Celebrating 50 Years of Anime: 50 People of the Past and Present Who Shaped Anime Into What It is Today (#45-41)

Another installment in the Celebrating 50 Years of Anime series of posts. This time we have a prolific science fiction writer who happens to be an “ass” man, an up-and-coming “confirmed-for-bro” animator who can also DJ, a dude whom I mistook for a woman for the longest time, the guy who carried Studio GONZO, and finally, a man who likes his women greased.

#45. Buichi Terasawa (1955—)

Notable Works:

  • Director: Cobra the Animation: The Psycho-Gun (2008)
  • Original Story: Space Adventure Cobra, Goku Midnight Eye, Karasu Tengu Kabuto


In 1976, Buichi Terasawa joined Tezuka Productions to study under the famous manga artist, Osamu Tezuka. By the 80s, Terasawa was rearing to go, with several works already under his belt, and the 1977 Manga Tezuka Award to boot. In 1985, he published his work titled Bat, produced in full color. During this time, Terasawa would pioneer the use of computer graphics to create manga. 1992’s Takeru would become the first computer graphics comic book series. Among his works include the Cobra series and Goku Midnight Eye. On a very related note, the phrase DAT ASS is very appropriate in describing all of Buichi Terasawa’s works.

Personal Favorite: Space Adventure Cobra

Original story by Buichi Terasawa, directed by Osamu Dezaki, and character designs by Akio Sugino? By body is ready. Anways, Space Adventure Cobra is a 1982 anime series created by the aforementioned holy trinity and based off the Cobra manga by Buichi Terasawa. While the story isn’t anything special, the characters made the show pretty enjoyable. It’s a Dezaki show, so naturally Cobra gives off the Duke Togo vibe (even though Cobra came out a year before the Golgo 13 movie). It’s science fiction, but very loose science fiction bordering on the adventure side of things. Overall, a very good show that holds its own. The animation is very well done for a 1982 show, but if it bothers you that much, you can always watch Cobra the Animation (in all its 3D gyrating glory).


As mentioned before, Space Adventure Cobra is a personal favorite, proving that science fiction need not be too hard-coded to be entertaining. Buichi Terasawa also pioneered the use of computer graphic arts in manga. He was one of the first to introduce computer generated art and coloring (with his release of Takeru). This revolutionized the methods of which manga and comics could be created. I find Wikipedia’s Buichi Terasawa page absolutely hilarious. It has a line that reads: “Even as of 2010, when comic books produced with the use of computer graphics have become common, very few artists can come close to matching Terasawa’s ideas and quality.”

Ladies and gentle. I present to you, Terasawa’s revolutionary “ideas” of which no one has been able to match.

#44. Hiroyuki Imaishi (1971—)

Notable Works:

  • Director: Dead Leaves (2004), Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007), Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (2010)
  • Animator: Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995), FLCL (2000), Trava (2002), Diebuster (2004), Redline (2009)


Hiroyuki Imaishi’s road to fame began when he joined the anime studio GAINAX in 1995. That year, of course, they were busy making Neon Genesis Evangelion and Imaishi had his hands full doing key animation for Anno and Tsurumaki. He stuck with GAINAX and by the year 2000, he landed a role as animation director for the 6-part OVA FLCL. He would later collaborate with Tsurumaki again with Diebuster in 2004. That same year, Imaishi directed the 1-shot OVA/movie Dead Leaves, from Production I.G. His first directorial TV project came in 2007 with Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann which took various elements from Getter Robo and blew them sky high. Most recently, he directed 2010’s Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt.

Personal Favorite: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is basically one huge throwback and homage to the super robot genre of the past. This show is a little of bit of Getter Robo, Mazinkaiser, FLCL, Gunbuster, GaoGaiGar, and even Yamato. This show solidifies Hiroyuki Imaishi as one of anime’s best animators and perhaps directors as well. The show is far from perfect, but its pretty damn entertaining no matter how you look at it. It takes everything I enjoy from New Getter Robo and magnifies them to epic proportions. It even had a morning time-slot when it aired in Japan. Imagine waking up to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann as a kid. Take all my money now. If you haven’t seen this show, watch it now. There are times when it’s simply better to ignore all logic and kick reason to the curb.


Hiroyuki Imaishi is one of GAINAX’s youngest and most talented directors. His animation style is unique to say the least. He single-handedly animated the Haruko vs. Amaro scene in FLCL episode 5. He was responsible for all the crazy insanity from Dead Leaves. And lets not forget Gurren Lagann and Panty & Stocking. All of these titles showcase Imaishi’s style, characterized by very intense block shading and disregard for physics. It’s a style that I enjoy immensely. One can debate the merit of his works, but you’ve got to admit, they’re all pretty damn entertaining to watch.

#43. Kunihiko Ikuhara (1964—)

Notable Works:

  • Director: Sailor Moon (1992), Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997), Mawaru Penguin Drum (2011)


Kunihiko Ikuhara first began to become noticed during his stint as Junichi Sato’s assistant. During this time, Ikuhara worked on various shows with Sato including the very popular Sailor Moon which he acted as episode director. He would eventually take over as director when Sailor Moon R rolled around (shitty pun intended). He left the Sailor Moon team shortly after to direct his next and arguably his best work, Revolutionary Girl Utena in 1997. Utena was apparently so good that he had to take five for 15 years. He would remain in the dark, doing odd works for manga and novels until 2011 when it was tentatively announced that Ikuhara would direct the Brain’s Base show titled Mawaru Penguin Drum.

Personal Favorite: Revolutionary Girl Utena

Revolutionary Girl Utena is what happens when you un-cage the beast that is Ikuhara. The entire show was an experience. An experience that I’m still unsure of how to describe. It’s very reminiscent of Rose of Versailles, which is also one of my favorites. The difference however is that in Utena, there’s a lot of things going on, and little to no explanation. The show uses imagery and sound very liberally, almost to the point of insanity. And I haven’t even mentioned the movie yet. When all is said and done, the 39 episodes flew by, almost as I were watching more of a dream than anime. It was glorious.


Kunihiko Ikuhara is a weird dude. Much like Anno, he is very indirect in explaining the meaning behind his stories. Utena obviously had many under-the-surface themes that dealt with sexuality and the like, but what it reminded me a lot of was Evangelion. The key difference is, Ikuhara’s works tend to feature a Yuri subtext; in which case I’m screwed since I haven’t a clue when it comes to the Yuri genre. I mentioned that Utena is a beast and until I can properly wrap my head around it, I’ll just pretend by saying it influenced Yoji Enokido, writer for Utena and coincidentally RahXephon and Star Driver (both were part of the creative group Be Papas which formed specifically for Utena). Enokido would go on to write the FLCL novels which took many story elements and ques from Utena. By the way, no one can rock the Sailor Moon cosplay like this guy can.

#42. Mahiro Maeda (1963—)

Notable Works:

  • Director: Blue Submarine No.6 (1998), Gankutsuou (2005)
  • Animator: Daicon IV (1983), The Wings of Honneamise (1987)
  • Mechanical Designs: Gunbuster (1988), Vision of Escaflowne (1996), Last Exile (2003)


Throughout his illustrious career, Mahiro Maeda has worked on a number of shows and served a wide variety of staff positions. He is best known for being one of GONZO’s premiere creators during the early parts of the 00s. His works include directing the OVA Blue Submarine No.6 in 1998 as well as Gankutsou: The Count of Monte Cristo in 2005. As an artist and designer, he again worked with GONZO on one of their best titles from the “Digimation” days, Last Exile. Before that, he designed characters and mechs from popular titles such as Gunbuster, Escaflowne, and Evangelion (he was artist and designer for two of the angels). Aside from GONZO, he has collaborated with a number of other studios, including GAINAX, Studio 4c, and even Studio Ghibli. He has worked with Hayao Miyazaki in the past, mainly animating a number of popular movies such as Nausicaa, Laputa, and Porco Rosso.

Personal Favorite: Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

This is Maeda and Studio GONZO’s take on the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas. It is set several thousand years in the future where space travel has become the norm, yet society still adheres to a state akin to the Victorian age. Most people probably know the plot from the book or the hollywood movie. It follows Edmond Dantes, a man who on the day of his wedding, is falsely charged of treason and arrested. He is taken prisoner for 14 years, each passing day his mind deteriorates to the point where revenge is the only thought left. This tale of vengeance is just as riveting as its novel counterpart. The art in this show is surreal, the scenery and imagery is dark and exquisite. However, what makes this show is most definitely The Count himself. Edmond Dantes, “The Count of Monte Cristo” absolutely takes command of the scene whenever he is present. His moves are calculated, his demeanor always serious. One can only watch in amazement as this classic story unfolds. This is GONZO at its finest and this is Maeda at his finest.


Very similar to the likes of Ikuhara, Mahiro Maeda is one of the people who made his masterpiece and has since remained quiet. In the case of Ikuhara, he is finally returning to anime after nearly 15 years. Mahiro Maeda on the other hand, has yet to make such an announcement. Does that mean he’s done for good? I don’t think so. The guy is still young, not even 50. If Gankutsou is any testament, he’ll be able to create great things in the future. He’ll come back and once again carry GONZO out of the sink hole they are in right now. I know! Have this guy return to direct the new Last Exile! That would be perfect! But then again, wishing for it will only make it not happen. Oh well…one can dream.

#41. Masamune Shirow (1961—)

Notable Works:

  • Director: Black Magic M66 (1987)
  • Original Story: Black Magic, Appleseed, Dominion, Ghost in the Shell, Ghost Hound, Real Drive


Masamune Shirow first developed an interest for manga in college. This led him to create Black Magic at a very young age, subsequently putting him in the spotlight. His works caught the eyes of several big name publishers which offered him a deal. This led to the creation of Appleseed, a futuristic story which won him the 1986 Manga Seiun Award. Appleseed was a sensation as it was very rooted in real world politics and featured densely-plotted drama throughout. He would leave Appleseed to make Dominion in 1986 and then Ghost in the Shell in 1991, the latter of which we all remember from the Oshii movies and SAC series several years later. Many of Shirow’s works would eventually make its way to anime form, including the aforementioned Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed, and Dominion Tank Police.

Personal Favorite: Appleseed

There are many “great shames” of anime. Two of them happen to do with Appleseed. First is the fact that the story remains largely unfinished, leaving off at Volume 4 of the manga with no plans of a continuation. Secondly, after nearly three decades, we still don’t have a decent anime adaptation. The 1988 OVA was odd, it was like a condensed side story that happened to resemble the manga somewhat. The 2004 Shinji Aramaki movie was also a disappointment, striving for aesthetic and action appeal over story. Still, as far as the plot is concerned, it’s actually pretty close to the first 2 volumes, only with different character back stories. Then there was that bastardization Ex Machina, which felt like a glorified episode of a non-existent episodic Appleseed TV series. Who knows, perhaps Appleseed XIII will break the trend. That’s what I’m hoping for at least. Nevertheless, the Appleseed story is still one of my favorites, and in my opinion, the best from Shirow alone. Yes that means I like the Appleseed manga better than the GITS manga (the anime is a whole different story though).


One word: Cyberpunk. Masamune Shirow ranks up there with the likes of Katsuhiro Otomo for their contributions to the science fiction sub-genre. The thing with Appleseed however, is that it actually felt like a hard-corded realistic approach, more so than the likes of Ghost in the Shell or Bubblegum Crisis, which is more speculative and indulgent. Some may argue that this is straying from the classic cyberpunk mold, however, you still have to appreciate the amount of detail that went into the story. It even homages Blade Runner every now and then. Shirow is most definitely one of my favorite manga authors. Now if only he’d stop making Galgrease and finish the Appleseed manga, I’d be happy.


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17 Responses to Celebrating 50 Years of Anime: 50 People of the Past and Present Who Shaped Anime Into What It is Today (#45-41)

  1. catchercatch says:

    I am so very glad you mentioned Ikuhara, as Utena is one of my favourite series of all time. Continuing to tune into these great posts!

    • Tronulax says:

      Thanks for showing interest! I have great respect for Utena and its staff, especially the writers, both the original manga ka as well as the scriptwriter who would go on to write the scripts for several of my favorite series.

  2. Scamp says:

    They say you shouldn’t judge someone by their looks, but if you lined up every single anime director and asked me which one directed Utena, Ikuhara would stick out like a elephant in a chicken coop

  3. rikuhe6 says:

    Cool list, I only know 2 (the TTGL guy and the Utena guy). But it seems like the others are worthy of checking out.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Seconding for Ikuhara. Can’t wait for Penguindrum!
    Also, I quite like the Aramaki Appleseed movies, but that’s just me.

    • Tronulax says:

      The story definitely benefits from having the action scenes play out, in full CG at that. There’s no lacking in animation and action I’ll admit.

      I guess my biggest complaint CG-wise, is that you lose the dark/gritty feel of cell animation that would suit futuristic cyberpunk settings such as Appleseed. One can make the argument that its actually better since Olympus is supposed to be a Utopia, but much of the later volumes of the manga actually takes place outside of Olympus (of course, neither of the movies get that far)

  5. woming says:

    While Maeda would be an awesome addition to the staff, I do believe the guy who did the original Last Exile will be on board for the new one. At least that’s what MAL tells me. In before >MAL

    • Tronulax says:

      From whats revealed so far, it seems Kouchi will indeed return to direct. However, only one confirmed production designer, the dude who worked with Nishizaki on the shittier Yamatos and who also worked with Maeda on the first Last Exile. Hopefully both of them will return to do mechanical designs. Theres still hope!

  6. CC080808 says:

    Huge fan of Maeda here, and I’m glad you mentioned Gankutsuou as that’s easily one of my favorites. But I’d like to point out that Maeda hasn’t really been “quiet.” He’s been doing a lot of stuff for 4c and various anthologies.

    • Tronulax says:

      Yeah you’re right, I was just drawing a comparison with that. In truth, Maeda hasn’t been quiet at all, but most of his recent works have been collaborations on anthologies (Genius Part, Ani Kuri). He has yet to make something HIS that is comparable to Gankutusou. At least thats IMO.

  7. TTGL heavily references Gundam and to a lesser extent, Macross as well.

    The show is three act play on remembering love for the entirety of the robot anime edition in Gainax terms:

    ACT 1: Mazinger and Getter zany wild fun
    ACT 2: Gundam grimdark (replete with mass-produced mecha); check also the ark subplot wherein a limited number of humans will survive the planetary holocaust (so much love for Macross)
    ACT 3: GAINAX apocalypse and intergalactic space terrors (Evangelion and Gunbuster/Diebuster)

    • I meant to say “robot anime tradition” lols. I’d comment about Utena, but I’ll end up writing a whole post here. Instead I refer you to http://animekritik.wordpress.com where you’ll find the best recent blog writing on Utena. WRL has an archive as well (as RGU ended up becoming one of my top 5 favorite shows).

    • Tronulax says:

      Yeah you’re pretty much right with breaking down the robot traditions. No one remembers robot love as well as GAINAX does, many of the staff being Gundam nerds themselves.

      As for Utena, I actually did peruse WRL’s Utena archive. Good stuff. All I can do is acknowledge it’s greatness and offer respects to the staff. I’ll leave the high level analysis stuff to people who think they know what they’re talking about ;).

  8. wingblossom says:

    Great post! Nice to see an analysis of famous industry people throughout the years. Just one nitpick — Ikuhara started directing Sailormoon near the end of R, and was the head director of S and SuperS. S is thought by many to be the best season of the show, and you can see a lot of the fruition for his ideas during Utena take root in the former.

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