Otakon 2015 Interview: Takamatsu Shinji

This is an interview with director Takamatsu Shinji from Otakon 2015. Takamatsu as worked on many anime including Gundam X, the Brave (Yuusha) series

First question. Most Gundam series had romance but didn’t have it as a strong focus. Gundam X is a series that put the romance at the very forefront, and it was in some ways the main focus. Why was this decision made for this series?

It’ll be a long story!

I wanted to make something that was Gundam but not Gundam. One rule of Gundam X was to get out of Gundam and to be meta about Gundam, to do things that were not like “Gundam.

Before that, about a decade prior, you worked on Z Gundam and Gundam ZZ. What was your director Tomino Yoshiyuki, and how would compare his style to yours?

Well, I did grow up watching Gundam myself, and by the time I started to work at Sunrise Mr. Tomino was in the position of being a great director, so it was a scary prospect working with Tomino.

During Z Gundam I was production management, so I reported directly to him, and I was scolded by him every single day. There were days when I was scared about everything.

Romi Park is also at this event, and she gave a similar description of Tomino that is not inaccurate compared to yours.

However, Ms. Park worked with Mr. Tomino much later than I did, and if you look at Mr. Tomino at the time of Z Gundam, he really was off the wall.

You’re also very well known for your work on the Brave series, and you worked on many of them. What was the main reason you returned to the Brave series for so many years?

The first director of the Brave series, Yatabe [Katsuyoshi], brought me onto production for the show, and I worked on a little bit of Gundam in between. So, there was a hiatus for me, but otherwise I started from beginning to end for the entire series. And I got my debut as a director from the Brave series, so I am very much fond of the Brave series.

Might Gaine was my debut as a director, so I am particularly fond of it.

In that case, I have an interesting question to follow up with.

The Brave series is known for being very toy and merchandise-heavy but also having good storytelling, as well as in some cases the staff resisting the merchandising aspects of the Brave series. Two famous examples I know are a hidden cel in Goldran which sarcastically talks about it’s supposed to be a robot that’s easy to make into toys, and how Might Gaine’s ending is a criticism of the toy industry.

What were your and the staff’s feelings at the time, and how did the toy companies such as Takara react?

That’s a very deep and vexing question!

So when I was getting started with Might Gaine, I was told that there’s just supposed to be good and bad, and all I had to do was to have toys that featured good guys and bad guys who would just battle. The staff really felt we need to show some kind of resistance, and that that wouldn’t just be the end of the show. And by staff, I mean myself.

You did not work extensively on Gaogaigar, but I have to ask this question. Do you have any details you can share as to why Project Z never got off the ground?

That I don’t know about!

That’s okay! Moving on, another similar series you worked on was Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter, which was based on an arcade game. How would you compare working on Gyrozetter vs. working on the Brave series?

Gyrozetter was based on a video game, so while the look and feel of the show may be similar to a giant robot show, production of the show was otherwise completely different.

Unlike previous shows, the robots came from video games, so it wasn’t really needed as a tangible object, and I thought we could have done more with that.

I did grow up watching toy merchandise-based shows and I did think about what if the robot were a toy, but that wasn’t reflected in the show. That would be my regret. I talked about the resistance to merchandising intent of the toy companies for your earlier question but I actually love toys.

Last question. In regards to Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!, people have talked a lot over the years about the idea of a magical boy series. Whenever anyone brings up magical girls, someone asks, what about magical girls? What was the motivation behind finally putting that into reality?

The producer pitched it to me, and I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to work on something no one’s ever done before? And it turned out to be fun. (laughs)

Thank you!

Thank you.

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Better Go Get Some 3G Coverage

Tubedubber: Reliving High School By Sitting in Front of a Computer

In high school I used to hang out in the computer lab after class, where my friends and fellow anime fans would use the school’s T1 connection to download videos of anime openings. After a while we started mixing and matching opening animations. with opening themes in a relatively crude fashion by having two video windows open and playing the video from one with the audio from the other. It was really fun and while I understand that the human mind will just associate any two things together like that, I still enjoy doing it.

For a while I was using Youtube Doubler to approximate the effect, but now I find out there’s something called “Tubedubber” which does exactly what I was hoping for, allowing you to stream the video from one Youtube clip with the sound from another, and it even has enough settings so that you can time it properly.

I particularly enjoyed combining Gundam X with Gaogaigar back in high school. The only flaw is that the audio ends before the video, so your only choice is to pause the video as the song ends. Currently, I’ve gone with something decidedly more patriotic.

Try it out! It’s also a fairly low-level way to make some super basic AMVs.

Hey Sunrise, You Know What Would Be an EXCELLENT Way to Celebrate 20 Years of Yuusha?

MAKE PROJECT Z! DO IT!

For those who aren’t aware of Project Z, it was the proposed sequel to Gaogaigar Final that was included with the DVDs of Gaogaigar Final: Grand Glorious Gathering, which was a re-editing of the OVAs to fit the time slots of a TV broadcast. What was really cool about Project Z though is that not only was it to be a direct continuation of the GGG story, but it also was to incorporate elements from Betterman, which was this weird sci-fi horror series which took place in the GGG universe but hardly included any actual crossover with the main series.

It also gave off a very different mood. If Gaogaigar is CSI: Miami, then Betterman is CSI: New York.

So when last we saw our heroes in Gaogaigar Final, well, we didn’t, and the only ones able to return were Mamoru and Ikumi, the two children of alien origin whose abilities allowed them to purify the enemy. Once the kid sidekicks of the robot-piloting ultra heroes, as of Project Z they were to be teenagers who were now themselves the heroic super robot pilots. It had the potential to be this real coming-of-age story akin to Gurren-Lagann.

An interesting aspect of the whole Project Z concept from a mecha perspective was that the main robot of Project Z was supposed to be an amalgam of the robots from Betterman with the technology of Gaogaigar into a single cohesive design. The robots in Gaogaigar are sentient beings created based on alien technology called “Super Mechanoids,” whereas the robots in Betterman are purely human creations devoid of thought called “Neuronoids.” Joined together, they would create GAOGAIGO, a “Neuromechanoid” whose co-pilots would have been Mamoru and Ikumi.

They actually got pretty far with this idea, even creating an action figure based on the design.

Cool, no? Another interesting to point out is that the Gao machines used in the transformation are the ones remaining on Earth. That’s why you have Gaofighgar’s Liner Gao II as the shoulder armor, but also Stealth Gao II from the second half of the TV series.

In addition, because the robots in Betterman were anything but super, Gaogaigo’s design ends up being a mix of real robot and super robot technology. It’d be like if you took a Scope Dog from Votoms and cross-bred it with Gurren-Lagann.

And here’s what would have been really amazing. The base robot of Gaogaigo, called “Kakuseijin Gaigo,” incorporates the Neuronoid ability to change modes and appearance depending on who is the co-pilot. So if Mamoru was in control of Gaigo when it turned into Gaogaigo, then surely when Ikumi was in control we’d get a robot based off of King J-Der. If you look at the Gaigo mode that has Ikumi in control, it even kind of looks like J-Der!


Ikumi’s Accept Mode Gaigo (top), Mamoru’s Active Mode Gaigo (bottom)

So that’s what could have been, or what perhaps could still be. I’m holding out hope that some day our heroes will return to us.

What if Bokurano were in SRW?

Bokurano is a manga by Kitoh Mohiro, creator of Shadow Star: Narutaru. The centerpiece of Bokurano is a large robot called Zearth, and so one technically is able to call it a giant robot manga, though as you might expect from the man who created Narutaru there are some serious twists. When it was adapted into an anime by GONZO these twists were less severe, but still most of them were present.

As with any giant robot series though, there’s always the potential to have it included in the Super Robot Wars series of crossover video games. Only thing is that Bokurano’s plot makes it an EXTREMELY difficult series to fit into the general framework of SRW games, particularly because SRW games tend to have an overall uplifting message, which Bokurano only arguably does half the time.

But that’s where the following challenge lies: How do you fit Bokurano into SRW without detracting too much from either?

I think it should be obvious, but I’m going to warn you here and now that everything below this line is going to be MAJOR spoilers for MULTIPLE series. You have been warned. Check the tags to see if there’s a show you don’t want ruined for you.

There are two main issues to deal with in regards to Bokurano. First, is that the idea of one pilot dying per battle until all of them are gone. Second, is the fact that when the Zearth wins, another Earth in another dimension gets destroyed. I think you might already be able to see how this clashes with some of the themes common to SRW.

Let’s address the one-pilot-per-battle thing first. One possibility is that the Zearth will not be deployable against anything but Bokurano enemies, and that every time you use it the pilot changes (and the spell list and stats of the pilot accordingly) until you reach the last pilot. Another possibility is to have the Zearth ALWAYS deployable except whenever you reach a stage that’s Bokurano plot-based you lose the current pilot.

Of course, you don’t want to just lose all the pilots and then have the Zearth unusable, so there has to be a way to revive the pilots and in a way where they never die again and then you can use all of them. A few possibilities spring to mind.

There’s Steel Jeeg, which stars the IMMORTAL Cyborg, Shiba Hiroshi. Somehow getting the Bokurano kids to make their bodies not entirely natural may be a way of circumventing it.

Another possibility is having Shinji from Evangelion somehow find the lost souls of the Bokurano pilots and return them to their bodies and then maybe do some magic with AT Fields.

There’s also Murasame Kenji from the Giant Robo OVA who is revived whenever he dies. Granted Giant Robo is off-limits due to the death of Yokoyama and the subsequent licensing cost hike, but let’s ignore that.

The ending of Ideon meanwhile involves civilizations dying and the humans and Buff clan members having their souls “reborn.” If this could be localized into the Zearth then that’s also a potential revival method. Also keep in mind the parallels between Ideon and Zearth, in that both are extremely powerful robots that have destroyed entire planets,  are absolutely frightening monsters when you realize their true identities, and wipe out all life if either of them lose.

Now what about the whole killing billions of innocent lives per battle? How can this cycle end once and for all? In this regard, we need to deal with series that address the concept of alternate and parallel universes.

The main one I can think of is Change! Shin Getter Robo: Armageddon. In a scene from this OVA, Shin Getter Robo and Shin Dragon perform a Shine Spark, during which they discover that there are alternate Getter Robos in alternate dimensions all fighting the good fight. Well what if all of the Getters work together to simultaneously stop the horrible contest of Bokurano?

Those are more or less the more well-thought-out possibilities I’ve considered. Of course, there’s lots of potential for other crossover plot points. Here’s a couple.

Gaogaigar
The act of destroying the cockpit of an enemy robot in Bokurano bears some resemblance to when Gaogaigar was about to crush the Zonder core until Mamoru stops it and shows that it’s actually a transformed human being. Perhaps the healing power of Mamoru could do something about the other cockpits.

God Mars
In God Mars, the main character Takeru’s robot Gaia has a bomb inside of it where if the main character dies the bomb is detonated and the Earth is destroyed. So with this, even though you don’t have a sure solution on how to keep the Earth from disappearing in the even that Zearth loses, it will at least allow the Bokurano kids to have someone older to relate to. Also, a robot named GAIA and a robot named ZEARTH? Eh? Eh?

So what can you think of? Let me know!

Examples of Anime’s Cel to Digital Conversion

Though much less frequent these days as the anime industry has all but completely converted to using digital means to animate shows (Sazae-san I believe is an exception which still uses cels), it wasn’t so long ago that debates about the merits of cel animation vs digital animation were a common sight among certain groups of otaku. Those on the side of cels would accuse digital animation of lacking life and energy, those on the side of digital would ask the cel supporters why they liked having dust on their animation frames so much. These days, I think it’s fair to say that much like 2d vs 3d animation, or drawing with paper vs drawing with a tablet, each has its own merits.

It can be difficult to compare digital to cel in the sense that usually entire shows have been done one way or the other, but there are a few which were made during that transitional period between cel and digital, and so they too are transitional. A brief list follows, if you want to take a closer look.

1) The Big O

Season 1 was done with cel animation, the Cartoon Network-sponsored Season 2 was done entirely digitally. Some will say that the second season lacked something the first had in terms of visuals, possibly that everything feels too “clean.” Judge for yourself.

2) Galaxy Angel

Again, Season 1 was all cel while for Season 2 Broccoli decided to go digital. They also decided to cover up Forte Stollen’s cleavage but that’s a discussion for another time.

3) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Stardust Crusaders)

In an odd twist, the later parts of the manga were animated in the 90s while the earlier parts were animated in the 2000s. Watching this show in chronological order can be very unusual.

4) Gaogaigar Final

Now this was really meant to be a big budget OVA and it shows. Gaogaigar Final began production in 1999 (with the first episode out in 2000), and ended in 2003. Being an OVA, there was a long period between each episode, so the jump to digital is rather sudden when watched side to side. This is probably the one that best exemplifies the power of both cel and digital animation.

Are the releases we want going to be the releases we get?

One complaint always leveled at anime companies is that they charge too much for anime. It’s something I’ve criticized in the past myself. Well, companies are finally listening and we’re seeing a variety of attempts to lower the cost of watching anime.

Gonzo plans on continuing its free online subtitled broadcasts with a continuation of Strike Witches.

Gainax and Bandai Entertainment have made it possible to watch the smash hit Gurren-Lagann on network cable via the Sci-Fi Network. Not only that, Bandai is planning a blitzkrieg release with 9 episodes per disc with a release of 1 disc per month. That’s 3 months for ALL of Gurren-Lagann.

Maria-sama ga Miteru, officially titled now as Maria is Watching Over Us, has an upcoming release of the entire first season at once. That’s 13 episodes from the get-go. No waiting, no nothing.

Media Blasters is releasing the second half of Gaogaigar all at once for practically nothing as well. This has less to do with plans and more to do with the fact that GGG did not do so well in the US, but it’s there.

And finally, Toei Animation has given the courtesy of releasing episodes of Hokuto no Ken and Slam Dunk online at $2 per episode. Granted, there’s some Digital Rights Management crap that we have to deal with, but they at least figured out that this is a better way of giving exposure to older series such as these.

So the anime industry has finally stepped up their game, and made it easier than ever to obtain anime from legitimate sources for affordable prices. It is now up to us as fans to support them, to tell these companies that, yes, we are willing to give you money directly provided you make it possible for us without sacrificing an arm and a leg when we do not have the fortune of being Edward Elric.

I don’t expect people to buy every single example I list here, and of course people’s income situations vary greatly, but I think it’s important that the anime fandom show that we are supportive of new attempts to get anime in our hands.