AnimeNEXT 2010: Kamiyama Kenji – Cyberpunk and Conspiracies

This year’s AnimeNEXT was from June 18-20, held at the Garden State Exhibit Center in New Jersey. There was an array of distinguished guests including voice actor, Greg Ayres, Japanese designer, Gashicon among many others. I had the pleasure of attending two Q&A panels for both director Kamiyama Kenji and Japanese band, Stereopony.

Kamiyama Kenji worked as a background artist and art director on a variety of anime like Kiki’s Delivery Service and Roujin Z. After joining Production IG, he worked on the screenplay for Blood: The Last Vampire and became the animation director for Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. Though his directorial debut was for spinoff mini-movies/episodes, MiniPato, he became known for contributing to and directing both tv series of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, both Ghost in the Shell OVAs and the movie Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society. He went on to create and direct, Eden of the East which ran in Japan in 2009. He just recently finished the movies, Eden of the East: The King of Eden and Paradise Lost that closed the series. (Both movies and tv series have been licensed by Funimation.)

Kamiyama-sensei’s appearance at AnimeNEXT began with the autograph session on Friday which (after a short break) was followed by his panel. After greeting us, Kamiyama-sensei asked “How come you guys are here today? You don’t have work or school?” *audience laughs* “I am here because of work.” The panel proceeded with the Q&A session. (Due to some technical problems with my recording device, some of the questions and answers are incomplete.)

    Q: There are talks about the continuation of Ghost in the Shell. Any info?
    K: I can’t speak in detail about that. Maybe…maybe we’re working on the third season right now. People [the companies] want to know about what people are thinking here so please let them know you want a 3rd season.
    Audience: Hai!
    K: *smiles* Hai!

    Q: How did Umino Chika-sensei [character designer] start working on Eden of the East?
    K: We worked on other things before so it was easy for us to work on this project together.

    Q: Where do you get the inspiration for your works?
    K: Things around me usually inspires me. Things happen in daily life, like in the news, what is on tv.

    Q: What is it like working with Miyazaki Hayao?
    K: He is a bit scary. *audience laughs*

    Q: Now that Eden of the East is finished, are there any projects you’re working on right now?
    K: I can’t start a new project right away since I just finished the 2nd Eden movie, but I am working on new movie that might come out a little later.

    Q: How much did you work with Kanno Yoko on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex?
    K: When we started, she gave us music to use on the show. When she saw the first episode, she didn’t like how we were using the music. So she started explaining about when and how the music should be used.

    Q: The locations in Eden of the East were very accurate, especially noted in Washington DC and New York. How did you gather your information?
    K: I wanted the location to be in Washington DC. At first I used Google Maps, but it didn’t help much. So I went to Washington DC with the design team and took pictures. I even asked the staff to take off his clothes…but he didn’t want to. *audience laughs*

    Q: Will there be a continuation to the Eden of the East series? (Asked after mentioning that the person DIDN’T watch the series or the movies.)
    Translator: Yes…it’s the movies.
    Q: Um, I mean another tv series.
    K: I am not thinking about it at this point.

    Q: In Eden of the East, there are lots of problems in society. So what kind of problems do you find in the world and how do they influence the story?
    K: One of the messages in Eden of the East is that there are many people with money. I just feel that those with money and power should try to do whatever they can to help the world.

    Q: What is your favorite anime?
    K: Mobile Suit Gundam

    Q: This was never mentioned in the tv series or the movies [Eden of the East] so why was Akira naked in the beginning? <-My question. ^.^
    K: In the novels, they mentioned why he was naked. It won't be as interesting to explain everything, but I want to point out how capable Takizawa was. He had nothing at the start and in 10 min. he got pants and he did it on his own. No power, no memory, just on his own.

    Q: I am interested in directing. What kind of advice can you give about directing and how to get noticed?
    K: One of the best ways is to listen to others. First listen to what others want to do before telling them what you want. That is the best way to get others to use you in more and on other works.

    Q: What are your favorite animes when you were growing up or currently?
    K: Speed Racer. I really like James Cameron's 'Avatar' right now.

    Q: Who inspired you or inspires you now?
    K: I am more inspired by sports players rather then anime directors. Sports players always think about the fans, how to communicate with the fans. But one of the first people that I met was also the Gundam creator, Tomino Yoshiyuki-sensei.

    Q: You direct both tv series and movies. Which do you like directing more and which do you find more difficult?
    K: When I was working on the tv series of Eden of the East, no one told me what to do so I found that to be quite difficult. It was alot of fun, but getting started was very hard.

Kamiyama-sensei had another panel on Saturday which I was unable to attend. However, it is a great honor to meet a director as creative as him. The way the story unfolds really shows a master’s hand and I truly look forward to seeing what other works he will be making. For now, I look forward to getting the dvds for Eden of the East.