This is the transcription of a short but really interesting and light Arifumi Imai talk written by Ynkl, a well-known Japanese sakuga fan always present in these kind of events. I simply translated his article under the advice of our favorite Blou-sama. If you want to buy the artbook he promoted during the event, here is the link.
Date: 1 PM, October 14 2019 (Monday)
Location: Animate Akihabara’s annex.
About the cuts Imai was in charge as an action animation supervisor.
Imai Actually, the job of an action animation supervisor is still about drawing more and more action in the end. The first animation I did for the show was the 3D maneuver showed in the PV released in 2012, the one where Eren chases after the titan who has eaten Thomas.
Asano For some animators, this is like a dream come true. I mean, doing a long action scene all compressed in one cut. Imai did that for the PV and immediately after every animator wanted to do similar one-cut action.
Imai Before entering in proper production, Mr. Yabuta (Shuuhei) from the 3D department made a mini 3DCG movie of the three-dimensional maneuver just by himself. Actually, we used it as a reference beginning from that PV. I watched that movie alongside with Mr. Ebara (Yasuyuki) and we said with absolute surprise “What the heck have you made this time?” Director Araki asked, “This 3D maneuver is well suited for 3DCG, so we’re going for it right?” but he responded, “on a second thought I feel like I want to go with 2D animation instead” so that was the starting point of this style of pipeline that combines 3D animation and 2D. Today WIT is actually working on a proper digital-friendly environment but at that time I was working alone in my own little “digital environment”, trying to fuse 2D animation with 3D. Mr. Yabuta is real excellence of the 3D animation world, he finely synced my 2D characters with the overall environment.
Nakatake So, why the animation of that scene is so good?
Imai I tried to remember a lot of times the same feeling of urgency related to death that Eren was feeling while heading to Thomas. At that time, I was still pretty much an underling at the mercy of WIT even if we talk about food expenses so I was able to empathize with the character’s struggle and that was in the result.
Levi’s Chase Scene
Imai While I was doing the scene where he’s under the carriage I started to think very seriously about what I should have done at that time, and in that exact moment Director Araki caught me while being in a trance (laugh). I think of Levi of a Super Sayan kind of character, the type of person who can think about the development of things and his future movements during his current action.
About his visual ideas
Imai I’ve collected references for months, mainly from games and movies. Probably, all of them got inside the Levi scene in a way or in another. I referenced the movie Van Hellsing during the part where the wire flies in the form of a neat spiral. As well as the game Uncharted 3, specially the part when the first enemy chases you from behind and their shadows are reflected on the wall. I’ve accumulated materials like these and I’ve reinterpreted them in a way that reflects myself.
Asano Yeah, me too. I’ve also gone to try bungee jumping as a reference for the series.
Imai Especially when I was asked to do scenes where the characters get up from their back I felt like I wanted to experience bungee jumping first. Actually, I’ve always thought of that, that would be helpful for the three-dimensional maneuver scenes. I invited Ms. Yuko Sera and Mr. Yasuyuki Ebara but they responded to me: “A company outing like that? You really think we have time for that?” with a really upset expression so in the end we didn’t go anywhere. When I finally did bungee jumping by myself I felt that experience so real that I felt dead inside.
Nakatake You were wearing a research corps uniform, right?
Imai When I told the director Araki about my experience he told me: “Imai, you’re probably the kind of person who’d enter the research corps, aren’t you?”
Nakatake Mr. Imai is a big fan of the original work, so this is one reasons of his participation in the series.
Imai There were a lot of scenes I wanted to be tasked with while reading the comic and sometimes it was enough to just ask the director to get me to assign a specific scene that I wanted to do.
Question & Answers
Question: Is there a specific number of keyframes you can’t surpass?
Answer: It varies by company to company but here there isn’t one. WIT is smart in a good way, this is a special point of the studio’s management style.
Q: What do you consider when you’re creating movement?
A: At first I try to create a mental image, then I pose myself to understand it better. The author, Mr. Isayama, said that the 3D maneuver is based on Spiderman, but the poses and the physical principles behind them are totally different because in the three-dimensional maneuver the anchoring element comes from the waist. So you can’t simply use your imagination, you have to combine it with a solid theoretical knowledge.
Q: By participating in the series, have you ever discovered something that was adapted differently in the anime?
A: The design of the three-dimensional motion device. At first I talked about it with Ebara and he said, “You really think you can draw that?” Originally, when the anime designs were similar to the ones showed in the manga, it was something really hard to draw because I wasn’t used to it but now I can draw them a lot without worries.
Q: While drawing Levi what’s is important to remember?
A: This is an advice not only for Levi but for the 3D maneuver in general: when you draw the characters in that peculiar context it’s like they’re flowing, they move quickly and it feels like their micro-actions end very quickly. To prevent this from feeling so obvious I always try to exaggerate a bit on the facial expression intentionally to convey the emotion of the character performing the actions.