By APA Staff
Veteran manga artist Yun Kouga is best known for creating popular shonen-ai (boy's love) series like Earthian and Loveless. Loveless, which received a popular anime adaptation in 2005, has earned her international praise for its attractive art style, sensual characters, and compellingly intimate story telling. Aside from her ongoing work with Loveless, Kouga is also the character designer for the popular Mobile Suit Gundam 00 anime.
Esteemed anime director Seiji Mizushima has worked on many notable titles like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Slayers Next, and Mobile Suit Gundam 00, but fans will always remember him best for directing the universally acclaimed Full Metal Alchemist anime. Mizushima made an interesting choice to select Kouga, known best for her effeminate character designs, to be Mobile Gundam 00's character designer...perhaps to reach out to female viewers as the previous Mobile Suit Gundam shows have successfully done.
Yosuke Kuroda is an award winning screen writer that has worked on many high profile anime and drama series, notably the Hellsing OVA, Saint Seiya, Honey and Clover, Trigun, and Mobile Suit Gundam 00.
Kouga, Mizushima, and Kuroda are currently working on the upcoming Mobile Suit Gundam 00 film, set for release in 2010. We had an opportunity to sit down with these busy anime industry veterans to pick their brains about their projects, the economy, and which fictional characters would they pit against each other in battle. --William Hong
Interview with Yun Kouga, Seiji Mizushima, and Yosuke Kuroda
July 1, 2009
Interviewed by Bryan Hartzheim and William Hong
Translations by Bryan Hartzheim
APA: How much Loveless is left?
Yun Kouga: The manga will end at Vol. 15
APA: Will the Loveless anime ever get a second season?
APA: Why is Loveless classified as a yaoi? Gundam Wing was more yaoi than Loveless.
Yun Kouga: I don't consider it as yaoi, but my fans do.
On adapting Full Metal Alchemist into an anime
APA: The Full Metal Alchemist anime is pretty different from the original manga. Did you feel any pressure to be faithful to the original while you were working?
Seiji Mizushima: When we started the Full Metal Alchemist anime adaptation, there were only one or two volumes out during that time. So when I started the project, there wasn't pressure to be faithful to the original story. It was more about creating an original story that would last a full season.
APA: Usually, an anime is made from a manga that’s been out for a little while, but the FMA anime was made pretty soon after the manga was first released. Is it common to make animes from properties that have barely been in existence?
Mizushima: When we want to make an anime from an existing source, we have to decide whether that anime is going to stick very closely to the story of the existing manga, or if we want to use the art style of the manga to create a wider audience through the anime. So our approach to the original manga is going to change a lot based on which direction we decide to go in. As a director, I have to ask what type of anime this is going to be – if we’re going to be doing a strict adaptation or an original story based loosely on the manga – so there isn’t any one way to adapt a manga into an anime.
On Gundam 00
APA: How did Kouga-san get involved as the character designer for Gundam 00?
Mizushima: When we got the plans for Gundam 00, there was a specific artistic direction we wanted to take. On top of that, we were given a list of manga artists and character designers who would fit that direction, so we had auditions to choose one. I selected Kouga-san.
APA: Kouga-san, since you are known for your shonen-ai ("boys love") works, was it difficult to design characters for a shonen show that catering towards males like Gundam 00?
Kouga: It was quite different from my usual work, but I made adjustments for whatever they wanted for Gundam 00.
APA: Was it challenging? Will you be doing character designs for the Gundam 00 movie?
Kouga: Yes to both questions.
On the anime industry
APA: As a director, how do you motivate your animators on a daily basis?
Mizushima: The most important thing is communication. Sharing what kind of Gundam we want to make, and being clear about our thoughts and our knowledge of the series is so important.
APA: Once the project is finished, is there anything special that you like to do with your staff, after the series has completed shooting?
Mizushima: We party it up. It doesn't have to be in the end. We might party it up halfway during the duration, when we've accomplished something.
APA: While you're working on an anime series, are you reading for fan reactions on the internet? Have you ever changed what you're doing in response to fans?
Mizushima: Storyline-wise, no. But what we have changed are the expressions when people talk, or movements, particularly the Gundam movements. It's important to know what the fans like or don't like, and we made some arrangements.
APA: Was there ever a change in terms of aesthetics?
Mizushima: We would get complaints like, “The Gundams don’t look like they’re moving.” The feedback is usually really specific. And if somebody says, “You should’ve done this,” or “I wish you included this,” we can’t do exactly what each fan asks. So we have to find out where the general area of dissatisfaction is from all these ideas that people write to us, and then maybe try to make a slight change depending on a broad consensus of fan opinion.
Kuroda: We’re not so stupid as to change something just because somebody complains about it.
Mizushima: Actually, to tell you the truth, there’s never been a time where we changed something specifically.
Kuroda: Yeah. It’s more of a nuance thing.
Kouga: In my case, I often don’t have enough time to do the drawings as is, so we don’t get fan reactions until we’re well into the series. Even if a producer were to relay us strong fan opinions, I wouldn’t have time to change something as important as the character design that quickly. Besides, there are so many opinions on the net, and some people might not like the designs, but some people might really like them. Since we can’t satisfy all fans, we try to do what’s best for the whole series.
APA: Has the economy had an affect on you or your production studios?
Kuroda: Yes, there has been. I would calculate it roughly at something like a 10% loss, with DVD sales and manga sales dropping. But I wouldn’t call it a crisis or anything in our case. On the contrary, because we’re in a crisis, I think that we should be making even better anime and generally having a more forward-looking approach to our work. If I was going to stop and quit just because of a little overtime – and it’s always a lot of overtime – then I wouldn’t have entered this world. I tell myself that I didn’t start working in this world because I wanted to go easy on myself.
Kouga: This might also be true for those in the anime industry, but for manga it really depends on the individual. Our work isn’t the type of work where, if the company’s profits decline, everyone becomes depressed. So my feeling is that it really depends on the individual.
Kuroda: Uh, I’d just like to say, I’m a company employee, but our company is doing very well!
APA: Last question: if you could pit two anime or manga characters in a battle, who would you pick, and who would win?
Kuroda: We even have to figure out who’d win?!
APA: For example, I’d pit Goku versus Luckyman. And I think Luckyman would win.
Kouga: Wait. Luckyman would win?
Kouga: Goku does come to mind first of all.
Mizushima: Kim Possible and Shego would fight, and then Shego would win. None of you have any idea of what I’m talking about, do you?
Kuroda: What the hell are you talking about?
Mizushima: It’s a Disney anime! Shego is a really good enemy in Kim Possible. She’s always wearing gloves and is colored green. She’s really very cool. But she always loses since she’s the bad girl. So it’d be nice if Shego could win.
Kouga: This is hard.
[translator says something about One Piece and Gundam]
Kuroda: There are so many possibilities, but I keep thinking about minor characters, and it’s damn hard to explain!
Mizushima: You should keep it simple, like me.
Kuroda: But if I’m going to have one character fight, I’d at least have Jotaro (from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures). I’m having trouble thinking of someone he’d fight against.
Mizushima: Just say Setsuna. And have him kick Jotaro’s ass.
Kuroda: Setsuna? Okay. Let’s go with that. Setsuna versus Jotaro, but Setsuna would win because he’d fight Jotaro before he stops time.
Kouga: Wow. I…I just can’t think of anything right now.