An Interview with WIT Studio's Kotomi Deai and Hiroshi Shimizu
Date: 2015 October 10th Saturday [15:51] | Posted By: Joe
MCM Group Events are always great for anime fans. At the end of September 2015 Kotomi Deai and Hiroshi Shimizu of WIT Studio were anime guests at the MCM Scotland Comic Con in Glasgow. We were lucky enough to be able to interview them and discuss their latest project The Rolling Girls and what it's really like to work in the anime industry.
The Rolling Girls has gained lots of fans since its release in January. How do you feel about that?
Kotomi Deai: I'm really glad and grateful that you're watching it and enjoying it.
Hiroshi Shimizu: I feel the same, but I want even more people of different ages and people who don't usually watch anime to watch it as well.
Is it true that some of The Rolling Girls' songs are covers from the punk rock 80's band The Blue Hearts? If so, why did you decide to choose this band? If I'm wrong, sorry – where did most of the musical inspiration come from?
Kotomi Deai: Lots of people in Japan grew up listening to the Blue Hearts and being encouraged by them when they were younger including the producers and the writer of Rolling Girls and because the whole concept of The Rolling Girls is to support and encourage people that fitted right in with that idea. So we got the voice actors to cover the songs.
WIT Studio is a new studio to the anime industry. Certain studios have their own style, their own artistic hallmarks. If you saw one of their titles without knowing it was by them, you could most likely guess the production studio. Do you think WIT Studio's will have its own distinct style?
Kotomi Deai: WIT Studio has young producers and the staff including the creators are all quite young fresh talent, so in a way it's still developing, but they are very passionate and they want to make things that are new, that are fun and I think that comes across.
If you could have any fighting ability like the characters in Rolling Girls, what would it be? Would you dress like a sentai team member? Have a giant safety pin?!
Kotomi Deai: I think I'd rather be part of the rest and be blown away in a fight between the bests.
Hiroshi Shimizu: I'd rather be able to use the force. I would a best who can use the force!
And where would you be?
Hiroshi Shimizu: I'd be a Tokyo best!
How would you say the anime industry has changed since when you first started working in the industry?
Hiroshi Shimizu: There are waves of what kind of anime are popular in each era and you need to adjust to that in order to get on and if you can't adjust it can be quiet difficult. In future I think there's going to be more and more work using CG, using tablets. We'll need to be able to adjust to the new software developments.
Kotomi Deai: When I joined the industry it was already pretty much fully digitalised. Before that it had been drawing on cels, each shot had to be drawn individually on the clear cels and even painted on the cells, but that turned digital and things got faster. Things got more efficient and the software improved to make things even more efficient. The better software and the more efficient processes are allowing creators to do more. So there are all sorts of new possibilities opening up.
Hiroshi Shimizu: I think the biggest effect so far has been on photography and colouring, but I think going forward it'll probably have more of an impact on the actual work of rendering and animation.
Kotomi Deai: More and more people are animating now using a pen tablet. So we're moving towards a paperless industry. Although I don't think it'll get there quickly.
What do you do when you're not animating? Does it ever get too much? What pastimes do you have to break away from the animation world?!
Hiroshi Shimizu: I've had various hobbies. I was obsessed with motor bikes at one point, then I was obsessed with diving and then there was another time I was obsessed with cycling and now I'm into tennis.
Kotomi Deai: I do listen to a lot of music. I always look forward to going travelling after a big job has finished.
Kotomi Deai, looking at your biography, you've been prolific with storyboards. What title(s) did you particularly enjoy doing the storyboard work on and why?
Kotomi Deai: Whenever you're working on a project you're focusing on that project so it's always fun and it's always fulfilling. I've got to do a lot of ending animations and that's quite good fun, because they tend to leave a lot of it up to me.
Compared to The Rolling Girls, Silver Spoon seems to have a lot more character development. Which type of anime do you prefer to direct? Those with slower, more character developing storylines, or those with highly energetic action packed scenes?
Kotomi Deai: I'm personally more interested in the human drama, but this was the first time with Rolling Girls that I worked on an action anime all the way through from the storyboard and it was good fun. I'd like to have another go.
Hiroshi Shimizu, looking at your biography, you've been prolific with key animation work. What title(s) did you particularly enjoy doing the key animation work for and why?
Hiroshi Shimizu: I just love making characters move and animating them. So I like drawing key animations, where there is a lot of movement. As for what particular works were fun to animate, Porco Rosso, the fight scene in that and then there are baseball scenes in Only Yesterday that I really enjoyed doing. I had to do a lot of research and that's fun.
You have worked on so many incredible projects, from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Princess Mononoke and Porco Rosso to Fullmetal Alchemist, FLCL, A Tree of Palme and of course The Rolling Girls. What a stellar resume! What is it that inspired you to become an animator in the first place?
Hiroshi Shimizu: It started when I saw Hayao Miyazaki's Lupin the Third Castle of Cagliostro. There was great action that and I thought I wanted to make something like that.
How does it feel to have worked with people like Mamoru Hosoda and Hayao Miyazaki?
Hiroshi Shimizu: Hayao Miyazaki was very scary. I had nightmares for about a year after finishing Princess Mononoke. If I saw someone in the street from behind who looked like Miyazaki-san, I couldn't go anywhere near them! But over time I came to realise that it had been a really good experience to be involved in Princess Mononoke and I'm still a really big fan of Miyazaki's work.
With Hosoda-san we're similar ages, which I think helps us to have similar ideas, but he's very particular and that can be very difficult.
We've heard that you will also be working as animation director on Steambot's Urbance? Would that be your first non-Japanese animation project? How are you finding it?
Hiroshi Shimizu: It's not my first non-Japanese project. Five years ago I worked with a company call Ankama Japan, which is a French company that had a branch in Japan and we made a spin off episode of a series called Wakfu. I was the character designer and animation director on that.
I've also worked with a company called Yapiko on some promotion work and some jobs that have come from France.
How is progress on Urbance going? We haven't heard much news about it.
Hiroshi Shimizu: We've finished the pilot recently and I think the plan is to make a series based on that next year, but there aren't enough staff at the moment. So we're either going to get more people or ask another Japanese animation studio to help out. I think that's the plan.
After working on all these amazing anime projects and working with so many creative geniuses, have you ever thought about writing and directing your own stories? If so, would these stories be taking inspiration from the projects and people you've worked on, or would it be something else very different? And if not, what would you like to work on next?
Hiroshi Shimizu: When I started out, I thought I wanted to be a key animator forever and just draw pictures forever, but then I started to realise as a key animator you only see one tiny part of the project. Even when you watch on screen you section is over in a flash, which is quiet sad. So then I started to want to be more involved in different areas, like storyboarding, like direction. I would like to create my own original project, but there aren't that many opportunities to do that in Japan at the moment. So I haven't had an opportunity yet, but I do have a few ideas if I did get that opportunity.
In Japan people always say "Oh! You were involved in making Princess Mononoke or whatever, that's amazing!", but actually Miyazaki-san's amazing and I'm not particularly amazing. So I just feel like I want to make something that I can be proud of in that way.
There are some things I've been thinking about since I've been a primary school student that I would actually like to make reality. For example when I was at primary school I had some weird friends and I'd like to make them the main characters!
Otaku News would like to thank Kotomi Deai and Hiroshi Shimizu, Anime Limited and the MCM Scotland Comic Con for making this interview possible.