The comic Oni Kudaki (Huitula/Matsui) available from Fantacore Media shop.
PRODUCTION I.G - Tokio
The very first time I arrived in Tokyo in the summer 1999. It was the beginning of June and the hot and humid rainy season about to begin. The purpose for me being there was to spend the next three months getting more into the production process of Japanese anime. At that precise moment, carrying my luggage through the crowd of Shinjuku station, I wasn't aware that I would be spending my time in that same fascinating concrete jungle for many times to come. It's difficult to define what it exactly was about Japan that had always been pulling me in. And although I knew that one day I would go on searching for the answer to that question, it certainly was surprising how fast that all would eventually happen. A big arigato for that to Mitsuhisa Ishikawa for inviting me as the president of Production I.G, and also to Arata Iwashina, being the production coordinator of Production I.G at that time. Fortunate enough for me, the Japanese editions of the CD-covers I had painted for such heavy-metal band as Gammaray were already known, which undoubtly made it a bit easier for me to get into the community and culture which traditionally, and even still, is relatively closed when it comes to contacts with the outside world and "gai-jins" in general.
Production I.G (Ishikawa/Goto) is a Japanese animation production company which belongs to the ING-Corporation aside with three other companies. Production I.G is the main studio which produces animation for full-length theatre distributed feature films, on video, television and games. Production I.G is owned by Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, who is also the president of the ING-Corporation. Since 1987 the company was previously known as IG Tatsunoko, but changed its name in 1993. The amount of employees is about two hundred, of which part works as freelancers. Production I.G became internationally recognized especially for its full-length anime movie Ghost In The Shell, which rapidly became a cult movie since its publication in 1995, and still is one of the most well-known examples of Japanese anime around the world.
The studios of Production I.G are situated in Kokubunji, Tokyo, 20 minutes west of Shinjuku by local train (Chuo-line). The studios themselves are located in three different buildings, some blocks away from each other. The main reason for this is the price and tightness of the office space availabe in Tokyo. When expanding, the only option getting more space is to take it wherever being available. Studio Ghibli, known for Hayao Miyazaki's movies Princess Mononoke and Sprited Away, is also located just a couple stations away from the studios of Production I.G.
Production I.G headquarters and studio Ogura in Kokubunji, Tokyo - The main door of Production I.G animation studios - Hiromasa Ogura on the phone.
The BG-department responsible for the background paintings, run by Hiromasa Ogura, is located in the I.G headquarters building some blocks away from the animation studios. At the moment, besides Ogura himself, there are seven young and very talented BG-artists working at the department. Ogura himself has worked as an art director in such big anime classics as Ghost In The Shell, Wings Of Honneamise, Patlabor (The Movie) and Jin-Roh, and his talent has been highly appreciated throughout the anime field.
At the Ogura-studio employees use a list where they write down their hours. Not so surprisingly the working morals is very high and working is extremely intensive. Work begins about 9:30 a.m. and stops around 08:00 p.m. Half an hour lunch-break is included in the 10-hour working day and only Sundays and every other Saturday is holiday, depending on the department.
I'm surprised of the open-heartedness and kindness I receive from Ogura-sama since the very first time we meet. Despite of beeing a great master at his field, he also turns out to be a very warmhearted and funny person from who I'm able to learn a lot. Despite the occasional minor troubles concerning the language barrier, Ogura-sama becomes an important mentor to me, and a sensei who I will always respect as a top-professional as well as a person.
Besides Ogura himself three of the studio's artists have been making the BG-paintings for the full-lenght anime movie Jin-Roh (1999). Satoh (24), Ii (26) and Kazato (22) have all been working for Production I.G for three years. The average age for the employees seems to be way under 30 years, and usually on the background there is studies at the local art and animation schools.
Jin-Roh is the last full-length feature film of Production I.G, produced as a traditional cel-animation. To a large extend the production has been completed by people previously known as the creators of Ghost In The Shell. The story is based on the script of the Ghost-director Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, Avalon). Jin-Roh has been directed by Hiroyuki Okiura who worked as the character designer and key-animator in Ghost In The Shell. In its realistic visual approach Jin-Roh differs enormously from the more common TV-anime style and stylistically reminds a lot of Ghost In The Shell. Also the production schedule has been relatively long, about two years. There are about 900 background paintings needed for the movie of which high state-of-the-art quality has been supervised by Hiromasa Ogura.
June the 16th 1999 I have the privelage as the only westerner to attend the Jin-Roh preview organized by Production I.G. At the screening there are also representatives from the media, Manga entertainment and Bandai Visual. The preview screening is being held at the 20th Century Fox theater near Roppongi.
Blood (The Last Vampire)
Blood (The Last Vampire) is a 50-minute digitally produced animation movie which, due to some productional delays is still in production during my visit. The director of the Movie is Hiroyuki Kitakubo, who has also drawn the storyboard for the movie. The original character design was drawn by a freelancer, manga artist "X", but his too sketchy drawing style lead the animation superviser Kazuchika Kise to make the drawings all over again. Well, anything can happen.