Updated with Episodes 94 to 100 - July 23rd 2017
Learning styles involves making a lot of mistakes. While the individual pages of this thread may contain useful information, it may also be out of date and/or incorrect. Please ensure you're using the catalogue entries, as they're generally kept up to date.
The look of an episode is ultimately defined by its "Animation Supervisor". While one part of their job is to ensure the submitted cuts are of an acceptable standard, one of the biggest parts is to ensure there is visual consistency throughout an episode animated by any number of key animators. That's not to say that they erase every individual characteristic - though some certainly do - but instead, they ensure that from scene to scene, it all fits together.
In Dragon Ball Super, the job is essentially the same. However, as a result of the series' problematic production (something that extends outside of Super, throughout much of the industry), many episodes have two or more supervisors, alongside several second key animators. This means there's a need to maintain consistency within a single episode. This is where the "Chief Animation Supervisor" comes in. Taking the already-corrected work from the supervisors, they apply their own corrections in an attempt to patch together the different styles.
In most cases, this job falls into the hands of the character designer; who better to ensure the characters look like themselves than the one who designed them? In Super's case, Tadayoshi Yamamuro should be the one with this role. He is strangely absent, however, with Miyako Tsuji and Takeo Ide sharing the load between them, instead. Two different animators with different styles trying to maintain consistency across all of the episodes? Madness. Unfortunately, that's the nature of today's anime industry.
For more details on the animation process, I highly recommend you check out this website's very own aptly named "Animation Process Guide".
The intent of this guide is to provide an easy-to-reference catalogue of each supervisor's style by episode. Within each entry, you can find examples of the supervisor's style, alongside any standout scenes from the key animators or chief supervisor. By covering each episode individually, I hope to illustrate any stylistic evolutions, or devolutions, for that matter.
Learning about animators is an endless process, so there are bound to be discoveries and corrections along the way. Be sure to check in regularly, and I hope you find this helpful! If you have any questions, feel free to post them in this thread or at me on Twitter.
Animator Info: Masahiro Shimanuki is a long-time animator for the Dragon Ball franchise, hailing from studio Seigasha with the likes of Kazuya Hisada and Naoki Tate. Originally working as a key animator under Tomekichi Takeuchi for much of Dragon Ball and early parts of Z, Shimanuki would eventually graduate to a supervisor role thanks to his angular style fitting more with the visuals established in the later parts of the series.
Shimanuki’s signature style was drastically altered by his lengthy stint on One Piece, leading to his earlier Super episodes taking on Oda-traits such as wide and round faces. Fortunately, after a year working on Super, his work is beginning to look more and more like his classic Z art.
Animator Info: Though an experienced animator with a plethora of work on the PreCure series, and even taking a supervisor role on the Yu Yu Hakusho movie, Yukihiro Kitano’s first major stint as a regular supervisor was on Toei’s Disk Wars: Avengers series.
Disk Wars: Avengers’ character designs were primarily by Dragon Ball veteran and Super character designer, Tadayoshi Yamamuro. With experience working to Yamamuro’s designs, it’s unsurprising that he landed himself a regular supervisor role on Dragon Ball Super.
Unfortunately, Kitano appears to struggle with not only sticking to the character designs, but producing aesthetically pleasing drawings on the whole.
Animator Info: Born and bred on Rurouni Kenshin, Osamu Ishikawa honed his skills working extensively on the likes of Digimon Xros Wars and Saint Seiya Omega. Much like Yukihiro Kitano, Ishikawa found himself with a semi-regular gig on Disk Wars: Avengers before beginning work on Dragon Ball Super.
Ishikawa’s style is very much in-line with Yamamuro’s work, though he tends to favour “cuter” designs – making characters a lot cleaner and younger looking. Though he has yet to show off any impressive animation, his model quality ultimately makes him the most consistent supervisor working on Super next to the likes of Yuichi Karasawa.
Animator Info: There are few animators with the ability to animate like Yoshitaka Yashima. Across series like Saint Seiya Omega, Digimon Xros Wars II, and Disk Wars: Avengers, Yashima has soloed a number of episodes. That means he served as the storyboard artist, animation supervisor, and often the sole key animator on an episode. He is the animator that frees up the schedules of other animators, allowing them to work on future episodes with more time. On a series like Super, he is a godsend.
This does mean that Yashima’s work often lacks the same level of polish found in fully-staffed episodes. His work is easily identifiable thanks to the unique way he draws noses – from the side and three-quarter views, they’re extremely pointy, and from the front, they’re thin and round.
Animator Info: Beginning as a inbetweener at Seigasha, Naoki Tate was quickly promoted to a key animator role where he worked under Masahiro Shimanuki for Dragon Ball Z, and onward into GT. Despite producing reasonably nice work under the Dragon Ball brand, it wasn't until his work on One Piece that he began to develop his trademark style, and eventually morph into one of Toei's most prolific animators. Heavily inspired by the work of Sushio and Hiroyuki Imaishi on Mamoru Hosoda's One Piece Movie 6, Tate developed a loose and somewhat abstract form of animation; expressions and poses are wildly exaggerated and contorted to hugely emphasise the intended emotion or movement. The results are eye-catching, but have caused controversy among the uninitiated or those fonder of more conservative styles. Regardless, his reputation within the animation industry has landed him a number of high-profile episodes on Dragon Ball Super.
Tate's character designs are often much less daring than what's found within his action animation, and bear more resemblance to his work during Dragon Ball Z. Keep an eye out for thick, arched eyebrows, upturned noses, and rounded ears and faces. Keep in mind that, due to Super's rushed production and the number of cuts Tate does per episode, the overall polish often varies from episode to episode -- his work may seem looser or more polished depending on the episode's circumstances.
Animator Info: Yuichi Karasawa is no stranger to Dragon Ball, working on Ultimate Blast/Tenkaichi’s cutscenes and Battle of Gods. Hailing from Studio Live, Karasawa has an impressive résumé, handling key animation for shows such as Hunter x Hunter (2011) and Ushio & Tora.
Dragon Ball Super is Karasawa’s first stint as an animation supervisor, and despite only joining the series in episode 31, he has shown fans that he is one of the most capable staff on the series. His effects work is hugely reminiscent of Yuya Takahashi, while his character art is a slightly rounder, but more detailed take on Yamamuro’s character designs. He is easily recognisable by his sharp shading, high-positioned ears, and angular eyebrows.
Animator Info: Seizo Toma is an expert when it comes to character expression – so much so that he was appointed the unique role of a “Character Director” for the show Betterman, meaning he assists the animation supervisor with work related entirely to character acting.
While he worked as an inbetweener on Dragon Ball Z Movie 6 and was an assistant supervisor Path to Power, Dragon Ball Super marks Toma’s first regular position on a Dragon Ball product. His distinctive episode 4, packed to the brim with gorgeous thick line work and expressive characters, brought his work to the attention of many fans. Since then, unfortunately, Toma has seldom been left to his own devices, leaving the remainder of his episodes rather generic so as to keep in with the supervisors he is paired up with.
Though his thick line work has been toned down significantly, his work is still easily recognisable. Keep an eye out for thick eyelashes on female characters, pointy chins, and skinny ears.
Animator Info: Usually paired up with Tatsuya Oka across a variety of projects, Shuichiro Manabe began on Super in much the same way. Oka inexplicably vanished after a few episodes together, and Manabe has been working with a variety of other supervisors, instead. It's unclear whether Oka will return.
Manabe's presence on Super is rather limited, often only appearing for major episodes. Straying far from Yamamuro's character designs, Manabe's work is extremely angular, and unlike any other supervisor.
Animator info: Making his Dragon Ball debut with Battle of Gods, Itai continued to participate on the series with Resurrection 'F', before heading straight on to Super as a key animator. After taking a break from the series at episode 43, Itai returned to work on the 'Future Trunks special', before coming back to Super as a supervisor for episode 64.
Animator info: Koji Nashizawa joined the franchise towards the tail end of Dragon Ball Z, often working under prominent animators such as Minoru Maeda, Tadayoshi Yamamuro, and Naoki Miyahara. He made his big return to the series as an assistant supervisor on Resurrection 'F', before joining Super as a key animator. He worked on the series fairly consistently until 45, where he left to work on the Future Trunks special and Xenoverse 2 cutscenees. Much like Hiroyuki Itai, he was promoted upon his return to Dragon Ball Super.
Animator Info: Known for his ability to animate incredibly quickly, Hirotaka Nii joined the Dragon Ball Super team through the external animation studio, Anime R. After working as a key animator on select episodes, he was promoted to an animation supervisor during the Universe Survival arc.
Animator Info: Perhaps the most well-known animator in Dragon Ball's history, Yamamuro began as an inbetweener in the 80s working on the original adaptation of Dr. Slump. Moving into Dragon Ball, Yamamuro became a key animator, and towards the middle of Z, he would graduate to a supervisor role, alongside providing a number of character designs and promo art through to the series' end. He has ultimately become as much a part of Dragon Ball as Toriyama, to some fan's distaste. He has provided character designs and supervised all of Dragon Ball's modern productions -- including Super.
Despite playing such a large part in Dragon Ball's modern productions, he has been almost entirely absent from Super, only animating some of series' endings, supervising episode 13, and providing key animator for episodes 19 and 39. No explanation has been given for his absence.
Animator Info: Despite supervising only one episode of Super, Iseki has become a fan favourite thanks to his Z-era character art. Primarily a web animator with a focus on music videos and shorts, Iseki has found himself working on major productions under Studio Khara -- providing inbetween and key animation for GAINAX and Trigger productions such as KILL la KILL and Evangelion.