Episode Spotlight: Needless 13

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Storyboard & Director: 沼田誠也 (Seiya Numata)

Animation Director: 坂井久太 (Kyuuta Sakai)

Animation: 沼田誠也 (Seiya Numata), 坂井久太 (Kyuuta Sakai)


It was late at night after a long week. Lying on the couch with my partner powering through a few episodes of anime,  my eyes were starting to close on their own as sleep overcame me. It was at this point that I was introduced to the 13th episode of the boisterous TV anime adaptation of Needless. Suddenly I was wide awake, eyes pried open and fixated to the screen. Right off the bat, there was something very different about this episode, something uniquely exhilarating.

I didn’t know this going in, but when I looked up the staff after the episode finished I was astounded to see that the episode was pretty much the handiwork of just two people, and those creators were none other than the devious duo of Seiya Numata and  Kyuuta Sakai!

Before Seiya Numata was swallowed into the eternal pit of no escape that is Milky Holmes, he was a star animator making waves across the industry with attention-grabbing cuts on a myriad of works such as Tora Dora, Gurren Lagann and Higurashi. His ability to pull of dynamic action made him a popular choice for handling fight sequences. His scenes often divided opinions due to his unusual style, but he certainly made a name for himself. His fight from Toradora turned a lot of heads.

Personally I’ve never really been a huge fan of his brand of animation style with its gelatinous warping and stretching, but I admire his magnetism as an animator. He is a devotee of the original charisma animator Yoshinori Kanada, frequently referencing his work and chasing a kindred creative freedom. Alongside Jun Arai, he forms a central pillar to Needless’s aesthetic, which is an uninhibited ode to Kanada and his epoch. Numata exerted a lot of influence with the role of ‘Design Works’ throughout the show as well as ‘Technical Director’.

And it’s difficult to talk about Numata without mentioning Kyuuta Sakai, his sister-in-arms who he brought into most of his projects around this time and has a strong personal friendship with. Sakai is probably a name fresh in most people’s minds as she is the accomplished character designer for the brand new hit Re:Zero. She is now pretty much exclusively a character designer/chief animation director and thrives as an illustrator.

Probably a key uniting factor between the two is their shared fondness for drawing sexy young girls, and the term ‘lolimator’ was coined for them during their days together. If you don’t believe me, the first Needless ED, also featured in this episode is their work and one of the most carnal, intoxicating hits of fanservice I have ever been fortunate enough to witness.

Before Sakai went to White Fox with her work on Steins;Gate, these two were inseparable, and this episode of Needless is one of the best things to come from their early union. The episode is directed and storyboarded by Numata, and, excluding oversight from the chief animation director, entirely and exclusively key-animated by the two of them. It’s a concentrated hit of the Numata and Sakai pair!

As a result, the episode stands out clearly from all the others. Numata’s storyboard and direction immediately make an impact, forgoing convention to deliver an episode that is uniquely tense and weirdly intimate. Numata takes the idea of a stage-play approach and runs with it, focusing on the dialogue and expressions of the characters to the exclusion of all else. There’s no attempt to hide this approach – the episode opens with the room darkened like a stage and all the characters placed under a literal spotlight. Many cuts are plane with an audience line of site, and dramatic lighting is abused like nothing else.

The style actually reminds me of early Akiyuki Shinbou with it’s Ikuhara-esque shots and focus on striking colour design. Numata applied bold neon colouring to many of his sense to deliver the sense of exaggerated drama and also a cool-factor. Some of the shots definitely delivered.

In addition to the darkness enshrouding the scene and the striking lighting, Numata applies a focus on intense facial expressions in close-up which includes detail such as sweat forming and rolling down people’s faces. This all makes for a potent sense of tension and claustrophobia despite the vast open room the events occur within. The moment in which the main villain makes his entrance in particular casts a palpable sense of dread making for one of the most suspenseful moments Needless ever had.

The animation itself is surprisingly active given the fact that it was only key animated by the two of them. Numata works his usual magic with the action highlight that features frenetic movement, spinning camerawork and distorted drawings to ram-home a sense of force. The portion of the fight that is completely upside down is one of those quirky moments that really defines Needless.

One of his most memorable cuts from the episode is not from an action scene but rather this pretty inexplicable cut of Setsuna’s nose bursting into a nosebleed with the intense rage overcoming her. This is an example of Numata’s contorted style works really well as her face twists into this sharp glare of focused fury. I challenge you to find my an anime character looking more angry than this.

needless13-3

The cuts that were presumably handled by Sakai meanwhile were simple fluid animation. The smooth moments stood out to help build up the sense of excitement and differentiate the episode from the normal limited kanada-school style of the rest of the series. There’s also this indescribable sense of style to her movements. Stepping up to being a prolific animation director indicates that she was a powerhouse animator back in her day on the front lines. She apparently has a special skill where she holds both pencil and colour pencil in the one hand and can swiftly use the colour pencil to add shadow lines.

My rewatch of Needless has been an enjoyable affair on the whole, but this episode turned it up a notch, from mildly bemusing to genuinely exciting. Seiya Numata’s unconventional design sense and bold stage-play approach combined with the animation goods delivered by partner-in-crime Sakai make this a grandstand episode.

This episode is not only one of the most condensed examples of Numata and Sakai working together, especially when you include the ED that was exclusively handled by them, but it also appears to be the climax of Numata’s extensive involvement in the series with no major credits on any episode thereafter. He is technical director and a design contributor on the show throughout, but no front-line involvement as an animator. Beyond just Needless this is the most interesting work I have seen of Numata’s in terms of storytelling and direction.

 

Daily Intake 28.01.11

Houkago no Pleiades will be in 4 episodes for a total of 25 minutes length and will be shown on youtube in HD! #1

⚫ Nyantype magazine March issue is out! View a compilation of all this month’s posters here! Then there’s the Megami magazine posters compiled here. It’s always fun to pit them against each other this month and decide which one has the more arousing offering! What are your thoughts on this month? Personally, I think this is one of the best Megami issues in months, and it’s clearly the victor! The new-season shows have taken over with some glorious results: Kuroneko is looking utterly stunning in school swimsuit; Merry is showing off her DFC in a sukumizu as well; Victorique is looking adorable in her poster; the Oniichan poster is fittingly ero; Yutorichan (no. 17) is potently loli; while the Idol M@ster B2-size poster is this month’s star attraction!

Meanwhile, Nyantype offers a few gems: The IS swimsuit poster is very attractive, the Mitsudomoe sukumizu-bondage poster is extra ero, and the Madoka Magica bikini poster is superb! Your thoughts?

⚫ You can see an extensive screencap comparison between TV and BD version of Strike Witches episodes here. Other than the obvious uncensorship (which is fantastic), there are also a plethora of minor but welcomed animation fixes.

⚫ Seems like this year’s TAF is looking at a deficit of approximately 6,400,000 yen, showing a big impact from the pull-out of many major anime production companies and publishers. Good. This sends a strong message to governor Ishihara in regards to his manga regulations bill. source.

⚫ Kadokawa releasing a new magazine, 4koma Nano Ace. The lineup for volume one includes Nichijou (soon to be a KyoAni anime), Baka Test manga, and a Nanoha Force manga (a parody 4koma). Could be good. Volume one comes out on the 9th of March. source

* I didn’t get a chance to watch the new episodes of anime today, unfortunately. Looking forward to them tomorrow.

 


 


 


 
A Channel PV:


 
Lotte no Omocha PV:


 
Morita-san wa Mukuchi PV:

Daily Intake 25.01.11

⚫ The new Keion character song singles have been a big success on the weekly oricon charts! Ui placed 5th, (13,000 copies), Jun 8th (12,000) and Nodoka 9th (12,000)!

⚫ Seiyuu unit LISP (featuring Asumi Kana, Hara Sayuri & Kataoka Azusa) will be starring in and singing the theme song for an upcoming TV anime aimed at elementary kids, “Pretty Rythmn Aurora Dream” (プリティーリズム オーロラドリーム). The anime is apparently about three girls who want to become idols, who are played by LISP. The original character designs have also been revealed. #1 (played by Kana Asumi), #2 (played by Azusa Kataoka), #3 (played by Sayuri Hara).

⚫ It looks like Yamakan has closed his blog after a tussle with commentors about his retirement that started yesterday (see yesterday’s post)… this is kind of sad. To someone just reading this news it might sound like Yamakan being stupid, but given the number of negative comments he gets on 2channel, I’m not surprised it got to him (even if he did kind of get into this mess himself). It’s a shame to see a driven director be beaten down by so-called anime fans. source.

⚫ A newspaper interviewed the Yumekui Merry author. Both him and his house look very plain, don’t they? #1

⚫ An Akihabara sushi store used Ika Musume illustrations on their menu source+pics

⚫ I watched Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka 3, and really enjoyed it after being slightly disappointed by the second episode. The storyboard (by Yasunori Ide, director of Please Teacher, Please Twins, and others) was very effective at delivering many funny moments, and the timing was spot on. I laughed quite a bit. There was also some great fanservice, which I’m sure Yasunori wasn’t opposed to!

⚫ Star Driver 16 was indeed a great episode! For possibly the first time, my attention didn’t waver for even a second. The animation was pretty superb, with contributions from Hironori Tanaka and Hiroshi Tomioka. On the downside, I think the show lost a big part of its appeal to me from here on. I won’t be specific but… BAWWWW.

Ken Akamatsu‘s website for online distribution of out-of-print manga, Jcomi, which is currently in beta, finally found a success with the distribution of “After School Wedding”! It obtained a revenue of 525000 yen! source. Maybe this model has hope after all. Personally, I think it’s a great idea which will work much better if the advertisements are better targeted.

 


 

Freezing – Quick Impression

Freezing was a bit of an unknown for me going into this season. I’d seen the PV, which kick-started a mild anticipation, but beyond that I hadn’t really looked into it, either in terms of the staff involved or the original material. I basically just pinned it as the AT-X battle-ecchi anime of the season.
 

Ratings


MOE: ⚫⚫⚪⚪⚪
ERO: ⚫⚫⚫⚪⚪
GAR: ⚫⚫⚪⚪⚪
LOL: ⚫⚪⚪⚪⚪


 

I like.

This first episode sort of proved me right, but sort of proved me wrong. On the one hand, it definitely fits the battle-ecchi description, but on the other, it’s not really a typical Ikkitousen alternative. Along with the panty-shots and occasional tits, there is a surprising amount of violence! These girls aren’t just hitting each other to remove clothing, they’re doing some serious damage, and the action sequences have a genuine sense of tension to them. This is largely thanks to the cinematic production approach. Kind of like Highschool of the Dead did, Freezing uses excellent post-production effects and camera-work to bring energy to the sequences, rather than relying only on good animation (although there are a couple of moments of good animation too!). The inspiration for Freezing’s approach almost could be traced back to the Bourne movies (but toned down), with the relatively fast editing and shaky camera! Of course, I could just be thinking that because of the spy-thriller-esque BGM, which keeps the heartbeat going as the girls brutally clash with one another.
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Rio Rainbow Gate 01 Impressions

Rio Rainbow Gate is one of the first new TV-anime of 2011 (yayy!!), but after watching its premier episode for 22 odd minutes, I can only hope that this isn’t a sign of things to come. You see, Rio Rainbow Gate, unsurprisingly, is seeping with mediocrity.
 

Ratings


MOE: ⚫⚫⚪⚪⚪
ERO: ⚫⚫⚪⚪⚪
GAR: ⚪⚪⚪⚪⚪
LOL: ⚫⚪⚪⚪⚪


 

Oh, the poor exploited girl! (tl note: fuck yeah maid outfit!)

This episode was basically what I expected after reading its origin story and glancing at its design work. This anime is based on a series of pachinko machines (Japanese slot machines), and revolves around an idolised female dealer at a large and exotic casino, Rio, who’s called the goddess of gambling. There are a few other characters thrown in for shits and giggles, but that basically sums up RRG in a nutshell. The animation studio is the underachieving Xebec, and its core staff include director Takao Kato (inexplicably still employed), and an unknown chief animation director, Hisashi Shimura. On the upside, the writing staff shows some potential with Mayori Sekijima (script of Petit Cossette) handling series composition. The first episode didn’t really show any spark of creativity or depth in the script though. All these people and circumstances have convened to create Rio Rainbow Gate, and the result is thorough mediocrity. The designs are poor, the colouring and background art bland, the animation weak and the dialogue is pretty dumb.

However, mediocrity isn’t necessarily a bad thing; at the very least it implies that this isn’t an outright BAD anime. This anime is definitely watchable, and it even has a petty decent amount of entertainment value if you can look past its average exterior. Most of this entertainment value comes from the fanservice, almost all of which is featuring the titular character, and which is cleverly spaced throughout the episode to keep your attention aroused for its full length. To her credit, Rio is almost as sexy as she is apparently rumoured to be (confusing sentences ftw!), and she isn’t afraid to flaunt it! Well, actually she is pretty coy about the whole thing, but her boss takes every opportunity to get her into some kind of revealing and erotic situation (thanks, man). Oh, there’s also a cute loli character!

Beyond the characters and fanservice, the show plays on the idea of Rio being a gambling goddess. I’m not sure what that really entails, but she has some magical gift for gambling (a ‘believe in the heart of the cards’ kind of thing), which she seems to use to strategically humiliate her opponents. More on that later I guess. I don’t really know what direction this show will go in, or if it will ever even feel the need to have a direction, but for now I can say that it is a distinctly average yet somewhat fun ecchi anime. But a picture tells a thousand words, so I uploading the screencaps below instead of writing the 18,000-word review I originally had planned!

OH, there’s also a ferret!
 


 

A Week in Otaku News 2 – Prepare for Third Impact

A visual guide to the week in anime/otaku news and distractions! Hopefully this new post format is useful and fun for people. Please comment to share your thoughts, observations, additions, corrections, et cetera! Let’s get a discussion going! I really want to know what people think of this post format, so I’m encouraged to continue doing them every week.

Note: I’m going to do a separate article for highlights in current anime and manga!

Thank you for the comments last time! Please comment again to keep me motivated, and share the link if you like the post (please!).

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Mahou Sensei Negima!: Another World Special OVA: Magical Girl Yue

Yue's finishing blow - a totally badass sequence.

Ratings


MOE: ⚫⚫⚪⚪⚪
ERO: ⚫⚫⚫⚪⚪
GAR: ⚫⚫⚪⚪⚪
LOL: ⚫⚫⚪⚪⚪


 

‘Magical Girl Yue’ is the episode title of this latest entry in the Negima ‘Another World’ OVA series, which has been faithfully animating the manga story from the beginning of the magical world arc. It’s a special episode, not just because it’s awesome, but because it covers the content that the last OVA skipped – Yue’s amnesia school-life side-story! I suppose the theory was that there was enough good stuff in Yue’s story to take it out and make a whole new OVA. It was a good theory! Unlike the others, it’s solely dedicated to Yue and the new friends she makes at the magical academy she winds up in. Her memory loss (secretly caused by her friend-to-be, Collette) means she stays at the school while she tries to work out who she is and what to do. When she hears discussions about the second coming of Nagi Springfield entering the international fighting tournament something stirs within her and she becomes determined to get to that tournament, even if it means winning a challenging free-for-all broom-race with a strip-tease twist! Although I’m currently behind in the manga (working on that!), I am a big Negima fan. of course, I disliked the earlier TV-anime renditions, but these new OVAs are hitting much closer to the mark by staying true to the original work. This OVA was particularly appealing because I have a soft-spot for Yue (she’s possibly my favorite girl after Setsuna), and the magical-girl-esque school plot is naturally interesting. I definitely wasn’t disappointed! This OVA had a really fun and colourful blend of humour, fanservice, action and badassery.

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To Aru Majutsu no Index II Episode 08

KITTAA!!! After seeing this sight, Touma forfits the right to say "Fukou da!" ever again.

Ratings


MOE: ⚫⚫⚪⚪⚪
ERO: ⚫⚫⚫⚪⚪
GAR: ⚫⚪⚪⚪⚪
LOL: ⚫⚪⚪⚪⚪


 

I can’t tell whether this is a weak episode of Index, or whether the other episodes of this second season simply make it look bad by comparison. I think I’ll go with the latter theory, because even if it didn’t feel up to scratch coming off the back of the previous arc (which pierced the heavens of win), it was still fairly entertaining! It centers around the big inter-school sports carnival, which offers an array of strange events for espers to lock horns in, and the stakes are risen by a bet between Misaka and Touma over whose school will come out on top: the winner gets to make the other do their bidding! To me, this seems like a win-win situation for Touma, given Biri-biri’s obvious yearning for him! There’s also a growing plot to do with a legendary sword (Stab Sword), and the introduction of a sexy new villain, Oriana Thompson (seiyuu: Ryoka Yuzuki). Throw in a cameo appearance of Misaka’s mother, and a wholesome dose of fanservice, and you’ve got a pretty fun package.

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Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The MOVIE 1st


 

The last couple of days have marked another step forward in the march of the booming Nanoha franchise: the long-awaited release of the 1st movie DVD! I’m reminded again at just how remarkable the Nanoha series really is, it has to be one of the greatest success stories for a side-character ever! No one could of predicted that Nanoha would go from her roots as a minor character in a mediocre H-game and OVA series (Triangle Hearts) to being the face of a new era of the mahou genre, and one of the strongest character brands around today (just look at her and Fate’s saimoe records!). Instead of letting her fade into oblivion, it was director Akiyuki Shinbo and the animation studio Seven Arcs who pulled her out of obscurity by transforming her into a magical girl for an original TV-anime: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha. The series was a success and was notable for its new take on the genre: it strayed from the humble themes of mahou shoujo and gave it an epic, science-fiction warfare bent, as well as portraying an overarching, tragic story. While other series also fit this description, Nanoha is possibly the best example of Mahou Shoujo series with an older male demographic. The first season pitched to the lolicon crowd with fanservice scenes, but this was soon overshadowed by its intense story and exciting action sequences. The fandom grew by the time the second season, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s, came along, and then jumped even further with the third season, Strikers. Many fans latched on at this point, but for me, the core appeal of Nanoha lies in the powerful emotional story of the first season, as well as the Nanoha/Fate dynamic! That’s why I was really happy to hear this movie announced, which would cover the first season! And, having just watched it, I can say that, as a big fan of the first season, I wasn’t at all disappointed!

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To Aru Majutsu no Index Episode 7

Deepfriends (but not the kind of deep Kuroneko often wants)

Ratings


MOE: ◾◾◽◽◽
ERO: ◾◽◽◽◽
GAR: ◾◾◾◽◽
LOL: ◾◽◽◽◽


 

This was a powerful and exciting conclusion to what has been a thrilling arc from start to finish, and that’s something I don’t get to say about Index very often! But this second season has been on a roll so far. The previous arc was one of the anime’s strongest, but this arc took it even further! Despite the fact that it’s only two episodes, I actually would call this the strongest arc to come out of Index so far. The 2 episode time-limit made this a fast-paced, action-packed ride, but that didn’t detract from its strong story and intense characterisation. Being a science-side story, it was bound to be more interesting, but the fact that it built on from the Imouto arc of last season meant that the brief plot had a lot more weight. The characters all have a tangible backstory when it comes to the Tree Diagram and the experiments with Accelerator, especially Misaka! But, although it included Accelerator, Last Order, the Imouto-tachi, as well as a fascinating new character, it was interesting that this arc was mainly about Kuroko! Compared with the Railgun manga, she’s been criminally underdeveloped in the anime series, so this episode finally explores her brave, selfless, and righteous side! She’s not JUST a pervert. But she sure does have to suffer for her character development doesn’t she? I don’t think any Index character has been as beaten and maimed as Kuroko was in the last two episodes. For a 14 year-old she has a remarkable tolerance for pain!

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