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Interview: Production I.G.

by Christopher Macdonald,
Production I.G's latest feature film, Blood: The Last Vampire, premiered in front of a sold out crowd of 900+ people on Friday July 28th at Montreal's Fantasia film festival. Blood is the first "full digital" feature Anime and is directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo (Roujin Z, Black Magic M-66). Mamoru Oshii wrote the original story for Blood, Mamoru Oshii directed. Kenji Kamiyama made his debut as a script writer with Blood, he was previously the animation director of Jin-Roh.

Hiroyuki Kitakubo, was supposed to be on hand unfortunately he was unable to be present because he was hospitalized in Japan for complications arising from a cold. Maki Terashima, I.G.'s international operations director, was however able to make it for the premiere and was later joined for the second (also sold out, July 30th) showing of Blood by I.G.'s President and CEO, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa. Ishikawa will also be present at Otakon 2000 in place of Kitakubo.

I was fortunate enough for the opportunity to have a short conversation with Mitsuhisa Ishikawa and Maki Terashima after the third showing of Blood on July 31st. Maki was kind enough to translate for us as Mr. Ishikawa's English is only slightly better than my Japanese.

The first part of our discussion took place outside of the Imperial theatre while we waited for Maki Terashima to conclude some other business.

Ishikawa: Did you like the movie?
Editor's note: Hey, isn't ANN supposed to be asking the questions?

ANN:Yes, I did, but I found it short, you mentioned something about a book and a game to complete the story?

Ishikawa: There will be a game and a book by Mamoru Oshii as well. PlayStation 2 game.

ANN: Book, or Manga?

Ishikawa: Manga. Have you ever seen Patlabor?

ANN: Actually, I have a copy of the Patlabor 1 DVD with me which I'm going to be reviewing shortly...

Ishikawa: Which do you prefer, Patlabor 1 or 2?

ANN: Patlabor 2.

Ishikawa: Me too, Patlabor 2 is more of a movie; Patlabor 1 is less serious, more like a Manga.

At this point Maki returned and the proper interview got underway, with ANN asking the questions...

ANN: Why did you choose Kitakubo to direct Blood?

Ishikawa: I had seen his work on Robo Carnival (Kitakubo directed the Meiji Karakuri Bunmei Kitan episode of Robo Carnival) and was very impressed, also Kitakubo is very good working with computers and since Blood was to be a full digital feature...

ANN: So Kitakubo had worked in the past on similar features?

Ishikawa: Well, Blood is the first full digital feature film, however Kitakubo had directed the animated movie sequences for the Ghost in the Shell PlayStation game which were digitally produced.

Fan: Just what do you mean by Full Digital Film?
Ed: Questions marked Fan were asked at the Q&A session after the premiere of Blood.

Maki: The original drawings and penciling is done by hand, but after that all the inking and coloring is done by computer. The entire project lasted three years, with the development taking 2. Part of the US$4.5 million budget came from the Japanese government because they believe in I.G. and because they feel that the techniques we developed for Blood will be useful to the industry.

Fan: When Blood is released theatrically in Japan, how will it be released? With another movie to make it longer?

Maki: No, Blood will be released on it's own, there are art-house theatres that are interested in showing Blood even though it is only 48 minutes long.

ANN: Why did you start Production I.G? What was your goal with the company?

Ishikawa: Well, when I started I.G. in 1987, in Japan Anime was though of as an extension of Manga, Anime had no importance of it's own. I wanted to make an Anime feature film that stood on it's own without Manga. Anime was only watched by the "otaku".

Maki: He says otaku, he means the fans of Anime, in Japan Otaku is often a derogatory term.

ANN: Yes, people are still debating the definition of the word "otaku" in the English language it can mean anything from a regular fan of Anime, to a serious fanatic.

Maki: Yes, he means just a regular fan.

Ishikawa: I wanted the other people to get interested in Anime.

ANN: You mean the mainstream market?

Ishikawa: Yes.

ANN: And how did Mamoru Oshii get involved with I.G.?

Ishikawa: Mamoru Oshii started working with us to create the Patlabor OVA series in 1987, and he liked working with I.G. He said that from that point on, any movie he directed would be produced with Production I.G

ANN: What about the future? You mentioned earlier that I.G. wouldn't have anything for Fantasia 2001, but in two or three years you might have something for us, would you be able to tell us anything about your next project?

Ishikawa: Well, we can't tell you the name or anything yet, but Mamoru Oshii is working on a new feature film, and it will be finished in 2 or 3 years.

ANN: If you could choose the questions, what would you ask? What would you like people to know about Production I.G?

Ishikawa: Hmmm... When I.G. first started as an independent studio it was very difficult, there is a lot of competition with the other studios. But over the years we've learned a lot, other studios have merged and get financing from bigger companies, but I.G. is still independent. Fans should expect more great features for I.G.

ANN: Thank you very much for your time, and good luck with your future projects.

Ishikawa: Thank you.

Production I.G.'s website
I.G.'s English language page for Blood
AnimeNewsNetwork's review of Blood
AnimeNewsNetwork's review of I.G.'s previous production, Jin-Roh

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