Prior to the Wit Studio panel held in the main convention, toonzone had a chance to talk with George Wada (president of Wit Studio), Ryotaro Makihara (director of Hal) and Katsuhiko Kitada (character designer on Hal, animation director for Attack on Titan) at the nearby Novotel.
How involved was original creator Hajime Isayama with the anime adaptation of Titan?
Wada: Mr Isayama was an advisor on the screenplay for Attack on Titan. But the movements of the anime were basically down to Wit Studio and the animators.
Many of the action scenes in Titan blend 2D animation with CG. What are the advantages of this process and do you feel it’s the future for action animation in Japan?
Kitada: When I’m thinking about how to animate a scene, in Japanese animation the background is a still picture. But with 3D CG you can move the background with the animated parts so it gives it more depth and a wider range of expression.
Makihara: But by blending the 3D CG and the 2D you get to keep the power of the lines that have been hand drawn by an animator which don’t exist in 3D and create something that people maybe haven’t seen before.
There’s a lot of blood and violence in Titan. Was there a line you were unwilling to cross in depicting death?
Of course we can draw scenes of cruelty but by not depicting them you get people to use their imaginations. As such getting people to imagine the frightening things going on but not showing the actual cruelty was a directorial decision.
What direction was given to Hiroyuki Sawano in composing the soundtrack?
Wada: Araki, the director, had worked with Sawano on Guilty Crown and they shared a sense of excitement and what really gets people going. That’s the direction he gave to Sawano on Attack on Titan.
Specifically Araki had a piece of classical music by Beethoven that he gave to Sawano and said he wanted a similar sense of scale and direction based on it.
The show has been a great success and a big part of that is due to the opening titles. How were these conceived and did the success surprise you?
Wada: It did surprise us! The storyboards for the opening were personally drawn by director Araki. It encompasses the whole of the show Attack on Titan, so I think if people like the opening it means they like the show. I think, as Kitada said earlier, that opening has not the cruelty but the sense of excitement and entertainment in it.
The animation of the Titans themselves is often quite creepy and rapid, making them legitimately scary and unsettling to audiences. Who was in charge of their animation and movements?
Kitada: Takaaki Chiba was in charge of the animation of the Titans. With their movements, normal people have a centre of gravity and there’s a logic to the way they move but if you took that away people could move in a different way and that’s where the movements of the Titans come from. So each animator when they’d finished would consult Chiba for advice and that’s where the strange way of moving comes from.
Who are your favourite characters from the series?
Wada: I like Mikasa.
Makihara: I like Jean.
Kitada: The Eren Titan. [Both Wada and Makihara laugh]
[All laugh again]
Obviously lots of people would like to see you continue with a second season. Would you like to make one and if so how long do you think it would take?
[All banter and laugh]
Wada: I think I need to get my strength back first.
Kitada: It was really hard work to make, so we’re having a breather right now!
With Hal, what is the essence of what you feel this movie is about? What do you hope viewers will get out of seeing it?
Makihara: [laughs, muses] Good question…Well first, I want them to watch it! I want them to enjoy the boy meets girl story but I’d also like it if they took away something about the nature of death and their relationship with it, the fact that death doesn’t wait for anybody and the need to value and look after the people that you love.
Concepts of human-like artificial beings that raise questions about mankind’s relationship with technology and what it means to be human have been present throughout the history of anime. When creating Hal, are there any particular past works or creators you took influence from?
Makihara: Rather than those sorts of sci-fi anime I was actually influenced by our writer, Izumi Kizara. I liked her style, I’ve been impacted by Nobuta wo Produce and Q10 that she’d written in the past and as she was writing the screenplay for this we talked a lot and there’s a lot of her influence in there.
Kizara writes dramas set in contemporary Japan and I think what distinguishes her is deep stories set in daily life which look normal on the surface but actually there’s so much struggle going into just day to day life.
How have you perceived reception from Japanese audiences and critics?
Makihara: I think the target audience, teenage girls in Japan, have gone to see it expecting one thing and are surprised with the message they get at the end. That serious message about death not waiting for anybody.
Do you prefer TV or film projects and how are they different?
Makihara: I haven’t directed a full series for TV yet, only episodes, so it’s hard to compare in a way, but with a film you get to write the storyboards, you get to check all the animation and it’s easier to construct your own world so I guess I prefer that.
I’d like to close the interview by asking all three of you what future projects you are each currently working on.
Kitada: I’m working with another company right now but I think, next year perhaps, I might be working on something original with Wit Studio which sounds very interesting so I’m looking forward to that.
Wada: Wit Studio is going to go in two directions. We want to make a 90 minute feature film and we want to carry on making TV series like Attack on Titan.
Makihara: I want to make a feature length film and I think I’d like it to be something like Hal which has a superficial ‘boy meets girl’ story but actually has very deep themes. Another aim of mine is just to improve in my work and to be part of the hundred or so years of Japanese anime tradition, up there with icons such as Toei Animation and Studio Ghibli, doing proper animation.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today and I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in England.
Wada: [Laughs, in English] Thank you.
toonzone would like to thank MCM Expo, Manga Entertainment UK and Anime Limited for arranging this interview and Wit Studio’s attendance at the convention.
Attack on Titan will be released by Manga Entertainment in the UK in 2014 and Hal will be screening in a double bill with Garden of Words at the Leeds Film Festival.
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