It’s only once a generation we’re blessed enough to get directors like Kyoto Animation’s Naoko Yamada. A director who is able to invoke emotions and feelings in you that didn’t realise you had. I’ve seen Director Yamada’s latest film, A Silent Voice, three times now (and once with her!), but she’s not the only person who worked on this great film. Let’s discuss the other people that made A Silent Voice so great.
While I’d love nothing more than to discuss every single person that worked on A Silent Voice, that’d take up way too much of your time. I’ve picked out a few key roles, and a few key people to highlight. There’s a summary of what the role entails; followed by who worked in that role in A Silent Voice.
Let’s start off with the Unit Directors. Unit Directors are much like episode directors for TV series, they oversee a certain “section” of a series, or in this case “unit”, of the film. This entails looking over layouts, key animation, in-betweens, and all the tasks needed to guide their section of the film in production, under the supervision of the director. This is more a creative-type role, and usually, you can tell when one person’s section starts and finishes just by the style. Though it’s hard to do when you don’t have the material available to scrub through it. We’ll have to wait till A Silent Voice’s Blu-Ray is out!
A Silent Voice had 5 different unit directors. They are, in order of accreditation in the film;
- Taichi Ogawa
- Eisaku Kawanami (Animation Do)
- Takuya Yamamura (Animation Do)
- Noriyuki Kitanohara
- Taichi Ishidate
Student Taichi Ogawa
Starting off with Taichi Ogawa ; he’s your usual Kyoto Animation director, which sounds average, but is nothing to scoff at. He was first credited as an inbetweener on Clannad episode 22 and then was quickly bumped up to key animation on K-ON!, which is very uncommon of an animator! Ogawa was then trained as a director and storyboard on Hyouka’s third episode under Taichi Ishidate before finally, he was given his own episodes to work on with episodes 12 and 19 in Hyouka.
Since then, Ogawa is known for his flashy photography use, especially of late on Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and Sound! Euphonium. It’s no surprise that because of Ogawa’s favour of digital compositing and mastery of bringing real life film techniques to animation, he was chosen to be a unit director on Yamada’s Tamako Love Story and A Silent Voice.
Mentor Taichi Ishidate
Taichi Ishidate fills many roles in A Silent Voice. From Unit Direction to Chief Key Animation (with Noriyuki Kitanohara, also a unit director, and veteran Animation Do animator Satou Tatsuya), to Key Animator, he had his hands full thanks to Yamada and pals!
Ishidate helps train upcoming staff and directors (see above), but rarely in his nearly 20 years at Kyoto Animation, has he gotten his own shows. His first credit is working under the legendary Kigami Yoshiji on Munto as a key animator. In 2005, like Ogawa, Ishidate was tutored by Kigami on episode 5 of Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. Then, only three episodes later Ogawa directed episode 8.
Since then, Ishidate has either done storyboarded or directed an episode (or both!) on nearly every Kyoto Animation release. Except for Free! and Amagi Brilliant Park, where he did work on the openings. And he has done key animation on every release, including A Silent Voice. However, the only series he helmed himself was Beyond the Boundary and its film.
He works very closely with Ogawa, understandably. Though I think it’s because they have the same given name.
Animation direction is different than episode direction. Usually, this role is to make sure all the keyframes are on point with the character designs and make corrections if need be as well as well as working to improve the quality of the keyframes and in-betweens. Sometimes this can be harsh and completely change a key animator’s cut, or have no change, allowing for the key animator’s style to shine through. An Animation Director tends to push their own style in the cuts they look over.
A Silent Voice had 8 different animation directors. They are, in order of accreditation in the film;
- Miku Kadowaki (layout AD)
- Yuuko Myouken (layout AD)
- Yuki Tsunoda (keyframe AD)
- Kazumi Ikeda (Animation Do)
- Nobuaki Maruki (layout AD)
- Chiyoko Ueno (keyframe AD)
- Kouhei Okamura (keyframe AD)
- Futoshi Nishiya (Also character designer/chief animation director)
Beauty of Chiyoko Ueno
Chiyoko Ueno has usually been paired up with Ogawa Taichi on productions of late. This includes episodes 5 and 12 of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and episode 4 of Sound! Euphonium 2. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were paired up again for A Silent Voice.
Ueno has been at Kyoto Animation since the days the studio worked on Inuyasha where she was as an inbetweener. She was then moved up to key animation on Air, and finally got her big break on Kanon. Ueno was trained on episode one of the series under Shouko Ikeda (younger sister of fellow A Silent Voice AD, Animation Do’s Kazumi Ikeda) and given her own episode to AD with episode 18.
Since then, Chiyoko has been known for her highly detailed AD work alongside her humorous work on Nichijou. She’s also credited as a key animator on A Silent Voice.
Futoshi Nishiya brings A Silent Voice‘s characters to life
Futoshi Nishiya is not only an Animation Director on A Silent Voice, he’s also the Chief Animation Director and the Character Designer for the film. Both the Chief AD and Character Designer are usually the same person in a project, so it’s no surprise that it’s the same here. He’s here to make sure the animation being drawn matches his character sheets and to improve the quality of the key animation by adding necessary details like additional lines or shading.
Nishiya, like many others we’re discussing in this article, started out at Kyoto Animation as an inbetweener when they were still doing outsourced work. His first credit is on Kiddy Grade as an inbetweener before moving up to key animation on Inuyasha.
The first time Nishiya worked as an AD was on the first season of Haruhi Suzumiya. From there, he designed the characters for the spin-off The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya and took over Chief Animation Direction duties from Shouko Ikeda on the 2009 episodes and worked under her for the Disappearance film.
Since then, Nishiya has been the character designer and chief animation director on a whole range of fan favourite Kyoto Animation projects. These projects include Free!, Hyouka and Nichijou. Nishiya is known for his very detailed, and very “erotic” character designs, which are very apparent in A Silent Voice.
Director of Photography
The director of photography and the whole department of photography is more important to the overall look and style then you might realise. In live-action western media, a DoP usually frames a shot, does the lighting, etc. Meanwhile in anime, a DoP is usually tasked with overseeing the composition of the anime; this would include digital visual effects, 3D computer graphics, and, matching the animation to the background art; basically, digitally compositing the entire shot. Usually, this is done in After Effects with filters and such.
This can have a profound impact on the look of some anime. Take Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale for example; Tomohiko Ito and the animation producer at A-1 Pictures brought on Kentarou Waki, known for his work on God Eater, to drastically change the look of the film in contrast to the television series. A DoP will work with the Director to make sure their vision is fully realised.
Kazuya Takao, the vision of A Silent Voice
For A Silent Voice, Yamada brought along Kazuya Takao, a long time collaborator whose work you can see on Sound! Euphonium. Takao started working at Kyoto Animation in 2004 with his first credit being Air‘s second episode, doing the scanning for it. He then moved on to doing the photography in the 5th episode of the series.
Takao was promoted to being the DoP on Lucky Star and it’s OVA under the then rising star, but very awful, Yutaka “Yamakan” Yamamoto from Animation Do. When Yamakan was fired, Kazuya worked closely with Yasuhiro Takemoto to finish off Lucky Star and then moved onto serving as an assistant photographer on the Munto OVA. This didn’t go unnoticed by Ishihara, who holds Kazuya in very high regard, and worked with him on the Haruhi series and brought him along to be the DoP on Nichijou.
Kazuya Takao has a very distinctive eye in how to manipulate animation. Sound! Euphonium wouldn’t be the gold standard of TV animation at the moment without him, nor would A Silent Voice be the gold standard of film. Yamada is right in trusting him to deliver on her vision.
Storyboarding is much the same as it is in western films. Though unlike western storyboards that can range from a basic shot layout to all the information, anime storyboards need to have all the information in them so the rest of the production can use them to base their work off it. The information that is usually included in an anime storyboard are; the composition of the frame, corresponding dialogue, the length of the cut, and much more.
Storyboards are done after a script has been created and used as the visual blueprint for the entire film. A Silent Voice had one main storyboarder and two assistants who adapted the script and the original manga:
- Naoko Yamada
- Takuya Yamamura
- Ichirou Miyoshi (Yoshiji Kigami)
Yamada needs no introduction. She, as the director of the film, worked closely on the storyboards to bring A Silent Voice to the big screen visually. However, due to issues with getting the film done on time and not being able to visualise every scene, Yamada sought the help of Yamamura and Kigami to assist her.
Yoshiji Kigami, the most experienced animator at Kyoto Animation
Kigami is by far the most interesting of the two assistants. He uses the aliases, Ichirou Miyoshi, when storyboarding or serving as episode/unit director for works at Kyoto Animation, and Tada Fumio when doing key animation. Tada is the name he used while working on A Silent Voice‘s key animation. One of his most outstanding episodes that he storyboarded was in the 12th episode of Sound! Euphonium.
Having started out in the anime industry before Kyoto Animation even existed, Kigami’s first credit was in 1980 for the first Doraemon film as an inbetweener. His other credits in the 1980’s include massive hits like Akira (Key Animation), Grave of the Fireflies (Key Animation) and the 28th episode of Space Adventure Cobra (Key Animation).
While working on Doraemon, Kigami caught the eye of the film’s director Fukutomi Hiroshi, who brought him along with him on his other projects, Cat’s Eye episode 2, Locke the Superman, and Galactic Patrol Lensman. Lensman is Kigami’s first credit outside Key Animation where he worked on the storyboards.
Kigami and Kyoto Animation were first credited together on Macross – Do You Remember Love in 1984. Kyoto Animation was credited on a whole for finishing (a common practice), while Kigami was credited with Key Animation. From then on, most of the projects Kigami is credited, Kyoto Animation is as well for “Animation Assistance” or another role.
Kigami mostly handled episodes and productions that were outsourced to Kyoto Animation afterwards. This includes episodes of Generator Gawl, Samurai Girl: Real Bout High School. His last big outsourced work was on Doraemon: Nobita to Tsubasa no Yuusha-tachi in 2001, where he assisted on the storyboard, animation direction and normal direction on the opening to the entire film.
Takuya Yamamura, A Silent Voice at Do
Takuya Yamamura is the voice at Animation Do that Yamada trusts and rightly so. While Yamamura hasn’t gotten the time to craft his own style just yet (and compared to Kigami, he’s a baby), he’s done some interesting work on Sound! Euphonium.
Yamamura’s first credit was on Clannad doing in-between animation. He then very quickly moved up to doing key animation on the Lucky Star OVA and Clannad: After Story in 2008.
His first directorial work was on the FrFr! shorts attached to the Free! season one Blu-Rays. As that was a major series for Animation Do, he was promoted to assistant director on episode one of Free! Eternal Summer and finally got to helm his own episodes with his own storyboards with episodes 6 and 11. Before that, he worked on Chuunibyou! Ren‘s episode 7 and the web shorts in the role of on both storyboard and episode direction. Seeing a pattern here?
Yamamura first worked directly under Yamada as a unit director on Tamako Love Story, most likely looking after the Animation Do part of the team. His work must have impressed Yamada enough to bring him into her core team in A Silent Voice, as she asked him to help her with storyboarding, and serve as a Unit Director.
Of course, this is but a small snapshot of the staff from A Silent Voice. Other key staff members include; Reiko Yoshida, who adapted the script from the original manga, Saiichi Akitake, who is credited with Setting and key animation, and Eisaku Kawanami, who’s debuting his first directorial work in the new Free! film.