The Below was not written by me so don’t even think of quoting me on this.
” In my case, when I started out at Studio Junio, I was lucky enough to get to pick the sort of work I wanted to do pretty early on. I went outside of the studio to work on Akira when I was around 26 or 27. Looking back on it now, I can see that I was pretty lucky compared to the other people around me who had to do whatever the company assigned them. But even apart from that it was all worth it. There was always something to learn from whatever I did. Maybe there were some things I’d rather not have done, but it’s not like I knew anybody in the ideal situation of being able to choose only whatever they wanted to do. So it’s not like I felt like I was being held back. I think having done lots of things that in retrospect were the diametric opposite of what I want to be doing now was a good experience in terms of building up patience and endurance. But maybe I was just more patient than kids today. (laughs)
Nowadays it feels like animators are still young at 30. Maybe it’s just because I’ve gotten older. What age was Tetsuya Nishio when he did Jin-Roh?
He turned 30 during production, so…Definitely young. He’d just come unto his own. I’m hardly one to talk, but it feels like people become adults much later these days, in the true sense of an adult. The same applies to animators.
When I was younger you could start to tell if a guy might be going places around 23 or 24 when suddenly you’d feel this sense of assurance and zeal in his work, but it seems rarer to see kids bloom that fast these days.
It’s not like kids are any worse today than they used to be, so there has to be a reason for that. I think the reason is simply that there’s so much more to learn these days than when I started out that people are too busy trying to assimilate it all, and they don’t have the time to actually master anything. But the quality at the top has definitely gone up. Actually, if you look back at the situation at Toei Doga during its best years and compare it with the situation today, you’ll see that things haven’t really improved that much. Twenty years ago you could fall back on the knowhow of the day to express most of what you wanted to express without having to come up with anything new. But today there are so many more forms out there than there were in the old days. Now you can get films like Jin-Roh that make use of expressive means that would have been impossible to achieve using the knowhow that was available just 20 years ago. And then there’s the fact that the range of material has expanded. So maybe it’s just that, confronted with all these new sophisticated forms of expression, people want to learn this and that, and that makes it hard for them to find a focus. Beginners today have a lot of work to do just to learn the basics. There seems to be a general feeling of not having enough hands to get around to learning everything.
For one, back then there weren’t people trying to create totally realistic depictions of the movement of the surface of water or flames or whatever. Effects animation has developed in all sorts of different directions. Twenty years ago you just had to master the basic pattern and you were set for most situations. If you’d have asked me to draw the complex, twirling style of smoke you see nowadays when I started out twenty years ago, I might have had a seriously hard time figuring out how to do it. First I learned the simple pattern, and then, feeling constricted by that, I started learning from the methods that people like Hideaki Anno and Mitsuo Iso had invented. That’s why I managed to do it. Throwing new people in the deep end and asking them to learn sophisiticated forms like that right at first may well be asking a little much of them. So that may be why people are slower to reach maturity as animators today, though I have no way of knowing for sure if that’s the right interpretation.
It’s similar to the way scientists in the past were able to study a number of fields, but today it’s hard for any one scientist to keep up with all of the developments in all of the different fields. First they learn the basics, then if they want to go on to the next level, they have to limit themselves to one field.
My thinking is, if you learn the basics while you’re young, then even if you go freelance, you’ll be able to pick from a broader range of work, which would keep you from becoming too narrowly focused on any one type of work. The problem is, animation isn’t like science, where you have the basics over here and the advanced applications over there. It’s all on the same playing field. It’s hard to say where one ends and the other begins.
Take the traditional way of animating walking – three inbetweens to get the basic movements, then add some body motion to give it a more realistic feeling. Is the best way of doing it really to learn the simple pattern first, and then to learn the more realistic version? I’m not so sure. It might be better to try to figure out what walking is on your own right from the start. That was our dilemma. First they pounded these ridiculously simplistic, mechanical patterns into our heads, and only afterwards did we start to notice something was wrong and start actually thinking about what walking is. Well, instead of having to re-learn everything from scratch like that, why not study how it’s actually done right from the beginning? It might make the hurdle seem higher at the start, but if anything, in the end it’ll probably wind up saving you a lot of time.
I think we took the long way around. If somebody had just been there by our side to ask the simple question, “Is this right?”, we might very well have been able to reach a higher level a lot sooner than we did. I almost feel like we wasted ten years. The absolute essentials haven’t changed that much in the twenty years since we learned them. I just wonder if we might not be taking the long way around again by forcing basics on them. It’s hard to say which is right.
” – animator Toshiyuki Inoue