Your Name. Here

hisui_icon_4040_round Makoto Shinkai is a fairly well-known anime director. He has enough name recognition that people outside of the anime community actually know his name. His films regularly appear at film festivals and win a good deal of awards. He even gets the always sort of awkward next Miyazaki title along with Mamoru Hosoda. Overall a fairly enviable career. That said I think his films have always been a hair’s breadth away from being super successful. As I have mentioned they win awards and critical praise but they always seem more art house darlings than blockbusters. But all of that changed last year. Your Name was the fourth highest-grossing film of all time in Japan and the highest-grossing anime film worldwide. In fact, this little joke from the recent Fate/Grand Order short pretty much says it all:

To sum up the scene Your Name is just the go-to reference when you want to talk about financially and critically successful anime.

So with several other anime and manga making reference to the movie, and it generally just getting praise left and right, I really felt a NEED to see this movie. When I was able to see it at the New York International Children’s Film Festival I knew I had to go. Would this be the next 5 Centimeters Per Second or more like the new Children Who Chase Lost Voices?

Continue reading

Otakon 2016: 20 minutes with Producer Koji Morimoto

There are two men named Koji Morimoto currently working in the animation industry. They both have many years of experience under their belts. We interviewed producer Koji Morimoto not to be confused with the director.

Mr. Morimoto has been a producer at Bandai, and has worked on titles such as the .hack franchise, Galaxy Angel, and New Getter Robo. One of his most high-profile projects of late has been Under the Dog. While it was not the first anime to get funding through Kickstarter, it was definitely one of the biggest. We asked him about his experiences with crowdfunding as well as several of the shows he has worked on over the years.

Continue reading

Otakon 2016: 15-minutes with P.A.Works’ Kenji Horikawa and Kazuki Higashiji

Like it or not most studios develop a reputation for what to expect from their output. If you say one studio people may think frequent cuts and head tilting, whereas if you say another they may conjure an image of kinetic action animation. With P.A.Works someone could picture anime containing painterly backgrounds as the backdrop for love polyhedrons.

But people often admonish merely looking at the studio name when evaluating a show as it ignores all the series that are outside of the preconceived notions. While GlasslipNagi-Asu, Tari Tari, and True Tears live up to the P.A.Works image, it overlooks shows like The Eccentric FamilyCanaan, and Shirobako. In fact, their 10th anniversary show Kuromukuro is actually a giant robot anime. None of those shows easily fit into the reputation.

At Otakon, we were able to talk with founder and President of P.A.Works Kenji Horikawa and art director Kazuki Higashiji. You could see this as an interview with the brain and the heart of the studio. Mr. Horikawa is an instrumental part of the direction of the studio while Mr. Higashiji is responsible for many of the backgrounds that are so emblematic of the style of the studio.


Reverse Thieves: P.A.Works is celebrating its 10th anniversary. What was the philosophy of P.A.Works when the studio was founded?

Kenji Horikawa: It is not as if we are the only one that will fit in this category, but 90% of the animation industry is centered around Tokyo so we are in the relative countryside. And we want to send our animation from the countryside to the entire world.

RT: P.A.Works has participated in the Young Animators Training Project, what do you think of the program? How does P.A.Works mentor its young talent?

Kenji Horikawa: We believe in raising up our young talent and hope they can make a living.

In terms of raising those young creators, in America I believe there is a well-set curriculum, but in Japan that curriculum has not entirely been established yet. That is something we are aiming to improve.

RT: The Eccentric Family has a unique style which is a bit of a departure from many other P.A.Works shows.

Kenji Horikawa: Yes, the character designs of the Eccentric Family are not the kind of the current age. It’s not exactly what the fans are used to. They were made more for movement and animation and perhaps more similar to something we had in animation a generation ago.

RT: How familiar were any of the staff with the novel beforehand? Was novelist Tomihiko Morimi involved with the anime production at all?

Kenji Horikawa: I am personally a big fan of Tomihiko Morimi. Prior to the project, we placed a lot of books throughout the studio.

Mr. Morimi checked the character designs and the flow of the story as well as looking at the storyboards and whatnot. So yes, [he did quite a lot].

RT: Sadly, the Eccentric Family novel is not translated into English so we haven’t been able to read it.

Kenji Horikawa: Even in terms of Japanese, it is written in a unique way. Many of Mr. Morimi’s fans come to his works because of that style. I’m not sure how well it could be converted to English and keep the unique style.

RT: P.A.Works isn’t really known for robot shows, so why robots for the anniversary project Kuromukuro? Was it a challenge for the artists to draw mecha?

Kenji Horikawa: Robots have a long history in Japan. We didn’t actually plan for it to be the 10th anniversary anime but it happened to coincide.

Many guys like to draw mecha and the skill level to draw it is a bit different. P.A.Works has many women animators, but we saw that they were perfectly OK with huge robot stuff. And this could also be seen in the fanbase. Kuromukuro has a significant female fanbase, too.

Kazuki Higashiji: [I think it is a challenge]. In the past, I took part in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and contrast that with Hanasaku Iroha which is also sort of realistic. But we try to draw things a bit cooler in a mecha atmosphere.

In a mecha series, there are also a lot of characters on the allies side, the enemy side, and many settings. So all of that can be very taxing for the creative side.