Urusei Yatsura Director Guide
August 1, 2006
Written by Harley Acres
The director and the animation director are the key staffers in determining the final appearance of an individual episode. Many significant people such as Mamoru Oshii, Yuji Moriyama, and Akemi Takada all did some of their earliest work on Urusei Yatsura. Other staff members would go on to similar prominence by working on later Takahashi series, such at Atsuko Nakajima, Tsukasa Dokite, and Junji Nishimura. By analyzing the personal styles of these directors we hope to present a better understanding of how much work goes into each series.
Masami Abe (Episodes directed: 10)
Abe's animation is quite nice and very expressive. It is reminiscent of the second film, Beautiful Dreamer.
Taro Chokan (Episodes directed: 1)
Although he only did one episode, Chokan's animation style stands out as being quite good. His polished, detailed style is very indicative of the high quality of animation Urusei Yatsura had in its stewardship under Kazuo Yamazaki.
Shinkuro Date (Episodes directed: 1)
Another animation director that came to the series later on, his style is very similar to that of Tsukasa Dokite.
Tsukasa Dokite (Episodes directed: 10)
Dokite helped to define the look of the Kazuo Yamazaki era of Urusei Yatsura along with Yuji Moriyama. His designs look extremely different that those of early animation directors such as Asami Endo and Yuji Yatabe. More detailed and sophisticated. Dokite was also one of the crew members that transitioned to Maison Ikkoku after the end of Urusei Yatsura.
Asami Endo (Episodes directed: 50)
She was the first animation director. Her work is simple at beginning at least, but quickly improves with more color and detail. Very colorful by Red Mantle, but character designs are still very simple as are all the other directors. She is responsible for most of the "look" associated with the Mamoru Oshii era of Urusei Yatsura. Her Masked Ball episode is a personal favorite and showcases her impressive skills and designs, especially when you consider that she is able to make an impressive episode while all the characters wear expressionless masks.
Yuichi Endo (Episodes directed: 13)
His work is very similar to early Yuji Yatabe. His direction on "Getting a Kiss From Miss Snow" was a little weak compared to what others were doing around this time and the animation seems too simplistic in certain parts. Overall he's satisfactory but at times he tends to be average.
Kazuhiro Furuhashi (Episodes directed: 2)
Furuhashi is one of the few directors to only tackle two episodes. Furuhashi's work is quite consistent when compared to that of the other animation directors that came onboard after Mamoru Oshii left.
Noboru Furuse (Episodes directed: 10)
Furuse stays very close to early character designs. His work is similar to Yatabe or Nobe, but not quite as sophisticated. Personally I don't think his animation is quite as clean as Motosuke Takahashi, another director that stays close to the set designs. Furuse's work seems anchored in the earlier style of the series.
Takefumi Hayashi (Episodes directed: 16)
His work on episode 73 has some interesting, sparse backgrounds, but I find that his character designs aren't as strong as the other designers at times, and tend to vary in quality throughout the episode. One of his trademarks seems to be rather outrageous expressions on certain characters faces. His interpretations of Ten and Cherry is very odd as well as he tends to give them giant heads. To me Hayashi's style has a very 1980s feel.
Toshihiro Hirano (Episodes directed: 3)
Hirano's animation style is pretty similar to that of Asami Endo and the other early animators. Overall his style is good. He's a mid-tier director. One of his trademarks seems to be somewhat elongated faces.
Masahiko Imai (Episodes directed: 1)
Imai's designs for the one episode he worked on are something of a regression compared to what most of the other animation directors were doing at the time. His work looks too simple and dated when compared to Kannan and other directors who came on later in the series.
Masaaki Kannan (Episodes directed: 10)
Very clean style similar to Chokan or Shibui. He directed quite a few episodes towards the end of the series. Sometimes his work bears a resemblance to that of Atsuko Nakajima. Kannan later went on to be one of the principal animation directors on Maison Ikkoku.
Kyoko Kato (Episodes directed: 8)
Good animation, somewhat similar to Asami Endo, with a more updated look.
Atsushi Matoba (Episodes directed: 1)
Another one time only animation director with a nice style. Matoba worked on one of the Kitsune episodes, which always seem to be showcases for animation directors due to the long silences.
Yuji Moriyama (Episodes directed: 13)
Moriyama's animation is a standout of some of the Oshii years, and his fluid movement and well drawn characters are very attractive additions as the shows animation began to become more sophisticated. After Urusei Yatsura, Moriyama went on to work as one of the character designers for Maison Ikkoku and another favorite of mine, Macross Plus. He also served as the animation director for the first three Urusei Yatsura films.
Atsuko Nakajima (Episodes directed: 1)
Atsuko Nakajima only did one episode of Urusei Yatsura, but this was prior to her fame as character designer and one of the primary animation directors on Ranma ½. As you can see her style is very similar to what she later used on Ranma ½. Nakajima also worked on Maison Ikkoku making her one of the only people involved in all three of Takahashi's Kitty era anime television shows.
Junji Nishimura (Episodes directed: 1)
Nishimura served as both an episode director and an animation director, having done both on the "Cat on the Stairway" episode. He also directed "After You've Gone" which was voted the best episode by Japanese fans. Nishimura also became the third overall series director on Ranma ½ as well the director for the Ranma ½ OVA series and later he went on to work on the Mermaid Forest television series. Although his animation work looks very similar to most of the others at the time, his direction is very lively.
Hayao Nobe (Episodes directed: 28)
His style is similar to Asami Endo but with a more expressive use of facial features. He is something of a transition between the two styles that dominated the show, and as other animation directors improved I felt he lagged a bit.
Hidetoshi Omori (Episodes directed: 4)
An interesting style, with unique faces. One characteristic that stands out to me is his thin eyebrows on female characters.
Takeshi Osaka (Episodes directed: 5)
A fairly standard animation director whose work is similar to Asami Endo. In "Lum-chan's Ancient Japanese Fairy Tales" he's pretty weak. Character designs are too simplistic, especially with Ataru and Ten. In "Duel! Benten vs. the Three Daughters" they are a little better, but still not the best.
Toshihiko Sasaki (Episodes directed: 1)
Sasaki only did one episode, and his style was very close to that of Akemi Takada, the character designer.
Masato Sawada (Episodes directed: 4)
Sawada didn't do very many episodes, but what he did do turned out well. He fit very well with the more detail oriented work that was done later in the series, and his work complements that of Masaaki Kannan well.
Setsuko Shibui (Episodes directed: 3)
Her work as animation director is similar to Furuse's. Clean designs, fluid animation and her cute design for Rei and Ran were particularly noticeable.
Akemi Takada (Episodes directed: 1)
She is the character designer for this show, and later Maison Ikkoku. Surprisingly the one episode she directed did not look very different than the work of Asami Endo.
Motosuke Takahashi (Episodes directed: 4)
Pretty standard as an animation director, but he is one of the staff that also worked as an episode director. He was responsible for one of the weirdest episodes (Horrors! Attack of the Slimy Potatoes!). Very clean designs, without deviating much from the standard character designs.
Naoko Yamamoto (Episodes directed: 1)
Judging the quality of her work from a single episode is difficult, but she definitely did a good job on her only outing as an animation director. She stayed very close to Akemi Takada's character designs and turned in a bright and vibrant episode.
Kazuo Yamazaki (Episodes directed: 9)
Kazuo Yamazaki's work featured very clean animation that stays close to the character designs but have his own sensibilities about them. His episode, "After You've Gone" was voted the best episode of Urusei Yatsura by the Japanese fans. After Mamoru Oshii left the show, Kazuo Yamazaki stepped in as the series director and took the show in his own direction while still remaining true to the groundwork Oshii had laid. The fact that he served as series director, animation director, and episode director goes a long way toward showing his immense talents.
Naoyuki Yoshinaga (Episodes directed: 1)
Yoshinaga is interesting in that he worked primarily as an episode director, but served as animation director for only a single episode.
Yuji Yatabe (Episodes directed: 8)
Similar to Asami Endo early on, with a little more detail on close ups.