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Yoshitoshi ABe, Yasuyuki Ueda

by Allen Divers, Andrew Tei, transcr: Bamboo Dong,
Yoshitoshi ABe is a perennial favorite amongst fans for his work in Haibane Renmei and Serial Experiments Lain as original creator, and also NieA_7 and Texhnolyze for his trademark character designs. Known for his soft and beautiful artwork, fans can delve more into his life and his art by checking out his weblog and homepage. It's no surprise that the combination of his artistic skill and creativity has led to widespread popularity for the shows that he's worked on.

Of course, none of it would have happened without a man named Yasuyuki Ueda, the producer who has been there for every show ABe has worked on (including a credit for the original story of Lain). In addition to those, he's also served worked on several other favorites, including Hellsing where he served as the executive producer and music producer.

What was your inspiration in creating Haibane Renmei?

ABe: First of all, Haibane was created as an anime from a doujinshi that I had started to write. Mr. Ueda , the producer approached me and said, “why don't we make this into an anime?” around the same time I started writing, so both were created much around the same time. As far as the doujinshi is concerned, I had tried an experimental approach of creating it. Unlike the standard way of having a storyline or a character, rather than preset any of those, I created an adlib type of environment. I pretty much started an experimental way of doing things of... whatever came up, I'd let it develop. That was kind of different, but I hoped that from doing so, I'd be able to get some kind of sub conscience within myself reveal itself as I approached the subject this way.

So you didn't spend a lot of time preplanning the setting, you just created it as it

ABe: That's exactly right. I didn't take any time to preset anything. After I drew a frame, I would wonder what would come up next, since I didn't plan what would come after this particular picture.

So from the beginning, was it always going to be a series about characters who resembled angels, or did it evolve from something else? Or did you already know you were going to do that, and just played from it?

ABe: At the very, very beginning, as far as the characters were concerned, I didn't have that when I first started creating this. The only things that I had at the starting line when he began was that there was a city surrounded by walls, and in the community, there were children, and the main character comes about by waking up within a room. I didn't know anything that was going on and I felt like I was in the same place as her. As the character comes into consciousness, I'm also looking around the room as she is looking around the room, trying to figure out what reveals itself. Different people come into the room, and they turns out to be the same community as the Haibane characters, only at the time, I didn't know the name of the characters or anything. Nothing was set. Everything just kind of grew as it came along.

What inspires you to create such elaborate works where you create such a rich, detailed-filled world, only to end up with a focus on the characters? What personally inspires you to create these stories?

ABe: Those must be something that are already within myself, in my self-consciousness. As I have already expressed earlier in taking this approach, it must be some kind of a distant memory that has been buried deep within me, or something within my self-consciousness that has been kind of put aside and can't be approached or accessed.

Why did you decide to make it a doujinishi instead of finding a manga publisher?

ABe: With mainstream publishing, it would've been difficult to do it with that avenue because of this particular approach with everything being adlibbed. I don't know how the story will be developed, how it's going to end up, or what the ending's going to be. If you go to a mainstream publisher, by their general approach, they have to know what the characters are, who they are, what the story's going to be, and how the story's going to develop so they know if there's going to be a serial, continuing storyline. They need to know how it's going to go, but I wouldn't have any of that if I'm going to create a story using this particular kind of method.

If they asked me if I thought the story was going to become interesting, I'd have to say I didn't know, because I don't know what's going to happen. Fortunately, there are unusual producers who would accept these difficult and unusual circumstances and say, “Let's make an anime out of it!” so that's how the project came to be.

With one of your recent works, Texhnolyze, where did that come from? Did you use a similar approach as the one for Haibane Renmei, or did you work with a different method
to create that?

ABe:It's really more of Mr. Ueda's project, so I'll let him talk about it.

Ueda: I took a similar approach as I did with Lain where I had a particular vision and I explained it to Mr. ABe and had him actualize it and make it

How did you two start collaborating on projects?

Ueda: Basically, I was looking for someone who could fulfill the image I had in mind for the project, Lain. At that time, the internet was becoming more popular and accessible to get information, so when I was looking around for that particular look, I saw Mr. ABe's site and thought that it was very close to what I had in mind. I approached him and asked if he would be interested and willing to participate in the project.

Do you prefer projects where you're more in control and the story is coming from you, or do you prefer working with someone else who's giving you the story and you're just taking it from them and finalizing it?

ABe: Ideally, both. It would be ideal if I could work on a project one type after the other and be able to enjoy both. They are both very different in their ways, but enjoyable in their own ways as well.

Ueda: Sure, it's nice to have a whole project to yourself and have total creative control, but at the same time, to do that, it takes a lot out of you and there's a lot more involvement... so much of that that it'd be difficult to include 100% of all elements within a whole project. It'd be enjoyable and fulfilling, but at the same time, it's nice to collaborate with other people so you can have a breather every now and then because you don't have to be in charge of every single element.

Which part of the development process do you both enjoy working on the most?

Ueda: There are hardships within each and enjoyments within each part of the development process.

ABe: In a certain way, whatever is still within your head in the preliminary stages, that is mainly the most enjoyable part. It's the moment when you're conceptualizing within your head, when you're creating it, before you actually start to actualize it. In your head, it's always a masterpiece, and it's always when it actually takes a physical form that you realize there might be a shortcoming here or there, but right at the beginning when you're conceptualizing it, that might be the most enjoyable aspect of the creation process.

Ueda: As a producer personally, I enjoy the collaboration aspect, talking and collaborating together with ABe and other people and other staff members, and having completed the project, looking back at it together. If they have enjoyed it themselves and enjoyed the process and the end result, then I think it's very rewarding.

What's also really enjoyable for me is when I'm thinking of the littlest details, whether it's a specific word or a title or whatever, and I'm on my way home on my bicycle and something comes up in my head, and I think and reflect to myself, “Oh my gosh, I'm a genius!” That's a really, really enjoyable moment. It makes me happy the whole day and really makes my day. Of course, sometimes I'll eventually realize, “Oh wait, I don't really know what I was thinking at that moment. Maybe I can't use this.” That might happen and I'll be disappointed, but whatever.

Mr. ABe, with many of your works, do you ever feel like there's more story to be told with a particular titles that you would, at some point in the future, like to go back and pick up where you left off?

ABe: Definitely. Like I said earlier, when I have the inspiration in my head, I'm usually amazed at himself for coming up with such brilliant ideas, but oftentimes you find out that when you actually make them take form, the results may not be as close to exactly how I envisioned them. So, rather than thinking that I'd liked to redo it, I think that I would like to maybe take it further and develop from that first project into another one.

Mr. Ueda, how did you get started in the anime industry?

Ueda: I was at a meeting for a company and they basically just told me to do it. [laughs]Honestly, it's true. I'm not trying to be funny or anything.

Was it because you liked anime beforehand?

Ueda: Not really. It wasn't because I preferred it or wanted to do it or anything; they just told me to do it. Now that I have started working on it, and participating on projects, then of course, I've come to love the projects and animation and everything else, but I didn't really start it because I liked it first.

So you had no aspirations to come into it. You just kind of fallen into it and fell in love with it.

Ueda: Yeah, that's really true. That's how it came about.

Is there anything else we can look forward to from you two in the future? Are you looking to collaborate more and express more ideas that you're working on?

ABe: I'll see what happens tomorrow. If I win the lottery tomorrow, then I'm quitting! But if not, then maybe I'll do more.

Ueda: I feel that it's very easy to work with Mr. ABe. We tend to have some kind of connection where we have very similar views on different things, like what's cool. When you talk about coolness, there are different kinds of it depending on different people. It's a very subjective area on what people find interesting, or cool, or humorous, and what not, but we feel like we have a connection and are often on the same frequency, so it's very easy to work with him. I hope that even when Mr. ABe becomes really famous, I will aspire to become a super star myself so that I can keep up with him and work with him in the future.

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