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Ryutaro Nakamura 1955-2013

Thursday 25th July 2013


Remembering the late director and his best-known work

Ryutaro NakamuraRyutaro Nakamura, who died on 29th June, was a director who specialised in the gap between reality and our perception of it. He thrived in the animation world, particularly under the tutelage of the director Osamu Dezaki, for whom he was a key animator on several notable TV series, from Nobody’s Boy (1977) and The Rose of Versailles (1979) onwards. An animator at the Madhouse studio for several years, he left in 1986 to become a freelance artist, creating storyboards and layouts for several shows, and achieving his directorial debut with The Legend of Gusco Budori in 1991.

Despite never achieving international celebrity, Nakamura was a strong performer in numerous collaborations. He is widely credited with tempering the comedic, slapstick attitudes of show-runner Satoru Akahori on Sakura Wars, playing up darker, more serious elements of Japan’s 1920s in what would have otherwise been a much lighter show. And most famously, he found a productive ally in Chiaki Konaka, who wrote the scripts for his most famous TV show, Serial Experiments Lain. Channelling Nakamura’s own interests in computers and computing, Lain remains one of the classics of late 1990s anime, with its tale of a girl who appears to be haunted by her own net avatar. But Nakamura’s achievement lay in his memorable, iconic depiction not of cyberspace, but of the real world – the sky tied up with wire, the ominous hum of electronic hardware, and the pallid complexions of humans lit by computer screens.

Ryutaro NakamuraWhen he arrived on staff, the first four scripts were already written, and the producer’s attempts to describe the story weren’t much help. “I was told that, basically, this was a story of a young girl who eats a bullet and commits suicide – and I thought “I give up!”’ he confessed. Finding the narrative itself surreal and hard to handle, Nakamura left that to Konaka, while concentrating on what he called the “sense of style.”

Some of his favourite moments in the entire series included Rein’s train journey and walk up the hill in episode one – very mundane events rendered disturbing by the way they have been shot or coloured. “In the school scene, for example, there’s suddenly nobody at the end of the corridor, even though they should be during break time,” he explained. “It’s a very different sense of eeriness to the one you would get with the overt presence of monsters, as you would in a ghost story.”

“When Rein goes to school, I painted the background completely white. If we had been fixated on realism, we would have had to put trees in the background with a blue sky peeking through, but that’s exactly what we didn’t do. It took a great deal of time to explain this to the staff, but that was the way we did our best to reduce the importance of a sense of the real.” Nakamura also used the positioning of cameras to put the viewer in the picture – most noticeably, by matching a character’s sense of inadequacy with close angles. “The world of Lain has a limited field of vision, so I wanted to avoid a so-called ‘God’s-eye viewpoint.’”



His later successes included the deeply allegorical Kino’s Journey, Ghost Hound and REC, an adaptation of the Q-taro Hanamizawa manga, challenging viewers’ realities in a whole different way, by being an anime depicting a love affair with an anime voice actress. His last work, Despera, was conceived in tandem with Serial Experiment Lain’s Konaka and Yoshitoshi Abe. Set, like Sakura Wars, in an alternate 1920s Japan, it has been serialised in manga form in Animage magazine, although production on the anime was delayed, and presumably now postponed indefinitely, on account of Nakamura’s battle against cancer.

Jonathan Clements

MANGA UK GOSSIP

Death Note Complete Series And Ova Collectors Edition

£44.99
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On Blu-ray for the first time! Collected across 6 discs containing all 37 episodes of the hit anime series plus the bonus Death Note: Relight OVAs.

Light Yagami is a genius high school student who is about to learn about life through a book of death. When a bored shinigami, God of Death, named Ryuk drops a black notepad called a Death Note, Light receives power over life and death with the stroke of a pen. Determined to use this dark gift for the best, Light sets out to rid the world of evil... namely the people he believes to be evil.
Should anyone hold such power?
The consequences of Light’s actions will set the world ablaze.

Contains episodes 1-37 plus Death Note Relight OVAs on a bonus Blu-ray disc
Also features exclusive collectors edition rigid box packaging
Languages: English, Japanese and English Subtitles

FEATURED RELEASE

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