As you might remember a few months back I was really excited to meet Tomohiko Ito at Madman Anime Festival this year, and despite some hiccups, I got to do just that! After the jump is a full 15 minute interview with Sword Art Online, and Erased director Tomohiko Ito, and the Character Designer for Sword Art Online and Working!, Shingo Adachi!
From left, Shingo Adachi, Jess from AnimeLab, Tomohiko Ito, and Atsushi Kaneko, producer at A-1 Pictures
When starting up production on something like Sword Art Online or Silver Spoon, what’s the process you have to go through?
Ito – First of all, the producer brings us the project and says “Let’s do this”. And from there they choose who’s going to be the director and how’s going to be the cast and it’s kind of like a flow from there.
When the director is chosen, as it goes further along, how do you choose key animators and episode directors?
Ito – When the director is chosen, you’ve got the producer and the production, they all have a discussion and they’ll all talk about things like, “Oh yeah so we have money so we can bring people in”, or “We don’t have money, so we can’t bring that many people in”. So based on the limited – what we have,on hand – the main staff will be always discussed and chosen from there.
Storyboards from Tomohiko Ito’s work on Chihiyafuru
From there, do you prefer working will people you’ve worked with in the past, how do you contact them, or do you have an in-house staff you work with?
Ito – I don’t know that many animators myself, so that’s more for the production side of the series, but I personally do prefer calling people I do know, and I’ll contact them, just because they know what I like, they know what I want.
Ito-san, you’ve worked on shows from Death Note to Erased, and now the Sword Art Online film, what has been your favourite to work on?
Ito – In terms of memories, and be memorable like my first animated series I directed, it was a series called Occult Academy. So that’s definitely the series I have the most memories with.
You’ve directed comedies like Silver Spoon and thrillers like Erased, how do you approach this shows differently?
Ito – They are very different, there is different parts you have to show depending on a comedy or thriller. The first thing you’d do is have a discussion with the producer and the writer and we say “Oh, we should show this scene”, or “Oh no, not that scene, but this one”. We have a thorough discussion and pick, and based off that we might look for references that might help us to create a scene and show.
Moving on from Tomohiko Ito and onto Shingo Adachi…
Adachi-san, what’s the hardest thing about adapting other’s designs, like abec’s Sword Art Online, to work in an anime?
Adachi – The original idea of creating an anime based on another’s work, such as a manga or light novel, is to reach out to those who don’t read manga or can’t read manga, for whatever reason, and people missed the story to see it and get interested in the story.
Adachi – I think it’s not right to think of only people who have enjoyed the original series, you have to think of the people who will only watch the anime and try an art style that will be accepted by all, and for an animation. So in the very beginning, if someone looked at a cover and didn’t like it, the idea is to draw them back into the series and to be attracted to it.
You’ve been a key animator on certain shows in the past, how does that differentiate to being a character designer/chief animation director, and which do you like better?
Adachi – There’s probably different ways of thinking about this, but I’ve never really done one role where I’ve had someone above me directing me, strictly so. It’s a different for me, as I’ve actually never had someone fixes my art before. And so when I was an animator, I probably think of the motions, and think “Oh yeah, it might turn out better like this” and put my own little touches on the scenes and redraw what I like about the series. When I’m a director of the art, I have to fix that style.
Adachi – As a character designer, what I have to consider is that in the first episode I have to make sure that the key visuals are made so that people want to watch it, that’s 50% of my job. It doesn’t matter how great the animation is, if people aren’t watching the first episode, it means nothing, they’re not going to continue to watch the series. Probably 50% of my job I’m spending trying to create a design everyone will like, so there’s a lot of pressure on that half of it.
And finally, because we are pressed for time, Ito-san and Adachi-san, what are your biggest inspirations?
Ito – Someone who I would call my teacher or master, is Mamoru Hosoda, and I do copy a lot of his style, and it’s not like I’m going to cover that up of hide that, or anything. And another thing I keep in mind, I do like traveling, so I like to go somewhere and get some inspiration on something I can use. Actually, I spent a lot of my time looking at Melbourne to find what I could use.
Adachi – So while I was a student studying, there were some people I did look up to, for example; Yasuomi Umetsu, Satoru Utsunomiya, and it’s not like I was trying to be them or anything, it’s more of a fan, it’s not like you can watch things I’ve created and find any similarities, but if there’s anybody who I’ve been inspired by in terms of work wise, who has effected my style, it’s the first animation company I worked for, Xebec.
Thank you for your time, and thank you to Madfest for allowing me to interview Tomohiko Ito and Shingo Adachi!
I also would like to thank Callum from TheCanipaEffect for question brainstorming and the use of his phone to record audio.