Welcome to the Itano Circus: A quick look into one of Mecha’s greats

Written by Noe Rona

March 12, 2021

This week we celebrate the one and only, Ichirō Itano

If you’ve waddled into the waters of the mecha anime genre then the name Ichirō Itano would sound familiar to you. An animator, producer, and director from Yokohama, Itano spent most of his time in animation with Science Fiction, particularly with the mecha genre, and has a resume that includes iconic mecha properties such as Mobile Suit Gundam and Super Dimension Fortress Macross.

Macross, not Robotech

Itano’s work in Macross earned him enough reputation to allow him to work on other Macross series such as Macross Plus, Macross Zero, and the 1984 film culmination of SDF Macross, Macross: Do You Remember Love?. But what did Itano bring to the table that allowed him to be an important name in the mecha genre you ask? Well it’s one amazing thing, the Itano Circus.

A beautiful, deadly ballet of missiles and explosives the Itano Circus inspired a ton of action sequences in the mecha genre and can be seen in almost every mecha show ever, from Evangelion to Gurren Lagann. The combat spectacle can also be seen in scenes depicting aerial dogfights, combining maneuverability with explosions built around a fluid, moving perspective that’s simply just a sight to behold. Excessive, over the top, yet at the same time easily amazing, the Itano Circus, otherwise known as the Macross Missile Massacre is even said to have gone and inspired scenes in Western films such as Top Gun and District 9.

Because why fire one missile when you can fire an entire circus?

A battle animator by trade and one of the few greats that the scene has to offer, Itano’s impact may not be as big to some as, say, someone like Tomino who introduced us to the world of Gundam or the long-term influence of Evangelion by Anno, but just with animation frames that lasted a few seconds on screen, he is able to take us on a visual spectacle, and one that inspired many of the battle scenes in Mecha that we know of today.

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