Otakon 2009
Noboru Ishiguro and Yukio Kikukawa

by Evan Miller,

The focus panel started with a screening of the Tytania Anime, which is Ishiguro's first anime project in almost thirteen years. The anime is based on the novel series of the same name by Yoshiki Tanaka, who also wrote Legend of the Galactic Heroes. The anime, which covers the first two books of the Tytania series, is currently broadcasting on NHK in Japan. No American licensee has been announced for the show yet.

Ishiguro was frank about the challenges of returning to anime in a digital era. "Everything is done digitally without cels now, so I had a lot to learn," said the director, who said that the versatility offered by the CG format was accompanied with a fair number of pitfalls as well. "CG has a lot of power, but it takes a lot of vision to get it right," said Ishiguro. "We ended up doing traditional key frames and finished them in CGI." Another lamentation the director had about the project is the decline in the number of artists who can draw mecha. "Less animators can draw mecha, and that is bound to become an issue," said Ishiguro. "Modern anime are getting dynamic, but the expression in motion that cel anime had is lacking."

Ishiguro and Kikukawa were careful to offer a tip of the hat to the main character designer on the series, Haruhiko Mikimoto, who also did designs for the Macross series. "He's also doing manga, so he had to work between his schedules," admitted Kikukawa. He also poked fun at the designer for giving the male characters in the series a "female" look.

One of the other challenges that the series has faced is that the novel series that the show is based upon hasn't been concluded yet. In response, the ending of the anime had to be carefully considered so it provides a bit of closure, but doesn't betray the character of the series. Ironically, after struggling with the adaptation, the production team later discovered that found out afterwards that Yoshiki Tanaka did not want to write something similar to his other work, so he initially set out to create something "impossible to animate."

Kikukawa raised the tension level in the audience when he asked who had seen the series, "either legally or through some other method." A few hands shot up, and Ishiguro thanked the fans regardless. He smiled, and admitted that the pace of anime production has become a lot trickier with age. "It's been on a while since I worked on an anime that airs weekly, and since the deadlines are weekly, it wears on you. Even if you think you're ready, it's still difficult." The panel concluded with a slide show by Kikukawa featuring many of the mecha character designs featured in the series.

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