With no less than three Production I.G films in this year’s REEL ANIME 2013 program, our man in Japan, author Andrez Bergen, takes a look back at the output and influence of this most prolific and talented animation studio.
Continued from Part 1.
On a different level entirely, Quentin Tarantino owes much to Production I.G and Katsuhito Ishii.
Ishii, who directed the bizarre Tadanobu Asano live-action vehicle Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl (1998), collaborated with IG and illustrator Sho-u Tajima to create the character designs for the animation sequence in Kill Bill: Vol. 1.
Then there are the cutting edge video-clips that I.G is involved in producing, like the one for French music chanteuse Mylène Farmer, directed by Naoko Kusumi. Kusumi previously assisted Rintaro on his animation interpretation of Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis (2001) and worked as the 3D sequence director on Oshii’s Innocence.
And there are the non-commercial short movies, only ever intended by I.G as an expression of art, to nurture lesser known talent, and as entries into the art house festival circuit — the standouts being their award-winning Tokyo Marble Chocolate and the hilarious Drawer Hobs. The directors of both, Naoyoshi Shiotani and Kazuchika Kise, have since been enabled to go on to bigger and better things.
This is what I truly like about Production I.G: That, unlike some of their peers (who shall here remain nameless) they’re hardly resting on laurels or living off glory days of the past. While it’s clear Japanese anime has found itself pitched against increasingly steep hurdles over the past decade, I.G continues seemingly unperturbed.
Late last year saw director Kenji Kamiyama tackle Shotaro Ishinomori’s iconic manga Cyborg 009 and reboot the fifty-year-old yarn with his wonderfully detailed feature film 009 RE:CYBORG (in 3DCG). Also last year Naoyoshi Shiotani — who cut his teeth with art house project Tokyo Marble Chocolate — directed the Blood revival series Blood-C: The Last Dark and Jin-Roh director Hiroyuki Okiura returned with the feature film A Letter to Momo. This movie ended up winning the Grand Prize for Best Feature Film at the 15th New York International Children’s Film Festival (2012).
Next up is a welcome return to the studio’s most famous workhorse, the Ghost in the Shell franchise. This time around directed by Kazuchika Kise (Drawer Hobs), the four-part series titled Ghost in the Shell: Arise kicked off on Japanese screens this June and they’ve already taken risks by reimagining the story, changing all the well-established voice actors, and having a theme composed by cutting edge Japanese muso Cornelius.
Making it timely, methinks, to go explore the series’ predecessors and the varied interpretations of Mamoru Oshii and Kenji Kamiyama.
Over all? The cinema, advertising, shorts, video clips and television pushed through by this production house since its inception in 1987 (under the tutelage of Mitsuhisa Ishikawa) have been nothing short of breath taking, as much as they are expansive. All the more reason to gush — if not investigate that GitS back-catalogue.
And did I mention God was in the details? No?
I.G isn’t just churning out charming tales and telling them well, but pushing the envelope of animation methods in order to do so.
They’ve led the field by branching out into digital compositing, effects, storyboarding and colour, which are combined with traditional hand-drawn techniques, 3DCG and some of the best soundtracks ever composed for anime (by Kenji Kawai, Cornelius and Yota Tsuruoka for starters).
More please — and here’s where I thrown in the obligatory ‘amen’ to round off proceedings.
Andrez Bergen is an Australian writer, author & musician living in Japan. You can catch up with his vast body of work here.
Further REEL ANIME 2013 viewing: