Episodic Gurren Lagann Interviews with Director Hiroyuki Imiashi & co. – Episode 3 (Anime Style, January 2008)

NohArcoThese interviews were translated by Twitter user @NohAcro This interview was originally published on Anime Style on 01/25/08. © 2019 Wave Motion Cannon

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Gurren Lagann: the most talked-about, high-quality TV series of the 2007 anime world. A series into which Gainax poured all its might with the catch phrase, “the biggest robot anime of the 21st century,” and which became a new masterpiece under first-time director Hiroyuki Imaishi. Even after its initial run, the series is continuing to build its fanbase with impressive DVD sales and late night reruns. With that in mind, Anime Style presents a 27-part Gurren Lagann ‘various talk commentary interview’ web series. We were joined by both director Imaishi and assistant director Masahiko Otsuka for a frank discussion of their memories.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


Episode 3: “Who Do You Think You Are, Having Two Faces!?”

It is the first appearance of the nemesis Viral. He engages in a close fight with Kamina on the shore of a lake during the first half, and then faces Gurren with his Ganmen, Enki. It is also the first time Gurren and Lagann combine into Gurren Lagann. The silly drawings during the first combination are fabulous. The storyboards were done by assistant director Masahiko Otsuka. XEBEC is credited for work assistance, and the key animation staff is worth attention.

Script: Kazuki Nakajima

Storyboards: Masahiko Otsuka

Episode director: Son Seung-Hui

Animation director: Sunao Chikaoka, Mitsuru Ishihara

Key animation: Hisashi Ezura, Nobuyoshi Habara, Akio Takami, Keiko Fukumoto, Daisuke Hiramaki, Yuichi Oka, Kazuyuki Asaka, Taketomo Ishikawa, Kitada Katsuhiko, Takumo Norita, Eichi Endo, Satoru Nakamura, Yuko Sera, Yoko Kutsusawa, Chizuru Kobayashi, Kiyotaka Oshiyama, Koichi Kikuta, Hisashi Mori

Animation assistance: XEBEC

Imaishi: Episode 3 was a XEBEC episode.

Otsuka: It may seem like key episodes tend to be outsourced, but it’s more because there are a lot of them.

Imaishi: Right, all episodes are important, and if we talk about difficulty, episode 2 was actually more difficult. It had a lot of first appearances, and the staff had to draw Littner village from quite vague settings (laugh). Also, it was a story about humans and Gunmen, so layouts were very difficult to draw. They couldn’t be drawn if the animator didn’t get the contrast in size. In comparison, we thought episode 3 would be easier to draft. After all, the only key points were to show Viral as a cool character and to make the battle look good. The story is completely straightforward. We’d correct it with checks from the director and chief animation director and make something out of it… well, that was the initial plan. But people from XEBEC actually did an amazing job, so we almost had nothing to do.

Otsuka: They have been very helpful on episode 3, indeed.

Imaishi: Right, I’m very thankful for the care they put.

How was your experience in drawing storyboards, Otsuka-san?

Otsuka: If I remember well, this was the first episode I storyboarded on Gurren Lagann. I felt like episode 3 was from Yoko’s perspective, so I kept that in mind while doing it. For the action scenes I guessed the director would correct them, so I wasn’t shoddy but I don’t remember having put too much thought in it. So when they start brawling I handed it to Imaishi-kun (laugh) and I considered that my work was simply to show the characters right.

Imaishi: In a rough way, my interpretation was that episode 1 was about Simon, episode 2 was Kamina, and episode 3 was about Yoko.

Otsuka: In the second half, during the combination of Gurren and Lagann, when Kamina first shoves the head into the body, I was asked to put it in a little bit silly way, so I drew it like that. Then the director just passed it through, and my poor drawing style was reflected onscreen (wry smile).

Imaishi: Of course I wasn’t correcting that (laugh).

Otsuka: Well, it was funny so it’s OK, but I was a little bit conflicted about it.

Imaishi: I’m not sure how to put it, but people who are used to draw for a living cannot make that kind of drawing (laugh).

Otsuka: Besides, I wanted to make split screens. It seems like a classic gimmick for robot anime.

Imaishi: I see, episode 3 has a lot of them indeed.

Otsuka: They first manage to use communications at that moment, so it was easier to make split screens thanks to it.

There are two animation directors for episode 3, right?

Imaishi: At first, one of Gurren Lagann’s mottos was to raise young talents. Though that aspect faded away with time (wry smile). We also communicated that to XEBEC. That’s why part A is made by a new face named (Sunao) Chikaoka-san while (Mitsuru) Ishihara-san, who’s a veteran, backs him up by doing part B. I wonder if it wasn’t his first animation director work. Also the storyboards contained action in both part A and B, which was completely reckless (laugh), so maybe they also took that into account.

How was XEBEC’s animation staff?

Imaishi: This time, (Masatomo) Nishizawa-san, who was a producer on FLCL and moved from Production I.G to XEBEC, participated as a production assistant. That’s why we have such a strangely rich animation team in this episode (laugh). There are Akio Takami-san, Mitsuru Shimada-san, and if I remember correctly Hisashi Ezura-san made 60 cuts only in this one. The assistant was bringing me the progress table as usual, and as we organized production meetings, there were more and more animators listed on the chart. And one day, there was the name “Habara” written on it.

Otsuka: Ha ha ha.

Imaishi: I said ‘Hey! Tell me this person’s first name!’ and the assistant told me it was Nobuyoshi, so I was like ‘Oh… this is great’ (laugh). Unfortunately he was only drawing roughs.

It must be something as an Ahi-Pro fan to have Habara-san participating in your robot anime.

Imaishi: Tell me about it. So I insisted on asking which cut he was working on, and he was properly given the scene just after the combination, so I said ‘Great!’ (laugh). If it were normal dialogues I would have had to change it immediately.

(Everyone laughs)

Imaishi: It’s exactly when there are split screens. I particularly like how Habara-san does them (laugh). He usually inserts a blank frame, and just after that portions of the screen come one after the other, and I was glad he also did that in the episode. The Gurren Lagann he draws has an unusually long neck (laugh). There are parts that aren’t supposed to exist. We were like ‘Indeed, that’s the man who worked on Machine Robo (Revenge of Chronos), he came up with parts that aren’t there’ (laugh).

Otsuka: That’s some way to introduce Gurren Lagann (laugh).

Imaishi: Ezura-san was also great.

Did he mainly draw parts with effects as we could expect?

Imaishi: Indeed. He worked on separate parts, all of them being action scenes. Like the moment Enki falls down in part B, or the gigantic explosion after the finishing move in Habara-san’s part. When he draws the villagers from Littner, all of them become stout old men, which was funny (laugh).

When Kamina and Viral fight, there is a scene where Kamina draws a sword so long he does not even finish drawing it within the cut, who’s idea was that?

Imaishi: That’s something I insisted on first, to have an extremely long sword. Even when I was drawing character sheets, I wrote, ‘as long as possible, so long you can’t draw it’.

Otsuka: Did you add that scene during layout checks?

Imaishi: No, I think I added it in the storyboards, mentioning he couldn’t draw it completely within the cut despite the time spent on it (laugh). But we showed it only in that cut. To be honest I wanted to make it look longer, like in the first episode, when he takes it from the mayor’s hands. But if we insisted on that, it would have slowed the story down (laugh). The image of Kamina really was ‘a guy holding an extremely long sword’.

Donations keep the site running, if you like what you see, feel free to chip in!


Reporting days: 11/9/2007, 12/11/2007, 1/16/2008, 2/20/2008.

Reporting place: Gainax.

Reporters: Yuichiro Oguro, Atsushi Okamoto.

Composition: Atsushi Okamoto. First published: 1/7/2008.

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