That UFO telepathically told me this prophecy: "When you grow up, you will direct an anime about girls revolutionizing various things."
Surely you jest.
"You must not tell anyone about me. If you ever do..."
Wh-What will happen to me?
"People will call you a sketchy guy."
Kunihiko Ikuhara (born December 21, 1964) is a Japanese animator and director. He is basically the Japanese David Lynch, most famous for directing the TV series Revolutionary Girl Utena and its movie The Adolescence of Utena, plus the first four seasons of Sailor Moon (directed several episodes in the first season, and became the series director for the R, S, and SuperS seasons) as well as the R movie, and the Mamoru Oshii of TV anime. Also notoriously evasive about giving straight answers to his more surreal works. Belladonna of Sadness has been cited as an influence of his, which is quite easily seen in Utena.
Ikuhara is a firm believer of the "Girl-on-Girl Is Hot" adage: a lot of his work features lesbian characters that are not only well emotionally developed, but are also a nice piece of Fanservice, especially when things get steamy.
- Mapletown (1986-87)
- Goldfish Warning! (1991-92)
- Sailor Moon (1992-96) (A list of the episodes he directed can be found here.)
- Sailor Moon R: The Movie (1993)
- Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997)
- Adolescence of Utena (1999)
- Schell Bullet (1999-2000) — a collaboration with Mamoru Nagano
- The World Exists For Me (2002-03) — a collaboration with Chiho Saito
- Nokemono To Hanayome (2006-) — a collaboration with mangaka Asumiko Nakamura
- Nodame Cantabile (2007) (opening)
- Sweet Blue Flowers (2009) (opening)
- Penguindrum (2011)
- Yuri Kuma Arashi (2015)
- Sarazanmai (2019)
Tropes pertaining to Kunihiko Ikuhara's works include:
- Author Appeal: He has a very long list of very specific things that tend to pop up in his works: surreal plotlines that get very dark, Design Student's Orgasm imagery, unhealthy relationships, BrotherSister Incest, Stock Footage, repeated phrases, flowers, princesses, strange dramatic poses, wacky animal hijinx, heavy symbolism and obscure literary references, Forgotten First Meetings, Magical Girls, and, above all else, lesbians.
- Author Avatar: When creating Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno started the rumor that he based Kaworu Nagisa on Ikuhara.
- Bathos: Scenes of misery and horror are often juxtaposed against or including cartoony mascots and slapstick in his works, deliberately making the audience confused not just at what is happening, but what they should even feel about it.
- Black Comedy: More and more noticable in his works starting with Penguindrum.
- Doing It for the Art: This is why he's had barely any involvement since Revolutionary Girl Utena until Penguindrum since he's difficult to work with due to heavy creative differences between him and the executives.
- Executive Meddling: While he was relatively independent with Utena, the producers only allowed him to produce Penguindrum when he made it more accessible. He added Plucky Comic Relief in form of three penguins.
- Everyone Is Bi: Played straight in most of his works, most excessively in Utena. Graduates into the straight-up Everyone Is Lesbian in Yuri Kuma Arashi.
- Fan Nickname: Ikuni. He even uses it himself.
- Gainax Ending: Could as well be called the Ikuhara Ending. The most clear of his plots (and their resolutions) so far is Sarazanmai, which still has its surreal moments.
- Insane Troll Logic: His modus operandi for interviews.
- In the Name of the Moon: He worked on the anime of the trope namer, and it frequently shows up in other, non-Magical Girl contexts in his works ("Grant me the power to Revolutionize the world" from Utena or "Imagine!" from Penguindrum).
- Jossed: Often looked to by fans for answers, often takes gleeful delight in disappointing them.
- Leslie Nielsen Syndrome: Played with. His stories remain relatively dramatic and continue to tackle heavy subjects, but starting with Penguindrum, the imagery in his works have turned inexorably Denser and Wackier and more skewed toward Bathos and Black Comedy.
- Lying Creator:
- Possibly, when asked about Revolutionary Girl Utena.
- Probably the best example is his response via Twitter to people asking about Penguindrum:All of you have enjoyed making your predictions. Now, I'll tell you the truth. Yes. Just as all of you have predicted all along: the Penguindrum is a pink washing machine.
- Mind Screw: He is infamous for allegedly including scenes and elements only because he felt like doing so, without any meaning at all. Was called "the David Lynch of Japan" until the late Satoshi Kon stole his title.
- Refuge in Audacity: The reason Ikuhara is able to get away with digs at Japan's culture: by portraying them with ridiculous metaphors, especially with Yuri Kuma Arashi which garnered a fair amount of notoriety and attention from its insane premise, irrespective of its actual meaning.
- Sex Is Evil: Heavily played with in his works. The most explicit depiction of sex in Penguindrum also plays with Bondage Is Bad. In turn, Yuri Kuma Arashi is built entirely around Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny.
- Shrug of God: This is one of his most defining traits. Not only do his answers rarely make sense at all, they also occasionally contradict each others.
- Start My Own: When Toei Animation didn't give him enough creative control for Sailor Moon SuperS, Ikuhara left Toei and decided to create his own magical girl series. That series was Revolutionary Girl Utena.
- Transformation Sequence: Featured in most of his works, including shows such as Penguindrum and Yuri Kuma Arashi which have little to do with Magical Girl or superhero genres.
- Trolling Creator: Big time!Interviewer: Ikuhara-san, Chiho Saito has said that you have never told her the truth about it, could you explain the significance of Mickey and his stopwatch. What exactly is his role on the Council?Ikuhara: It has a very deep significance. His stopwatch contains the key to open all the mysteries of the world. And Mickey is the only one who knows that. So I don't know what it is either.
- Completely averted with Adolescence of Utena, as Ikuhara provides a (for Ikuhara) reasonable explanation for all the bizarre symbolism.
- Unreliable Narrator: Blatant Lies are frequently revealed and even double subverted to increase the Mind Screw.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: He forgoes giving an exact answer for most of his shows, instead trusting the viewers to come up with them on their own.
- The Walrus Was Paul: He intentionally messes around with the symbolism and narration of his shows, to infamous degree in Utena.
- World of Symbolism: This is a major feature and the key to understanding many of his works; the surreal imagery in his series often has a deeper meaning (if it isn't something he decided to add because he felt like it) and isn't meant to be taken literally.