NR Interview: Designer Shigeto Koyama

At Fanime 2012, I caught up with animator and designer Shigeto Koyama for an interview. He is known for his work on Heroman, Panty and Stocking, and most recently, Eureka Seven AO to name a few. We talk about his break into the industry, his works and what it was like to work with Stan Lee. Check out the interview below:

NR: How are you enjoying Fanime so far?

Koyama: Yeah, it’s very fun!

NR: This is your second appearance at Fanime correct?

Koyama: Yes, it is.

NR: How did you break into the anime industry?

Koyama: It’s a little complicated. (Laughs) I started out in Product Design while I was in Art School. At the time I was doing 3D Computer Graphics. After a while, I began to feel the limitations of 3DCG in terms of expressing myself. What caused that was because I saw original Neon Genesis Evangelion. It had such an effect on me that I wanted to make a doujinshi (fan comic book) to express how much I liked NGE. Except at the time, I’ve never drawn anything before. So I wasn’t able to create one. (Laughs) So instead I collaborated with a friend to create a promotional video on a Mac to express how much I loved the series. Then someone who would eventually become my boss saw my video and thought it was interesting and then told me to start drawing. They took me into the office, presented me a drawing, and asked me to draw it. So I drew it, and later they featured it in a magazine so as a result I accidentally debuted as a professional illustrator at that moment.

NR: So you started out as an illustrator before going into animation?

Koyama: Yeah, but there’s another story behind that as well. As I was drawing character, I didn’t really feel attached to them. In order to become attached to them, I felt that there needed to be a story behind them. Of course to write a story, you draw manga. So I tried my hands on drawing manga and later thought “You know what, I can’t do stories”. At this point, I was like “Shoot, I can’t do anything!” It was quite a dilemma. Later, I got a call from Yoshiyuki Sadamoto personally to go help on the development of Diebuster (Aim for the Top 2!). I saw Sadamoto as a mentor and my influence as well as wanting to work with Tsurumaki-san who was the director for Diebuster. So if I can’t do illustrations and I can’t do manga, what else is left? Animation!

NR: Heroman was collaboration between Stan Lee and Studio BONES, which you had a role in, how did it feel to work with the man himself?

Koyama: We hit it off pretty well. At the start, Heroman was planned by Stan Lee and Minami-san (President of Studio BONES). So the first thing you do when you planned a new series is find a director, however in Heroman’s case, Minami-san wanted to work on the visual conception first. That’s when Minami contacted me while we were working on the first Eureka.

NR: Wow, so Heroman was in development a long time before its debut.

Koyama: It took about four years before it aired I believe. This was a project that Minami-san really wanted to do. Numerous storyboards were created for this project, he really pooled together a lot of resources.

NR: Well it turned out very well!

Koyama: Thank you very much.

NR: Do you have any other artists that you like or look up to?

Koyama: Japanese or Overseas?

NR: Anyone is fine.

Koyama: There’s too many to list! (laugh)

NR: Okay, let me ask another question: Would you like to work in American comics or animation?

Koyama: If there’s a chance I liked to.

NR: Any established franchises?

Koyama: Probably Marvel or DC.

NR: Speaking of Marvel, Did you watch the Avengers yet?

Koyama: No I haven’t. Since it’s not out in Japan yet, I’d like to watch it here if we have time before I go back.

NR: Please do! Especially since the US version has the extra scenes.

Koyama: Really?! Now I really have to go now.

NR: Back to the interview, did you have any difficult moments during conception or designing in any of your works?

Koyama: During my first project (Diebuster), because I had no design experience at the time, it was difficult to design the mechs and trying to learn the process at the same time. Recently, the test plugsuit for Asuka in the Evangelion movie was difficult. Because Evangelion is such a special series to a lot of people, the plugsuits are an iconic aspect of the series to both the fans and industry alike. They’re familiar with its function and design. There was a lot of pressure, time, and effort involved to deliver a revamped design.



NR: Moving on to Panty and Stocking, it was a project by Gainax that was greatly influenced by Western animation and design. Was it difficult for the studio to adapt to a different style and process as opposed to Japanese Animation?

Koyama: Regarding Panty and Stocking, I was actually there when Imaishi-san and the main staff were doing the location planning. You could tell that they all love western cartoons. So it wasn’t particular hard for them, but what was hard was outside of them, the other staff wasn’t familiar with western cartoons much less western animation. There are rules of Japanese Animation that they had to break and so it was hard for them to adjust.

NR: Were you particularly targeting a Western Audience with Panty and Stocking?

Koyama: We weren’t aiming to specifically appeal to a western audience, I mean it would be nice if Western audiences would like it, but we wanted to make it because there wasn’t anything like Panty and Stocking in Japan. Especially the black humor in the show, which Japan doesn’t really have. Since Japanese anime are often very detailed, we decided to throw a wrench into that and break all the rules.

NR: With that said, are you currently following any shows at the moment?

Koyama: This may be a weird answer, but it’s really hard to watch other animes while I’m working on one because I tend to be swayed by them. Like I need to do better than this. That being said, after I finished Star Driver, there was a period of time where I wasn’t working on anything so I watched THE [email protected], which my good friend Atsushi Nishigori worked on, and Nichijou. Since last year though, I haven’t followed any since then.

NR: Lastly, do you have any parting words to your fans in America?

Koyama: What I like about American fans is that their love for anime works spans a wide spectrum, they love all the past works up to the latest stuff. I would like them all to continue supporting older works and of course support the current works as well.

NR: Thank you for your time today. It was a pleasure.

Koyama: Thank you!

(I would like to thank Ms. Yamashita for interpreting and Fanime Staff for setting up the appointment.)

You can watch Eureka Seven AO, his current work, at FUNimation’s website here.

I would like to thank Ms. Yamashita for interpreting and Fanime Staff for setting up the appointment.

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