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Kino's Journey (A.C.G.T., 2003)




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Ep. 2: Kino listens to the traders’ “Song for Travelers”: layout and roughs
Source: TV
Layers: 1
Sketches: 3
Cel Number: A1 END
Oversize, 13.5W x 9H

Key Cel
End Cel
No Background

Added 7/20/2020
Updated 7/21/2020
Ep. 2 ("A Tale of Feeding Off Others —I Want to Live.—"), Cut 161. Late in winter, Kino encounters three merchants who are stuck in the snow with their truck of merchandise. She helps the starving men by hunting and roasting rabbits for them. Now much relieved, the merchants invite the wanderer to their land and show their gratitude by playing a tune that honors the hardships of travel and gives thanks for life. Kino responds to the soulful melody with a gentle smile, shown in a slow left-to-right pan.



This fine portrait was done on oversized sheets of paper to accommodate the panning action. This sketch set was luckily complete, including all the stages from layout to A1 END douga, having escaped the pilfering and breaking up of most other lots from this much-desired series. Thus it gives an unusually complete picture of A•C•G•T’s production process, and so I’ve shared them fully.

Featured above is the second of the two roughs, on which the genga (next item) was directly based. The thumbs show the two prior stages, the rather simple copy layout and the first rough, a benign-looking portrait of Kino as he enjoys this fleeting moment of comradeship.


Caution! Fussy Notes

However, the presence of two roughs raises the issue of attribution. Normally, the rough is executed by the episode’s animation director, who was Takuya Matsumoto [松本 卓也], also credited for Episode 3 of the series. The sketches that I have for “Kino takes leave of the Tradition Bearer” provide examples of this artist’s work. The sketch in the second thumb is done on paper that is the same light-green color as the Ep. 3 sketches, as well as a similar style of sketching, so I’m confident in attributing the light-green “first” rough to Matsumoto.

Then who executed the much brasher “second” rough featured above? Logically, one would look to the series “Senior Animation Director,” but no artist was listed for this position. One might nominate Shigeyuki Suga, who was credited as Character Designer, as frequently the artist who did this task also served (uncredited) as the supervising Animation Director for the series. Unfortunately, I don’t own any artwork that I can confidently attribute to Suga, so I can’t rule this animator out.

But from the start I was struck by the bold and distinctive way that the artist of the second rough labeled the sketch with the cut number:



The odd “hook” at the top of the “C” is quite distinctive, and matches the way the letter is written in the “second rough” of the next sketch set, from later in the same episode.



Animation directors label cuts (or don’t label them) in all kinds of personal ways, and so I’ve found oddities like these a means of confirming their identity when they are properly credited. But for various reasons some animators prefer to work under a pseudonym or even ask not to be credited at all. On such occasions, idiosyncrasies like these can provide a way of resolving mysteries like the present one.

Anyway, that quirky “hooked C” was familiar to me, and in short order I put my two new Kino Ep. 2 examples of it together with three others that display it:



The Kino sketches are both in the second row. The examples above come from roughs for Slayers Next and for Hyper Police, and the one below is from Inuyasha.

The credited artist for the other three series is Atsuo Tobe [戸部 敦夫], a widely-traveled and respected animation artist noted for his work with Sunrise. He was character designer for Yakitake Japan! (2004) and served as Animation Supervisor for the 2008 supernatural action series Kekkaishi. (More recently, he did character design for the 2012-13 TV series Kingdom.)

His involvement with Inuyasha was limited to only three episodes for the first series of Inuyasha, plus one more for The Final Act. But Tobe’s artwork earned high marks from fans. Dylan Acres, in his “Inuyasha Director Guide,” calls his work “a solid job . . . His style definitely stands out,” and concludes that his talent was “unfortunately underused” by the studio.

Perhaps this talent wasn’t “underused” but just under-credited. If I’m correct, Tobe was also Senior Animation Director (at least for this episode) of Kino’s Journey. His sketching style is bolder and seemingly more tentative than Matsumoto’s, so it was understandable that the seller interpreted the yellow-paper sketch as the rough and the green-paper sketch as a senior animator’s revision.

But paper color was often a personal choice, not a sign of junior/senior status. Think of the collaboration between Episode Animation Director Kimiko Tamai (turquoise paper) and Series Animation Director Kumi Ishii (yellow paper) in Rozen Maiden

And if you compare the two roughs to the genga (and the screencap) you’ll soon see that the yellow-paper rough was the basis for the final state of the image. Notice particularly the highlights in Kino’s eyes (different in the first rough) and how the firelight casts shadows behind the hairlocks (no shadows in the first rough).

Such is the scarcity of Kino sketchwork that I can’t conclusively confirm my thesis with scans from other galleries. However, this rough (from Ep. 9) in Tabbycat’s Cel Gallery shows a similar way of labeling the cut and very similar sketching style. (Sadly, the “C” is written sloppily and doesn’t clearly show that distinctive “hook” at the top of the letter.) Other apparent yellow-paper sketches show different ways of labeling cut numbers, but there is not enough surviving material to show whether they are by an episode animation director or by a supervisor.

Still, it’s an interesting glimpse of what studio procedures lie behind the paper products that survive from series like these, showing how anime quickly adapted to the CGI process by using artists honed by experience in cel-based animation.


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Next: Kino listens to the traders’ “Song for Travelers”: genga and douga    
 

Curator: 60something-sensei
Gallery Created: 8/3/2002
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