Anime Expo 2013 A-1 Pictures: Just Do It!
by Lynzee Lamb, Jul 6th 2013
Aniplex of America's EJ Rivera and Guest of Honor and A-1 Pictures president Masuo Ueda led the A-1 Pictures panel to a packed crowd on Saturday afternoon. The panel started five minutes late due to longer seating time. The presentation focused on A-1 Pictures, the studio behind Blue Exorcist, Black Butler, Sword Art Online, and more. Ueda arrived in a Kirito cosplay coat and a paper cat mask from Blue Exorcist.
Ueda: My name is Masuo Ueda from A-1 Pictures and I'm glad to see you all today.
Rivera: Mr. Ueda has a very rich history at A-1 Pictures. Before that he was on Sunrise Studio. Can you tell us a bit about the great pioneers you've had?
Ueda: Does anyone know a studio called Sunrise? I was a producer for Gundam back in the day. It's been 30 or so years since I started as an anime producer. I'm starting to lose my eyesight though, my memory is going and so is my hair. I'm starting to feel like Yoda.
The Japanese anime industry still has many great producers such as Masao Murayama from Mad House. He his 70-years-young but he is still active as a producer. Another company called Studio Ghibli has Toshio Suzuki and he's another great producer. They are all older than me [laughs]. That means that I still need to catch up with them.
Rivera: Can you tell us about the beginnings of your production career on TV animation?
Ueda: Don't we have video for that?
Rivera: We do have some video for that.
Ueda: Then let me show you a video of works that I've done.
[A compilation clip plays showing scenes from Mobile Suit Gundam III: Encounters in Space, Round Vernian Vifam, City Hunter, Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door, and Inuyasha the Movie 2: The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass].
Ueda: [In English] Thank you. I'm glad I got a reaction from you guys.
Rivera: Could you tell us about Neo Marketing and the Challenging Spirit?
Ueda: I worked on a couple of shows and learned a lot in the process. I learned that it's always important to be challenged. Gundam was successful because we used a new form of marketing. Until then, anime used to be something just for kids. With Gundam we proved you could appeal to a teenage audience. This is my history that I like to talk about and wrap it up with our new ambitions.
Rivera: What about your encounter with Mobile Suit Gundam?
Ueda: Gundam really set the course for my life. It made me realize that the industry was worth a lifetime career.
Rivera: What's the "magnificent last scene"?
Ueda: Does anyone know how Gundam ends? The last scene of it? Great, very nice. Of all the anime I've seen, I think the ending to Gundam is one of the best. It's because in the final scene you see the main character see off all his friends. It teaches you how important it is to be among friends. That's the kind of uplifting shows I like to continue to produce.
Rivera: Can you explain your determination for anime?
Ueda: In order to reach that kind of endings in shows, the policy we set was when making a new show is to take on new challenges in production.
Rivera: What is "anti-Gundam" and your first time as a TV producer?
Ueda: As my first work as a TV producer, my challenge was to come up with something that wasn't Gundam. I wanted to try something else. That was Vifam, as you saw in the clip. In Vifam, all 13 kids who have made transitions in the show, none of them die. All are alive at the end. It's a wonderful show if you haven't seen it, I strongly encourage you to do so.
Rivera: Can you talk about your experience with anime music?
Ueda: So in the previous show, Vifam, I took on a new challenge. It was a show that had all English in its opening song. This was 30 years ago and I'm pretty sure it was the first anime show that had an all English opening. A lot of people like the song and the record sold well. If you're not familiar with the opening song to Vifam, I encourage you to give a try.
Rivera: Can you talk about the mature drama of City Hunter?
Ueda: Is anyone familiar with City Hunter? Do you know Kaori from City Hunter? That is Kenji Kodama's way of showing is affinity for the fairer sex in the series. City Hunter was a show that was very drama centered and that was my new challenge.
Rivera: How about Escaflowne and digital representation?
Ueda: Since you all seem to know Escaflowne, this was the first time we attempted to use 3D texture within animation.
Rivera: What about Cowboy Bebop and Jazz?
Ueda: Music was very prominent in Cowboy Bebop. It wanted to show it just as much as the animation was featured. After this kind of career, I joined Aniplex in 2003. Let's take a look at the shows I produced at Aniplex.
[A compilation video featuring Bakemonogatari, The Garden of Sinners, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, Fate/Zero, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Sword Art Online, Vividred Operation, Black Butler, Fairy Tail, Wagnaria!!, Welcome to THE SPACE SHOW, anohana, The IDOLM@STER, Blue Exorcist, Space Brothers, From the New World, Magi, Uta no Prince Sama, and Oreimo2]
Ueda: Thank you very much. Aniplex and A-1 Pictures is impressive, right? [In English] I'm a lucky boy! [In Japanese] I consider myself very lucky and the company is lucky too. Aniplex and A-1 Pictures have a subsidiary relationship. Is anyone familiar with the studio?
Rivera: You guys know what the studio is? Raise your hands!
Ueda: When you go home, please talk to everyone about A-1 Pictures and let them know. Aniplex and A-1 Pictures always strive to take on new challenges. Aniplex is the company that does all the marketing and greenlights projects while A-1 Pictures animates these projects. I think the combo is one of the strongest in the industry.
Rivera: Can you tell us a bit about production and management?
Ueda: Having been a producer I went into management, that's because I believe a producer is something best done by young people. It was a young producer who went on to make these titles. We have a lot of good producers.
Rivera: Can you talk about A-1 Pictures originals?
Ueda: One thing they both want to do is original stories. We always want to make something that isn't based on a manga or a novel. Through that policy we came out with Madoka Magica which was very well received. Another is anohana.
Rivera: What's the strongest combination?
Ueda: We formed the strongest party around with Aniplex and A-1 Pictures.
Rivera: What's the next stage?
Ueda: The next stage of our development is to make something that would supersede Gundam. I think we need digital technology to achieve that. At A-1 we've experimented with a couple of 3D animation technologies. Let's take a look at a couple of those.
Rivera: These are original clips.
[Clips of 3D objects and action scenes are shown]
Ueda: Thank you. 3D needs to be prominent but the most important thing is a good story and plot. I hope we'll be able to show our new original robot animation as soon as possible. Please look forward to it.
Rivera: Now for "Just do it!"
Ueda: We're going to show some clips from our upcoming works, some which haven't been revealed before.
Rivera:Let's start the clips.
[A compilation video showing teasers for Servant X Service, Silver Spoon, anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day film, and Galilei Donna - Storia di tre sorelle a caccia di un mistero shown]
Ueda: These are clips from our new shows and I hope we can continue to live up to your expectations. Next year I'd like to come back here again with more clips from our new shows. I hope you can be patient for one more year! Everyone here are brothers to me, okay? I'd like to conclude by saying that I got to meet wonderful friends and brothers here today, thank you.
The panel then broke for a quick prize raffle.
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history