But wait, there’s more!
Otakon 2023 was host to many guests, and I did my best to cover all the anime production related ones. Here’s all the stuff I heard and saw that I can’t really turn into a full article, but is too interesting not to post about.
Guests like Yanase are fascinating, but Otakon understandably didn’t quite know how to promote him. He’s not an ace animator, just a highly dependable one. Lately he’s directed some narou-kei isekai like If It’s For My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord and My Unique Skill Makes Me OP Even at Lv.1, but he didn’t ask for this. When someone from the audience asked how much experience you need to become a director, he said that he frankly doesn’t know; the job was foisted upon him whether he was ready or not.
Nonetheless, from his long experience he does have strong opinions about the sort of people who should be directors. He has no respect for directors who treat their staff like slaves, of which I’m sure you can spot a few looking at his credits. “When the show ends, all that’s left is grudges.”
He said his first two jobs as director were Himegoto and Onsen Yousei Hakone-chan. This is a complete lie, but since he wasn’t given an 18+ time slot, I can understand his desire to not get bonked. He already rode that line pretty closely. He told a few stories that could frankly get him in trouble, so I’ll keep as vague as I can about people who still work in the industry.
For instance, one of his strongest memories as director was when he had to hijack control of some of the designs because they were taking so long that it threatened to derail the whole production. He just drew the settei himself and kept quiet about it. On the other hand, he’s always frustrated by problems with the producers. They originally told him that By the Grace of God was only going to be one season, so he worked hard to efficiently adapt what he could and decide which characters to include – but then they changed their minds and he had to figure out how to wedge all that stuff back in again during the middle of production. As honored as he was that us foreigners are watching anime now too, the globalization of otaku culture has created new and innovative ways to get in trouble. He’s gotten bonked a few times for Map Crimes™ and oversights about cultural norms. Luckily for the Map Crimes™, it was the art department’s fault and he could finally just get some sleep while they fixed it.
When an audience member asked directly how much producers have interfered with his vision, he simply gave a thousand yard stare and said「…言えない」– “nope, not saying.”
“If you want to know, please come to my deathbed.”
He says that he’s good buddies with a car dealer who doesn’t watch any anime, but because they’ve been drinking together for so long, he’s basically an industry expert now.
The saddest story he had was about If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord. He was all set to solo animate an episode (!), but it fell through due to production delays, and the producers blamed him. “It wasn’t my fault!” he claims. He couldn’t bring himself to come to the studio for a week after that. “Everyone loves to blame everyone else.” Later, I asked if he had ever solo animated or nearly solo animated anything before, and he did apparently come close on Beast Wars Neo. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to look at the credits on seesaa and figure out which episode he means. He still hopes he gets another chance someday.
Still, My Daughter wasn’t all bad. He says that he’s very proud of a voice actress he cast named Kanon Takao, whose career took off as a result – like a father almost. She was just a highschooler at the time. In general, he says he has precious memories of everything he works on no matter how hard it was. I guess you have to have an attitude like that to survive in anime. After all, when he was just starting out in the industry, he didn’t even make enough to eat. His first paycheck was something like ¥20,000, which is…kinda hard to valuate in 2023 money because of bubble era monetary bullshit, but it’s Not Great. He talked a bit about how wages have increased especially for inbetweeners, but says it still doesn’t seem like enough, and that your ability to survive is tied to how fast you can work. None of this is news to our audience, but it goes to show that the industry has never been kind to animators.
One thing he mentioned particularly interested me. The transition period from paint to digital coloring seems criminally underdocumented even in Japanese for how important it is. There’s been some minor discourse about just how bad the “early digipaint” era really was, but just why was it like that? How much of it was unfamiliarity with new tools? How much of it was the unrefined excess of newfound power? Did the anime industry collectively just…forget how colors worked? Of course not, but Yanase points to the fact that the paint staff held some pretty important knowledge when it came to colors, and that knowledge largely just up and vanished along with them. It caused them plenty of problems down the road.
Like many from his generation, Yanase was inspired to become an animator in part by Urusei Yatsura. He knew about all the animation directors, tracked them episode-to-episode, and studied their work assiduously. Those who have been keeping up with Combattler Rick’s Animage scans will know exactly what he’s talking about. Accordingly, someone from the audience asked if he could draw a quick sketch, and a caricature artist who happened to be there volunteered a piece of paper. “Muri〜!” he said, “it’s been too long!” but he still drew the cute Lum-chan at the top of the page in less than five minutes. Lum-chan’s not so easily forgotten.
Takaharu Ozaki talks about working on “mature” anime titles
>Ozaki was at Otakon and you didn’t interview him? What the fuck??
I know, I didn’t know how many interviews I should try and schedule D:
In any case, Takaharu Ozaki has directed a few well respected, highly mature anime. He also directed BASTARD!! and Goblin Slayer, and those were what he wanted to talk about Saturday night at Otakon. I’m down: I love OVA boom trash, especially with hilarious old edgy Manga UK dubs. Ozaki and I are comrades.
To introduce the panel, he and Warner Bros. Japan producer Shinya Tsuruoka screened the first episode of his new adaptation of BASTARD!! He and the producer were on the same page: they both appreciated the mix of dark and comic elements in the source material. Ozaki in particular was excited to bring more metal to the project than the 90s OVA had. Again, Ozaki and I are comrades on this: the protagonist is named after Udo Dirkschneider for god’s sake and I mean it’s probably not his fault it turned out to be a bunch of metalcore y’know an attempt was made
Aside from liking dark fantasy, Ozaki values broadening his experience by working within a wide variety of genres. As far as classic “dark fantasy” goes, he mentioned liking Vampire Hunter D, but he also takes great interest in learning from other modern adaptations of classic manga, like Trigun Stampede and the new Spriggan. Incidentally, I believe I noticed him in the audience for Orange’s roundtable the next day.
Most of the discussion, which was driven by audience questions, was about the challenges of making “mature” cartoons, but it seems Ozaki had a pretty easy time of it. Netflix does not have stringent broadcast restrictions, and the producers understood what it was they were adapting. Where they and Ozaki differed, he tried to work through it: showing “animatics” and other production material, and in general trying to “drive the scene forward and through.” Occasionally they would have to resort to using an effect to censor something, but they were usually able to figure out a better solution.
Ozaki and his staff debated questions around how and why to re-adapt BASTARD!! in the current day at length during preproduction. Aside from simply being able to adapt more of the source, the producer appreciates the ability of modern compositing and effects to depict magic. Given Ozaki’s background, I would assume that he agrees, but he didn’t weigh in. For his part, one of his own goals was to push the nudity as far as he could – which again due to Netflix was actually quite far. On the other hand, he did feel that working with younger animators and staff who hadn’t read the BASTARD!! manga was a bit of a challenge.
One thing that Ozaki sees as tying his work together regardless of genre is color palette. Ozaki doesn’t like that a lot of modern anime have these bright, deeply saturated color palettes and kitsch approaches to compositing, and prefers working with darker tones. It’s perhaps one of the few things which tie BASTARD!! to Girls’ Last Tour. He did address an oblique question about the maturity of GLT compared to the “maturity” of BASTARD!! and Goblin Slayer, and he does of course see them as fundamentally different things. With GLT, the question wasn’t about pushing the darkness but trying to find how best to show the light. The cute dancing and walk cycles in the OP were actually a deliberate thematic choice.
I had a chance to ask a question, but due to interpreter difficulties, Ozaki answered my question about his 3D layouts by saying that he uses 3D layouts. I already caused trouble for this poor beleaguered interpreter earlier, so I didn’t press the matter. For the sake of this site and my own sanity however, from here on out I think I’m going to be That Guy and just ask my questions in Japanese.
This wraps Artist Unknown’s coverage of Otakon 2023. I also have a ton of notes from a panel that the composer and aniP of Tunnel to Summer hosted, but I haven’t seen the film yet myself. Whenever I get around to it, and I’ve done a survey of the already existing press tour material, I’ll decide what to do.
Ah, but I guess some of you may be wondering who I am.
>nobody’s wondering that, dipshit