Interview: Akitaroh Daichi

by Chris Fey,
Akitaroh Daichi, Hiroshi Nagahama, and Yoshihiko Umakoshi combined their panels at Sakura-con, preferring to stay as a group. The three of them are currently working together on Jubei chan 2. They made themselves available at a panel to the press. This was a group interview, so questions are not individually credited.

The moderator asked them to introduce themselves.

Daichi: I am Akitaroh Daichi. I am 48, my famous works include Jubei-chan; Now and Then, Here and There; Fruits Basket and Jubei-chan 2.

Nagahama: I am Hiroshi Nagahama, and have no famous list of works. I am working on Jubei-chan 2. Oh and I am 34.

Umakoshi: I am Yoshihiko Umakoshi, 35 and I have done character design on Berserk, Air Master, Marmalade Boy, Boys over Flowers, and the Street Fighter OVA.

From left to right: Nagahama, Daichi, and Umakoshi

I: How did you get start in anime?

D: For myself, it was normal. I start[ed] as a cameraman and came into directing through there.

N: For myself, there was nothing else I could do. I really didn't have anything else. I wasn't expecting animation. Anywhere I could draw pictures would do.

U: Very simply I thought if I could draw and make a living that is what I want[ed] to do.

I: Can you tell us anything about Grrl Power as a series?

D: It is not a series yet, only one episode. We want to make it into a series. A literal translation of the title is difficult as there are two meanings. “Leave it up to me”, where it refers to the girls who are jacks of all trades and can get things done. The second is a question, “Are you leaving it up to me?” The story is about three girls in the 5th grade who live in a part of Japan where it is a South Seas type setting. The girls are orphans who are trying to make it on their own. Basically the message is children can't control this world. Adults who are supposed to help them, don't. We want to show that those children who could go bad don't have to go bad and tell it in a light and happy way.

I: Were there any particular inspirations for the Now and Then, Here and There?

D: Japan is very peaceful. We don't think about war in our day to day lives. I was watching a news program one night and saw the news about African children being made into soldiers. It made me sad. I took my children to the park the next day. I was sitting in the grass playing with my children and thought wow, what if this peace was taken away. I want to experience this through Shu. Another thing in anime, there is a lot of fighting, including my own, where they cut down the bad guys. Wondering if its okay and its not that simple, I wanted to show it in as realistic way as possible.

I: Something that seems to be common in anime now is the female characters being stronger than the men. Any thoughts on this?

N: That's really difficult. I don't think too deeply on what Japanese animation is. When I create strong female characters it is because they offer more stories and development then a strong male character. However one reason is for men it is given most want to be strong. For women it brings up, “Why do I want to be strong? Should I be strong? Why do I need to be strong?” In fact children can have the same questions, normal people as well. Live action extremes offer more shock with the very strong, or the small cute and strong as well.

U: My opinion, probably most males have a hidden wish to be hit and kicked by a pretty woman.

D: Well, I never thought about it. But thinking about it, it is true. Especially in my own. In my childhood, strong characters were all male, but I want to turn it around. Also visually, the female costumes are better and more fun and I think the boys like it.

I: Is adapting original works easier or harder to do?

U: It is more difficult on original characters if there is an original work. It is easy to show you can go this far but not that far. It is good if you have a good person to work with. Maria-san is very good to work with.

D: For the director it is the same as well, we need to capture the atmosphere. It can do easy if the creator is easy to work with. If it goes bad then it is hard to work with.

I: Do you use your trips to conventions to inspire further work?

U: This is my first North American con and yes. It definitely helps to hear from fans about my work.

D: It's the same for most people on this side of anime to meet viewers. It's nice to see how people watch and appreciate my work.

N: If I didn't, then I wouldn't be coming back two years in a row to this con. Basically, I used to do my work and that was it, it was done. I didn't think about were it went, or who watched it. I received some letters while it was on TV and that was it. Coming here, I see the people watching my series, and see they are watching this series, not that one which is still on TV.

I: Where would you like to go on your next vacations?

Yoshihiko points down at the ground.

D: Germany. I like the food, potatoes, bacon, sausages, bread, they all look good there. Where ever I go, the food is really good.

N: Of course I would love to come back here again. I would love to go to Kushio, Okinawa, I never get a chance to get out of Tokyo.

I: Do you think of stories while eating?

D: Yes, even while sleeping. Always have paper and pen when you have ideas. Usually when I go to bed my head is clearest. Sometimes I will jump up and go to the computer and start writing. If I am not fast enough, I grab a pen and paper and start writing.

I: Do you have any characters you developed that you end up not using that you keep around?

D: Trade secret.

U: If they are no good, I throw them away.

N: I wanted a story that had characters with ESP who can only use their powers when tens of thousands come together. I saw it in the manga “Mystery Men” then decided not to do it.

I: What do you do in the creative process if you get stuck?

D: Until just recently I used to walk, walk all over town. I would go around screaming “What am I going to do!” I couldn't run away, so I would go home and work it out. Usually walking around gets me my ideas. Recently I can do it without walking around. You could say my experience points have gone up.

U: I give up and quit. I say I will do it tomorrow or maybe the next day. Even so, it's work. So I keep at it. So if it is no good I apologize.

N: The same as Umakoshi-san. Well, I never had original work with in my control. So I always hit blocks. I couldn't hear the character's voice and also I can't change them.

D: I used to.

N: Well you can't delete them completely. Its when you need to make them in depth that I always hit a block.

I: Fruits Basket had many changes from the original manga. Why was this?

D: I don't try and stay with the orginal materials. I try and find something in common with myself and go from there.

I: One final question that has been following me since seeing Now and Then, Here and There. Shu carries a stick he gets in the first episode as his weapon in the entire anime, with the stick almost following him at times. Was this deliberate, and is there any meaning behind it?

D: It was deliberate. Shu has no weapons, and then he gets in a world full of guns. I wanted to give him something, as bare hands are not feasible. He grabs it in this world and takes it to the next. He takes it as a symbol of himself.

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