Boruto: Naruto The Movie

(yes, there are spoilers for Boruto here; mainly for describing who was responsible for which action scene)

I watched Boruto earlier today. I haven’t had such a strong positive reaction to a movie in a long time. Unlike the fans in Japan, I have only just read the last Naruto chapter last week, as opposed to a year before this movie debuted. Thus, I haven’t had a lot of time to step away from the series. On top of that, I got to see Kishimoto in person last week (twice!) at the Apple Store event in SoHo, NYC and at NYCC. Kishimoto was a very humble man. He was visibly nervous when he began to talk to his fans at the Apple Store (his first public event in the United States), but he eased into the moment and opened himself up a bit. You can view the entire event at the Apple Store’s Meet the Author podcast. During the NYCC panel, the Boruto trailer was screened. The audience went crazy and Kishimoto was very moved. He remarked that he was almost about to cry. It was a very touching moment I’m glad I got to be a part of.

In any event, Boruto was amazing. The opening fight scene was animated by Naoki Kobayashi. He emerged as an animator on Shippuden while he was under contract at Pierrot. He most recently appeared on One-Punch Man, so I’m not entirely clear if he’s still under contract at Pierrot. In any event, he’s already been responsible a lot of great work for the series. The opening scene was a bit hard to follow in terms of the storyboarding, but my experience was probably hindered because people were walking by me and blocking my view as the movie started.

The scene where Momoshiki arrived and blew away the Chunin Exam arena looked to be Hidetsugu Ito’s work. After that, Tetsuya Nishio, Ito’s childhood friend, was likely responsible for the scene where Momoshiki is laughing at Naruto and Sasuke as he readies his attack. Shinji Hashimoto did the crazy scene right after where Naruto in Kurama Mode tries to hold off the huge attack from Momoshiki, which destroys a huge part of the Village. In the final climax, Arifumi Imai (of Attack on Titan fame) was responsible for the scene where the Kyubi/Susanoo combo samurai-chopped Momoshiki’s giant in half. Hiroyuki Yamashita seemed like he did the final Rasengan (note: Naoki Kobayashi also animated the final Rasengan).

I’ll be honest. I had trouble paying attention during the final climax of the movie, because I was literally crying during Norio Matsumoto’s work (the two young women next to me also lost it at this point, so not only the hardcore sakuga fans react this way). He handled the Sasuke and Naruto vs. Momoshiki taijutsu scene. It’s impossible to miss. It also seemed like he animated part of the Gokage’s fight against Momoshiki’s henchman as well. The taijutsu fight was Matsumoto at his best–only highly condensed for full effect. What really drove the taijutsu scene home for me was that it was set to a specific track I had for years hoped would be used in conjunction with Matsumoto-animated scene. It was a dream come true.

Matsumoto is among the staff credited with storyboarding/unit directing/animation directing part of the movie, so it’s almost certain that he was responsible for most, if not all, of the entire climax of the movie. The moving backgrounds during this final act hark back to Matsumoto’s work with Atsushi Wakabayashi (e.g., Naruto episode 30 and 71). You can find clips of Matsumoto’s work here online, but if you’re a fan of Naruto you owe it to yourself to watch the scene in context (preferably in the theater if you still can). It is much more emotionally satisfying that way.

The ending sequence was directed and animated by Toshiyuki Tsuru (working under his Yasuaki Kurotsu pen name) was simple, but effective. He drew the characters using the manga’s style (including using hashmarks for shading purposes) similar to what he did for Shippuden ED 2 with Hirofumi Suzuki. I’m still holding hope Tsuru and Suzuki will work on the TV series again once last time.

As for the movie itself, I can see why Kishimoto said last week at NYCC that Boruto was the last chapter in the Naruto story.The story is brought full circle. Naruto himself starts off as a kid who’s shunned by everybody and without a father figure. Now, he’s the Hokage and he doesn’t give his children the attention Naruto himself wanted when he was a child. Thus, this leaves Boruto with the same desire to prove himself. Except, as opposed to wanting to prove himself to everybody in the Village, like Naruto did, Boruto wants his dad to give him some proper time and devotion.

Kishimoto began writing the script right after finishing the serialization of the Naruto manga in WSJ. Kishimoto admitted that he wrote the script from the perspective of being father himself to two children. It’s not hard to see the parallels. Kishimoto is a busy manga artist who can’t spend time with his kids because he has so much work to do and Naruto is in the same situation.

The movie moves along nicely with plenty of callbacks and references to previous iconic imagery from the series. At one point, these moments tended to be a bit too eager to pull at the emotional heartstrings, but by the final climax that complaint briskly fades away. The villains are not particularly memorable, but it’s hard to make a memorable villain after all of the ground the series covered during its 700 chapters. The villains serve as a vehicle for amazing fight scenes and thus serves their purpose well.

Hiroyuki Yamashita at the helm did a great job overall, but I wonder what will be the next step for him once Naruto is done. I’m not sure if he’ll take a more serious tone as a director or simply remain as an action director (which is perfectly fine and I wouldn’t complain!). At this point, I’d bet on the later if he remains at Pierrot.

In all, Boruto is a very fitting conclusion for the series. Potentially down the line they will ask Kishimoto for more material or they’ll come up with some new side-story, but after watching this movie there really is no need for it.

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Attack on Titan Book and the Little Witch Academia Documentary

I meant to post this a while back, but I bought the first Attack on Titan Key Animation book when it got released. It only covers episodes one through three, the initial promotional video, and the ED. There’s a new volume that got released this month that covers episodes four through seven. Seems kinda ludicrous to release them in this way. I can understand dividing up the show in half, but there is no need to only cover three to four episodes per book. The show itself was full of static and rushed shots throughout the entire series. There was good work when it came to the actions scenes– hence why I bought the book– but spreading out the worthwhile material like this is clearly a way for them to squeeze every single cent out of the fans who are interested in collecting this kind of material.

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Naruto Shippuden

From around April through October, the production for Naruto Shippuden takes a hit due to resources being diverted to the annual movie that debuts in the summer. The best example of this is during the Pain arc (summer of 2010), which had high expectations given the source material only to have a fairly mediocre adaptation in the end. The only outliers were episodes 166-167, the latter drawing much controversy thanks to its fairly ambitious and unrestrained approach.

The summer of 2011 was not bad in comparison. Partly because there was a filler arc in place of canon material, but also because of the promotion of Studio Pierrot animator Masayuki Kouda (above) to the regular rotation of animation directors. Kouda joined Studio Pierrot in the early 2000s where he started out as an in-betweener on shows such as Twelve Kingdoms and the original Naruto series. He made his animation director debut in late 2010 on episode 180 of Shippuden where he was paired up ex-Kyoto Animation animator Gorou Sessha (storyboard/episode director).
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Faces to a name: Milos and Redline.

Koike and Ishii with models of the cars seen in Redline.

After seeing the making-of featurette for FMA: Milos, I got the idea of posting pics of the staff involved. I also took some pics of the Redline staff while I was at it. Even if you follow anime staff members, it’s not very often that you get to see them. You can see interviews with staff members in magazines or at a special event for a particular show, but it’s a fact voice actors are much at the forefront when it comes to promoting these shows. They highly demanded by the anime fanbase in general, so, on the other side, it’s only natural that most staff members tend to stay in the background as a result.

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FMA: Milos Sakuga MAD.

It took a lot of work to get it done, but the MAD for FMA: Milos finally got finished! I helped out a bit on it, but Murad and liborek really did the bulk of the work for this one. The video actually had to be done twice, since it originally came up with some bad looking blocking and overall compression issues. But it worked out in the end.

On a side note, yeah, the Redline MAD got taken down on Youtube due to a copyrights claim. Murad tired to appeal it, but it didn’t work out in the end. Can’t really do much about it.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Sacred Star of Milos Key Animation Book.

I received the key animation book for FMA: Sacred Star of Milos a few days ago and I’d thought I’d post a few pics on the blog. The book itself is supervised by animation director Kiyotaka Oshiyama (credited with task in katakana above the rest of the ADs which credited in kanji) and character designer/chief animation director Kenichi Konishi. It has an interview between the two of them, along with a feature on how to read time sheets. The middle of the book also features an interview with Tomohisa Shimoyama, Shintarou Douge, Yoshimcihi Kameda, Gosei Oda, Daisuke Mataga, and Kazuhiko Yabumoto.The book at the end has some editorial notes by Konishi and Oshiyama, surrounded by photos of the staff.

The book is fairly extensive with key animation, key animation corrections, settings, original background art (背景原図), and layout corrections (with the untouched key animation provided to highlight the difference of before and after the layout has been corrected).

It looks like the book is running out of stock in fairly short order, which is no surprise given how good the animation is for this movie. I’d recommend grabbing a copy as soon as you can if you’re interested.

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Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos

I just came back from watching Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos in the theater and it was enjoyable experience to be able to watch this movie with a crowd. I arrived at the theater 25 minutes late, but I easily caught up to what I was going on since the movie slowed down about 3-4 times to lay down the exposition and backstory they came up with just for this movie. Script-wise, the movie was mostly what you would expect from a yearly shonen movie from franchises like Naruto, One Piece or Bleach. There’s a new character introduced, they focus a lot on that character, but not enough on the characters you’ve actually grown to care about (in this case, Roy Mustang, who’s underrepresented in the film). But, while they lay down the plot a bit thick, the story they bring here does at least tie into the themes that you see in the other FMA works– racial conflicts between nations (Daryl Surat said it was the best anime analogy for the Israel/Palestine conflict ever and that’s appropriate to say) and military intervention with a shady ulterior motive. It doesn’t necessarily build upon any storyline in the movie, but nobody really expected it to. I would highly recommend watching this movie with a group of people. Hopefully they are as receptive and into the movie as the crowd I was with, as they really responded positively to the movie and that made the experience better.

You know what also made this movie better? There’s about 100% less jokes about Ed’s height. So assuming they didn’t have 10 of them in the first 25 minutes, this movie is pretty solid in that regard too.

The biggest draw going into the movie for me was the animation work that was being done. You could instantly tell they went in a different direction from the rest of the series just by looking at the poster. The aforementioned crowd enthusiasm in the theater I went to was a bit surprising to me, as all I saw online was vitriolic hatred towards the style they decided to use for this movie. I imagine there will still be a significant portion of the fanbase who will not like this movie simply because of the animation. However, I have to tip my hat to the people at BONES, Aniplex, and whomever else on the production committe that was bold enough to go forward with a movie that totally overhauled the visuals from what was established in the previous anime productions of FMA.

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