KANTA ON MANGA / Celebrating the brilliance behind production design

© Sumito Oowara 2017/Shogakukan

By Kanta Ishida / Yomiur Shimbun Senior WriterThe manga this week

Eizoken ni wa Te o dasuna (Don’t mess with the film study club)

By Sumito Owara (Shogakukan)

These days, production designers are second only to directors when it comes to their importance in film-making. Also called the art director, the production designer plans and creates the entire world of a particular film. If the world that underpins a movie is creative and original, then the accompanying characters and screenplay are really just interchangeable components. Audiences, however, tend to focus on characters’ activities and emotive storylines. We give little thought to who actually creates such worlds.

Midori Asakusa is a high school student who dreams of producing an anime film one day. She’s not good at drawing human figures, but possesses a boundless imagination. Into her sketchbook, she constantly jots down ideas for storyboards and draws reference sketches of machinery and mechanical devices that she has designed.

Midori is shy and often requires the help of others. Following the suggestion of her friend Sayaka Kanamori, however, she persuades classmate Tsubame Mizusaki to join their group. Tsubame, a fashion model, is the daughter of actors and expected to join the entertainment industry. However, she actually wants to be an animator. When characters drawn by Tsubame are placed onto backdrop illustrations by Midori, they merge together and open the door to “a most powerful and strong world” that the three have never seen before. The world adds intrigue to their otherwise mundane lives.

Osamu Tezuka’s manga “Film wa Ikiteiru” (Film is alive) is based on the anime industry. The main characters are two boys, both animators, whose friendship breaks up due to a fight over who will draw the protagonist.

The originality of this week’s manga, “Eizoken ni wa Te o dasuna” (Don’t mess with the film study club), derives from the protagonist Midori, who serves as production designer for the group. Along with the talented animator Tsubame and money-loving producer Sayaka, the trio form a powerful unit. That’s how things work in real life, too.

The manga’s author, Sumito Owara, also produces anime. It’s not surprising that the author’s drawings, though quite simple, capture a fine sense of motion. Owara’s powerful imagination is likely reflected in Midori’s wild fantasies, which transform the school campus into the setting of an adventure-filled anime. Sketches of intriguing mechanical objects often appear in the work. They slightly resemble Studio Ghibli drawings and are quite enjoyable. The manga also expertly narrates tales of friendship formed through after-school club activities. I’d certainly like to see Owara’s anime films some day.

Ishida is a Yomiuri Shimbun senior writer whose areas of expertise include manga and anime.Speech

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