Shigeto Koyama Interview @ FanimeCon 2012
This year's FanimeCon had an exciting line of guests and panels including Japanese designer Shigeto Koyama. He has worked on popular series such as Heroman, Panty & Stocking, Gurren Lagann, Evangelion, and Eureka Seven. Check out what he had to say as we discussed a little about his work on the popular mecha anime Star Driver along with some of his current works that he was unable to talk to us about during our previous interview!
T-ONO: First of all, thank you very much for interviewing with us for a second time. I know last year's Comic-Con was a little chaotic.
Koyama: Not a problem.
T-ONO: Is this your first panel here in America?
Koyama: Well technically, it's not my first panel because at Comic-Con last year I participated in a Bandai panel where I introduced Star Driver. But alone, yes, this is my first individual panel.
T-ONO: Were you surprised to see so many people in the room?
Koyama: Actually yeah, I was taken back.
T-ONO: You're holding another panel about designing. Is tomorrow's panel going to focus more on character designs or robot mechanical designs?
Koyama: I guess it depends on which one the audience is more interested in. Because today's panel was a bit short, I am not sure how to approach for the next panel. It's going to depend on what the audience wants. I did bring my tablet and computers to the panel event for the audience.
T-ONO: Speaking along the lines of tablets, we know that different artists vary in their equipment and the techniques they use. What kind of medium do you use when you are composing your art?
Koyama: When I draw rough sketches, I use colored pencils and after that I use regular pencils to do clean ups. Afterwards, I'll scan the drawings to my computer and color it with Photoshop. I prefer to draw the lines by hand.
T-ONO: What kind of hardware and software do you use for your drawings?
Koyama: I use a MacBook Pro with the Intuos 3 Tablet. I mainly use Adobe Photoshop for illustrations.
T-ONO: Since starting in the industry, are there any particular individuals who may have influenced you?
Koyama: In my learning experience, I learned from Mr. Kazuya Tsurumaki (Japanese anime director for FLCL) and Mr. Yoshida Kenichi (Animator and Character Designer for Eureka Seven). I incorporated many ideas and teachings and mixed it around with my sense of design.
T-ONO: Are you interested in doing more character designs like you did in For the Barrel – Gundam or Heroman?
Koyama: Ah that (For the Barrel) was my debut work! I do prefer doing character designs over mecha designs.
T-ONO: Weirdly as this sounds, is it because you've haven't been given the opportunity to do character design or because people love your mecha designs that you haven't been given more opportunities to do character designing?
Koyama: Well, there are so many character designers out there: manga artists, illustrators, animators, even designers. In character designs, a lot of the original design concept can be from manga artists and illustrators. When anime directors need character design, even for original animation, they tend to call-in popular manga artists, as they know it would sell very well.
Mechanical animation designing is like a specialty. There are very few animators who can do mecha designs. Maybe that is why I got the opportunities to work with so many mecha designs projects. For example, even if illustrators can draw one really cool mecha, the director might ask them to draw ten more mecha. That might be really hard for the illustrator to be able to draw ten different mechas.
T-ONO: At Comic-Con you mentioned that you wanted to work on your mecha designs more, even though we still think they are fantastic, have you tried any new techniques, perspectives, or design ideas for mechs?
Koyama: I'm constantly trying to get feedback and opening up to new things. I constantly look at things and think "What can I learn?" For example, like "This is a cool camera, maybe I can implement that in something."
T-ONO: Referring back to your answer in the last question, did you design most of the mecha in Star Driver?
Koyama: I designed all twenty-three mechas.
T-ONO: Were you given a script or scenario to base off the mechanical design?
Koyama: There was a script. I would also talk to the director who would tell me, "Oh this is the type of mecha that I want." For Star Driver, the director told me that the mechas should not be the mass produced or minion types. As each Star Driver character had their personal mecha, it was not going to be the type where it only shows up and dies in ten minutes or something in a single episode. The director wanted an awesome mecha for each and every character even though there were many characters.
So for doing all twenty-three mechas, it felt like doing work for twenty-three people. In the past, there used to be like one person who had to design all the mecha, but recently it is not usually the case. The mecha for Star Driver is very character-based so it felt like I was doing character design.
Koyama: The last mecha, the Samekh was hardest and took a bit of time to design. It began something simple in silhouette through many rough sketches.
T-ONO: Was Samekh based on any particular object? I know you said you look at objects and incorporate them.
Koyama: It was the director's request for it to be based on a king's crown or an emperor.
T-ONO: Since the last Comic-Con you've mentioned that you were working on about five animation titles and two gaming titles. Has that changed since then?
Koyama: I'm currently working on three games, two of them already announced: Kaihou Shoujo, Level 5 and Square Enix arcade game called Gunslinger Stratos. Three character designers are working on Gunslinger Stratos: Ms. Mari Shimazaki (Bayonetta), Ms. Wada Aruko (Fate/Extra), and I.
T-ONO: Can you clarify what your role is on these projects?
Koyama: I am doing character designing for Gunslinger Stratos. I am also doing main mechanic designs in Kaihou Shojou, I am currently the lead mechanic designs for this project.
T-ONO: It's a shame, looks like we're out of time, thank you very much for talking with us again!
Koyama: Thank you.
Interview conducted by Stephen Bajza, Theodore Mak, Jun Ohata, and Ken Ohata. Transcription by Stephen Bazja, translation edits by Jun Ohata. Special thanks to Satsuki Yamashita.
- Shigeto Koyama
- Eureka Seven
- Star Driver
- Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
- Gunslinger Stratos
- Kaihou Shoujo
- FanimeCon 2012
- artist interview