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Be sure to check out the write-ups for prior episodes!
Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5
Josh Dunham (@Josh_Dunham)
This week we are fortunate enough to have two new episodes of Welcome to the Ballroom since a live sports event will be broadcast next week on MBS (the television station airing Ballroom). Where most shows will air two episodes following the broadcast, the production for Ballroom is ahead. In the anime world, this is a big deal since time (and talent) is the most important commodity in production. This is especially surprising given the situation that occurred with episode 2.
I’m starting to make a habit of checking action animation director BoYa Liang’s micro-blog every week. Speaking with her, I was able to confirm the cuts featured here. More and more we are hearing new names quickly rise to prominent positions in these high profile shows, and I think it would be worth our time to highlight those.
Like animation, dance is passion. Here, in episode 4, the two meet when Kiyoharu rejoins Shizuku for the tango. That passion overflows in the form of flowing brush strokes and burning backgrounds in a few stills by animator Yuuki Igarashi.
It’s a powerful moment in the manga, but this bare-chested vista is completely exclusive to the anime, brought to life by young Igarashi’s wonderful skills with the brush. The accent of color is intense, the lighting coming from below Kiyoharu leads the eye upward, cementing his dominance in the scene. A moving gaussian blur added in post processing emulates the sensation of heat, surrounding the dancer (and the audience by extension) in an emotional calefaction. Indeed, it is hard not to be taken in with such phenomenal displays that actually improve upon the source material! Brush strokes are used for Tantara’s hair all the time in the manga, and to see them brought into a place of emotion in the anime was absolutely phenomenal.
Whether you know the name Yuuki Igarashi or not, you’ve seen his work a lot as of late. He was credited for her work on Mrs. Hokusai as a ‘brush animator’, but has also done cuts on last year’s Mob Psycho 100 and WMC favorite, Flip Flappers. He has a remarkable ability to utilize smears in a very cartoony fashion that comes across as completely organic movement. His style is visual similar to the Yoshinori Kanda school of animation; character’s bodies contorting and becoming noodles to accentuate the speed or force of a momentum. A great example of this is in his cut from Mob Psycho episode 12.
Even though he has only been active since 2011, Igarashi has already moved up the ranks rather quickly. He did some 2nd Key Animation (cleaning up the rough drawings of key animators) during the second season of Haikyuu!!, where he graduated to Key Animator proper on episode 23 and has been in orbit of Production I.G. ever since. It’s good to see him given such a prominent cut even though it didn’t move! A show stopper for sure. I look forward to seeing more from him as the series goes on.
What impressed me most and makes me weak in the knees is the scene where Kiyoharu pushes into the camera where it turns into a wide angled lens and causes foreshortening. This cut being credited Sachiko Fukuda.
One of my favorite techniques in animation is the zero point perspective, or foreshortening. With a strong push in from the camera, Kiyoharu’s face begins to disperse in a way similar to a wide angle lens on an actual camera distorts in a closeup shot. For a moment, he is larger than life. Our dancer’s foot slams onto the floor before he takes flight, the leg of his pants wildly flapping in all directions. It’s a uncontrolled movement on top of a controlled one, a powerful contrast which further intensifies the impassioned tone that Igarashi established beforehand.
Fukuda has an amazing talent to accentuate subtle movements. No matter how small or insignificant, whether it’s peeling some fruit, or drinking a glass of water, the timing of each frame succinctly locks and groves with the one before it, creating realistic rhythm of lifelike movement (we talked about framerate modulation last week). This often causes a lot of overlapping action, where multiple objects or characters are moving at the same time, usually with their own locomotion.
However this is not the only cut she was credited with this episode. Ina departure from her normal style, Fukada opts for wispy effects animation to highlight static poses. Dancers make wider and more expansive sweeps. The slight stiffness is used to bolster the choreography. Quick bursts of movement hold on beautiful poses, like residual taste of a smooth whiskey after a quick swig from your glass.
Young Fukada originally worked on episode 17 of the first season of Haikyuu!! before leaving and then returning to team Haikyuu!! on season three, contributing a cut to the ending that was linked above. EDIT: Starting at 0:11 was actually animated by Igarashi.
Where most animation directors would take a step back and rest, Takashi Mukouda (who worked the ghostly dance in episode 2) does not retreat. As BoYa Liang’s fellow action animation director and the one actively supervising this episode, not only did he have to look over and possibly correct the cuts we’ve already covered, but he drew one himself! It’s as if he is as headstrong as Kiyoharu! Or perhaps this is more a testament to Welcome to the Ballroom‘s planning…
Perfectly synchronized quicksteps, with a sudden dash across the ballroom. Shizuku’s dress flap and flows as a testament to the ferocity of the tango. Rapid cuts of spins and twirls dazzle. The cursive of footwork and caress of hands ads a very real sensuality that is emblematic of dance. The scene ends with an amazing dip by Shizuku. Her draped cuffs fluttering in slow motion. Like dancing, animation is not math, it is emotion.