The Man Behind the Modern Doraemon: An Interview with Atsushi Takahashi (Animage, July 2017)

HughThis interview was originally published in the July issue of Animage, 2017.  The interview was translated by Twitter user @HwpMatthews © 2017 Wave Motion Cannon


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Interviewer: Yuichirou Oguro

“I’d like to ask about this person’s story” No. 194

(9/5/2017) Tokyo, Shin-Ei Animation

Watching Doraemon the Movie 2017: Nobita’s Great Adventure in the Antarctic Kachi Kochi, I expect there would have been many fans who were surprised at how the story made them swell up with emotion. The screenplay and direction of this movie comes from a man who originated from Studio Ghibli and went on to play an active role in studios such as Madhouse, Atsushi Takahashi. Before working on Kachi Kochi, he was mesmerizing audiences with the gorgeous visuals of Blue Exorcist: The Movie. He saved his ambitious work however, for the Doraemon TV series. In this interview, I attempted to ask him about his thoughts towards his career and the series he has worked on up until now.

oguro and takahashi


Oguro: Did you think to yourself “I want to work in the anime industry,” back in your student days?

Takahashi: I hadn’t really taken that thought into consideration. Up until I was around a middle-school student, I liked anime, but I was a little cut-off from it when I became a university student. I then got a job in an ordinary company and was working as an employee, but I knew from reading a magazine that (Hayao) Miyazaki did something at a school called Higashi-Koganei sonjuku. When I applied for that school, I felt myself getting closer to the industry.

Oguro: What sort of things did you study in Higashi-Koganei sonjuku?

Takahashi: How to draw storyboards, and other techniques in the same vein. From there, I was taught things like how to work without getting your soul crushed (laughs).

Oguro: From Higashi-Koganei sonjuku, you went on to Studio Ghibli with Masayuki Miyaji and Masashi Okumura didn’t you?

Takahashi: That’s right. We were on the final stage of production for My Neighbours the Yamadas. We were told, “since you guys have rather abruptly entered the movie’s last stage and haven’t seen all that much, watch us for around 2 months.” (laughs) I then sat on a seat and started doing phone duty among other things.

Oguro: You next worked on Spirited Away together with Miyawaki as an assistant director, right? What sort of work did you do as an assistant director on Miyawaki’s film?

Takahashi: Spirited Away was a film converted into digital, and because I had come from computer related work, a lot of work I did was in the line of digital support. Around when Miyazaki was working in analog, he would draw layouts in the same way, but I was faced with him proposing “because we’re doing it digitally, wouldn’t it be good to divide it up like a book?” It’s a lot of work for him to thoroughly look over each and every cut.

Oguro: When Doraemon the Movie 2017: Nobita’s Great Adventure in the Antarctic Kachi Kochi was being released, I felt like the coverage that was coming out didn’t seem to ask, “is he living off the experience from Ghibli?” Just how did this situation come about?

Takahashi: (laughs) They didn’t really ask that, did they? “Do you still feel influenced by Ghibli films?” is the thing I was asked. Since Miyazaki is the man who created Japan’s current layout system, I’ve heard many first-hand stories about him. I do like over-hearing conversations like, “How did he get it to this point?” How did the time-sheets get into that sort of form, or for what reason did it change into that? Wouldn’t you say that studios function well due to the layout system that Miyawaki and Isao Takahata created on Heidi, Girl of the Alps?  Where we create two sheets of layout from a copy machine and then separately transfer animation and art to them. You could have changed the person who was there, but it wouldn’t change a thing. I think that is incredible. I joined onto films that came from the system Miyazaki created, but this kind of system have been influencing me ever since. For a current example, during Kachi Kochi I was suggesting that “I want to make the storyboards” and then it seemed like they started telling me, “Eehh!? You’re not supposed to do that sort of thing!” (laughs)

Oguro: It seems as if you create things based on the creative philosophy from each of those films

Takahashi: Yeah, because there was a huge amount of people involved in it for a long time, making little changes in the middle of production would have been impossible anyway. So the first creative meeting is really quite important, especially in a feature length film.

Oguro: What caused you to resign from Ghibli?

Takahashi: I think that the other people who left Ghibli are also the same, but just because they were doing assistant unit direction for the most part; didn’t mean they became directors at the company. As (Kitarou) Kousaka who was an animation director on Spirited was going to make Nasu: Summer in Andalusia at Madhouse, I came to a small feeling of, “Right, I’ll also go together with him.”

Oguro: Did you do storyboards and episode direction for Madhouse’s Hanada Shonen-shi and Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi?

Takahashi: I joined Madhouse so I could participate in Nasu, but since it took a little while until I could move to the Nasu studio, I was like “I want to work on something”,  which then allowed me to participate in something. The first series I worked on was Hajime no Ippo.

Oguro: Is there a considerable difference between the creative philosophies of the Ghibli films and other TV productions?

Takahashi: Rather than it being like Ghibli or some other thing, Hajime no Ippo was largely produced using analog production methods. It felt like we did things in various different ways. Even the workload in correcting one cell sheet is completely different. Excluding that, the working environment along with the schedule was different.

Oguro: After that, you stayed at Madhouse for a little while. In your opinion, what were the biggest productions that you became involved in?

Takahashi: Excluding Nasu, it would have to be MONSTER, Paranoia Agent, and Kemonozume. Wouldn’t the most interesting one have to be Kemonozume? It was like we just did whatever we wanted to on a whim (laughs).

Oguro: You did episode direction for episode 3 of Kemonozume looking over and reviewing the episode, but it’s a masterpiece.

Takahashi: Is that so? Why thank you very much.

Oguro: Director (Masaaki) Yuasa did episode direction for episodes 1 and 2, didn’t he? With that being the case, the other staff doing episode direction for episode 3 seemed to be looking pretty comfortable, but it wasn’t anything like that. It was a touchy situation, even though the atmosphere was pleasant.

Takahashi: In addition to bringing in live-action elements, it’s because we were trying out various new things. There was the feeling in episode 3 of “I’ll just do the things I want to do until I’ve finished it”. You don’t get many jobs like that. When I was working on episode 3, I was thinking things would be okay even though episode one and two still hadn’t got off the ground yet.

Oguro: I see, so the creation of Yuasa’s episode 1 and 2 progressed together at the same time.

Takahashi: Since they were progressing at the same time, Yuasa was in a state where he didn’t know how he would pull it off; “we can do it within this scope” was the sort of feeling he had working on it. Kemonozume with the exception of episode 3, was interesting to work on since there were various things we were able to do. You were directing a part along with (Michio) Mihara doing animation or something like that (Note 1)

Oguro: The prologue was rotoscoped, wasn’t it? The show had a vibe to it of “Let’s do all these weird things”

Takahashi: That’s what it was like. It seemed like we’re asking ourselves, “What if we could do these other different things”.

Oguro: What sort of work did you do on Nasu?

Takahashi: I was credited for unit direction, but given that Kousaka was doing both direction and animation direction, in reality I was more like an assistant unit director. He did a final film check on all of the cuts. Since we had switched over to digital, everyone was in a place where they weren’t sure whether it was a good thing. If we did the film now, we would be applying gradation onto each character during filming, but at the time that kind of thing hadn’t happened yet. Therefore each cut had to be joined together in one go using Photoshop, putting in parallax and gradation settings cell by cell. The amount of layers grew to a nightmarish level (laughs).

Oguro: If that happened today, until you can rely on the cinematography staff to do it, you would be putting in the settings yourself.

Takahashi: Yes. If it were done now, I would be something like a cinematography director. Back then the culture of the final film check was still around so the kind of thing I’d expect to be doing was episode direction. When the process progressed like that, the cinematography studio Cosmos told us to, “draw all of the sheets”, I itemized the things I wanted to do, made a memo of the timesheet and other similar information, and kept a record of the sheets. That was enjoyable in of itself. As the production turned to digital, we very suddenly came to a total stop on the remaining sketches, which made me feel uneasy at the time. Due to that, we were dividing up all the cells separately into slides, coming up with various ways to do it. Since I looked over every single cut, it served as good experience.

Oguro: RIDEBACK was your first series as a director, wasn’t it?

Takahashi: During that time, I didn’t take it lightly.

Oguro: It’s not unreasonable to think that you were keen about “being a series director!”

Takahashi: Since I had a solid grasp of the source material, rather than contemplating how to approach the story, I was going to take on the big challenge of combining 3DCG and hand drawn sketches. As the CG Company that I expected to be at the center of the production was resigning from their role, we were repeatedly backtracking on the production, and back when I completed it I felt like it was just pretty passable.

Oguro: During this period, your self-awareness a director still hadn’t been brought out quite yet.

Takahashi: That’s right; it felt like what I was doing was more an extension of episode direction. Since I was doing everything in my own style up until that point, giving out instructions to people working on the show is something I had trouble with.

Oguro: Wakfu is a French TV series from Ankama Studio. You did a special episode as the director; didn’t you put in a great deal of work to make that episode?

Takahashi: I certainly did, it was a job that I put a relatively decent amount of time into. The French animators drew onto image boards, and while a great deal of ideas were getting pumped out, I was progressing with the feeling of, “right, I’ll go do this then” while I was working on it.

Oguro: Doesn’t it seem like you had a vision like, “I want to make it with this sort of style”

Takahashi: What makes you think that?

Oguro: The impression it gives off as a manga movie is rather strong, isn’t it?

Takahashi: You’re right. Kachi Kochi also took on (Hiroshi) Shimizu who had a big part in doing character design and animation direction that time. It’s a series towards kids, and since French animators are people who employ the full animation style, it would be filled with motion anyway. “If that’s the case, let’s make a production that shows accurate movement” was the motto.

Oguro: To begin with, aren’t you the type of guy who will start off with “I wanna do this kinda thing”?

Takahashi: Rather than spelling out all of the stuff I come up with from the start, it seems like I just work easily within a framework. That felt like my tendency up until now.

Atsushi Takahashi interview blue exorcist

Oguro: For your first film as director Blue Exorcist: The Movie, you were doing the construction of the setting, weren’t you?

Takahashi: I think I did have that degree of control. But however, the content of the film is intrinsically related to the original manga, and the series had a TV show come before it. I couldn’t ignore that things had gotten to that extent, and I couldn’t betray the fans that had seen the TV show. If I could do it now, I expect that I might just be able to approach it better with more familiarity, but back then I had the feeling that I was creating it while being under a lot of limits.

Oguro: In Kachi Kochi, you would expect that there are a lot of people who think that people are entranced by the animation. Don’t you think that on Blue Exorcist, you were already demonstrating some of that skill?

Takahashi: So about that, a long time ago this is what I would have felt. Rather than an artistic personality, I guess I’m the type who creates based on the culmination of skills I have cultivated at the time. I don’t quite understand it myself.

“It wasn’t just coming up with ideas from the heart, but also exploring ways to implement those ideas that was interesting.”

Oguro: After Blue Exorcist, I was thinking that you would be moving on to creating your next impressive feature-length film, but in the following year, you started participating in the Doraemon TV anime, which was a little bit surprising to me.

Takahashi: (laughs) I was at a place where I hadn’t yet decided what I would be participating in next, and since I had received a Doraemon script, I decided to participate in the show. It’s interesting how Doraemon is Doraemon. The character is proportioned simply, meaning the animators can move him around easily. So called beautiful girl anime aren’t really like that, but take for instance a cut where Nobita is standing up and running towards your viewpoint. Even though key animators would for convenience’s sake have him stand up for a moment and stagger him up and down a little bit, the acting that they’re drawing resembles running. These sorts of things are incredibly fun to do. During Blue Exorcist, all of the people who drew funny key frames seemed to originate from Doraemon. For characters that are tall from head to body, having them run normally is pretty difficult, but as Doraemon has simple looking characters, studying their movements is bound to be easier. It’s because of this that people are raised on this show.

Oguro: It looks you were saving up your ambitious work for the Doraemon TV anime from 2013 until 2015. You were in charge of the Doraemon birthday special for 3 consecutive years, and they were separate original episodes where you were also writing the screenplay. Did you have some reason to take part in such a thing?

Takahashi: If I talked frankly about these stories, you’d had the plans for other companies’ movies, and subsequently they’d be saying to me, “you can’t take on a postponed job” (nervous laugh). Those plans will have utterly broken down by the end, but they weren’t long term jobs at the time. Since the birthday special was a job that lasted around half a year, I was allowed to do anything. As Doraemon had allowed me to do an original episode, I also had a level of personal freedom with it, which made working on the episode fun.

Oguro: For an original episode, is an episode director able to partake in scenario briefings?

Takahashi: At least in the birthday special, the episode director in charge is able to partake in the scenario meetings

Oguro: The Giant Dora-Racoon at Midnight was one edition of the Doraemon birthday special. This is also a story you were involved in creating, right?

Takahashi: In the first stage we settle on the general framework of an episode with things like “Perman arrives on the scene” or “Doraemon transforms into a giant”. From there, we have a scenario briefing where we speak out our minds like, “right, can we not do it like this?”

Oguro: The animation when Giant Doraemon climbs up the tree is rather dynamic.

Takahashi: Since extensions of normal life are just boring, we proposed to put in a giant tree house and have a giant Doraemon climb it.

Oguro: The illustrator (Yoko) Tanji seems to have participated in your Doraemon from here on out (Note 2)

Takahashi: That’s right. In her we have a person who has an animator’s as well as a designer’s sense; you don’t usually get people like that. We eventually request the staff to apply concepts to the anime design but if I can rely on the pros’ based on the first image or design, I get the feeling that I can rely on them.

Oguro: The guest character Nina from The Giant Dora-Racoon at Midnight and Karla from Kachi Kochi resemble each other in the way their facial expressions are rendered, don’t they? Despite being quite lively girls, their mouths become huge when they open them. I wonder whether that comes from Tanji’s designs or from your episode direction.

Takahashi: I think it’s my episode direction. If an elementary school boy unexpectedly comes across what seems to a friendly adventurous girl and she turns out to be meek, then there’s not much you can do with that. Lively kids are easier to make. Isn’t there just much more you can do that? Because it’s a film aimed towards children, it’ll be dull if beautiful girls just act like beautiful girls, so that’s why Shizuka and the other characters shouldn’t overlap with each other.

Oguro: In a similar vein, Lapis from the Doraemon birthday special called The Brief, Yet Epic Battle 100 Miles Underground also gives off the same kind of vibe. As far as you’re concerned, do these girls from Fujiko properties follow in your image?

Takahashi: I think I follow my own image of Fujiko’s characters. Besides, I just dislike these kinds of gentle beautiful girls.

Oguro: I think that the ever-changing personality of Karla in Kachi Kochi is linked with how the film comes across. The drama in Kachi Kochi really isn’t a damp squib, is it?

Takahashi: Originally Doraemon wasn’t really that sort of gentle world. We could have made the movie gentler, but I don’t think that would be Doraemon like, so this time we removed that aspect completely.

Oguro: Kachi Kochi doesn’t wimp out on the drama, so I was relieved that furthermore it’s an interesting part of the movie.

Takahashi: As far as kids are concerned, the tear-jerking drama doesn’t really affect them. This happens every year, but when I go to the cinema, the mothers are crying their eyes out while their kids are asking with a grin, “Is mummy crying?”

Oguro: (laughs)

Takahashi: What parents would consider a good scene; kids would just be restless in. So this time we decided to get away from being aimed towards kids. If kids can enjoy watching the movie, their mothers can also return home satisfied. Since it’s important to parents being brought to the film that their kids won’t be moaning about it, we decided to take it in that direction.

Oguro: Let’s go back to the Doraemon TV episodes. During “The Brief, Yet Epic Battle 100 Miles Underground”, I was impressed at the interesting animation that kept coming one after another.

Takahashi: I didn’t do this for The Giant Dora-Racoon at Midnight, but ever since 100 Miles Underground and the specials thereafter, I’ve gone off to do research. When I go to do work on Doraemon, normally I don’t get the permission to do research, having conversations with specialists, even though those conversations are interesting. During 100 Miles Underground, I was going everywhere, investigating how the Tokyo subway was made and so on. I also fished around for and bought books to read through.

Oguro: Were you also doing research for Nobita’s Cardboard Space Station?

Takahashi: I was listening to a story from scientists who launched rockets at JAXA (The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and also taking their supervision on board. By utilizing formulas that did orbit calculations, if they said, “If we do it this way, it should be correct” I took it on their authority. Through these jobs it wasn’t just coming up with ideas from the heart, but also exploring ways to implement those ideas that was interesting. It seemed like I was just buried beneath a bookshelf of science magazines when I was creating the episode.

Oguro: Did you ever have the thought of doing Doraemon with the intrigue of science fiction like visuals?

Takahashi: Just now we brought back the discussion of “creating techniques”, but from before I joined the Doraemon anime, I thought I wanted to do more precise layouts. Deciding the eye-level and what sort of height the camera would be at, how many millimeters the lens would be. I was a little aware of these things, but don’t they give off a sense of realism? I’ve always said that I want to do these things.

The Man Behind the modern Doraemon An Interview with Atsushi Takahashi (Animage, July 2017).jpg

Oguro: After being involved in the Doraemon TV series, it seemed to have been decided that you would be the director on the Kachi Kochi movie. In relation to the creation of the Antarctica setting, you were given proposals from the Fujiko productions side.

Takahashi: Until that movie came along, Antarctica hadn’t really been a location we visited, and while (Fujio F.) Fujiko was alive he said, “if there was anywhere I could go to, it would have to be somewhere like Antarctica”. Since there was a gadget in the manga called the Ice-work trowel that was introduced in the episode “Little House on the Big Iceberg”, we took a new approach to it, reaching out and gathering up motifs from various places. I wanted to go on a research trip to Antarctica, but due to budgetary reasons it would have been rejected (laughs). So because of that, I went to the National Institute of Polar Research in Tachikawa. Eventually (Hideki) Miura was allowed to request research material by the captain of the Antarctic hibernation squad, and there was quite a lot of it. It told us about how Antarctic ice moves, and we were also given supervision about which direction the ice faces. Going inside the ice however is a total fantasy.

Oguro: There must have been plenty of ideas for the fantasy part of it. How was the story composed?

Takahashi: Each week we had a screenplay meeting up to around the half year point, in which we gradually settled on the screenplay. It was here that we brought out ideas, judging whether we should keep them or not, and for the following weeks we would adjust the screenplay being like, “Let’s do this way.”

Oguro: Did you take part in those screenplay meetings?

Takahashi: They progressed along with the Fujiko productions guys and the Shin-Ei animation producers. If someone at Fujiko production asks me something like “don’t we have these sorts of gadgets?” I’ll respond with “Where’s the volume that gadget came from?”, and since they respond instantly, I could still progress despite having to rely on such a process. It’s possible that as Fujiko Sensei drew in the era of rental libraries where he was reading comics from long ago, he would be suggesting in a “Let’s put this story in” kind of way.

Oguro: He must have been referencing some incredibly ancient comics, huh?

Takahashi: Didn’t the Doraemon movie contain a bit of Fujiko Sensei’s serious sci-fi elements? I was searching around in the direction of “don’t we have still unused material?” I introduced the concept of the snowball earth by thinking along the lines of, “If he was here now, wouldn’t Fujimoto Sensei hold on to this?” In some ways over the six months of screenplay meetings, we didn’t just come up with something emotionally moving, but I also feel like we had created a vibe where every day we were all equally contributing ideas.

Oguro: There was a large amount of foreshadowing throughout the movie; the story was rather densely layered.

Takahashi: Since kids have an amazing ability to concentrate when watching a movie, it puts us in a position to can cram in a larger, fitting amount of information. In the story, the evidence of a past Doraemon is pieced together. We had also planned for discovery of Doraemon frozen inside the ice at the beginning of the movie.

Oguro: So there was also a plan for a story of the true Doraemon being frozen for 100,000 years

Takahashi: That’s right. But since that would have been too upsetting, it was my opinion that it should be scrapped, and we decided that the frozen Doraemon would be a fake. It was settled on while discussing it with that in mind.

Oguro: In the fandom, people were saying, “doesn’t this seem like Cthulhu?” concerning Kachi Kochi, but what would you say about that?

Takahashi: Given that I haven’t read the Cthulhu novels, there isn’t really much I can say about that. As for whether the influence of Cthulhu on the movie is felt, we may have been indirectly influenced by it.

Oguro: Did the octopus like monster that came out in the beginning take something from Blizzaga?

Takahashi: The many guardian deities in those ruins give off an image of protecting each respective domain.  Along with the image of extinct giants stretched out lying in the middle of those ruins, we had plans for other guardian deities, but we weren’t able to fit them within the scale of the city, so they were cut.

Oguro: What kind of involvement did Yoko Tanji and Hyogonosuke have?

Takahashi: I took on Image boards that they drew. First off, when I had a talk with Tanji she told me, “Since this will be a little difficult on my own, I’ll be bringing another person along soon to make a duo,” she had brought along Hyogonosuke. “Please make me an image of the scenario here,” is what I had requested of the duo, in 3 to 4 months they drew around 60 images. Since they had been progressing in tandem with the screenplay, there were also some drawings I couldn’t use, but if I had still got those drawings from before, the staff members would have been able to sharing those images among themselves.

Oguro: How did Hiroshi Shimizu become the character designer?

Takahashi: Over the last several years, he had been switching roles from director to character design, but he couldn’t keep that system going concurrently with last year’s production. So as he was standing up to be just the character designer, I heard him out.

Oguro: Did Shimuzu also include the main character Nobita along with the guest characters when redoing the designs?

Takahashi: He was allowed to draw him. Since the most recent Doraemon movie had the characters appear more adult-like, I requested him to, “lower their heights a little bit”. After that, I proposed to “make the designs a little more simple” to ensure that animating them wouldn’t become too hard when there were 5 people on screen at a time, since there would be a lot of movement cuts for each one of them.

Doraemon_2005

Oguro: The character designs are simple, but despite that they seem to have plenty of charm to them.

Takahashi: Yeah. Nobita also changes his clothes throughout the film, and if the wind is blowing, his hair flutters with it. When we were doing the film, we were trying to keep the base as simple as we could, given that the amount of information was increasing. During the process, Shimizu had managed to find some common ground, so I thought it was great he was drawing something that he could accept.

Oguro: With the exception of the point you just mentioned, did you have some sort of movie you personally want to make?

Takahashi:  In the Doraemon TV series, there are limits to the schedule among other things, and I wondered to myself, “If I could do this on a film scale, that’s how I would do it.” I wanted to do the show in that kind of way, but there was a large amount of things that I just wasn’t able to do.

Oguro: Is that referring to the animation part?

Takahashi: Sure is. It’s due to the huge number of sheets we use. Doraemon is a TV series, however being flexible about the number of sketch sheets makes for an efficient production, but despite that I have moments where I just can’t stop myself. I probably didn’t do the show like that though.

Oguro: Getting back to the story of the film, in the end Nobita and friends see the Hyoga Hyoga star from 100,000 years ago with an astronomical telescope. However, in the film light takes a light year before reaching the telescope, and I just can’t come up with an explanation of how it would only take a year.

Takahashi: Now that’s kind of complicated isn’t it (laughs). It goes without saying, but it’s a delicate issue whether or not it’d be a good idea to get to the bottom of this.

Oguro: If Doraemon had said midway through the movie, “because that star is 10,000 light years away from us, what we’re seeing is from 10,000 years ago,” the slip-up there might have been exposed entirely.

Takahashi: At one point I wrote a version of the scenario that included that explanation, but if I did that, it would have completely messed up the story. So as a result, we had to remove it.  When a Doraemon movie gets released later on DVD, kids will re-watch it many times over. So when they’re watching it for a second time, I want avoid a situation where they lose interest.

Oguro: Looks like you took re-watches into consideration, huh

Takahashi: That’s why we heavily applied music in the moment where the thawed out Mofusuke hugs Nobita. Viewers watching it the first time won’t get what’s going on, but on a second watch viewers will be moved to tears.

Oguro: I’m glad that Kachi Kochi not only had no hitch in its development, but also had a brisk pace to it.

Takahashi: At the time, I thought there was no way I could make something that would emotionally connect with kids. Won’t Kids that thought it was a long, emotional film naturally re-examine it as they become adults like, “Huh? Would this kind of thing happen so easily?” When we had a viewing of a preliminary version, as far as adults were concerned, they thought it was perhaps a little short, although for the kids it was long enough. We were aware this time that we were creating something aimed towards children. So if adults watch it, it might just seem to them like it was made to be easily understood.

Oguro: We’ve been talking about this just now, but in the climax there wasn’t really an emotional farewell.

Takahashi: When we were told stuff like, “I didn’t cry even though I’ve got a handkerchief on me”, it didn’t seem like we created that kind of movie. The adult audience also seemed to include people who gradually starting to understand the story on their third watch, as well as people who couldn’t understanding the meaning of the 100,000 light years at the end no matter how many times they watched it. Creating something that is both easy to understand and also be enjoyable to kids is very difficult. Still, I wonder whether in places where adults didn’t understand, kids would also sympathize with those feelings.

Atsushi Takahashi interview Animage, July 2017.jpg

Oguro: You have had 2 credits as a director of feature-length films, but how was your response to them?

Takahashi: Right. I seemed to be in a good place considering that at first I had thought of a theme that I wanted to tackle and was capable of doing.

Oguro: What kind of theme?

Takahashi: Movement etc., mainly that kind of thing. I wanted to employ an on-screen methodology that was different compared to the movement on TV anime. It was great since we could do all sorts of things. My own level of experience had also solidified at that point.

Oguro: As for the main reason behind the success of Kachi Kochi, is it in large part due to having serious discussions about the screenplay for half a year?

Takahashi: Besides that, I’ve been on the series for a period approaching three years, so the various kinds of experience I’ve built up regarding Doraemon is huge. It’s not just with content either, but also with arranging where the staff are, Shin-Ei animation are somehow a company where the top brass understands that it doesn’t really play a big role.

Oguro: I see now

Takahashi: If you suddenly start participating in a series, for instance you start wondering where you can find a cinematography company that will take on the job, that’s the sort of place you start from. It’s not only those things either, it’s also thinking about how relieved you’ll be that the production was smooth.

Oguro: Please confirm to us what you are going to do from here on out. Does it seem like you want to approach your work?

Takahashi: Kachi Kochi was the first time I wrote a scenario for a feature-length film, and since there are various things for me to reflect on, I think a good job is one where you can make the most of your current level of experience.

Oguro: Don’t you have a genre that you’re fixated on?

Takahashi: At the moment I don’t have anything in particular. Rather than genre, I get fun out of screenplays and such, I feel more inclined to be in that kind of space.

Oguro: I think there are many cases where a story will become over indulgent if a director writes the screenplay, but Kachi Kochi wasn’t that sort of case. It felt like you were approaching the story from the audience’s perspective

Takahashi: Personally, I want to write screenplays, but I don’t often get the chance to meet interesting screenplay writers. Balancing the animation for an anime screenplay is difficult. There are many ways to put in endings that seem to fit nicely in the screenplay format, and more animation seems to have followed along with this, so it’s good that film productions also have screenplays that are suited to anime. I don’t know myself, but there may also be people who write these sorts of screenplays. If I could request people like that, then there would be no need for me to write.

Oguro: What type of director do you personally think you are?

Takahashi: Now how do I answer that? As far as what type I am, I feel like I already want to do things a little acrobatically. If I could dance around things with ease like Yuasa, I think that would be great. As for how I approach things, I want to have some sort of dynamism as a creator

Oguro: In person Yuasa would be saying, “not like that,” but if you look beyond, it seems like he uses various different techniques effortlessly.

20170804_2019561Takahashi: Yeah. If he wasn’t like that, then I think he wouldn’t be any good, would he? After all, up until now it seems like he tends to become beholden to a sort of “promise”.  I think about whether his movies really become interesting if they burst open with more of a bang.

Oguro: If you could, would you also want to go and make movies from this point onward?

Takahashi: If it’s TV, wouldn’t I then have to give up the many things that I want to do? Given that the things you can do increases when you’re making a movie, if I could do those things then I want to go and make movies.


Notes

Note 1: In the prologue of Kemonozume’s episode 12, live-action film was rotoscoped over. In this interview it is reported that Oguro did direction for the live-action part. Oguro participated as literature staff for Kemonozume.

Note 2: Yoko Tanji drew the pictures in the picture books that appear throughout Blue exorcist: The Movie


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