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Cardfight!! Vanguard will+Dress Staff Discuss Bringing the Hobby Anime Alive

by Neysha Campbell,


Anime Central welcomed Illinois anime fans last weekend. Among the creatives present were character designer and chief animation director Tomokatsu Nagasaku and line producer Eiichi Koshiishi from Kinema Citrus, a studio renowned for its visually stunning and captivating anime series.

The convention welcomed back the Kinema Citrus creative team behind the popular hobby anime series Cardfight!! Vanguard overDress & Cardfight!! Vanguard will+Dress. This year Nagasaku and Koshiishi offered fans an exclusive opportunity to gain insights into their creative processes and experiences. In this interview, they discuss their artistic endeavors, exploring the craft that goes into the latest iteration of the franchise.

In addition to sharing their insights, Kinema Citrus brought fans the unique opportunity to be part of the animation production for the upcoming Cardfight!! Vanguard will+Dress Season 3 by entering the Kinema Citrus Art Challenge*. The art challenge is for anyone interested in anime production to get a taste of what it is like to be an animator.


*NOTE: There has been a change made to this challenge. For more information, please visit: https://sites.google.com/view/kcartchallenge2023

Starting his animator career at Walt Disney Animation Japan in 1998, Tomokatsu Nagasaku quickly established himself as a versatile talent in the industry. Transitioning to freelance work in 2004, he has left his mark as a key animator, animation director, and chief animation director on a wide range of notable projects. From the music-infused series Show By Rock!! to the acclaimed Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Nagasaku's contributions have captivated audiences. Today he lends his skills to Kinema Citrus as the character designer and chief animation director for Cardfight!! Vanguard will+Dress series.

After discovering a love for anime during college, Eiichi Koshiishi embarked on a journey into the anime industry. He began his career as a production assistant at studio asread. Afterward, he joined the esteemed ranks of Kinema Citrus, where he swiftly made his mark as a production assistant for the exhilarating Cardfight!! Vanguard overDress TV series. Now, Koshiishi is vital in supervising the production line for the highly anticipated Cardfight!! Vanguard will+Dress anime series. His experience and dedication continue to shape the vibrant world of Vanguard, ensuring its seamless realization on the screen.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Tomokatsu Nagasaku and Eiichi Koshiishi ahead of their panel to ask their thoughts about the state of the anime industry, bringing in new aspiring artists and professionals from around the world, and discuss what fans could expect to see in the upcoming season of Cardfight!! Vanguard will+Dress.

The Kinema Citrus Art Challenge is for anyone interested in anime production to get a taste of what it is like to be an animator. How does it feel to be a part of this contest that provides greater access to the industry and brings more new talent into the industry?

Tomokatsu Nagasaku: This contest has to do with the COVID pandemic. The pandemic proved that people could work remotely wherever they are, whether in Hokkaido or Okinawa (Japan's northernmost and southernmost islands). Anyone can work remotely from various places, so why not from overseas? You don't necessarily have to come to Japan to work in the anime industry. The opportunity is rising, opening up more. These are just my thoughts, but I hope this provides an opportunity to prove that.

How did you both get your start in the anime production industry?

Nagasaku: I loved Disney Animation, and when I watched Disney movies on TV, I was so impressed by the passion and the joy of their movie-making. That led me to think that I want to work in this industry. I went to a vocational art school for that and then took the test to enter the studio. I passed the test and joined Walt Disney Animation Japan when I was 20 years old.

Eiichi Koshiishi: When I was a high schooler, I used to play soccer a lot. But when I entered university, I decided to put an end to playing soccer, and I looked for something new to get into. Then my younger brother happened to be an anime fan. He introduced me to many titles, and as I watched them, I really got into anime. I loved them all and even cried because I was very moved by the animation. So that's when I decided I wanted to be in this industry.

What advice would you give to any aspiring talents (artists, animators, etc.) that are interested in entering the anime industry but may need help knowing where to start?

Nagasaku: To give advice, it depends on what kind of role you're looking for, but as far as being an animator is concerned, for me, I only thought of Disney. I just wanted to get in there somehow. So I didn't think of anything else or any other studio besides Disney Studios.

I drew lots of drawings and showed them. I made an appointment by calling them and then just visited them, like many, many times to show my work. And I also showed my work to veteran and very experienced animators to get their advice and feedback. I would go back to work and correct what they pointed out to improve and keep repeating the process of bringing my work back again to show them.

So this passion or perseverance is important and you have to keep trying. By the time I took the test and got interviewed at Disney, I already knew all the interviewers. During the interview, they were like, “Aren't you with us already? You're a part of Disney at this point.” [laughs] One thing is that you need to be able to draw, first and foremost. Other than that, I think it's important to show your passion and that you are going to keep working on what you're trying to accomplish.

Koshiishi: I'm speaking from the point of view of a production assistant. Basically, anyone can be in a production assistant position. You don't have to be able to draw pictures. But you have to have a love for animation and a love of anime. When it comes to entering the industry, I can't pinpoint how to do it. You just have to go and try it out. But I would highly advise that you watch a lot of animation, and not just something popular or trendy right now, but also classic titles as well. I believe that having information and knowledge is its own kind of weapon, a very strong weapon that can help you join the industry.

Nagasaku: My acquaintances actually started as production assistants, but they later turned into animators. You can also start as a production assistant and then become an episode director or unit director, and eventually become a director. That's also possible.

As long as you get inside the industry and get into the company that you want to work for, there are many pathways that you can choose. Just know what kind of company you want to get into and try to get in contact with the people working there. So, as long as you can convey to them you have a passion for working in the industry, you may start out in a different position than you initially anticipated. However, there will be pathways that will come to you, and you will be able to select from those different paths which course you want to take.

Kinema Citrus has worked on some amazing projects over the years, such as the Village Bride from Star Wars: Visions, The Rising of The Shield Hero, and Cardfight!! Vanguard to life through animation. What aspects or experiences have made approaching a new project the most captivating and intriguing for you?

Koshiishi: In regards to Vanguard, I put the most emphasis and focus on things I think I really need to work on. First of all, Vanguard is what's called hobby anime, which is basically an integration of card fights for card games with animation. So they work together as a form of entertainment. So I try to keep that in mind: this is a hobby anime for the entertainment of the audience, combining the cardfight aspects and animation.

As for the scheduling, it's actually very rigorous in a way, because we have two cours for just this year. So, the scheduling is pretty tight. I have to gauge what levels of quantity and quality are needed to sustain the series. I try to work on the scheduling that makes sense and also manage the staffing – who works where and for how long.

Nagasaku: On top of that, we have great staff members. While I'm doing the character designs, we also have episode directors in each episode, and there's [Ryutaro] Suzuki, who is the series director. They're all wonderful to work with. I try to bring out as much as possible each staff member's talents to showcase their skills.

Speaking of Cardfight!! Vanguard, it returns for a new season this year. Can you give us any hints about what fans can expect to see in the upcoming season? Or what are some parts you are most excited for fans to see?

Koshiishi: In Season 2 of Cardfight!! Vanguard will+Dress, we had an AI character in the series. It is about the relationship between AI and humans, which is a very important theme now. This is part of the reason why, for the Kinema Citrus Art Challenge, we did not ban AI from participating.

Nagasaku: Vanguard is card fighting, which is at the series' core. Through the card fights, we would like to depict the growth of the characters. So Vanguard is a drama depicting humans, not just card fights. In the series, we regard each and every character as different. They all have different characteristics and different ways of thinking. We, as production staff members, try to respect their individuality.

We believe in respecting others: accepting their differences, respecting their ways of thinking, their ways of life, etc. That's the heart of the series. I hope that you all enjoy watching the characters grow, you know, as character development. Also, what kind of goals or pathways, in the end, do the characters reach or choose? Those are the aspects that fans can anticipate.

Nagasaku: So this is just my personal thinking, but as we mentioned, this concept of diversity is very important in Vanguard. But that doesn't mean that there are no rules or anything. So while we respect diversity and respect each other, we should also tell what's wrong is wrong. So, there may be clashes between people, because they disagree on what they see as what's right and wrong. However, that doesn't mean that he or she is denying the other person. I think that's very important since that also goes the same in our world, in our reality. So that's something that I want to keep cherishing during the production of the series.

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