This year, NDK was able to get two prominent figures in the Japanese Anime Industry; Mr. Osamu Kobayashi and Mr. Masao Maruyama. Mr. Kobayashi is an animator and director who has worked mostly with Madhouse and Mr. Maruyama is a co-founder/producer of Madhouse as well as the founder of a new anime company called MAPPA.
Mr. Kobayashi's panel was late on Friday night. He is a very energetic man, taking pictures of cosplayers in the panel before he started his presentation. His panel was mostly made up of animation clips from various projects he has worked on and animations that have influenced him.
Mr. Kobayashi started his presentation by showing the opening (watch it here) and closing (watch it here) animation sequences of Beck-Mongolian Chop Squad. He worked on part of the closing animation sequence for the show by contributing drawings and doing some of the animation. Next, he showed the opening (watch it here) and closing (watch it here) animation sequences for Paradise Kiss. Mr. Kobayashi also created the art for the closing of Paradise Kiss. He was a bit nervous talking about this particular show as Mr. Maruyama, the producer of Paradise Kiss, was sitting with the crowd.
Finally, Mr. Kobayashi showed a couple more titles that were released in Japan only. These were some of his early work that got him noticed and allowed him to be the director for Beck-Mongolian Chop Squad. The anime titles he works on have a strong correlation between music, the way lips move when singing, dancing, and singing itself. He also seems to direct titles that have detailed city-scapes and attention to the finer details of the animation. I have watched Paradise Kiss and currently working through Beck and I got to say, that I do find his animation direction to be refreshing and visually pleasing.
Mr. Kobayashi then showed anime titles that influenced him and that he admires for their craft. Many of these titles were Japanese only releases. Some of the audience members had heard of or seen some of the titles, but most of them were the volunteers. They were mostly the translators who could understand Japanese. He is very fond of the stylized ocean waves in some anime and an admirer of Miyazaki's early works, before he came to Studio Ghibli. A work he admired of Miyazaki's was a show called Future Boy Koan from 1978. He also showed Miyazaki's animation handiwork in drawing tanks and doing the ending animation of television show that I believe was called Cuore. (Please don't hold me to that though. Everything was in Japanese in these shows and he rarely gave an English equivalent title suggestion to the translator). He also showed western influences from Tim Burton with Edward Scissorhands, Disney with Alice in Wonderland, and the bike sequence from Tron.
He closed his panel by showing the car chase sequence from Castle of Cagliostro. If you haven't seen this crazy, hectic, physics-defyingly beautiful car chase, then I suggest looking for the DVD or heading on over to Netflix to check it out. You can follow this handy link to Youtube, to check it out. Heck, watch the whole movie because you can't go wrong with Lupin III and Miyazaki directing it.
Mr. Maruyama's panel was on Saturday afternoon. As I said before, he was a co-founder of Madhouse and recently founded a new animation studio called MAPPA. One of his new studio's latest titles, is Kids on the Slope (watch the series here). It is on my list of animes to watch, as I am a fan of the teaming of director Shinichiro Watanbe (Cowboy Bebop) and musician Yokko Kanno. They rarely disappoint. He also stated that MAPPA has a few more titles in the works, but he was not a liberty to discuss what they were, so we'll just have to keep our eyes peeled on that.
MAPPA also recently did some 3 minute long animations for the Meiji candy company to promote its gummy candies. These short animations even had Rintaro (Astro Boy, Metropolis) directing them. They are very stylized and beautiful. The main Meiji website has the full animations, but you can follow this handy link here to see the 30 second commercial from the animation. You can also view the longer version here at Meiji's website for it. Be warned though, it is in Japanese and a little hard to navigate.
Mr. Maruyama also talked about how the animation industry works in Japan with respect to manga creators getting their work turned into an anime. Just how much control does the original creator have? According to Mr. Maruyama it depends on a number of factors, but he tries to be completely up-front with the original creator in how their work will be adapted. Some creators want to have lots of input, others not so much; still others want to strike a balance. Changes between manga and anime are often necessary due to the differences in media. For some creators this is a concern and they would rather not have any changes. In this case, Mr. Maruyama recommends that they work with a studio that will be able to adapt their anime closer to the manga source. It's especially hard when an anime goes into production and the original manga source is only midway through its story. Then there will be greater changes between the manga and the anime as the anime production cannot stop for the manga to catch up and needs to carry on. This is why some anime titles based off a manga have such drastically different endings.
He related an example of a good partnership when he worked with the manga group Clamp. They have very unusual character designs that don't always work well when animated. Clamp liked working with Madhouse on character design changes to ensure that the design work for animation. Mr. Maruyama has also seen younger manga creators specifying voice actors for characters in their manga and often won't agree to having an anime done unless those voice actors are used. Mr. Maruyama explained that studios typically find work by directly soliciting creators of manga. MAPPA acquires properties for animation through creators submitting their work, typically manga. Occaisionally a sponsor or agent will directly request animation from MAPPA.
Mr. Maruyama and Mr. Kobayashi were both very informative and interesting to listen to about their work in the Japanese animation field. If you have a chance to sit in on panels with Japanese animation guests, I highly recommend that you do. It is people like this who get to work and create the anime we love to watch, so their insights are valuable and worthwhile.