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The first official coverage of Yamato 2205 came directly from the nerve center, Star Blazers/Yamato magazine vol. 5 (late November, 2019). It started with a tantalizing glimpse of preproduction art that was first shown to the audience of the Yamato 2202 concert Close To You Tonight in October 2019, then continued directly to the first interview with Series Director Kenji Yasuda. Here, he describes his entry into the anime industry, the directors who fostered him, and his hopes for the new series.
Yamato 2202 concert 2019 early release
The rough design images became a hot topic – and are now shared with the public in Yamato magazine! Expectations will inevitably increase for Space Battleship Yamato 2205, The New Voyage!!
Main Staff decided!!
Creator: Yoshinobu Nishizaki
Executive Producer: Shoji Nishizaki
Director: Kenji Yasuda
Series writer: Harutoshi Fukui
Scripts: Hideki Oka
Character Design: Nobuteru Yuuki
Mechanical Design: Junichiro Tamamori / Mika Akitaka / Yasushi Ishizu
Music: Akira Miyagawa
Kenji Yasuda Interview
The latest series has been announced: Space Battleship Yamato 2205, The New Voyage. Director Kenji Yasuda of Satelight Studio has been chosen, a man who has worked on many other productions. In this issue, we have a special interview with Director Yasuda. What kind of creator is he, and how did he encounter Yamato? With this interview, you can begin to anticipate the new work!
After working with Studio Fantasia, he joined Shaft. He worked as a freelancer for a while, then joined Satelight in 2012. His major works include Sakura Wars, Symphogear, Fullmetal Alchemist, Macross Delta, and others. Concurrent with Yamato 2205, he is directing Somali and the Forest Spirit.
See his profile at Anime News Network here.
See his profile at Satelight’s official site here.
Interviewer: How did you join the animation industry?
Yasuda: When I was in elementary school, I watched movies and anime with my friends and my older brother, and that was how I became conscious of the entertainment industry. So at first, rather than wanting to do anime, I longed for the mainstream entertainment industry and I started by going to film school.
Interviewer: Why were you drawn to live-action film over anime?
Yasuda: I watched a lot of high-spirited movies like Brian DePalma’s Phantom of The Paradise and The Untouchables, and I wanted to create works that delivered that kind of entertainment. Of course, I wasn’t conscious of that at the time, so I was attracted to movies that were full of spirit rather than those that wanted to convey a message. And although I thought about making such works as a student, there was just no momentum in Japanese film. The story went that in order to become a director, you had to endure decades of teacher/student relations like in professional sports. (Laughs) That seemed really difficult, so I turned to anime instead.
Interviewer: Were there any works in the anime industry that had a direct influence on you?
At that time I saw that various elements like music and sound effects could dynamically express various things in a story. Both works have a tense atmosphere as men’s dramas, but sometimes a breather scene is inserted. This method of pacing makes for a lively character, and it’s very attractive. After seeing such productions, I felt that anime was a better medium to create works with that entertainment spirit I was looking for. Eventually, I knocked on the gates of the anime industry.
Interviewer: How did you enter the anime industry and become a director?
Yasuda: I joined Studio Fantasia at the age of 21 or 22. At first, I was in charge of OVA [Original Video Anime] production for about three years. At that time, there were more OVA works than TV series and I was able to take the time to produce them, but as the number of late-night TV anime gradually increased, it didn’t go that way any more. The number of works done in the Dezaki style was going down, so I decided to study directing.
I started by copying storyboards at home and created my own independently, and I had the opportunity to show them to Seiji Muzushima (※2) when he visited Fantasia one time. He told me that Shaft studio that was looking for someone with production experience who wanted to become a director, so I decided to transfer there. After working there for about a year, I made my directing and storyboarding debut on Space Pirate Mito (1999). After that, it was exciting to get into the rotation under Mr. Mizushima when he directed Fullmetal Alchemist (2003).
Interviewer: You’re currently a member of Satelight. How did you get there?
Yasuda: When I belonged to Shaft, I was allowed to storyboard and direct an episode of Heat Guy J (2002). The director was Kazuki Akane (※3), a member of Satelight. This gave him an opportunity to ask if I’d like to be the assistant director for him on Noein – To Your Other Self (2005). Ever since then, I’ve had a seat at Satelight. After working on several TV series as a director, I became a member of the company in 2012.
Interviewer: Of the works you were involved with, which one was the turning point?
Yasuda: There are a few, but the first one that comes to mind is Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth – The Animation (2011). It’s the story of a Japanese girl who goes to Paris alone in the 19th century. It was written by Junichi Sato, who was also the sound director, and it was a big thing to be involved in. How you assemble an original series that isn’t based on a manga, how to add original elements to its worldview…I learned a lot from that one. I think it was Croisee where I learned how to request music that matched the work in acoustic terms, and the first time I became aware of how to use it effectively. In that way, Mr. Sato taught me a lot about combining music with visuals.
I also feel strongly about my time as an associate director on Boogiebop Phantom (2000). It was recently remade, but it was first broadcast about 20 years ago. In order to create a horror/mystery atmosphere, I put a lot of filters on the lens when it was shot. We were still shooting in analog back then, so that’s how it was done. I think that was the intention of Director Takashi Watanabe (※5). We didn’t just shoot the drawings and the backgrounds together, I noticed there was a way to control what you saw on screen by manipulating the shooting process. I think it was Mr. Watanabe’s influence that made me strongly conscious of that.
Interviewer: This may be a dumb question, but what is the effect of the shooting process?
Yasuda: First of all, shooting is the process of photographing cel art and background materials. So if I wanted to blur the outline of something or make the eyes shine, that would be a shooting effect. Since the process went digital, the range has expanded dramatically and we can apply a variety of effects. Boogiebop was made in the analog days, and it’s the one where I applied filters to the screen. By using that effectively, it makes it easier to convey what the character is feeling in a scene.
I think the shooting process is very important in anime. This is a bit unusual, but when I make a storyboard, I have a meeting with the director of photography. That way, it’s easier for me to convey the intention, atmosphere, and contrast of a scene. Of course, current anime always has to balance quality with the schedule, so some works don’t have a lot of money to spend on the shooting process. Even so, I feel that the burden on the photography unit is very high on current anime, and I hope to lighten that burden while still being able to make good visuals.
Interviewer: You previously talked about going to film school to make live-action movies. What do you think about the differences between live-action and anime?
Yasuda: In the first place, live-action and anime are completely different things. I think a feature of anime is that the way your work is received depends very much on what the creators decide to show and conversely what not to show. Director Dezaki created a unique atmosphere in his work using flip-art and incidental light. After what I learned from Mr. Watanabe on Boogiebop, I work with an awareness of what kind of impression the final visuals will have on the viewer.
Of course, an animator’s cel art and backgrounds are very important elements and shouldn’t be lost. On the other hand, it’s not those that reach the viewer, it’s a photograph of them that’s been shot; the atmosphere of the scene, the sentiment of a character, and the mood of the work. In recent years I’ve become more conscious of using the shooting process effectively to get as much as possible out of the material.
Interviewer: What are you particularly conscious of when you’re involved in a work as a director?
Yasuda: Grasping the style and guidelines of the work and how to deliver them to the audience. The original reason I joined the anime industry was to deliver entertainment, and I do my work while keeping in mind how the audience will receive it. I mentioned earlier how I’m conscious of the shooting process, but if for example it’s a work for children, it’s better not to do something elaborate. I think it’s especially important for the director to clarify the vision of the visuals after identifying the direction and target of the work.
Speaking of directing, sometimes a director only does a certain number of episodes. In current anime, short series of just a single arc [13 episodes] are becoming more common, so an episodic director may only be engaged once, or at most twice, and they may finish their involvement without gaining a proper understanding of the character and worldview. However, a series director is in a position to see the work in total and properly steer the episodic directors to keep a sense of unity. So I think it’s important for the series director to set firm guidelines.
Interviewer: What are your feelings now that you’ve been announced as the director of Yamato 2205?
Yasuda: I enjoyed watching Yamato 2199 and 2202 on my own, but I didn’t think there was any way I would direct a sequel. That was my feeling. When I was a kid, my older brother was an enthusiastic fan of Yamato, and I never expected that I’d be the director of a work he enjoyed back then.
Interviewer: As a director, what kind of work would you like 2205 to be?
Yasuda: Yamato has a magnificent story, and I think the characters and mecha are also important factors. Of course, it’s a work with a deep history, so we can’t stray from that image. But it shouldn’t be exactly the same, either. I’d like to give it more weight and intensity than ever before. Yamato’s crew is made up of unique people who are often placed in extreme situations. I think feeling a sense of closeness to them is important, and to give it a human touch that takes care of those points. It’s a work that has a lot more CG shots than the average TV series, so I want to deliver a new visual expression while exploring how to show mecha.
Interviewer: Finally, please give a message to Yamato fans.
Yasuda: We’re working hard to deliver new charms while also protecting the work that has been cherished so far. In 2205, we’ll depict new aspects of the characters as well as a new story. I hope you’ll look forward to it.
※1 Osamu Dezaki, director. His major works include Tomorrow’s Joe, Aim for the Ace, Adventure of Ganba, Rose of Versailles, and Tomorrow’s Joe 2. Died in 2011.
※2 Seiji Mizushima: director. His major works include Fullmetal Alchemist, Mobile Suit Gundam OO, and Expelled from Paradise. Mr. Yasuda directed and storyboarded episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist and Oh! Edo Rocket under him.
※3 Kazuki Akane: director. His major works include Escaflowne [movie], Noein – To Your Other Self, and Birdy the Mighty: Decode. Mr. Yasuda was his assistant director on Noein, directed and storyboarded episodes of Heat Guy J, and storyboarded on Stars Aline.
※4 Junichi Sato: director. His major works include Sailor Moon, Kaleido Star, and Aria the Animation. Mr. Yasuda was his assistant director on M3 The Dark Metal and directed and storyboarded episodes of Tamayura – Hitotose. Mr. Sato also supervised Shugo Chara!! Doki and was the writer and sound director on Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth – The Animation. He storyboarded Episode 24 of Yamato 2199.
※5 Takashi Watanabe: director. His major works include Slayers, Ikki Tousen, and Shakugen no Shana. Mr. Yasuda was his assistant director on Boogiebop Phantom and directed and storyboarded episodes of Space Pirate Mito. Mr. Watanabe was also involved in the live-action Yamato movie with the credit of “specialized equipment support.”