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Mizuiro Jidai

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Detective Work - Locating a Cel Within a Series
Source: TV
Layers: 1
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Cel Number: D-2
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Added 7/30/2018
Updated 11/25/2018
Mizuiro Jidai, Episode 26 - "Carefree Yamada-kun" Cel: Hiroshi-kun Doesn't Seem to Know Yet - (Yuuko D2)

As a special bonus feature, I thought I'd use this cel to share with you how I go about locating a cel within a series.

As a refresher, here is the cel used for our example.

It is enormously helpful if you have some way to watch the series episode by episode, but that isn't always possible-especially if the series isn't "mainstream", and was never licensed outside Japan.

Let's assume you have access to this information.

Clothing is Especially Helpful

Ask yourself "What is the character wearing, and why?" In this case, Yuuko is wearing a white short-sleeved top and blue skirt. The accents signify that this is a school uniform. Because the top is short sleeved, this is a summer uniform. The winter variant has a long sleeved top that is dark blue, matching the dark blue skirt. Since anime typically don't show both summer and winter school uniforms in the same episode, if your cel features a character in a summer uniform, you can usually rule out any episode featuring that character in the winter uniform.

If a large number of girls or boys are wearing the exact same clothing, this is the strongest indication of all that they are wearing a school uniform, which in Mizuiro Jidai is "code enforced" while they are at school. Well, actually, a few ill-tempered sempai take it upon themselves to enforce the code on both Yuuko and Taka, even as they flaunt the same code themselves.

When I say "summer uniform", perhaps "spring-early summer uniform" is more accurate. Japanese students have summer vacations similar to Americans, but it's easiest just to call it a "summer uniform". Basically it is a uniform designed for warmer weather.

A couple of images will help demonstrate. Note that you can see both the boys' and girls' uniforms in these pics, though the girls' uniforms are emphasized.

Summer ("Warm Weather") UniformWinter Uniform (NOTE: Light Pink Bow)

Many anime feature school uniforms with light-colored tops during the spring-early summer, and darker ones during the winter. Many times, the boys will wear a suit coat or something similar during the winter, but only a dress shirt for a top during the summer.

It has been my experience that the girls' winter uniform in most anime is what best resembles the imfamous セーラー服 or "sailor-suit" that has become well-known in the years since anime began to be regularly exported to the West.

Unique outfits such as some personal clothes, kimonos, and swimwear can be excellent visual cues to help you find a cel. If your character is wearing a kimono for example, and you're sure that they only wore that kimono in a single episode, then you've immediately eliminated a large chunk of work in locating your cel. Of course, sometimes a number of outfits are worn by a given character scattered across several episodes. Still, you stand a very good chance of narrowing down your search with certain outfits.

Even the color of one garment versus another on a character can provide valuable insight helpful in locating or identifying a cel. Carefully observe the colors of the clothing your character is wearing.

Hair and Accessories

So we've got a good start, what else can we go on? The hair bow-it's a fairly dark pink, and pretty small. Yuuko also has some small yellow (or pink) beads she sometimes wears in her hair in place of the bow, so scenes showing those beads in her hair can be ruled out. She also has another similar hair bow that is larger and a bit brighter pink, so this is where you have to pay careful attention.

Speaking of hairstyles more generally, this is more-or-less Yuuko's hairstyle for much of the series. Occasionally however she will put her hair up, and even wear a hat.

The girl in the middle on the other hand, Taka-chan, her hair changes more dramatically. She cuts it early in the series, and it gradually grows back throughout. This can be particularly helpful in locating scenes featuring her. In fact, paying attention to the length of Taka's hair is a pretty good way to gauge roughly where in the series the scene is, but there is a complication.

There is a point in the series where both Yuuko and Taka have had their hair put up in double braids by the sempai in their music class. The only time the two girls are shown with double braids like this is in episode 1, in a roughly 2-minute segment. This is what prompts Taka to have her hair cut. Actually, from the time Taka is shown in braids to the time she is shown with her hair cut is very close to 2 minutes even. A cel of either girl wearing this hairstyle points to this brief segment in episode 1.

This may sound strange, but for the most part Taka-chan looks much better with her hair cut. The short hair suits the shape of her face well and makes her look cute.

In the screen shot at the top, Taka's hair is moderate length, so we know that it is after the first 2 episodes, and a ways into the series.

Which leads to any interesting aside, Taka's hair actually grows back through the course of the series. It is interesting to see such care taken to very subtle details.

Caveat-series breaks, see further down.

A Matter of Perspective

Study the cel carefully. Think about the direction and pose of the character. Track the character's position through several scenes to see if it is reasonable for the everything to eventually line up for a sequence containing this cel. Here, Yuuko is on the right side facing left. Think about where that would place her in other perspectives.

Caveat-A surprise camera angle shift can sometimes throw positioning out of whack. This is why careful observation is so important.

Physical Layering Does not Always Equal Visual front-to-back

Looking up at the top right corner, we see that this cell is sequence number D2. The presence of a D-Layer cell suggests a busy screen, such as multiple characters on screen at once-this is another good clue. It can also suggest a setup for particular types of motion for a single character. This is where being familiar with a series helps. Knowing when multiple characters appear on screen, as well as moments showing characters in close-up, should prove useful in determining the use of a certain number of layers. Often times, if a character is shown to just below their waist, this is a pretty good sign there's another character somewhere in the shot-especially if the character in your cel is painted with a lot of empty space surrounding them.

As you can see in the screenshot at the top, we have Kitano-san (left), Taka-chan (middle), and of course Yuuko (right). If you look closely, there is space left between Yuuko and the other two girls. This is so Taka can lean foward around the middle of the cut to emphasize her instructions to Yuuko.

Let's take a minute to look at what might be going on here per-layer.

With advisement from animation expert Sensei, here is a good solid guess at how the layer stack works.

BG Layer (all effects + plant on layer).
A - Kitano-san (Miyuki Kitano, less mouth) [Camera Left]
B - Taka-chan (Takako Takahata, less mouth) [Camera Center]
C - Kitano-san & Taka-chan's Mouths/Lip Sync
D - Yuuko (Yuuko Kawaai - series lead) [Camera Right - my cel @ D2]

Note that while Kitano-san appears to be in front of Taka, it is likely Kitano-san is on the lowest layer, with Taka-chan above her. A little clever painting has preserved the illusion of Taka-chan standing behind her from this perspective. This is why you can't always assume lower layers means farther from camera.

Moving on, consider the character's facial expression. Yuuko's eyes are closed, and her lips are in a strange sort of curl. Think about this expression, why does it seem so strange? Many expressions seem strange in still images that are barely noticed when animated. In this case, it's part of an overall facial expression shift as she focuses attention on the speaking Kitano-san. It also indicates a bit of nervousness.

Look for matching line shapes, and consistent line discontinuity. Sometimes lines on a cel are missing from age and deterioration. Sometimes; however, cel lines are discontinuous from the moment they were originally photographed. There's a gap in the line representing the seam between Yuuko's shirt sleeve and the shoulder portion, near the crest of the line. There's also some thinning of the line near where the seam runs into the lower part of the sleeve. Caveat-video encoding (see below).

Caveat-Series Breaks

The last 10 episodes are not told as part of the main series, but rather a certain character is featured in each episode, giving that character "episode lead" status. That character "remembers" something that happened during the main series, but was either only mentioned in passing, or not previously referenced at all. These are whole-episode-level sequence breaks, or simply "series breaks"

Taka is shown with short hair in episode 45, because this is one of those episodes. Episode 45 seems to be set somewhere around the same time as episode 15.

Not all characters show up at the start of a given series. For example, Kitano-san on the left doesn't show up in the full show until sometime around Episode 9, making it pointless to look for her before the previous episode. Well I say pointless, but occasionally new characters will be shown in cameos prior to being formally introduction to the cast. Above all else, careful observation of a series is tremendously useful when locating a cel.

Also keep in mind that new characters are sometimes shown off in previews for the next episode.

Caveat-Video Encoding

Be aware that video encoding may create issues. Poor quality encoding in particular could really wreak havoc with cel identification/location. There may not be much you can do about this.

There are plenty of other tricks I'm sure, but these are some of the ones I can think of. Happy hunting.

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Curator: Pixel
Gallery Created: 11/30/2017
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