Home Channels Anime Toonzone @ MCM London Comic Con October 2014: Shinichiro Watanabe Interview

Toonzone @ MCM London Comic Con October 2014: Shinichiro Watanabe Interview

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shinichiro_watanabe_mcmOn the closing Sunday of MCM London Comic Con October 2014, Toonzone was given the chance to pose some questions to legendary anime director Shinichiro Watanabe.

TOONZONE NEWS: In the past year you’ve directed both Space Dandy and Terror in Resonance, two shows with vastly different tones. What do you look for when considering involvement with a project?

SHINICHIRO WATANABE: Space Dandy and Terror in Resonance are both my own original ideas. Terror in Resonance is an idea I had about five years ago but it’s been on hold for a long time because it didn’t get approval from the TV stations. I came up with Space Dandy later but it just so happened that that got approved at the same time as Terror in Resonance did by a different TV channel, so I ended up making them both in the same year.

TOONZONE NEWS: You’ve often cited the original Lupin the 3rd as a strong inspiration and works such as Space Dandy and Cowboy Bebop seem to emulate it in terms of episodic standalone stories. Do you prefer to tell stories this way, focussing more on exploring a well-defined cast of characters and less so a continuous narrative?

SHINICHIRO WATANABE: Well, Terror in Resonance has one story the whole way through, so both ways of working are interesting in their own way. I like both.

TOONZONE NEWS: You co-directed Macross Plus with Shoji Kawamori and of course for the first time worked with Yoko Kanno. Macross continues to be popular, with a new series just announced. Do you have any special memories or insight from having worked on Plus?

SHINICHIRO WATANABE: I was directing jointly with Kawamori-san, as you say, and it was the first time I got to do what I wanted to do which was to be a director. Up until then I’d be an episode director working under and assisting the director but this was the first time I got to do it in my own right so it was very fulfilling.

But because we were joint directors I couldn’t get my own way on everything so there were some things I wasn’t completely satisfied with. [grins] But we were trying to do something new and try out different things and that’s an experience I refer back to even now.

Space_DandyKeyVisualTOONZONE NEWS: In the past, you’ve mentioned your preferred directing style is to speak directly to as many of your staff as possible. But when it comes to the initial recruiting for a project, how hands-on are you at that stage?

SHINICHIRO WATANABE: It depends on the project. Sometimes I invite people to come on board myself. With Space Dandy, for example, there were a lot of people I was working with that I’d never met; some of them I contacted and some of them I got the studio producers to contact, asking “Can you get this person’s number and ask them if they’re interested?”, but if I knew them I would call them.

Most of the episode directors in Space Dandy are people I really respected. Some of them I knew personally and some of them I didn’t but they were all people I really wanted to work with.

TOONZONE NEWS: Cowboy Bebop crossed jazz and sci-fi, Samurai Champloo crossed hip hop and samurai. What musical and story genres would you enjoy combining next?

SHINICHIRO WATANABE: That’s a secret [laughs] Have you got any good ideas?

TOONZONE NEWS: Not on me, I’m afraid. [laughs]

SHINICHIRO WATANABE: There was an idea I came up with once. It was about a thief and the music would have been shamisen, ‘the shamisen thief,’ but it didn’t go anywhere.

TOONZONE NEWS: That’s quite the shame.

SHINICHIRO WATANABE: [Laughs] Unfortunately, it was put to a stop.

TOONZONE NEWS: A lot of your work shows influence from American cinema and pop culture. Going the other way, are there any American or European works animated or otherwise that have taken influence from Japan which you’ve enjoyed?

SHINICHIRO WATANABE: Pacific Rim was very good. There’s a lot of anime influence in that film and it went down very well in Japan as well.

TOONZONE NEWS: There tends to be a lot of vibrant energy in the animation of series you direct, Space Dandy being a perfect example. How much guidance do you give to the episode directors and storyboarders? Is it simply a case of telling them to have fun with it?

SHINICHIRO WATANABE: I have in-depth discussions with the creators of each episode and in the course of that new ideas will come out of all of us. More often than not we’ll have so many ideas that we can’t use them all, enough ideas to fill one and a half to two episodes but we end up having to cut ones we can’t use.

24-09-01_cowboybebop_bigTOONZONE NEWS: Space Dandy is a rare case of a Japanese anime and its dub airing near simultaneously. What’s your opinion on dubs of your work and in Dandy’s case did producing the two close together cause any problems?

SHINICHIRO WATANABE: Well recently I think the English versions of my work, including Space Dandy, are pretty good because I’ve checked the translations and the staff who write the translations and subtitles put a lot of thought into them.

The broadcasts were almost simultaneous but we didn’t rush to make it in time for the English broadcast, the Japanese version was finished about two months before the dub aired. So we had plenty of time to produce the English version.

TOONZONE NEWS: I’d like to conclude by asking what’s next for you? Can you tell us anything about any forthcoming projects or notions you’d like to work on in the future?

SHINICHIRO WATANABE: I’m hoping to make a new original anime but it’s a secret. [laughs]

TOONZONE NEWS: Thank you for taking the time to meet with me and answer my questions. If I may say farewell in a way you’ll be familiar with- See you space cowboy.

SHINICHIRO WATANABE: [Laughs] Thank you.

Toonzone would like to thank Shinichiro Watanabe for taking the time to answer our questions and Anime Limited for providing this opportunity.

Cowboy Bebop Complete Collection is available to buy on Blu-ray and Space Dandy is available to pre-order on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon UK.