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The Naruto Fight That Changed Animation History


Just as important to these three episodes as Wakabayashi was the animator Norio Matsumoto. Matsumoto is one of the most influential action animators there is, a master of conveying impactful movement through extreme stretches and smears. In Matsumoto, Wakabayashi had an ally who was talented, fast, and willing to push the boundaries of television action animation as far as they could go. In Wakabayashi, Matsumoto had a collaborator able to play directly to his strengths in storyboards, while giving him the creative freedom he needed to excel. Matsumoto created all the key animation for the first half of episode 30, including the fight between Sasuke and Orochimaru, by himself. It was Norio Matsumoto’s animation specifically, in its speed, character and sheer thoroughness, that inspired Shingo Yamashita to become an animator.

Yamashita was not the only young animator to be impressed by Matsumoto. A new generation of artists had come of age on the internet, exchanging their work on websites and forums. Their movement would become known as webgen, the “web generation.” Many of them initially lacked the formal training and expertise that defined their predecessors. But sooner or later, ambitious directors began scooping them up, making use of their talents to push the medium forward. Norio Matsumoto himself became a champion for the movement, mentoring many young animators who became future movers and shakers. One of these animators was Shingo Yamashita, who rapidly improved under Matsumoto’s guidance.

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