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Utena, Sarazanmai's Ikuhara Likely Directed TMNT Episode

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge

Before introducing the anime world to desire-stealing kappa boys, director Kunihiko Ikuhara worked at Toei Animation. It was during his time there in the early 90s that he directed episodes of Maple Town Stories, Mōretsu Atarō, and later the immensely popular Sailor Moon anime series.

During this same period Toei was involved in overseas contract work for American cartoons. The animation studio worked on episodes of The Smurfs, G.I. Joe: The Movie, My Little Pony 'n Friends and more. This would lead to a serendipitous moment where Ikuhara possibly directed the animation for an episode of the late 80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.

Television writer David Wise talked about Ikuhara's involvement in an interview with Cowabunga Corner's Michele Ivey in 2013. In the interview, Wise talks about some of his favorite episodes from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and specifically cites the five-episode pilot he wrote*. Wise states that many companies, including Marvel, were working with Toei at the time but that American cartoons often got the studio's "B-Team". However, that wasn't the case for at least one episode of the pilot, "Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X" (Wise refers to this as the "Neutrino" episode, the name for the aliens that appear in it). Wise describes the animation as some of the best for its time and credits it to the animation director at Toei.

Wise never explicitly states the animation director is Ikuhara as he is unable to remember his name during the interview, but he drops very specific clues that point to Ikuhara as the animation director. Wise mentions that the episodes' animation director worked on "all but the first season" of Sailor Moon and that he at one point lived in Los Angeles. Ikuhara moved to Los Angeles in 2001 after finishing Revolutionary Girl Utena. Wise states that he knows the director because the two ate dinner together and, presumably Ikuhara, told him he directed the animation.

After the initial five-episode pilot, the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon would go on to air for 10 seasons.

*Note: Both Wise and Patti Howeth are credited for writing the pilot episodes but Wise later said he wrote them solo and never updated the title pages to remove Howeth's name before turning in the scripts.

Thanks to Brady Hartel for the news tip

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