Check out Part 1 here!
Marble Knights (2020):
Unfortunately, not much is known about the staff who worked on this one. Much like Shantae’s opening: the drawings are angular and aggressive, and the action is densely packed. So classic Kanada-school stuff. While disappointingly, there are no credits for the intro, it would be safe to assume the same duo who animated Shantae’s opening (Ichigo Kanno and Kai Ikarashi) came back to at least animate a few bits of animation here. The sword fight at the start would be my best guess.
Metallic Child (2021):
At first glance, one could easily see this as another Kanada-school piece, and you would be right! Instead of repeating myself, however, I’ll use this as an opportunity to talk about the mastermind behind the opening and the studio’s most promising young talent: Ichigo Kanno.
His earliest indie work in 2016: Animation for Record of a Living Being, isn’t the strongest in terms of polish, but he does legitimately capture that energy of kids playing around and goofing off on a Summer afternoon… I’d argue the imperfections here add to the charm and the inherent hyperactive energy of children as well. From the very start, naturalism was always his forte. This would be expanded on his student film released the year after Tsukushi no Mook. Which he fully animated and directed.
Tsukushi no Mook is straight up one of my favorite pieces of animation. I always have a soft spot for mixing the magical with the mundane and trying to find the magic within daily life. Despite the fantastical Arrietty-esque imagery, I always find myself gravitating towards the little things as our protagonist goes through her daily routine: Stumbling out of bed, her clumsy attempt at fixing up her hair, changing into her new clothes for the day… All of her actions are animated so delicately that even the simplest of tasks can come off as enchanting. The drawings are more solid and tighter compared to his prior work, which is vital in trying to sell the delicacy of the animation. The imperfections are still present, but they’re more controlled this time around, adding to the organic feel the short has instead of it coming off as sloppy. Such a massive improvement from his first work, and I already liked Record quite a bit.
Around the time Mook was uploaded to Youtube, Kanno had already joined Studio Trigger as an inbetweener. Inbetweening is the process of finishing the key animation already laid out by the animator themselves by adding in the missing frames through tracing and cleaning up. It’s common for new animators to start out as inbetweeners for two or three years in the industry, but Studio Trigger’s known for promoting their young animators rather quickly; Kanno was no exception. After doing inbetweens for Darling in the Franxx and even before SSSS. Gridman aired on TV, he was already promoted to key animation! His work at Trigger skews more towards the Kanada school, real visceral pieces of animation that are a complete departure from his indie work.
This now brings us to Metallic Child. All the high-octane action is exactly what you expect from his modern-day output; that is overwhelmingly bombastic. However, before the action kicks in, there are a few bits of animation that echo Tsukushi no Mook– though much more refined and significantly more kinetic. I appreciate the calmer bits because they capture that fun duality with the main lead’s design. She can easily destroy everything in her path if she wanted, but at the end of the day, she’s also a kid.
Ichigo Kanno’s still regularly pumping out cool animation at the studio these days, and I’m eagerly looking forward to potential future opportunities he’ll get to show off his skills. He was credited for animation direction, character design, and storyboards for the opening. Hopefully, we’ll see him in those roles on TV series one day. The recently announced Dungeon Meshi adaptation, perhaps?
Omega Strikers (2023):
Nearly all of the studio’s openings have been handled by their younger staff. It’s clear that the studio uses these opportunities to give their fresh new talent a chance to express themselves. While they might not be ready to handle a full TV episode yet, smaller pieces of animation like Shantae and Marble Knights can work as a nice starting point for something bigger! Omega Strikers is a little different on that front, however.
The Omega Strikers opening is helmed by Yoshinari and Hiroyuki Imaishi, the co-founder and the leader of the Neo-Kanada movement at Trigger. Strikers, to me, feels like the most explicit the studio’s ever been about using these openings to train their newbies. Most of the animators credited haven’t done much animation in general, so having one of their studio heads correct all of their work makes the most sense. While definitely not on the same level as Yoshinari’s work on his LWA OVAs, it’s still very heartwarming to see.
The main goal of the intro is to make everyone look as cool as possible within the shortest amount of time possible. Much like Indivisible, the game’s cast is diverse and varied. Characters come in all shapes, sizes, and even species! Making Yoshinari the perfect fit for character design and animation direction, as established in part one, the man can truly draw anything and everything.
Imaishi’s storyboard does an excellent job of cramming in crazy amounts of coolness in only a minute and a half. His work is typically rapid-fire on all fronts. Whether it’s for a quick ridiculous gag or an overwhelmingly dense fight scene, Imaishi only operates on fast-forward. However, if it’s not properly controlled, it could come off as visual noise. His work can skirt dangerously close to that line, but the rhythm of his boards allows the viewers to take in every action while still being amazed by the sheer density of it all. All of the studio’s openings are designed to get your blood pumping, and Omega Strikers truly knocks it out of the park!
It’s heartwarming to see fans of the studio finally getting a chance to work with their idols. The creators of Shantae, Matt and Erin Bozon, said it was always their dream to have Trigger’s involvement in the game. The original character designer for Omega Strikers gushed non-stop about her love for Trigger when the trailer finally dropped. It’s moments like these that make me excited to see more of the studio’s collaborations with other companies in the future, so others can feel that same burning passion as well.