Lights, Camera, Frieren! Part 2: Tooru Iwazawa’s Directorial Debut



While we might still be stuck in the past of Tooru Iwazawa (though are past the contents of part 1), with this second part we’ve taken a considerable step forward that sets the stage for Iwazawa’s work on Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End– their debut as an action director. Now, you might be asking, “Well, what’s the difference between action direction and action animation direction?”. Thankfully, it’s a rather easy one to answer. An action director supervises all action in a series, and offers input and changes throughout, while an action animation director serves primarily on an episodic basis. Maybe it’s easiest to think of it as the connection between character designer/chief animation director and animation director. Typically, the roles go to one in the same, and while there’s still regular animation directors that work on an episode, the generally accepted idea is that the CAD runs the show. Anyways, when expressing the difference between action director and action animation director as a hierarchy, the production team would look something like the following:

Director -> Action Director -> Action Animation director -> Action Animator

Pretty straightforward, right? Though rather than talking about production pipeline, it’s more worthwhile to talk about how Tooru Iwazawa found themselves with their first action director credit on Takt Op. Destiny of all things. The answer to that question is both oddly simple, but also surprisingly interesting given the history. More a connection than an answer I suppose, but my response would be Shun Enokido and Takahito Sakazume. Yes, the pair of series directors for Fate/Strange Fake is what I might argue is the catalyst for Iwazawa’s action director debut.

Monster Musume episode 12, Flip Flappers episode 8, Sonny Boy episode 1, Chainsaw Man episode 6, Princess Connect! Re: Dive Season 2 episode 4, Fate/Strange Fake: Whispers of Dawn, Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 episode 17, and of course Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End episode 6 as well as Fate/Apocrypha episode 23. These are all episodes that Iwazawa, Enokido, and Sakazume were present on. Evidently, it shows that even before Fate/Apocrypha, Iwazawa was building a relationship with Enokido and Sakazume (even more so than what’s listed here as Iwazawa has several other credits shared with either just Enokido or Sakazume).

Because of that, you’d think that Iwazawa’s next big step would have come in the form of an A-1 pictures role, right? Following Fate/Apocrypha, Iwazawa went on to work with A-1 on series like: Interviews With Monster Girls, The Seven Deadly Sins: Revival of The Commandments, Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia (though this is by child studio Cloverworks), and 22/7. Hell, they even have a surprising amount of credits with studios like David Production, or if you’re willing to stretch how much a “surprising amount” is, Production IG.

source: febri

So this is where I believe Enokido and Sakazume appear. Interestingly enough, Enokido and Sakazume both had a stint with Madhouse following Fate/Apocrypha where they worked under Shingo Natsume for Acca-13 and Boogiepop. Even more interesting is that the animation producer for those two series, Yuuichirou Fukushi, was also the animation producer for Takt Op. Destiny. I believe readers can see the connection beginning to form. Fukushi gets tapped as animation producer for Takt, asks around to animators like Enokido and Sakazume for good potential action directors, and the name that ends up on Fukushi’s desk is Tooru Iwazawa.

It’s a really interesting case of connecting the dots that drew Iwazawa towards Madhouse despite every other aspect of their history, even putting them at odds with the route that fellow Black Clover action animator Isuta (Meister) ended up taking. Though I suppose now that we’re here, the question that needs answering is just how did this impact Iwazawa’s career trajectory?

Well, for starters, it produced Iwazawa’s very first storyboard credit. In reality, Tooru Iwazawa was meant to have two episodes storyboarded for Takt, but as mentioned in the interview via Febri, Ufotable staff Takahiro Miura took over the role and boarded for the first episode while Iwazawa retained control over the third. Also, as a quick aside, Iwazawa’s (3-part) interview for Febri is a really great read, even if only through Google Translate for some. I’d definitely say it’s worth it, and they include plenty of extra production material that I’ve not shared in this post.

source: febri
source: febri

Back on track though, the role introduced Tooru Iwazawa to a much greater breadth of production management and organization than what Black Clover afforded them. Of course, being an action animator and action animation director on a weekly series provides staff with very unique and valuable experience for small time frames, but Takt Op. Destiny let Iwazawa step into the director’s seat and get a grasp of how to manage an entire (well, more like half) series. And with that comes a wider sense of creative vision.

And that’s really almost exclusively what the Febri interview covers- Iwazawa’s creative input. Within that though there’s still plenty of content, such as how Iwazawa chose to approach the action of the series by setting the tone with the first episode. Or, how Iwazawa changed the storyboards for episode 1 to better reflect actual music conduction with Takt. It’s just that overall, the biggest takeaways from Tooru Iwazawa’s time with Takt Op. Destiny is their creative involvement. Don’t get me wrong, I do greatly value being able to take a peek into that, but I’d also have greatly appreciated more insight into how they managed the action as a whole. For example, it’s very cool that Iwazawa and Itou were both conscious of music and beauty when defining Destiny’s combat style, but I’m also incredibly interested in what challenges Iwazawa and the action animators faced when attempting to animate that. Did they do much research into figure skating, since Iwazawa mentions that as a reference in the interview?

Anyways, coming back to the main point, Iwazawa’s management may be rather opaque, but as stated earlier their creative input is impressively transparent, and shows a somewhat hands off approach in some areas. To that end, you can infer that Iwazawa was effectively delegating tasks to their appropriate staff members with things like monster designer Daiki Harashima or weapon designer Maenami Takeshi. It may only be little details and inferences, but it does allow us a bit of an understanding of Iwazawa’s work. And though that understanding’s small, it helps paint a bigger picture for them in the role.

Though arguably, the biggest piece of the picture being painted here is Yuuichirou Fukushi, the animation producer I mentioned before. Yes, Fukushi is the staff member that got Tooru Iwazawa this role, but they also got Iwazawa the same position on Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End. Because of that, Takt Op. Destiny is quite the turning point for Iwazawa’s career, and is the pivotal moment that granted them the opportunity that is Frieren. With that, we enter the home stretch that will be introduced with the third and final entry of this series- Iwazawa’s present and future.

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