Interview: Evangelion Character Designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

by Lynzee Loveridge,

Prolific character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto has worked closely on studio Gainax's animation projects since The Wings of Honnêamise premiered in 1987, but he might be best known as the artist behind the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga adaptation. Since then, he's also worked on movie projects with Mamoru Hosoda and the .hack franchise.

ANN: You recently finished the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga. What's it like to finish a project you've invested 18 years into?

SADAMOTO: While I do like working on manga, now that it is finally ended it does relieve some stress (laughs). Until the manga's fifth volume, I was working really hard on it. After the fifth volume, I began working on different animation projects as well, like FLCL, Gunbusters 2 and Hosoda's movies so the manga releases were slower. However, even though the releases were slower the manga became easier to make because I had other projects to focus on as well. It was less stressful.

What kept you motivated to finish the Evangelion manga?

My approach to life is that once you start something, you have to finish it. To me, it didn't feel like I was working on the series for very long because I got to finish it how I wanted. So it wasn't like an obligation.

You've designed characters for Mamoru Hosoda's Wolf Children film. What is it like to work on a production with Hosoda?

Working with Hosoda-san is very different than working with other directors. For example, before meeting with him, the designs are given to the animation director. So what you see on the screen isn't directly what I submitted for the film.The character's faces and expressions are designed by the project's sub-directors. What I draw is more of a character guideline for the team. Another thing, I didn't meet the film's team. You might ask why? Well, whenever Hosoda-san is working on a project he builds a team as he goes so I did not know who I was working with while creating the designs. The designs are completed in about one to two weeks, so it only takes a short time but it is very intense. I have to finish a lot of sketches in that time frame.

How does working on one of Hosoda's films compare to working on the Rebuild of Evangelion films?

The big differences between the two are design preferences. For instance, when I am working on Evangelion, Hideaki Anno will ask me to change the design a little or change the colors choices. Anno is looking for something very different from the norm while Hosoda won't ask for changes. Hosoda may be looking for something more mainstream, like Studio Ghibli's work. He may not be looking for otaku appeal in the designs. Anno will pull inspiration from animation from his childhood and may want to show something more exciting and infuse his childhood passions into his projects. Those are the big differences between each director's work.

Recently you designed costumes for the female idol group Momorio Clover Z. How does designing characters for manga compare to costumes for real people?

Well, King Records is the producer of Evangelion and Momoiro Clover Z. King Records asked me to make some sketches and from those small sketches they made the costumes. (shows sketches on his cell phone) This is what I made but the final product was a bit different.

Is costume design something you'd like to do more of in the future?

It's actually interesting because you have to think about a lot of things when you create costumes. You have to think about how the costume is made before creating the sketches. If you don't have this in mind while drawing, it will be difficult. But I do think it would be fun to do it again.

You previously worked with Gainax on The Wings of Honnêamise. What was that experience like?

I started working on the project right after entering Telecom university. I was at Telecom for about six months but it didn't work out. I was then asked to work on Honnêamise at Gainax with Bandai as a producer. They invested quite a bit of money which was both astonishing and intimidating. This put a lot of pressure on me. I found the work was very difficult every day, but in the end the designs and animation created a great movie. It might be my most favorite film.

Is that what inspired you to return on the revived Aoki Uru film?

Right now we're not feeling that it will be a true "revival" but a new project created within the universe of Honnêamise. The film will have a science-fiction story based on previous film's world.

Are there any aspects of Aoki Uru you're particularly excited about?

I'd like it to become as great a movie as Honnêamise. The film's main staff may also work on a manga adaptation that will be different from the movie. We're currently looking for business partners for the film.

Are there any messages you have for fans of your work in Japan and abroad?

I hope fans will read and enjoy the end of the Evangelion manga. The last volume will be published next year. Please look forward to my future projects as well.

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