Forgive the long title, but that pretty much sums up what this translation is covering. In 2011, the Japanese Cultural Affairs Department held an art festival in Kyoto from October 29 to November 23. On November 3rd, the local animation studio, Kyoto Animation, had three of its employees come to talk and give input about the company. I found a blog that gave a good transcript of the roundtable and thought people would be interested in a translation of it. (images used w/o permission from the owners)
The MC for the event was a young female producer/manager from KyoAni, Riri Senami. Our three guests are decently well-known to KyoAni fans.
Yasuhiro Takemoto: Director of Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid, Lucky Star(episodes 5-24 + OVA), The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Hyouka.
Yoshiji Kigami: Director/screenplay/series composer for the Munto series, layout supervisor for The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and K-On! The Movie! as well as an episode director for nearly everything KyoAni has done since 2003.
Taiichi Ishidate: Assitant Director for Nichijou and countless episode director/key animator credits.
Without further adu, let’s head to the transcript:
MC: Why did each of you want to become an animator?
Takemoto: My reason isn’t that pure. (laughs) Kigami-san’s reason is more untainted. (laughs) I didn’t want to live as an office worker and an acquaintance told me about how tough it was to be an mangaka or illustrator, so I knew that would be impossible for me. One day I was watching a show and saw all the people listed in the credits. I thought, “why not try to put my name in there with them.” Once I got into the business, I realized that there’s a lot of talented people that were listed in the credits of a show.
Kigami: I was very moved by the Disney movies and Tezuka anime I watched as a child. At that time, there weren’t any studios in Osaka, so I relied on a contact to join a studio in Tokyo.
Ishidate: I don’t have a good reason either. (laughs) People told me I could draw well, but I prefered live action work instead. When I interviewed at a production company, I was told “You need a lot of physical strength to work here,” and gave up hope of being in that business. I chose to apply at KyoAni because it was close to my house. (laughs) But, I realized how naive I was once I joined; especially looking at Kigami-san’s drawings. “Sorry for my horrible work.” Since then, I’ve really devoted myself to working here.
Takemoto: Once our new animators see Kigami-san’s work, they sense how difficult animation can be.
MC: What do you consider most important when you’re working on a production?
Takemoto: How do I want to portray this project? During production, you’ll say “I want you to do it like this” and people follow what you say to them. I believe that’s how a show takes consistent form. Unless people are willing to follow your instructions and make it appear how you envisioned, they won’t produce a show how you tell them to make it.
MC: Takemoto-san, you directed the film The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. What scene were you very pleased with?
Takemoto: I was mortified when I saw it was listed on today’s program. (laughs) Sorry for how long it ended up. (laughs) Thanks to everyone who endured through it today. As for what I was pleased with in Disappearance, I really liked the scene when Kyon was running to Kouyouen Academy after hearing that line from Taniguchi. I was shivering when I first saw that scene. As for a scene I liked as a director… oh, I can’t say anything else than all of it.
MC: The movie itself has such a long running time. Did you incorporate any schemes to ensure people didn’t lose interest mid-way through it?
Takemoto: We had no plans for anything like that. (laughs) We put in everything we wanted to include in the film and it ended up that long. There wasn’t anything else we wanted to add to it. We cut one portion of the film and the rest is what you saw.
MC: Today we received a lot of inquires about the location scouting process. Would you mind sharing some stories during location scouting?
Ishidate: There’s the time when Takemoto went astray, the time where he fell into a gutter…(laughs)
Takemoto: No! I didn’t go astray! (laughs) When we went to Hong Kong to do location scouting for Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid, I saw a university building and thought it would be good to take some pictures from on top of the building. So, I went up there and did so (unauthorized of course). Afterwards, I got severely scolded by the staff.
MC: How do you decide where to go for location scouting?
Takemoto: If it’s an adaptation, then we consult with the original author for the original setting. Was there a place you modeled the story in? If not, then where would it be? After that, then we’ll go there for location scouting. We always want to match what the original creator had in mind.
MC: Then what about the location scouting for Munto?
Kigami: Munto‘s location scouting took place in a neighborhood close to our studio. It was easy to walk to. (crowd laughs) Of course we had to choose locations that matched the worldview of the characters.
MC: Could you talk a little more about the Munto project?
Kigami: This project was created when our studio was shifting to digital production of anime and so we wanted to create an original show.
MC: Was there any pressure when creating it?
Kigami: No pressure on us at all. With our great staff, we easily made it together.
Takemoto: No, the pressure for the animation staff was quite intense. (laughs)
Ishidate: We made that the first year I joined the company. It was the first time I drew key animation frames, so it still holds a big impression on me.
Takemoto: About halfway through the project I stopped getting remake notices from Kigami-san. Usually you’ll get pointers for how to draw here and there, but this time we didn’t get any back. When I asked why I wasn’t getting any back, I was told Kigami-san was fixing them all himself! I started to wonder what was the purpose of me drawing them anymore. (laughs)
MC: What do you feel is most important to keep in mind when working on a project?
Kigami: We at KyoAni have amazing abilities to get into our character’s heads. We always draw our images with love in mind. We want to ensure that feeling is always with us.
MC: So after the K-On! movie, will you be making more original works?
Kigami: We have a project in motion that uses Kyoto as a base location. We also have a work that won an encouragement award in the Kyoto Animation awards that’ll be animated.
Takemoto: I was also involved in the screening process for the Kyoto Animation award and we’re not obsessed with any genre in particular. If it’s entertaining, anything is fine with us.
MC: Ishidate-san, recently you not only did key animation for the series Nichijou, you also served as director. (umx note: credited as “assistant director”) What was most important to you when working on the series?
Ishidate: What can I do to make this show entertaining? That and having love for the series and its characters. After all, the character for “love” is hanging above the entrance at studio 2, where I work. (laughs) You can’t put your ego into the production. When you’re thinking about the best way to present a series’s characters and world, thinking of ideas to animate the characters is eight kinds of torture.
Takemoto: Nichijou had that lively kind of feeling too. (laughs)
Ishidate: The beginning and the end were completely different from one another. (crowd laughs) We met to go over the series’s organization two to three times, no… more like four to six. I hadn’t had any series go that long when I was working on it. We would begin the scenario and then have the organization changed again. It was the first time I thought Director Ishihara was cool. (crowd roars in laughter)
Takemoto: He’s the kind of person who rudely points a finger at someone when they’re talking to you. (laughs)
Ishidate: No, that’s just a quirk he has. (laughs)
Takemoto: But, it’s the first time I’ve met someone who points a finger at someone else like that in real life. (laughs)
MC: Please tell us a little about the series K-On!. What do you feel is the charm of the show?
Ishidate: When I first read the manga, I was a bit skeptical. I questioned how could we make this entertaining. What Director Yamada did to pull everyone together was huge. Also, I think it’s charming not because Yamada herself is a woman, but because she has the ability to see the show the same way that the audience will view the show. She has a way of delving into the character’s little quirks and behavior that lurk underneath to help appeal to the audience. I think she’s a bit obsessed with that. Probably, others see those little quirks in the show themselves. That’s what I think is K-On!‘s charm.
Takemoto: Madam Yamada’s ability to delve into characters is amazing. She’s able to think of bits about them that no one else notices.
Kigami: Actually, we were finishing the final check of the K-On! movie right before coming over today. We left right during the middle of the movie, so I’m a bit annoyed we didn’t get to see the end before coming here. (laughs) My impression of the movie is “incredibly cute.” It’s really soaked in Director Yamada’s view of the characters. There were some points during production where we had some trouble, but you wouldn’t guess that when watching it. It’ll move you to tears. Animation Director Horiguchi also did a magnificent job. It’s really cute.
Takemoto: You wonder if the characters have really come to life. “Have we done it!”
MC: What training did you go through to become a professional animator?
Kigami: An animator’s job is to bring characters to life from a blank piece of paper. I drew everyday after I returned from school after eating dinner until I went to sleep. It wasn’t a pain even when I drew until dawn. When you start, you’re constantly viewing an image so you can improve your own skills. You’ll spend a lot of time against a lot of images. At that time you know exactly what you need to do in order to draw it. There’s no need for you to take lessons in that.
Takemoto: For my training, I copied/sketched off of photographs. At that time, the important factor for me was time. I started at 10 minutes a copy. Then next it was 5 minutes. I practiced until I could copy it in 3 minutes. When I joined the company I realized how useless that was for me, but I did that every day.
MC: Who is your favorite character?
Takemoto: All of them! (laughs)
MC: Then what was your favorite story to work on?
Ishidate: I don’t have a favorite or second favorite, but there is one that made quite the impression on me. It was the first episode I directed; the one where Nagato and Asakura fought. No matter what I thought of, it didn’t fit in the allotted time. I began to think “this is useless” when Kigami-san told me “We’ll work on this all night.” I immediately said yes. That evening, Kigami-san went home and came back with the original novel. He waited, sitting beside me reading that portion until we were finished. It took us until 4-5 in the morning to finalize it, but I made sure to remember that walk home together.
Kigami: I don’t remember that at all though. (laughs)
Ishidate: What?! (laughs)
Kigami: KyoAni is a place where you’re able to have professional animators and the newcomers they raise peacefully face other and work together through their troubles. I think it’s full of staff who’ve been properly brought up to want to put even more love and affection into the work they deliver to everyone.
MC: What’s your favorite place in Kyoto?
Takemoto: The Junkudo bookstore. (laughs) I’m always happy inside that store. I’ll start thinking “What should I read next?” Other than that are the temples and shrines. I really like the area around Arashiyama.
MC: What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses anime has against live-action film?
Ishidate: As a matter of fact, anime’s strength is “drawings.” At the same time, it’s also its greatest weakness. I’m not saying “this can’t happen in anime form.” Its whether or not you can create an good impression on those who view it. Can you create something that’ll leave an impact on people while overcoming its flaws?
Kigami: Drawings themselves are not the weak point. It’s all about putting the right information into the drawings. To bring up an example, there’s a program called “Anpanman” who keeps Ishidate-san’s children glued to the TV for 30 minutes. What is so magnificent about Anpanman? The drawings convey information properly. In short, it’s all about whether or not you’re able to convey your story with drawings.
MC: In about a month from now, the K-On! movie will begin screening in theatres. What would you say to describe it?
Takemoto: We talked about this earlier, but I want people to see how lively the girls appear on the screen.
Kigami: For those who loved the TV series, the movie really captures the sensation you felt when watching it.
Ishidate: I think the fans will enjoy watching it. We should convey what you enjoy about the series in one movie.
MC: What is the title of the next project KyoAni is working on?
Takemoto: Is it alright to say it? (laughs) Won’t anime magazines report what it is soon?
MC: What genre of show will it be?
Takemoto: A hint would be that the genre starts with “my.”
MC: We have reached the end of this talk session. Would you leave with a message for the fans in the audience?
Takemoto: Thank you for those who’ve spent the whole day here. (laughs) We aim to make entertaining shows for everyone. We’re always happy when people watch our productions.
Kigami: I heard some here came a long way for this session today. From here onwards, KyoAni will continue to work hard as well. Please continue to follow us.
Ishidate: We want to make shows that immerse people into entertainment or enjoyment, make them say “ah, that was fun” when watching, or make them look forward to tomorrow. I think we want to make shows like that feeling plus more.
MC: Thank you very much for coming today.
(Thanks to superdry and Goggen for assistance with editing!)