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An Interview With Anime Director Kenji Kamiyama

Date: 2013 June 3rd Monday [15:20] | Posted By: Joe

April 2013, it's spring time in London, it should be warm and sunny, but instead it's snowing sideways. We're off to meet renowned anime direction Kenji Kamiyama, writer and director of hit titles like Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Eden of the East and Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit.
Full Story
Kamiyama-san is in London to promote his latest movie 009 RE Cyborg, an update of a classic manga and anime series. The film is unique because it combines a traditional anime 2D look with some very impressive 3D depth of field special effects. He was visiting the British Film Institute for the European Premiere followed by a question and answer session. The movie gets a wider UK release on Friday 7th June 2013.

Thanks to the people at Anime Limited we were allowed to have a one on one interview with Kenji Kamiyama.

Kenji Kamiyama

On first meeting Kenji Kamiyama the first word that enters my head is stylish. He's clad in a designer black leather jacket, designer shades, during the interview on his left wrist I can't help but notice a jet back wrist watch. Clearly he's trendy and has good taste.

Out of all the titles you could have picked to make into a feature film why did you choose to make Cyborg 009? Why not 8 Man? Or your own original story?

There were various ideas that came up, but Cyborg 009 is very well know in Japan and has a long history. When I reread it I thought that idea of 9 people coming together from around the world was an usual one. Although it was written more than 40 years ago the themes were very deep and relevant for today.

With the movie, I know you went to great lengths to make the film appear more 2D than 3D, including using a reduced frame rate to shoot "on threes" or 8 frames per second instead of the full frame rate. Were there other things you did to give it a more traditional feel?

Things like the outlines. If you draw outlines on a computer they end up all being the same width, where if you draw them with a pencil you get a variation of the thickness of the line.

With the shadows in 3D CGI animation, you've got a light source which moves when the character moves their face, while with 2D the shadow goes with the character regardless of where the light source is.

So simple things like that to create a 2D look. They may seem pointless, but these are the little details that made 3D seem like 2D.

I noticed the glass effects and reflections look amazing in 3D, are there other subtle things that viewers might not notice immediately when viewing the film but add to the enjoyment?

There's a scene I really like over the sky in Dubai where Jet and Joe are fighting in the sky over the B-2, they're falling through the sky and rotating in-front of the camera. With hand drawn animation you couldn't really get that dynamic movement because they're locked together and they're falling it's very hard to do. Also in the last scene when they're walking on water.

I noticed that the red coats and yellow scarves were a nod to the original design. How did you go about updating Cyborg 009 while keeping a connection to the original?

I think the size of the buttons are the biggest thing, in the manga they're massive and now they're normal size.

For example 002's nose. He's got a massive nose in the manga. That's probably what Japanese people thought looking at western people 50 years ago, they had big noses! But we made that more realistic. The Chinese cyborg Chang Changku, we changed him a bit so Chinese people won't get upset, although he is still quiet fat!

We also had to adjust the proportions to make the proportions of the characters more realistic. In the 3D world, if you have a character standing next to a car for example if you have anime proportions, the character will look too big. We had to make the head look smaller, the hands the same size as a real live person, so they would fit in nicely and not look unusual or uncomfortable in a 3D real space.

With Production IG Titles, there always seems to be a Mini Cooper in the traffic scenes. We've noticed this in Ghost in the Shell SAC, Eden of the East and in Dubai in 009 RE:Cyborg. What's the significance of the Mini?

It started with Stand Alone Complex, when I had a Mini Cooper and the staff modelled it and put it into the film. It's a tradition that's started since then.

Why Dubai? Out of all the cities in the world, why did you choose to destroy Dubai in 009 RE: Cyborg?

At the time when I was writing the screenplay, the tallest building in the world was in Dubai. So the instruction from His Voice was to destroy the tallest building.

009 RE:Cyborg

What next? We know you're not working on Ghost in the Shell: Arise, as that's another team in Production IG. So what are you working on next?

Production IG are working on a completely new project, so if that gets off the ground, hopefully I'll be able to tell you about it in the not too distant future.

We're really impressed that it got released here so quickly, will that be a standard model for future releases?

Ideally yes!

009 RE:Cyborg

Later in the day was the UK premier of 009 RE Cyborg at the BFI Southbank. The movie was introduced by the BFI and also Production IG producer Tomohiko Ishii who explained (in English) a bit about the 007 Cyborg from the UK called Great Britain.

After the movie the floor was opened up to questions. Someone asked who would win in a fight between Cyborg 009 Joe Shimamura and Ghost In The Shell's Major Motoko Kusanagi. Before answering Kamiyama paused and you could see him thinking, as if visualising the fight in his head. He said that the Major's advantage is that she could connect to the internet, while 009 has his accelerator drive giving him a clear speed advantage. He concluded that it would be a tie between the two.

Someone else asked which of the Cyborg's abilities he would most like to have and why, this question caused laughter all round. ^_^ Kamiyama replied that as a child he would have enjoyed having machine gun hands like Cyborg 004, he then explained that he's always go so much work to do, so would probably benefit from an accelerator drive.

RE 009 Cyborg gets a UK cinema release on Friday 7th June 2013.

The Otaku News Team would again like to thank the good people of Anime Limited for giving us the opportunity to meet and interview Kenji Kamiyama.

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