The latest (9/20 2018) issue of Famitsu includes an interview with mecha designers Miyatake Kazutaka (Mazinger Z, Space Battleship Yamato, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross) and Ishiwata Makoto (Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, Valvrave the Liberator, Gundam UC 0096: Last Sun), who discuss Japanese mecha design and Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner M∀RS. While the two did not participate in the game, they contributed to the limited edition’s booklet with their own original Orbital Frame designs. The interview was conducted on the museum ship Mikasa at the Mikasa Park in Yokosuka.
— ファミ通.com (@famitsu) September 4, 2018
Part 1 of the interview is available here
The interviewer brings up how the interview is being conducted inside the former battleship Mikasa, decomissioned after 1922 and repurposed into a museum, located in the Yokosuka Mikasa Park which is near to their homes, and asks what meaning Mikasa has to them.
Miyatake says that there used to be two schools close to the Mikasa, and that he went to one of them. The Mikasa had just been returned to Japan from America then, and he played on the deck of the ship almost every day. This led to him later studying the history of the ship, and talking to people associated with it, and he knows a lot about what led to the ship being put on display now. He also says that he saw with his own eyes the damage done to the ship by the Baltic Fleet at the battle of Tsushima, which has since been restored, and that it was thanks to this that he knew how ships got damaged in battle, which let discuss with Itano Ichiro about how iron plates take damage, for dozens of minutes at a time, when they were working together on Macross.
Ishiwata says that Mikasa was also a playground to him as a child, but in his time it had already been restored to close to what it is like right now, though the park had not been as orderly yet. He would always go to the bow, and liked touching the ship just to feel how thick the iron was, and to this day he still comes to touch it 5-6 times a year.
Ishiwata goes on to stress the importance of seeing the real thing for mecha design, and uses ship cannons as an example: He says that the smoke coming from the barrel after a cannon is fired is very cool, but that in many anime this smoke is not shown, which bothers him as it looks like they are firing blanks. Miyatake says that if something like that bothers him, he has to go tell the animators himself, and that when working on Macross he actually did do similar things, like request environmental background sound effects for the inside of the Macross to echo the low hum of the ship’s engine that one would constantly hear inside a real-world battleship.
The two discuss the balance between keeping expressions simple for animation and including realism, and Miyatake says that it’s part of a designer’s job to advise the higher stuff on what sort of expressions to include if they believe it would improve the quality; Small nuances like the way sound comes in, or a flash of light, can easily be overlooked by other staff, and the sum of these small details can make a massive difference, meaning that this responsiblity falls on the designers’ shoulders.
To this, Ishiwata says that in his design work on an as-of-yet unannounced robot anime, he thought to make it more realistic than ever, by doing things such as only using JIS-defined bolt sizes, but once he started doing this it became difficult to tell when to stop. Miyatake offers his advice on this matter, saying to “just do it”: This was the approach Itano Ichiro took when working on Macross, doing things like researching the differences in how stainless steel and iron plates break.
Ishiwata had previously worked with Itano on the anime Blassreiter, in which he designed an ICBM. As a fan of Macross Plus, which Itano had also worked on, he designed the ICBM as an homage to the Ghost X-9 from that show, and when Itano saw this he said “oh, you wanted to do Macross Plus?” and changed the action scene into an Itano Circus *1 like the one from that show.
*1 “Itano Circus” is a term applied to a certain type of animation used by Itano Ichiro in his works which has fluid, acrobatic, circus-like action. The phrase itself was first coined by Miyatake Kazutaka.
Miyatake recalls how, when making Macross Plus, Itano and Kawamori Shoji said that they would need to experience a real dogfight to be able to animate one, and went to America to do so, riding in training planes with instructors and having a mock battle. Kawamori slowed down his plane before blacking out *2, but Itano said that he wouldn’t be able to animate a dogfight without experiencing a blackout and sped his up, and ended up coming back covered in vomit. The famous dogfights in Macross Plus are thus a result of Itano and Kawamori’s experiences.
*2 A blackout in this context is a temporary loss of vision due to gravitational forces draining blood away from the brain.
The interviewer notes how Itano is a common acquaintance to them, and Miyatake says that it was Kawamori, whom he has known since high school, who first introduced Itano to him, and goes on to talk about how Kawamori and Itano’s influence resulted in Studio Nue always trying to make things even more impressive than before. Ishiwata notes the similarities between Studio Nue and Nitroplus, and mentions how Nitroplus CEO Kosaka Takaki used to visit Studio Nue, which Miyatake remembers. He says that the biggest similar between the two companies is how they are challengers, and he recalls how Tomino Yoshiyuki once said to them that in the content creation business, there are “pioneers” and “harvesters”; Pioneers are people who are years ahead of the rest, creating new visions, while harvesters are those who put those visions together and sell them, and that because Studio Nue was 20 years ahead of everyone else, and would never be able to become harvesters. Ishiwata says it is normal in the anime industry to work on designs that will not be seen for two years, meaning that designers have to come up with things that will still be acceptable two years later, but he had never considered the thought of making designs that nobody would be able to catch up with even two decades later.
The interviewer wonders if Nitroplus inherits the genes of Studio Nue, and Ishiwata says that he is not sure about that, saying that Nitroplus is little more than a disorderly group of people all doing their own thing, and that he sometimes does not know how far to go. Miyatake says that in many cases, producers and directors are in fact waiting for someone to go out of control, and create something entirely new; While they may have to say something disapproving due to their position, they are typically actually happy. If a director is angry, that means that there is still leeway, because if something really should not be done they will not get angry, but just stop the person. He notes that in Itano’s case, he would ignore the director and go on anyway. He says that in any case, designers should never be afraid of getting people angry, and that only by “going too far” can they make things that people can feel with their hearts.