Friday, July 12, 2013

Names You Should Know: Hiroyuki Imaishi

This is part of a new series I've wanted to do about some of the less-well known names in anime. I'm not sure how it is in other countries, but there isn't much familiarity with the anime industry in America. Sure, any self-respecting convention-goer may be able to rattle off a whole string of names, but the average American would be hard-pressed to name one...and that one name would probably be Hayao Miyazaki (thanks, ). Fortunately, just as there is more than one great director running around Hollywood, there are plenty more great anime directors in the Land of the Rising Sun. Here's one:

Hiroyuki Imaishi. This name probably means nothing to you now, but you've definitely heard of him. He got his start doing key animation on projects like Diebuster, Kare Kano, and FLCL (he directed the), but his big break came when he made his debut as series director for one of the greatest mecha of all time: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. The show went on to win the Excellence Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival () and developed a devoted fan base.

Perhaps too devoted.

But before he was the man behind TTGL, Imaishi directed a short feature-length film about a man with a TV for a head and a woman with a panda-esque mark on her eye who are sent to a maximum-security prison on the moon ( I'm not making this up). The film only gets weirder from there and it's absolutely wonderful, a bizarre, action-packed fever dream of drill penises, cyborg wardens, Uzi-touting babies, and copious amounts of explosions. It may lack the polish of TTGL, but Dead Leaves is a perfect display of Imaishi's vintage style. The heady blend of energetic, exaggerated animation, over-the-top action and unbridled, almost recklessly creative art design have since come to define his unique work.

The influences behind Imaishi's rise to prominence are as colorful and varied as the work itself. Imaishi started off at, working on the projects I mentioned above under the great , who is himself a protege of . He also cites his main influence as the late , a frequent Miyazaki collaborator whose animation style has of animators.

You will never be as cool as this picture.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, his star-studded past, things don't appear to be slowing down for Imaishi any time soon. Following his success with the epic TTGL and the epically silly Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, he has left Gainax to form his own studio, . They've hit the ground running, premiering a ridiculously, hilariously low-budget ONA called(think Japanese Newgrounds cartoon in terms of quality), and following it up with the more traditionally animated . The formerand the latter spawned a follow-up which reached its goal in just three hours. And it seems Imaishi-san and co. aren't stopping there, as work on his newest series, Kill La Kill,.

With so many links to the past, it should be no surprise that Hiroyuki Imaishi is anime's future.
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