This past weekend Wit Studio’s Kotomi Deai and Hiroshi Shimizu attended MCM Glasgow Comic Con to promote their work on the studio’s latest hit The Rolling Girls, licensed by Anime Limited for UK Blu-ray and DVD release in 2016. Collectively the pair have ample experience in the Japanese animation industry and Toonzone News got the chance to talk to them about it.
HIROSHI SHIMIZU: I always loved drawing but what actually inspired me to want to make animation was seeing Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro.
KOTOMI DEAI: I loved and wanted to make films and was very interested in the idea there was a direction behind the images. So I started off wanting to make films and at some point that transitioned to animation.
TOONZONE NEWS: What was the genesis of The Rolling Girls project?
KOTOMI DEAI: For me, it was when a producer from Wit Studio called me to say he was working on a proposal with Muto-san, the script writer, and asked if I wanted to be involved.
HIROSHI SHIMIZU: Initially I was just going to be involved with the motorbikes but then I finished working on Space Dandy at just the right time to come on board Rolling Girls
TOONZONE NEWS: The show takes advantage of its animated nature to deliver both dramatic and comedic memorable visuals that wouldn’t be possible in live action. As animators, what interests you about the possibilities of the medium?
KOTOMI DEAI: I’m very interested in those possibilities. I started out wanting to make live action and now I’m working on anime and I think the fact that anime is moving pictures — something already made up — gives you room to play with the impact of the visuals and to use unconventional means of expression. If you make use of that, then you can do very interesting things.
HIROSHI SHIMIZU: In Japanese animation you do have the very real style of animation that places like Production I.G. come up with, but the kind of animation I like, possibly because of the influence Castle of Cagliostro had on me, are things you can only do in animation. Made up things that look real, like in Lupin III where the car swims through the sky or drives up a cliff. It’s made up but you almost feel it could be real. That’s the kind of animation I like.
KOTOMI DEAI: That atmosphere is something we had in mind when working on Rolling Girls too.
TOONZONE NEWS: You both have experience working for the prolific director Shinichiro Watanabe on Kids on the Slope and Space Dandy, respectively. What were your impressions of Watanabe and do you have any particular memories of working with him?
KOTOMI DEAI: Cowboy Bebop was the reason I wanted to get into the anime industry to start with, and when I joined the industry I knew at some point I wanted to work with Watanabe-san. So when I was able to work on his then-new project Samurai Champloo, I was very proud to be involved, especially from such an early stage. At that point I was a production assistant, went on to become an episode director and then a few years down the line, Watanabe-san asked me to help out with Kids on the Slope. As he was someone I’d always looked up to it was a really good learning experience.
HIROSHI SHIMIZU: I was also a big fan of Cowboy Bebop and was then involved with Samurai Champloo as a key animator but didn’t get to meet Watanabe-san at that time. When I was working for Mangrove as the character design on Michiko & Hatchin, I got to meet him as he was involved as the music director. As a result he offered me the job working on Space Dandy and with that project, Watanabe-san gave the creators and the artists a lot of freedom to do what they wanted, as he wanted them to enjoy it. So I got to experience Watanabe-san’s generosity and work on a really fun project.
TOONZONE NEWS: Rolling Girls is your second series director credit, following from the second season of Silver Spoon where you were initially involved as a storyboard artist and assistant director. What differences have you found in directing an adaptation vs an original series?
KOTOMI DEAI: The basics are the same, but when you have something based on a manga you have to try and get the good points across; the worlds within that and the ideas and thoughts of the original creator. That’s the main challenge, whereas if you’re working on something that’s original you don’t have story or characters, you have to create that whole world for yourself.
TOONZONE NEWS: You’ve been working in the anime industry for quite a while, with credits in both television and theatrical animation. What do you find to be the key differences between theatrical production vs television animation?
HIROSHI SHIMIZU: With films you have a lot of time, so if you’re working on the key animations you can really take your time until you’re happy with what you’ve drawn. You can redraw, change things based on the instructions you get from the director because there’s a lot of time to play with. With a TV series, there’s no time at all and so you rarely end up with something you’re completely satisfied with because there’s just no time.
On the other hand though, with a film you’re drawing based on what the director or animation director tells you so there’s maybe less freedom whereas with a TV series you pretty much just draw it and use it because there’s no time to do anything else. So it’s possible more of your own style comes across when working on a TV series.
TOONZONE NEWS: Following on from that question, the working conditions for animators within Japan are reported to be quite bad. Given your time within the industry, how do you feel about this matter and do you feel the situation has improved?
HIROSHI SHIMIZU: This hasn’t got any better! [both he and Deai laugh]
Back in the advent of animation in Japan with the likes of Tetsuwan Atom/Astro Boy created by Osamu Tezuka, the money spent on each drawing, each frame was pretty much the same as it is now. So despite everything that’s changed the money being spent on the animation hasn’t increased over the last 50-60 years. So young people who want to become animators and start out in the industry today find out that they can’t make a living and so a lot of people have to give up.
But I do think that there are more companies now making films, like Studio Ghibli, who do try to pay young animators a proper wage.
BUT, overall still low!
TOONZONE NEWS: Lastly, what’s next for you both and do you have any dream projects you’d like to work on?
KOTOMI DEAI: For my future, there’s a TV project starting Autumn next year that I’m meant to be involved with. Not so much a new project as much as a continuation of something I’ve worked on in the past.
HIROSHI SHIMIZU: For me, I like to be involved with the whole of a project so in the future rather than just working on key animations where you are only responsible for your own tiny piece of work, I’d like to be more involved with the whole project. Perhaps as a character designer, as a chief animation director, to have more say in the entirety of a project. There’s also an animation company in France, Yapiko-Animation, who I’d really like to work with on a project of some manner.
Toonzone News would like to thank Kotomi Deai and Hiroshi Shimizu for answering our questions and Anime Limited for facilitating this interview.