Lights, Camera, Frieren! Part 3: Tooru Iwazawa and The Future



Now that we’ve caught up to the present after chatting about Takt Op. Destiny in the previous part, it’s time to tackle the present and the future of Tooru Iwazawa. I’d briefly mentioned the ‘Frieren Connection’ in the previous post, but before getting into much detail, it’s worth further expanding on that note. Yuiichirou Fukushi is a rather “famous” animation producer in the anime world, despite the relative “lack” of output. Despite that limitation, they’ve remained exclusively a Madhouse staffer, and haven’t dared to step outside the role of animation producer (though that depends on if you consider assistant production manager a drastically different role). Though truthfully, who can blame them? Creating a miracle with the series in 2011, they pulled together animators like Yasunori Miyazawa, Tetsuya Ishikawa, Eiji Komatsu, Kenichi Kutsuna, and many many others. Truthfully, it’s an incredible feat that I’d love to dive further into as it examines the crossover between Madhouse and Bones anime production, but that’s for another time. The point is that Fukushi is a force in terms of anime staff and has been with Madhouse since X-Men in 2011.

Now, Fukushi is largely responsible for not just Iwazawa’s appearance on Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, but also Bocchi The Rock director Keiichirou Saitou’s as well. In information graciously provided by a Sakugabooru blog post, Saitou was continually approached by Fukushi to helm his own series but found the presence of Fukushi’s proposed series too strong for his interests. Frieren was the first of Fukushi’s proposals to catch Saitou’s eye, and was only agreed upon because Saitou knew that Fukushi would handle the pieces that he himself had little interest in. This, of course, provides the existence of Tooru Iwazawa in Frieren.

Though all the same, Iwazawa and Saitou are not complete strangers to one another. The pair have worked together on: Flip Flappers episode 8, Sonny Boy episodes 1, 3, and 8, and Princess Connect! Re: Dive season 2 episode 4. Of note, Sonny Boy episodes 3 and 8 are incredibly important as Saitou worked as storyboarder and episode director for both, cultivating a much stronger relationship with Iwazawa. Though Flip Flappers proves to be a force to be reckoned with, being a gathering point for an incredible amount of well-respected animators.

Via Madhouse

Getting back to the point, Iwazawa appears on Frieren finally, and dominates the combat appeal of the series. One of my first thoughts to appear with Iwazawa on Frieren however was with episode 3, where Frieren and Fern face off against Qual. My initial reaction was something along the lines of, “This is the Tooru Iwazawa I felt with Takt Op. Destiny?”. I was deeply disappointed, until I didn’t see their name appear in the credits. In reality, it would taken until the dragon slaying of episode 6 for Tooru Iwazawa to make their awaited appearance… as a storyboarder, funny enough. However, it makes sense. The typical credit of “action animation direction” would have no place among the borderline inhuman animators that appeared for the combat in that episode.

Moving further into the series however, Iwazawa has had a hand in each and every action sequence that remains beyond human belief. Forget even the idea of action direction or action animation direction, Iwazawa was down at the lowest levels working on layouts and key animation to help make their vision a reality. Their dedication to the production has quite frankly been incredible, and a massive proponent of its success. Also, just as a side note- don’t trust the information on aggregates sites like Anidb and Anilist as the end all be all of Iwazawa’s credits (though Anilist is more complete than Anidb), they frequently are missing various credits and information.

Via Tooru Iwazawa

Anyways, Tooru Iwazawa has been, arguably, a bigger proponent of Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End‘s success on social media than even series director Keiichirou Saitou. It’s evident that with reasonable examination, alongside Saitou, they are an invaluable aspect of the production that has allowed for such resounding success. And that sort of reverence poses a question: what comes next? With the success of Frieren cemented, and the incubation period for a continuation of Frieren being imposed, Iwazawa has a surprising amount of time. The question is, what to do?

There’s a few answers to that, actually. Primarily, the two options that exist are A-1 Pictures and Madhouse, as those are as close to home studios as Iwazawa can get. Madhouse however, is rather shrewd with their production announcements, and as such only have 3 announced currently- none of which leave much room for Iwazawa to explore. A-1 Pictures on the other hand…. well, it has a handful of projects on the go. They could appear for Eisen Flugel, but it’d be treading upon new ground for Iwazawa in terms of action. Similarly, they’re not exactly bound by action, so they could find themselves landed on I Fall In Love With You Through A Robot, but let’s be realistic- it’s Fate/Strange Fake. The question is just the capacity in which they appear.

Being faced down by old friends Shun Enokido and Takahito Sakazume, Iwazawa’s action director role is not needed, so it’s more likely to see them appear solely as an action animation director and key animator. All the same, while some might view it as a step back for the staff member, it’s closer to a lateral move. Iwazawa is not a staff member as versatile as some others, nor is he a man that expresses many talents. Iwazawa’s calling for the longest time has been action, and within that scope, it’s been primarily with A-1 Pictures and Madhouse. Iwazawa’s ties outside the pair of studios is much more strongly associated with staff members rather than producers. Because of that, Iwazawa’s liable to appear on several productions, but at limited scale. For example, Tatsuya Yoshihara’s Wistoria of Wand and Sword is a prime candidate. Having worked under Yoshihara directly for Black Clover, the odds of Iwazawa making an appearance on an episode or two is very high. It’s just that past that is unlikely as it’s more like a friend answering a request than a producer scouting an animator.

I suppose I got a little off track there. To better summarize, this is my opinion of Tooru Iwazawa’s future. We’ll see them once more on the inevitable Frieren season 2, where they will reprise their role. Because of the limited scope of Iwazawa’s credits and experience with studios, the only (currently announced) project that’s likely to have high amounts of Iwazawa present is Fate/Strange Fake. That doesn’t mean Iwazawa will disappear from the industry for a period, but rather that their options appear limited in terms of high level roles. But who knows, maybe we’ll see Iwazawa branch further out with storyboarding on Fate/Strange Fake, or we’ll see them take a step in a similar direction under Yoshihara for Wistoria.

What remains for certain however is Tooru Iwazawa’s impact on Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End. Imagine attempting to explain to something that Iwazawa’s credit on Monster Musume in 2015 can be viewed as the beginning of the machinations for Iwazawa’s appearance on the series. It’s funny how things like that work, but ultimately is one of the most engaging and enjoyable outcomes from this sort of “research”. I’ve had a wonderful time going down this rabbit hole, so much that I’d hardly even consider it effort or research. These sorts of connections and conjectures are incredibly fun to make, and I hope that anyone reading this series of posts has felt the same.

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