Although popular in his native Japan, the internet has allowed people in many other countries to become fans of the work of Hidetaka Tenjin. Boasting credits in illustration, design and voice acting, he is perhaps most famous for the illustrations he has provided to the world of Macross in addition to box art for Bandai’s Master Grade Gundam kits and their recently debuted line of Star Wars ones.
On the Saturday morning of MCM London Comic Con, Toonzone News had the chance to interview Tenjin during a UK appearance arranged by Viewster.
TOONZONE NEWS: What inspired you to want to become an artist/illustrator?
HIDETAKA TENJIN: I didn’t actually want to be an artist. I wanted to be all sorts of things but I made various mistakes along the way and this is where I ended up being able to survive.
TOONZONE NEWS: When you create a piece is there a specific emotion you’re trying to generate in the viewer? I know that Katoki Hajime for instance has said his own Gundam Fix series was about exploring if these machines existed in our world.
HIDETAKA TENJIN: My biggest motivation for drawing is to draw a world that I myself would like to see. Whether it’s robots or anything else I like giant things, looking up at things. I want everyone to be able to feel that excitement and feel as if it’s really there in front of them.
TOONZONE NEWS: Following on from that point, I notice that many of your Master Grade box arts use such dynamic low angles to accent the size of the mobile suit. Do you have any advice for designers in training for how to make a mecha piece look really exciting?
HIDETAKA TENJIN: As you say, one thing is to have the eye level at the human eye level. That makes it look like the robot is there in the normal space we live in and that’s the best way of making it look huge.
TOONZONE NEWS: Aside from the Master Grade box art I understand you also worked on the Gundam Evolve animated series. What was your involvement in this project?
HIDETAKA TENJIN: My Macross Zero team were working on episode 13, specifically on the key-frame artwork that of course has to look really good.
TOONZONE NEWS: What differences do you find between working in animation vs illustration and which do you prefer?
HIDETAKA TENJIN: Illustration is really, in a sense, lonely work. You do everything yourself from scratch through to completion. But with animation you have a director, you have staff, possibly hundreds of staff. They’re all artists so what’s interesting in that situation is working with sensitivity so as to not to kill the individual creativity of all those artists. It’s fun to communicate in that way with other artists and your work starts to communicate with their work.
TOONZONE NEWS: Away from illustration you’ve also done some voice acting in series such as Garo, Hunter X Hunter and Saint Seiya. How did these opportunities come about and what did you make of the experience?
HIDETAKA TENJIN: I started going to acting school as a student and I’ve actually been acting for fifteen years. So before I became well known for illustrating I was actually acting under a different name. It’s not that I was getting acting work because I was well known for drawing, it’s actually a completely separate thing. But if I hadn’t studied theatre I don’t think I would have done as well in drawing. Studying acting has really helped in depicting a story.
TOONZONE NEWS: Which are your personal favourite works you’ve created for both the Hasegawa Macross kits and Bandai Gundam kits?
HIDETAKA TENJIN: Hmmm… [takes out phone, opens gallery] This is my work album. [Scrolls through.] My favourite is…..They all have different memories for me. [Selects image at right, enlarges it] This gerwalk went down really well. I used as a reference Takanai-san’s artwork from back in the day, which really brought back all these feelings of excitement from when I was a child. Takanai-san used to draw the box art for Macross kits.
TOONZONE NEWS: If I may say it’s a very dynamic piece, you can see the life in it as if it’s one instant frozen.
HIDETAKA TENJIN: Yeah. It’s taken from the opening of the original Macross TV series.
TOONZONE NEWS: I know of course you did similar with the Master Grade Gundam 2.0, the iconic saber slash. [Tenjin flips through his work album, locates the piece] That’s the one. They’re both iconic, drawing on those specific memories.
TOONZONE NEWS: If it helps, I know from speaking to various fans this one is definitely one of their favourite pieces.
HIDETAKA TENJIN: This is THE Gundam image, isn’t it? At the time I got completely fed up of this drawing. Everyone was complaining [laughs] But this is what I kept up with and now I think it’s a good thing.
TOONZONE NEWS: What’s next for you in your career and are there any dream projects you’d like to work on?
HIDETAKA TENJIN: Right now I’m working on a new Macross in Japan which should be broadcast at the start of next year, so I’m doing a lot of designing for that.
In the future I’d like to be able to take part in a project with people from around the world and hopefully come back to London [smiles].
TOONZONE NEWS: I appreciate you’re probably limited as to what you can say but as it’s clear you’re a long term fan of Macross what is your opinion of the new series you’re working on from that perspective?
HIDETAKA TENJIN: You don’t actually know when you’re making it. As a fan, I’m always worried. There are so many elements in Macross. You have the songs, the planes, the sci-fi, the love triangle. There’s so much going on. So much that gets so busy and it’s really hard work [laughs]. But I love the moment where it all comes together. That’s what I love about Macross so I’m looking forward to it as well.
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