When I read Lelangir’s article on studiotolatry, I cannot help thinking that he conceived it in reply to the series that the gentleman with a realy convoluted handle ran at Yukan (with a significant success; I thought it was decent overview). The seed item on the matter was posted by Daniel back in April, so why now, right?
IMHO, the reductionism such as declaring studio meaningless is counterproductive. To deny that a corporate culture exists — because it is merely imagined by its member individuals — is akin to denying that race exists (which is what the founder of Solara Genomics was very fond of doing). Of course there’s no “race gene”, but only a collection of geographically determined types. And if all GONZO anime look alike, it’s only… what?
I can see how the function of director may be difficult to operationalize. But it’s nothing unusual. I think the key here is the unifying artistic vision that the director carries in his head (I’m going to refrain from comparisons with Wernher von Braun). Director, well, directs his subordinates to implement his vision. The character designers are told what to design, key animators are told how to express the design, etc. etc. I suggest watching interviews with directors, which are often included on DVDs (Yutaka Izubuchi of RahXephon had an especially informative one).
UPDATE: Lelangir e-mailed me:
Hmm, I didn’t know that the director actually “directed” char. design. I thought, or was under the impression, that he worked what he got. Interesting. Would you say, then, that directors have favorites, favorite aesthetics (like char.design) that kind of “suit” his directorness?
I watched a few interviews that left me under impression that directors do direct the early designs. I replied with some lame example of it, but then I remembered about a better one. Some time ago, there was an informative article at Sunrise’s website. Here’s some of what it said about the director’s involvement into various stages of production:
For each episode, meetings are held with the director and producers to polish up the script. This needs to happen 3 or 4 times before a final draft is reached.
Now that the storyboards are finished, production meetings and art meetings need to happen.
The person who brings the whole series together is the director, but there is also another person who plays a director-like role for each episode, and this person is called a “production supervisor.” Meetings in which the production supervisor is assigned tasks by the director to set the course for the work are called production meetings. The production supervisor is basically responsible for checking the layouts and key art, deciding the overall course of the artwork, and checking the final images as they come in.
Once the layout is finished, it’s checked first by the production supervisor and then by the art director, and after it’s been given the okay then it’s time to start work on the key art. [The implicit assumption is, if director or art director do not like what they see, a redo follows — Author]
Once the storyboards are complete and production and art meetings [with the director — Author] have concluded, it’s time at last to start creating artwork.
Hopefuly, this adds enough specific details.