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Interview: Shinichi "Nabeshin" Wantanabe

by Zac Bertschy,

ANN: You've directed both comedy and drama, but you obviously prefer doing comedies. Why?

WANTANABE: The anime that are often said to be “good anime” is oftentimes serious and moving and they make you cry – those are the anime that people tend to say are “good”.

I do want to move the viewers, but what I emphasize is getting a laugh. Making the audiences laugh is in a way, moving them. Not sentimentally, but with laughter.

Do you have a specific personal philosophy when you direct an anime series?

Like I just said, if tears mean you're moved emotionally, I think laughter means the same thing. They're equal. I value laughter as much as tears.

Doing a musical is extremely difficult. What made you decide to do a musical?

I don't know how many Americans would know this, but I did a musical sequence in an anime called Hare Toki Doki Buta. That was 10 years ago, but there was one scene in Buta where all of the characters sing instead of speaking – they don't talk normally, they only sing. It was kind of an experiment.

I had so much fun doing that, where as soon as it starts, everyone starts singing. The producer liked it as well, and suggested that we do an entire musical anime series.

Are you a fan of musicals, and if so, do you have a favorite?

I don't know if you can call it a musical, but Streets of Fire, and of course, The Blues Brothers.

You were recently at Anime Central. What do you think of American fans, and how would you compare them to the Japanese fans.

So much power and energy! When I just say “I'm Nabeshin! Yay!” The response that I get is overwhelming – it's beyond my imagination.

In American fandom, you've become something of an iconic character – your look has even been turned into a popular costume. How do you feel about that?

I actually found this red jacket in a store, and I was thinking a blue shirt and yellow tie would go well with this. This guy Lupin the Third, though, stole my idea and is cosplaying as me. I saw some folks where I couldn't actually tell if they were dressed as me, or dressed as Lupin.

What would you say are your major influences?

I don't get much influence from live-action movies; I don't watch many of them. Since I became a director, I've become very sensitive to production. I find myself being influenced by everything I watch, so it's difficult to specify a single movie or anime that I could say inspired me.

Any plans on eventually directing a live-action film?

I've been wanting to do it for a while. Anime is something you construct in your head first, whereas live-action is played out by real people. So yeah, I'd like to try live-action.

Maybe I'll start out by trying to make short films, 5 or 10 minutes, by myself, with my own camera. If it looks good, maybe I'll make something longer. I think I'd like to be the lead character in those films, though, so I don't know who I should have holding the camera.

Earlier today you visited NASA; is there any particular reason?

I made the afro popular in Chicago and Houston, so I wanted to send that signal into space. I thought they had a rocket here at NASA in Houston, but it turns out that's in Florida.

Have you seen the English versions of your shows, and if so, what did you think? Also, how do you feel about the jokes being changed so they make sense to English speaking audiences?

I've only seen bits of the English dubs.

My top priority is to make sure everyone enjoys my work; I prefer it if they make sure the English language track will appeal to Americans the most.

So what do you think of Texas, and what other American cities would you like to visit?

You know, I'm kind of full of Texas, but I'll visit anyplace you want!

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