Osamu Dezaki’s Directional Style

The presence of Japanese animation, or anime, in the United States seems to revolve largely around currently airing series that are brought over either by fansub groups or simulcast streaming sites, such as Crunchyroll or Funimation, or around series or movies that aired on cable television in some form in the past couple decades. Many Western viewers are simply unaware of the medium’s past and of the visionaries that made its success possible. One such visionary that every anime fan should know of is Osamu Dezaki—a director whose directional style is not only unique, but has also served as a major influence for many people working in the industry today.

Dezaki began working in animation in the early 1960s as both an animator and an occasional episode director for Mushi Productions’ series, Tetsuwan Atom, also known as Astro Boy (Clements 36). In 1970, he directed Ashita no Joe, an adaption of a popular boxing manga by Tetsuya Chiba and Ikki Kajiwara (Clements 691). After the success of Ashita no Joe, Dezaki continued to direct several series and films until his last work, Genji Monogatari Sennenki, in 2009. Throughout his long career, he and those under him adopted a unique style that quickly distinguished his work from his peers.

 

 

 

 

 

I believe that the use of all of the above images (from Space Adventure Cobra, Ashita no Joe 2, Takarajima, and Oniisama e… respectively) is covered under fair use. The clips present in the gifs are brief and only show a small aspect of the respective series; additionally, their use will have no affect, negative or otherwise on the series marketability, and my intent in using them is positive.

The most immediately recognizable, and perhaps the most copied, element of his work is what are often called “postcard memories.” According to Thomas LaMarre in his book, The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation, there is a definite distinction between full and limited animation. Full animation often characterizes feature films and typically includes animation with at least 12 drawings per second—“the Disney average was 18 drawings per second” (Loc 3964–4034). Limited animation, on the other hand, is more often the domain of animated series made for television. Indeed, Osamu Tezuka’s Tetsuwan Atom is a fine example of this. Instead having at least 12 drawings per second, Tezuka proposed working with only eight drawings per second, allowing him to create individual, thirty-minute episodes at ¥500,000 each, roughly one third of the expected budget (Loc 4034). Likewise, Dezaki’s postcard memories are also partly a technique in limited animation. The above gifs are examples of the technique. To have a balance of detailed art and smooth animation, Dezaki avoids blowing the budget by fading to painted stills at key moments in an episode. Nevertheless, while postcard memories can be used to cut costs, they also serve as emotional endpoints to episodes. For example, in Dezaki’s 1978 series, Takarajima, the series ends when an aged Long John Silver turns back to look at Jim Hawkins. The shot switches to a painted still once he turns around, culminating with the credits. This technique is still used widely throughout the industry.

 

 

 

 

 

I believe that the use of all of the above images (from Nobody’s Boy: Remi, Takarajima, Space Adventure Cobra, and Oniisama e… respectively) is covered under fair use. The clips present in the gifs are brief and only show a small aspect of the respective series; additionally, their use will have no affect, negative or otherwise on the series marketability, and my intent in using them is positive.

Another technique, included in the gifs above, is Dezaki’s use of multilayer, scrolling backgrounds and foregrounds. This can be seen throughout his series, namely the 1977 series Nobody’s Boy: Remi and those that come after it. The animation method was also routinely used in the opening sequences for series, which is where the above examples come from.

 

 

 

 

 

I believe that the use of all of the above images (from Nobody’s Boy: Remi, Takarajima, Space Adventure Cobra, and Ashita no Joe 2 respectively) is covered under fair use. The images only show a small aspect of the respective series; additionally, their use will have no affect, negative or otherwise on the series marketability, and my intent in using them is positive.

Many of Dezaki’s works also include character designs by Akio Sugino. He and Dezaki have been working together since Tetsuwan Atom in 1963. His designs are typically adaptions of existing designs from manga, as is the case with Space Adventure Cobra and Ashita no Joe 2 above. However, he has also done his own designs in series, such as Takarajima and Nobody’s Boy Remi, which are also included in the above images. Interestingly enough, his adaptations of other artist’s work remain fairly faithful, yet they’re still easily recognizable as his designs. There are certain features that many of his designs share depending on the character’s age, sex, and type—similar eyes, jawlines, mouths, etc.

Certainly these three aspects are not all Dezaki has brought to the medium, though they are some of the more easily recognizable characteristics of his work. These are techniques that are used through his body of work, and in the work of many other directors.

Works Cited

  • Clements, Jonathan, and Helen McCarthy. The Anime Encyclopedia, Revised & Expanded Edition: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge, 2006. Print.
  • Dezaki, Osamu, dir. Nobody’s Boy: Remi. Tokyo Movie Shinsha and Madhouse. 2 Oct. 1977. Television.
  • Dezaki, Osamu, dir. Takarajima. Tokyo Movie Shinsha and Madhouse. 8 Oct. 1978. Television.
  • Ikeda, Riyoko. Oniisama E… Dir. Osamu Dezaki. Tezuka Productions. 14 July 1991. Television.
  • LaMarre, Thomas. The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota, 2009. Kindle.
  • Terasawa, Buichi. Space Adventure Cobra. Dir. Osamu Dezaki. TMS Entertainment. 23 July 1982. Television.
  • Yamazaki, Tadaaki. Ashita No Joe 2. Dir. Osamu Dezaki. Tokyo Movie Shinsha. 13 Oct. 1980. Television.
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