This week in Director Spotlight: Yasuhiro Yoshiura
**A return to Sci-Fi**
One of anime’s great draws has always been it’s unique use of science fiction and alternate settings. Whether it was GitS, Akira, NGE, or Gundam, there was always an interesting angle to be used and explored. Coming from a school of Design, Yoshiura delves into the idea’s of animations, artificial life, and the perceptions of thought. Carrying the torch of the sci-fi greats, with attention to detail, inspections of philosophy, and dark tones.
During my work on Yoshiura, I come across many saying that he is a copy of Shinkai. This seems insulting to both artists, and shows a lack of effort to see what each man is trying to communicate. While Shinkai and Yoshiura both have come up into anime using shorts and small thought pieces, their work is miles apart. One is focused firmly on the Spielberg “love and hope” storytelling that sci-fi can offer, the other follows the Kubrik “question perception” school of thought. The difference in career paths and experiences are leading to Star Wars vs 2001, and I am looking forward to them both.
Noisy Birth M/V
I have no words for this.
A being with all the knowledge of humanity at it’s fingertips, trapped in a box. Super interesting and some of the best atmosphere you’ll find anywhere. Disturbing. Notably, this is the set up for what eventually becomes Pale Cocoon. Not often we get to see a nugget of an idea get expanded so well.
Another interesting short. This time the story is the inspiration that will give us Eve no Jikan. Also the short acts as a shout out to all his favorite authors, artists, and thinkers. Try and catch all the references for bonus points.
Coming off some very interesting shorts, Yoshiura brings out his first full OVA. The animation, cg, and camera work all show some rough edges, but there is a certain “focus” that carries through the amateur moments.
I’ve seen this described as an “Eco message” style story, and I can see on the face value why that comes out. What is more interesting to me, links back to Kikumana. Earths demise by humans might have been the butter, but the toast of the story questions our views and perceptions on the world. Throughout the story we fade in, and out and in, through various windows of perception. Boxes of pictures, emotions, offices, levels, time stamps, and eventually environments. Everything we see and know is framed, nothing is real.
A nice elevation of story from Kikumana. Yoshiura explores the windows that technology uses to separate us from the reality we chose. It’s a bit fragmented, and the characters lack a certain humanity, but it’s a pretty solid first entry. A unique story told in a unique way, a good start.
Eve no Jikan
If I called this Aquatic Language the Movie, it might be a disservice to these lovely characters.
Yoshiura continues to take his little sci-fi cores, and expands them into larger stories with interesting characters and fun little environments. His direction also greatly improves here, with shots and transitions being handled much better than Pale Cocoon. There is still this odd shaky camera, zooms and perception changes, some of which might leave you feeling a bit sea sick.
The story brings it’s core from Aquatic Language, with the cafe and inspection of the great metaphorical writings. At the same time it suffers from lack of greater story.
Originally the story came out in short episodes, then was merged into the film. The changes from one vignette to the other, and lack of overall narrative, makes the film fall short. With that said, the characters are nice and each little piece is enjoyable on it’s own.
Yoshiura proves with Eve, to have an interesting idea on Asimov’s stories and has a passion for it. His attempts at causing small atmospheres and comedic camera movements, shows some interest in directing well but also a lack of skill. While the film covers most of the series and does it pretty well, I think the story overall is better as many small stories to be enjoyed over time.
Sakasama no Patema
Much like Makoto Shinkai’s *Children Who Chase Lost Voices*, Yoshiura steps away from his core specialty. Shinkai’s movie fails due to poor editing and the attempt to emulate Miyazaki. Here Yoshiura emulates Shinkai, and in the same way it fails in my eyes. Over long shots, improper use of tonal change, discombobulated logic, this whole thing is off the rails.
That is not to say that some might not enjoy it. Much like *Children*, the film might be your favorite. The story revolves around a young girl meeting a boy, gravity is weird, and Hitler’s kind of a dick. If your able to buy into it, the idea of swapping one’s viewand the alienation of those different from us, is a nice little tale.
The issues that plague the film stem from Yoshiura’s lacking in storyboard and scripting. Logic in the gravity is never addressed, nor is how a world could be shaped the way it’s shown. A great dual generational piece is slapped in when it could have formed the message much easier by being spread out. Pacing seems off, with Yoshiura copying Shinkai’s long pans, but without the same detail or thought behind why those shots matter. It makes the whole film stutter, and with the plot being mixed and off kilter as well, the whole film feels odd to me. Though Yoshiura does find better ways to use his camera, if only slightly.
As much as some might enjoy the film, it’s a worrying example. Yoshiura seems to downplay all the things that make him interesting, and push up all the flaws. I nearly gave up.
Part of the Young Animator Training Project, a fantastic project that has seen directors go on to do some interesting series. Uchouten Kazoku, Haikyuu!!, World Trigger, Yoru no Yatterman, Death Parade, Little Witch Academia, and the list goes on. Just wanted to give a shout out, they saved many a young artist. Following the standards set from the Project, Yoshiura’s direction takes a giant leap forward. Shots, transitions, camera work, characters, everything takes on a more professional look. The shaky camera aesthetic is used well and is turned down, the art is much more crisp, and the connection of characters feels much more believable.
The OVA itself is pretty interesting with Yoshiura narrowing his focus to tell a small story. Based in a high school, examining the little worlds
we surround ourselves with, the worlds of our self, and the ones within that. Breaking away from his Android focused series, and allowing the technology to be simpler, gives us more room to play with the psychology. As with most of his series, the ending is interesting and leaves you part confused, part satisfied. If anything is proven by this point, Yoshiura knows how to make an ending.
This short OVA brings back all the hope I had lost from *Patema* and it’s failures. With *Harmonie*, Yoshiura re-discovers that interesting usage of tone, music and shots that drew us into *Kikumana*, while also being helped during the storyboard stages. On a whole it feels very comfortable, and leaves you wanting more from the series.
Yasuhiro Yoshiura is still a new man to the scene, with such a specific vision and goals within his stories. There is a wonderful core element of technology and it’s design-to-use application. *Harmonie* really impressed me, with being so wonderfully animated, and the ability to shift into a more “mainstream” style show while still keeping that core sci-fi idea. Seeing a Haruhi or GitS in Yoshiura’s future doesn’t seem to far a stretch.
One glaring issue, so far unresolved, is having a proper storyboard/script writer to work with. Dialog, pacing, and emotions seem to be lacking in almost all his pieces that lack outside help. The concepts and story that Yoshiura is able to bring himself has earned a spot among the “newbies”, but with a solid co-writer he could easily find that success.