Otakon 2012 Satelite, An Introduction Panel
by Brian Hanson,
Satelite began their introductory panel by recruiting frequent Satelite contributor (and Otakon Guest of Honor) Hidetaka Tenjin, and was moderated by Satelite staff member Toshiyaki Ishiyama. "I'm not on staff at Satelite, but I've had the fortune of working with them for over 10 years," Tenjin said. "He's my senior in my field of anime, and I'm very fortunate to work with him," Ishiyama added.
Ishiyama introduced a brief video showcasing Satelite's productions since the company's inception in 1995, focusing on the company's recent titles - specifically Macross Frontier, Guin Saga, Basquash, and others. Ishiyama then gave a brief overview of Satelite's approach. "We're an animation studio focusing on producing 2D and 3D CG animations, and combinations thereof. When the company was founded in Hokkaido in 1995, we were a CG division of a software company. We create our own unique concepts, stories, and characters in-house. Our first serialized TV animation was the CG series Bit the Cupid, and soon afterwards was the film Spring & Chaos, directed by Shoji Kawamori. The CG in that film was produced by Satelite in collaboration with Group TAC."
Ishiyama then spoke a bit further about the company's relationship with Shoji Kawamori. "Earth Girl Arjuna was our first original series in 2001... soon afterward Kawamori joined Satelite as a member of the board in 2003 and furthered our relationship with him." Hidetaka Tenjin then added, "When I was approached by Kawamori-san to work on Macross Zero, I was told I would be working on maybe 2 or 3 cuts per episode throughout the series. At the end of it, there are about 500 different cuts I ended up working on. Kawamori-san is a little selfish so he gets carried away sometimes and he is very demanding." Ishiyama said, "Kawamori-san's primary focus is on creating great work. That's his priority, everything else is secondary, including the budget! (laughs) It's standard for him to have 3-5 works going on simultaneously. He's 52 now, and he still works at that pace. We all wonder when he's sleeping." Tenjin remembered, "When we started working on Genesis of Aquarion, Macross Zero was still unfinished, so people were like 'my God what is Kawamori-san doing?'"
Ishiyama then discussed a bit of Satelite's newer productions and aired some trailers, including Aquarian EVOL, where it was revealed that FUNimation had just licensed the series for streaming. Then they rolled trailers for Macross Frontier, Basquash, and Shoji Kawamori's latest projects, Macross Frontier and AKB0048.
Unfortunately, Ishiyama's MacBook battery promptly failed, sending them and Otakon staffers in a mad dash to hook up her backup laptop. "Here's a story I can share while we're waiting," Tenjin said. "When we did the first screening of Macross Zero in Japan, the animation was still not ready. So as the screening began, Kawamori-san walked in with the final animation on a hard disk in his hand."
With the technical issues finished, Ishiyama wanted to show the crowd "...something that hasn't been seen by the public yet. It's a treat for you for the first time, here." Two (unfinished) CG music videos were shown, featuring Macross imagery, characters, and mecha. "Those were created by our parent company, Sankyo Group, a Pachinko chain. They created some Macross-based Pachinko sets, and they were going to use those scenes as a TV commercial, and that was around the time of the big earthquake last year. The environment was such that we couldn't air commercials like that anymore. So they basically went into the vault that was never seen by the public."
Ishiyama then introduced a pre-recorded video greeting for Otakon panelists from Shoji Kawamori himself. "The last time I was [in Otakon] was 1998. I'm a little surprised by how fast 14 years goes. At that time, I was producing Earth Girl Arjuna, and for research I went to Brazil, and then Otakon. I was delighted to be able to meet so many passionate fans then. I remember signing autographs, talking to fans, and doing a Q&A. It was in Washington D.C. then, so I had a great time going to the Smithsonian, where airplanes and rockets, which I love, were on display. This has been a very busy year, with 2 series I created and directed airing. The first is Aquarian EVOL... doing that series was fun, but it was one that took a lot of stamina, so while it was enjoyable it was a lot of hard work. Tenjin gave me a lot of support with his mecha drawings and illustration ability. The second series is AKB0048, based on a famous idol group in Japan. I've made series like Macross where a number of idols appear and sing in space to resolve the war with the enemy, but the group in this series has more than ten members, so doing concert scenes was extremely time consuming. The story has songs, action, and themes of friendship, effort, and teamwork. The last episode of the first season aired about a week ago."
Kawamori then began discussing his most famous association, Macross. "This year marks the 30th anniversary of Macross. The first Macross was on the air in 1982. Hard to believe its been that long. I was still a student when Macross aired. I have many memories over the course of 30 years, and it's supported by fans from all over the world, so it's a series that I'm very proud of. A 1:1 full scale model of the VF-25 Valkyrie has been created and is on display, which makes me incredibly happy. When it was first displayed in Tokyo and Nagoya, only half of the frame was shown, but by around November in Osaka, with reverse-jointed chicken walker legs will be on display. So if you want to see a life-sized Valkyrie, please come to Japan."
Lastly, Kawamori explained what he's working on currently. "I'm about to do the second season of AKB0048. That will be next year, so right now I'm already working on the storyboards. My ambition is to make it even better and more interesting. There's also the video game to mark the Macross 30th anniversary. Various projects are in the works, like a stage musical, and I've got several projects in mind. There are really all kinds of things I still want to do, from mecha action to human drama. Please continue to give me your support, even though I'm unable to go to any events in America, but if I have the chance next year I would like to be able to take part. I would love to go back to Otakon. I hope to see you soon."
"He looks exhausted," Tenjin remarked in English. Ishiyama said, "He is. He only sleeps two or three hours a day."
The remaining time was opened to the audience to ask questions. The first question was from ANN's own Mike Toole, who remarked about the work of animator Akira Ito, the art director at Satelite responsible for the color design for Bodacious Space Pirates and AKB0048, calling it "very distinct and beautiful." Ishiyama responded, "I'll make sure to give you the message to him!"
Question: "Out of all of Kawamori's work, Spring & Chaos seems like the one that stands out the most. How did that come about?"
Toshiyaka Ishiyama: If there's a common thread in all of Kawamori's works, the common thread is the transforming. In that film, kids transform into animals, and that's the point.
Question: "Mr. Tenjin, you are doing design work for animation as well as design work for non-animated stuff. What kind of freedom do you encounter when you're going to do work for animation?"
Hidetaka Tenjin: One of the biggest differences is an anime has to move, so motion is taken into account. I have to use fewer lines when I draw. It has to be a little bit simpler. Kawamori told me that when he was young, to make "full animation," designs should be things that take no more than 20 lines.
Q: "Speaking for a lot of people, I'd love to see Macross Frontier released on DVD or Blu Ray. is there any opportunity for that?"
Ishiyama: We would love for that to be released, but we're sad that it's out of our control. But we would love for that to happen.
Q: "Any word on a US release of AKB0048?"
Ishiyama: I'm afraid someone else is in charge of that acquisition as well.
Q: "Could you pass a message along to Kawamori? Tell him that we would all love to see more Macross. We love everything else he does, but if he wants to do more, we'd welcome it. In particular, we don't know specifically what happened to Hikaru and Minmei."
Tenjin: I love hearing comments like that! So we'll make sure to pass it along.
Ishiyama then announced they were out of time, and promised the panel that they will share their love of Kawamori's work when they return. "I will tell him. Thank you oh so very much!" She said.