ANIME & MANGA - Article
15:00 - 16th January 2016, by NEO Staff

Rolling Girls (And Guys)

The last few years have seen a rising number of anime pros come over from Japan to British events to share their knowledge and experience. The MCM Glasgow Comic Con in September brought over two; The Rolling Girls’ director Kotomi Deai, and veteran animator Hiroshi Shimizu!


NEO: How would you describe The Rolling Girls?
Kotomi Deai: It’s a tough one! How shall I describe it? It’s fun, it’s not hard work, just watch it!

NEO: The series imagines a Japan split into different warring states. Are there some jokes about Japanese regions which British viewers may not understand?
KD: There are a lot of references to things that are famous in the regions of Japan, which are exaggerated and overblown in the anime. So for example, Tokyo appears in the series as the country of otakus. The building that you see in the series is the Big Site building in Tokyo, where a lot of conventions are held. In Kyoto, there’s a little Maiko, a trainee geisha, who’s easy to spot. And then in Aichi and Mie prefectures as they appear in the series, there are characters who dress up as some of the regions’ famous speciality dishes, such as fried prawns and rice bowls…

NEO: How does a show like Rolling Girls take shape?
KD: There was a female illustrator called tanu, who designed the characters and came up with the image boards. She would sit in on the script meetings, where everyone was coming up with story ideas. Based on those ideas from those meetings, she would come up with the ideas and original designs for the characters. Yasuyuki Muto, the writer, would take those ideas and put them into the script. So there was a lot of back and forth, with ideas being shared and everyone working together, but a lot of the more unusual ideas came from tanu, who had lots of creative freedom.

NEO: What was your working day on Rolling Girls?
KD: I guess I communicated most with tanu, the character designer, and Arifumi Imai, the action animator. Our desks were close together, so we had a lot of discussion as we worked. One of the biggest jobs for the director is checking; checking the character designs, the prop designs, background art… The other thing is checking the storyboards. Various different people will be drawing storyboards, and it’s my job to make sure they fit in with the series.

NEO: Rolling Girls is made by WIT Studio, who most fans know for Attack on Titan. What is your impression of the Studio?
KD: The producers are young, the staff is young, the directors are young, Araki-san’s young… [39-year-old Tetsuro Araki, who directed Attack on Titan.] It has a very fresh feel as a studio.

NEO: In the case of Silver Spoon, you worked on the first series and then directed the second. Did you feel that you had to make the second series feel similar to the first, or did you feel free to make changes?
KD: Silver Spoon was based on a manga [by Fullmetal Alchemist’s Hiromu Arakawa], so we couldn’t move too far from that, and I wanted to carry on with the world that Tomohiko Ito created in the first series. But at the same time I wanted to incorporate a bit more emotional drama, the sort of thing I’m interested in, while not disrupting the world he’d created.

NEO: Many of your anime credits are in storyboards. What are the most important skills in creating a storyboard?
KD: Unlike in live-action, in anime you have to imagine what the final pictures will look like and put those into the storyboards, because that’s what the animators and the background artists will base their drawings on. You need to have an idea of how to direct scenes when you’re drawing the storyboard.


NEO: You have worked in anime for many years. For you, have there been any big changes in the way you work?
Hiroshi Shimizu: Basically, I’ve not changed at all. I’ve always drawn by hand, 2D, pencil, paper. I think I may start using a tablet to animate, but I’ll need to practice before I can do that.

NEO: Your early credits include Venus Wars, Devilman and Yawara. Do you remember them?
HS: I’d just started out back then. I remember getting told off a lot and learning a lot. I got told off a lot on Venus Wars because I was brand new!

NEO: Is there much difference between working on films and TV?
HS: With films, you have more time to be a bit more careful about your work. With TV, the good thing is that your original pictures are used in the series; what you draw is what you see on screen.

NEO: What scenes are the most challenging?
HS: The one I really remember was in Ghibli’s Pom Poko. There is a scene which has tens, hundreds of tanuki on screen at once, all moving differently. I had to draw thousands of tanuki… It took a week, it took another week and it still wasn’t finished. I was drawing tanuki every day. Even though the tanuki were overlapping (so you couldn’t see half of them), I still had to draw them to get the movements right. I gave each tanuki a name – I would try to encourage myself by saying, ‘Let’s draw so-and-so today…’

NEO: Do you think that your work as an animation director has made a difference to how you approach your work as an animator?
HS: Being an animation director isn’t fun for me. It’s much more fun doing key animation, because you create the pictures, you make them move. As an animation director, you’re correcting other people’s animation, and thinking, ‘I would have done it like this’ or ‘If only I could done this one.’ But you just haven’t got the time so you correct what you can and focus on continuity. I think that, having worked as an animation director, when I’m animating, I want to make things as easy as I can for the animation director.

NEO: You have worked on children’s anime such as Anpanman and Crayon Shin-chan. Is there any difference between these and other anime?
HS: I wouldn’t say it’s easier to draw children’s animation. In fact, it’s difficult because with something like Crayon Shin-chan, you have a very set style. But it is interesting and fun to animate those series. The anime I saw growing up were for children but you could tell that adults had really enjoyed making them, and had put a lot of work into them. I think that for that to come across to the children watching the anime, you really have to enjoy animating them.

NEO: You have worked on anime whose characters have loyal fans, such as Lupin, One Piece and Fullmetal Alchemist. Does it feel restrictive to work with characters with a strong fan following?
HS: I don’t feel restricted, but in the case of an anime that’s sold by a particular character, I focus more on getting the character right, the design and so on. Usually when I’m doing key animation, I’ll focus on the movement, but if it’s the characters that are really popular, there’s more focus on getting them right.

NEO: You have worked for Miyazaki and Takahata. How would you compare them?
HS: Miyazaki can draw and has lots of ideas. He draws the storyboards himself and at that stage he already knows how he wants the animation to work. So if the key animators don’t come up with something that matches what he wants exactly, he can get angry… and no matter how hard they try, often they won’t be able to match what’s in his head.
Takahata doesn’t draw. At the storyboard stage, he still doesn’t have so detailed an idea of how he wants the movement to happen. So he tries hard to explain what he wants, and if the animation doesn’t fit that, he’ll try to use words to explain what he’s after.

NEO: You did a lot of work on Lupin the Third: The Girl Called Fujiko Mine, which surprised fans with its strongly-drawn appearance.
HS: When Lupin the Third first came out in the 1970s, that first series was amazing. As Lupin got more popular, they incorporated more comedy into it, and even now there are annual Lupin TV specials. But there’s a feeling they were just being made for the sake of it, and people started to get fed up. Then Sayo Yamomoto (Michiko and Hatchin) directed Fujiko Mine and I hoped she would do something really interesting. It was better than I’d hoped; I thought it was very similar to the first Lupin series.
I expect Lupin will carry on and occasionally there will be something like Fujiko Mine; there will be various styles. For example, a Lupin series set in Italy is coming out now in Italy and Japan, and it’s completely different from Fujiko Mine. It’s somewhere between the reality of the first series and the comedy of the second. I was involved in the Italian Lupin, and it was great fun.

Our thanks to both interviewees, and to Anime Limited for helping us to arrange everything. The Rolling Girls can be watched in Britain on the Viewster website and is due for a Blu-ray and DVD release by Anime Limited in 2016. Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Manga Entertainment, while Pom Poko is available on both formats from Studio Canal.

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