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Yuasa Masaaki

Entry updated 15 November 2021. Tagged: Film, TV, People.

(1965-    ) Japanese director, scriptwriter and animator. Initially employed by Ajia-do Animation Works Inc., he became a freelance animator in 1994, going on to be the animation producer, storyboarder and co-writer for Cat Soup (2001), then writing and directing Mind Game (2004). He subsequently joined the Madhouse studio to work on various Television series: he was director and writer of Kemonozume (2006), about the romance between a man-eating ogre and a swordsman tasked with hunting her species down; director and writer of Kaiba (2008) and director of The Tatami Galaxy (2010). During this time he also directed and wrote a short film for Studio 4°C's OVA anthology Genius Party (2008). After briefly working for the French company Ankama (leaving when their Japanese office closed following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami), Yuasa and frequent collaborator Eunyoung Choi created the first Crowdfunded Anime, the award-winning wrestling S&M short Kick-Heart (2013).

Yuasa and Choi then formed the animation studio Science SARU in 2013: their first project was "Food Chain" (2014), an episode of Adventure Time (2007; 2010-2018; 2020-2021). For another studio, Yuasa directed and wrote the television series Ping Pong the Animation (2014), a non-genre work about table tennis; and later that year he directed "Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Baby" (2014), an episode of Space Dandy (2014). Science SARU then released its first full-length films, the mermaid fantasy Lu Over the Wall (2017; original title Yoaketsugeru Rū no Uta), directed and co-written by Yuasa; followed by Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (2017; original title Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome), directed by Yuasa, which is connected to The Tatami Galaxy and has – if we take them at their word – Supernatural Creatures.

More Science SARU releases followed: the television series Devilman Crybaby (2018) and the ghost film Ride Your Wave (2019; original title Kimi to, Nami ni Noretara), were both directed by Yuasa. He also co-directed the children's series Super Shiro (2019-2020), about a Superhero dog, a spin-off of the non-genre television show Crayon Shin-chan (1992-current) that Yuasa had worked on in the early 1990s. Next was Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! (2020), directed by Yuasa; then in 2021 he co-directed the online series Nippon Chinbotsu 2020 (2020; vt Japan Sinks 2020) (see Nippon Chinbotsu), based on Nippon Chinbotsu (1973; cut trans as Japan Sinks 1976) by Sakyō Komatsu.

Visually adventurous – not only in terms of experimentation but also by shifting art styles within a work – Yuasa has a fondness for surrealism that is often frenetic, but can be reflective and melancholy: character is not forgotten. Most of his works were critically acclaimed and have won or been nominated for awards; wins include the Fantasia Film Festival's 2013 best animated short film (Kick-Heart) and 2019 best animated feature (Ride Your Wave); the Tokyo Anime Award Festival's animation of the year, television category, in 2015 (Ping Pong the Animation) and 2021 (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!); the Japanese Academy's 2017 award for best animation film (for Night Is Short, Walk On Girl); the Ottawa International Animation Festival's 2017 best animated feature (Night Is Short, Walk On Girl); the Shanghai International Film Festival's best animation film in 2017 (Lu Over the Wall) and 2019 (Ride Your Wave) and the Crunchyroll Anime Award for best director in 2019 (Devilman Crybaby) and 2021 (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!). In 2021 Yuasa received the Cabinet Minister Award for Media Fine Arts from Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs. [SP]

Masaaki Yuasa

born Fukuoka, Japan: 16 March 1965


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