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One person, whose influence ripples more through the medium of anime than anyone, is Osamu
With a career almost spanning the length of the industry itself, Dezaki's influence
can be seen in any anime you watch today.
I can almost guarantee you're well aware of his visual quirks that show up in most
of today's series and movies that trace their way back to the earliest works of Osamu
Unfortunately his more obscure older library and the lack of success in the west compared
to other names means that he's not nearly as well celebrated as his peers, which is
a tremendous shame.
Dezaki was one of the most creative and influential minds the medium has ever seen, and he deserves
a lot more recognition.
I'd like to take you through his career, having a look into his style and influence
to see how Osamu Dezaki became one of anime's great visionaries.
The beginning of Dezaki's career very much coincides with the beginning of the TV anime
Dezaki joined Mushi Productions in 1963, a lead animation studio at the time, who were
just about to kick start the industry with Tezuka's Astro Boy.
Dezaki quickly made a name for himself here and began directing episodes of various TV
Starting with Astro Boy.
He was 19 at the time and at the forefront of the anime revolution.
Unfortunately we don't know which episodes of Astro Boy dezaki directed but we do for
the later Dororo which he worked as episode director on 3 episodes.
Dororo works as a nice precursor insight into his later style as a director.
A lot of his trademark techniques are birthed in this period.
Remember this is the 60s were TV anime has only been around for a few years and most
creators are still finding their stylistic feet.
A lot of the shows at the time are very flat, almost just animated manga panels.
Creators had no real source of influence inside the medium, they didn't have decades of
prior anime to take from.
Influence would instead come from from popular manga, Disney or in Dezaki's case, Cinema.
Dezaki was heavily influenced by film, movements like the French New Wave were in their prime
and over in japan, directors like Akira Kurosawa had just spent the last 20 years making some
of cinema's greatest films.
It was an enormous source of influence for the young Dezaki.
Les Samurai is a good example of where his style might come from.
This shows immediately in the first episode Dezaki directs for Dororo.
The opening few minutes is packed with cinematic techniques: Strong realistic use of lighting,
a very prominent use of depth of field and camera movements that mimic a physical camera.
There's even this shot which shows a silhouette effect, but one that would be made by a camera,
keeping some of the detail.
It's clear Dezaki was coming from a different angle to the rest of the industry.
At the time, TV anime was, for the most part, either Tezuka or Tezuka rip-offs, all of which
were heavily influenced from the manga they were adapting.
Leaving Dezaki to become a pioneer in a lot of his techniques.
Dezaki's unique use of graphics shines through here too.
Like this shot of the sun in episode 6 or the use of mist in the following fight scene.
As you'll see in further examples of this in future projects, he was a master of using
tricks like this to do more with less.
Dezaki was inexperienced and young but a true talent already and completely unique within
his sphere.
Dezaki was climbing the Mushi Productions ladder and had higher ups impressed with his
work as an episode director.
It wasn't long until Dezaki was given the opportunity to direct his first full project,
Ashita no Joe in 1970.
Joe was Dezaki's opportunity to make a name for himself and really make an impact on the
But what he did in these early years was more than anyone at the time could've imagined..
He didn't stick closely to the already popular Joe manga as he adapted it, continuing with
his own vision for the series.
Which payed off as the series was also a huge success and at the young age of 27, Dezaki
was becoming one of the biggest names in his industry.
When looking at Joe, it's important to remember how narrow TV anime was stylistically at the
A quick look at some of the shows airing during this period gives you a good idea.
Dezaki continued embracing his cinematic influence with Joe.
Giving characters more realistic body proportions and highly detailed expressions.
The use of lighting here is very impressive.
The opening episode for example takes place at dawn and we have these very long, dynamic
shadows that create a unique sense of tension.
Dezaki treats his animated worlds like real film sets.
I mentioned that a lot of anime at the time were very flat, much like how early cinema
was flat, most practitioners were just animating manga panels, as that's all they knew.
Dezaki revolutionised this in his works by giving everything a 3d perspective.
As if he was really animating a film set with real cameras.
This is extremely effective with his integration of multi-layered background movement.
Dezaki would use multiple layers of background and move them all differently to create a
3 dimensional shot.
This is such a huge step forward in the technicality of anime.
His use of surreal graphics that I touched upon in Dororo starts to really develop in
For example, this shot of a painted background during a fight.
In a bid to save money, a lot of shows would use block colours or basic shapes as backgrounds.
It would save staff a lot of time time in having to paint a whole background.
Dezaki twisted this around and used these background to draw focus in certain areas
and to heighten drama.
This later becomes one of Dezaki's most well known contributions to the medium, Postcard
Dezaki would end dramatic scenes with a close up of a face, which developed into taking
that close-up and transitioning it into a painted, detailed still.
These saved a lot of time in animation and became iconic in his shows as they actually
work as a fantastic way of representing melodrama.
Postcard memories become a staple of his style, which you'll see developing in his later
works, and still today, most shows use them at the climax of their episodes.
The still enormously influential Tezuka had left Mushi Productions and the studio was
facing huge financial problems.
Just as the company was filing for bankruptcy, Dezaki left and joined the newly birthed Studio
This is where he would create his next hit, 1973's Aim for the ace.
One of anime's early great sports anime.
Dezaki's fantastic use of melodrama shined here and he injected the series with his ever
improving visual surrealism.
His surreal imagery becomes the stylistic back-bone of Aim for the Ace, making it one
of the most unique works of it's time.
Dezaki takes his technique of coloured background from Joe and develops them into the show's
main aesthetic.
The backgrounds are never grounded in realism, usually playing with colour schemes and mixing
them with non-literal elements.
Even small details are fantasized like having sparkles accompany a character's face during
dramatic scenes.
He uses colour and differing detail to draw our eyes to certain parts of the screen, this
is incredibly smart.
Not only does it work as an efficient storytelling tool but unnecessary detail could be replaced
with elements that were also much easier to animate.
It was a win-win.
This style is continued into Dezaki's later Shojo work and becomes one of his most influential
contributions to the medium.
I'll touch on this in more detail shortly.
One of the biggest developments in Aim for the Ace was Dezaki's smart use of animation.
We discussed his Postcard Memories technique that appeared in Joe, which is further solidified
in Aim for the Ace.
Still are used prominently throughout the episodes at dramatic moments.
Similarly with Dezaki's use of repetition, playing the same few frames over and over
to increase their impact.
These might look pretty basic now but at the time, Dezaki was revolutionary in his resourcefulness.
This made Osamu Dezaki one of the most valuable creators in a time of little stability in
the industry.
After a few quieter years, Dezaki directed Nobody's Boy Remi in 1978, also at Madhouse.
Remi was a hit, especially overseas where Dezaki had found little success in the past.
It was by far his most technically impressive show yet.
He took his multi-layered background technique and took it to a whole new level of complexity.
Remi is arguably the catalyst for how later anime would use dynamic backgrounds, Dezaki
was masterful in how he perfectly moved each layer of his world.
Each movement complementing its counterparts, creating a mesmerizing viewing experience
and combined with the rich colour scheme produces a fairy-tale atmosphere that just couldn't
be achieved by anyone else.
This dynamic movement gave Dezaki a chance to further play with his cinematic influence
as he could replicate real cameras even more than before.
This scene were Remi's father comes home for example creates such unease as the camera
pans in ways more flat animation couldn't achieve.
It creates fantastic perspectives shots and tells you everything you need to know about
the situation.
This technique becomes one of the pillars of later animation in Japan, it allowed creators
to birth vibrant, exciting scenes on a small budget.
All of Dezaki's experience and skill would be fully utilised in his next project.
Rose of Versaille in 1979.
Dezaki didn't begin directing the series, he oversaw production of the first half but
stepped in at around episode 20 to also direct the 2nd half.
The staff listing for the series was a collection of some of the industry's finest talents
and under the direction of Dezaki, they made an unmistakable classic.
The series was a massive hit and still remains one of the best dramas in the medium.
Versaille is credited as a main inspiration for Ikuhara's later work Revolutionary Girl
Utena which went on to influence a whole wave of more anime in the following decades.
It's also credited as one of the main influences on shows favouring a more solidified, serious
storyline, aswell as progressing the Shojo genre tremendously.
Versailles influences is not to be underestimated.
The series can be seen as a perfection of Dezaki's style in the 70s.
All his techniques that he created over the past decade are used here to perfection.
The multi-layer movement for example is done with such skill that it's barely noticeable.
Everything just moves naturally, creating a look that fits more in line with series
a few decades later.
I think his general directing ability reachers a similar level of excellence.
Look at this scene were a number of characters meet on a beach.
What stands out first is the biblical presentation of the sky behind, with streaks of light crashing
down onto the world.
And the masterfully animated sea in the background, wetting the sand to mirror the scene in a
reflection on the floor.
All this becoming a foundation for the presented characters who are framed perfectly.
Dezaki flawlessly frames his characters at different perspectives to show authority and
This scene is perfect and just the start of Dezaki's expert visual input in the series.
And Versailles is packed with moments like this in every episode, giving a whole new
layer of awe to the story.
It's so easy to just get lost in the visual perfection of the show.
He was one of the few directors from this era that were really using their medium to
tell stories.
Versailles and the following years can be considered Dezaki's most prolific period
in terms of output.
Essentially creating a whole new project every year.
Starting the decade with a second season of Joe, then a follow up movie for Joe and then
for Remi.
But 1982 saw a change in direction for Dezaki stylistically.
This echoed a change in the industry too.
The late 70s had caused a shift in the market and anime was about to go Sci-fi mad.
With shows like Gundam and Macross on the brink of volcanic popularity, Dezaki was right
there waiting and started production of his new series: Space Adventure Cobra.
This is possibly an overlooked period in Dezaki's career because it doesn't line up as much
with the rest of his work, but it's fair to say Dezaki contributed to the boom in sci-fi
anime during the 80s, and what a contribution it was.
Cobra was completely different in tone to Dezaki's previous works, you have a cheeky
James Bond type who fumbles his way through sci-fi punch-ups in pursuit of cyborg women.
It's full of nicely implemented comedy, beautifully designed locations and action
scenes that make it impossible to stop watching.
His creativity still remains but it's more subtle.
Techniques like multi-layered backgrounds are standard now and Dezaki makes them blend
in with his complex futuristic world.
The sci-fi setting also allows Dezaki to play around with new objects like hologram screens
and neon lighting.
This is one of Cobra's most interesting aesthetic values as many of the shots are
pointed through glass or presented as reflections.
Cobra is the story of everyone's science fiction dream and without a doubt one of Dezaki's
most exciting works.
A year later in 1983 Dezaki directed Golgo 13.
An action movie about a silent hit man.
It was scarcely released in the west and it seems only hard-core Dezaki fans have put
the effort into searching out a copy.
Which is a shame because I think a lot of the scenes in the movie are some of Dezaki's
best and the films brilliantly.
There's constant action, violence and sex throughout the film's run time, accompanied
with countless scenes of really impressive animation.
This was also one of the first anime films ever to incorporate CG animation, a whole
decade before the rest of the industry would join in.
It was only used for one scene in Golgo but a quick look at it shows the rest of the industry
were probably right to wait.
From now on, Dezaki became very selective with the projects he would take on.
For example The Might Orbots in 1984 or Bionic Six in 1987, an american cartoon that was
no doubt trying to replicate the success of Mecha anime in Japan.
Although in the early 90s, Dezaki returns to a more traditional style with his show
Oniisama e, that has more similarities to his early works like Aim for the Ace than
it does to any of his recent projects.
After this Dezaki's output slows down.
He's no longer making a whole TV series every year, instead opting for OVAs or movies.
That's not to say his quality drops, movies like Black Jack are fantastic uses of his
developed style.
Giving the Tezuka adaptation an interesting darker tone.
He even takes his skills to a whole new genre and directs two Key adaptations, movies for
Air in 2005 and Clannad in 2007.
Using a new generation of animators to bring his visions to life.
This is a showcase of Dezaki's unlimited scope, from being an episode director on Astro
Boy all the way back in 1963, Dezaki has done everything.
He revolutionised the medium he loved and made it his own.
Every project he worked on was filled with his creativity and innovation.
But tragically, Dezaki passed away in 2011.
But this doesn't mean he won't continue to impact anime, his presence lives on with
his influence in every anime that comes out today.
Many of anime's most prolific directors over the last decade, Akiyuki Shinbo and Kunihiko
Ikuhara all owe their style directly to Dezaki.
We now have whole genres and styles that were birthed from his vision.
Without Dezaki, who knows if anime would be the exciting medium it is today.
I hope this video has done a good enough job at showing how important he was to anime.
Next time you watch a new anime series, keep an eye out for the techniques and visual styles
that Dezaki introduced.
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How Osamu Dezaki Became Anime's Great Visionary

124 Folder Collection
二百五 published on September 11, 2019
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