AV MOD MATERIAL: My Eyes are Bleeding #4 - The Most Divisive NARUTO Episode Ever

Topic started by No_name_here on Nov. 9, 2012. Last post by sickVisionz 1 year, 8 months ago.
Post by No_name_here (854 posts) See mini bio Level 11
Staff

Naruto Shippuden #167 is perhaps the industry leader when it comes to divisive anime episodes. There are a variety of reasons for this. Some argue that Studio Pierrot, the creators of the anime, added too much content into the battle while other counter that there wasn't much to this battle in the original manga. A portion of the fanbase argues that the animation is amazing while many say that it’s the worst the series has ever seen. Today we'll be taking a closer look at this episode and analyzing some of the statements made against it from a sakuga standpoint and how the animation was used to tell the story.

The Man Behind It All

An example of Atsushi's exaggerated designs.
An example of Atsushi's exaggerated designs.

You can’t really talk about this episode without discussing Atsushi Wakabayashi, the episode director, animation director and storyboard creator for the episode. Atushi has had his hand in animating and storyboarding various ending themes throughout the Shippuden series but episode 167 marked his first credit appearance as an episode staff member. Now you may be thinking, “this guy is a rookie! Why would they give him such an important episode?!” However, that’s only part of the story. Atsushi also served these roles for episode 133 of the original series... the climatic battle between Sasuke and Naruto which many would praise as easily the best animated episode in the original series.

One hallmark of Atsushi style is his use of exaggeration, both in movement and character models. Atsushi uses these elements to create incredibly stylized battles that push the action far past the limits of reality and to realize the emotions of his characters. While many of the scenes that people take issue with in 167 aren’t key animated by Atsushi himself, it should come as no surprise that he isn’t exactly asking people to tone down their personal style in these areas.

The Role of Style in Animation

Is Picasso doing it wrong?
Is Picasso doing it wrong?

Depending on your views on anime, you may or may not consider animation an artform. Perhaps it’s simply a means to an end and maybe you feel like when adapting a manga, every element should stay as scene-for-scene, shot-for-shot identical to the source material as much as possible. If so, to each their own. However, when viewed through the lens of sakuga, animation becomes an artform and the individual styles of the artists are something to be treasured and appreciated. Would you tell Picasso to chill out with all of the blocks and triangles? Do you think he’s legitimately unaware that the world doesn't look like his paintings? If someone were to have hired him to paint an important scene in a book, similar to how Atsushi was placed in charge of one of the most important segments in the Naruto manga, do you think they want him to abandon his style?

For this episode, the stylings of Atsushi and his animators are the desired effect. It’s not a case of the episode being handed off to a rookie or “bad animation” slipping through. Rather, this is Studio Pierrot calling in some of their top talent and giving them artistic freedom to create one of the most pivotal episodes in the entire series.

Visual Style vs Animation and Frames vs Scenes

A still frame taken out of context does not equal bad animation.
A still frame taken out of context does not equal bad animation.

I believe that many often use these terms interchangeably when they are two sides to a coin. You can assess the visual style of something from a single frame. Animation however, is different. Animation, and thus sakuga, is about how things move. While a single frame can be used to key in some of the visual stylings of an animator, how they use these in motion is what truly matters. I can understand someone not liking the visual style of Atsushi and his team of animators for this episode. That’s very much a to each their own situation. However, that is not the animation. To post a single frame up and say, “this looks off therefore this is bad animation,” does a disservice to the animator.

Additionally, animation is meant to be seen in motion. A single frame on it’s own may seem odd, but when we watch anime, our eyes aren't keying in on single frames. We are taking it in as a whole. An odd frame may make much more visual sense when taken as part of a whole rather than when removed and presented on it’s own as the end all be all representation of the full product. A parallel would be reading a recipe for a cake and seeing that salt is in it. Would you eat a teaspoon of salt on its own and use that as the sole basis for evaluating the taste of the cake? Probably not.

Using Sakuga to Tell the Story

Before we go any further, watch this episode! It’s viewable on Crunchyroll as well asHulu. As said earlier, you can’t judge animation from still images and you will get much more from what follows if you’ve recently seen the episode.

Animation for animation’s sake can be interesting to look at but what truly sets this episode apart for me is both how incredibly fluid, expressive, and dynamic it is in addition to how it conveys both the epicness of the battle and the emotions of the characters.

Epicness

The animation really captures how out of control the battle has become.
The animation really captures how out of control the battle has become.

The animation is used to great effect at showing just how epic the battle between Kyuubi Naruto and Pain actually is. Scenes such as the one on the left where Konoha has been reduced to a massive lake in the wake of these two going at each other really drive home the point of that has escalated to far more than two ninjas in a tussle. The waves are crashing and Pain is struggling to stay afloat, yet the battle continues on with each attack topping the previous one.

Another example of this would be the scene Pain casts Chibaku Tensei, generating a massive moon-like formation. The animation during this scene is very detailed and with it you can really see the struggle that both Pain and Nagato are having with the technique. Their muscles and clenched, their entire bodies are shaking, and Pain's face is exaggerated to really drive home the point that this is powerful technique that requires an incredible amount of strength and concentration.

Conveying Emotion

Atsushi does a great job of conveying Naruto's hopelessness.
Atsushi does a great job of conveying Naruto's hopelessness.
The use of sakuga is easiest to appreciate in high motion scenes such as battles, but it also can have an impact in subtler ways where attention to detail is just as important as flying camera angles and explosions. The later scenes of the episode take place in Naruto's mind as he gives in completely to the Kyuubi. Atsushi's storyboards provide the animators with near perfect shots and angles to drive home Naruto's feelings of failure and that he has no choice but to give in to the demon residing in him.

When combined with music, voice acting, and sound effects, the animation and visuals of this episode create something far greater than sum of its parts. Every element is working in tandem to drive home the emotional content and raw power of this battle and what it represents for the characters within. While this article certainly won't change everyone's opinions on the episode and even I can admit that some of the art in this episode is undeniably off kilter, but I hope that some can walk away with a better appreciation of the artistry within episodes like this and a better understanding of the role that animators andsakuga can play in shaping a story.

Next week, we'll be switching things up a bit and taking a look at a handful of hopefully up and coming animators and the pet/student projects they've created!

William Taylor loves him some bad ass fight scenes and can't wait to highlight some of what's out there in the world of sakuga. You can find on Twitter @mrsickvisionz and posting anime related nonsense on Tumblr at In My Lifetime.

Post by Halberdierv2 (1,288 posts) See mini bio Level 17

ah yes, the benny hill/loony toons episode.

Post by KingSolomon (66 posts) See mini bio Level 7

my favorite episode :D

Post by Lurkero (400 posts) See mini bio Level 7

As a fan of Looney Tunes I can say that I loved the homage this episode gave to those classic cartoons.

Seriously, I really enjoyed the animation in this episode. Yeah, it is jarring since none of the other episodes of Naruto tend to be experimental, but it was not bad for me. I would ask anyone else to run that fast or fly that fast and see how deformed their face and body get. The deformities used in the animation gave the extreme sense of speed and power that the episode was trying to convey.

I have no idea how Pain's bones managed to stick together after taking such a beating, but there was probably some kind of ninja magic involved.

Post by Petiew (244 posts) See mini bio Level 14
The actual animation is really solid. The artwork just looks goofy as hell as a result.
Post by Om1kron (141 posts) See mini bio Level 7

This to me is what I want to see more of in naruto!!! There has yet to be a crazy battle like this and I have an anime nerd boner for the recent manga stuff to come to motion. I hope this guy gets another shot at doing those episodes. Hell I want to read the manga to see where this guy drew his inspiration from Kishi's simple line work.

Post by sickVisionz (4,241 posts) See mini bio Level 24
Moderator

@Om1kron: Same here. I thought this battle was actually pretty lackluster in the manga. It felt less involved than the Kyuubi vs Orochimaru fight but they added a lot of content to make it more than just instant six tails, kyuubi bomb, chibaku tensei, done.

He worked on 3 episodes in the original series (Sasuke vs Orochimaru, Orochimaru vs 3rd Hokage, Naruto vs Sasuke) but 167 is the only Shippuden episode he's done Key Animation on.

I'd love to see him comeback for something like Madara vs the Kages where the manga skipped over a lot of that fight.

@Lurkero said:

I have no idea how Pain's bones managed to stick together after taking such a beating, but there was probably some kind of ninja magic involved.

I didn't mention it in the article, but one of my favorite scenes happens early where Pain is covered in rocks but he pops back up and jumps out of them. The way he moves looks like a puppet on strings. I always thought of that as the animators doing a slight nod to how he actually was just a puppet and that this is the only way he's still able to move. He doesn't move that way any other time, but I thought it was a nice touch especially when it kinda looks like he's rising from a grave.

There's a lot of little things here and there littered throughout this episode that are cool treats like that.

Post by Om1kron (141 posts) See mini bio Level 7

@sickVisionz said:

@Lurkero said:

I have no idea how Pain's bones managed to stick together after taking such a beating, but there was probably some kind of ninja magic involved.

I didn't mention it in the article, but one of my favorite scenes happens early where Pain is covered in rocks but he pops back up and jumps out of them. The way he moves looks like a puppet on strings. I always thought of that as the animators doing a slight nod to how he actually was just a puppet and that this is the only way he's still able to move. He doesn't move that way any other time, but I thought it was a nice touch especially when it kinda looks like he's rising from a grave.

There's a lot of little things here and there littered throughout this episode that are cool treats like that.

Touching on this, Nagato's Pain had a drone who had the ability to heal the others. There were plenty of times that a drone or two of pains was killed off and then came back and it wasn't until shortly before this fight you saw the gate that either takes or gives life as one of the Pain Jutsu's. I don't know what it was called in particular but it is what they were supposed to revive madera with and instead nagato revived the leaf village instead.

Post by takashichea (11,097 posts) See mini bio Level 25
Moderator

I actually didn't like how this Pain fight with Naruto was animated. It was awkward and goofy. I couldn't take it seriously after Naruto fought all seven paths and up to the point where Hinata was killed by Pain.

Post by sickVisionz (4,241 posts) See mini bio Level 24
Moderator

@takashichea: The animation is significantly better than Naruto fighting the other paths imo. There was a lot of cheap animation techniques used in those battles that made it seem like they were going to make this super important battle look worse than many filler fights look.

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