• CGNetworks Feature :: Kill Bill Volume 1 :: 8 December, 2003
    Oren Ishii’s Revenge: Production I.G on the Kill Bill Anime Sequences

    I was five and he was six
    We rode on horses made of sticks
    He wore black and I wore white
    He would always win the fight

    Bang bang, he shot me down
    Bang bang, I hit the ground
    Bang bang, that awful sound
    Bang bang, my baby shot me down.

    Seasons came and changed the time
    When I grew up, I called him mine
    He would always laugh and say
    “ Remember when we used to play?”

    Bang bang, I shot you down
    Bang bang, you hit the ground
    Bang bang, that awful sound
    Bang bang, I used to shoot you down.

    Music played and people sang
    Just for me the church bells rang.

    Now he’s gone, I don’t know why
    And till this day, sometimes I cry
    He didn’t even say goodbye
    He didn’t take the time to lie.

    - Sonny Bono -

    Quentin Tarantino's latest film "Kill Bill" tells the story of "The Bride" (Uma Thurman), once part of a group of female assassins called the Deadly Viper Assasination Squad, who decides to quit and start a new life. On her wedding day, the members of her squad O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), and her boss, Bill (David Carradine) rock up to the wedding, guns loaded, leaving Bride and the wedding guests lying for dead. Several years later, Bride wakes up out of her coma, seeking revenge by killing all the remaining members of the all-female squad, leaving Bill for the final kill.

    Some of the most memorable and horrifically violent sequences in Kill Bill are the anime scenes depicting O-Ren Ishii's tumultuous past. These sequences show how O-Ren Ishii's parents were brutally murdered at the hands of the Japanese mob, along with her revenge and rise to notoriety as top assassin. Production I.G in Japan was commissioned to produce these anime sequences for both Kill Bill Volume I and II.

    CGNetworks had the unique opportunity to speak to Katsuji Morishita, Animation Producer at Production I.G about these animated sequences. Although no 3D computer graphics was used in the production (which was mostly hand drawn), digital technology was used extensively in post (i.e. After Effects for compositing) to layer and put together the whirlwind of scenes for the film. Animation was produced under the guidance of Kazuto Nakazawa, Animation Director at Production I.G.

    Image: Katsuji Morishita, Animation Producer at Production I.G.

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  • Production I.G had initially received the request to produce these shots from Tarantino. Morishita recalls, "A person in charge of Japanese casting and staff coordination for Kill Bill informed us of Quentin's strong request for IG to work on the animation sequence, and then later Quentin himself came to our studios to meet with us in person. He already had the image and style in mind, and wanted us to make the animation based on his script. He actually acted out the performances of the characters to be animated in front of us. There were 4 sequences in all, and the production period was 1 year. Those 4 sequences would've been extremely difficult to make in live action. Even if it had been possible, it would've taken tremendous amount of budget and work."

    The visual style of the anime sequences referenced the old Japanese animation styles (particularly Kazuto Nakozawa's) from the 80's as Tarantino apparantly respects the animation style of the generation.

    As Oren-Ishii is depicted at 9, 11 and 20 years old in these flashbacks. "Tajima designed her at age 9 and 20, and then Ishii handled age 11," explains Morishita. "The designs of these two designers were not nearly alike, but Nakazawa has managed to balance them out extremely well in animating the characters so that the character remained identifiable at different ages."

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  • Sequence Commentary

    - O-Ren Ishii sniping on a roof top
    Morishita: The shot where the camera follows the bullet from the screen into the head of the Shogun is only a couple of seconds, but it was technically extremely difficult. Quentin was worried that we may not be able to do it. It would've been easier if we had used 3D, but we wanted to go with 2D in order to maintain the established animation style and image. Also by using 2D, we were able to add more speed. A renowned animator aIso handled this shot amazingly from key animation to filming to adding special effects.

    - O-Ren Ishii's parents are murdered
    Morishita: We worked on every shot so closely based on Quentin's script, but this shot was particularly memorable in how to go about expressing the quick camera movement (eg. from the bust shot of Oren's mother to the close-up shot of her eyes). We referenced some scenes from the movie "Snatch." The sword that Matsumoto holds was created with an unforeseen SFX which adds tension especially to the scene when the sword that penetrates through the bed has a reflection of frightened Oren.

    - O-Ren Ishii's revenge
    Morishita: For the shot where the blood splatters over the walls and lamp, we had to redo everything to make it more dynamic. The shot where the blood shoots out has many different layers to add depth. The tatoo on Matsumoto's back was created first as a flat background, and then later digitally processed and pasted onto his back, carefully matching the curves of his body. The rough lines of the characters aside from the sniping scenes were created intentionally by adding twice as much in-between animation arts than usual.

    Normally, the line art is scanned and digitally painted, but this scene with rough touches is merely impossible to color precisely within the fixed lines, and it requires much time, we layered one art made for coloring, and then another for character line arts, and digitally composited them together.

    When asked what challenges Production I.G faced in the production of these sequences, Morishita replied, "It was a very unique experience. When we were told to change even the slightest things (eg. the color of the hair), it wasn't made aware that we needed to start all over again. In that sense, we had some interesting exchanges especially regarding the retakes. Kill Bill is Quentin's work, and we highly respected everything he wanted from us. We had experienced so much throughout the one year of production, but we had set out to make a good production and this drove us to go beyond the call of duty." [CGN]

    Related Links
    Production I.G
    Kill Bill

    Words: Leonard Teo, Justin Leach and Maki Terashima
    Images: Production I.G and Miramax

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