The Anime Guest of Honour took to the stage in the company of Anime Limited’s Jeremy Graves as MC and Bethan Jones serving as interpreter. A no recording rule was in effect for the panel, which we have respected.
Yoshizaki began by introducing himself in English- “Nice to meet you. I am Hibiki Yoshizaki, from Japan.” He continued in Japanese, joking he had tried to learn English ahead of the panel but had chickened out and apologised for the no recording rule.
He explained he works for Studio Khara as a director and video artist. Khara is most famous for the Evangelion movies, a redo/potential sequel of studio president Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion. The studio celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2016, with Yoshizaki showing us the promo reel they made as part of that celebration highlighting various work Khara had been involved in, including the live action Shin Godzilla. The studio maintains both official Instagram and Twitter accounts for fans to keep up to date with their work.
Discussion then moved to Yoshizaki’s own film, ME!ME!ME!. He noted it was pronounced ‘may-may-may’ but has found when he talks to people outside of Japan they tend to pronounce it as a triple ‘me’ (your humble reporter will admit to making this mistake when I interviewed Yoshizaki earlier that day). The short originated as part of the Japan Animator Expo, a Khara sponsored online series of short animated films. Originally 10 films were planned but interest was so high from a range of talents that the number was brought up to 35. The shorts have since been removed online.
ME!ME!ME! was the third in this series, with Yoshizaki commenting he had been surprised by the film’s success outside of Japan. Due to the sexual imagery of the short, only a few seconds were shown at the panel. However, Anime Limited were running an 18+ age restricted exhibition elsewhere within the convention where the full short was viewable. The short itself is open to interpretation, focusing on a young man whose room is decorated with anime merchandise and finds himself hunted by succubus-like women. Yoshizaki is tight lipped on the official story occurring in the short, instead preferring to hear the various interpretations individual viewers offer.
He notes that the short is colourful and is inspired by the abundance of idol centric animation at the time of production. A first person sequence in which the protagonist briefly turns the tables on his demonic attackers was inspired by Yoshizaki’s own love for FPS games, quipping it was possible he and members of the audience had unknowingly faced off online. Further inspiration came from electronic dance music (EDM) festivals.
The heart of the concept was to create an anime music video with an original story. Aside from Yoshizaki himself, key staff included Shuichi Iseki (character designer, key animation director) and TeddyLoid & daoko (musical composition) . He noted that although the short is visually from a male perspective, the lyrics daoko wrote and sung are from a female perspective instead. Production began with concept art and storyboards created by Yoshizaki himself before passing these on to Iseki so he could produce character designs, with Yoshizaki feeling he greatly improved the initial rough concepts he submitted. The battle suit the protagonist wears originally looked more outdated, with Iseki redesigning it to have a more modern anime aesthetic. Meme-chan, the dancing girl who has become the iconic face of the short in promotion, originally was a less important character that evolved out of Yoshizaki and Iseki experimenting with character design concepts.
An alternate version of the video with a remixed song, referred to as the CHRONIC version, was released later and a new short titled GIRL serves as a semi continuation of ME!ME!ME!
Yoshizaki briefly returned to Evangelion by highlighting the teaser trailer for the upcoming fourth film before opening the floor to a brief round of audience questions.
Asked how he got into animation, he coyly revealed it involved a chance encounter with Gainax’s Hiroyuki Yamaga at a restaurant. GIRL was intentionally produced to present a female perspective, noting it was an odd experience having a staff of middle aged men trying to figure out how to do so. A Greek person noted that Khara means ‘happiness’ in their language and wondered why it was chosen for the studio name. Yoshizaki explained it was intentionally chosen by Hideaki Anno’s wife in the hope the studio would bring happiness to its staff and audiences.
Asked about western animation he enjoys, he cited Sun Creature’s Myosis and the 1973 film Fantastic Planet.
Yoshizaki concluded the panel by taking a group selfie of himself and the audience.
As mentioned above, Anime Limited ran an age restricted exhibition at the convention showcasing Yoshizaki’s animated shorts to those 18 years and older. The following images showcase production materials which were displayed within.