Tomino X Araki: Putting the Breaks on Adapting to Direct?! Part 2

Hello, this is the second part of a chat between Gundam‘s Tomino and Attack on Titan‘s Araki. If you missed it, the first part can be found here. Tomino is a rather talkative man so it is a lot of Tomino talking with Araki speaking up every now and then. Regardless, the two talk about working in the industry and how to stay afloat. Enjoy!

If 9/10 general reviews are bad, throw away the nine and embrace the positive one!

Araki: Going back to your “Ask Tomino,” something that I liked was when you talked about not finding a job suitable for you but matching to fit the job. I felt like, “Oh man, I get that! That’s what I’ve always thought.” Especially for the animation industry, you never work with something you’ve prepared; you create depending on what’s necessary for the occasion.

I’m not sure when I started to think of it that way. I occasionally handle planning original anime, and when I do, I’m unusually attuned to what others have to say. It’s not that I lack the ability to give instructions, but that I put the breaks on asserting what I like or what I want to do. I end up asking myself, “Will people like this?” I’m stuck looping the question — what should I do? You have to put the breaks on adapting to people in order to direct. Do you think this is a good way to go about it?

Tomino: To put it crudely, it’s just the average person’s squabble. Or, because they’re average, it’s better if they quit acting as if they know about the industry. Creating anything is a rigorous ordeal.

Araki: I see, I see…

Tomino: I realize this isn’t something I should be saying to someone who understands, but, because I have yet to say it, I’ll lay out my honest answer now. This merciless criticism is like if I listened to a composer for two to three months and declared he wasn’t able to live up to his title as a genius, this composer being Mozart. I didn’t listen carefully to all of his music, since there is a lot, and I think it doesn’t fit today’s music scene. However, if I collected and listened to all the songs in his 36 set CD collection, it would be rather impressive if those were my only complaints.

Mozart’s wasn’t one to revise his scores and yet had such well-written music. In his time, composers didn’t make music because they felt like it but instead worked on commission. Someone could commission a song that could be played while the king ate dinner. Regardless, when we wrote, the melody effortlessly filled his head, and he was able to transfer those thoughts onto paper.

On the other hand, Beethoven wrote music whenever he wanted, regardless if he was commissioned to or not. Listening to his music in chronological order, you can hear his growth. By compiling that growth, he was able to create his Ninth Symphony. Bach was a person born with musical talent. It’s said that he captured the feelings of everyone’s prayers and wrote them as religious songs as issued by the church, and did so on a level that rivals the instruments of today, which landed him the name as the father of music. I knew of these three examples, but they have me beat (laughs). So….what are we, average people, supposed to think.

Araki: This, this!

Tomino: In the end, if you’re influenced by the opinions of other people, or cease to be yourself, you put yourself on the same level as those average people. The only way to work is by sprinkling in other opinions and keeping the meat of the project as your work. It’s important to take the approach of trusting one opinion and throwing out the other nine. I’ve worked on over 60 projects, so I know what it’s like to make something while carefully taking in everyone’s opinion. From what I’ve experienced, if you take in even half of those opinions it’ll be no good. If the creator doesn’t think of it, then it’s just a suggestion, regardless if you agree with someone else’s idea. That person is only thinking of what they currently find suitable, not the bigger picture.

Araki: That’s true.

Tomino: You should listen to that one, though. You’ll be able to add in ideas you weren’t able to pull out of yourself.

How do you arrange your work while taking in orders?

Tomino: For example, before Gundam, there was always pressure to base the story off of a giant robot. These were entirely the opinions of other people. While thinking I’d hate to create something by listening to everyone, I realize that I didn’t have any concepts or ideas. I only wanted to make anime for a living. If I had to make stories with only giant robots, I was prepared for that. Enter the broadcasting station producer telling me that the sponsors and advertising agency’s dogs are hounding me with things like “make the fight scenes at least three minutes a piece, or we’ll have your head.” To add in a three-minute fight every time was grueling work. But, by the time (Invincible Super Man) Zambot 3 and (Invincible Steel Man) Daitarn 3 we’d managed to overcome the difficulties of monster-of-the-week by first assigning gimmicks to the enemy robots. As long as we made the fight scenes, there were no problems. That’s why when I worked on Gundam, I kept my producer in the dark and worked without my colleagues noticing. In other words, if you go through an episode and extract the battles you’ll still have a single story. Something you don’t think of. That’s typically the extent of the average person’s ability — at least when thinking about plots and mechanics. The story comes later. Stuff like saving the Earth comes later.

Araki: (Laughs)

Tomino: And of course, stuff like Newtypes are way later! Anyways, you want to ensure you have time to make what you envision match up. In Gundam’s case, however, it ended up being canceled. Even now, I think if I’d been able to make better robots-of-the-week I’d have able to draw it out just a little longer. But, somehow, even robots like the Acguy are being made in this gunpla-centric market today. I wish I could embrace my inner otaku and say “I like Acguy!” and go off to create two dedicated episodes. I don’t do that kind of thing, though, that a job for other people.


Mobile Suit Gundam – Acguy: 2250 Miles Across North America

Even while brainstorming, anyone who is an amateur or less might give advice only because it’s something they like. In that case, I like to think it’s better to look for a way to have that person forget about their preconceived ideas and go beyond their expectations. It’s a bit of a dangerous topic, so let’s make finish it up. You have to start by gathering material that they request. Oh, one more thing, something the station producer at the time told me, “You have to show panties!” (laughs)

Araki: Ahh, they had that back then too (laughs).

Tomino: I was surprised, I mean, is that what an adult says? Regardless, I picked about three places to put in panty shots. Kind of like, “Uh, I’ll put it here, and here, and here.” It made me wonder whether this was a professional job, but that didn’t mean I could slack off. Carefully compositing all of the small details, panty shots included, into a larger frame is a talent, it isn’t something that should be underestimated. You can see this when you watch the Macross series. Everything down to the smallest details was wonderfully thought out. Macross’ presentation of its transforming mechs is unmatchable. But, I don’t like Macross. It’s a lot of “my best girl didn’t sing my favorite song!” And when they get angry they call it a shitty show (laughs).

Araki: (Laughs)

Tomino: It was a song sparked this train of thought, but it’s true for Nichibu [a traditional Japanese dance], ballet, and the dance world in general. Even though it’s a small detail, if dancers practice to the point where they don’t have to think, it’s a tremendous achievement. In the anime industry, there isn’t that easy way to practice. That’s why it’s necessary to put 110% into the job.

Araki: You have to make it good no matter what, even if it’s the panty shots from before.

Tomino: Yeah. There also not living up to expectations when drawing these beautiful girls. Within panty shots, each character will have their way to show their panties accidentally. Is it ok to leave her butt up like that? There are shots where you have to think about if you want to hold your ground or not.

Araki: You often got mad at me for that (laughs).

Tomino: Even if they’re cute, each girl has her particular kind of cute and you have to be aware of that. You have to draw from personal experiences regardless of whether you’re a director, animator, or actor.

Araki: If that kind of pose is necessary, as long as you accurately draw the character, you can’t say no.

Tomino: Of course. I had a really “ah-ha” moment recently when watching the new one-hour special of Kochi Kame (Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kouen Mae Hashutsujo The Final: Kankichi Ryotsu’s Last Day [This is the Police Station in Front of Kameari Park in Katsushika Ward The Final: Kankichi Ryotsu’s Last Day]). The scene with the girl who changed places with the princess (Lemon) was pretty bad, but at the same time, that is what made Kochi Kame what it is today. Over its 40 years of being published, it had time to perfect itself and its characters. Even without drawing in fine details, the story is plenty interesting. That doesn’t mean it’s free of any problems. There is always room for thought. It’s only right to build on those thoughts one by one. If you keep asking “Is this really ok?”, Even if you’re not a genius, jobs will still come. …There are people that think, “I don’t want to do what everyone else wants to do, I want to get even a little bit famous and create something entertaining.”

Araki: Exactly!

Tomino: Because of thoughts like that, you have to take in every requirement and attack them from all sides to make it yours. The growth you take away from those attacks is incredibly important. Working on G-Reco, I realized what exactly the anime industry has become. In today’s grueling working conditions, there isn’t time to put thought-provoking interpretations into one’s work. That’s why I put so much thought into my work! That’s all.

Araki: You have to get the basics down.

Tomino: Yes, if there is one thing I want to ingrain in people, it’s that.

Araki: It’s good to be hopeful.

Are creators going to be lumped in together as one big Tokyo Production?!

Tomino: This studio (Sunrise Studio 1) is no different, but looking around you see a shelf stacked high with work to be outsourced, this is nothing new. When I first started working on G-Reco, I thought all the animators in this studio would be working on it with me. That was not the case (bitterly laughs). Once G-Reco finished production, there were still animators hanging around. I was like, “What in the world?” Working in the studio has quickly changed over the past ten years. Everyone is working on various pieces of shows. It’s not a G-Reco Studio as much it is people working, sprinkled here and there, and coming together through their work to create said “studio.” If you think of everything coming together like that, it might be possible to make something on the level of Hollywood or Disney.


Outsourcing data of Winter 2017 from the Sakuga Blog [1] showing how many episodes were fully outsourced (blue) and subcontracted key animation (red)

Araki: If we were Tokyo Productions.

Tomino: Shin Godzilla is kind of like that.

Araki: Certainly if you rallied the studios, something like that could be made.

Tomino: Shin Godzilla wasn’t made in a nice, little Shin Godzilla Studio. I’m sure Your Name wasn’t either.

Araki: Yeah, they didn’t assemble in one place.

Tomino: The important time to come together is during the concept construction. “If you come to me we can pound out how this piece will shape up.” Kyoto [Animation] is doing that now.

Araki: Ahh, for A Silent Voice.

Tomino: We could gather the creators of KyoAni and put our focus on certain parts. It would be necessary to point out that if you, Araki, were to make one part, it would turn out like X. Or like when we worked together that time, we can talk about the parts you don’t do so well!

Araki: Yes (laughs).

Tomino: The most important thing that Your Name did was making each character act in a way befitting their character. That is something you can’t forget. Araki that is something you drop the ball on sometimes, remember, always cling to the character. I’m pretty bad; I rely on character’s failures as a tool to bait viewers. Generally, the most important thing to the viewer is the characters. That’s why it is vital to understand characters. If you’re writing up a female character, giving her potty mouth wouldn’t be a good idea (laughs).

Araki: Appealing to the mental and instinctual ideas of those watching is important (laughs).

Tomino: Exactly. Something that anime designers frequently get wrong is separating out a character with their hair color.

Araki: There certainly are characters that don’t stick out if you don’t color their hair.


Why not eyes and hair? (G-Reco‘s Raraiya Monday)

Tomino: If I can, I like to change how the character’s eyes are drawn. The difference starts from that level. The age of the animation directors making minor adjustments to characters is reaching that of an artistic level. What the viewer is looking at is not the minor points of the character, but the grand overview of how the character flows with the story. Even with that, you can fall into a hole of minute details like missing lines and miscoloring.

Araki: I totally get that!

Tomino: The more detail you put in anime scenes, the more value viewers will glean from it. The art aspects of a show should be left up to art staff, without needing the creator to look it over.

[1] This chart was taken from the Sakuga Blog article “ANIME CRAFT WEEKLY #36: WINTER 2017 ANIMATOR COUNT”.

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