When you ask people what “sakuga” means, chances are they’ll answer “good animation” or “animation that stands out”. And this sequence by Bahi JD certainly does stand out. And not only to us Western sakuga fans: also to the Japanese viewer. The animator behind this cut, Bahi JD, comes from Austria; and apparently, when this scene featuring Japanese high schoolers aired, many spectators reacted by saying “Japanese people would never look like that !” That way, Bahi JD made himself a name as one of the first major foreign animators working on anime.
The reason why these characters apparently don’t move like Japanese is because of how expressive and outgoing they seem to be. In the first shot, the boy coming in from the left suddenly calls his comrades with his arm out and starts jumping. He’s so bouncy it’s almost like he’s on a trampoline. The same could be said of the girl in the next shot. What’s amazing with her is that she never stops moving : she comes in the room, makes some signs, and immediately darts back out. She does that in one single movement and almost loses her balance as she turns. In the last shot, the bouncing return as the different boys and girls run in the hallway, full of excitement.
What’s also worth noting in this cut is the idea of depth, and how the animator leads our eye in the frame. In the first shot, the boy entering from the right looks towards the left, and the other boy turning back with a curious look on his face. His movement is also very characteristic, since he sways back and forth to keep his balance. The second shot plays on the same idea, but reverses the positions : the character coming in the frame is in the back, while the girl tending to flowers is in the front. As she’s being called, she starts and her long hair flies around a bit, highlighting her movement. And finally, the last shot, in the hallway, is all about depth as the characters run towards the camera. Here, it’s actually difficult to make out different planes of depth as the characters are moving in all directions : jumping from left to right, running towards us…
All this jumpy character animation makes this cut look like a sudden explosion of movement and fluidity, and it’s what makes it so exceptional. But more than anything, it’s how much it’s suited to what’s happening : the excitement of these high schoolers that are so amazed that they stop moving like Japanese would and just start running everywhere.