Interview: Studio Trigger

by Jacob Chapman,

Studio Trigger hasn't been on the scene very long, but they've already made a big impression. We sat down with two directors of their biggest hits, Kill la Kill (Hiroyuki Imaishi) and Little Witch Academia (Yoh Yoshinari), along with a production assistant of many hats, Hiromi Wakabayashi, to discuss the studio's past and future.

ANN: So in the case of Ninja Slayer, the show reminds a lot of American viewers of late-night Williams Street cartoons like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and things like that. I wanted to know if you had seen those and if they'd had any influence on Ninja Slayer?

Hiroyuki Imaishi: They just happen to look alike.

Oh, just a coincidence? Is that so?

Imaishi: There's no doubt that I do love their work, but it's just a coincidence. We felt that we wanted to take a new approach in making anime with that Flash animation style. It's not new in the States, but everybody does animation analog style in Japan, so I guess it's new in the anime industry.

Do you have a philosophy for when it's best to hold back with limited animation and when it's best to go crazy with fluid animation? Like the approach for Mako's Hallelujah Theater versus a kinetic fight scene?

Hiromi Wakabayashi: We decide the concept for the series at the pre-production level. We decide what capacity of our studio we would like to commit to that series at that point. So, how much of our main staff will be participating, who will be directing, all of that is decided prior to animating the series.

Imaishi: So regarding the Mako Hallelujah scene, we intentionally held back on the animation to leave a stronger impression of her character. Kill la Kill had a lot of action scenes and for the most part we tried our best on those. Since the action scenes are really emotionally arousing, it's like a heated-up moment. In order to break that up, we wanted to have a change of pace. There's almost too many action scenes in Kill la Kill and it always keeps on going, so we needed a break. The viewers needed a break too. In order to do that, we used Mako's Hallelujah scenes. We didn't just want it to be a break, we also wanted it to leave a strong impression, and we wanted to do that by not using the "sakuga" approach. It's a very distinct style of animation I guess, it's very Flash-y, you might say.

After the first movie for Little Witch Academia was produced, you started a Kickstarter for the second one, which was very exciting. What were your expectations going into Kickstarter and how did you feel about the process? Did anything about it surprise you or frustrate you?

Yoh Yoshinari: Starting the Kickstarter was none of my business, it wasn't my decision. But I was surprised that we had such positive feedback. We initially started it as a feeler. It was something new for the industry, and we just wanted to try out something new. I was pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback.

One of my favorite things about Kill la Kill is the wildness of the female cast. So often in anime, I feel like the female characters are meant to hold back, just be a little funny or a little angry, but nothing so wild as they are in Kill la Kill. Did you have any specific feelings towards the wildness and variety in Kill la Kill's women?

Imaishi: I think some part of it has to do with me favoring strong, centered women--you know, like for action-heavy stuff--but the original story of Kill la Kill was actually meant to be done with all male characters. The scripts Nakashima-san wrote had that intent in mind. So we just changed the sex of the cast to female, and that's probably why the characters are so wild.

What are your aspirations for Trigger in the future? What peak would you like to reach for future projects?

Wakabayashi: So a lot of our staff comes from Gainax, but we do have a lot of new recruits as well, and I guess our goal is to raise those new recruits to hopefully make a full-length feature film in the future.

Yoshinari: We wanna become like Pixar, or P.A. Works, or Kyo-Ani.

Imaishi-san, you have a new project in the works. What would you like to tell us all about that?

Imaishi: I don't think I'm allowed to inform anyone about it. Please wait, I appreciate it.

In some of your past projects like Panty and Stocking, the comedy is very heightened, over the top, scandalous, I suppose, in a good way. How do you find a balance between taking things over the top and not going too far?

Yoshinari: Imaishi often feels that if it wasn't too much for you guys, I think we weren't giving you enough.

So what is your limit, then?

Yoshinari: So if we were to say that what we showed you was 50, what we want to do would be 100. And if we do 100, it probably wouldn't be able to air.

Imaishi: And it would possibly be too much for the audience as well. But it's like, if we could air something on Adult Swim, we probably wouldn't hold back at all.


Thanks to Studio Trigger and Anime Expo for the opportunity.

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