Q&A with Granbelm’s Armanox Designer and Chief Animation Director, Jimmy Stone

With permission, these questions and answers were taken from Jimmy Stone‘s question box that he answers on his twitter.


— When I see the design for the secondary protagonist, the black one with cat ears, I can’t help but think about the Black Ox from Gigantor. There are lots of homages to Black Ox, but I was wondering if Viola Katze is one of those.

Jimmy: You are correct! I had this feeling right from the beginning, while designing Viola Katze, that it was in the same family tree as the Black Ox. If you think back to all the great rival robots of the past, designs like Griffon from Patlabor also follow. Astranagant (Super Robot Wars Series) and even giant monsters like Gyaos follow that pattern, too. Thinking about it, Master Gundam from G Gundam might also be like that. I was really struggling with how to incorporate the black theme with a V-design for the head, and then it hit me. It’s a witch’s robot so why not a black cat?! I turned the silhouette around and made the horns front-facing like the horns on the G-Self.

 

— What was the inspiration for Setsugetsu Baika?

Jimmy: I tried to focus on what made Kuon who she was. I also wanted to make the piloting different from the other Armanox, like it was made in Japan. A diviner vibe, like a shrine maiden or apprentice geisha mixed with a snow rabbit. A nimble Armanox. It’s simple and looks fleeting (like it has low defenses). I also wanted it to have a different white theme than the White Lily. Utilizing the meaning of the three main kanji that make up its name—snow, moon, and plum blossoms—I picked white, black, and pink. Each is something beautiful from its respective season that makes you think of your most beloved when you look at it. In Kuon’s case, that would be her sister.

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— All of the Armanox names are based on flowers or plants (Aconite Gris….Aconite), but did that affect the mech designs or the characters’ personalities?

Jimmy: We thought about that down to even flower language. Aconite in some flower languages means chivalry and glory, but it can also mean revenge, and “you will be the death of me.” I feel that fits Anna perfectly. Gris is the Spanish word for grey. Why, if her Armanox is all red, would we name it grey? The reason is that she’s a witch of fire and ice that has already burnt herself out. Her weapon’s name, Halberd Invierno, means winter, so there’s a bit of foreshadowing.

— In robot anime, there are the shows where no matter how much fighting the robots go through, all the limbs stay intact and damage is shown in other ways. Then there are shows where the robots lose their limbs, and the destruction of the mech is actually shown. For fantasy robot shows, like Granbelm, it’s rare to see the destruction route. What is the reasoning behind that?

Jimmy: All of the members of the core team—myself, Masaharu Watanabe the director, Jukki Hanada the scriptwriter, and others—felt that it was normal for robots’ arms and legs get destroyed, so obviously the same would be said for an Armanox.

— I heard that all of Granbelm’s episodes were completed before the show aired. When did the project start?

Jimmy: In 2015, after Wakaba Girl wrapped up, Watanabe, Hanada, the producer Takayuki Nagatani, and Nexus’s president started their talks. I was brought in sometime in 2016 and that kind of created our core production team. I don’t think many original anime have that kind of schedule from the get-go. Oh, and White Lily’s design was finalized in 2016 while the rest of them were finalized in 2017. That’s 1.8-year-old keyframes.

— What robot anime do you unabashedly love? Not what had the most significant influence on you, not what you learned the most from, the one you absolutely love.

Jimmy: No doubt about it (Mashin Hero) Wataru, (NG Knight) Ramune & 40, and G Gundam. I also like Evangelion and Nadeshiko. It was strange, when I first watched Wataru, it felt nostalgic even though it was something completely new. The famous opening theme song might be to blame for that, though. It wasn’t just some fun little show to watch, it was a masterpiece that gave me this full understanding of what it means to say goodbye.

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Mecha design from Wataru

— Have you heard about Code Geass?

Jimmy: Heard of it, I worked on R2! lol For reasons I won’t go into here, I stopped working as an animator for about 2 years but was casually asked if I would come back. That just happened to be for Code Geass R2. I was still undergoing rehabilitation, so it was a big ordeal, and I caused my fair share of problems. I’m an idiot for not realizing just how big of a project I had landed. I have no complaints about the anime, though, it’s a masterpiece.

— It’s weird to be asking now, but is Jimmy Stone a pen name?

Jimmy: The short of it is, no, that’s my real name. I’m half, but I was born and raised in Japan and am a Japanese citizen. I understand English for the most part, but I can’t speak fluently. Kinda like Kamen Rider Amazon.

(Bonus Twitter post!)

White Lily has a blue section on her chin and Viola Katze has pink in various areas to match with Mangetsu and Shingetsu’s character colors. This was actually intentional to show the two of them were connected. Lots of ideas, even down to the colors, were planned out and hidden in the designs.

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