Here's my notes from the "Day in the Life of GAINAX" panel.
2008.05.23 Day in the Life of Gainax
Introductions--they go down the table and introduce the panel members; the only names I caught were:
Otsuka-san, Takahata-san, Akai-san, Yamaga-san
Will start with a video; made it during the company's 20th anniversary; it shows the history of Gainax, through each of the productions they have been a part of.
Showed some works, but couldn't show the new stuff like Gurenn Lagann; showed some of the stuff Gainax did before becoming an official company.
What is Gainax? Gainax is an animation company!
Well, they do animation as well as some live action.
Describing a day in the life of the company is a bit challenging. A typical day will involve doing anime production, certainly, but they are also involved in other projects. A new TV animation coming out in fall, and they're working on a theatrical Gurren Lagann release.
If you have questions about what a typical day in the life of Gainax is like, please feel free to ask them.
Q. What is the typical timespan between a series first being worked on to first live date?
Usually 3 or 4 projects in progress; usually takes about 5 years from first conception to release. If they waited to finish one project before starting the next, they'd have five years between releases; by having three or four in the works, they stay constantly busy.
Those who know Gainax from a long time ago, know that now they're putting out more anime; the simultaneous planning of multiple projects allows them to put out more, and keeps the different teams more consistently busy.
Yamaga-san was just in England before Fanime, working on a new project, with no idea on when that may be coming out.
Q: Is a series completed before it goes to air? There are rumours that Gurren Lagann changed directors partway through, and changed styles.
For TV series, before it airs, try to make as many episodes as possible to buy time. With Gurren Lagann, had seven episodes in stock, after that was a game of catch up for the animators to try to keep ahead of the airing schedule.
Midway through, the story changes completely, it was planned that way originally, not due simply to any staff change.
Q: Do you ever play practical jokes on each other in the office, and if so, what kind?
They're all so buddy buddy, nothing like that *ever* happens.
Takeda-san likes that type of environment, but everyone's so serious! Yamaga-san asks what types of jokes Takeda-san would play? Maybe, run around the office naked?
Q: How do they go about deciding if they're going to do a sequel, given the 5-10 year turnaround schedule for a typical release?
Some sequels are planned partway through the original series; others, like Gunbuster, come about much, much later.
For some series, the plan for a sequel is already in place as the first series is being worked on, and the new series can be worked on by same crew.
For other sequels that are planned after the first series has finished, it can be almost like starting a whole new project, though parts of the process are much shorter.
With a sequel, you already know the framework for the series, you know the characters, the plot, genre, etc. which trims a year or two off the cycle.
Q: When you create a new series, what comes first? characters, the setting/world, plot, genre, or something else?
It depends; if it's a series based on their original work, vs a series on a work that already exists as a manga for example. For their own original series, they come up with a theme first.
Usually when they come up with a theme, they'll start brainstorming on the theme first; like *why* do they want to go into space? What's the issue, what are the characters dealing with, and who are the characters?
The most important point when brainstorming is to pinpoint something interesting, so they don't spend all day brainstorming. That's where the big thought process starts from.
Q: there is a lot of fan speculation about the Gurren Lagann movie; will it be a retelling of the story, will it be new material/footage? What is the nature of the movie?
Some of the footage will retell the story a bit. There will be two movies, actually! 26 episodes is pretty ridiculous to try to fit into one movie, will split into two movies. In all the original footage, will be some new material!
He likes to drink rum, definitely; if you want to know more, buying him a good round of rum is an excellent way to start.
Q: Where did Yamaga-san buy the shirt? Oh, the Kuma-san! shirt. The animal is a bear, he bought it in Hokkaido, where they are known for their bears, from a street vendor there.
Q: couldn't hear the question. something about internet furor. Ah, seems to be about Sadamoto-san leaving.
He left many times; which leaving incident? The most recent one, actually.
Seven or 8 years ago, maybe ten, right before Evangelion; was working as producer for planning and everything; once they decided to do it, he figured his work was done, and bailed out. After that, he made his own company, but it failed, so he came back.
Most recent time he left, during Gurren Lagann; online a lot of people started badmouthing him, so he resigned as producer and as board member. What changed after that, was that you stopped seeing his name on the opening credits, but his job was largely the same. Resigning as a producer really doesn't mean anything.
Q: what is the personal favorite project they have worked on?
Yamaga-san gets that question a lot; he doesn't know about the others, but while he's working on it, it's his most favorite series; he doesn't care as much about Gurren Lagann anymore. Hey, that's still a problem, because they're still working on it! Oh, he's working on a new secret project now.
Yamaga-san said he loves it while he's working on it; next down, when he's done, he doesn't even want to look at it anymore; that's more because he's embarrassed about the series and the errors in it; watching the DVD at the opening was like torture for him.
Gurren Lagann, newest series, he still likes it a lot now, so please everyone watch it!
Next one has so many favorites, it's hard to pick; in the past, he was able to pick just one. As Yamaga-san mentioned about the new project, they've been working on it for a while, and that's his favorite now. Also working on theatrical Gurren Lagann, and that's important too. But in my mind, 2/3 of his day is about the new project they're working on.
Like Akai, the bad stuff comes in torturous waves; he just gets it when it's done. He has a lot of fun, it's like climbing a mountain; huge amount of work in the process, but fun once you get to the top.
Last one; a project he worked on in the past he still watches a lot. While working on a project, he can't watch it as a customer; he has to go back years later to see it, at which point he's usually very impressed. This wan't the greatest biggest hit, but Puchi Purie Yucie was his favorite!
Q: Huge Evangelion fan; when they were doing the rebuild movies, he bought them all; when did they decide to re-do them? Was it recent, or a long time ago?
It was pretty much when Ano was still making the original series. It was after that, Ano made his own movies and live action movies, and gained more experience as a director. About three years ago, heard that Ano-san wanted to revist Evangelion, and create a new work from it. That was when Ano-san was able to finally make an Evangelion that fit his vision of it.
Q: How does Gainax decide on what their new projects will be--is it Yamaga-san picking the projects himself, or does the whole team get together to make the decision?
He would never say "we're doing this project!" well, other than on Wings of Honneamise; isn't saying he won't ever do it, but will
be rare. maybe once every 20 years or so.
Sometimes he'll do it, for little things, he'll take the lead, and just crank them through. He only does that as president when necessary. That's not really the GAINAX style. At GAINAX, someone will suggest an idea, and then others will decide to get on board and join in the project.
Q: Wings of Honneamise stands out among Gainax works; are there any plans to return to a work in that style again?
When they create an anime, there's many different people who work on it; among those, they tend to pull out the best style from the team members. He's not sure of what style he likes; it was a style he took 20 years ago, when he worked on the project; he might end up going back to it in the future, but it isn't something he specifically plans for.
Q: In the past 20 years of his working with the fans, is there a time that stands out when fans were very netagive about something he had done?
In his house, at the door, right after Evangelion was done, someone wrote DIE on his door; that was pretty negative.
Akai remembers when there's a lot of people bashing Gainax, a lot of it comes from the internet, of course. He remembers one that someone wrote that Anno-san stole Evangelion from a story he wrote on his high-school desk. They always get bashed over *something* so it can be hard to pinpoint.
There's a lot of cases to remember; they get upset at the time, but then they tend to forget it afterwards; badmouthing is OK, it's better than people not saying anything at all about their work.
Yamaga-san never heard any badmouthing about Gainax. He was wondering why he felt this way; after he finishes a project, he stops worrying or caring about it, so badmouthing doesn't really affect him on series he's done. He gets lots of personal badmouthing, but not so much about Gainax itself.
Q: What is his view on fansubbing?
Yamaga-san answers this every year, it seems. It's common sense; there are companies in the US who pay money to release the series, so he can't say it's a good thing to not pay for their work. But personally, looking at it objectively; fansubs are a driving force why japanese animation is so popular here; getting japanese animation on TV here is a challenge. But as a company president
it really is something he can't support.
Please don't ask any more. ^_^;
Especially since Bandai Entertainment is here; they worked very hard to get Gurren Lagann on TV here, so don't mention what we talked about here.
Q: How is animation industry in Japan different from how it was five years ago, and what do you see as the likely changes in the future?
Biggest difference from 5 and 10 years ago is the number of titles being released every year. For example, 10 years, in one year, there were maybe 100 new titles. The numbers will probably decrease over time; but there's probably 80 new ones that will come out. How much more lively animation studios are now is another change he has seen. Years ago, if you wanted to make a tile into
an anime, there weren't as many companies that could do that as there are now. Back in the day, it was a lot more...well, animation companies would be hired by large companies as outsourcing. Now, production companies are taking the initiative to produce their own anime. Now, smaller companies can have an idea and grow it themselves. That's how the animation industry was created from that groundwork. Because of that, other problems can occur from the newer style. With more titles, anime DVD sales have dropped.
Years ago, if you could sell 20,000 to 30,000, that was a hit; big hits sold more, of course. Before, you could get a hit from selling just 10,000 copies. Now, titles are selling from 8,000 to 1,000; The lowest sales figure was only 200.
If you only sell 200, would be cheaper to just burn it yourself and sell it at comiket.
This is a big problem, and they do think about it a lot.
Animation in weaker companies will die, the number of products will decrease, and that's the current direction things are moving in.
Q: But why are there so many more titles now than 10 years ago? Are there more channels, or is anime taking up more time slots?
Because animation became profitable. It was profitable in the past; but because it's become more and more profitable, more people rushed in to make and sell the product. Because there's so many titles, fans are being picky, they can't afford them all. A typical fan will buy the title they really like, the other ones they'll get off the internet, download to their hard drive and watch them later.
Q: There are several new series beyond the original manga now being released; how much is Gainax still involved in those other spin off series; does Sadamoto-san still read the character info, etc.?
Up until just the planning stages, they're involved, but once it comes to the real work, they aren't as involved. With other cases, they'll come up at different points in the project, did he have a particular case?
Yes, Evangelion girlfriend, and Evangelion gakuen, is Gainax involved with those?
Cold-steel girlfriend, worked with them on the computer game, then the game became the manga.
The gakuen, is that the SD characters?
No, that was something Kadokawa came up with on their own. Kadokawa came up with it, brought it to them to get confirmation on it, that was the extent of their involvement with it.
Q: when brainstorming on what projects to enter into, how much does the foreign market enter into the decision process?
Currently, there's no foreign influence at all on their decisions, at least at Gainax, other companies may be different.
Q: have they been approached by foreigners and asked to put stories into anime before?
Not only are there foreigners who bring in projects, but they haven't done any yet; most projects start from inside the
company. There are other companies who have foreigners who bring in projects, but many of them don't do well.
From planning stage to coming out, takes 3-5 years, so when people bring in proposals, people have unrealistic expectations on when it can air.
Q: What was the favorite series that they didn't work on that wasn't a Gainax series.
From far left side: He's only been at Gainax since Eva, but he really like Wings of Honneamise. He also loves Ghibli material!
Next, can't think of anything outside of Gainax other than Ghibli, and he doesn't really like their work. He cosplay'd as Porco Rosso and as Catbus, though.
Next to Yamaga-san, he likes wanpaku ooji? Toei animation film, 1963, 8 headed dragon fighting a boy. [ah, it's Wanpaku Ooji no
Yamaga-san, he likes a much newer animation, "Road to Munich", about a volleyball team who works hard to go to the Olympics.
He has another one (the other is a documentary made into an anime). Ketsudan, (Judgement?), also a documentary made
into an anime, about the Pacific war, released in a box set recently. A different story every time; main character makes a decision about the war, but Japan still loses the war. Many decisions made by the character, but the final outcome doesn't change. He thinks the Japanese like stories about weaker armies for some reason.
Q: Introductory scene to Gurren Lagann didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story; can you explain about that?
The very beginning of the first episode; they get asked about that a lot. It was supposed to happen like that in the original story, actually. Just think of it as a scene that predicts what happens, rather than what actually happens.
Scene was to show what to expect of a boy who eventually makes it into space, in essence.
Q: About the road to Munich, documentary, that's about the 1972 Olympics? Yes, it was about the 72 Olympics.
Q: The English project...?
A: Actually, the new project that Takeda san and Yamga-san is working on is unrelated to the English project. The England project isn't set in England or anything like that. There will be a character who is a rock musician from England, so they went to figure out where and what his home town would be like.
Staff was saying it woudl be nice if they could go to England, and get a clear picture of what England is like; they didn't think they could go, but then Yamaga-san said sure, why not.
So the new project is unrelated, so for research they went to Egypt, so maybe they'll include something about Egypt it it. a sporting event in new project, it just happened to have an event in Egypt.
Which sport is a secret still, though!
Q: is going to other countries for reserach common? If so, what other countries have they done research in?
When they were kids, Miyazaki, and Takahata, big shots today when they were in their 30s, they went to foreign countries to research. When they started in the anime business, they dreamed of being able to do things like that. But when they first started, they had no money, so they couldn't just go to foreign countries. Working on anime is working at your desk drawing; but to make it realistic, you need to visit other countries, and see the world to really make it come to life.
So recently, even if they are short on money, they would cut back on other areas, because they realizedhow important it is to see the atmosphere and how people think, and what the different foods are like; to go outside and get that view of the world.
In the English-related project; there are fields in England that came up in the script; it's part of one of the character's cherished childhood memories, so they decided to go. Since it'll come up in the anime as a childhood memory, they wouldn't really be able to depict nostalgia and the feelings without actually seeing it for real.
when he was in England, watching in the countryside, he could feel the character come alive, it was like he was alive and there with him.
Going with the director and character designer, they were able to decide whether the character would like or not like various scenery.
Went to somewhere for Honneamise, they actually went to see that. The most straightforward example, and Yamaga-san couldn't remember it.
Went to see a shuttle launch.
In that research, art director wasn't decided on yet, so he couldn't learn from the visit; next time around, they'd try to capture the mood as a whole, whether the art director is decided or not; you get technical, but not the atmosphere.
Q: was the research trip ever completely opposite what they expected going in?
Abenobashi, though set in Osaka, not really a foreign place; went to check out the town; but the old town atmosphere was being crushed, so they saw a different Osaka from what they wanted to see; they ended up depicting that in the story.
Q: Do they attend similar conventions in Japan, as they are one of the pre-eminent studios in Japan?
There's nothing like Fanime in Japan. The only things close to it are Comiket, and the Tokyo International Animation Fair. Because he [Yamaga-san] feels Fanime is so unique and special, he brought his whole team with him this year to experience it with him.