AnimeNEXT 2013 – Yamamoto Sayo and Shimizu Hiroshi Q&A – Sunday

Since I was running late, I rushed for the Yamamoto Sayo-san and Shimizu Hiroshi-san panel in the Doubletree. The panel before it was hosted by Uncle Yo. As a sunday panel, it was pretty empty. It was practically press only with the few people that were there. ^^; Even the head of press, Ezra joined in.

    Yamamoto: I am Yamamoto Sayo, an anime director. Since there are not that many people here, I would like to do a live drawing of the storyboard and story content. Hope everyone can enjoy it.

    Shimizu: I am an animator, Shimizu Hiroshi. After the storyboard is done, I will do a live drawing from the storyboard. I’m pretty nervous about it, but I hope you can enjoy it.

    Yamamoto: I will start drawing out the storyboard. On the [left] side here, I have the key memos. I will work off of those. I will do a one cut scene of Lupin and Jigen. The memos on the side show that Lupin and Jigen are getting hit by a signboard. I will start now. I am not an animator, so my drawing is not that good. *audience laughs* I’m actually going to draw to a point where the animator will understand. It’s going to be as minimalistic as possible.

Drawing badly? Yamamoto-san is too modest! Her quick art sketch reveals beautiful lines. Happily, we were able to take pics and vids of the screen this time and we were able to witness both Yamamoto-san storyboarding and Shimizu-san sketching gengas. The full story from the memo shows a scene of Lupin and Jigen running away…and a sign from a above falling…to reveal ANIME NEXT on it. Sugoi! It was awesome to witness the drawing in action.

    Yamamoto: I’m drawing the part where Lupin is very surprised. Jigen is beside Lupin. Since Jigen typically wears a hat, it is not easy to express his feelings. I have to figure out how to go about doing this. Sometimes I get worried if Shimizu-san actually understands my drawings. But Shimizu-san actually covers that up for me, making sure that everything is precisely right. *laughs* I get really quiet when I’m working on this. If you have any questions about storyboards, you can ask me.

So begins the Q&A…. I’m amazed that both of them are able to speak even as they answer questions!

    Q: What is your typical work schedule like?
    Yamamoto: I actually work really slow. It takes so long for me to finish. The hours are whenever I’m done with work. It does become long hours, so there are times when I’m not even able to travel [home].

    Q: Are there any creative challenegs unique to storyboarding an opening/ending animation as oppose to an episode?
    Yamamoto: Both of them have different challenges. Especially the opening and ending and the visual aspect of it. It must have something to catch the eye. That is one of the biggest challenges that I have faced.

    Q: What was it like to work on Psycho Pass and Samurai Champloo?
    Yamamoto: For Samurai Champloo, it was one of my first works in the animation industry…working with the director. Working with director Nabeshin was very big in my career. It was also the point when alternatives appeared to work in the industry. I moved on to work on Psycho Pass right after Fujiko Mine so there were some remaining thoughts from working on that animation. While we’re talking, I finished the storyboard. We would like to offer it to Shimizu-san.

The camera adjusted to the Shimizu-san’s side of the table.

    Shimizu: I have the storyboards. Normally, I would think about the layout and everything. This time, we’ll take a shortcut and take out the layout. We’re going to concentrate on the action of the characters.

    Q: What was it like working on Mononoke Hime?
    Shimizu: It was one of the hardest jobs I ever did in my animation career. The reason for that is because director Miyazaki Hayao is a genius. He is able to draw everything and make the movements himself. For the animators to make those movements, he [Miyazaki] has to give an ‘okay’…which wasn’t easy. So it was one of the hardest to work on that piece.

    Q: Certain info has come to light so this question must be asked: who are your favorite characters in ‘Burn Notice’ and ‘House’?
    Shimizu: Ahhh… *audience laughs* The main character of ‘Burn Notice’ is my favorite character. The reason is because the actual voiceover in Japanese for the main character is Kurita Kanichi, the seiyuu for Lupin. *audience laughs* That is the reason why I really like that character.
    Interpreter: ‘House’ is called ‘Doctor House’ in Japan.
    Shimizu: The doctor is my favorite character. He is just so out there and creepy. His medical treatments are something that is not really thought about in Japan. It’s really interesting, the kind of treatments that he does which is one of my favorite aspects of his character.

    Q: What are some anime that you watched as children?
    Shimizu: I grew up watching Japanese animation and my favorite was Dokonjo Gaeru. A frog, Ponkichi jumps out of a tshirt and talks. That was something that influenced me as a child.
    Yamamoto: I really like the director Dezaki [Osamu] who did The Rose of Versaille.

    Q: What members of the production staff assign shots to you during production?
    Shimizu: Actually for Studio Ghibli, director Miyazaki Hayao actually appoint cuts to animators. “I want this person to work on this cut.” He separates the cuts to see who should be working on that. For other production companies, they’re being pushed by the schedule, so the first person that gets in gets to pick what they want to work on. It just gets done that way.

    Q: In general, what kind of animation do you feel is easy or difficult to work on?
    Yamamoto: I’m really good at coming up with jokes or erotica. But if it is a sci-fi piece or with robots, it becomes really hard. Shimizu-san?
    Shimizu: I enjoy the action scenes. Usually if there are scenes like that, I would like to work on them.

    Q: Outside of animation work, what other jobs did you do before become a director?
    Yamamoto: Before going into a full time position, I just did part time jobs. I was in a design company. I did illustrations for a cram school called ‘shiken demi’. I did illustrations for the textbooks that they used. I also drew some illustrations for an animation magazine. What I have done include getting an order from someone and fulfilling the order. I feel that it has helped me out for the current position that I am in. If I only worked in the animation industry, I wouldn’t have thought about how hard it was to work in it. But since I worked at other places, I know how hard it is. Since I didn’t go straight into the aniamtion industry, I know how difficult it is to get in.

    Q: In comparison to the past, how are anime series currently which has added cuts in order to be marketable or necessary for other countries?
    Yamamoto: Actually there hasn’t been much changes with the anime series themselves. With companies like Funimaton, there are series that are airing in Japan and the US at the same time. The deadlines have gotten shorter. There are companies with series that are planning to be shown overseas in America. They cut down on smoking scenes and nude scenes of girls: panty shots and things like that in order to stay within the censorship here. Concerning framework or added scenes, that really hasn’t been done much. But thought has been placed for overseas production.

As an added note to that answer, some additional details and changes (like changing cigarettes to lollipops or placing soap or mist in to hide breasts in bathing scenes) are usually added by the US companies themselves and not by Japanese production. Of course, in the same vein and mindset, things are cut not just by the Japanese productions but by US companies as well.

    Q: You directed an episode of Panty & Stocking. How did you end up working on the series and how was your experience?
    Yamamoto: Actually, the director Imaishi [Hiroyuki] is an old friend of mine. We were drinking together one day *audience laughs* and I was sharing with him that I never got along with my younger sister. In the episode of Panty & Stocking, there were two sisters that don’t get along. I was approached to work on that episode.

    Q: What were some of the differences with working with Koike Takeshi and having Koike work for you?
    Yamamoto: Koike-san was actually the first one to give me a job. He is a genius. When I was working under him, one of my biggest challenges was coming up with ideas to make him interested in it and liking it. It was very hard to do. When I’m the director and he is the designer, it is not really ‘working with him or under him’ in that aspect. It’s more like we’re working on the same plane. When I was working on Lupin III, the only one who I could think of that could draw like the original mangaka, Monkey Punch-sensei was Koike-san. That was why I wanted to work with him on Lupin III.

    Q: Music plays a big role in Samurai Champloo and Fujiko Mine. What kind of music do you listen to?
    Yamamoto: I listen to anything, but there are these highschool rappers that I like. I like looking on youtube. *audience laughs*

    Q: About the title, Fujiko Mine….
    Yamamoto: Lupin III always had a secondary title. For Fujiko Mine, we had to have a secondary title to show that it was a continuation to the original. But the main character is Fujiko. When Okada Mari originally wrote the plot, she had it has a sub title ‘Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna’ which was finally moved to the main title.

    Q: The opening to Fujiko Mine is ‘New Wuthering Heights’. How does the title relate to the series?
    Yamamoto: The song ‘New Wuthering Heights’ is by the band that Naruyoshi [Kikuchi, Lupin III composer] is actually in. The theme is for Fujiko but the lyrics was not written for the series itself. It has a great influence, a lingering effect for the series.

    Q: How would you compare your experience as a key animator or animation director?
    Shimizu: It is completely very different. As an animator director, I have to think about the overall image of the series that I’m working on. As a key animator, I just need to concentrate on the scene.

Yamamoto-san asked us to wait a bit longer for Shimizu-san to finish drawing. “He is almost done. It will be awesome to look at.” Shimizu explains, “It’s becoming a little rough at the end.”

    Shimizu: Lupin and Jigen are suddenly surprised and than they’re ‘Oh my gosh!’ They need to run…and they run away. And than ‘bang!’ *audience laughs* They’re squashed by the sign.

He flips through the pages faster to demonstrate the motion of the animation like yesterday. (It’s amazing that they can draw so fast. But as a collector of genga and douga, it amazes me to see the number of pages and sketches that are needed for a few seconds of animation. *bows to the animators*) It’s also amazing to note that directors not only need to tell the story, they need to envision the final product and relay that in words and pics to the the key animator. Everything starts from there. Out of all the animation panels that I have attended, this has been one of my fav. Addressing both in words and sketch demos, we see the animation process in action.