Kia Asamiya interview, 2021

The 10th issue of the Star Blazers/Yamato Fan Club Magazine was published in February 2021, and its lead story was called The “Green Power” That Supports Yamato. This was a collection of interviews with artists who worked on various aspects of Age of Yamato, starting with veteran animator and designer Kia Asamiya. His interview is presented here; the others will follow in our next update.

Only moving forward toward a bright future! The “Green Power” that supports the Remake series

Age of Yamato Production staff interview

Kia Asamiya talks about genga and storyboarding

The storyboards that determine the angle and the worldview are the “blueprint” of animation.

Yamato continues to evolve with the times while incorporating the latest animation technology. However, it goes without saying that the driving force that supports the world of Yamato is the love of creators who make full use of technology.

Based on the testimony of the staff that created the latest work, Age of Yamato, this collection of interviews explores the technology and passion behind the remake series. As the top batter, let’s have a look at Kia Asamiya, who was in charge of the storyboards and genga.

[Translator’s note: “genga” is the Japanese word for “original art.” In this case, it refers to the actual drawings that create animation, both key frames and in-betweens.]


Kia Asamiya’s origin as a creator lies in Space Battleship Yamato!

Interviewer: First of all, please tell us about your passion and feelings for Yamato.

Asamiya: Yamato was broadcast when I was a 5th grader in elementary school. At that point, I was pretty much hooked. I was in high school when I saw Farewell to Yamato, and I had already started thinking about becoming an animator. After that, my dream came true and my first job was on Final Yamato. (laughs)

When I watched Yamato as a child, I felt like “this shoots right through my soul,” and I think I’m here because of my experience. The Yamato series has a weight that is very special for me.

Interviewer: Speaking of which, in Martian Successor Nadesico, which can be said to be your masterpiece, we can feel your respect for Yamato.

Asamiya: Nadesico was like adding Star Trek to the world of Yamato. (laughs) In particular, the color coding of costumes according to the crew placement is exactly the same as Yamato. The battle team was red and the life support team was yellow. I think Nadesico is a by-product of Yamato in terms of design.

The manga in particular was a perfect example of feasting in Yamato‘s shadow. I think the nuance I received from Yamato is also present in my other works. For example, I used some lines from Yamato for my character’s voices. The influence comes out everywhere.

Interviewer: Between the original and the remakes, can you tell us your favorite character or a line that left an impression on you?

Asamiya: That’s a lot. (laughs) In particular, Okita’s lines are all great, aren’t they? I’m in trouble because there are too many. (laughs)

Interviewer: Also, could you tell us your favorite mecha or scene?

Asamiya: In the original, I really liked the Domel fleet. I watched the the battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster (Episodes 21 and 22) at least once a year until 2199 came out. (laughs) His fleet in 2199 is also good, isn’t it?

In 2202, the White Comet Empire mecha was very innovative, wasn’t it? It’s the same mecha as in Farewell, but the colors are white and green. It was a shock when it was first shown.

As for the Remake series, I really love Ark of the Stars. I think it’s a wonderful work with a great mind for SF.

Interviewer: As a creator, what do you think is the appeal of Yamato?

Asamiya: In a nutshell, I feel that the depiction of mecha and the conflicts and relationships of the characters are the most attractive. In terms of mecha, there is the huge ship called Yamato, and the way action is depicted, including the power of the enemy, is very interesting.

In the remake of 2199, Director Yutaka Izubuchi and his team added interpretations that are in line with modern times, such as making the old works “fit together,” so the mecha depictions really evolved.

In 2202, I felt that the emphasis was on the portrayal of characters. I’ve heard that the number of new fans, especially women, has increased significantly because of this. I can understand why.

GENGA

Kia Asamiya came back into the fold as an animator for the first time in 15 years. A battle scene between Yamato and a Garmillas ship in Episode 3 of Yamato 2199 showed his action sense. Although it was rendered using 3DCG, Asamiya’s powerful angles on the shock cannons were used to reproduce the battle against the Garmillas ships with speed and profound action.

He worked on numerous SF action anime in the 80’s and 90’s where he refined his drawing sense for overwhelming mecha action. Many fans are surprised by the power and speed of his scenes.

Asamiya’s method of communicating angles and movements to the 3DCG team and assembling them accurately as images is a masterpiece hybrid of analog and digital imaging. The same technique is used on new scenes in Age of Yamato.


Called by Yamato to return to the world of anime production after 15 years

Interviewer: As far as credit is concerned, you returned to do an animator’s work on 2199. How long did you work as an animator, and how long was your hiatus?

Asamiya: The last time I did genga as an animator was on Nadesico at Xebec. It was for Gekiganger 3, the story within the story (October 1, 1996 to March 1997). From then to 2199 (2013), there was a hiatus of about 15 years.

Interviewer: Why did you take a break from working as an animator, and why did you decide to come back with 2199?

Asamiya: I took a break from animation work because I was busy as a manga artist. Even when I was working on Gekiganger 3, I was already mainly working as a manga artist. But I had a chance to meet Nobuyoshi Habara, who was overseeing the project, and he asked me to help out.

2199 came about in a similar way. Mr. Izubuchi, the general director, asked me to get on this ship. When you are asked to do something like that, you have no choice but to say “yes.” (laughs)

Interviewer: What was the first part of 2199 that you were in charge of?

Asamiya: I was in charge of the battle scene on the floating continent in Episode 3. It had been a while since I worked on an anime scene. I think I did about 30 shots. When I came back to work, I suddenly found myself doing CG scene layouts and rough genga. It was a completely different kind of work from what I had experienced in the anime industry. It was quite a challenge for me. (laughs)

Interviewer: What is your impression of Yamato‘s staff from the perspective of someone who returned to the anime production scene after several years?

Asamiya: I can’t say enough about the people who worked on this project. In particular, I’m a big fan of Nobuteru Yuuki, the character designer.

Also I think Takashi Hashimoto, the effects advisor, does a really good job with a lot of respect for Yamato. On Age of Yamato, the parts I did both storyboards and genga for had a lot of effects shots, so I really should have asked him to work on them. (laughs) When we made the anime version of Steam Detectives, based on my manga, Mr. Hashimoto was in charge of various tasks, mainly mecha design.

If I were to mention everyone else I want to name, there would be no end to it. The amount of enthusiasm by the creators who are in charge of various settings is really amazing. As a person who also creates things, I really need to emulate them.

DETAIL-UP

In the Yamato remake series, the detail-up technique is often used, where an artist adds details to the mecha rendered in 3DCG.

On 2199, Junichiro Tamamori and Masanori Nishii were in charge, but Kia Asamia is in charge on Age of Yamato. Adding all that detail in 3DCG would increase the amount of data and make it difficult to handle as video material. This is why it is only used for shots that require fine detail.

In addition to Okita’s Kirishima, many Murasame-type space cruisers and Isokaze-type assault space destroyers have been given awesome and powerful detail. In addition, the navigation lights, left and right identification lights, and other lights on various parts of the ship were added via filming and special effects. In contrast, the fleet’s appearance is beautifully and impressively colored by the lights on each part of the ship.

This is one of the most impressive scenes in Age of Yamato, in which the fleet departs from Earth before it is devastated.

I feel the spirit of the first movie in Age of Yamato

Interviewer: Unfortunately, the premiere of Age of Yamato was postponed due to the Corona disaster. Could you tell us about your impressions of the film?

Asamiya: The first Yamato movie also started as a compilation, didn’t it? I got the impression that it inherited that spirit. As a standalone movie, it’s really well organized, including the documentary method that Harutoshi Fukui intended.

Interviewer: Tell us about the parts of the film that you were in charge of, as well as the parts you’d like people to pay special attention to!

Asamiya: I was in charge of the first new shot at the beginning, the launch of Apollo 11. If I had to pick a scene that I have a personal attachment to, it would be the Second Battle of Mars, which is an important prehistory to the story of 2199. For this sequence, I was in charge of adding hand-drawn details to the mecha that came out in CG.

In 2199, Masanori Nishii and Junichiro Tamamori were in charge of adding hand-drawn details to the CG. This time, I wanted to follow the same process. I asked Studio Mother to work with me, and I added high detail to their CG for some shots.

Interviewer: By the way, when you worked as an animator, your name was “Michitaka Kikuchi.” When you were working as a manga artist and illustrator, you went by “Kia Asamiya.” Why do you use the name “Kia Asamiya” for Age of Yamato?

Asamiya: It’s true that I used the name “Michitaka Kikuchi” on 2199, but even at that point I had already become less particular about using the different names, and thought it would be okay to unify under “Kia Asamiya” from now on. That’s the extent of my reasoning.

Interviewer: Does this mean that you will continue to be involved in the anime production as Kia Asamiya?

Asamiya: I think Age of Yamato might be the last time I do genga. Actually, I’m thinking of graduating from animator’s work after this one. I already told Mr. Fukui that, but he said, “We can still ask you for storyboards, right?” I said, “By all means!” (laughs) I guess I wanted to stay involved in the animation field.

Interviewer: So you’re going to continue working on storyboards?

Asamiya: They’re really fun to draw. In short, they’re like a blueprint for anime. It’s fun to be able to build it with my own hands. Even if I have to make some changes for the director or the director’s office, I can create the world view, the flow, the layout and the angle of the story by myself.

The real thrill of creating layouts and angles is in the work of storyboarding. I’d like to show more people that drawing storyboards is one of the most important jobs in anime production.

Interviewer: You are both a manga artist and an animator. What do you think are the differences between the two jobs?

Asamiya: In contrast to manga, which can be completed by oneself, with anime you create a work as a member of the production staff, which is a big difference. After I finish my part, there are people who take over the work from me. So I have to pay a lot of attention to the schedule and the production process.

From a technical point of view, it has been a long time since I have been on-site, so I have the impression that anime requires more computer skills. I’m not that skilled, so the new shots I was in charge of this time required a lot of help. In addition to the production staff, I contacted Mr. Habara, who I worked with on 2202, and he gave me advice on special effects and how to use CG.

With the help of many people, I was able to complete the film. Age of Yamato is a work that I feel very strongly about as an animator. It’s going to take a little more time, but I hope you will look forward to the premiere.

Read a 2017 interview with Kia Asamiya (with links to several gallery pages) here



STORYBOARDS

Kia Asamiya drew the storyboards (in collaboration with Nobuyoshi Habara) for the opening title of Yamato 2202, where he also did genga. Asamiya’s beautiful hand-drawn images showed Yamato under reconstruction from various angles, and certainly their luxurious finish made many mecha fans out there say, “Just look at this!”

We see Yamato surface from the sea, the Cosmo Tiger II’s with Yamato and the Earth in the background, and Yamato being attacked under the White Comet. The timing and angles of these scenes were all an homage to the Yamato 2 opening title. The fact that screen-captures of the Yamato 2 scenes were pasted onto the storyboards shows how much respect and care was put into the pictures.

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