As a producer at the young studio Science SARU with years of sterling accomplishments as an animator and storyboard artist capable of depicting intensely expressive and colorful visuals, Eunyoung Choi is undeniably a rising star in the world of anime. The first of what would be many collaborations with acclaimed director Masaaki Yuasa began with “Kemonozume” at Studio Madhouse in 2006, where she worked as a key animator. This would be followed by her involvement in such other works as “Kaiba”, “Ping Pong the Animation”, and the crowdfunded short “Kick-Heart”. Independent of her collaborations with Mr. Yuasa Choi also left her distinctive mark on “Casshern Sins” by directing its 20th episode, and she had complete creative control over the production of her own standalone “Space Dandy” episode (“Plants Are Living Things Too, Baby!”)
Choi founded Science SARU together with Masaaki Yuasa, and the studio celebrated its 5th anniversary in March 2018. Its earlier credits included “Ping Pong the Animation”, the “Adventure Time” episode “Food Chain”, in addition to work on theatrical movies for “Crayon Shin-chan” and “Yo-Kai Watch”. In its 5th year, the studio has drawn its greatest critical acclaim to date on account of mature hit “DEVILMAN crybaby” and two award-winning theatrical films released in 2018. “Lu Over the Wall” was a family fantasy film about middle schooler’s encounter with a young mermaid at a beachside town, while the comedic “The Night is Short, Walk on Girl” adapts the book by Tomihiko Morimi and involves the same creative crew behind “The Tatami Galaxy.” The film followed the (mis)adventures of a black-haired girl and her long-distance admirer as she spends a night on the town, meeting many eccentric people along the way. Eunyoung Choi was Animation Producer on both films. “The Night is Short, Walk on Girl” is receiving a limited theatrical run August 21 and 22, and fans can visit the official website for more information and to check ticket availability for your area.
Toonzone News recently had the opportunity to conduct a written interview with Ms. Choi, where she looked back upon Lu over the Wall and discussed her some perspectives as an artist and producer.
TOONZONE NEWS: Lu Over the Wall was a story about a childlike Mermaid trying to connect with people on land and IT definitely came across as a family movie that viewers of any age can enjoy. What do you think the essence of this film is, and what do you hope adults and children get out of it?
EUNYOUNG CHOI: This story is not only about Kai, but about the townspeople and their individual circumstances as well, so I think that a wide range of viewers could empathize with the story. We all have our own individual thoughts and outlooks, and sometimes we can’t understand each other, but I believe that we can at least become a little more understanding about one another by speaking our mind and acting openly. The town where Kai lives gradually started changing only after the very free thinking and forward moving Lu appears.
TOONZONE NEWS: Lu Over the Wall counts as the first movie created by Science SARU. As a founder of the studio and as a producer on this film can you speak to the challenges you faced in getting the movie funded and staffed?
EUNYOUNG CHOI: Lu Over the Wall was our first big feature film project, so funding the project and assembling a larger team than before was a big challenge for me. I explained our vision and planning for the film to many people. Since Science Saru was just started up at the time, we were not yet well known in the industry, plus there were many rookies on the team, only adding to the difficulties. Once we had a solid team formed, I made a great effort to be able to provide a stable working environment where the team could fully concentrate on the project.
TOONZONE NEWS: Lu Over the Wall drew attention for winning Annecy International Animated Film Festival’s award for Best Feature Film in 2017. Did audiences there react to it the way you were expecting, and how do you think reaction from within Japan compares to reception overseas?
EUNYOUNG CHOI: To be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t expect to win at the awards ceremony at Annecy – so when they announced that Lu Over the Wall had won, I was so delighted and completely occupied by my own feelings, I don’t remember much of how everyone else reacted. I was able to watch Lu Over the Wall with the audience at Annecy International Animated Film Festival, and I saw them all laughing, clapping and enjoying the film. In Japan, audiences are generally very quiet during a movie, but as audiences left theaters, I heard reactions like “I cried,” “It was so good,” etc. Although there are differences between an overseas audience and audiences in Japan, it is very rewarding to hear audience reactions, as I feel like our feelings and the message of the film has reached the audience.
TOONZONE NEWS: You’ve worked as an animator and storyboard artist for many years and collaborated with Mr. Masaaki Yuasa for much of your career. From that perspective, how would you compare your experience at Science SARU to before you co-founded the studio?
EUNYOUNG CHOI: I had worked on many of Mr. Yuasa’s works as a creator until we founded Science SARU. The big change for me after the establishment of Science SARU, was becoming responsible for making sure our projects were completed no matter what. My main job is to manage the budget and schedule, and to form a team by affirming the content of the work with Mr. Yuasa.
TOONZONE NEWS: Science SARU has digital animation techniques in Flash to create some visually dynamic moments that would have been difficult if not impossible to do with traditional hand-drawn methods, with Ping Pong the Animation being one example. Do you think such methods are the direction television animation should go, or do older methods still have their place?
EUNYOUNG CHOI: It is currently tough to find talented artists in the animation industry currently due to the declining population in Japan. I always try to be conscious of efficiency at the production level to be able to create works with a small staff. Through this process, I can keep delivering a variety of works to the world. We use Flash as a tool for efficiency now, but we will keep seeking and trying to adopt new techniques proactively without sticking with Flash.
TOONZONE NEWS: On a related point, what do you think about the use of 3D CG animation in anime and do you have any interest in trying to use it in a future Science SARU project?
EUNYOUNG CHOI: We are not planning it as of now, but we are always open to new tools. When we could have a plan to be able to utilize it well, we would like to consider the use of 3D.
TOONZONE NEWS: Speaking as an animator and artist, do you have any favorite creators who have especially influenced your work?
EUNYOUNG CHOI: I was surrounded by many art books because I have painted since I was a child. My taste has shifted from realistic painting, to impressionistic style, to modern art. I like Picasso as a painter who kept innovating without remaining in the same place. Although I haven’t watched many animated works, I was very impressed by Future Boy Conan (directed by Hayao Miyazaki), which I watched as a child. It seems like a happy story, but there is a philosophy behind the story, making it a thought-provoking piece. Within live-action film directors, it is so typical though, I was influenced by the works of Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean-Luc Godard, David Lynch, Steven Spielberg in his early years and Charlie Chaplin.
TOONZONE NEWS: Do you have a particular artistic achievement in your career that you are most proud of?
EUNYOUNG CHOI: Unfortunately, I don’t have one yet. I would like to continue challenging myself to have one though.
TOONZONE NEWS: Is there anything you can tell us about what’s next for you and Science SARU? What is your dream future project?
EUNYOUNG CHOI: We are preparing for several movies and series. It is our challenge to take on new themes, so please stay tuned!
Toonzone News would like to think Eunyoung Choi for the time taken to do this interview. For more on Science SARU and its latest projects, you can visit their English language site at https://www.sciencesaru.com/en.