Interview: revisions Producer Kazuya Ide

by Zac Bertschy,

Kazuya Ide is a producer for Shirogumi Inc., a visual effects and animation studio in Japan with a decades-long legacy - you've likely seen their work in Shin Godzilla (or if you're Doraemon fan, the company handled the CG animation in 2014's Stand By Me Doraemon). The company is one of only a handful that handles both visual effects for live-action films AND CG animation, as evidenced by their latest series for Netflix, a 3DCG anime called revisions that Ide is serving as producer on. At this year's Anime Expo, a panel was held to promote revisions, and we got the opportunity to talk to Mr. Ide about his unique line of work, the future of animation in Japan, and what it takes to put together a CG anime.

ANN: First, thank you very much for your time, I really do appreciate it. Can you tell us a little bit about Shirogumi Inc.? I think some Western fans maybe aren't as familiar with it.

KAZUYA IDE: They've been here in the Japanese entertainment industry for 45 years now. It is considered a classic company in Japan. They weren't specifically involved in the movies or television programs that are widely known in Western world so far. So I understand that some Western audiences might not be as aware of the name Shirogumi as they are in Japan. Those titles that the overseas Western audiences might be familiar with are the live action Attack on Titan movie, Shin Godzilla, and the CG effects for Stand By Me Doraemon. They also do both CG animation and VFX for live-action films. Shirogumi is capable of doing CG animation and/or VFX for live-action films depending on the title.

So is it common for a studio to work in both these fields? Do you have multiple production teams that specialize? How exactly does that work?

First of all, not too many companies do that. In Shirogumi, they divide the company into mainly five different teams, and each team does both computer graphics and VFX. They have their own specialties, but they do both.

Wow, that's really fascinating. So will a single team work on something like Shin Godzilla, and then turn around and work on something like revisions? Would you have the same team doing both of those?

Yes, depending on the title.

That must be an incredibly skilled type of artist that you have to find to put on that kind of team, that can jump between those very different projects. Is that true? Is it hard to find those kinds of people?

Very hard. Very difficult, as you've probably gathered.

So CG anime is in kind of an interesting place right now. How do you feel about the current crop of CG anime that you see out there? And what productions—including your own—have you been most impressed with?

First, please note my definition of the term “CG animation” in my comment is specifically “CG drawn animation” that replicates the feel and look of the traditional “hand-drawn Japanese anime”. We started training our animators to do the CG animations faster than anybody else in the Japanese industry. So we have definitely advanced in our ability when it comes to creating CG anime. Also, after all these years, I see that now that CG anime is finally able to look more like hand-drawn animation.

There are two reasons for that. Number one, the level of rendering has improved quite dramatically. Number two, the Japanese anime fans and audience are also ready to accept that kind of style in general.

(c)revisions Production Committee

Do you think CG will ever be more common than 2D animation, when it comes to the anime industry? And if so, how far away do you think we are from that?

First of all, hand-drawn animation has its own look and I think it's not possible to completely replace hand-drawn animation with CG. There will always be an appetite for both. But as the technology advances, and the level of rendering also advances, I think it's very natural to see more and more CG animation – but it'll never totally replace 2D.

Your new series revisions is part of the new “+ Ultra” block of Fuji TV. Tell us a little about this project and what your ambitions for it are.

As for revisions, as you know it's going to be broadcast simultaneously with Netflix. So I definitely want to deliver it to a global audience. This is my first AX experience, but I can feel the heat and the enthusiasm of the fans. So having seen that, I'm very confident that this will certainly reach global fans.

As I mentioned earlier, the Japanese audience has finally come to the point where they accept CG animation as well as original hand-drawn animation, but having looked at the audiences here, I'm also confident that this will be accepted by the Western fans as well. I certainly hope so.

The creative team on the show is pretty impressive, including Goro Taniguchi, who directed Code Geass. As producer, what role did you play in wrangling that team together? What do you admire about some of the artists on that team?

Regarding the staff, we decided that along with the production committee. The original concept for revisions was developed between the company Slow Curve and director Taniguchi. So they had this original idea, and they took that concept and developed it between those two companies, Taniguchi-san, the director, and Chikaoka-san, the character designer, who is usually known for moe-type anime designs. Their concept was to create something brand new from Chikaoka-san who's mostly known for moe anime, to have a character design that seems unlike his usual work, to do something completely different. Action, or something grotesque. Something very… bleeding. They wanted to see what the chemical reaction might be.

As for Fukami-san, the scriptwriter, he's also done Psycho Pass, which was broadcast in Noitamina in the same Fuji TV anime slot. So we were very confident in Fukami-san, especially for this sci-fi world setting.

So revisions is original IP. As a producer, do you see more risk in taking on an original idea like this, as opposed to something that's a little bit more familiar to people like an adaptation?

Well there are several obstacles, of course. Number one is the setting of the world. For instance, if it's a live action movie, they basically draw the buildings and things they need to set the scene, and they have to do the same thing with the creation of CG. So it all starts from there. And then, once you do the backgrounds and build the world itself, then you can put characters in it and see how they react and think about character movement. So that is a lot of work to start with.

Secondly, the development of the script—as you know, script development is a very long process. Especially it so when it's an original series. But again, unless you have the script made and fixed in place, you can't start building the world. So the script development itself takes a long time regardless of what you're working on, and with an original project, you have to make the script from scratch. Then, based on the script, you have to then make the entire world from scratch with CG. It's a very difficult process – very challenging!

Our thanks to Fuji TV and Kazuya Ide for this interview opportunity.

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