Otakon 2016: 15 minutes with Producer Yoshitaka Kawaguchi

Yoshitaka Kawaguchi has been part of the anime industry since the 80s, working his was up through the ranks to become a producer at studio Sunrise. His career has had a focus on mecha and science fiction with works like Planetes, Turn A Gundam, Overman King Gainer, and Code Geass with only a few notable exceptions.


Reverse Thieves: You’ve been with Sunrise since 1988, and a huge amount of the shows you’ve worked on or produced are part of the mecha genre. So why mecha?  

Yoshitaka Kawaguchi: First, I must say drawing characters with that many lines is very tiring! [laughs] I actually love Adventure Time that’s on Cartoon Network right now. I’m envious because those characters are so simple!

[With mecha] one frame might come out to one hour [of work]. So the effort and money the studio needs is very high. But then at the same time, we know that mecha has a very distinct fanbase.

RT: You debuted as a producer on the Turn A Gundam compilation films. But you’d worked with director Yoshiyuki Tomino before. Can you talk about your experiences with him?

YK: The first time I worked with him was on V Gundam doing designs and artwork so naturally I talked with him a lot. He was a very unique individual.

I actually think that V Gundam and Turn A Gundam are similar in essence. How Mr. Tomino felt at those times were what made V Gundam so dark and Turn A Gundam so light. But that might have also been because there were so many young staff working on Turn A Gundam compared to V Gundam.  

Also with V Gundam, Mr. Tomino was very stressed and it felt like the staff didn’t know how to fully work him then. But by Turn A Gundam we understood Mr. Tomino very well. So we would make suggestions and propositions to him that would get implemented into the show. In a sense, we knew a lot more about what he wanted by Turn A Gundam. 

An example of this from Turn A Gundam are the stories of Kihel Hime and Dianna Soliel. These two characters were in Mr. Tomino’s script from the beginning but we had a meeting about how to make the characters even more unique. It was actually in that meeting that we came up with the idea, because of them having similar looks, of them exchanging places. And then Mr. Tomino went back and rewrote the story.

RT: In recent years, many Sunrise shows including Code Geass have had a season break between Part 1 and Part 2. Do you think this has changed anything in the way stories are told? Do think this break has been a positive change for productions?

YK: The break is generally a good thing for the staff who get very tired when doing long stories like that.  

Code Geass was actually planned to go through one year straight. But that was going to be tasking on the staff so we asked the TV company to please let us have a break in the middle.  

Because of this, the second season started out differently than we had originally intended in the one year straight version. 

An important thing to consider when taking a break was whether the audience would come back to us. We would need to think up ways to get the audience to come back even after a break. 

RT: Code Geass has had many side stories through light novels, manga, and other sorts of media to add to the world. But Akito the Exiled is the first big anime side-story so far, what about Akito’s story made it fit as the next anime for the franchise?

YK: We thought what would be needed in a Code Geass anime to make it different. Akito the Exiled has a very different note. And if it wasn’t different there wouldn’t be too much meaning in making it an anime. We wanted to breath new life into Code Geass.  

This is actually something we learned from Mr. Tomino. When he was working on a new property, he would never do something that was easy. Akito seemed to be a difficult thing to animate and we took the challenge.  

Goro Taniguichi director of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion said that he hoped Akito [directed by Kazuki Akane] would be where new fans came into the series. So by doing that we hope there will be a bigger audience for Code Geass as a whole.

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