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Interview: Satoshi Nishimura, director of Trigun: Badlands Rumble

by Crystalyn Hodgkins,

Sakura-Con hosted the world premiere of the Trigun movie, Trigun: Badlands Rumble, on Friday April 2. On Saturday, director Satoshi Nishimura sat down with ANN to discuss the movie, and his career as an animator, storyboarder and director. Nishimura directed both Trigun and Trigun: Badlands Rumble, as well as Fighting Spirit (Hajime no Ippo) and Shin Chō Bakumatsu Shōnen Seiki Takamaru. Nishimura has also worked as an animator on such series as Mobile Suit Gundam Seed, Dragon Ball, and Rurouni Kenshin. He has also worked as a storyboarder on Monster, Black Lagoon and Revolutionary Girl Utena.

[Note: This interview vaguely alludes to spoilers from the Trigun TV series.]

ANN: Studio Madhouse founder Masao Maruyama announced the Trigun movie project back in 2005, but it didn't get a release until 2010, a full 12 years after the original anime aired in 1998. Why did you decide to create a movie so many years after the original anime aired?

I was also surprised when I heard about the project. There were also a lot of calls from American fans – a lot of support for the creation of a movie. Because of such popular support, it was decided to create a movie, and the production companies finally began production.

Why did you decide to create an original story instead of something from Yasuhiro Nightow's manga, which has a lot of material that the anime did not cover?

When I heard about it, I heard “let's make a Trigun movie.” There wasn't much time and the stories in the manga were too short to use for a movie. We were thinking about what everyone wanted to see in such a short time. There were a lot of parts that Trigun fans would like to see, however, we wanted to make it understandable and enjoyable for new viewers of the series. Also, don't you want to see a time where Wolfwood is active in the series?

How did you and Mr. Nightow come up with the original story for the movie?

It was complicated, but basically we would get together with a team, and decide what kind of story we wanted. We would gather in Karuizawa, at the summer home of one of the producers, and eat together while thinking of the story.

What was it like working on the same project after so many years? Were there any problems getting back into the world of Trigun?

It wasn't really that difficult. But it's been a while since I worked on the episodes, so I forgot a lot about what actually happened in them and had some mistaken impressions about what went on, so I had to go back and remember what had happened.

Why did you decide to show the world premiere of the movie in the U.S. instead of Japan?

Although there was support in Japan for the movie as well, the calls from the American fans were the cause of this movie being created. It's as if they threw the ball into my court, and so I wanted to throw it back. So I decided to show the movie here.

You've also worked as a director on two other series, Hajime no Ippo and Shin Cho Bakumatsu Shonen Seiki Tatamaru. Hajime no Ippo is a long-running series, and Trigun ran for a full 26 episodes. How has the experience been different for you, directing a movie instead of a TV series?

When working on a long-running series, you have to keep challenging yourself to get better, and you're constantly getting feedback for the series. You then apply the feedback to the series as you keep going. With television series it's possible to hear the fan reaction and decide “Oh, I should express this better, and maybe I shouldn't do this so much” as I'm working on the series. And a movie is done just once, in a short time, so if I decide something, it goes out there, and that's the only way you can do it. As a result, I'm worried about how everyone will react and if they will accept it. So in a television series it's possible to fix the mistakes one has created, but with a movie, that's not possible, so I'm worried about how everyone will react. Judging from the showings yesterday and today, however, I think there has been a pretty good reaction.

Some of the technology displayed in the movie, especially in the household of the character of Kepler, who was created for the movie, seemed a little different than the rest of the technology used in the TV series. Could you explain why you decided to give that character such technology?

The technology that we put in is a little bit different from the other technology in Trigun. Kepler is very rich, and I wanted to show that Kepler has the ability to gather technology that others around him can't use because he's of a different and a higher class. So it is like the “lost technology” described in the manga and anime series.

In Japan, that sort of interior decoration is considered very gaudy. It has to do with origin. We used the technology to express someone who is newly rich, like Kepler is. In America, there is the American dream of being rich, but in Japan, the idea of the poor becoming rich is associated with going too far. It's considered unrefined. Since Kepler was a robber, the technology was used to express that he is this kind of newly-rich, gaudy character.

Thank you very much for that explanation. You've also worked as an animator and storyboarder for many series, as well as being a director. Which do you like doing the most, and why?

They all have their fun points and their difficult points. They are different categories of work, so it is difficult to compare them. The one I can where relax the most while doing is storyboarding work. It's enjoyable to set up the storyboards. With the work of director, it primarily involves working with people in different sections, like music and art, and my job is to talk to all those people. It is difficult to do that and communicate with them all the time. I have done work as an animator, but I feel like I am not suited towards that work and am not talented in that area, so I only do it when requested.

Do you have any future or other current projects you would like to talk about for your fans to look forward to?

Right now, actually, there are no projects currently underway. I put all my energy into the Trigun movie and I am pretty tired, so right now I am taking a break.

Do you have any advice to aspiring artists or animators?

For those who have art talent and are good at drawing, it is certainly possible for them to become an animator. But the ability to be an animator lies not just in drawing. They need to have talent in a lot of different areas. For example, they need a sense of action and the character's acting, as well as the ability to judge timing. They also need the consciousness of a cameraman and they need to read the storyboard and convert it into something that can be understood. They should also watch their favorite movie many times. Of course, if you watch it 10 times, you'll get tired of it, however, if you keep watching it, you'll slowly begin to get an idea of what the director was going for. I think once you can understand that, it will become slightly easier to become an animator.

Many fans are anxious for more Trigun, which is certainly a fan favorite here in America. What would you like to say to the American fans of the Trigun series about the movie?

The support of the American fans was the impetus behind the movie. Fans in America are fans of many series, and their support promotes the production of more movies and causes the production houses to create new projects. So please continue to give us your support!

ANN would like to thank Satoshi Nishimura for the interview opportunity, the Sakura-Con staff for arranging this interview, and a special thanks to Sakura-Con staff member Amy Elder for her translation assistance.

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