Young Animator Training Project (2011) Review

This is review number one hundred and thirteen. It’s the Young Animator Training Project and it’s part of the Spring lineup. I really love the 2010 Young Animator Training Project so I love the fact we get another one. I’m also sad we didn’t get one for 2012. What the hell? Japan ran out of funding? Anyways, this is a collection of four short anime designed to be pretty amazing. It really is. Let’s read on.

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The Young Animator Training Project is a program funded by the Japanese Cultural Affairs to create four short animations from studio who train young animators on the job. Basically, it’s a project where a studio teaches the aspiring animators the run around of what goes down into making an anime. I love the concept because Japan has shown interest into the future of animation, something they are very known for. The 2010 YATP is a reported success and this is the second time the project is done. Studios sign up to the project and four will be chosen and funded. It’s said that each studio received 38 million yen (470,000 dollars) to fund the short animation. The Japanese Cultural Affairs is funding the four studios a total of 214.5 million yen (2.65 million dollars) to produce the short animation. Is it money well spent? Yes. Definitely. I’m actually a bit jealous I’m not one of those on the job trainees experiencing this awesome project.

My review format will be different for this one since all four shows are standalone anime made by four different studios. Each of them is unique in their own right but they all have one thing in common: they’re all handled by aspiring animators. I’ll give the shorts a score out of five and then I’ll give an overall score to the entire YATP. Ok, let’s do this.

Buta

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Studio: Telecom Animation Film (known for the anime Moyashimon and created “Oji-san no Lamp” at YATP 2010)

Story

Buta is about a young fox that was given a special treasure map by his father on his birthday. He was captured by pirates though when they raided his village. On the ship, he met a hired samurai and asked him to escape the pirates. One thing led to another and now the two are travelling together trying to get back home. Easier said than done when you’re broke and a bunch of pirates are after you.

Taking the Pants Off

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This is a pretty straight forward anime with a simple concept. Since it’s only twenty four minutes, there is so much to soak in and analyze. The story is pretty great as it was able to use all the characters that appear on the anime. There’s a complex arrangement to the storytelling that you’d never expect the flow of events even though you have an idea of it. The use of characters at an opportune time and the execution of the twist make for a very interesting anime experience.

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The characters are all pretty interesting despite the short time frame. The two main characters are pretty interesting as their personality clashes and play off each other. At one end is a seasoned traveler samurai who has seen the worst of life and steals to survive. On the other end is a kid who is pretty innocent and has no idea of the harsh world he lives in. Their personality causes some tension but they are also pretty fond of each other as the story progresses. As I said before, the rest of the cast is pretty nice because of the way they were used in the story. Everyone had a major role that makes the anime very interesting.

Sight and Sound

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The anime is a really nice because it’s all hand drawn with a nice mix of digital touches. What’s the perfect way for aspiring animators to learn than to have them create a short frame by frame? The anime is deceptively simple but the smooth animation is undeniably amazing. You can pause the anime at any moment and you’d see how much detail each animation is given. It’s a simple anime but it’s certainly very sophisticated.

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The background is all painted scenes with some very colorful palette used to make them more visually appealing. I particularly love the clouds in the background because of the heavy detail given to it. You can feel the passion on every stroke and shade of the background which is truly something to be appreciative of. The character design is all pretty simple. They start of basic shapes and create a character from them. It’s a basic animation method. The only human looking character in the anime is the ninja chick and everyone else is either round or pointy.

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The fight scenes are very smooth. They’re pretty fast as to not eat too much of the twenty four minute anime but there is enough to show some impressive animation. They’re all fast but easy to follow and the transition is always smooth. All the key animation is very nicely handled to make the fight scenes shine despite being six minutes long if combined all together.

Score: 4/5 “Top notch animation with a nice simple story to accompany it”.

Dudu the Floatie

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Studio: Answer Studio (previously known as Walt Disney Animation Japan)

Story

This short film is about a little girl named Mika who wanted to have a day at the beach with her dad. Her dad is always busy though and it’s always common for something unexpected to come up and ruin his playdate with her daughter. The same thing happened this time around as Mika was excitedly waiting in the car. His dad had to cancel so he work. Trying to keep her daughter happy, mom made a little kiddie pool for Mika to play in. She had Dudu, an inflatable rubber dugong, playing with her. All of a sudden, Dudu came to life and decided to cheer sad Mika up.

Taking the Pants Off

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This anime is amazing. I think the best of the shorts so far. It’s a very heartwarming tale about family togetherness and the relationship between a busy father and his caring daughter. There is a lot happening in the span of twenty minutes in this anime and it’s amazing how flexible the story is. First of all, it has a lot of plot points. I’ll try not to spoil much but some of the plot points include the father-daughter trying to go to the beach, the father having issues with the sea and Dudu teaching Mika the beauty of the sea. These plot points make up for a very interesting story where there is no boring moments and surprises keeps popping up from every corner.

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The anime is very touching and it’s also wakes up the inner kid in you. The anime was able to create a very wonderful world full of interesting creatures to add into the simple family dynamic story it possess. Aside from a heartwarming family story, this anime is also about the playful imagination of children and their unchanging call for adventures. It is really amazing and it was a solid treat to see a colorful world despite starting off from a slice of life concept. The unique balance of all the elements despite the show being so short really makes this anime amazing.

Sight and Sound

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Another completely hand drawn animation but the incredible use of bright colors and colorful outlines makes it looks very sophisticated. I particularly love the color scenery in the beach. My imagination is getting a nice treat seeing all those color fishes and those eccentric creatures. The character design is particularly cute. Mika is very cute with her big head and little body. The dad is drawn very muscular and I love how there is a range in the character design.

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The animation is top notch. It is really just superb. The purpose of the TYAP is for professionals to impart their knowledge to aspiring animators so seeing traditional methods applied in these shorts is something I really appreciate. The frame rate of the anime is very high and the transition is very smooth. The use of different shades to illustrate all the different scenes also makes this anime very high quality. There is a particular dull shade on the slice of life but overly bright somewhat cheerful on the adventure scenes and another shade when underwater.

Emiri Kato also did a top notch job voicing Mika. She really captured the childish maturity of the character but also her needy whiny side. The dialogue is very much alive in this anime and the range of the voice actor’s voices adds some extra depth in the short.

Score: 5/5 “Heartwarming and very imaginative”.

Shiranpuri

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Studio: Shirogumi (oddly, also made Moyashimon)

Story

This short is about bullying. Nothing fancy. It’s just the story of how people are always bullied and how other people just watch other people being bullied without doing anything. The main character is a bystander as this kid named Don is being bullied by a group led by a kid named Yaragase. The story is about how the main character slowly finds his stance against bullying.

Taking the Pants Off

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It’s probably the most crudely drawn short of the collection but the one with the clearest message to deliver. Bullying is an interesting subject and the anime was able to capture the experience on three points of views. It shows the side of the one being bullied, the one bullying and the one watching the other dude being bullied. It’s a simple story but it’s very spot on with its message. Bullying can only happen when other people let it happen. I love the main character’s transformation from a guy saying “he deserved it” to a guy finding a voice against bullying.

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The anime is deeply complex in terms of how we humans bully the weak and we find some satisfaction behind it. It’s also able to portray how the cycle of bullying is constant and a pace that sadly keeps on continuing. Admist all the pain and frustration of being bullied, it is clear that it will not stop unless people want it to stop. It’s a really great story that shines despite the crude animation.

Sight and Sound

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This looks like a very simple anime and I kind of wonder if the studio spent all the money doing this anime. It honestly looks like the storyboard of the anime was animated. The character design is simple and very crude. The background has no special detail and only specific places needed for the story are given a background. People who know how to make storyboard will know that this anime is incomplete. Maybe they were pressed for time? If it was intentional then damn, that’s some money down the drain compared to the other anime in this collection.

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The animation is still impressive though. The charcoal drawings come to life in every frame and the camera angle seems to be the most complex in all of the shorts. In particular fight scenes in the anime, you can see the camera angle move with the character as it gradually changes as if alive and make the scene more dynamic. Its hand drawn so there is a lot of effort needed to hand drawn this anime and that is pretty impressive. Sadly, people love visuals. I love visuals and this would’ve been more impressive if it was neatly animated with detailed character design and colorful backgrounds.

Score: 3/5 “The story is pretty nice. I wish the rest of the anime was pretty as well.”

Wasurenagumo

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Studio: Production IG (I’d slap you with a pork chop if you do not know this studio)

Story

A used book store owner named Shu Suzuri and a schoolgirl named Mizuki Henmi discovered a sealed book amongs the stacks of books. It’s said to house a monster inside. The seal was broken and out comes a little girl that is half spider. Shu and Mizuki would soon later learn that legends holds grain of truths and myths aren’t really that far from real life.

Taking the Pants off

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I could see this anime as a great story for bedtime. The story is really nice with a nice theme of the supernatural. It starts off fairly simple with a telling of an old legend about a giant spider once wreaking havoc on a town. It was defeated by an omniyouji. The story starts out slow and the visuals are the only thing making the anime interesting. It slowly picks up at the later parts and then finishes of with a pretty nice ending. The theme of the supernatural is nicely used here. The theme possess the charming appeal that Studio Ghibli and other anime used to exploit but still incorporating the chilly legends of eating humans and such behind them. This nice mix of supernatural makes the story really complex and impressively deceptive. The anime has a cautionary tale about believing in the supernatural and being wary of all things occult.

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The two characters are plain generic but they serve a lot to the story. Mizuki is this ordinary high school girl who just happened to be caught in a supernatural event while getting her grandfather’s rent pay from a book owner. She is the dependable type who you can rely to save your life is it needs saving. Suzuki is probably the interesting one with a profound love for the occult and all things supernatural. It’s not really a unique personality as other anime have done the same. He is the type to be unfazed but his role to the story is pretty nice. The other characters are the spider monster. Half human and half girl, she is both cute and menacing. A creature that does not talk and has legends told about her. She is interesting because you often wait for her to do something big like turn into a gross monster or act all cute. Either way, it’d be pretty exciting.

Sight and Sound

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This is probably the best anime that has been digitally made with the background being done with a computer instead of hand drawn like the other anime in this collection. It’s Production IG though so the on the job trainees are getting a pretty special training. Some of the background has been blended with some digitally painted scene and the result is pretty amazing. There is no shortage of scenic shots in this anime and the way the character interacts with the background is pretty impressive.

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The animation is pretty amazing. As if you’d expect less from Production IG. They were also the only one to employ some effects in their short. The addition of blood and flames makes for some interesting scenes in this anime. The movement of the characters is the one noticeably hand drawn as you can see the transition being nicely detailed. There is so much movement when Mizuki is running that you’d often pause the scene to see that she has her shoulders, her hair, her hands and her torso all moving at different ways making her so detailed.

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The character design is pretty simple. I love the fact that the characters in this anime looks like they could blend in to a regular airing anime. This short actually feels like Blood plus with the way the characters are design and the lighting effect is utilized. I also love Production IG’s attention to the eyes and its ability to not blink at certain scenes. God, I watch too many anime.

Score: 5/5 “Thrilling and cute with some impressive visuals to add on top.”

The Young Animator Training Project is done because of the ever increasing concern for outsourcing animators to do anime. The Cultural Agency of Japan has decided to have some veteran animators and directors impart their knowledge on the younger generation so that the love for animation lives on. Judging by the 2011 collection, you can tell that love is certainly alive. The yearning to entertain and deliver some impressive anime is something I’m sure the lucky on the job trainees will soon use for their own works. This is truly outstanding.

Overall Score

7/10 “All solid anime with some amazing elements to them making them unique and very special.”

You won’t lose much if you watch the collection so I suggest giving it a try. At least one or two of the anime in this collection will definitely appeal to you. If you appreciate the work involved into making animated entertainment then you’ll surely love the Young Animator Training Project.

Thoughts~

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