Interview: Akiyuki Shinbo (Animage February 2005/Vol 320)

The following article was originally printed in The February 2005 issue of Animage. The interview has been translated by Hyun Park © 2016 Wave Motion Cannon

-November 6th, 2004 at a pub in Shimoigusa, Tokyo

“To describe Director Shinbo in one sentence: He is a visualist who overwhelms his audience with maniacal visuals. Titles such as The Soul Taker and New Hurricane Polymar are his representative works. Last year, he presented three new shows one after another, starting with gothic-lolita horror, Le  Portrait de Petite Cossette, and two avant-garde moe anime, Magical Girl  Lyrical Nanoha and Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase. As such, he became one of the most active directors in 2004. As for coverage, we conducted our interview at a pub near an anime studio at his request. With some drinks, we listened to his story in a relaxed atmosphere.” -Yuuichiro Oguro

Profile: 

shinbo-picBorn in September 27, 1961 and raised in Fukushima prefecture. Akiyuki Shinbo went through Tokyo Designer School after high school, and then entered animation industry. While being affiliated with a certain animation  studio, he moved to Studio One Pattern. After participating as animator, he made his episode direction debut with Mechanized Fencer Mushashi Lord.

He presented both unique and tour de force works in Yu Yu Hakusho, and then selected as the director of Metal Fighter Miku as he was  acknowledged by his talent. Afterward, he directed numerous OVA and TV  series. His representative works are New Hurricane Polymar, Starship Girl  Yamamoto Yohko, Tenamonya Voyagers,Soul Takers, and etc. Last  year, he was very active with presenting three titles, Tsukuyomi: Moon  Phase, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, and Le Portrait de Petite Cossette.


Yuuichiro Oguro: Shall we start with your old story first?

Akiyuki Shinbo: Ummm…I don’t like to tell my old story that much.

Oguro: Then let’s make it simple. Did you want to direct before joining the animation industry?

Shinbo: I was interested in direction, but I didn’t know what kind job it was.  When you’re just watching anime, for example, there is that blinking effect of  white and black colored background right? I liked that kind of stuff when I was in high school.  (TL Note: Well known example of this effect is infamous Pokemon Seizure Flash)

Oguro: That’s like, two different colored backgrounds are filmed alternately?

Shinbo: Yep. Like, I really looked at those cuts carefully, such as action scenes. Things like a normal-colored screen turning monotone, I liked those of visuals.

Oguro: Wow.. That’s very spotty story right there (Smiles).

Shinbo: (smiles) I like those screens and, like, I thought, “I wonder if that’s what direction people do.” Maybe that’s why I don’t have interest in story content that much.

Oguro: So you’re a visualist from the very beginning.

Shinbo: Ummm…It could be it.

Oguro: So, what made you to decide to make things on your own?

Shinbo: It wasn’t much. I just didn’t want to be stuck in the countryside (smiles).  I became old enough to go college or find a job, and that’s maybe why I ran away from there. Even at vocational school, I just went without carrying a particular dream.

Oguro: You became an animator before trying direction.

Shinbo: I thought it was faster to enter the industry as animator. However, I couldn’t draw very well. I didn’t have good sense with drawing. The manga I enjoy are by Hiroshi Motomiya (Salaryman Kintaro, Gin no Otoko) or Ikki Kajiwara (Ashita no Joe, Tiger Mask), so maybe that’s why my taste was different from people around me.

Yuuichiro Oguro: No wonder. Among people who like anime, you’re more in line with mainstream.

Shinbo: What I like and what I do for work don’t align together, do they?  Actually I would be happy if something like Otoko Ippiki Gaki Daisho is made.  (TL Note: Otoko Ippiki Gaki Daisho/’Lone Wolf is the Kid Boss’ is 70’s shonen manga by  Hiroshi Motomiya)

Oguro: Even now, you like comics by Hiroshi Motomiya and Ikki Kajiwara.

Shinbo: Uh huh, those are fun to read.  (TL Note: Hiroshi Motomiya and Ikki Kajiwara are popular Shonen Manga  artists of 70’s. Ikki Kajiwara is famous  for creating whole new genre of sports themed manga, Tiger Mask, Ashita no Joe, and Star of the Giants.)

Oguro: So it wasn’t like you started animation work by aggressively following works such as Yoshinori Kanada’s.

Shinbo: Hmmm… I liked watching anime. Even though my drawing were clumsy, I had my heart in it. I liked Kanada-san’s and Akio Sugino-san’s art.

Oguro: You like Sugino-san’s work as well?

Shinbo: Absolutely. Around that time I was watching shows like Galaxy  Express 999 or Treasure Island and I thought, “Animation is so nice.” Then as you were watching, you get to know things like, ‘this is where guy named  Kanada worked on’.

Oguro: You weren’t watching live action films?

Shinbo: I…almost don’t watch film at all. Sorry.

Oguro: No, you don’t have to apologize (smiles). I was certain that you like films  and thus able come up with such visuals.

Shinbo: It’s very recent for me to buy movies. Nowadays you can buy  movies on DVD without feeling burdened. More like, not having a copy doesn’t stick well with me. So I have tons of unwatched movies.

Oguro: You entered production after vocational school, and then you went to  Masahito Yamashita’s Studio One Pattern. (TL Note: Masahito Yamashita is an animator who gained popularity among anime fans for his flamboyant action sequences in shows like “Urusei Yatsura”. Studio One Pattern is a subcontract animation studio where he is affilated with.)

Shinbo: That’s right. I was offered to play together with Yamashita-san. At  that time, I was just aimlessly dragging around and thinking, “maybe I’m not  good enough”, and then it became possible to direct. (smiles) Really, it was  that sort of feeling.

Oguro: You made your episode directorial debut with Musashi Lord, didn’t you?

Shinbo: He told me that Studio Pierrot was looking for episode directors and allowed me to participate with thought of, ‘let him do it when there’s a chance’. Perhaps it’s more like I didn’t struggle much to reach the goal.

Oguro: After doing such ambitious work in Yu Yu Hakusho, your first directorial  work is Metal Fighter Miku.

Shinbo: That’s right. I can say this now, but my Miku directorial work came  in middle of production. Didn’t we talked about it before? (TL Note: Originally, Metal Fighter Miku was proceeding with pre-production with other director, but dropped out so Shinbo. Oguro heard the story from Shinbo during the time of Miku‘s premier.)

Oguro: Yeah. I asked you that time when I was doing the coverage, and I wonder  now if the article mentioned it. Looking back, how was Yu Yu Hakusho for you?

Shinbo: Hmmm… even you ask how it was, I definitely can’t look it again. Looking back, I wonder if I could have done it better now. (smiles)

Oguro: Like Doctor’s episode in Yu Yu Hakusho (TL Note: Episode 74, ‘Sleep, Doctor, Sleep: Bring Down the Territory!!’ An executive producer who watched the episode by coincidence later appointed Shibo as the director of Metal Fighter MIku), wasn’t your style already perfected there? With the special color schemes and fluid movement and all?

Shinbo: It wasn’t just me, it was Atsushi Wakabayashi who was the animation director at that time. I wanted to use black and add a lot of movement, but I still think Wakabayashi-san’s help was huge.

Oguro: But still, Yu Yu Hakusho was the work you put quite an effort into.

Shinbo: You’re right. I was putting utmost effort into it.

Oguro: You’ve got quite a number of episodes under your belt.

Shinbo: For many of the episodes I was able to do direction from storyboards drawn by Motosuke Takahashi. Being able to work on Takahashi-san’s episode, I feel really grateful. I didn’t know anything about directing, so I asked him to teach me all kinds of stuff. After all is said and done, I think Takahashi-san has became my mentor.

Oguro: For a maniac like myself, I’m just happy for the Shinbo & Wakabayashi team  episodes, but young female fans were bit too much.

Shinbo: Oh, right right (smiles)

Oguro: Not only that, you handled the episode where Hiei is the star. (smiles)

Shinbo: You’re right. Because the characters are different from usual.  (TL Note: Hiei and Kurama are the most popular characters among  Japanese female readers of Yu Yu Hakusho.)

Oguro: But somehow young viewers of our web site (Web Anime Style) are now  saying things like Yu Yu Hakusho is awesome after they watched it.

Shinbo: Is it really okay to watch it now? Isn’t it too old? Hahaha (Laughs)

Oguro: It’s not new, but it’s good to feel the surging power of production staff.

Shinbo: But still, it’s all animators’ strength. Like Wakabayashi-san or Masayuki Yoshihara-san. I think I only accompanied them.

Oguro: Afterwards, you’ve made a variety of OVA titles. Which one is the biggest project to you?

Shinbo: Biggest? You mean as in greatest?

Oguro: Like, being memorable or raising the bar.

Shinbo: Hmm, I wonder which one… What the hell did I do after Miku…  (smiles)

Oguro: Well… Like Debutante Detective Corps or Twilight of the Dark Master.

Shinbo: In terms of raising the bar, it was Devil Hunter Yohko episode 2. I was making it with Yoshimitsu Ohashi whom I worked together on Miku, and that was fun. Unlike me, Ohashi-san was constantly being  adamant with color scheme.

Oguro: Oh really?

Shinbo: Perhaps Ohashi-san was being stubborn about color scheme as a draftsman. Like, if you put shadow in the background like this, then I want character’s shadow to be like that. Alternatively, he was very obsessive with adapting character and background shadows and such. Because I like really bold shadows, his detailed method was a learning experience to me. You see, my taste in color is from manga. Like, old school Shonen manga color pages. Even in four-color prints, there are cases where red screentone shows  up on yellow background, right? That was what I wanted to do. Until I met Ohashi, I wasn’t too interested in making realistic images, so perhaps I did that for bit.

Oguro: For your 90’s work, shows like, New Hurricane Polymar

Shinbo: I wanted more time with Polymar.

Oguro: That’s also your masterpiece.

Shinbo: I wonder. However, the story ended at a standstill, so I wanted to make a continuation. I teamed up with animator named Mamoru Sasaki, and with him, another change came along. To me, perhaps his influence was the biggest. A feeling of change in what’s on screen and atmosphere.

Oguro: Anything in particular?

Shinbo: It’s a fancy positioning of an object on the screen. Even though that was surprisingly normal to me, like Sasaki-san smacks a forefront object, or like showing a character retreating inwards by dabbing an object, and so he was making interesting layouts (TL Note: “Smacking/dabbing” is placing an object in front of the subject for  composition.) That was really cool. That was big influence on me as it was evolving into my way of making on-screen composition .

Oguro: As for your work at the end of 20th century, there was Tenamonya  Voyagers.

Shinbo: It’s because Tenamonya was interesting. It’s all due to partnering  up with talented people like Sasaki-san and Yasuomi Umetsu-san or Masashi Ishihama-san.

Oguro: In terms of story content, how was it? It’s an original story, isn’t it.

Shinbo: Talking what really happened, we were supposed to make three more volumes. We wanted to end it properly. We even set up the next scenario. The content itself was trashy, but I thought that the trashiness was interesting. I don’t know how it’s related with what we just talked about, but I have a place in my heart for Detatoko Princess.

Oguro: Oh really? Sorry, but I didn’t watch volume three.

Shinbo: It’s story that features something called Health Demon.

Oguro: That’s sounds like a trip.

Shinbo: Uh huh, but I’m not making it up. There is something about it that I like.

Oguro: Until now, no matter which side you’re on, you’ve been making cool things.

Shinbo: Ummm, of course I wanted to make cool things, but I had strong feeling on wanting to make things without thinking this and that. And, I hate making ordinary stuff. Those are the two reasons.

Oguro: So from there you went for wacky on-screen composition .

Shinbo: That’s right. I had a thought that it would be better going that way. It’s like a fear of making it ordinary and becoming like others. So for a moment, I felt  like, step back and continuously search from different direction.

Oguro: When you were searching other than wacky composition, you got to work on Detatoko Princess.

Shinbo: Uh huh. I thought it’s okay to be both simple and frivolous.

Oguro: Next one I want to hear about is Soul Taker (TL Note: There are episodes which look rough and unfinished during TV broadcast that were redone for video release.) When it started, I watched it with “Oh my god, it’s here!” excitement. In terms of visual  and story content, I think your stubbornness is very prominent in this work.  However, it was like you just couldn’t hold it in any more.

Shinbo: I should say! (bitter smile) I could’ve held it in a bit though.

Oguro: What did you want to do with Soul Taker?

Shinbo: I wanted to make it so that every cut was a ‘visual’. That’s why I focused on composition, I wanted make it official as long as it fits well no matter who draws the picture.

Oguro: So no matter who draws the picture, it becomes really cool visual.

Shinbo: Even if it’s only sub characters that aren’t drawn similarly as the main character, the viewers notice. For this reason we used a flat plane for composition; when you attach perspective views, both good and bad  perspective views show up explicitly. Anyone could draw if perspective view is not attached, or that was the idea. On the other hand, I wondered if that idea would be passed down to staffers.

Oguro: Visual Director Toshiaki Tetsura-san, who passed away not while ago, didn’t he design individual compositions?

Shinbo: That’s right. Unless a background only cut looks interesting, there is no need to make a background. I talked about it with  Tetsura-san. If a scene shows someone’s house, then it’s shown as background only.  But if that picture is boring, then just putting a caption of ‘certain someone’s  house’ is good enough, isn’t it? Because animation is made with pictures,  it’s better making a show without such part. Even now it has remained as my theme. Live action films are already interesting, aren’t they?

Oguro: Like those CG or Special Effects?

Shinbo: Including those. Things that could be done only in animation now are starting to be done by live action little by little. And their ways are interesting, aren’t they? Nowadays, you can make Gaki Deka and Tensai Bakabon in live action. Bring in people like SMAP to those, it’s set to bring serious  attention. Thinking about how to carry out animation is what I find attractive. So as for Soul Taker, I wanted to construct on-screen  composition with ‘nice pictures’ and that was the real intention. I wanted to  make it in style of ‘as long as pictures look good’.

Oguro: On Soul Taker episodes 1 and 2 you accomplished those goals though.

Shinbo: No… I don’t know… But I was making it with those thoughts. I just brought out what I thought without letting it stew. Although they were ideas that weren’t further developed, I just threw in everything that just came to my mind.

Oguro: So you intentionally didn’t develop ideas?

Shinbo: I only brought things out without letting them stew. It’s okay to develop it  further the next time the chance comes along. But at the time I created with the feeling of just bringing out whatever comes into my mind.

Oguro: Not only with visuals, Soul Taker‘s world view was interesting,  isn’t it. How did you setup that aspect of the story?

Shinbo: There are cases which I didn’t make decision to the end. Because I have teamed with screenwriter Mayori Sekijima several times, I was confident that he could organize it properly. He also did a good job organizing Yamamoto Yohko, prior.

Oguro: On Soul Taker‘s episode titles are needlessly insane, who decided on them?

Shinbo: That was me. In short, I like that kind of stuff. Same for the Yamamoto Yohko. Going back to the story, I wonder it’s okay to reveal some of that. The part where protagonist puts on his cape, that’s from Kosuke Kindaichi, which came from Hiroshi Motohiro’s Ore no Sora.  It’s a story about finding one’s sister and his past. (TL Note: Kosuke Kindaichi is a famous fictional Japanese detective created by Seishi Yokomizo, a renowned mystery novelist.)

Oguro: Oh, I see.

Shinbo: I even told character designer Akio Watanabe-san that “It’s fine to have protagonist wear geta sandals” (smiles)

Oguro: In fact, the protagonist became more detailed.

Shinbo: Something like that. Still, that outfit is from that concept. Indeed,  even Watanabe-san was like, “Geta sandals are a bit too…” and it ended up becoming that way.

Oguro: Soul Taker has those intentions, but you couldn’t take all of them in.

Shinbo: Uh huh.

Oguro: Then after Soul Taker, you left an impression that you disappeared from the animation industry for a while.

Shinbo: (Smiles) Even I became tired of work.

Oguro: (Smiles) Was it really like that?

Shinbo: No, more like I started to get tired. Simply put, the next project didn’t come.

Oguro: Is it because of the chaos in the second half of Soul Taker‘s production?

Shinbo: Perhaps that was the reason too. I don’t think it could’ve been helped though.

Oguro: Because you focused too much on what’s on screen and that’s probably why each production department got scared.

Shinbo: How could that be (bitter smile)

Oguro: Next thing you made was Triangle Heart OVA.

Shinbo: Before that, I was making VA part of Triangle Heart series. It was a song project which Nanoha was doing a sort of protagonist promotion.

Oguro: I didn’t know about that. Nanoha from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha?

Shinbo: Uh huh. As I did it, it became surprisingly pleasing to me. I realized that I could do something like this. The method wasn’t like Soul Taker‘s, but going back to the visual focus like I had with Miku.

Oguro: It has somewhat of a cute feel to it, doesn’t it?

Shinbo: Uh huh. So if I watch it, I would be totally embarrassed. Another thing was the difference between Widescreen (16:9) and Standard (4:3) screen size. After Miku, I’ve been considering composition in widescreen aspect.  Even if actual screen was standard size, I’ve been conscious of widescreen aspect when making my compositions. However for that music clip I changed my mind, and I did it with standard size framing in mind.

Oguro: Being conscious of standard aspect ratio you loosened up the composition?

Shinbo: No, it’s different. TV shows use vertical arrangement in composition. Widescreen is more of a horizontal arrangement. I made Nanoha while being conscious of vertical arrangement.

Oguro: When you did that, that felt good to you.

Shinbo: Uh huh. Still, it’s all about using widescreen and standard aspect in discerning way.

Oguro: In 2004, you presented three new shows, Le Portrait de Petite Cossette, Lyrical Nanoha, and Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase. Were they planned to be released at same time?

Shinbo: No, nothing like that.

Oguro: For example, was Tsukuyomi‘s broadcast planned for right after Nanoha was over?

Shinbo: No, when each broadcast was decided independently. If it hadn’t been then then probably both of them would not be shown.

Oguro: I know, I’m asking about a single title at a time. For example, Cossette is in line with Soul Taker‘s route .

Shinbo: It wasn’t intended that way, really. Because it’s new, I started with a thought of wanting to make it without bringing in previous ideas, but as result I’m pulling in various subconscious ideas.

Oguro: I thought, like, atmosphere is exactly the same as Soul Taker.

Shinbo: Perhaps the staffers are all same.

Oguro: Even protagonist’s voice is from the same person, isn’t it?

Shinbo: That’s kind of strange, isn’t it? When I was drawing the storyboard, I wondered if protagonist could be voiced by Mitsuki Saiga-san. However, the character is a normal college student type, it’s not like I made it a point to have such a female voice actress. Although I didn’t mention it to people around me, I felt that the protagonist wasn’t much different while I was drawing storyboard.

Oguro: Le Portrait de Petite Cossette is just a full version of Soul Taker, isn’t it? (laughs)

Shinbo: I think it turned out like that as a result. A show such as Cossette is somewhat Soul Taker‘s little sister. In terms of content, I realized that both shows share a dual relationship. That wasn’t known to me while  I was making it, but after the completion I was bit surprised by it. I thought that Cosette could be Runa (TL Note: younger sister of Kyosuke Date, the protagonist of Soul Taker). So wouldn’t it be awesome if fans get to watch the both aspects.

Oguro: Shinbo-san, what is your stance on Nanoha?

Shinbo: Nanoha is Masaki Tsuzuki’s own world- the setting is done well. From the beginning, I thought of following his intention by making it as close to the concept images as I could. However, I wanted to put in my own elements for display, so I added a little.

Oguro: Your own element as in visual aspect?

Shinbo: That’s right. Instead of ‘I want to do this way’, Tsuzuki-san was  proceeding with thought of ‘wouldn’t fans be happy about this method’. That  was another learning experience for me.

Oguro: Even in Nanoha you adjusted storyboard for each episode quite a bit.

Shinbo: Yeah, there are parts were I made adjustments. I don’t really touch the more moe parts, but I touched on the action sequences.

Oguro: I see.

Shinbo: On Nanoha, Tsuzuki-san was writing scripts for all the episodes. I didn’t know that the magical-girl genre was capable of those sorts of action sequences. So I read the scripts and they were interesting, and I was surprised. I wanted to express that feeling really well.

Oguro: Your taste definitely comes out in things like the swordfights.

Shinbo: That’s right. Nanoha is continued from Triangle Hearts VA and the Triangle Hearts OVA series. Arc Tools was the production studio on that, and they put incredible effort into making it, so it was helpful.

Oguro: Next one is Tsukuyomi. Your take on the project?

Shinbo: That’s moe, isn’t it.

Oguro: So it’s a moe?

Shinbo: Yep, moe.

Oguro: The basic story line follows the manga as it is?

Shinbo: It follows the manga as it is. As long as the original work exists, I couldn’t help it even if the flow deviates. So follow the manga as much as  possible.

Oguro: Who came up with storyboard for that opening?

Shinbo: Eveyone threw in their ideas and I asked a guy named Keizo Kusakawa to sort them out. Kusakawa-san was episode director  for Triangle Hearts vol.1

Oguro: The there was the idea to use that song by JVC Victor.

Shinbo: That’s right. While we’re in process of discussing what kind of song to use, a song called ‘Love Love Mode’ came up as a candidate for the ending.

Oguro: So it wasn’t set as ‘Neko Mimi Mode’?

Shinbo: Originally, it was a song by Dmitry From Paris. When I heard it, I  thought, ‘perhaps this is all right for opening’. At that time I remembered Urusei Yatsura. I wondered wouldn’t it be fun to make a opening like Urusei Yatsura.

Oguro: Oh I see, from Urusei Yatsura. Especially ones from the first season.

Shinbo: Yeah, I thought, ‘there hasn’t been an opening like that lately’. Another  thing that’s crossed my mind is that I make things in a 70’s style. So now the 80’s are the only ones left.

Oguro: You’re saying that Soul Taker and Yamamoto Yohko are styled like shows from the 70’s?

Shinbo: Generally they’re like the 70’s. I thought to myself as a director who makes things in 70’s style. I wanted to make an 80’s style anime. I  wanted to make something bright.

Oguro: I see. Being 70’s from that aspect.

Shinbo: Un huh. I wanted to take out the grim part and make bright Bubble Era anime (smiles) gradually. Maybe that’s why the song matched.

Oguro: Please tell us more about the opening. You applied the finishing touch very  aggressively.

Shinbo: I didn’t know it was going to be like that. That’s not something I can do by myself. It was everyone’s idea, and Masahiro Aizawa-san was great help. Not only for the opening, the whole show displays Aizawa-san’s skill.

Oguro: Now the eye-catches and ending illustrations are always different. Whose idea was to change them in every episode?

Shinbo: Hmmm.. I wonder who it was. Only time the eye-catches changed every time was when I was making Yamamoto Yohko.

Oguro: Now that you mention it, you did do that on Yamamoto Yohko as well.

Shinbo: With the eye-catches, I’ve been always thinking that it would be boring showing the same eye-catch every time. Isn’t an eye-catch supposed to get the viewer’s attention? I’ve been thinking that people won’t watch it if it’s the same all the time. So that’s how it came to be.

Oguro: Even opening changes frequently. Perhaps you were fine tuning the  opening for all episodes?

Shinbo: I changed the picture on the Hanafuda card every time, and did it as  different version for all episodes.

Oguro: That is incredible. So it’s a method unique to digital age?

Shinbo: That’s right. It doesn’t take as much time like in the olden days. Openings keep reusing the things that are already made. There is no need to be so stereotypical. It’s not about ‘gotta change it every time’, but wouldn’t it better if they were made to be enjoyed?

Oguro: Looks like you’re having fun making it.

Shinbo: You’re right. But I think being able to do that itself is incredible. It’s all from SHAFT’s effort, who is doing the production. If it was other company, then they’d probably say no. It’s a company that puts up with my  requests wonderfully.

Oguro: The A-part in episode 3 was really great. Acting is also good, and the perspective the house was drawn in looks amazing .

Shinbo: That was Nobuyuki Takeuchi’s strength. He’s really good. he even made the stage look like a TV drama set, like Kitaro Terauchi Family or It’s time. I asked Takeuchi-san to make a set where you can pan from the living room to laundry room and he finished it off. That was fun.  (TL Note: Kitaro Terauchi Family is a popular 70’s Japanese TV drama depicting interaction between a stonemason and his family in downtown Tokyo with comedic touch. It’s Time is another popular Japanese drama set in Japanese bathhouse which was broadcast from 1970-90’s.

Oguro: That stage wasn’t for sketch comedies, more like a TV drama set. However, you still have the wash basin fall. (TL Note: Having a wash basin fall on top of someone’s head is a popular Japanese comedy trope.)

Shinbo: During animation meeting, a guy from key animation asked, “doesn’t a wash basin fall?” (laughs). After I heard that, I laughed out loud. I thought it was funny and gave the OK.

Oguro: Going back to the story, the main point of Tsukuyomi is moe?

Shinbo: It’s moe. No, as moe, I quite don’t get it. Because I didn’t get it, I was listening to moe fans around me as I made it. It would be nice if you can feel that moe is there. But it’s so moe, even down to the airbrush color on the cheeks. You know?

Oguro: Huh, I don’t know. Like, this color is moe?

Shinbo: It’s like, for one situation it’s pink. For the next situation it’s orange.  There was discussion among moe fans in the company about this. It was somewhat sensitive.

Oguro: On Polymar or Soul Taker, I do think that you’re making them with ‘Shinbo Style’ by all means. With that definition, Cossette is also that ‘Shinbo Style’, but Nanoha and Tsukuyomi are different though. Basically, as a standard, they’re set to express your style only little. I think that it’s professionally restraining.

Shinbo: You mean, I wanted to be that way.(smiles)

Oguro: You want to leave it like that?

Shinbo: To be honest, because I’m not that into being an auteur, it’s more like being a programming block. I was more into making things properly in the moment.

Oguro: Oh really? So it’s not that you wanted to do it your way no matter what?

Shinbo: It’s not like that. Until now, because it was requested, I had to come up with that kind of style. I think both Nanoha and Tsukuyomi are a little different. As I said earlier, Nanoha is a project that faithfully recreates original author’s world visually, and Tsukuyomi is moe. Except for action parts in Tsukuyomi; the sponsors requested that I put in my own style a bit.

Oguro: But for me, I think that it’s good that those two shows and Cossette came out at the same time. If you only make things like Nanoha, maybe Yu Yu Hakusho era fans would be little disappointed. (smiles)

Shinbo: Oh, is that so? (smiles). Perhaps, as I balance things out, it’s like I squeeze in what I want to do . If my own style is Soul Taker, then which part I should bring out?

Oguro: You don’t have much interest in story, do you?

Shinbo: Not so much, no.

Oguro: (Smiles) Whoa, Is it really like that? Is it okay to put it on record of what  you just said?

Shinbo: No, I don’t know it’s going to do me that good. (Bitter smile)

Oguro: Therefore, It’s better to tell story well.

Shinbo: Something like that.

Oguro: It’s not good when the story is boring, but there’s none of that ‘I hate doing this kind of story’.

Shinbo: Nothing like that. If I wanted to do mystery, then I do what I want to do. I probably lean to that direction.

Oguro: Cossette is not mystery, but it has that essence.

Shinbo: Uh huh. There were parts similar to Edogawa Ranpo’s work.  (TL Note: Edogawa Ranpo is famous Japanese mystery novelist)

Oguro: Even Soul Taker has an essence of mystery. That’s also like bizarro stuffs.

Shinbo: Yeah. Like The Man Traveling with the Brocade Portrait or The Love of the Wretched. Maybe that edginess is in me after all.

Oguro: For example, if someone asks you to make a ‘Ranpo-like horror’, you’d happily do it.

Shinbo: Of course. I do think that my source of visual imagery stems from Ranpo’s work without doubt. Because I’ve been reading those since grade school.

Oguro: Let’s talk about the storyboard. You have a lot of say about color and composition, but you didn’t draw that much of the storyboard on Nanoha and Tsukuyomi. How did you convey your idea to other staffers?

Shinbo: Hmmm… I don’t tell them much, more like, it’s better to mix  participating staffer’s feelings, not only mine.

Oguro: Oh I see.

Shinbo: After all, I think it’s good that animation is made with all the staff’s  strength. Use what I’ve done as an example and leave the rest to others. So if it becomes something new again, then that’s exciting. I really don’t want to say that ‘it’s not good to do it this way’. Even if I said it, it’s boring.

Oguro: It’s better to take good care of draftsman’s skills.

Shinbo: Uh huh. Take great care of it. And I think that’s the most of it.

Oguro: Then teaming up with someone is quite a big deal?

Shinbo: That’s right. As I said earlier, it’s the graphic aspect why I can’t lose to live-action. So I don’t think much about ‘even if the picture looks terrible, it’s fine  as long as story is good enough’ view. After all, I don’t like it when the picture doesn’t look good. If the picture doesn’t look good, I do think there’s no particular  reason make it as animation.

Oguro: What is your next ambition?

Shinbo: I want to do something based from shojo manga.

Oguro: Same in line with Nanoha?

Shinbo: No, not in line with that. I want to try out various genre. People who approach me with new project- it’s not like they give their production pitch after having watched what I’ve done so far. That’s why  projects have been similar looking, but I want to try various things which are different. If they give me a shojo manga and see how it turns out. I want to see that myself.

Oguro: To me, 2004 is Shinbo-san Fever. But in retrospect, what’s it like to you?

Shinbo: I thought it’s good to have plenty of works.

Oguro: (laughs)

Shinbo: It would be great if it’s like that next year as well.

Oguro: Is it all right to end the interview with that?

Shinbo: Yeah, It’s fine. No, I’m really saved if there is a work to do. I’m  something of a freelancer.

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