Monday, November 5, 2012

Platform International Animation Festival Katsuhiro Otomo Interview

Originally posted by Justin Sevakis, Nov 5th 2012 @


At the Platform International Animation Festival in Los Angeles, Anime News Network had a chance to sit down with legendary director and manga artist Katsuhiro Otomo and ask him a few questions over breakfast.

I wanted to jump right in and ask about your new project that’s going to be starting in Weekly Shonen Sunday. What made you decide to do something for younger audiences?

Actually it’s not decided yet if I’m going to go in Shonen Sunday or not. I’ve been targeting the younger generation since the beginning. Now it seems like as the project is getting more geared towards older audiences. So I’m still considering whether to go with Weekly Shonen Sunday or not.

I see. Is there a rough plan/timeframe for when it will be launched?

Well, actually, it WAS planned to launch this autumn. (laughs) Please don’t ask.

There was one magazine that mentioned that you were actually doing everything yourself without assistance; is that true?


That sounds really tough.

Yes, that’s why it’s taking some time. (laughs)

Moving on to older projects: many of my favorite of your works, such as Roujin Z and The Order to Stop Construction, are satire, a rarity in anime and manga. I was wondering if satire was something you find yourself gravitating towards.

That’s totally depends on the basic idea, itself. Sometimes I get inspiration from the politics, but sometimes I get into more fantasy. Not everything in current events makes for a good story — for example, we had a big earthquake two years ago in Japan. I was very shocked, but despite everything that happened, I’m not convinced anyone will be able to make a good work of fiction out of it. Some artists have already started drawing, but they’ve stuck mostly to accounts of what actually happened in Japan.

Lots of veteran anime creators have talked a bit about the future of anime and manga in Japan and worried about the future. Is that something you think a lot about?

Yeah, I think it’s getting harder and harder to become a director in Japan. Maybe some of the difficulties in the business sphere are coming from the earthquake, and everything else going on there. It’s not easy to get sponsors from the corporate world for creating animation these days.

Is there any hope, are you finding any bright spots in the industry?

Well, in spite of all the difficulties, the animators in Japan are all working hard and doing their best, so there’s hope in that. Beyond that, I don’t pay much attention to the trendy side of the business, so I’m really not the guy to ask.

So, talking about your new work, Combustible, its theme is clearly two young people who are trapped in their society, and their attempts to break free from that trap. What inspired that theme?

The basic theme of the storyline is fairly typical of old Japanese literature, called kabuki or joruri. For example, the story of Yaoya Oshichi is, more or less, the same basic story as Combustible. I wanted to take that old theme that we used to have in Japan 300 years ago, and describe with recent technologies, in anime form.

Read the rest of the interview at http://www.animenews … hiro-otomo-interview

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Katsuhiro Otomo at Platform International Animation Festival

Originally posted by Justin Sevakis, Oct 31st 2012 @

California Institute of the Arts’ downtown center for the contemporary arts, a section of the famous Walt Disney Concert Hall known as REDCAT, was the setting for a sold-out evening with manga artist and director Katsuhiro Otomo, as part of a new annual animation and art festival entitled Platform. The night would be his first public appearance in North America in 15 years, and the school would be presenting Otomo with the first ever Platform Lifetime Achievement Award.

The crowd, made up mostly of animation students and CalArts alumni, cheered loudly for Otomo, who was brought out briefly for an introduction before his new short film was screened: a 12-minute short entitled “Combustible (Hi no Yōjin),” which will be released later as part of an omnibus feature film entitled “Short Peace”.


After the screening, animation historian Jerry Beck introduced a clip reel of Otomo’s work. Referring to Otomo as one of the “very few game changers in the history of animation,” he credited Akira as having changed the entire perception of the art-form worldwide. The clips presented included several from Akira, the Cannon Fodder segment of Memories, Neo-Tokyo (namely his segment The Order to Stop Construction) and Steamboy.

Otomo was then presented to a round of applause. Along with an interpreter, he sat down with Beck for an interview. The first question was, where did it start for him, in terms of influences?

“I used to love manga as a kid, and wanted to become a manga artist, and when I was in high school I got into movies as well. But being a director was quite a lofty goal, so I decided to become a manga artist instead. The world of manga, as created by Osamu Tezuka in Japan, had its methods rooted in filmmaking, so the two weren’t so different. He was able to move onto making films from that point, as well.”

Beck noticed a thematic pattern in Otomo’s work, of tradition versus new technologies. “I’ve tried to present both sides. I like new things — movies, music, technology and such, but there’s value in the past as well, so I try to be even-handed.”

As for the new film, Combustible, is this the sort of image he had of old Japan? “I really wanted to describe the Edo period in a movie for a long time, but it’s not easy to bring the Edo period to a feature film. Hence, this short project.”

Beck mentioned an earlier conversation with Otomo, where he said it’d be easy for him to get funding for a new Sci-fi film, but that really isn’t what he’s interested in. “Well, sure,” Otomo replied, “but it’s not like it’d be easy to get funding to make Sci-fi either. Recently it’s become very difficult to make sci-fi films as well.” Reflecting on his past sci-fi work, he quipped, “the biggest challenge is that, 20 years ago, no sci-fi had people using cell phones, and now everyone has one. Something so basic to our everyday lives, and we got it wrong. Trying to imagine the future is really tough.”


What were his influences in making The Order to Stop Construction? “It’s a long story. It was from a novel originally. It was the first thing I directed, and the project also involved Rintaro and Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s work as well. At the beginning we discussed picking up the stories from short novels, but the other two ended up changing their minds, so I was the only one left adapting fiction.”

As for Akira, was there an immediate demand to bring it to theaters, even before he were done with the manga? “Yes, I was asked to make it, because at the time there was a huge animation production boom. During the manga writing of Akira, I was asked to make it.” Was it given a bigger budget, or was it special in any other way as a production at the time? “We had a huge budget. I don’t remember how I got so much to work with,” he laughed. Was it a big hit in Japan as well? “It wasn’t a huge hit, really. That’s my opinion, but I don’t think it was such a huge hit,” he said with a grin.

What happened afterwards? Did he have lots of producers knocking on his door? “I had quite a few offers, but I had my own list of things I wanted to do. I wanted to make a live action film, and someone asked me to direct one, so I did. And then someone asked me to make Akira 2, which I didn’t want to do. And then Steamboy came a long. And that took many years.”

Was he familiar with the Hollywood remake of Akira that ’s in produciton? “Huh?” he mimed, to the audience’s amusement. “Nope. I work on manga, and I work on animation. There’s no need for me to be involved in that.”

The floor was opened up for audience questions. The first one, after a few false startts, ended up asking his opinion of Looper: “I was really floored by it.” When informed that the director of Looper, Rian Johnson, is a fan of Otomo’s, he said he’d like to meet him. “Is he here?” Beck asked the audience, but there was no response.

Read the rest at http://www.animenews … l-animation-festival