Kia Asamiya interview, September 2017

Space Battleship Yamato was the trigger to become an animator, and the first pro job was also Yamato!!

Kia Asamiya is the animator of the opening and the illustrator of key visuals, and also works on box art for models. We listened to his love of Yamato, an association that has been long and deep.

From the Yamato Crew Premium fan club magazine Ship’s Log issue 19, September 23, 2017.

Awakened to anime by Yamato, and the first job as an animator was for Yamato.

Interviewer: Was the broadcast of the Space Battleship Yamato TV series your first Yamato experience?

Asamiya: Yes, it was. I was a fifth grader at the time. In fact, I was paying attention before the broadcast. I saw a TV commercial and thought, “Wow, it’s starting!” I started watching without even thinking of other programs, and six months later I was already crazy about Yamato.

Interviewer: It was said that Yamato made you think about becoming an animator. What was it that attracted you?

Asamiya: I didn’t think about it at all when I was in elementary school, but the anime boom arrived when I was in the second year of junior high and the theatrical version of Yamato was released (1977). Animage was launched [in 1978]. When I read Animage I saw a profession called “animator,” and I thought it would be great if you could pay for your meals by drawing pictures. I had to go to high school first, but “animator” existed as a later option.

When I became a high school student, I was really immersed in anime, but it was quite an insular thing. You were looked down on for liking anime, and no one could talk about Yamato. It was like being a closeted Christian. (Laughs) But in the end, I said to my teacher, “for my career, I want to become an animator” and my teacher said, “What’s that?”

I explained it to the teacher and said, “I want to go to a vocational school.” He asked, “Can you go to a vocational school to become an animator?” I said, “I don’t know.”

“Can an animator feed himself?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do your parents say?”

“They’re against it.” (Laughs)

Interviewer: That’s a sound argument. (Laughs)

Asamiya: As a parent, I’d want my child to be a civil servant with a stable income. However, my parents had gone to Tokyo for two years of vocational school, and if it didn’t work out I’d just come back anyway…so that’s how they sent me to vocational school.

1983 promotion for Mad Machine, a series that never aired, with mecha design by Nobuyoshi Habara.

I went to Tokyo Designer Academy, and at that time I also learned about Nobuyoshi Habara. One day Animage reported on a series from Reed Pro called Mad Machine, and an illustration appeared by Nobuyoshi Habara. He wrote that he went directly to work at Reed Pro right out of high school, which was a big surprise. He was my age, but he had already drawn a copyrighted picture for Animage. So what was I doing at a vocational school? I was impatient. I met Mr. Habara after I got free, and he’s still one of my best friends in the industry.

After graduation, I was able to go to work for a video company that was a subcontractor for Toei Animation. It was a good learning experience, since some members of the company were chosen to work on Nausicaa. I drew about 1,000 pieces. I did in-betweens for Mr. Kaneda, Mr. Nakamura and Mr. Anno’s key frames. One of them was Kushyana shouting. I wasn’t able to talk to Hayao Miyazaki, but I was lucky enough to see work by people at the top of their craft.

Actually, the first job I did at that video company was Final Yamato. It was a shot of a Dengil Empire battleship firing a beam.

Interviewer: Then, your first job was…

Asamiya: Yes. The first work I did was on Yamato.

Interviewer: When I think of Yamato as the trigger that woke you up to animation, even though it’s a coincidence it seems like fate. What did you do after that?

Asamiya: Since I was working as an animator, I got more work as an illustrator of laserdisc and video jackets, and I came to do Yamato work because of that.

2199 had to be accepted as the comeback of Yamato to anime after 20 years.

Interviewer: How about your relationship with Yamato 2199?

Asamiya: I heard a rumor that 2199 would be made, but after I heard it the first time there was nothing more for a few years. One day I went to talk with Yutaka Izubuchi about another project, and he said, “Actually, I’m working on Yamato now.” I said, “I know, I know, I want to do it!”

“Do you want to see the designs?”

“I want to see them!”

“Then let’s go.” So we went somewhere else and he showed them to me. All I could say was, “This is good, this is cool!” He said, “Do you want to get on board this ship?”

I just talked to Mr. Izubuchi the other day and he said, “I never said that.” (Laughs) Nevertheless, thanks to him I got to do 2199.

Becoming Urashima Taro at the full CG site, and sudden pressure

[Translator’s note: Urashima Taro is a character from Japanese folklore, a man who found himself thrust into the future where he was completely out of his depth.]

Interviewer: You went to the work site after that.

Asamiya: It had already gone to CG, so I felt like Urashima Taro. There was a lot of jargon I didn’t understand, so I got some glossary documents from the production manager at Xebec. (Laughs) The first thing I worked on was a battle scene on the floating continent. I did original layouts. The storyboard was by Shinji Higuchi.

Interviewer: Suddenly, in an amazing place.

Asamiya: That’s right! Well…I was on the scene for the first time in decades, and thinking about CG for the first time, since it was all CG scenes. Besides, I didn’t work on character scenes. I’m all about mecha through and through. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Surrounded by full CG and storyboards by Mr. Higuchi. Sudden heavy pressure…

Asamiya: I thought, “whoah!” (Laughs) I was in charge of about 30 shots, and when the meeting was over I bumped into Mr. Habara. I said, “I’m doing about 30 shots or so…” and he said, “Eh? You’re doing that much? They probably gave you the most because you’re Kia Asamiya!” (Laughs)

Therefore, the part where they’re on the floating continent firing live ammunition, it’s all my layouts and timing. Generally, it is often thought that CG scenes are made of all CG, but there is a storyboard man and a layout man, and the movement reference is properly drawn. The CG people do a lot of work including the programming, but I want you to understand that the timing and layout of the movement is still an animator’s drawing, after all.

Interviewer: You were also involved with the opening.

Asamiya: Yes. One action shot with Kodai and Yuki, and the shot with the full view of Yamato with Okita in the captain’s room and Kodai, Yuki, and Shima. I had only three shots with characters. It was good to have been able to do the opening. I’m always glad to see my name listed. (Laughs)

After the episode with the floating continent, I also worked on the next episode. The scene of Susumu Kodai and the Garmilloid fighting on the stairs in the wrecked Yukikaze. This time it was human action, and it was very hard. (Laughs)

I was in the troubled state of Urashima Taro the whole time. I wasn’t at all familiar with the first original and second original system. Because I did the first original, I didn’t know how far I could go with the drawing, including shadows. Would I be responsible for the entire thing? I couldn’t figure it out for a while. After that, I began to do more layout correction work. I did layout correction on the scenes of the equator-crossing ceremony and the observation room.

Interviewer: You also did the ending films for the TV broadcast.

Asamiya: That’s right, for the TBS rerun version. They had to review everything from my roughs. The mecha was done in CG, but my images for the ending were hand-painted. I had dinner with Mr. Habara, who told me, “I saw the ending. I can do all those angles with CG!”

“Oh, but I did them by hand.”

“REALLY!?” (Laughs)

Interviewer: That’s an anecdote unique to the times of “CG mecha,” isn’t it?

Asamiya: I do it by hand, and I’ve been doing it that way for a long time now. I did various things for 2199 and it was fun.

Asamiya (left) and Habara discuss their opening title sketches at a Yamatalk event, October 31 2017.

The opening for 2202 was created in a family restaurant

Interviewer: I’d like to ask you about Yamato 2202. This time, you were involved in the opening from the conceptual stage.

Asamiya: I was told that they wanted me to do the opening. I’ve been doing opening titles with Mr. Habara since the days of Sonic Soldier Borgman. This time, the two of us talked about it in a family restaurant. He gave out his ideas and I gave mine and we had a discussion and I drew them on the spot. He did the storyboard based on that.

Interviewer: You also did layouts, right?

Asamiya: Yes. In the end, I did the layouts and the original art. Once I got started I realized, “You know what? This is hard work!” But I was naïve about it, so I couldn’t complain to anyone. (Laughs) I didn’t make progress at all, and Mr. Habara said, “This is hard, isn’t it?” and I said, “It sure is!” (Laughs) But I managed to finish it, and the backgrounds and special effects in the opening were wonderful. The characters were also painted with my style in mind. Truly, a background depends greatly on the power of special effects, and I’m grateful.

Interviewer: You’re also doing the box art for the model kits. What are you currently working on?

Asamiya: Currently I’m doing the 1/1000 Yamato 2202 model. It has to be done this month (August), and I think I’ll finish the painting next week. I always talk with the person in charge at Bandai and get to draw what I want to draw, so I’m grateful. I still think there needs to be a painting on model kit packaging, and even if it seems pretentious, I want to protect that tradition.

Interviewer: You’re considered to be a guy with an active imagination for images.

Asamiya: Oh, yeah. (Laughs) It is such an image. It’s a scene of Yamato taking off from the sea this time, and I personally wanted it to have the atmosphere of a ship model. The feeling of seeing it through a telephoto lens. The sea in front is rough, but the weather is sunny. Does it give you the feeling of seeing the launch scene from another angle?

Interviewer: My imagination is boiling. There are many ways you could come up with a diorama for the packaging, and such suggestions are good for a builder, too, aren’t they?

Asamiya: When the box art work started up, I thought, “All right!” I was a plamodel kid. When all the box images were lined up at a store front, I always thought, “Awesome!” The next one I’m working on will be for the Garmillas battleship set.

Interviewer: I’m looking forward to the future!

The reason to work on Yamato is because it’s Yamato

Interviewer: You were in charge of mecha for the key visual of Chapter 3, Pure Love Chapter. How was the composition decided?

Asamiya: The rough layout for the key visual comes from [Character Designer] Nobuteru Yuuki. He does the characters and I do the mecha. The CG team sends me the mecha (3D model) for reference, and I change the balance when I look at it. For example, the Cosmo Tiger II has changed its weight considerably. It is correct because it’s CG data, but when you look at it it’s unexpectedly stocky.

The Cosmo Tiger II image in my head has its nose stretched out, which gives it a little more ‘swoosh.’ I also referred to the CG for Yamato, and the weight balance has changed. For me, the best masterpiece in Yamato is the scene where the high-speed carrier is destroyed in Episode 2 of the first TV series. The animation art by Kazuhide Tomonaga is the best. I want to get close to that.

Interviewer: It has the atmosphere of a mini-climax…

Asamiya: Oh, yeah! (Laughs) There are the main batteries and the secondary guns, but just the thin gun barrels. There’s a part where I want to pay homage to Mr. Tomonaga’s image a little.

Interviewer: Even though it was drawn in 1974, it is still…

Asamiya: It’s really great. When the first and second main batteries come up in front of the bridge, it has the feeling of a mountain rising, doesn’t it? That’s the persuasive power of Mr. Tomonaga’s picture, and a great story behind it that gets Mr. Habara going.

For the Chapter 1 key visual, Yamato rising from the sea is an arrangement of CG parts and Mr. Yuki’s hand-drawn rough. I also added detail to Andromeda in the key visual for Chapter 2. I asked Mr. Habara if I could detail it up to my liking, and he said he was glad I asked. I increased its density while keeping in mind what Masanori Niishi did on 2199.

Interviewer: From the key visuals for the opening of 2202 to being in charge of the box art seems like a huge amount of work. Are you doing all of this because it’s Yamato?

Asamiya: That’s right. I do it because it’s Yamato. Everything I’ve done so far is because of Yamato. It’s really big. Thanks to Yamato love, I think I can handle any amount of work.

See galleries of Mr. Asamiya’s Yamato work at these pages:

2199 art canvases | 2199 art collection | 2199 postcard set

See his entry at Comic Book Database here

Box art by Kia Asamiya for model kit reissues, December 2009

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