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!