A Few Minutes with Takao Katoby Zac Bertschy,
We had the opportunity to ask a few questions of Takao Kato, the director of the anime adaptation of Pandora Hearts. Kato's other directoral work includes the Rockman anime series, Sorcerer Hunters, To Love-Ru and Buso Renkin.
ANN: What drew you to Pandora Hearts? What about the source material struck you as interesting?
TAKAO KATO: It started off with a producer from the same studio asking me to join in on a great up-and-coming project. But the clincher was when I saw the beautiful drawings by the author of the original comics, Mochizuki-san. After reading through the original works, I felt there were many things about it that can only be expressed through the medium of animation. That's what made me like it even more.
What would you say the heaviest influences on Pandora Hearts were?
Originally, we put it together using British and French scenery. In addition, I fused those with scenery I've seen firsthand. As the materials have very high contrast levels, the staff members all had difficulty drawing out the darker portions. But I wanted those portions to also have visible details, so I experimented by adding textures considered “unreal” in those areas. This method references other pieces of work like Rockman (which I was a part of).
Based on your previous projects, do you prefer working with darker, more mature subject matter like Pandora Hearts, or do you prefer the lighter fare like Rockman?
As long as the theme is direct, I like both. It doesn't matter whether it's dark or lighthearted as long as I can get “in” to it. On the other hand, I find projects with ambiguous themes very difficult to work with. In that sense, Pandora Hearts has been very enjoyable.
What was the biggest challenge you faced as a director on this project?
There are loads of unexplained mysteries yet to be revealed, even in the original comic. Although I received a brief explanation of what those mysteries are from Mochizuki-san [the author of the Pandora Hearts manga], the hardest part was trying to manage all of that information and make sure only the bare minimum was revealed. It must be done in a way it didn't interfere with the progression and developments of the original comic. Not only that, it must be formulated in such a way that viewers can still let their imaginations fill in what happens afterwards.
PandoraHearts is unquestionably a show aimed at women. Given your previous works - especially shows unquestionably aimed at men, like To Love-Ru, was this a challenge for you? Did you have any misgivings about tackling a project with such a set audience?
I actually have two daughters that are pretty much dead center in the target audience for this project. These great supporters of mine provided lots of much-needed feedback whenever I needed it. It certainly helped they were avid readers of the original comic. Whenever I had any questions, I'd ask them and get an answer almost instantly.
What sort of anime series are you typically drawn to? Is there something specific that will catch your eye about a given project?
Hayao Miyazaki's early works, “The Castle of Cagliostro” and “Future Boy Conan,” were among my main influences. Miyazaki's works are signature examples of how cel animation should be done.
Do you think the anime industry in Japan is having trouble creatively? What problems do you see cropping up in television anime, and what do you think the solutions are? Are there any trends in anime right now you find either particularly troubling or particularly encouraging?
One thing I've noticed in recent times is there are many anime projects I don't believe should be animated. With the development of CGI, live-action films have grown and developed at a very rapid pace. Techniques typically used in animated works are being incorporated into live-action films more and more. On the other hand, animated works only focus on how much CGI is used and have stagnated as a result. I get the impression they've created something straying far from its original intended purpose. There are many projects using unnecessary amounts of time and money all in the name of screen quality. In this day and age, I believe live-action films and animated films have to ascertain and further develop their own strengths. Only by taking a firm grasp on the special features of the media can one create something truly creative and original.
Do you have a dream project? Is there a series in the past you wish you'd been a part of, or another as-yet-unproduced project you're hoping one day gets made?
Ideally, I would like to work on something completely original. That doesn't mean I have to be the original author, mind you. It just means it has to start off as an animation project which hasn't been announced in any other format before. As I said earlier, I want the material to be something that can only be expressed through animation and not by live-action. As long as that condition is satisfied, I don't really care what it is.
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