AnimeNEXT 2011: Production IG Panel

Last year when the series and movies for Higashi no Eden were just licensed by Funimation, Kamiyama Kenji-san was the guest at AnimeNext. This year, we were able to meet Kakimoto Koudai-san who did the storyboard for the latter half of the series and the animation director, Nakamura Satoru-san for the series and movies. Again, no transcription is forthcoming since the audio recording was pretty bad.

As an aside, Kakimoto-san was a surprise guest (to me and perhaps others) since he was not listed as one of the guests to appear. It was a treat as he was able to give his insight and thoughts on Higashi no Eden, a favorite of mine.

Before the questions began, Nakamura-san inquired about fan reactions to the series and movies of Higashi no Eden, though the 2nd movie which has not been released in the US yet. There were some good responses from the audience, remarking about it being very good and providing some reasons why. Those who felt the issues straining upon the series was able to also give their thoughts behind it. To open a Q&A panel in such a manner is unique and I felt it gave the Japanese production staff a better understanding of how their works are influencing people outside of Japan. I also shared my thoughts having followed this series when I was in Japan. Simply put, even though I had difficulty understanding the series due to language, the message and the actions came through clearly in the series. It was easy to follow. Though the 2nd movie was definitely harder to grasp since it was filled with discussions. However, the movie was impressive, the resolution was fantastic and I totally enjoyed it. Nakamura-san commented that there is a underlying message of ‘hope’ throughout the show. Even with the NEET situation in Japan, the dying economy, there will be ways to overcome that.

Nakamura-san revealed that the band, Oasis was chosen to sing the opening song since it was a request from Sony Music. It was definitely an awesome choice. Unfortunately, the song was only used for the first episode in the US releases due to licensing issues. An interesting question came up about the character designs being so young looking. Of course, that is due to Umino Chika’s designs. In her own Honey and Clover style, the characters of Eden are youthful, cute with the blushing cheeks. Of course, it was intended by Kamiyama-san (who mentioned this last year.) The depictions of NY and Washington DC was mentioned as being very authentic. The staff had traveled to these places in order to animate them properly. Nakamura-san mentioned that NY is very similar to Tokyo, “Though NY is bigger.” *audience laughs* Kakimoto-san noted that the first episode of Higashi no Eden actually took 6 months to produce. O.O Of course the following episodes had shortened schedules with the last few episodes being close to 2 months each. But still…6 months is amazing.

Since this was really a ‘Production IG’ panel and not just Higashi no Eden, questions about one of their most popular series came up. Upon inquiring about Nakamura-san’s favorite scene in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, he responded that it was when Kusangai went into a shop and heard about the story of a little boy and girl, inadvertantly her past. It was ep. 11 from 2nd Gig. (It’s one of my favs as well. ^_^)

An interesting question was which directors he wants to work with regardless of the medium. Nakamura-san mentioned that he wants to collaborate with James Cameron. (Another answer to an earlier question was that he wanted to work with Quentin Tarantino as well.) One of the works that he enjoyed working on regardless of it’s popularity was Moribito. One of the fans remarked that they actually read the novels and they wished that there was a more to the series. Another fan noted that Nakamura-san drew Ishikawa-san (Ghost in the Shell) for his profile pic on the guest page of the site. Nakamura-san mentioned that their personalities are quite similar. When asked, he draws with pencil and paper, though working with computers for animation is common now.

When inquiring about his relationship and experiences with the staff, Nakamura-san mentioned that mangaka/director Otomo Katsuhiro (Akira) is a perfectionist who has expectations about how things should be done/drawn. Nakamura-san is mainly an animation director though he did do some character designs before. When asked if he is interested in expanding into directing some day, he stated that he was happy with what he is doing currently.

Some animes that they feel are a ‘must see’ for everyone are, Higashi no Eden (of course!), Nausicaa, My Neighbor Totoro, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Planetes. Such classics. I suppose the biggest news for everyone is the main question of ‘Will there be more Ghost in the Shell?’ There are no official announcements or any info about what exactly they’re going to do with the franchise…but yes, they’re working on something. I can’t wait to see what it is! Ganbatte, Production IG!