Directorial Documents: Masunari Koji

Name: Masunari Koji
Known for: Read or Die, R.O.D the TV, Kokoro Library, Kamichu!, Mahou Omishi Gekijou Risky Safety

Welcome to what will be a somewhat irregular feature here at Anime wa Bakuhatsu da!, the Directorial Documents! In them, I try to give a general description of the director’s work and the styles that I think come across in most of their major works. It’s somewhat unusual to spotlight directors in this way, as it’s been said that anime directors have little to no influence over their products unless they were involved in the initial creative process, but I don’t think that’s quite true, although for the most part the directors I talk about here will likely have had a hand in a few of their series’ creative processes. So, without further ado, let’s begin!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, or how many times I have, but Kokoro Library is one of my favorite anime series ever. So, of course, when I found out that the same person had directed Kamichu!, another one of my beloved anime series, I was quite excited. And then I noticed that Masunari directed Read or Die and R.O.D the TV. I was quite impressed, to say the least.

For one thing, that’s some variety he’s got at directing. Not only can he direct little-known gems that rely on slow pacing and charming cuteness to win viewers, but he can direct action-y things like Read or Die–and do a good job of it. Read or Die is an unmistakable modern classic OVA series, that nearly everyone who calls themselves an anime fan has seen. Now, it’s been a while since I last watched the series, but while it’s obviously (and justifiably) popular for its action sequences, the subplot of the relatonship between Yomiko and Miss Deep and the convoluted twists and turns it took is pretty much classic Masunari in execution.

But what is “classic Masunari”? He likes his works to be gentle (anyone who’s seen Kamichu! or Kokoro Library or Risky Safety can’t argue with this) yet affecting. Kamichu! is arguably his best work, as it’s essentially a 16-episode Ghibli movie, which is no mean feat. I remember distincting crying–twice!–to Kokoro Library, and so I’ve always associated with him a kind of sweet happiness. The end of Read or Die, of course, is much more bittersweet than Kokoro Library was, but it still manages to leave the viewer with a sense of completeness and a warm kind of feeling inside (the kind of warm feeling that isn’t generated by the hot blood flowing from the action sequences). R.O.D the TV seemed to have more of Masunari being Masunari, and less of the action, which is I think the reason it was disliked so much when it was airing. I remember really liking it, but I haven’t rewatched it (again), so I can’t really speak on that.

I think his least-known series is Mahou Omishi Gekijou Risky Safety, a little known series based on a little known manga that aired as part of an anime ongoing series that aired a number of half-length series. It’s certainly not his best work (and I think it was one of his earliest, certainly the earliest that got any attention) but it’s a charming little series about what happens when an apprentice angel and an apprentice shinigami are bound together in the same body (answer: hijinks). It’s almost like proto-Kokoro Library, except without the maid outfits but with a girl named Moe as the main character. And a silent film episode. And the Legend of SUPER Momotaro, wherein Momotaro gets a fleet of spaceships and pounds the snot out of the oni. It’s a simple and somewhat forgettable series, but it does give you a glimpse at what Masunari is capable of.

And I think that’s it. There’ll be more later, probably on directors you’ve actually HEARD of (…kamo), so stay tuned! Or not.

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I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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a ridiculously long and only partially organized list of subjects


February 2008

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