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Interview: Haruhiko Mikimoto

by Rebecca Silverman,
Haruhiko Mikimoto is perhaps best known as the character designer for the Macross series, but that is hardly his sole artistic experience. Coming onto the anime and manga scene in the 1980s, Mikimoto has been a mangaka, a character designer, and an illustrator over the course of his career, bringing his dreamlike style and sense of color and placement to a variety of works. The English speaking world has gotten to read his series Marionette Generation and Baby Birth, with Francophones having the added pleasure of a French release of Macross 7: Trash. His artbook Innocence is a feast of beautiful girls and handsome men in lush settings and includes images from Macross and Record of Lodoss War.

Mikimoto himself gives off a gentlemanly air, put together and polite. When I met him at this year's Japan Expo, it is easy to believe that this is the man responsible for the many delicate illustrations to his name.

ANN: Can you briefly describe the process of designing characters? Are you given a general idea of what the writers or producers are looking for in terms of visuals, or do you base them on your own ideas?

It's on a case by case basis. Mainly I respect the requests of the director, but I add my own touches when I can.

ANN: What are your favorite tools to use both digitally and traditionally?

For illustration, I start with pencils, then scan and color digitally.

ANN: What is your creative process?

It depends on the size, but in general, I sketch something out and do my corrections. Since I developed my own method, things are much smoother – I draw the characters and the backgrounds separately in pencil, then scan and merge them on the computer for coloring.

ANN: In the US, there is a bit of a stigma attached to drawing in a manga style within art schools. Do you have an opinion on this? Was it ever the same in Japan?

When I began [drawing manga], I was in high school and my parents didn't approve. This didn't only happen to me – it was my whole generation. People who wanted to work in manga and anime faced opposition from their parents. There was a stigma. But today there are drawing schools you have to pass a try out to get into. Not only children go, but also parents, which shows how much things have changed.

ANN: Today's parents are the children who grew up with you, the ones whose parents didn't want them to draw manga.

Parents today have grown up with animation, so there's less resistance. Things have improved. In my time, there was no idea of considering manga or anime as “art.” There has been a lot of change over my professional career. Towns are even doing “machi okoshi,” promotional manga or making posters of manga that uses their towns as the settings to promote tourism. I find this very interesting. I think it shows that people now have less resistance to animation style art.

ANN: I have always admired the dreamlike quality of your art, particularly when you draw girls. Is this a feeling you try to evoke?

[visibly surprised] No, that wasn't my intent, but I did read a lot of shoujo manga when I was young. I enjoyed it, so maybe it's that influence, a shoujo sensibility that mixed with my style, that you're seeing.

ANN: Thank you for your time. I'm sure your comments about the gradual acceptance of anime style as art will give a lot of young artists in the US hope.

[smiles] Thank you.

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