Otakon 2010: Press Conference for Maruyama Masao and Koujina Hiroshi

Maruyama Masao is not a new face to Otakon attendees, this being his 8th visit. However, it is his first time being honoary staff. He is known for being the head and founder of Studio Madhouse as well as producer for many anime series and movies including Rainbow – Nisha Rokubo no Shichinin which is currently airing in Japan. Koujina Hiroshi is the director of the aforementioned series, Rainbow as well as Kiba. He was also the key animator for Escaflowne: The Movie, Macross Plus and Pokemon Movie: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew among many others.

Q: As an introduction to the question, have you heard of the talk Sato Dai gave about the state of the anime industry?
Maruyama: No, Maruyama is not aware of what kind of comments he left.
Q: Essentially, he was talking about the anime industry in the last 10-15 years. There is so much in demand, but much of the industry has been shipped to overseas studios in Korea and China. There is no new blood in the Japanese studios. Is Madhouse doing the same sort of thing or are they actively trying to recruit new people to stay with them?
Maruyama: Since Maruyama is not aware of the comment, he can’t say anything for sure in response to what Sato said. From what he can grasp right now, there may be some misinterpretation of Sato’s comments. That isn’t the state of industry that Maruyama is aware of. The situation that Maruyama is aware of in the industry is that there is some animation work that is done in Korea, but it’s not the majority. There are still Japanese creators growing up. Maruyama does think that some companies are lacking in their effort to train the new generations. We [Madhouse] are in fact working with Korea but this isn’t work-for-hire, that we’re hiring simply hiring from Korea. With Korea, we are clearly collaborating to create a series. It is not as simple as they do the work and we give them money. Actually, we’re working as a team. It is a fact that there is some decrease in companies powers or energy to educate the new generation. Maruyama’s intention to run Madhouse is that, we should always try to give chances to the new generation for them to step up. Maruyama has very high hopes for the new generation. For example, Death Note ‘s director is currently doing Highschool of the Dead, Araki Tetsuro. He is a young director, and he is looking forward to seeing how he developes.

Q: Many people consider Dennou Coil as one of Madhouse’s strongest projects because it demonstrates, in may aspects the ranges that anime can reach. What does work mean for you?
Maruyama: Maruyama believes that the director (who is also the creator,) of this project, Dennou Coil is very challenging in finding out a new way how to show animation. This project was visually attractive due to the director’s potential.

Q: There’s been a series of 3D movies in US films and a lot more HD films and dvds. How much does new technology or these new fades affect what Madhouse does. How much does it affect the creative process?
Maruyama: As for the creative process, there isn’t that big of a change concerning the HD process. The only thing is that it does cost fairly more that SD process. This could be purchasing, buying more equipment, the human resource cost as well. It just depends on the funds, or the if the company really wants to do it and if they’re able to support the cost of the process. Being HD on our side is a benefit on our side since what we do is clearly reflected on the film in quality. At the same time, there if there are some loose ends on the film, than it clearly shows up. As Madhouse, we’re not going to not tell the audience how to watch the anime. If there are demands for HD, we’re always ready to answer that. Then it is just the matter of where the cost going to be paid by, the audience or the investors.

Q: I’m really enjoying Highschool of the Dead. Is the simulcasting working out and do you see this as a method to defeat the rampant internet piracy on anime. Is this the new model for simulcast, same day as in Japan?
Maruyama: Since we’re not distributers (we’re actually a creative studio,) we can’t give a figurative answer on that. But as from the creative studio, we’re really happy that everyone around the world is able to enjoy the show at the same time. There are differences in distribution systems in each country. For example, has complex distributions where Hollywood movies come out later than the US. In Korea, they distribute Hollywood movies at the same time. For Maruyama, if there is a movie that he really wants to watch, he flies over to Korea to watch it. But as a studio, as a studio that everyone can watch it.

Q: To Koujina, tell me about your directing style or approach to Rainbow.
Koujina: If you have watched Rainbow, it’s really not a series that you get ‘happy happy joy joy’ out of it. It’s a really serious drama. There is no dynamic action scenes, no battle scenes in the series. It’s a heavy drama so he was very careful about how each dialogue fits into the drama and how each expression shows on each character.

Q: I know you have been dealing with alot of fans at the con during all the previous years and months, what are each of your favorite fan moment or fan story is in the US or Japan?
Maruyama: At the creative side of series, Maruyama feels very happy to see cosplays of their work. He has been to China and Russia and he sees the same thing everywhere: people in cosplay. He is very happy to see this phenomenon taking place throughout the entire world.
Koujina: I have been actually told that by my president, Ashida, to always take care of fans. For exampel, there was this time when someone sent Valentine chocolates for one of the characters that I was involved with. I was very appreciated of that and we enjoyed it as a staff. Not only at Otakon, but at these kinds of events, he is very happy to see people in cosplay. For example, he is very happy when he sees a cosplay of Neuro which he worked on. [Majin Tantei Nogami Neuro] When he sees these costumes, he feels that they can’t really exist without the support of these fans. So everytime he comes to these events, he really likes to take that chance.

Q: How has Hosoda Mamoru been performing in Madhouse, considering the creative freedom he displayed in productions such as Summer Wars and Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo?
Maruyama: Hosoda is one of the modern directors at Madhouse. Hosoda is one of the special people at Madhouse. Each of these directors always have something that they want to do. And every time they make something, it’s always a battle between what they want to do and what the company wants to do.

Q: What influences your work methods? Is it a creative idea or the result of research in an area and than the inspiration strikes? Do you have a philosophy about creating works?
Maruyama: When you’re working in animation, it isn’t actually an individual work. You’re always working with someone. When we’re working in animation, we’re working as a team. So there are always considerations of what kind of directors we’re going to work with and how do you combine them with these kinds of artists. Madhouse has many talented directors. So it’s always the key to find the right chemistry between all these people.

Q: How has Studio Madhouse change over the years from when it began and what do you feel has been the strength that has evolved and what do you miss the most from the old days?
Maruyama: One definite clear change is that we have more people and that equates to having more titles. But at the core, we haven’t really changed. “Maybe.” [Maruyama quips in English. *crowd laughs*]

Q: What do you guys think of the general trend of moe in anime, as an individual director: whether or not you want to use moe in your works?
Maruyama: He is not sure exactly the moe ranges from…here to there. But he actually feels that the trend to moe has actually been decreasing recently. In the case of moe, animation itself serves as a good tool to describe cute girls. Not limited them to the moe, he likes to present cute girls in different ways.
Koujina: I have never really worked on a moe series so I can’t say from my past experiences, but I wouldn’t really mind working on it. The only thing is that moe, I don’t believe has to be limited to girls. It could be shonen or it could be animals. But if there is moe somewhere in the series, its only part of what the entire series is to me. It is part of what the main thing want to convey to others.

Q: What was your biggest fanboy moment? Like when your suddenly working with somebody, “OMG, I’m suddenly working with…they’re so cool” or before you got into the business as a fan, you sent a letter or chocolate or was that excited about their work.
Koujina: My big fanboy moment was when I was able to work with Madhouse. I was a big fan of Maruyama at Madhouse ever since I was a student.
Maruyama: Maruyama’s range of ‘want’ is so big that he actually hopes that Madhouse will be gone and he will be free to work with any director in Japan. He is very honored to work with directors. Every time he works with a director at Madhouse, he is pleased to create a work with them. They may not like it, but he really wants to work with Miyazaki and Oshii.

Q: What is the prupose regarding future projects wtih Marvel – Ironman and Wolverine? Making American heroes closer to Jaapn?
Maruyama: Maruyama is a big of fan of American comics and to be specific, he is a big fan of how they draw them, their quality. When it comes to their story, there is a story he likes and a story he doesn’t like much in US comics. Our intentions is not to spread the popularity of American hero in Japan. It is a tool to make an exciting series. The image of a hero in US and Japan are different. For an instance, Iron Man is really cool when he is in an Iron Man suit, but when as Tony Stark, he [Maruyama] is appalled that he this rich guy who has everything he wanted. Does he really have the criteria to be a hero?

Q: In your position, you have the ability to leave a message for many people. So with that power, what are you going to do to make the world a better place?
Koujina: As he comes to America, he noticed that animation is still accepted even in a foreign country. By seeing this, he believes that by seeking what truly makes a good animation, he knows that he can bring the world together.

Q: How successful has artistic productions like Kaiba been and how necessary are they to Madhouse Studio as a whole?
Maruyama: I am a very challenging man and I would to challenge many different things. As long as I have a chance, I would definitely like to go for more artistic stuff and definitely would still like to go for entertaining stuff. This is according to how other people talk about Maruyama, but they say that I am the type of person that when someone comes up to me, and say “This project will be too hard for Madhouse.” and I go, “Oh yeah? We’ll see about that!”

Q: Of all your works that Madhouse has currently created, what is your personal stand out work of art? What was the most enjoyable work for you?
Maruyama: Each of these projects that he worked on is very precious to him: all of them. This was because they were made by all the staff that he cares about. He doesn’t really choose one project over another. But I’m sure what I just said won’t really serve as an answer, so if I must, I will name one title which will be Hanada Shonen Shi which isn’t too popular in the US, but has strong support from other countries. He feels very close to this project.

Q: Maruyama-san, why did you hire Koujina-san? *guests and audience laughs*
Maruyama: This does not fit only Koujina, but he likes to work with many talented directors as much as possible. As he found Koujina as a very talented director, he was his type so he tried to convince him to work with him.

Q: You have all sorts of interesting exciting intellectual property out there, if there nothing is stopping you, what will be your ideal intellectual property to work with?
Maruyama: As I said before, I am a very curious person to like to do work with many titles as much as I can. If I start naming them, it would go to thousand to two thousand or more. What just popped into my head is Shiton Doubutsuki, literal translation to be Seton Animal Tales.
Koujina: There are no specific titles that he wants to work with right now, but it has always been his desire to work on an original series. Because when you’re working on an original series, people are really questioning what your skills as a director is. To be more specific about the genre, he wants to work with shonen series because shonene are basically young generation of people where they are still developing/maturing as adults. He is always interested in relaying a message of what he has to say to them.

I had hoped that more questions would be directed towards Koujina-san since it is apparent that Maruyama-san spoke alot during the conference. It is true that Maruyama as the general head of Madhouse would have more questions to answer, but he will certainly return to Otakon (since he is repeat guest and is even staff) while the chances of Koujina-san returning is slim.