Masaaki Yuasa and Flash Animation

Today, I finally finished my presentation.
I was extremely nervous because it was my very first presentation in English.
Here is what I presented today.

I chose this director for my presentation because I personally really enjoy his work even though I am not a big fan of Japanese anime. Yuasa is interesting to me because of his unconventional approach to animation and his studio ethos.

Masaaki Yuasa started out working for an obscure contract anime studio called Ajia-do.
The studio was formed by very skilled animators who also knew how to handle all of the other directorial processes. Yuasa experienced almost every animation role during his time at this studio, where he worked on a lot of anime shows that every Japanese person has heard of.

He directed a movie Mind Game in 2004. Yuasa had worked for the industry for a considerable time at this point.
Following Mind Game, he directed three TV series: Kemonozume, Kaiba and Tatami Galaxy.
On all three of these productions, he worked as a Director, animator, writer and storyboarder.
It’s not common for directors to fulfill this many roles but Yuasa uses his diverse set of skills to help almost every department of his anime. Because of this –even though most of the work he has done are adaptations of Manga or novels– his visual style is instantly recognisable as it significantly differs from standard anime.
Yuasa’s style is known for his great use of wide camera angles and distorted perspective, rough but clean lines, flat and vivid colours, simple designs, and experimental narrative.

He also directed, an episode of Adventure Time as a guest animator. Yuasa was the second guest animator on Adventure Time after David O’Reilly. It is animated in a style different from most other episodes of Adventure Time, and it has a style very unique to Yuasa.

– Finn and Jake’s constant motion through 3D space
– Constant perspective changes
– Use of colour gradients
– Use of patterns
– Stylistic changes to Finn and Jake’s character design
– Change to narrative pacing

just before he did the episode of Adventure time, he set up his own studio, Science Saru in order to make the offer from Cartoon Network viable. For Yuasa and his studio, the experience of working with Cartoon Network was significant. He once mentioned in an interview, that when he visited the Cartoon Network studios, he was very surprised and shocked that everyone working there looked Happy. Yuasa felt this way because even though animation is obviously big business in Japan, the working conditions in the Anime industry is very poor.

After this experience he aimed to change working environments in the Japanese animation industry while maintaining the appeal of Japanese anime and quality.

At the same time, Yuasa was directing “PING PONG The Animation” for Toei, a large Japanese studio. Yuasa used his own studio, Science Saru, to help with certain scenes on this project. Yuasa and his team experimented heavily with flash during this period.

Flash animation is animation created in the adobe software, flash.
Flash relies on point-based coordinates, allowing smooth transitions between frames.
Flash is technically CGI, as in Computer Generated Imagery. Animators don’t have to redraw every object in the entire frame from scratch.
Because of this, Adobe Flash is usually used for low budget animations. In an effort to save time and money, western studios are increasingly drawn to flash techniques over hand drawn ones. However, Yuasa’s Flash animation is a bit different from this.

Here is a video they are showing how they animate in Flash

“Flash’s real advantage is a smoothness of movement and a clarity of line. So it’s ideal for showing small objects growing ever-larger in size while maintaining their original form, or for constantly mutable forms like water.”

This quote from his interview helps us to understand why Flash is suited to Yuasa’s three dimensional and distorted perspective animation. Flash also, potentially, makes the inbetweening process for all motion more directly and immediately controllable than outsourcing/offshoring that process as the industry usually does.

This year, He released his first two feature films since Mind Game, in 2004. They used flash for both films, but one of the films “Lu Over the Wall” is Yuasa’s original story and it was produced entirely with Flash animation,

– Yuasa’s team drew key frames by hand and traced them in Flash.
– This saved them from having to draw more than eighty frames per scene as Flash took care of the in-betweens.
– This allowed Yuasa to produce a feature with a team two thirds smaller than a regular studio.

However the visual direction of Lu Over the Wall looks conventional and kitsch in comparison to Yuasa’s previous work.
Lu Over the Wall features very few appearances of his trademark style such as unusual angles and vibrant colours. Instead, Lu Over the Wall is primarily composed of orthodox shots and a more subdued palette.

I do prefer the old sketchy style rather than this new vector-like animation, and I’m a little bit sad to see this is the direction he wants to take.
On the other hand, Lu Over the Wall can be seen as good example of flash animation allowing smaller studios to create large, commercially viable features. Perhaps this is a vindication of Yuasa’s goals, mentioned earlier.
It’s proof that Flash animation can work surprisingly well even on the big screen.

The reason I would prefer not work as an animator in Japan (other than stylistic preferences) is because of the current working environment. Most studios can only pay animators very little for their work and the average yearly income is 1 million yen which is approximately 7500 pounds. Japanese animators average eleven working hours a day.

I hope there’s a way this can change in the future.

Science Saru aims to challenge these conventions, an example of this is their 9-6 work day policy. The studio’s co-founder, Eunyoung Choi, believes that animators need to experience life outside of work to be more effective in their approach.

I think the development of young Japanese animation studios, like Science Saru, is key to the industry’s future.

Science Saru will release the new series “DEVILMAN crybabybased on Japanese Manga Devilman for Netflix next year

Satoshi Kon, Millennium Actress

The end of the last month, I went to a screening of an animated film called Millennium Antress (Sennen joyû, 2001) directed by Satoshi Kon one of the greatest anime directors of all time.


The animation in his films is always breathtakingly realistic.  However, the storytelling in this film is standing out from any of other animated films.

It is about the life story of a legendary actress Fujiwara Chiyoko who retired more than thirty years ago, told to a documentarian that decides to make a documentary about her.

Kon’s story is always told in a way where the line between reality and fantasy are blurred. This film is not an exception, the line between events of Chiyoko’s real life and scenes from her films is blurred and complex. What makes this film more interesting is that when the scene shift into Chiyoko’s past, the interviewer and his camera man also walk around in her past and interacting with people.

This is a film that probably could never work as a live action film because of the seamless changes between reality, memory and films and the transformation between a girl, a young women into an old woman.

The another remarkable point of this film for me is the running scene of the main character. There are a lot of different running scenes of her in this film as she is always finding the man she loves. I find the animation absolutely beautiful.