Mitsuo Iso is an animator who perhaps needs no introduction. As soon as you start talking about Sakuga, he is probably one of the first names you think of and to good avail. He is the ambassador of Full Limited Animation, a method consisting of animating scenes only with key animation and no intervals. It is a habit he has taken from the flipbooks he used to draw as a child and through which he has learned to animate. This technique emphasizes movement, weight, and, combined with Iso’s care for detail, is why his style is referred to as “ultra-realism.”
To show examples of Iso’s style, people will commonly show some of the awe-inspiring action cuts he did, for instance, these scenes for The End of Evangelion or Ghost in the Shell.
But today, I would like to show how Iso’s ultra-realism translates when used for character acting.
I love Hosoda’s Digimon movie. It is among the last animes to use celluloids, which, coupled to the use of Kagenashi – the practice of not using any shadows for its characters – gives off a unique, flat aesthetic, putting forward the paint on the celluloids and the color palettes used.
You may notice in the scene that characters are always moving, even if only a little as a result of Full Limited. You feel the weight of Taichi’s body as he is trying to take a breath because of how detailed his shoulder move. The movement feels genuine and likely because each tiny movement and expression is exaggerated by the quantity of strong, key poses. You may particularly feel it when Hikari is out of breath and starts coughing and snorting; this shot feels more real than real because of the timing and detail of each frame and movement.
As such, it is to my eye a prime example of ultra-realism where exaggerated movement is perceived as likely, more-so even than real movements.
When watching Iso’s acting for Digimon, I can’t help but think of a previous scene he did: his cut for the climax of 1995’s movie Junkers, come here. When I talked about this scene with Iso, he exclaimed how hard it was to animate because of the number of drawings he had to produce.
You can notice how similar they feel—constant, subtle, but exaggerated movement highlighting the characters’ emotions and feelings. I like the accent that is put on the shoulders alongside each breath but also the detailed facial expressions. The editing is very well-timed as each shot – counter shot allows us to absorb the emotions spilled out by the scene.
I think these two scenes do a great job of demonstrating how the use of Full Limited animation enhances the feelings of the scene through a seemingly realistic use of exaggerated movement. ☕