Anime Expo 2005
Anime Expo - Hiroshi Ousaka Focus Panel

by Penguino, Jul 4th 2005
Have you noticed a number of people seem to be thoroughly obsessed with Fullmetal Alchemist? What do you think?
It's very popular in Japan, as well. Having it being popular worldwide, it makes me very happy.

Any insights on what you think makes Fullmetal Alchemist so popular?
I think there's a lot of originality in the characters and the story is very interesting. There is a lot of variety in the characters.

Are there any challenges, taking a TV series, and making a full length movie from it, without it feeling like an extra-long TV episode?
Hmm... I think there are two parts to that. The trick of going from a TV series to an actual release is to make an audience who's never seen the TV series want to see the movie, and at the same time you want to attract new customers. You need to get more new movie fans as well, and maintain the original story. At the same time, you need to create your own story for theatrical release. You need to have a balance for the original fans of the TV series to enjoy, and to find a way for new viewers to enjoy it.

What type of research did you do as the animation director for the Fullmetal Alchemist movie?
I'm usually the one drawing, so I don't do much of the research. But at Gonzo, there are people at the company who go out to these events and do research, and I do receive info from them.

The theatrical movie has a larger budget than the TV show. Are there CG elements or complex animation pieces we can look forward to?
For the TV series, they do use the digital technology. For the movie, they use the same digital technology but at a higher resolution. They show a lot more mechanical properties using 3D, and they're using the technology to get a higher quality product.

What kind of technology do they use to make it?
We're talking about the 3D section mainly. Until recently, most of the drawings were done by hand. But now using the 3D technology, let's say if there's the same type of image, say an army of robots, originally they would be drawn by hand one by one, but using the 3D technology, they were able to draw one and emulate it, and it made it easier to produce the final product.

Actually I just wanted to know what applications you used for it.
I don't know what software they used. In Japanese animation industry, everything is very separated, so if an animator is drawing, he wouldn't really know about the film section doing the 3D part.

I saw your art in the animation gallery, your art for cowboy bebop and such. What other independent projects are you're working on?
As for Bebop, that started off at a company called Sunrise with the producer Minami. The animation was actually produced by Bones. The project idea started at Sunrise. As for current projects, they're all being produced with Bones.

To animate a walking suit of armor, did you have to take anything into consideration to make the movement seem believable?
As for Al's suit in Fullmetal Alchemist, more than research he adapted present technology of past animators. He wasn't really portrayed as moving armor, but more as Al, his character. And for his movements, there's a stronger sense of motion that the animators felt were right.

What was it like to get that just right?
A: Al, like any other mecha, has a lot of lines. He's a complicated figure to draw. So it was hard to portray his movements. They also had to keep in mind to not make his moves so mechanical and so stiff. I wanted to make Al, since Al is more of a human transformed to living armor, he wanted to portray a mech that was closer to a normal human being. It was a little harder making normal mecha style art. As for humans, they're able to express their emotions with facial expressions. Since Al is living armor, he can't show emotions with his expressions. They had to express his emotions with physical body movements. So that required more originality to express his emotions on the screen. Since this was for the theatrical release, they are more careful about having expressions show up on screen, and it was really up to animators to show the expressions and internal emotions. Al was having wonderful movements from the first scene on the movie, so please go watch it.

Were new characters introduced for the theatrical release?
Yes, there are. Of course the TV characters will show up in the movie as well, and there are a few original characters, and I'd like you to enjoy those characters as well.

Can you talk about them?
Sorry, they're secret for now. As for the movie, it's split into two different worlds. There are different worlds that interact with each character separately. Each character moves in its own world, and it's hard to describe each character by itself.

Do the alchemy symbols actually mean anything?
They probably do have meaning, but at this point I don't have information.

How did you get into character design? Have you been to the Bandai museum?
My first work at character designing was Victory Gundam. The director's name was Tomino Yoshiyuki. He's the director of many Gundam series. He saw the character designs for another project he was trying to push to production, he then asked to do character designs for these.

I went to the Bandai museum last June. I wish the museum was made while I was working on the Gundam series because it was very informative because I was able to feel hands on how big the Gundams were.

Do you collect Gundams?
Because I work on the series, as a hobby I don't collect the merchandise. I do like watching it though.

What anime did you watch besides Gundum, and what made you decide on the animation industry?
As for when I was little, the year I was born was the year anime started airing on public TV in Japan. Most of the stuff I saw when I was young was black and white TV. Once I remember watching works by Osamu Tezuka: Astro Boy, King of the Jungle Leo... they were the first anime that aired in Japan.

When I was in college I had a part time job in Osaka at a company called Anime R. And that's how I chose to become an animator. The first series to inspire me to become a character designer was the first series, Mobile Suit Gundum. When I saw the art made by Tomino Yoshiyuki and I saw how clean the lines were, I acknowledged that this was the only job I could do.

What was the part time job at the animation studio?
I started as an in-betweener on Armored Troopers VOTOMS.

When you were in college, what did you study?
I was a design major, but there was an animation class in that major, so I made it my first priority to study that class.

What future work do you have lined up?
I can't say the actual name of the series I will be working on. Up until now most of the works I've been doing I've been able to make original character designs of. But the next series I'm working on is an adaptation of a series with original work. This is going to be my first time designing a character that already has original work to it.

What was your role in Cowboy Bebop? Tell us about that series.
Animation Director. I started at that company Bones with Komodo. Can you refine the questions?

There are four different characters with different shapes. Can you tell us the challenges of animating those characters?
As for different characters, Spike was like a computer user, Jet a heavy type, Ed a gagmaker, and Faye the sexy one. They're all very different, and what portrayed them was emotion and what they
do. To be able to portray them the first thing to do was to figure out what lines to use to successfully portray their inner selves. I started from the basic parts of animation drawing, but the first priority was to keep up with the high quality animation. That was one of the most difficult parts. And Mr. Komodo is strict on that and it was hard to keep up on his demands.

With the popularity of the Fullmetal Alchemist show in America, do you think the theatrical release will come out in theaters here?
I'm thinking it might be a theatrical release but I don't know so I can't make any promises. I'm sure the DVD will be on sale.

How did you feel about moving from character design to art direction?
There isn't much difference in the two positions in animation. They're usually classified as an animator type of position. You have goals as character designer and animation director. I personally do not have any feelings of change in position.

Ever thought about creating your own title?
I do think it's possible, but I already made my own for future projects and keep submitting them but they keep getting denied. This summer a new anime magazine is being published in Japan, and I'm publishing a manga in that magazine.

How long is the manga?
The editor is very nice, and there is no set page number I have to do.

What's it about?
The story starts in present day Japan, and enemies from a parallel world suddenly appear. A girl that's the main character is fighting against these evil forces. One of the villains, one with a large body shape, she actually transforms and fights with these evil forces. Later she has to go to the parallel world, or different era. In order to save her world, her era, she has to save the world the enemies came from.

What's the name of the magazine?
RE:Animation.

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