In in the last episode of “Original Structures” we talked about a creative work that surely represented a big step in the career of an important director of the Showa age. Today we will instead deal with the original directing of Shouko Nakamura’s debut movie “Doukyuusei”. If you don’t know this work I suggest you read the entry of an online encyclopedia or to look at this silly video that my friend made. It’s not necessary to have watched the movie to read this analysis, which may even create a bit of curiosity in you, but more than once I will enter the spoiler territory so you are advised.
This cartoon is the animated adaptation of the homonymous shonen-ai comic by Asumiko Nakamura, the storyboards were realized by the director herself and by the veteran animator Akemi Hayashi, who also made the character design, supervised of part of the animations and drawn personally some of the scenes. Both director and character designer were inserted in the ending credits as Unit Director (director of single parts of the movie), so it is rather complex to establish the fatherhood (well, motherhood in this case) of the various scenes.
The movie is undoubtedly centered around the idea to realize a product for fujoshi but that every fan of the animation medium would be capable to appreciate. It’s almost like dressing a shonen-ai with animation techniques nearer to those of professionals who dedicate themselves to shows full of smears and girls taking life in an electric way thanks to animators like Ryusuke Nishii, whom animated various scenes in the movie.
Since the very first minutes, we can notice a general scene composition very aware of the so-called “rule of thirds”. Furthermore, the same subject’s positions toward the camera continue to persist for many shots in order to create a certain stability to the whole scene. This set of techniques is rather classic in the Japanese cinematographic animation panorama but in this precise context it assumes a particular meaning: the directing wants to tell the falling in love of two younglings treating it like a fact that happens every day, something surely marvelous but at the same time normal. Not casually the second narrative unit of the movie opens up with some emblematic phrases, pronounced by Kusakabe:
“I’ve finally been able to find a person  I like. Wearing my same uniform and my same shoes. We were born in the same year and we attend the same class”
Not a word on the sex of the person in question, a problem that will be faced only later. For now, Rihito is simply an attractive person to the eyes of Hikaru, not an attractive “boy”.
The layout’s style, to say the totality of the elements present in every single shot, plays on an aesthetic of simplicity that in order not to become a victim of problems as poverty and monotony of the cuts entrust itself mainly to a certain virtuosity from the background artists, the photographers, and animators. The first use a technique similar to the watercolor that manages to successfully represent the emotional atmosphere of the scenes without affecting the backgrounds that sometimes are almost two-dimensional while still leaving the viewer pleasantly stunned by the delicacy of some chromatic situations.The photography instead increases the composition strength putting the characters on focus in the moments when the use of the rule of thirds is evident. Is also important to notice that, in order to put the accent on the rotation of the four seasons, a great number of light effects where realized. I found particularly clever the clean separation between the summer light, really warm and very fit to be the frame of the “happy ending” of the movie with the cold light of every other period of the year. Even the side characters are painted in a more minimalistic way, with simple shapes maintaining their character traits that allow us to distinguish one from the other. They are simply less important and because of that, they came out almost as “blurry” personalities to our eyes, from every point of view. In the end, we don’t find ourselves to the levels of depersonalization that Kunihiko Ikuhara used us to, being a big influence for Nakamura (she directed the second opening and 4 episodes of Penguindrum).
In the movie there are various split-screen with many functions: sometimes this peculiar framing has the objective to speed up the narration, other times they prevent us from seeing what is really happening and in certain ones they are used as a “super focus” on some really important detail.
Is furthermore interesting to notice how the different scenes, even if with small and rare exceptions, often present some important visual element with his color originated from blue: from the turquoise of the black-boards to the green water of which the autumn is impregnated of to the intense dark blue in the moments set at night until that beautifully shaded asphalt that is glimpsed in the final scene. This set of tints seems to accompany the two protagonists in their story, almost as the different gradations represent the multiple phases and facets of the falling in love and of the relationship of Hikaru and Rihito. Is even more interesting to notice that when the two boys are separated or they don’t feel the presence of the other the color scheme disappear, making space to prevalent colors of a different nature.
The two directors blend the “cartoony” character animation with the background using some new monochromatic backgrounds and deformed drawings, that is they don’t reflect the original character designs, even in particularly important moments for the development of the story. This kind of choice, a Dogakobo and other studios tradition, is a thing I found rather unusual for a shonen-ai anime: the most emotionally intense moments should be represented through completely “in-chara” cuts while the comedy would result to be the only field in where is whort it to use drawings of different types, often nothing more than super-deformed versions of the characters that have a precise design from where the animator can’t escape. The deformation of designs in this movies is not rigid at all and Hayashi address them towards this or that direction. In some points of the movie, even if the camera is very near to the characters they continue to assume shapes that I dare to define as expressionist. But yet in the two most important moments are still realistically animated, thanks to the contribution of professionals of the caliber of Atsushi Nishigori and Takeshi Honda. Akemi Hayashi supervise a really innovative animation direction that at the same time refuses to completely destroy the canons of the genre  trying to find a compromise between elements that are part of the “comfort zones” of both categories of audience to which this movie was directed (fujoshi and anime otakus, more precisely sakuga otakus). But maybe we should also ask ourselves if what we call “canons of the genre” in terms on animation when we talk about a category as the one of shonen-ai, that received very few original products despite its long history, aren’t rather an offspring of the lack of investments directed toward putting together a really talented staff and of the absence of ambitious projects able to exploit to the fullest of its potential the animation of the past years rather than specific stylistic choices. But this is material for another article. What is certain is that Dokyusei represents the first step forward toward a boys love genre that surpasses the dimension of marginality, more conscious of his enormous potential.
 The term used by Kusame is 子 (ko), child, but in this case also points the person object of his desire (similar to the term baby or babe)
 It’s particularly interesting to notice the presence of a parallelism between aspects inherent to the screenplay and the direction of animations: the bold choice to use a lot of “expressionist” animation is joined by the decision to tell a rather realistic story, without melodramatic or stereotypical boys love elements. Nevertheless, Nakamura and Hayashi find themselves to insert in some form a few key elements of this anime typology: from the writing perspective the dynamics of the seme-uke are rather unchanged and from the animation side the final climax present drawings strongly bound to the original character designs. Because of the presence of these elements I find myself forced to dissent with that part of the public that cataloged the movie as a “deconstruction of Boys Love” or with who considered it a “homosexual love story for heterosexuals”.
Translation by: @giostellar