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Kunihiko Ikuhara (幾原 邦彦 Ikuhara Kunihiko?, born December 21, 1964), also known as Ikuni, is a Japanese creative artist who has collaborated on several famous anime and manga series. He is best known for creating and directing Revolutionary Girl Utena and more recently Mawaru Penguindrum.
Ikuhara was born on December 21, 1964 in Komatsushima, Tokushima Prefecture. He studied graphic design at the Komatsu City College, and joined Toei Animation in Tokyo after graduating. He served as assistant director to Junichi Sato on Maple Town Monogatari, Akuma-kun, Toushou!! Ramen-man and Mooretsu Atarou, and episode director on Kingyo Chuuihou! and Sailor Moon.
Ikuhara's most famous work with Toei was on the anime version of Sailor Moon. He served as director of many episodes over the course of the series' run, and took over the position of series director from Junichi Sato during the second season, Sailor Moon R. Additionally, Ikuhara served as the director of the first Sailor Moon theatrical movie, also called Sailor Moon R.
Displeased over the lack of creative control granted to him, Ikuhara left Toei after the fourth season of Sailor Moon in 1996 to form his own creative group, Be-Papas, consisting of himself, the famous shōjo manga artist Chiho Saito, animator Hasegawa Shinya (animation supervisor for Neon Genesis Evangelion), writer Enokido Youji, and producer Okuro Yuuichiro. Be-Papas collaborated to produce the anime and manga series Revolutionary Girl Utena (Shōjo Kakumei Utena).
Ikuhara had much more creative control over the anime, which he directed, than he did over the manga, which was drawn by Chiho Saito. Notably, he also recruited composer J.A. Seazer, who provided the series' distinctive choral tracks. Ikuhara stated that he had always admired Seazer, who had enjoyed popularity in Japan's student movement during the 1960s, and felt that Seazer's work, with its themes of revolution and changing the world, was perfectly suited to Utena.
The series was a success, winning the "Best Television Series Award" and the "Kobe Award" at Animation Kobe '97. Be-Papas collaborated again in 1999 to produce a Revolutionary Girl Utena movie, Adolescence Mokushiroku ("Adolescence Apocalypse", released in English as "Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie"), with an accompanying manga, again drawn by Saito. Ikuhara also helped supervise the production of other Utena-related works, including a Sega Saturn video game and a stage musical. Be-Papas disbanded after the release of the movie.
Ikuhara's post-Utena works include the manga The World of S&M (released in English as The World Exists for Me), on which he collaborated with Chiho Saito; the novel Schell Bullet, which he co-wrote with Mamoru Nagano; and the Schell Bullet-based concept album Thanaphs 68. He enjoys the theatre and singing, and has sung on the Utena and Thanaphs 68 soundtracks.
He supervised the production of the English dub of the Utena movie, checking the quality of the translation; he expressed strong distaste for the idea of his work being cut, censored, or changed to seem more "American", and made sure such changes were not apparent in the American release.
After the conclusion of Utena, Ikuhara's only works in anime for a time were as the storyboard creator for the opening sequences of Nodame Cantabile and yuri anime Aoi Hana, until his return to as series director for the show Mawaru-Penguindrum, which began airing in July 2011.
His newest project is called "Penguinbear" which is rumored to be related to Penguindrum in some way, though not much is known yet. A website for it was released in August 2012
Interaction with fans
Ikuhara has attended several conventions and similar events, given interviews to fans and reporters, and, along with Chiho Saito, provided commentary tracks for the DVD releases of Utena. He often dresses in brightly colored clothes when socializing with fans. He has cosplayed as Sailor Mars on a few occasions. 
When questioned about his work by fans, particularly about the more mystifying aspects of Utena, he tends to give humorous, odd, or evasive responses (for instance, asked about the significance of the stopwatch carried by the character Miki, he said that it contains the key to "all the mysteries of the world.") The implication is that he wishes to leave interpretation of his works open to the audience.
Ikuhara has stated that he likes anime with Yuri elements because he feels that when a female character is given a male love interest, the relationship between them tends to overwhelm the other elements of the show.
Notes and references
- Ikuhara's Japanese homepage
- Ikuhara's English homepage
- Interview with Kunihiko Ikuhara, October 2000
- Brief Biography of Ikuhara
- Kunihiko Ikuhara at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
- Ikuni Observation Journal
- Ikuhara's Schell Bullet at Gears Online
- 幾原邦彦 (Kunihiko Ikuhara) at the Japanese Movie Database (Japanese)