Masaaki Yuasa (born March 16, 1965) is one of the most prominent figures of alternative anime. His visual style is immediately recognizable as it significantly differs from standard anime iconography and rather displays influence from Western animation, particularly American cartoons as well as Russian and European avant-garde animation. He learned his profession in London, hence the international style with extensive manipulation of perspective, bright colors, exaggerated facial expressions and fast-paced action sequences. He has been compared to independent animator Bill Plympton, cartoon savage John Kricfalusi, the films of Mushi Productions and George Dunning.
He's not only considered a virtuoso animator and art director, he also directed a variety of own films and series himself, brought to life with Madhouse and Studio 4°C. Some of his works achieved cult status among anime fans, most notably Mind Game and The Tatami Galaxy.
In 2013, Yuasa received an offer to direct an episode of Adventure Time. He teamed up with frequent collaborator Eunyoung Choi in order to form a studio to produce the episode. This studio became Science SARU, which has produced all of Yuasa's works since then. Yuasa left Science SARU on good terms on March 25, 2020, just three days after the series finale of the anime adaptation of Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, which he directed; Choi has since taken over the position of CEO. His final project with the studio, Inu-Oh, is due for release in 2021.
Notable Works as Director:
- Vampiyan Kids (1999), pilot film
- Mind Game (2004)
- Kemonozume (2006)
- Genius Party (2008), director of Happy Machine
- Kaiba (2008)
- The Tatami Galaxy (2010)
- Kick Heart (2012)
- Ping Pong (2014)
- Space Dandy (2014), episode "Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Baby"
- Adventure Time (2014), episode "Food Chain", also sung the intro for the episode.
- The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (2017)
- Lu Over the Wall (2017)
- DEVILMAN crybaby (2018)
- Ride Your Wave (2019)
- Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! (2020)
- Japan Sinks: 2020 (2020)
- Inu-Oh (2021)
As Art Director or Key Animator:
- Chibi Maruko-chan (1990), opening and ending animation (first season)
- Crayon Shin-chan (1992), opening animation (fifth and sixth seasons) and ending animation (third and fourth seasons), animation director on episodes 48, 126, 260, 291 and specials. Also worked as a key animator on several movies.
- Agent Aika (1995), key animation on episode 5
- My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999), key animation
- Cat Soup (2001), art direction, screenplay
- Samurai Champloo (2004), Key animation on episode 9
- Michiko & Hatchin (2008), ending animation direction and storyboards
- Welcome to The Space Show (2010), opening titles
- Wakfu (2010), character design for "Noximilien" episode
- Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian (2011), key animation on episode 11
- Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (2012), key animation on episode 12
- Photo Kano (2013), storyboards for episode 7
Tropes associated with his work:
- Art Shift: Constantly. It's part of his Signature Style to not have a single Signature Style.
- Author Appeal: His name has almost become a brand, so people expect virtuoso offbeat animation.
- Bottomless Bladder: Averted in many of his works.
- Cast of Snowflakes: Kaiba and Mind Game exceed in this category.
- Deranged Animation: A noted master, even respected among his oversea peers. It's almost more common for an animation of his to be off-model than on-model!
- Gainax Ending: Many of his works end like this.
- God: Spoofed in Mind Game and Cat Soup.
- Medium Blending: He uses whatever he finds suitable, most excessively in Mind Game and The Tatami Galaxy.
- Mind Screw: Since most of his films are surrealistic or even kafkaesque.
- Off-Model: His specialty. Characters in his works are never quite on-model and their proportions will constantly warp and change for both comedic and surreal effect.
- Played for Laughs: Many jokes are created by exaggerating a trope Up to Eleven with his surrealist animations.
- Postmodernism: Good luck finding a conventional narrative of his.
- Signature Style: Extensive manipulation of perspective, bright colors, exaggerated facial expressions and fast-paced action sequences.
- Thematically he is a specialist of surrealism and twisted drama.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Broad parts of his work are plain unclassifiable on this scale, but usually idealistic in tone yet with cynical undertones.