The following interview was originally posted on WEB Anime Style on July 19th, 2003. The interview has been translated by Twitter user @kiirobon © 2018 Wave Motion Cannon
The final portion of the three part interview with Yutaka Nakmura (left) and head producer and president of studio BONES, Masahiko Minami, by Yuichiro Oguro.
Oguro: (Laughs) So after that you worked on Poppocrois and Blood the Last Vampire.
Nakamura: Ah, Blood right.
Oguro: What parts of Blood did you do?
Nakamura: For Blood It was the part where the chubby police officer was dragged away by a vampire in a tree above him.
Oguro: The police officer… Was that the one where the doctor said “Oh that’s what makes you charming so it’ll work out somehow,” right?
Nakamura: Right, right. That was done in 20 cuts.
Oguro: You didn’t work with IG all that much did you?
Nakamura: I worked on Bakuretsu Campus Guardress. Other than that, I don’t think I did anything else.
Oguro: And then your name popped up on Popolocrois.
Nakamura: For Popolocrois I only helped with numerous cuts.
Oguro: And in 2000 there was the movie version of Escaflowne right? You were in charge of the action sequences.
Nakamura: That’s right. At first I was just doing additions over the storyboard, and it was a real time consuming job. After I got the storyboard from the director the amount of pictures in it had increased substantially.
Oguro: I see.
Nakamura: As far as the art and action are concerned, I had several ideas of my own. Though to keep myself from going overboard, I had Takei Yoshiyuki-kun check my work.
Oguro: The finished work was pretty impressive, at the time I found myself wondering who drew it.
Nakamura: The music really saved us there. From start to end, one person carefully made it work, from coming up with ideas and consultation… it was a project that advanced like that. There was scene in the movie that I myself felt like was my own. However when I saw the finished film, the terminal was dark and I couldn’t see what it was I drew. (laughs) The animation staff did their best on the back cuts and whatnot so it was a shame I couldn’t see it. It was one part I wish I had more time for in reflection.
Oguro: Did you draw on Medabots too?
Nakamura: I was on Medabots twice. It was with Andou Masahiro-san as the director, for five cuts on the final episode.
Oguro: What part of the final episode did you do?
Nakamura: The part where the enemy baby’s robot came out somehow, there were quite a few cuts so I don’t remember it too well, sorry. (Laughs)
Oguro: No, no, it’s fine.
Nakamura: If I had to take a guess, for that other cut…
Oguro: What kind of episode was it?
Nakamura: It was during the tournament episode during the finals I think. (Episode 49 – The world tournament finals.) During an action scene that had 20 cuts or so.
Oguro: During the movie version of Bebop there was a series of action scenes gathered together, right? You participated in the action scenes, storyboard and as the action animation supervisor. What parts of the storyboard did you draw?
Nakamura: For the storyboard, it was the part where Spike ran around with the mop in the hospital, the monorail scene, and the Alba tower.
Oguro: So it was you who storyboarded the mop scene too huh? The key artist for that part was Umakoshi Yoshihiko-san right?
Nakamura: That’s right. Umakoshi-san and Suzuki Norimitsu-san drew the key frames. I was the one who started the storyboard, but they were good enough as just roughs. They really scolded me about not doing proper storyboards though. (laughs bitterly)
Oguro: I see.
Nakamura: At first we were told to use the director’s (storyboard). The sentiment at the meetings I went to was that’d be good enough, but when they placed the three stacks of scenario on the table, the director had an expression on the verge of tears, when he looked at it. “Wh—What’s this” he asked, and he was told “We’re leaving it to you”. His response was just “Um…okay”. (laughs)
Oguro: I see, but the monorail part had an incredible perspective and composition for something not drawn by the director. (laughs)
Nakamura: The storyboard’s composition had nailed things down to a certain degree. Itou Takeshi-san did the key frames, but the modeling of the monorail was done by yours truly.
Oguro: So your art was used for the sake of constructing the CG layout, huh?
Nakamura: That’s right. It was surprisingly difficult to get accurate shots on the computer screen.
Oguro: Sounds like there were some difficult cuts there too. The monorail scene was completely Itou-san’s key frames, right?
Nakamura: Itou-san and Tamakawa Tatsufumi-san. The second half was Saitou Hisashi as well. After that there were other people I think.
Oguro: Yes, yes. You drew the key frame for that par yourself, yeah?
Nakamura: I didn’t draw the key frames, but I did fix them as well as redrawing all of the cuts.
Oguro: In the middle when Spike and Vincent pointed guns at each other, and then went at each other mano-a-mano, that fist fight was all your key frames right?
Nakamura: Hmm…yeah, I was the one who fixed that one up.
Oguro: The mop scene you mentioned before, that was based on Umakoshi-san’s key frames, right?
Nakamura: For the most part it was Umakushi-san’s key frames.
Oguro: I thought that was Umakoshi-san’s first experience with Bebop but his art seems to flow right into Bebop doesn’t it?
Nakamura: For example, if there was an action scene where the picture stopped, and I asked, “Could you add to this picture,” or “I need a little more here,” or something like that, Umakoshi-san would draw an additional bit to it.
Oguro: When I talked to the man himself, he said it was a work with lots of hurdles, and that compared to your parts it was….well…
Nakamura: Huuuh? It wasn’t like that! His work was exceptional! The way the mop twirled was right on the mark, and when I wondered how we’d deal with the storyboard, Umakoshi-san’s art always met or exceeded my expectations.
Oguro: How was the tower scene handled?
Nakamura: The tower scene was half done by Eguchi Hisashi, with the middle done by Itou-san, the other half by Andou-san.
Oguro: You didn’t draw it yourself?
Nakamura: There were parts I edited, but I didn’t really do anything for Andou-san’s part. There were parts I wish I had been able to do like Andou-san, because he has an exceptional dramatic style. Beyond that I just added some extra parts the storyboard (As well as drawing over the layout) I was the one they asked to, “Expand this cut to about this extent,” by adding a bit to the rough draft.
Oguro: I see. So you were almost a director in a sense. Moreso than the actual director. (laughs)
Nakamura: It was the one thing I probably shouldn’t have thought, but yeah, something like that.
Oguro: So you wouldn’t say that the art direction supervision was ‘a lot of repair work’ then?
Nakamura: I wouldn’t. The storyboard for the most part was supposed to be something we could mostly take for granted, so it felt like the key artist who supported us with their art were essential.
Oguro: After that you participated in Rahxephon.
Nakamura: That’s right, yeah.
Oguro: (Minami as PD) had his ‘secondary key system’ for Rahxephon, but what kind of system was that?
Minami: For example at the time I saw the series, I thought if I could have ten people like Nakamura Yutaka, that’d be great. Though he was the only of his kind.
Minami: However it was just him, though I felt it was a series I wanted to put out if I had an animator like him working on it.
Oguro: So basically it was giving him more lead roles that lead to the creation of the two key system, huh? (NOTE: It’s having the first key drawing as a rough, and the second as a clean copy that finishing would be done on.)
Nakamura: I’m not all that fast, so it would take me time to work through all the cuts, so for one rough there would be a lot cut. Then the animation would be drawn over the key art. It was a bit presumptuous, but I got key art practice with it.
Minami: Young artists now are troubled by drawing key frames. When I was young I’d just scribble away at it, but I wasn’t so great at it. There aren’t many people now who can do 100 cuts on a TV anime now.
Oguro: Sounds like big trouble.
Nakamura: The anime around when I was young had one person doing about 100 cuts. For anime nowadays that’s a little difficult.
Minami: The secondary key system made it so that even a young animator on their own can draw one key frame as a rough sketch –a foundation.
Oguro: I see. And that’s how you were able to complete Rahxephon, huh?
Minami: No, overall I still think it was pretty scattered. Though that scattered nature of the series was pretty fitting, I think.
Oguro: Nakamura-san, would you say that Rahxephon was like returning to mecha animation?
Nakamura: That’s right. At first it took me a while to get back into the feeling of doing it. Sano-san’s art had powered up too.
Oguro: It might just be that my observation is lacking, but as a Bebop fan it was hard for me to grasp your role in Rahxephon.
Oguro: Raxephon was different than other robot shows up until that point in that the finishing tone wasn’t entirely uniform.
Nakamura: Yeah, that’s right. The parts that Sano-san was involved in had a “why not try this” sort of plan for its construction, so everyone sort of did what they wanted. (NOTE: Sano Hirotoshi was the animation director of Rahxephon.)
Oguro: The way episode two ended with the enemy coming out was kind of crazy dramatic wasn’t it? Though I can tell right away that was your work wasn’t it?
Nakamura: You’re right. (laughs) Episode two had about 60 cuts.
Oguro: You were fundamentally in charge of the mecha animation, right?
Nakamura: Yes. I did numerous character cuts on episode five or so.
Oguro: Around how many cuts was each episode?
Nakamura: The second half of episode one had about ten to twenty cuts? (bitter laugh) My drawing was a bit slow, so I just about barely made schedule. (laughs) There were several times that if I did the finishing on my own I wouldn’t have made it in time. The ending (primary key art) was done by me despite my name not appearing on it. I did most of the second key frame art too. (laughs)
Oguro: Then, your place was drawing normal key frames?
Nakamura: Yeah, just normal key frames. Pretty boring huh? (bitter laugh).
Oguro: When drawing the key frames, how a sense of unity be established? Through Sano-san’s edits?
Nakamura: For picture unity, there was Sano-san who was involved with Dooremu, Takeuchi Shiho- kun was in charge of the air crafts, so there were two people in charge. These two would check every episode taking on an unholy amount of work. I thought to myself that I’d do my very best in my drawings so I wouldn’t bother them.
Oguro: Lately, those who are crazy about animation talk about Overman King Gainer “Transform Dominator!” (Episode 14) as a work that can never be forgotten.
Nakamura: Of course Rahxephon is tied to this, so I’m going to spit out how I feel here…it’s great I was involved in such a fun work.
Oguro: What part were you in charge of? It’s gotta be part B, right? Part A’s dominator and golem fight was Terada Kaichirou-san, right?
Nakamura: That’s right. My part was after Sushio-san’s part had ended. When Gainer had appeared with a dominator in front of him. The back cut of the dominator spinning as it transforms.
Ogura: I see. The B part fight started off with Sushio-san, and after that was you. The mecha part was yours, and the dramatic cut of Cynthia in the cockpit was Sushio’s right?
Ogura: Was the part where the dominator’s legs stretched you as well?
Nakamura: That it was. The part with the legs stretching bang-bang-bang-bang as well, up until the end when Pudding appeared.
Oguro: Pudding had some impact, huh?
Nakamura: Yoshida Kenichi-kun’s said, “King Gainer action requires a wide breadth, so whatever you want to do is okay.” The storyboard where the dominator became slime was pretty exciting, as was the cut where Gainer sucked it in. “If I do this what will Yoshida-kun say,” is something I thought. I should say, that if I came up with two of the same rough drafts, I could hear him saying, “No work a bit harder on Pudding.” (laughs) “Ah, is this really okay?” I thought.
Oguro: Ohh that’s incredible. So the leg stretching was in the storyboard?
Nakmura: The leg stretching was more or less in the storyboard. The expression was directed by Yokoyama-san, right?
Oguro: No, King Gainer‘s 14th episode had several animators on it.
Nakamura: (laughs) That’s interesting, huh? There was a lot of thinking like, “Is this okay for me to do…” the power of youngster’s zeal.
Oguro: Youngster’s, huh? (laugh)
Nakamura: Well aside from me, everyone was quite young.
Oguro: But Yoshida-san is the same age as you right?
Nakamura: Yoshida-kun was younger than me though. Terada-kun is 24 right?
Oguro: He’s that young? That long shot with the old man riding the Golem as it runs and kicks, that was him at the helm, yeah?
Nakamura: Yeah, to sum up his layout, it’s something like asking the question, “How to do this and keep it interesting?” and answering “No, it’s okay to laugh here. If it’s meant to be seen and laughed at.” After hearing that one line from him, I thought, “This dude is seriously terrifying.” (laughs)
Oguro: And now you’re working on Wolf’s Rain like someone who’s tossing a ball with their full strength.
Nakamura: Yes, I’m throwing myself into Wolf’s Rain with my full strength.
Oguro: Are you doing anything else right now?
Nakamura: Others? Hmm…well, a little I guess. I’m like the pilot of Bones productions so I do a cut or two here and there while drawing Wolf’s Rain.
Oguro: Ahh, I see. How’s Wolf going?
Nakamura: Well, I’m really bad at drawing animals.
Oguro: Like wolves, right?
Nakamura: I have to draw them though. I’d say this work is full of things I’m not so great at drawing. Despite being a mecha director, I’m not too good at cars, and I haven’t drawn animals. My animation life up until now hasn’t had a TV series like this that had so many battles. It’s a lot for a TV show. It’s like having the footholds in me raised to an unattainable point when it comes to working on drawings. Yet when I see others models, I really think it’s a miracle I’ve made it this far. (bitter laugh)
Oguro: Episode 4 “Scars of the Wasteland” was about tanks doing battle wasn’t it?
Nakamura: That had about ten cuts I didn’t do.
Oguro: Then how was that one done?
Nakamura: The cuts were taken from inside of the tank, before the wolves ran away. The machine gun’s rata-tat-tat firing as the wolves jumps above it and stab it with the ice. And then as the mecha falls was done by me. After that was done by others, and it’s pretty amazing.
Oguro: It’s something that just has to be seen. Are there any other parts in Wolf’s Rain that you think to yourself, “Ah I wish I had drawn that here.”
Nakamura: Hmm… It’s less a feeling of, “I wish had drawn this,” but there’s 11 and 16. I said it some time ago that I’d be no good ad series with animals, but somehow I was demanded to do it and I was barely able to pull it off.
Oguro: Where do you see yourself going from here? For example like doing an entire episode on your own? Or making your own film? Maybe something like that?
Nakamura: (laughs) No way. I don’t have the ability to do something like that.
Oguro: You haven’t drawn many official images either huh?
Nakamura: The chance hasn’t come around (bitter laugh).
Oguro: You did about two for Rahxephon right?
Nakamura: About two for it, yes. For Wolf there were very few official images. Kawamoto Toshihiro-san is the one who did most of them, while I had to do very few.
Minami: If you want to you can draw them.
Nakamura: You sure? I can draw them (Laughs) Are you serious?
Nakamura: Oh wow, you’re serious. Nah, I mean even if you say I can, I have a child to raise. (Laughs)
Oguro: Oh, you have a child, huh? Though to return to the previous conversation, Nakamura-san, normally someone with your skill would say, “I want to try directing a work next.”
Nakamura: Nah, Not me.
Nakamura: Nope, I mean, I’m still pushing myself to extremes to draw pictures. With the work I have now I’m always asking myself if I can make it better. This is my obsession.
Oguro: So it’s, “I want to do an action scene like this,” or “Draw a picture like this”.
Nakamura: A bit like that but not.
Oguro: I see, you’ll just think of it when it comes up?
Nakamura: Right now I’m just looking to throw the ball of my current work as hard as I can.
Oguro: I see.
Nakamura: At Bones there’s a surprising amount of freedom with what you work on. You’re allowed to work on what you like. Like if you begin to think, “Man, I don’t want to do this sort of work anymore,” Then a new project will come. I’ve drawn lots of things I never have before. Like character action scenes or wolves. I am mainly drawing what I like. Minami-san said, “That’s totally fine if it’s what you want.” And I feel like he really understands. It’s like preparing for a present before I work on something I really want to do.
Oguro: As expected from Minami-san.
Nakamura: (Because he was praised) What do you want to get?
Minami: I’d like to get Yakiniku.
Nakamura: You sure seem to be getting that a lot lately. (Laughs).
Ah, this whole interview was wonderful, thank you so much. It makes me want to rewatch series like Escaflowne and Bebop again. (Wolf’s Rain is such a gut punch for me; need a few more years distance before a rewatch.)