Otakon 2017 Interview: Tomoki Kyoda (EUREKA SEVEN)

At Otakon 2017, I had the opportunity to interview Tomoki Kyoda—director of one of my favorite anime series ever, Eureka Seven. He was at the convention to promote the world premiere of the film EUREKA SEVEN HI-EVOLUTION, and I spoke to him the day before the showing.

Eureka Seven was originally created as a media mix project with video games and manga telling side stories or different, alternative narratives from the anime. How much of a say did you have in the spin offs?

With the spin offs, we would say, “We want so-and-so” for a concept. The various directors and mangaka we were working with would present their spin offs to us, and we would check over them.

My next question concerns Eureka herself. Her appearance changes throughout the series, especially when she gets covered in scars. It’s a very bold decision, I think—especially for anime. What was the thinking behind changing her appearance?

When we were doing the original story, Mr. Kenichi Yoshida and I were talking about what we could do to provide lots of inspiration and different paths the story could take. One of the inspirations that someone came up with was, “What about drastically changing her appearance?” So we actually took that and went with it.

What is it like working with creators Dai Sato, Shoji Kawamori, and Kenichi Yoshida? Do you have any interesting production stories to tell?

With regards to Mr. Sato and Mr. Yoshida, we were actually all born in the same year, so we all have an understanding of our pros and cons; what each of us do well and what each of us do not so well. But with regards to Mr. Kawamori, he is a person we look up to. He is a very interesting person, and his works are also very interesting. But then if you meet him in person… whoa. You’re going to notice that he’s more interesting than anything he’s actually done. So, if we start talking about Mr. Kawamori, we’re going to go past two hours like it was nothing, so let’s just leave it at that.

In revisiting Eureka Seven with the new movies, what feelings are you hoping to evoke in old fans and those who have never seen the series?

First of all, I’d like to say that, for old fans coming back to us, thank you very much. I hope they will actually be very accepting of this, since, even if we use some old footage, it doesn’t mean that we could do something just like the old version. In that sense, it’s in many ways a new movie. I hope they will be very accepting of it. With that being said, for new fans I hope they take it for what it is, and accept it for what it is, and that they will see what Renton and Eureka and Anemone have to do in order to live through that world. So the greater idea I have for everyone is acceptance, really. I hope everyone will accept EUREKA SEVEN HI-EVOLUTION for what it is.

Thank you very much!

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Capitalizing on a New Home: Otakon 2017

“Howatto?! Washington ni?!”

-Jack King, Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo

Introduction: To DC

Otakon has always been my favorite anime convention. With its fan-oriented approach and variety of content, it always feels surprisingly intimate despite its sheer size (it’s generally the largest anime con on the east coast). This year marked a big change, as Otakon moved from its long-time home of Baltimore to Washington DC. It might not seem like that much of a difference—it’s only one extra stop on Amtrak—but for those of us who had grown fond of the previous venue, warts and all, Otakon was synonymous with Baltimore.

However, I will likely not be the only one to tell you that the new location is one of the best things to happen to Otakon. Subjectively, I still have an attachment to Baltimore. Objectively, outside of increased cost, pretty much everything is superior. The Walter E. Washington Convention Center is roughly double the size of the old Baltimore Convention Center, meaning less congestion. The adjacent hotel, the Marriott Marquis Washington DC, is bigger and more accommodating. The food choices are greater both inside and outside the convention center, and still fairly reasonably priced. For those who are especially cost-conscious, a Giant Foods supermarket within walking distance is an improvement over Baltimore’s 7-Elevens.

Thus, without even taking into account what happened at the con itself, this new setting certainly provided a more comfortable space for Otakon to put on a show. It was off to a good start right from the beginning.

Dealer’s Hall and Artist’s Alley

One of the best things about having such a large space for Otakon is that the Dealer’s Hall and the Artist’s Alley were easily navigable. Instead of having to wade through a sea of people in order to get anything done, actually going where I wanted to provided little challenge, aside from unfamiliarity with the new convention center. In terms of content, it’s pretty much what you can expect out of a large-sized con. In the Dealer’s Hall, large, official company booths acted as centerpieces with smaller booths on the sides selling figures, posters, manga, anime, and more. The Artist’s Alley had a wide variety of styles, with series such as Voltron, Yuri!!! on Ice, and Persona 5 being especially popular.

One of the hiccups in both areas was a lack of clear marking as to where you were. Booths had individual numbers, but sometimes they didn’t follow a consistent logic, and a lack of visible markings to tell you what row and column you were standing in made things worse. Fortunately, this was brought up at the Con Feedback panel at the end of Otakon, and it’s something they had intended but couldn’t get around to.

There are a couple of other challenges they’ll have to tackle for next year as well. First, the line to the Dealer’s Hall would occasionally get capped. This in itself isn’t unusual, but at one point a friend of mind mentioned that he couldn’t get in while I was already there. But when I looked around, the Dealer’s Hall was the opposite of congested. There was literally room to run around if I so choose. I later realized that it wasn’t the Dealer’s Hall itself that was the issue, it was the space leading to the Dealer’s Hall that was becoming a fire hazard. That’s something that should be addressed by 2018.

The Artist’s Alley also ran into an unfortunate bit of flooding due to a water main break on Saturday evening. A major factor in this was an enormous storm that hit DC. From what I saw, Otakon handled the situation fairly well, and there were no major injuries. This might just be a fluke accident for the first year, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Concert: JAM Project/TM Revolution

This year, Otakon teamed up with the Anisong World Matsuri to bring a number of musical acts to DC. Because tickets cost money (unlike most anime cons), I could only see the Friday concert featuring JAM Project and TM Revolution. As a long-time fan of the former and someone who definitely enjoys the music of the latter, I can say with the utmost confidence that they did not disappoint. Both acts are known for creating not only songs that are good in and of themselves, but for embracing the anime they create music for and elevating them through their compositions. I first saw JAM Project at their US debut back at Otakon 2008, and it was a welcome return.

Both TM Revolution and JAM Project are really adept at making live performances special. Their voices ring out clearly, they get the audience involved, and by the time they’re done you end up feeling like you were part of something greater. Even a few technical hiccups during TM Revolution’s performance couldn’t dent the audience’s fervor.

Before the concert, I had bet on JAM Project and TM Revolution doing an encore together. Most likely, it would be JAM Project’s signature song, “SKILL.” They came through, and the collaboration was everything I hoped for.

For further thoughts on the concert, check out my post on Apartment 507.

The official set list for Otakon 2017 is as follows:

JAM PROJECT

1. Crest of “Z’s”
2. Hagane no Resistance
3. Garo ~Savior in the Dark~
4. The Brave
5. THE EXCEEDER
6. Hero
7. THE HERO!! ~Ikareru Kobushini Hiwo Tsukero~
8. Victory〜Gong
9. Rocks
10. Rescue Fire

T.M.Revolution
1. Inherit the Force
2. Invoke
3. ignited
4. Meteor
5. resonance
6. High Pressure
7. White Breath
8. Hot Limit
9. Flags
10. Sword Summit
11. Heart of Sword

ENCORE
1. SKILL (JAM Project x T.M.Revolution)

Panels

Due to a busy schedule this year and some mishaps on my part, I was unable to attend as many panels as I would have liked. However, this means I can talk about ones I did see in greater detail!

(I also didn’t have any panels this year. Better luck next time?)

The first was “Romance and Abuse in Shoujo Manga,” which looked at many of the bad boys of shoujo and how their behavior can reflect an often implicit hand-waving of abusive relationships. It looked at both works that ignore its characters’ abusive behavior towards their partners, as well as those that call the characters out on it. The presenter also took time to point out the difference between enjoying something as fiction vs. understanding how it would play out in reality, so it’s not as if it was an automatic admonishment of the audience’s tastes. I thought it was a strong panel overall, but it could be taken to the next level. Perhaps it could even go into understanding why the trope of the abusive boyfriend as lovable partner is so popular and occurs in so many well-received anime and manga.

I would also like to compliment the presenter on giving her stamp of approval to how the series Kiss Him, Not Me approaches the subject of abuse, because while the series is thoughtful in a lot of ways, its initially flippant handling of weight and beauty can really turn people away—even I was put off by it. The fact that the presenter used it as an example showed that she wasn’t trying to automatically write off certain series but was actively trying to figure out what messages these shoujo series send.

Another panel I attended was “Iyashikei: Animated Healing.” It focused on the so-called healing genre of anime and manga, explaining the emotionally therapeutic aspect of such works and why they garner such loyal fans. It was a very thorough panel that showed a wide variety of series that can be considered iyashikei, including both classics and genre-bending examples. One thing the panel didn’t get into but I would have liked to see was the tendency towards an assumed male viewership for healing anime. Still, it was well-presented and informative, and I’d look forward to checking it out again.

Screenings

I had the opportunity to see two films, one of which was a world premiere. I’ve written more extensive reviews for both.

In This Corner of the World

Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution 1

Interviews

I also interviewed a few of the illustrious guests at Otakon! This year, it was the dynamic seiyuu duo of Furukawa Toshio and Kakinuma Shino, as well as an interview with the director of Eureka Seven, Kyouda Tomoki [stay tuned for that one!].

Final Thoughts

The move to Washington DC is the best decision Otakon has made in years. There are very few drawbacks I can think of, outside of a sentimental attachment to Baltimore (and its delicious crab cake truck), but I know that my experience is not necessarily shared with everyone else.

Second, you want to hear other random thoughts about the con, I also appeared on a post-Otakon podcast over at Ani-Gamers. We recorded it right after the con closed on Sunday!

To end this report, here are some cosplay highlights, as is Ogiue Maniax tradition.

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Otakon 2017 Interview: Furukawa Toshio & Kakinuma Shino

At Otakon 2017, I sat down with a husband-wife duo who are also two veteran voice actors of the anime industry. Furukawa Toshio is probably best known for playing Piccolo in Dragon Ball Z, while Kakinuma Shino was Naru in Sailor Moon (Molly to dub fans!).

I did not have enough time to ask any Piccolo questions, but if you love giant robots it’ll be worth your while.

Mr. Furukawa, Ms. Kakinuma, thank you for this interview.

My first question is to Mr. Furukawa. You played the role of Kenta in Mirai Robo Daltanias, so you had experiencing working with Nagahama Tadao. What was it like working with him? 

Furukawa: I actually worked with Mr. Nagahama before Daltanias, on The Rose of Versailles. But the time of Daltanias was during the super robot era, with the iconic huge robots in Japanese culture. He brought me in saying, “You know, we have a role for a prince for you. He’s a really good-looking character. Why don’t you come in?” So that’s how I came on the boat.

He was a very gentle person, and as a director he never stopped smiling. He was a very kind figure.

I’d also like to ask you about a different, maybe very different, director: Tomino Yoshiyuki. What was it like working with him as Kai Shiden in Mobile Suit Gundam?

Furukawa: Mr. Tomino is on the opposite spectrum, I’d like to say. He is relatively the stricter type. He’d give long lectures when we were young and starting off with First Gundam. He was known as the scary kind of director.

My next question is directed to Ms. Kakinuma. When it comes to anime based on manga, oftentimes anime-original stories are considered to be not as important or significant. But the romance between Naru and Nephrite is considered a fan favorite. What was it like voicing Naru for that story?

Kakinuma: When we were voicing for Sailor Moon, unlike some of the works now where there’s a manga established, we were doing it at the same time that the manga was going on. Some of the people who worked on the anime didn’t even know that romance doesn’t happen in the manga. So when we voiced it, we were doing it as if it were canon.

You’ve both been in the voice acting industry in Japan for a long time. How do you feel it’s changed over the course of your careers?

Furukawa: When I began, “voice actors” not really a thing. We were a subgenre of the bigger category of actors, where there were actors, stage actors, etc., and voice actors were part of the mix. During that time, we were not well recognized. If you look now, though, you have voice actors appearing on TV. I’ve even appeared on TV myself. I’d like to say that we’ve gained a kind of citizenship. We’re now more recognized.

Kakinuma: Recording has changed from when I began until now. For example, when I first started, we were voicing things that were on film, projected. When a part was over, we would have to reel in the film to record again if we needed to. Now, you don’t have that “reeling in the film” time; you can just click and go back to your previous scene. It saves a lot of time.

It’s normal now to see a kind of timeline on the bottom of the screen showing where you are in that span. By going to that, you don’t need a sense of timing anymore. But back then, since there were no timelines whatsoever, we needed a kind of specialized skillset.

Furukawa: TV equipment also changed. For example, nowadays we have multidirectional digital surround sound, which gives you the ability to hear all around you from all sorts of different channels. But back then, we didn’t have any of that, so we expected everyone to hear from the two speakers. Everyone speaking at the same time would be the same as mixing everything together. Now, if you did that, you might not get the same experience, so you need to split the channels in recording. So technology has advanced, but this has gotten us to take additional time in the recording process.

My last question is about Muteki Robo Daiohja, another giant robot series. What was it like working on it compared to Daltanias?

The biggest difference is that, while they’re both in the era of prolific super robots and space and everything, Daiohja is kind of a parody. Although they’re both similar—I got to play a prince in both anime—the biggest difference is that Prince Mito’s name derives from Mito Koumon, the very famous Japanese period drama about a prince taking out all the evils in his era. Daiohja had a lot of these elements. The characters Skad and Karcus came from Suke-san and Kaku-san from Mito Koumon. Everything about it was pretty much a parody of Mito Komon, so that’s the biggest difference I felt.

Thank you again for the interview. I look forward to your continued successes in your careers.

[APT507] One Punch! Part 2: JAM Project’s Rising Fame at Otakon 2017

My very first post as a writer on Apartment 507 was speculation that JAM Project would soar in popularity thanks to One Punch Man. Now, I’ve written a follow-up due to the group’s recent performance at Otakon 2017. Check it out!

[AnimeNEXT 2017] TMS/Re:Life Interview

At AnimeNext 2017 back in June, I got to speak to the staff of the anime Re:Life. It was a short but informative interview that also went into other shows they’ve worked on, including an anime from the same studio as Kemono Friends.

Re:Life is about a man who gets the chance to relive his high school days. When creating and animating the show, is there anything you had to consider in terms of body language, such as how an older man would act or move that a younger man would not?

Yamanaka Junko: So in terms of body language, by the time you’re 17 you’re pretty much grown as a male. So in terms of the body itself, nothing really changes between 17 and 27. If anything, it’s more the voice actors and actresses who have to portray the 10 years of change, of mental instability.

My next question is for Ueda-san. You worked on a very humorous anime called Tesagure! Bukatsumono. What was it like? It seems like a very unique and interesting experience.

Ueda Reina: Pertaining to this particular series, what we would do is record three minutes of airtime for one hour. There was no dialogue written out. The beginning and ending were set but everything in the middle was all ad-lib. So for the next fifteen minutes, we would do three-minute segments of ad-libbing the entire time, and then we would take multiple episodes in one day. During the set, the actual recording process, there was so much laughing because everyone was laughing at each other’s ad-libbing. It was really fun to work on.

Yamanaka-san, you’ve worked on Detective Conan for many years, on multiple movies and the TV series. When working on the series, are there any golden rules that you must adhere to, like things you must do to make it feel like Conan?

Yamanaka: Someone has to die (ha ha).

The dart hitting Kogoro is an iconic moment.

Because it’s a story about detectives, the actual solving part is where we spend the most energy.

Because Re:Life is about NEETS and redoing your past, do you think this is a more universal or timeless theme, or is it specifically relevant to modern times?

Yamanaka: This is a very difficult question because it’s hard to assume things, but the perspective of the NEET has been around for a while, and the creation of the word is further back. Maybe it’ll still be timeless, but it’d be better for Japan if this is not timeless, and no one remembers what a NEET is anymore.

Thank you for the interview!

[AnimeNEXT 2017] Studio Trigger Interview

Last time, I asked the illustrious Studio Trigger about the origins of Turning Girls. This time I only had the chance for one question to Yoshinari Yoh (director of Little Witch Academia), but the answer was quite informative.

When you were a lowly footman in the anime industry, what did you swear you’d do when you got further? Like, “If I ever become director, I will definitely do this.”

Yoshinari Yoh: When I just entered Gainax, it was right when Sailor Moon was airing, and I was reading an article in a magazine. I remember commenting, “I would never want to do something about magical girls.” But then once I entered Gainax, the executives (such as Anno) loved Sailor Moon, so I ended up working on it.

Thank you for the interview!

AnimeNEXT 2017 Interview: Yuri!!! on ICE Staff

This interview was conducted at AnimeNEXT with guests Tatenaka Junpei (co-lead figure skating animation supervisor), Ito Noriko (animator), Ogawa Takahiro (production desk manager), Hirose Izumi (color designer).

Creating animation, especially for television, is a very time-sensitive endeavor. You have to work hard to get things on time. So when you were working on Yuri!!! On ICE and you were running low on time, what did you prioritize? What is most important?

Tatenaka: When creating animation, the difficult thing is that you can’t skip any parts. You can’t skip the voice, you can’t skip the music, you can’t skip the art. You have to prioritize everything.

What about terms of style, say, going for better movement or more detailed artwork during figure skating scenes?

Tatenaka: I animated the figuring skating scenes. For the first episode with Victor’s free skating, we had three chances for trial and error to fix it up. And when time is sensitive, we do one check and send it out. Most of it is just, draw it and then it’s out for production.

Maruyama Masao has been a guest at cons in America for a number of years, so there have been plenty of opportunities to get his impression of animation. What is it like working under Maruyama-san, and does he resemble the character that’s based on in Shirobako [Marukawa Masato]?

Tatenaka: Maruyama is very unique. He gives us a lot of control. The most unique thing about him is that, instead of picking what’s going to be the winning formula, he picks unusual combinations and tries them out. It’s like the chemistry of two items, two characters, two of anything that might not work—he likes to experiment with that sort of thing. So it’s either a very big win or a very big loss.

Yuri!!! on ICE has received praise from a lot of pro figure skaters. Is there anything that went into animating Yuri!!! On ICE that differs from other sports series?

Tatenaka: The most difficult and challenging part of animating Yuri!!! is that there are no pauses in movements. In baseball, there’s usually a pause, but in figure skating the characters are constantly on the move, so you have to keep drawing each sequence. All of the poses and the movements are things I haven’t drawn before.

During the skating scenes, the characters have thoughts running through their heads. Did you do research into what real figure skaters are thinking about as they perform?

Ogawa: It’s probably something Director Yamamoto came up with. Because she loves figure skating.

Hirose: She actually did interview some real figure skaters to ask, “What do you think about while you’re skating?”

This next question is about the film In This Corner of the World. In between the chapters of the manga, there are a number of quirky little guides, like how to make your rice last as long as possible by adding as much water as possible and mashing it. Are these funny little moments also in the movie?

Ito: Not all of them because there are a lot of those handwritten notes, but for most of them the characters will have a line explaining why they’re doing something. In the movie, the animated sequence about cooking in the kitchen is done very meticulously. You can see what’s being done while she’s explaining.

This is a question for the female guests here: are there any unique challenges to being women in the animation industry?

Hirose: I have a child. Being a mom and doing production in a tight schedule is very hard for me.

Ito: Not being able to go home. Not being able to shower. I don’t take naps at work because I don’t want people to see me sleeping at the office. But a lot of the male workers don’t care. They’ll sleep on the chairs and on the floors. But I can’t.

Thank you for the interview. I wish you the best of luck on your future projects!

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