The following interview was originally conducted by Eldur_380 from OtaCrew in September, 2016. You can find him on his personal blog, ElduRSverO.com. The interview has been translated by Twitter user @NohAcro © 2017 Wave Motion Cannon
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So first we would like to know about the advancement of Uru in Blue. Where is the project right now?
Yamaga: Well, right now we’re re-designing a strategy to sell it, so I guess writing will start at the beginning of next year, and what I’d like to do is, gather students to make a design section dedicated to marketing.
Will you make a pilot?
Yamaga: No, we decided not to make a pilot. Since it would cost money, you know.
Are you OK on the money side?
Yamaga: Not at all, we’ve not even started to get funding, so we must make material to market it.
What do you think about crowdfunding?
Yamaga: What do I think? Please be more precise with the question, it’s not easy for me to answer otherwise (laugh). No question starting with “What do you think about!” (laugh)
Sorry (laugh), couldn’t you use crowdfunding to finance the project? With GAINAX’s fandom…
Yamaga: You know, what most crowdfunded anime projects are doing in Japan is not actual funding but donation. They propose bonus like for example, I don’t know, you can have a lunch with the staff, things like that to make people donate to the project. With that process, you’re lucky if you get 100 million yen, so I think with Uru in Blue it would be hard to collect even 50 million. So… we may use it as an advertisement, but I don’t think we would collect enough to call it a funding.
But if you ask for crowdfunding all over the world, fans in Japan, Europe, or in the US could participate.
Yamaga: Well of course, if we’re doing it, it would be centered on the US, but when we see how it was done in previous cases, it’s not an actual funding. It’s more a way to exchange with the fans, so even if we did it, my guess is we would only get 50 million at best.
But if it works well, sponsors could support you, don’t you think?
Yamaga: No, it’s not that easy. You’re thinking it backwards. Sponsors come first, and then there’s the crowdfunding. It’s only advertisement after all.
I see… Next I would like to ask you about FLCL 2, at what stage is the production right now?
Sadamoto: Aaah. Well, it’s another studio so I don’t know the details either, but the director was decided, and now I guess they’re working on the script. That’s more or less where they are. Besides, for the characters, there were talks about what kind of characters there would be, and I just received the first command for the designs. And I’ve not sent the drafts yet. (laugh)
Are you only doing the designs or a little more?
Sadamoto: At first they wanted to make Haruko’s character appear, you know, the heroine of the first series. They wanted to use her in FLCL 2, so they asked me if they could use my name, and I attended the meeting for that purpose. Then they showed me all the characters there would be, and asked me how many I could handle. So… it’ll be impossible for me to do all of them, but I’m willing to help with some of the main ones.
So you won’t be doing key animation?
Sadamoto: I won’t.
Will GAINAX participate?
Yamaga: Well… if they give us work I guess it’s possible, but participating or not are words that don’t really bear meaning in the industry. Everyone delegates work, so we cannot know if someone participates or not until it happens.
When you handed the copyrights of FLCL over to Production IG, did you give all of them? I mean if there are new DVDs or Blu-Ray for FLCL, does that mean GAINAX won’t make anything out of it?
Yamaga: Well, the contract is confidential, so I can’t tell you about it, but it’s not about percentage or stuff like that.
Is it the same kind of contract as for Evangelion?
Yamaga: Yeah, like I said I cannot tell anything about the contract itself. (laugh)
Alright (laugh). The next question is about Akubi wo Suru ni wa Wake ga aru. The title is long…
Yamaga: It is, indeed.
It seems to be about diving, so what is the meaning behind the title?
Yamaga: I think it’s better if I don’t tell the meaning now.
I see, so where are we for this one?
Yamaga: For this, we’re in the middle of the pre-production, so we’ll write the script for now, and we already have some image boards, as well as some roughs of the characters. And we also have the sponsors for the most part.
Do you know how many seasons it will have?
Yamaga: By the look of the story, we would like to make it two seasons, but now in Japan it’s very difficult to make two seasons for an original anime, without source material. So for now we’re negotiating for one season.
What about the staff?
Yamaga: I don’t think I can make it public yet, though it’s pretty much decided.
Question to Sadamoto-san, is it possible could you also draw some key frames for Akubi wo Suru ni wa Wake ga Aru, aside from design works?
Sadamoto: I think it’s possible if there is something I really want to do as for Eva, but I can’t tell yet. Maybe once the director is decided, if he asks me for help on some parts…
Yamaga: I’m sure he’s going to ask you .(laugh)
Sadamoto: …then I won’t be able to refuse.
What about animation direction?
Sadamoto: For animation direction… I don’t know, right now I’m thinking about another way to expand it, like manga, in that case I’ll most likely be in charge, and animation direction would be difficult. Of course if it works well enough to have like… a spinoff, or even a movie if we have enough budget, that kind of project where I can participate in a short time span, like on one scene, in that case maybe I could handle animation direction.
Have you ever gone diving?
Sadamoto: I have.
Yamaga: I have too.
Yamaga: No, he’s not been in Egypt. I’ve been there for research, for this project.
I see (to Sadamoto) so you’ve done it in Japan?
Sadamoto: Yes, it was for a diving initiation, to watch turtles.
Do you have your license?
Sadamoto: I don’t.
I see. Moving next to the mobile game Black Rose Suspects
Can you present it to us?
Sadamoto: The official site has just opened, so I’m not really allowed to say anything more than that. I think it will be published during this year, so characters I designed should be revealed according to the schedule. Because right now I think they’re all just silhouettes.
Did you draw all of them?
Sadamoto: Not all of them, I think it was the ten-and-a-few main ones.
Alright. Can you tell us about upcoming projects of Fukushima GAINAX?
Yamaga: Well, I’d like to, but there’s only a few I actually remember. (laugh) For now we’ve made 3 episodes for Masamude Datenicle, I think, and there are more coming soon.
For now Fukushima GAINAX only had short anime projects, right?
Yamaga: Yeah, mostly projects ordered locally. They don’t have much money, so we cannot directly turn them into a TV series, thus we’re making the episodes one by one.
So will most of your projects be short anime on the internet, like you’ve done for now?
Yamaga: No, it’ll be varied.
Besides that, are there other GAINAX projects you can tell us about?
Yamaga: For now we have… Top wo Nerae! 3. Gunbuster 3. Oh, maybe this is big news?(laugh, Sadamoto laughs as well)
Really? So where is it now?
Yamaga: It’s just me writing the script now. (laugh)
Can you give us a prediction for the release date?
Yamaga: The only thing I’m sure about right now is that I have to finish writing this until the end of the year to then write the script for Uru.
Sadamoto: It’s only a project for now, more or less.
Yamaga: But I think once it starts moving on, what follows will be smooth, and it should be quite easy to collect funds for this one.
Sadamoto: At least more than Akubi. Projects which move do so quite fast.
Gunbuster 1 and 2 were completely different stories, so will 3 be different as well?
Yamaga: I’m trying to make it so that it ties 1 and 2 together, but I’m writing it right now so… it’s quite difficult.
So I guess Sadamoto-san will be in charge of the designs?
Yamaga: I can’t really tell for now, I’m just writing the script on my own, so I’ve not thought about it yet, I’ll do that once the plot is done.
Are the characters from 1 and 2 going to appear?
Yamaga: No, they won’t. Maybe very briefly, but they’re not a part of the main cast. It’s an entirely different story. Yet I’ll try to make the link on the SF aspect.
I see. We have talked about the copyrights just before, but for example, if director Imaishi wanted to make a sequel for Panty&Stocking, would you hand the rights over to TRIGGER?
Yamaga: Actually, there’s no real need to sell the rights to Trigger. In short, as long as there is a project, it doesn’t really matter who owns the copyrights, it’s all the same. People tend to misconceive this, but you can’t make something just because you own the rights. The rights move from one hand to the other on another level, so it makes no difference where the rights are when we’re creating something. People tend to think that we can make a work by just having the copyrights, but that’s not the case. That’s why for FLCL or anything else, who owns the rights doesn’t really matter when we’re making or planning something, as long as it’s not some ill-willed tier who refuses to let a certain studio make it. So TRIGGER doesn’t need the rights for Panty&Stocking to make a new one.
There haven’t been any rumors about it yet.
Yamaga: Yeah, no wonder, they’re all busy at TRIGGER, so I guess they don’t have time to make such an old show.
Next question is about Evangelion Rebuilds, do you know about the symbol of the last movie (repeat sign in music)?
Sadamoto: Just to start, I’d like to clarify my position on the Rebuilds. I’ve only done the main character designs so… (laugh)
Ah I see. It’s this (shows the symbol of Rebuild 3.0+1.0). We weren’t even able to read the title.
Sadamoto: (looks) Right, I’m sorry but it’s the first time I see it, to tell you how little my implication is.
Yamaga: Which one will it be? The third?
Yamaga: So Jo, Ha, Q, and ‘This’. I guess no one knows how to read this, I’ve not seen anyone reading it at loud. It’s ‘That’ from the Rebuilds. (laugh)
So has the production started?
Sadamoto: I really know nothing at all. I may not even participate in it.
I have noticed that one of the uniforms in Eva and the ones in Sayonara Jupiter look very much alike, did you get some inspiration?
Sadamoto: I don’t know Sayonara Jupiter at all. (laugh) Maybe I have some memory of seeing it, but I don’t remember how characters were dressed.
Yamaga: Me either. It’s the first time I hear about the similarities.
Sadamoto: Right, I wonder how they look.
It aired in the 80’s, did you watch it?
Sadamoto: I think I’ve seen it once, since I know someone who worked on it…
Yamaga: I was watching it with Sakyo Komatsu (author of the novel) (laugh)
Sadamoto: …someone called Shinji Higuchi, who was in GAINAX. He also worked on Eva, and he was an assistant of the tokusatsu director. It was Nakano-san, right? On Sayonara Jupiter.
Sadamoto: So I think Shin-chan was helping on it.
Yamaga: Yeah, he was.
Sadamoto: So I remember watching it for that reason. Sayonara Jupiter… (still wondering)
Yamaga: I can’t remember at all.
Sadamoto: I don’t know which clothe resembles…
Yamaga: I guess it’s their brigade’s uniform and NERV’s uniform, maybe.
It was a uniform in the TV series. Did you draw all the uniforms in the TV series?
Sadamoto: For the TV series, I got influence from a serial called UFO. The colors resemble a little bit.
I see. Another question for Sadamoto-sensei, who is your master as a designer and as an animator?
Sadamoto: My master… Before moving to GAINAX I was working in a studio called Telecom, and my teacher there for one year was an animator named Yasuo Otsuka-san. Other than that, when I was a part-timer, I didn’t have anyone I could call a master. I was learning the know-how from kouhais, like a guy called Mahiro Maeda. He explained me how to draw sheets, that’s how I started. I guess that’s it. The only one who really instructed me was Yasuo Otsuka-san.
Did you meet director Miyazaki when you were working on Sherlock Hound?
Sadamoto: Right, director Miyazaki was working on Sherlock Hound back then at Telecom, but I was still a student at the time, and when I joined Telecom, it was at the exact moment he was leaving to make Nausicaä elsewhere, so we never were in the studio at the same time.
So you did not help on Nausicaä?
Sadamoto: I didn’t. When I joined Telecom, they were making the second half of Sherlock without him. So I was doing in-betweens for it, since I was new.
A question about the Evangelion manga, were you completely free on the script or were you consulting director Anno?
Sadamoto: There isn’t any script. When you make anime there are the storyboards, right? We were just sharing them, so I’m on the same level as a fan. I just wrote it on my own, looking at the storyboards. So I didn’t consult anyone, and of course no one from the TV series’ staff intervened in my manga.
So, in the last page of the manga there is Mari, one of the Rebuild’s characters…
Sadamoto: Oh, that’s not in the storyline, it’s just an extra chapter for the manga volume. It’s even apart from the movies, like fanservice. Just something you mustn’t think too hard about. (laugh) It’s just something that went through my mind, I thought it would be funny if it were like that.
I see. So it was not a request?
Sadamoto: It wasn’t and… since she appeared in Jo, Ha and Q, I wondered what her role in the story would be, and when I asked the staff, they told me that it won’t be possible to really go further in one film, so they had to tie the main story up, and that Mari may have almost no screen time. So I wondered what the point was, and decided to add a little bit of her story in the manga, on impulse. So it’s really not something the staff of the movies thought about or asked me to do, just something you can consider as a play of mine.
I see, since you know, fans tend to read deep into that kind of thing.
Yamaga: Yeah, particularly on Evangelion. They think every little detail has a meaning. (laugh)
Sadamoto: Well, but of course when we see Mari in Jo or Ha and see her call Gendo Gendo-kun or smell Shinji’s odor, she’s doing many strange things. Besides she seems to like songs of the Showa era very much since she’s singing them. So my guess is, whether she’s really interested in the Showa era, or she’s born back then and has not aged since. And you know, since in Q, they introduced the concept that children who were chosen as pilots don’t age, I’d endorse the latter, saying Mari is someone from Shinji’s mother’s generation, and that she somehow became a pilot and didn’t age since. But again, it’s only me imagining all this. (laugh)
Has director Anno decided about that?
Sadamoto: Like I said, director Anno hasn’t approved or refuted that idea, he has nothing to do with what I just said.
I just realized I forgot, but who is your master as a manga artist?
Sadamoto: I don’t have a master so to speak since I learned on my own, but I guess I could call masters manga artists I liked when I was a child. So there would be Reiji Matsumoto, Go Nagai, or recently Katsuhiro Otomo-san. I’ve read many interesting manga like that and learned from it, so it shows in my own work, whatever I do.
Do you know Otomo-san personally?
Sadamoto: Yes, we live in the same district, so sometimes we meet in bars.
Would you like to work with him?
Sadamoto: Work with him… I don’t know… (laugh) it’s difficult. There was an omnibus film called Short Piece, with Otomo-san in the middle, and he asked me to participate in one of them, so I did it but he wasn’t working on that short film, so we only collaborated on the image level.
So you could participate in another omnibus work of his?
Sadamoto: I haven’t even heard if he’s still willing to work on animation.
He always says he does not want to, but in the end he comes back.
Sadamoto: Well, people around him want him to come back to animation, but it seems like he himself wants to do live action, so I wonder. Do you think he wants to work on animation?
Yamaga: Hmm… I wonder… the more people get excited the more he wants to stop.
Sadamoto: There currently are many Otomo art exhibitions all over the world, in France also. And when he’s solicited like that, he’s the kind of man who can suddenly say “The next one is the last one!” (laugh)
Yamaga: Well, anime in particular requires a lot of time. In his case he’s already spent 9 entire years on Steamboy, and now he’s saying things like “I don’t even know if I’ll still be alive for 9 years.” (laugh)
He also made a pilot for Domu live action film.
Yamaga: That’s not advancing either.
Sadamoto: When I met him last month in a bar, he was saying “I’m telling you, draw manga. From now on, manga is the thing!” like suddenly, “Stop making anime or movies, draw manga!”I don’t know if he was drunk but (laugh), I guess he’s going to draw a new manga.
But I think his manga projects aren’t advancing either, are they? Like there was a comic book project in collaboration with Jodorowsky.
Sadamoto: But isn’t that a project from 10 years ago? (laugh)
Yamaga: Well, it’s also true for us but… like we’re 54 now, and we’re not willing to retire, but we’re getting slower to draw things, so when it comes to Otomo-san or even Miyazaki-san who are even older, I know people want them to create now more than ever, but they’re seniors, so that’s impossible (laugh), they can’t create so much.
Sadamoto: Besides, they also need to collect money. Apparently he wanted to make a live-action film, but as he told me at the bar, it’s hard to gather funds.
I see. It is really difficult… but what about crowdfunding?
Yamaga: (laugh) Like I said just now, you can’t gather funds with crowdfunding! No one managed to do it, is there?
Sadamoto: Many projects try it, but for the most part they make 40-50million at best. And with 40-50 million, you can just make a commercial and it’s over.
But I think Sunao Katabuchi-san did it for his latest film, In a Corner of this World…
Sadamoto: Oh, and Imaishi did it also.
And I think he made a lot.
Yamaga: I think it wasn’t that much if I remember well.
Sadamoto: I think they’re doing it on a low budget, like 100 million.
Yamaga: Also there are several ways to do crowdfunding, as a proper funding like in this case or as donations for which you offer some prizes in return, and most of them are the latter. Indeed, sometimes there are proper ones which gather hundreds of millions, but it’s more difficult, since they’re actual funding.
Sadamoto: When there are major sponsors who really have money and are intending to invest on a project to get benefits out of it, they want to monopolize it. So they won’t get involved in projects with so many fans sticking out for it. They really want to do it by themselves. And those are structure who can give one or two billions, so it’s difficult.
Yamaga: Basically, you cannot create something with crowdfunding. There are one or two examples which succeeded, whether it’s in video game or anime, but those are exceptions. For the most part, anyone cannot launch a crowdfunding, hoping fans would all gather and contribute to their work, that doesn’t happen.
So you think it is not about collecting a great amount, but more about promoting the work?
Yamaga: Yeah, exactly. It’s more frequent to do it as publicity. That’s why I think we’re going to do it for Uru, but as an event to communicate with the fans, not as an actual funding.
I see. (To Sadamoto) We heard you liked Terry Gilliam, what is your favorite movie of his?
Sadamoto: Hum… I like many movies but (laugh), right, for Terry Gilliam it would be Brazil, or Tideland which is quite dingy but I like it as well. Also, I didn’t watch it to the end but The Zero Theorem, a recent one. I like the art in his films so yeah… there’s also The Baron… what was it? The boaster Baron?
The Baron Munchausen. Did you watch the original? The German one from during the war. I love it.
Sadamoto: I didn’t know about it. The Brothers Grimm was a little bit lacking as I remember it. And I think the first one I watched was Time Bandits. But if you ask me yeah, I think my favorite is Brazil. I’m not so sure about 12 Monkeys… I guess it was fine. He’s not really my favorite author, but someone I quite like. There aren’t many authors I really support from the bottom of my heart so… I often say that I like Terry Gilliam or Ridley Scott…
Yamaga: In our work, fans always ask us what movie or author we like, so we often have to answer even if we don’t like it that much. I think there are many people who lie in that kind of situation. (laugh)
Sadamoto: Even when I say I “like” something, it can mean whether I was moved by the story, or stimulated by the art… There are many facets to it, and it’s difficult to explain which one I’m looking at. In the case of Terry Gilliam, I like his art, or the pessimistic stories… maybe pessimistic is not the word here… I like his sad stories.
Do you prefer sad stories?
Sadamoto: I guess… Compared to recent American stories with a happy ending and the hero triumphing at the end, I guess I prefer that kind of story. I’d rather watch the life of a hopeless or evil character, yet who has something of value within himself. I think that kind of plot is more to my taste.
We often see that kind of character in American TV series now.
Do you watch some of them?
Sadamoto: I’m watching Breaking Bad right now. With all thecharacters in it, no one is morally good in the show, even the protagonist. (laugh) I’m really attracted to that.
This is something I heard from an animator, but is true that you like idols very much?
Sadamoto: (a little bit surprised) Yeah, it’s true.
Do you often go to concerts?
Sadamoto: Actually it’s not something rare in the industry, many animators are also fans, and when I go it’s often with animator friends.
What is the last concert you went to?
Sadamoto: It’s Nogizaka46, a group produced by Sony in response to AKB48. I was a fan of the latter at first, but then Sony produced Nogizaka46, and I like it very much. But I don’t like all idol groups, and actually I don’t like group idols that much in general. If I had to choose, I prefer gravure idols. Since you know, it feels good looking at them. For group idols, it’s only Nogizaka for now.
I see. Who do you go with, for example?
Sadamoto: For Nogizaka I go with Tsurumaki, who was director on FLCL, or a friend of mine who makes figures, people like that. I even went with my daughter once. Sometimes people invite me, others I go alone. The other day there was a rehearsal of a 5-girls group called Wa-Suta -I think they were from Avex- and a friend of mine asked me if I was interested, so I went. I wasn’t even a fan but… yeah, they were cute. They’re in high school you know, so they’re even younger than my own daughter (laugh). When they’re this young, all I can say is “hang on!” It’s also true for Nogizaka, but I prefer girls who have sex appeal, so… not like the powerful idol-ish kind. Do you know any idol groups?
I… know Onyanko Club a little bit.
Yamaga: Wow, that’s old! It’s like 30 years ago, isn’t it?
Sadamoto: And for the record, Akimoto-san who produced Onyanko Club also produced Nogizaka.
Oh, so Nogizaka is also produced by Akimoto-san?
Sadamoto: Right, and also AKB. Then he produced Nogizaka as a rival team himself, the first one for King Records and the second for Sony.
So, did you go together to idol concerts when you were young?
Yamaga: Me? No, I never was into idols.
Sadamoto: But there was a time when…
Yamaga: Ah right, but that was for work.
Sadamoto: Was it? You were following them around, weren’t you?
Yamaga: Yeah I tried my best at a time, but that’s it.
Sadamoto: Ah I see… But it’s quite the same for me, I’m not willing to get recognized by a certain member of a team or anything…
Yamaga: That’s the funny thing. It was interesting to observe fans in that kind of place, like “Oh, so that’s how they are.” Like when they were with their girlfriends, the girlfriends always look like the idol in question. That was pretty funny.
Who were you going with when you were working on Daicon films?
Sadamoto: Back then I wasn’t going to idol’s concerts very often, I was more into new music, like Off Course, do you know them? I was more often listening to that kind of normally enjoyable music, and going to their concerts.
Do you listen to music when you are working?
Sadamoto: I do, I listen to very different genres, depending on my mood, not only idols. Sometimes I could listen to soundtracks all day long, some other day it’s rock… I don’t often listen to heavy metal.
There was an animator named Megumi Kouno, who was working at GAINAX, someone who is good at dancing scenes.
Sadamoto: I remember of someone named Kouno.
Yamaga: I don’t talk very often with animators so I can’t tell.
Sadamoto: (asks to someone behind) Yes, apparently she was there. I vaguely remember her name.
Someone else: She was working on Im@s, at A-1.
Sadamoto: On Im@s? So she must have quit following Nishigori.
So… to return on Top 3, why did you decide to make it?
Yamaga: Hum… I don’t know how to answer…
Who decided it?
Yamaga: It was just decided like that, we were talking and the subject derived on “By the way, it’s possible to make a sequel to Top, right?” then “Couldn’t there be someone to make it?” and apparently I was the only possible candidate. It just decided like that. Even on the business side, if it’s Top wo Nerae, everyone knows it, so it was settled very naturally. Then we were talking about how to make it, and I said I had to make the script.
Sadamoto: Is it well-known that you made the script for Top 1? I mean outside of Japan.
Yamaga: I think not.
Of course, I love it.
Yamaga: Anyway, that’s why it was commonly decided that I should write the scenario. Besides, when we’re making something, we often start by evaluating its marketing potential. It’s very rare that we launch a production by just saying we’d like to do something specifically. We just get talks settled, then ask what to do next, and if it moves on with concrete results, then it’s fine, and sometimes it’s just us saying, “It’d be great if…” with no advancement behind. It’s the case for the Panty&Stocking sequel we were talking just before. Everyone says things like “It’d be great if there were one,” of course people at TRIGGER also talk about it, but we’ve no idea if the project will actually emerge. If Imaishi suddenly comes and say he wants to make it, well of course I think it would happen, but no one can tell. It’s always the case with any project, but it doesn’t really have any meaning at the beginning.
I guess it would be OVA, right?
Yamaga: Even that I don’t know… OVA doesn’t exist anymore, does it?
Sadamoto: OVA… I think they no longer use the appellation…
Ah, one last thing, (to Sadamoto) do you have a manga project in preparation?
Sadamoto: I think it will happen next year, there is something I had written in the past without publishing it. It’s a manga for salary men called Archaic Smile. It’s a kind-of office love comedy about a salary man who gets crazy about Buddhist statues. It’s really not targeted towards otaku, just something a salary man can read in the train while going to work and then let the magazine on the luggage rack… Do you know Oishinbo? It’s a little bit like that. I was asked to write that kind of manga once, and it got to the point where with one or two more chapters it could be published as a book, so I’m working on that right now. So I hope I can publish it next year, I have to draw like 50-60 more pages to make enough content for a volume. But I think it’s not something that will suit the taste of people cosplaying and all (laugh), just something to kill time.
Has your doujinshi been published?
Sadamoto: Right, I’ve recently started to use Facebook and Twitter as a part of doujin activities, thinking it would be fun to interact with fans.
Will you participate in the next Comiket?
Sadamoto: I’d like to, if possible.
Alright, that’s all, thank you very much.
Yamaga: Is it good? Alright, thank you very much.
Sadamoto: Thank you very much.