Top Anime Directors in 2000s – Series

This post is a continuation of the top 100 anime series analysis I posted earlier. This time, I want to look at the directors, who are most responsible for shaping the series to be as good as it is (at least that is my assumption anyway). To tell you the truth, I am as guilty as anyone in not being able to name the directors of a lot of my favourite anime series, so this is a pretty good exercise for me to recount them. Also, I hope you also find it useful as a brief guide of which director has the best track record and that you should probably pay some attention if you come across their names in any future anime. I will be listing the directors who have more than 1 features in my top 100, as that should somewhat suggest a sustained pattern of excellence for these directors, from most number of titles first.

1). Sato Junichi

Why he is listed: ARIA The Origination, ARIA The Animation, ARIA The Natural, Princess Tutu

Latest Offering: Maria’s Great Sea Story (2009)

Other noteworthy works: He also direct Sailor Moon, Junker Comes Here and Gatekeeper

Comment: He tops the list but 3 of his 5 comes from the ARIA franchise. He also directs ARIA The Arietta (Another OAV from the franchise). The only surprise for me about this guy is he directed Sailor Moon back in the day! He definitely have some longvity over 1990s and now 2000s

2). Kamiyama Kenji

Why he is listed: GITS:SAC, GITS: SAC: 2nd Gig, Eden of the East, Seirei no Moribito

Latest Offering: Currently busy directing the series of Eden of the East films.

Other noteworthy works: Jin Roh: THe Wolf Brigade. Ver haunting take on the Red Riding Hood

Comment: the ace of Production I.G. His most recognizable work is obviously GITS: SAC but he also produce a couple of good series in recent years too. Jin Roh is such a good film that everyone should check out.

3). Ishihara Tatsuya

Why he is listed: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kanon 2006, Clannad, Clannad ~After Story~

Latest Offering: Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi (Chief Director)

Other noteworthy works: Air (in 2005) was his first directorial work

Comment: Kyoto Animation’s ace, having produce most of their acclaimed titles that make the list. The 6 titles listed above are I think most of his directorial efforts. Pretty good hit rate I have to say! He definitely have not totally missed yet thus far…

4). Omori Takahiro

Why he is listed: Baccano!, Natsume Yuujinchou, Koi Kaze

Latest Offering: Durarara!!

Other noteworthy works: Jigoku Shoujo, Gakuen Alice, Fancy Lala

Comment: He has been directing for quite a while but does not seem to hit fullstride until Baccano! and now Durarara!! seems to also follow in the right side of goodness also.

5). Asaka Morio

Why he is listed: Gunslinger Girl, Chobits, Nana

Latest Offering: Last contribution is storyboard duty in Claymore.

Other noteworthy works:  Directed Cardcaptor Sakura in 1998-2000

Comment: He is another director that seems to go way back. Another good talent but he has not produced anything good since 2006’s Nana. Works predominantly for Madhouse

6). Taniguchi Goro

Why he is listed: Planetes, Code Geass

Latest Offering: Recently directed Code Geass R2 and Jungle Emperor Leo.

Other noteworthy works: Infinite Ryvius (1999)

Comment: I’d like to blindly follow anything this guy product just for doing Planetes! But he also follows that up with Code Geass too, which although not quite as popular in my ranking, is ranked 15 in ANN’s all-time list. Did not realize he did Infinite Ryvius also so my respect for him from me goes up even further:)

7). Yasuhiro Takemoto

Why he is listed: Lucky Star, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu!

Latest Offering: Directed second season of Haruhi. Also directed The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

Other noteworthy works: Full Metal Panic! Second Raid (both TV and OAV)

Comment: Another budding KyoAni talent

8). Takamatsu Shinji

Why he is listed: School Rumble, Gintama

Latest Offering: Sora no Manimani (2009)

Other noteworthy works: One of 5 directors who did KochiKame series (a relatively long running police comedy series, which ran for 367 episodes from 1996 to 2004), other School Rumble sequels (2nd Semesters, OAV)

Comment: Specialized in comedy. Also have done a bit of robot series (directed a few SD Gundam episodes)

9). Hamana Takayuki

Why he is listed: Kemono no Sou-ja Erin, Library War

Latest Offering: The above two titles

Other noteworthy works: The Prince of Tennis, Idaten Jump, Sisters of Wellber

Comment: New up-and-coming Production I.G’s director. Although he has not seemed to produce anything good apart from the two listed titles, these two titles are from 2008 and 2009 so hopefully he has found a recipe to making decent series and continue the trend

10). Hamazaki Hirotsugu

Why he is listed: Texhnolyze. Shigurui: Death Frenzy

Latest Offering: n.a.

Other noteworthy works: n.a.

Comment: These two titles are the only two he has directed. Rather decent hit rate:)

11). Chigira Koichi

Why he is listed: Last Exile, Full Metal Panic!

Latest Offering: The Tower of Druaga (2008,2009)

Other noteworthy works: Brave Story

Comment: Gonzo’s supposed most consistent director. Gankutsuou’s Maeda Mahiro does not count since apart from this series, he has not really produced anything good at all.

12). Kojima Masayuki

Why he is listed: MONSTER, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenoabshi

Latest Offering: Piano no Mori (Movie, 2007).

Other noteworthy works: directed Azuki-chan and Master Keaton (another Urasawa work so no surprise there I guess)

Comment: Pretty prolific animator but has not produced anything much recently

13). Kasai Kenichi

Why he is listed: Honey and Clover, Nodame Cantabile

Latest Offering: Bakuman (co-directed with Tatsuyuki), Aoi Hana

Other noteworthy works: Major, Mirmo Zibang!

Comment: One part of the J.C. Staff duo. Love Bakuman manga so will be interesting to see how the anime adaptation will come together. Still need to see Honey and Clover myself too…

14). Nagai Tatsuyuki

Why he is listed: Toradora!, Honey and Clover II

Latest Offering: Bakuman

Other noteworthy works: Toaru Kagaku no Railgun

Comment: Another half of the J.C. Staff duo. Along with Kasai, they seem to alternate doing the best this studio has to offer (Nishikiori did Azumanga Daioh but he did not seem to have done anything else decent so it seems like a one-off for him!)

15).  Igarashi Takuya:

Why he is listed: Ouran High School Host Club, Soul Eater

Latest Offering:

Other noteworthy works: Directed Sailor Moon Stars and Ojamajo Doremi

Comment: Another one that goes all the way back. Can’t really comment much on him since i have only seen Ouran (and like a lot) of all his works.

16).  Oonuma Shin

Why he is listed: Ef~ Tales of Memories, Pani Poni Dash

Latest Offering: Baka and Test: Summon the Beast, Natsu no Arashi!

Other noteworthy works: Negima OAV

Comment: Only Shaft director to make more than 1 series on the list

17). Daichi Akitaro

Why he is listed: Fruits Basket, Bokura Ga Ita

Latest Offering: Prince Makaroo

Other noteworthy works: Now and Then, Here and There (1999), Animation Runner Kuromi (2001)

Comment: Forgot to add him when I was posting this blog yesterday but here is me atoning for it. This guy is also another of my favourite. I really adore Fruits Basket and NTHT (which just missed the 2000 deadline so it does not appear in my ranking list) is also another series that should be a in anyone’s must watch list. It is so haunting and really portray so well the best and worst in human beings.  He has not really done anything new series recently though (Prince Makaroo seems to be an annual series that is in its 13th season in Japan in 2010)

There are also 59 other directors who only directed one list series. A few more famous names in this lot are Kon Satoshi (Paranoia Agent; This is the only series he’s done so at least he’s 100%), Watanabe Shinichiro (Samurai Champloo) and Rintaro (Captain Harlock)

As for the directors of the two top anime series by a long way on my list, Haibane Renmei’s director, Tokoro Tomokazu is listed as having only directed Helsing OAV and Niea_7 other than his masterpiece. Quite a thin resume I have to say. As for Nagahama Hiroshi, apart from Mushi-Shi, he has only directed Jubei-Chan 2 and Detroit Metal City. Really serious different in tone and genre he’s capable of doing! We need more work from these two guys!

One question to everyone out there. In the case of anime like Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya when ANN list Ishihara as chief director and Takemoto as director, whose directorial credit should the title really go through? How does the relationship like this work?

Is there any anime director that are specially memorable to you or ones you will follow the next directorial effort no question asked?

17 Comments on “Top Anime Directors in 2000s – Series”

  1. digital boy says:

    Oh man~ Junichi Sato, Omori Takahiro, Asaka Morio, Taniguchi Goro, Hamazaki Hirotsugu, Nagai Tatsuyuki, and Shin Oonuma are all among my favorites as well.

    However, with a few of those you listed, especially ones like the KyoAni directors, I have a hard time attributing the success of the show to the director himself because often times it is as much the entire studio’s thing as the director’s thing. In fact, I wouldn’t have listed Shin Oonuma because his stuff with SHAFT is so definitively ‘a SHAFT thing’ if he hadn’t done Baka to Test with a different studio.

    I could ramble on and on about all of the other directors in the list, and seriously, check out more of their works. Junichi sato has done an insane amount of shows and all of them are great (I recommend Kaleido Star myself), Asaka Morio also did the amazing Cardcaptors Sakura, Tatsuyaki Nagai did To Aru Kagaku no Railgun and Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel which are both a lot of fun, Taniguchi Goro’s best work is by far Infinite Ryvius, which I consider to be the pinnacle of everything that anime can possibly do right…. just go crazy! haha.

    Also, to add some more of my own favorite directors, Hideaki Anno (Evangelion, etc.), Kazuya Tsurumaki (FLCL, Diebuster, the Eva remakes), and of course my absolute favorite, Akiyuki Shinbou (everything SHAFT not done by Oonuma). Kou Matsuo would be one of my favorites, but he only puts any effort into it if he’s also writing the show (see: Kurenai and Red Garden, both masterpieces.)

    • aquabluesweater says:

      Pretty true regarding how some a lot of animes are a product of their studio’s collaborative effort rather than the director. You don’t have to look any further than J.C. Staff’s Kasai Kenichi and Nagai Tatsuyuki. They seem to be on a one for me one for you deal. You direct Honey and Clover and I will do the sequel. You take Nodame Cantabile and I can do Toradora! Oh, you want to do Bakuman too, we can co-direct… But then again, there are also other directors who really stamp their marks on the animes they are involved in (Kamiyama comes to mind for me). Nevertheless, for me, giving credit to director is a pretty easy thing to do and I do like to stick to this black-and-white approach, however unfair it might be in some case!

      The ‘Go Crazy’ mantra definitely is very prevalent in a lot of anime. Check Baccano!, Eva, Haruhi or Paranoia Agent for other fine examples of such traits:)

      Anno is amazing. Eva obviously doesn’t need any further statement and I really adore the first half of His and Her Circumstances. That’s as good as a high school drama-comedy gets for me. Wish it has sustained itself. May have to sometime check out the manga to fill in that void. Other than those though, he has not really done anything recently at all! I thought he was directing the new Eva but Tsurumaki is responsible for those. I guess when you are that successful, you might want to step back a little bit. Shinbou also got quite a list of directed film though I have not finished any of them so I can’t really comment. The limitation of this list so far is that I only restrict the mention to those who are in the top 100 of the list. There might be more directors being identified if I extend that search (I may have to do a second part of this at some point). At least I’m glad that it manages to pick up quite a few of your favourites!

      • drmchsr0 says:

        Personally, the only director I’d not even touch with a 10-foot pole is Anno.

        The original EVA was pretty much him throwing a temper-tantrum at everyone ever in the worst possible manner.

        Talent does not matter when all you are throwing a temper tantrum.

      • aquabluesweater says:

        Eva was one of the first few series I actually watched. I thought it’s pretty good though it got progressively more annoyingly angsty and the last two episodes were just pure WTF. IMy favourite work from him though is hands down the first half of His and Her Circumstances (the bit before he seemed to run out of budget). There are some more teen angst in there but it’s done so much more tastefully and in a more acceptable dose than in Eva. Now that I am checking his biography. He has not directed any other notable series (outside of Eva) since Nadia and Gunbuster a while back though so there really aren’t that many things one could really follow from him:) I imgaine after Eva, he gradually come to a realization that he may not have to direct another feature ever again!

  2. drmchsr0 says:

    Yasuhiro Imagawa, without a doubt.

    • Shit don’t know how I forgot him. Imagawa is a genius. I don’t even think it would make sense to have anyone else direct a super robot show anymore, haha.

    • aquabluesweater says:

      The guy also did a screenplay and series composition for Bartender so he does have a calm side to him too. More credits to him! And what with Seven of Seven? That seems a bit out of place to be listed alongside Tetsujin 28th and Giant Robo…

  3. Canne says:

    I didn’t know Hamana Takayuki directed both Erin and Library wars. Both titles have special place in my heart.

    • aquabluesweater says:

      That does happen quite a bit when I realize certain directors also did other works which I did not expect. For example, it was a shock to realize the same director did Fruits Basket and Now And Then, Here and There (Daichi Akitaro) or that Nagahama Hiroshi, of Mushi-Shi fame, also did Detroit Metal City! That is a shocker! Hamana certainly is the one director to watch based on these two alone. He’s only 43 also so should be young enough to produce many more good features ahead…

      As for Erin and Library Wars. Have seen neither so can’t comment. Saw a good review of Library Wars on your blog so do hope to pick catch that at some point:) I was going to ask you what you think of Erin (considering I have never read any review of it thus far) but then I realize you have written a post on it already and will write a review of it soon:)

      • Canne says:

        Your examples are definitely shocking ones. It’s almost unbelievable that one director can change his style so drastically. I am thinking that maybe the script writers and the storyboard creators also play important roles in the process as well leading to a great diversity of the outcome.

      • That’s sound pretty likely. The more I think about that the more it seems that with series, there is less room for a director to really stamp his mark, in comparison to a movie. Take movie directors like Miyazaki or Shinkai. Their works really have themes that is really recognizably theirs. However, series director may may have less ability to maneouvre his vision since a lot of the works are probably studio-influenced (see J.C. Staff where the directorial job seems interchangeable between Kasai and Nagai). Pretty difficult to quantify though so this will probably have to be looked at and discussed on a case by case basis:)

  4. Sora-Kun says:

    unrelated i know but,,, SORA-KUN added you on blog roll ^__^

  5. Sora-Kun says:

    tis okay, least we could do seeing as you put our blog in your blogroll ^__^

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