticed Nakazawa and it remains his best work to date. Ostensibly about a young girl desperate to repel English invaders from Ireland, it’s a Tim Burton-esque gothic fairy-tale; dark, atmospheric and elegant. The brooding bishonen vampire at the centre of this plot, known only as the black swordsman, rarely cracks a smile; despite his fearsome reputation, he will only help the girl if she can find him a comedy book to laugh at. Make sure you stream this on YouTube, download it with as high a quality as possible and store it forever.

Although I don’t have much of an opinion on the show itself (having only seen the first few episodes), ‘Blood+’ offers two excellent opening sequences, the second of which was directed by our man Nakazawa. The song immediately recalls Monorol‘s swooning rock opening for Ergo Proxy, while the animation slips between sequences of ‘Comedy’-style gothic posturing and a wistful nostalgia for bright, easy going suburban life. Repeating this video a few times over, I’m reminded how just how much I loved that same feeling of ‘romance with nostalgia’ in ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time‘.

I’m assured “hair is the heart of a woman”, and after seeing Nakazawa‘s ‘Hairy Tale’, I’m inclined to believe it. This was actually a Japanese TV ad. for ‘Asinence’ shampoo, but regardless of its commercial intent, it’s an undeniably stunning work of art. I suppose there’s only so many adjectives I can throw at one minute’s worth of animation without coming off as horribly pretentious (as if I haven’t already), so just watch it, please.

Nakazawa‘s latest effort is a music video for the song ‘Atarashii Sekai’ by Asian Kung-Fu Generation, and I’ve somehow got through this post without even mentioning his most famous contributions to the mainstream consciousness, namely the ‘fun‘ (warning: heavy violence) animation sequence in ‘Kill Bill’ and his scratchy, dystopian music video for Linkin Park‘s ‘Breaking The Habbit’.

Comments

Hige says:

Thanks for introducing me to these extra bits of Kazuto Nakazawa’s output I hadn’t seen before. I only know him through the more mainstream work he’s done and I’ve always been keen to see more of his artier stuff. It says a lot about a man that can make a shampoo advert captivating – get him on the phone to Head & Shoulders asap.

One question, though: Was Nakazawa responsible for the character design of Kill Bill’s ‘sniper on the roof’ segment (an image: It’s always been a secret shame how much I’ve adored that particular scene and I’d love to know who produced its fantastic character design. Judging by the other Nakazawa stuff I don’t think it’s his work…

IKnight says:

Just gave Comedy a whirl and it really is, as you say, very good. Now I know why I enjoyed that second Blood+ opening sequence so much.

This has reminded me why I think we should talk about individuals more and studios less.

Xerox says:

“Make sure you stream this on YouTube, download it with as high a quality as possible and store it forever.”

Will do, will do. Comedy was amazing. You’ve done it again, I’ve always, always, always, always wondered who did that Linkin Park video, who did O-ren Ishii’s ten minutes of fun and why the opening to Blood+ was so much better than the actual show. Nakazawa, wow, the world’s suddenly making sense, he is the man behind all the amazing snippets of animation. That shampoo commercial was stunning, stunning, gorgeous, unbelievable. The commercial bit just totally blew me out of the water, I did not see that coming at all. Seeing how I’m a pretty big fan of Asian Kung-Fu generation, I’m going to have to look into that music video.

Oh god, thank you, thank you for this post. I’m going to do dig up ‘Comedy’ and store it forever and show it to my friends and put it on my iPod. Christ…

Outlawstar says:

Man, these are great, he really has some skills.

rwaggie says:

I’ve been collecting his work (being a fan of pretty much anything released by Studio 4c or MADHOUSE’s dementia works) and was wondering if there was a higher quality version of the hair commercial and if so, if you could direct me to it. Wizzu and JR’s release of comedy was really nice, but Niizk had put out a slightly better encode of it (in case Xerox was still looking.)- you can find it on the Niizk bots @ irc.rizon.net/niizk.

bateszi says:

@Hige: Looking at the ANN page, two people worked on the character design for Kill Bill; Katsuhito Ishii and Shou Tajima. Looking at the facts, it’s most likely to be Tajima, who’s previous work includes the MPD-Psycho art and character design for Otogi Zoshi, Ishii’s more of a director/live action guy. Also, don’t be ashamed of it; the anime sequence in Kill Bill is fantastic, probably the best thing about the first movie (running an anime blog though, some might say I’m biased)! Same thing with the Linkin’ Park video, their such a famous band that people find it hard to look at the video objectively.

@IKnight: I’m often amazed at how little anime fans know about anime directors and creative staff. Personally, I place more importance in a director than animation studio. For example, Gurren Lagann’s director Hiroyuki Imaishi’s previous work Dead Leaves was animated at Production IG but it shares such a visual resemblance/sugar rush style to said epic mecha show. Here’s a name for you to track down if you haven’t discovered him already: Mamoru Hosoda, arguably the best new anime movie director coming out of Japan right now; Hosoda’s so good he’ll take Shonen Jump franchise movies like One Piece Movie 6 and turn it into an amazing experience.

@Xerox: You’re welcome. I had you in mind when I was writing this (especially the spotlight on Comedy), so I’m glad you liked it! Good luck with the house move, too!

@Outlawstar: He most certainly does :)

@rwaggie: Unfortunately, no. There may have been something on Stage6.com to download, but they shut down last week :( All I can think of is perhaps trying to contact the person who posted it on YouTube. Out of interest, have you seen much of the Ani*Kuri shorts? If you’re into artsy anime, they are some great one minute shorts by some famous directors (including Satoshi Kon, Makoto Shinkai (his new style is very Ghibli-like) and more). One clip from AniKuri embedded below, its the Satoshi Kon contribution:

maikeru's fan says:

watch this its a realy good anime clip on youtube

Martin says:

That last clip was stunning – it reminds me a little of Shinbo’s involvement with Petit Cossette and Zetsubou-sensei: very Japanese but very colourful and vibrant…Hallucinogenic almost. I can’t believe all that was in the name of a bottle of shampoo!

Quicksilver111 says:

I really liked the first short you posted. I’m going to watch some more of his work. The style and art in it were beautiful.

Hige says:

Bateszi: Ah, that makes a lot more sense. MDP Psycho is on of my current favs. I held off on the scanslations when I heard that Dark Horse were handling its English release and they’ve done a fantastic job so far. Shou Tajima should do more animation; his character designs are beautiful even in black and white. Imagine how many more hot-pink jumpsuits we’d be treated to if dedicated a bit more time to anime.

BluWacky says:

Nakazawa is THE MAN. I know Blood’s 3rd OP is the one that I should love, but I’m a huuuuuuge fan of OP2, even if I have no idea what the bit where they’re doing that stupid dance is supposed to be about (presumably just memories of happier times or something but it always looks so ridiculous!)

The comparison of the OP with Ergo Proxy is particularly apt as Nakazawa did key animation for that OP as well! Interestingly, Ergo’s OP was directed by Naoyuki Onda, who did key animation on the Kill Bill segment.

If you delve back into the 90s, you’ll also find that Nakazawa directed the OP for the Lodoss War TV series, which was good enough to spawn a copy cat (Himiko Den) and is by far the best thing in the entire series (Maaya Sakamoto, Yoko Kanno and gratuitous wind blowing hair and petals everywhere). I’m not sure which Rayearth OP he did, but both OP1 and OP3 are surprisingly well directed and animated.

Comedy is exquisite, but rather forgettable in the long run IMHO.

Manganimation is a brilliant website – one of the chief contributors is manuloz, who posts quite frequently on Animesuki and always seems to be first with sakuga videos and news. Well worth checking out (also try Catsuka if you’re looking at French animation websites).

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