Interview: The Past, Present and Future of Dragon Ballby Manu G., Mar 1st 2016
Last year's Salón del Manga de Barcelona, celebrated in Barcelona from October 29th to November 1st, hosted a fascinating pair of creatives dedicated to the world of Dragon Ball. Tadayoshi Yamamuro, the animation director for Dragon Ball Z, has also worked on the Super and Kai series and the Battle of Gods film, before directing the Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' movie. Norihiro Hayashida is an experienced anime producer, overseeing both the Resurrection 'F' movie and the second season of Dragon Ball Z Kai. We sat down with them to talk about the current Dragon Ball situation, from new anime material to the future of the series.
Let's start with the origin of this new Dragon Ball wave. Are you satisfied with the reaction to Dragon Ball Kai?
Norihiro Hayashida: Absolutely. Kai was incredibly positive for the franchise, because it gave us a great starting point for every new Dragon Ball production going forward. When Dragon Ball Kai had reached its climax, Resurrection ‘F’ was announced, and the TV viewership for Kai increased even further. So the new movie was also very helpful for Kai's success.
During the first part of Kai, until they defeat Cell, there's a lot of redrawn sequences with new visual effects. That restoration effort disappears near the end of the series, during the Buu saga, in favor of an HD restoration of the original series' animation.
Hayashida: Ten years ago, the Japanese government banned some ways that animation was being produced, because they could be harmful on the eyes. There was a technique based on alternating black and white color values to add movement to still images that is no longer allowed. This technique often affects the first season of the original Dragon Ball Z series.
So what the animators would do is take the original footage and redo any sequences which could not be used because of this situation. I mean, some of those sequences were not fitting at all anyway. But that is why there are some redrawn scenes in the first part of Dragon Ball Kai.
In my opinion, I prefer the second season since it preserves the original show more. However, I do not really like the combination of digital and cel animation, it's just too much of a weird contrast for me.
Why did you decide to bring Frieza back to life in Dragon Ball Resurrection ‘F’?
Tadayoshi Yamamuro: It was an idea from Akira Toriyama. He was at a concert for the Japanese group Maximum The Hormone when they started playing the song ‘F’, which is all about Frieza. That was when he had the idea to resurrect Frieza in the new movie. Of course, this song is also played in the movie!
Can we expect a Dragon Ball Resurrection ‘C’ movie, since Cell is the next Dragon Ball villain?
Yamamuro: (laughs) As an animator, I would not like that, since Cell's complicated design is really hard to draw. When he is standing still, it doesn't matter, but when he is moving, because of all the spots on his body, it takes so long to draw him every time. You have to calculate how he's going to move perfectly, and then you have to check and recheck the result every time. That's so much work!
What is the future for Dragon Ball movies, then?
Hayashida: We are waiting to see what happens, but there may be something coming soon.
When it comes to the new Dragon Ball films, are you trying to attract new fans, or are you more focused on taking advantage of the high nostalgia factor for the original series?
Yamamuro: These new movies are meant for both audiences. We want to attract the original fans of the first series along with creating new fans through the introduction of new characters.
While watching Resurrection ’F’, there is some stuff that never gets fully explained.
Yamamuro: It's not going to be 100%, but most things from the movie that remain unexplained are made to be explored later in Dragon Ball Super.
So, speaking of Dragon Ball Super: what's up with the animation issues that have been happening?
Hayashida: The criticism we've received has been way too overblown. Someone put a few video sequences that looked bad onto the Internet, and people focused on them when talking about an entire series. You can not criticize an entire product by only looking at a few sequences.
The animators responsible for those scenes are newbies who just started working at this level in the industry, which means their skills are evolving right now. Anyway, they are good animators, and I just do not understand why they get picked on to such a degree.
Do you think the Japanese industry is producing anime beyond its means?
Hayashida: Yes, this is a real dilemma. There are a lot of newbies coming up through the industry right now, and production time is limited. That's the reason why anime quality has deteriorated slightly. For example, in the United States, there is much more control over the delivery time allowed for an animated production, but things don't work the same way for Japan.
In Japan, the time for post-production has been reduced more and more to an unsustainable level. The director barely has time to check the final product. There is no time for review after all the work of the animation process, and as a result, the quality suffers.
Is there any solution for this?
Hayashida: This has been happening since the introduction of digital technology to anime production. Because anime studios use up all their time in digital production, they trust that the director can take less time to do revisions.
It's the same situation for every anime studio: pre-production takes the same amount of time as always, production time has greatly increased and post-production time has greatly decreased. If we do not improve the work system, it will be difficult to improve the quality.
Thanks to Raúl Coronado for his help and thanks to Selecta Visión and FICOMIC for providing the opportunity for this interview. Japanese translation by Tessin Sano.
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