In 2017, Shingo Natsume, the director of One-Punch Man, was well on his way to becoming one of the best action directors in the industry. He had just finished Space Dandy and went on to direct One-Punch Man's highly-acclaimed Season 1. However, he didn’t return for a second season, instead choosing to work on slower-paced, more thought-provoking anime like ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. and Boogiepop and Others. Let’s take a look at interesting his journey from action anime to more artistic products.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
One of his earliest notable credits was his work in key animation on Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood in 2009. He animated dramatic cuts in the iconic action-packed series, which follows two brothers trying to retrieve their physical bodies through alchemy within a military-ruled country. The anime has become a favorite the world over and had a big impact on Natsume’s anime career.
The Tatami Galaxy
In 2010, Natsume was credited for multiple roles on the production of The Tatami Galaxy, directed by Masaaki Yuasa and produced by studio Madhouse. It was critically acclaimed, even winning the Grand Prize at the Animation Division of the 8th Japan Media Arts Festival. One could argue that this was the sowing of the contemplative anime seed that would later blossom into a whole career.
In 2014, Natsume worked as the director of Space Dandy, alongside Shinichiro Watanabe as Chief Director. Watanabe is best known for his work on the iconic series, Cowboy Bebop -- a significant name-recognition boost for Natsume. The result was an action-packed space hunter adventure. Natsume worked on both seasons.
2015 was when Natsume directed One-Punch Man, Season 1 for Madhouse. It was a breakthrough anime that resonated with a worldwide audience for its satirical superhero-centered world. The ongoing series follows Saitama, a powerful superhero capable of defeating enemies with one punch, who struggles to find worthy challengers. This leaves him constantly on the verge of falling into boredom.
Natsume didn’t return for Season 2 of the anime, though. J.C. Staff took over from Madhouse as the production company instead, and the difference in quality was clear to fans. When asked by a viewer what his thoughts were regarding Season 2, his translated answer was: "I personally wanted to do it but this cannot be done just by myself. I’m a freelance director so I cannot do everything I wanted to do so it comes with people, employees -- their lives, and studio and different kind of things. So it’s too bad that we can’t really continue to do it. I wanted J.C. to do way more."
The Night is Short Walk On, Girl
After One-Punch Man, in 2017, Natsume returned to more familiar territory and helped out with another of Masaaki Yuusa’s films, The Night is Short Walk On, Girl. It was another adaptation of a novel written by Tomihiko Morimi, following The Tatami Galaxy, and this adaptation was equally as critically acclaimed. It may well have been one of the factors that had Natsume preferring to walk on the slower, more artistic side of the medium after the high-octane shonen hit.
Acca: 13 Territory Inspection Dept.
Natsume also directed ACCA: 13 Territory Inspection Dept. in 2017, with Madhouse. The project also reunited him with other top anime staff that had worked on One-Punch Man, Season 1. This smoky, slow but compelling anime was stimulating as well as dramatic and showed off Natsume’s skill for creating dazzling visuals.
Boogiepop and Others
Natsume’s most recently credited work is Boogiepop and Others -- also produced by studio Madhouse. The supernatural mystery thriller, filled with action and drama, follows an urban legend called Boogiepop and the disappearances of young girls.
In the same light that Boogiepop is a shinigami that can release people from the pain, it may be possible that Natsume finds working on these slower projects to be a more suitable release for his creative soul. His work in action anime and contemplative anime moved back and forth throughout his career, with neither overtaking the other, nor sacrificing the quality of his work in either genre.
In fact, the pendulum-swinging only elevated his work in both genres. Though he's currently in the world of more indie-feeling anime, he could well return to the world of shonen again once day. No matter where the pendulum swings, the quality of Natsume’s contributions and career as a whole has only grown stronger through every project his name is associated with it.