Director Spotlight: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Director Spotlight courtesy of Ben

So you ever watch a bunch of stuff, that you really enjoyed, then look into who created it and realized that the same person made like all your favorite things?
So that’s how I discovered the anime director Hiroyuki Imaishi.

But his directorial work is skipping a bit ahead.
He started his career in Doujin circles (Japanese fan comics) and later moved onto published Manga. Unfortunately I can’t find much about his time in these wich is a shame cause I would love to see what he did in these areas.

He moved into animation getting hired as an inbetween animator at Gainix working on Neon Gennesis Evangellion with Hideki Anno and more importantly for later in the story, most likely where he met the legendary animator Yo Yoshinari, the key animator/mechanical designer for NGE.

(For those playing at home
Key Animator: Someone who draws all the important poses in an animated work,
In Between Animator someone who fills in the space between the key animators poses.
So if you had a 5 frame animation of someone pointing, The Key animator would draw the first and hte last, then the inbetween animator would draw the three in between poses)

He quickly rose through the ranks becoming a Key animator, where his incredibly distinctive animation style started to stand out. Increasinlgy unusual for japanese animation he really overmephasised squash and stretch, morphing the forms of the charecters to provide extra emphasis on the movements, he wasn’t afraid to break models, changing proportions and deforming characters for a couple of frames if it would help sell the animation.
Going back and watching some of his old cuts from shows when he first started doing key animation, it’s allready becoming obvious that he isn’t doing things like a lot of other people.…

Everything feels alive and cartoony. Instead of looking dramatic and cool people stumble when they run.

And while during this time he did work on stuff with more serious charecter designs and tones like the Darkstalkers anime (don’t watch it it’s crap)…
Or Virus Buster Serge…
and he did manage to keep some of his signature timing and pop (Look at the timing on when he pulls the knife in that Virus Buster clip)

He really shone when he was alowed to go nuts on shows that didn’t take themselves too seriously. Such as in his teaming up again with Hideki Anno for his and hers circumstances where he not only did key animation, but started moving into storboarding, scripting and animation direction (Basically being the supervisor for all animators working under him making sure everything looks right)
And of course he got to continue to put in some great animation of fast, snappy goofy shit.…

He also played a major roll in FLCL (Wich is amazing and you should watch it) on top of providing his typical snappy animation, he was also responsible for the iconic manga sequences in that show

So all this lead to him making a name for himself as the go to guy for this kind of insane over the top hyper kinectic animation. So then a japanese graffiti artist by the name of Imai Toonz is collaberating with animation studio Production I.G. to bring to life his insane over the top movie Dead Leaves. So they go to the guy that has become the go to guy for this kinda shit. And Hiroyuki Imiashi becomes a director. (He is still working with Gainix at the moment, but the anime industry is such that everyone works everywhere and studios are kind of irrelevant)
So Dead Leaves comes otu and it’s… fvcking bonkers. The plot is nonsense, the animation is everything that has made Imiashi famous though, everything moves amazingly, explosions form written sound effects, speed lines are drawn as 3d objects that exist in space, dudes get cut in half with drill dicks, people escape jail with anal sex. It’s amazing. This is a movie that broke me for years and I couldn’t really watch anime anymore because nothing lived up to it.

His next effort was helping out his buddy Hideki Anno again on the opening episode to Re: Cute honey with Kazuki Nakashima.
I actually don’t know much about this show so I don’t have much to say, but his influence is apparent in the opening.

Next up he went onto direct Gurren Lagan
He roped in Kazuki Nakashima to write the show after they’d worked well together on Re: cute Honey. The show ended up serving as almost a rebutle to the show that got him started in the animation industry Neon Gennesis.
Where as NGE was a deconstruction of the mecha genre, dealing with the serious implications and emotional toll of piloting a giant robot against monsters to save the world. And NGE helped spawn like a decade of mecha deconstruction shows where it was all serious buisness. Gurren Lagan while still keeping the emotinal toll real made giant robots fun again. It was crazy and over the top, the robots kept getting bigger and bigger till they were literally throwing galaxies at eachother. The show is amazing, a perfect execution of the concept of escalation. After Dead Leaves killed my interest in anime, this was one of the shows that started to bring me back.

From huge budget sci-fi epic with a constantly escalting sense of scale and impending danger, to low budget 10 minute comedy, his next show was Panty and Stocking: Featuring Garterbelt. About two fallen angels trying to get back into heaven by killing angels. Mostly just them sitting aorund talking mad shit at eachother. It’s one of the only anime’s I’d ever say has to be watched dubbed because the dub is fvcking incredible.
While the budget is a lot lower, you still get to see his preference for crazy action shots.

(That scene was mainly animated by Sushio, but directed by Imiashi)

So it was around this time that there were some rumblings in Gainx, Imiashi and his pal from the NGE days Yō Yoshinari (who has served as key animator on most everything Imiashi did at trigger and probbably deserves his own artist spotlight) we’re begining to feel played out at gainiax, They both loved the crazy over the top exagerated animation and that was becoming less and less popular in anime, as anime in general was going towards more of a direction of focusing on cute girls to sell body pillows and shit.
They didn’t really want anything to do with that, so fvck it.

They decided they were gonna form their own animation studio.
With Blackjack, and hookers.
Enter Studio Trigger


If the image didn’t give it away, I’m a fan of studio triggers work. Basically a bunch of animators and staff from Ganix got sick of how the studio was being run and started their own studio where they could work on shows that actually excited them.
They started their incredible run of amazing anime with the Imiashi supervised Inferno Cop

Basically the animators were given half an hour a day to work on this dumb fvcking show with all voice acting being done by in studio staff instead of voice actors. It’s like Axe Cop if Axe Cop didn’t make any sense and was a cheap adult swim show. It’s incredible.

But for his first directorial effort at Trigger though, we got Kill la Kill. Teaming up again with Kazuki Nakashima as the writer again, with Sushio (remember him from Panty and stocking entry?) as the charecter designer.
Where as Gurren Lagan was Imiashi’s take on the mecha genre. Kill la Kill is his take on Magical Girls anime (Sailor Moon etc) So show starts off as this shallow dumb girl fighting evil school people in ridiculously skimpy clothing, but ends up being this weird treatsie on nudisim vs hte evils of the fashion industry with some of the best charecter development and one of the most amazing hype songs for when shit gets real. If you can watch this show then not get excited when you hear ‘don’t lose your way’ then your dead inside. Notice now he’s become a big dicked enough mother fvcker that Imiashi’s name is the first hting you see in the trailer

He continued to work in supervising roles in Trigger, but his next work was for the japanese animator expo, basically just an excuse for the best animators in the buisness to show off their stuff. He produced Sex and Violence with Machspeed. And though the names kind of a homage to Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, the actual short is nothing like it, it’s Imiashi at his most hyperactive and hyperkinectic. While he always had a good grasp of charecter and story in the insanity he produced, this gives up all that and is just 10 minutes of pure style and flash

Then while his studio was putting all their budget for the next anime season into the fantastic Kiznavier, Imiashi decided to put out a second show on a limited budget in the same style as Panty and Stocking, 10 minute mainly comedy focused episodes. So we got Space Patrol Luluco. Ostensibly about the titular Luluco trying to live a normal life and get some dick from her crush Nova, it basically turns into the insane history of sutdio Trigger and a love letter to the studio he’s made, visiting planets from the different shows they’ve made together and having direct animation callbacks to the shows he made with this crew before forming Trigger, the show is basically the summuation of his entire carreer as a director, and while it works as a fun commedy show on it’s own, taken with the full context of his carreer it’s really kind of amazing.

And this is still barely scratching the surface of the amount of work he’s produced, you’ll find cuts of his in not only almost any Gainix show produced after 1995, but to shit like One Piece, or A woman claled Fujiko Mine.…

Dude has a super unique voice as both an animator and a director and looking back at my top 5 anime lines up almost exactly with ‘shows Hiroyuki Imiashi has directed’ wich is insane.

so uh… in conclusion Hiroyuki Imiashi is a land of contrasts.