Interview with Kanemori Yoshinori and Kawamoto Toshihiro, Otakon 2005

Reporter(s): Kuzu Ryu Sen
Location: Otakon 2005, Baltimore, MD, USA
Date: August 19, 2005

At Otakon 2005, Anime Secrets had the great and unexpected pleasure of being able to conduct an interview with character designers Kanemori Yoshinori and Kawamoto Toshihiro. Profiles of these two esteemed individuals can be found with the transcriptions of their respective panels linked above. This interview transcription includes questions posted by everyone present at the press conference style round robin, not just questions posed by the Anime Secrets representative. 

What was your inspiration to enter the animation industry?

Kanemori Yoshinori: Well, I just like to draw.
Kawamoto Toshihiro: Of course, I also like to draw, but I also watched a lot of animation as a child, so that inspired me.

What sort of animation did you watch?

KT: I actually watched Kanemori-san’s Stop! Hibari-kun!, as well as Matsumoto Leiji’s works like Galaxy Express 999.

What is your favourite part about an American convention?

KT: Normally, I don’t have a chance to get an audience response, particularly from North America, so the opportunity to see the audience response first hand is great.
KY: When I first started, the image of Japanese animation was that of something that wasn’t “child friendly.” Mind you, this was thirty years ago. What has caused this change in perception, I don’t know, perhaps Disney changed directions as people grew up. Regardless, I’m very surprised by the rapid change, and it has made me very glad that I stayed in the industry.

Are anime directors obsessed with movement?

KY: Yes, perhaps almost to the point where it is a syndrome. As a result, even small differences in movements lead us to analyze like a director would.

Is there a trick to effective animation?

KY: Well, since “reality” isn’t really reality, well, to say, people can’t take the shock of reality, so you could say that we fake it. Also, we place extra emphases on various things.

Is it true that the hardest thing to animate is something walking?

KY: Yes. It’s a basic movement that everyone sees everyday, so it can’t be faked.

Kawamoto-san, in Cowboy Bebop, what were your most favourite characters to create, and was there any particular inspiration for them?

Well, all the projects that I’ve done have been worthwhile, but Fullmetal Alchemist has been the most exciting.

Which anime do you admire and/or has influenced your style?

KT: Well, the four protagonists and Ein was the product of collaboration between me, the director, the writers, etc… As such, whether it was fun or not is not something that can be said, it was part of work after all.

I got to enjoy myself more with the side characters, where I had more freedom.

Was there ever a time where you said “I can’t draw this?”

Well, firstly, thank you for saying that FMA‘s story wraps up well.

KT: Well, the character Gren was inspired by Brad Pitt, but I just couldn’t draw Brad Pitt. The script writer had said to “make the character as beautiful as Brad Pitt,” but my vision of Brad Pitt was always as a great actor, so we had totally different ideas of beauty.

At the end of every episode of Golden Boy, Oe Kintaro always leaves. Why is that?

KT: Well, most of it is due to the original manga author, since he wanted to write a Mitokoumonclassic style story, where the hero always leaves after solving an issue or saving someone. Also, if the main character didn’t leave, it would be the end of the show, right?

Do you draw or work on a project in your spare time?

KY: I doodle a lot, on advice from my mentor. The subject is often an interesting face at work or something like that, but I never make them look good.
KT: In my case, I don’t draw, and the lack of a mentor is the reason for the lack of this good habit [chuckles].

Privately, I draw when I write a letter, particularly when it involves a character. It’s a good communication tool, and I’d like to think that the recipient enjoys the little drawings.

For your generation, there were certain anime that seemed to inspire people to become animators, such as Gundam or Macross. Has any new anime had that same effect on the younger generation?

KY: Well, we do belong to a similar generation. Each generation has different things to define them, and it isn’t just the shows that they watch.

So there wasn’t a wave of new animators per se after something like Dragon Ball Z orEvangelion?

KY: I watched Bambi, and as a result, absorbed a like for animation and for drawing, and eventually those likes matured to become a career. I’m sure there were animators who absorbed things from Evangelion when they decided to enter the industry.
KT: In my case, I work for BONES. During RahXephon, for example, the audience was predominantly male, so after the run, many males came to BONES. Recently, Fullmetal Alchemist had a predominantly female audience, so we had many females coming to BONES. They just came because that’s what they regularly watched, and because they found what they regularly watched to be interesting.

When newcomers arrive, I’d like to welcome those visually interested in our work though, and not just fans of a particular character.

What is your favourite American comic/anime?

KY: The black and white Superman. I saw the realistic visuals and thought “wow, I’d like to try doing that.”
KT: As a grade schooler, from 6 PM on there was an endless run of Tom and Jerry, so that affected me a lot. At that time, I didn’t know anything about the animation process, but I could see that this show was different from what was being produced in Japan in terms of movement, humour, and fluidity. This was truly special.

This brings me to another point, and that is Spongebob Squarepants. Regarding it, I just have to say that Spongebob does not exist in the Japanese logic system, and that we cannot create something like that.

I don’t know if Spongebob is popular in Japan or not, but it might affect the styles of the new wave of animators.

Where in the USA would you like to visit?

KY: That would be the Reno Air Show, while I’m still young. Actually, I’m planning to go next year.
KT: The first Christmas I spent in Hawaii; it was so different, and gave me a strong impression, so I would like to return.

To follow up on that, have you taken flying lessons, Kanemori-san?

KY: To be honest, I like the shape/figure of the aircraft, but I’m actually a little scared to fly. Well, maybe not if I were piloting, but if someone else pilots, I’m scared.

Thank you very much.