Kunihiko Ikuhara

幾原邦彦, Ikuni, イクニ
Websitehttps://ikuni.net/ Twitterhttps://twitter.com/ikuninoise Kunihiko Ikuhara nicknamed Ikuni was born December 21 1964 in Osaka Prefecture Japan. Ikuhara is an idiosyncratic postmodern anime director that had a significant impact on the development of anime styles from the 90s and onward. His surrealist psychosexual works are why fans often compare him to David Lynchhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DavidLynch. Although he is a beloved creative mind Ikuhara is very hard to deal with and is an overwhelming perfectionist leading to a small but important catalog of work. Style Ikuhara is an incredibly unique artist but draws a lot of influence from Osamu Dezakihttps://anilist.co/staff/100393/OsamuDezaki making interesting anime that focuses on maximal impact on minimal drawings. Key examples would be Oniisama e...https://anilist.co/anime/795/Oniisamae/ and Versailles no Barahttps://anilist.co/anime/338/VersaillesnoBara/. Their directing also show similarities in how they try to provoke feelings from the viewer. One particular recurring trait would be their Dutch angleshttps://aninomiyako.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/obliqueness.jpg?w=500h=561 which is used to depict unrest and disorientation. Ikuharas usual stylistic and narrative devices include pretense deception metaphors bluffs and repetition of gags. His iconography is consistent to the point people made humorous bingoshttps://i.ur.com/vlVmMu6.jpg for his works. His enthusiasm and history with theater led to his most apparent stylistic trait namely a stage playlike presentation with a miseenscne policy of showing only what is necessary maintaining a tight control of his canvas at all times. Images themselves become a strong narrative tool. The themes of his work often tackle adolescence and LGBTQissues and turns them into cartoonish fables that gets to the heart of the issues. College Ikuhara grew up in a fatherless home and recalls being obsessed with becoming an adult when he was young. An early encounter with avantgarde artists Shuuji Terayamahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ShC5ABjiTerayama Hermann Hessehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HermannHesse and Kenji Miyazawahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KenjiMiyazawa taught him the value of arts. In college he became an amateur filmmaker and stage director gaining notoriety for the strange atmosphere of his production wherein Ikuhara often appeared nude. Career After graduation from the Kyoto College of Arts in 1985 he entered the anime industry because the route from assistant to chief director was shorter there than for live action. He joined Toei Animation and became Junichi Satouhttps://anilist.co/staff/99002/JunichiSatous disciple because they shared similar comedic taste. Ikuhara and Satous combination proved effective with the former providing idealism stage production and social commentary and the latter the production and storyboards. Ikuhara worked under Satou during the first portion of Sailor Moonhttps://anilist.co/anime/530/SailorMoon/ where he met a lot of people that would later join his school of art. Ikuhara stepped up to finish Sailor Moon Rhttps://anilist.co/anime/740/SailorMoonR/ being a lush display of shoujo iconography. Ikuhara would fully come in his own right with the sequel Sailor Moon Shttps://anilist.co/anime/532/SailorMoonS/ where he let his imagination go wild. Ikuhara pushed boundaries and introduced themes that would remain common in his works: eccentric characters complicated samesex relationships apocalyptic tones and nightmarish circus designs. He built up his reputation as Toeis enfant terrible by animating insignificant scenes on the 1s dressing up in drag repeatedly trying to kill off Tuxedo Mask and shifting SuperS character development on Chibiusa much to the dismay of many fans. Ikuhara had planned to make a followup film but he promptly left Toei Animation after feeling he had too little creative control. Ikuhara moved to the smaller J.C. Staff studio forming the BePapas group with several friends and talented staff from Toei and conceived the legendary Shoujo Kakumei Utenahttps://anilist.co/anime/440/ShoujoKakumeiUtena/. Although Ikuhara was intimately involved in Utenas production much of his efforts were funneled into giving younger storyboarders and directors the opportunity to flourish. Many artists from the Ikuhara school went on to form successful solo careers. Several commonalities to these directors are planimetric compositions reuse of backgrounds emphasis on lighting and character acting and a postmodern fascination with European architectural history. Many of his disciples err towards understated naturalism whereas Ikuhara is fairly melodramatic and overthetop. Utena itself would be a highly unique fascinating work that combined unrealized ideas from Sailor Moon and common shoujo anime refrains loss of innocence liminality taboo sexuality gender politics and threw them in a stark relief. Many parallels could be drawn with Neon Genesis Evangelion: both being subversions of genre expectations with strong personal touches. Utenas themes combined with its exotic aesthetic that drew from European architecture and the Gothic Revival made it a highly influential and defining entry in anime history. Following Utena Ikuhara would take a decade long break from directing. He is credited with some storyboards but it would take until 2011 for his hiatus end wherein he made Mawaru Penguindrumhttps://anilist.co/anime/10721/MawaruPenguindrum/ under the highly experimental risktaking studio Brains Base. Although not as lauded as Utena due to time constraints and production troubles Mawaru Penguindrum found a strong cult following for its endless meta references towards Ikuharas own career and Dezakis library symbolism metaphors and themes drawing inspiration from Japans Lost Decadehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LostDecadeJapan the infamous Aum Shinrikyo attackshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AumShinrikyo and magical realist fiction of novelist Haruki Murakamihttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HarukiMurakami. Ikuhara kept encouraging younger anomalous talent such as nowpopular director Mitsue Yamazakihttps://anilist.co/staff/110249/MitsueYamazaki Shouko Nakamurahttps://anilist.co/staff/108707/ShoukoNakamura and character designer Terumi Nishiihttps://anilist.co/staff/107584/TerumiNishii. He would go on to make two more shows prominently dealing with LGBTQissues with 2015s Yuri Kuma Arashihttps://anilist.co/anime/20827/YuriKumaArashi/ and 2019s Sarazanmaihttps://anilist.co/anime/101261/Sarazanmai/. Theyre smaller productions but attempt to push the boundaries while giving opportunities for unknown artists such as Katsunori Shibatahttps://anilist.co/staff/133844/KatsunoriShibata or Mayu Matsushimahttps://anilist.co/staff/148157/MayuMatsushima to flourish with an abundance of creative freedom. Influence Shoujo Kakumei Utena was a hotbed for talent due to the creative freedom Ikuhara allowed his younger staff members. With his subsequent works as well Ikuhara has opened the path to many gifted creators and many of their roots can be traced back to his productions. One such star is filmmaker Mamoru Hosodahttps://anilist.co/staff/100067/MamoruHosoda known for directing Wolf Children and The Girl Who Lept Through Time. Although he started his career as animator at Toei Animation he would consider Ikuhara his mentor after making his directorial debut with Utena. Their stylistic similarities cinematic technique and directorial devices strongly resemble each others with an emphasis on metaphorical layouts shot composition and the rhythm of their storyboarding. Mushishis Hiroshi Nagahamahttps://anilist.co/staff/99346/HiroshiNagahama was deeply involved with Utenas preproduction and gave shape to Ikuharas mental images and ideas. Nagahama absorbed Ikuharas approach to staging and layouts while designing the world and architecture for Utena. Nobuyuki Takeuchihttps://anilist.co/staff/108709/NobuyukiTakeuchi best known for his visual direction of SHAFTs Bakemonogatari and being Sarazanmais chief director shares lots of similarities with Ikuhara and Dezaki pursuing maximum effect with limited animation. Takeuchis planar screen compositions reminiscent of stage plays use of silhouettes and black faces sky design metaphorical images and minimalist backgrounds reek of Ikuharas school. Takeuchi and Akiyuki Shinbouhttps://anilist.co/staff/100089/AkiyukiShinbou established a lot of SHAFTs iconic stylistically offbeat Utenalike aesthetic that their works have been praised for which is very strongly inspired by Ikuharas framing and liberal fanciful storyboarding. Takuya Igarashihttps://anilist.co/staff/105087/TakuyaIgarashi had been a close associate of Ikuhara since their Toei Animation days both being two of the major Sailor Moon directors. Igurashi picked up a lot from Ikuhara here mostly in his framinghttps://aninomiyako.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/ouranhighschoolhostclub.jpg. He could be considered a more accessible shoujo director than Ikuhara is. Other applauded artists such as Doukyuuseis director Shouko Nakamurahttps://anilist.co/staff/108707/ShoukoNakamura animator and Flip Flappers character designer Takashi Kojimahttps://anilist.co/staff/119807/ Golden Time character designer Shinya Hasegawahttps://anilist.co/staff/106529/ShinyaHasegawa animator Norimitsu Suzukihttps://anilist.co/staff/104133/NorimitsuSuzuki animation director Akemi Hayashihttps://anilist.co/staff/124000/AkemiHayashi Kyousougigas Rie Matsumotohttps://anilist.co/staff/107664/RieMatsumoto and Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlights Tomohiro Furukawahttps://anilist.co/staff/121599/TomohiroFurukawa cite Ikuhara as a teacher/strong influence. Good friend Hideaki Annohttps://anilist.co/staff/100111/HideakiAnno known for Neon Genesis Evangelion fame would work on Sailor Moon transformation scenes and made a dedication book to Ikuhara to thank him. During Ikuharas break he would still storyboard an episode of Annos Diebuster. There is also a common rumor that Evangelion character Kaworu Nagisahttps://anilist.co/character/1261/KaworuNagisa was based on Ikuhara. Ikuhara himself jokes that they conceived the character enjoying an onsen together. Despite their differing personalities their art mirror each other in destroying and rebuilding their respective genres.
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