Now I’m back from FanimeCon 2014, my second year at the convention and I had an even better time than last year. Whilst there I attended a Q&A panel featuring Hiroyuki Kanbe, most notable for being the director of the OreImo anime.
Keep in mind that the following are paraphrases of what Kanbe’s interpreter said, though I assure you I did take comprehensive notes. Comments from myself are in parenthesis and italicized. I didn’t really keep track in my notes of when he or the audience laughed, but he did, so just don’t imagine him being too stoic or serious with these answers. Bold “I” denotes a comment from the interpreter himself rather than his interpretation of Kanbe’s words.
The Q&A was pretty simple, as members of the audience lined up in front of a microphone and took turns asking questions. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take a picture of the panel, so the picture above is actually from the “Making Anime” panel hosted by Kanbe the day after. I also apologize for the shoddy smartphone quality of the photo.
Q: A lot of people felt that the story of OreImo 2 was very rushed compared to the first season. What sort of decisions lead to this, and would you have liked to expand on any parts of the light novels?
A: For planning we had a bunch of episodes lined up, but since we only had a half season to work with we had to cut out a lot of material from the light novels in order to fit it into the amount of episodes.
Q: Which do you find more useful for studies, anime or film?
A: I studied from both quite a lot before I went into formal training to become an animator, and even when I was young I loved to draw.
Q: Favorite anime?
Q: What’s your opinion on the subject matter of the OreImo light novels?
A: When I read it I thought it was very fun topic, and that the story would very easily translate into anime. I had high hopes for its potential to be adapted.
Q: What would you say is the future of Gainax?
I: Kanbe doesn’t work for Gainax.
Q: Which part of the OreImo light novels did you feel were particularly important to convey in animated form?
A: Anytime you try to adapt a light novel into an anime there’s going to be difficulties in translating and capturing the essence of it, as you’re adapting text into art. And it’s difficult to translate this text into art while keeping it true to the image that the author and readers of the source material have while writing or reading it. I had a lot of fun with it overall. (He didn’t specify any particular moment.)
Q: Did you have any complications designing the monsters of Devil Survivors 2: The Animation, particularly since SMT is known for reusing the same designs with each installment?
A: I really enjoyed Kaneko’s monster designs from the beginning, but they were also rather old. So I edited his designs to make them more modern, rather than design something from scratch.
Q: Could you talk about the differences between working with different genres, such as action, comedy, drama, etc.
A: I definitely have a higher preference for action series, as action scenes come more naturally to me and it’s easier for me to get absorbed in them. With drama it’s tricky because you have to make everything mundane and realistic, yet still artistically interesting and fun to look at.
Q: Did you or your staff have any ethical dilemmas or get creeped out by the subject matter of OreImo?
A: It was definitely a difficult LN to adapt. Many scenes from the source material wouldn’t be airable on television if we were to adapt them, and so it was difficult trying to preserve the themes of the story while making it airable.
Q: What can we expect from you in the future as a director?
A: Of course, I’ll keep on taking as many projects as I get the opportunity to work on. Right now I’m actually working on a new show which you can expect to air in October this year.
Q: As someone who worked on Evangelion, what’s your personal opinion on the themes of the show?
I: Kanbe was just a key animator for a couple episodes of the show, so he wasn’t exactly that involved with the show.
Q: Then just what was your opinion of it in general as an audience member?
A: I watched most of the show as it aired. I was particularly impressed by the artistic direction of the series, and how it sucks you in. By the time it aired I was already working on another project actually, which was causing me a lot of stress, and watching Evangelion amplified that.
Q: Have you done any independent work, and if so would you prefer that or working for someone else?
A: I haven’t done any independent work; I’ve always worked for a studio.
Q: As someone who’s sort of seen both sides of the process as an animator and director, what’s your opinion of the current state of the anime industry, particularly in regards to the bad working conditions for animators? How can things improve?
A: I’d say the the anime industry is definitely spiraling downward, and as a genre Japanese animation might disappear. Of course, there’s still directors and senior staff who put in the best effort and quality into making a good anime, but the number of talented animators is dwindling, as less people want to become animators. I desperately want to change this mentality. It seems like more young people want to become idols and voice actors these days. I’ll do whatever I can to change it though.
Q: As you do lots of storyboarding, I was wondering if you generally just draw each storyboard in one go or if you make a lot of revisions?
I: This is a good question, but Kanbe will be doing a panel tomorrow specifically on the making of anime, so it’d probably be better to ask that then. (Unfortunately this ended up not getting asked and answered at the ‘Making Anime’ panel.)
Q: Were there any parts in OreImo where you pushed your own vision onto the show rather than just translate the vision of the author?
A: All directors have their own spin and flavor on things, so naturally some part of it is my own vision, yes. That’s just how it works with these things.
Q: Which project are you most proud of?
Q: What about other than OreImo?
A: Viper’s Creed, as that had a lot of action and was right up my alley. (These two answers aren’t too surprising really, since OreImo and Viper’s Creed are the only two shows he’s actually directed so far.)
Q: Do you have any plans to adapt anything else by the author of OreImo? (Tsukasa Fushimi.)
A: I would love to if given the opportunity.
Q: How did you start your career, and what motivated you? Like, just in general.
A: As a child I was always drawing. While I was in highschool I had a good friend who was really into anime and got me into it too, which then inspired me to pursue a career in animation.
Q: What’s your favorite OreImo character?
A: I’d say Kuroneko’s youngest sister. Though I’m very proud of how all the characters turned out.
Q: Thematically the first season of OreImo is all about otaku culture whereas the second is much more about relationships. Were there any challenges in keeping the audience interested in the show despite the shift in themes and tone?
A: With the first season we sort of used up all the major events about otaku culture, so we didn’t have much left for those themes in the second season. We figured that the quality of the story and the characters would keep people interested.
Q: Do you think the international demand and interest for anime could inspire more animators to meet that demand?
A: Just because there’s more fans of anime these days doesn’t necessarily correlate to a better anime industry, with more people willing to pursue a career in animation. Though I think it’d be great if international people got inspired to become animators and pursued that dream in Japan.
Q: When reading the light novels, which character were you cheering on the most? And if it wasn’t Kirino, how did it feel to see her heart broken by Kyousuke towards the end of the series?
A: I wasn’t necessarily cheering for just one of the characters, really. Not that I was cheering for her the most, though I did think that if Kirino got together with Kyousuke at the end it’d be more of a feel good story.
Q: Sort of a personal question, but are you still raising rabbits?
A: The rabbits have all returned to the moon.
Q: What would you say is your biggest disappointment with the anime industry right now?
A: I’m definitely disappointed with how the overall skill level of key animators is declining.
Q: For the character designs of OreImo, I’m particularly a big fan for how the eyes are drawn. Who does credit go to for that? The original illustrator for the light novels, the character designer for the anime, or the director?
A: The illustrator for the light novels and the character designer for the anime is actually the same person, Hiro Kanzaki, who worked under the pseudonym “Hiroyuki Oda” for the anime. For the anime he wanted to make the eyes simpler for animating.
Q: How is the state of the anime industry in regards to inbetweening?
A: A lot of inbetweening from the last twenty years has been outsourced to Koreans, which is another reason there’s been a decrease in the quality of key animators.
Q: What’s your least favorite genre to work on?
A: I prefer realistic and action-oriented series, so I have a hard time with series that have a lot of gags and nonsense.
Q: What’s your favorite moment throughout your career?
A: If I had to choose one particular moment, it’d probably be the fact that I got to become an animator in the first place. I feel very lucky and fortunate to have a job that I love doing so much, something which not many people get to do.
And so that was it for the Q&A session, which had a nice closing with that last question. Perhaps I’m biased since I’ve never gone to a live Q&A session with an actual anime director, but he was definitely a cool guy with some interesting insight on the industry. His comments on the anime industry and the production of OreImo were all fascinating. It’s honestly a bit harder to dislike a show like OreImo after seeing the director in person, and seeing that he’s just another cool guy making dreams come true for otaku. Though really, it was still pretty funny when he said he was proud of how all the characters turned out in the series. Sorry OreImo, we’re never going to let down that ending.
Unfortunately I was too busy partying at a maid cafe to catch the panel with Takami Akai, but be sure to expect a write up on the “Making Anime” panel with Hiroyuki Kanbe, as well as the Q&A panel with Noir.