Shinji Aramaki Interview @ Japan Expo USA 2014
Shinji Aramaki is a pioneer in 3D Japanese animation. As a director, he brought cell shading to the movie screen with Appleseed in 2004 and followed up with a new and stunning graphical direction for the 2007 sequel, Appleseed Ex Machina. Over the next several years, Aramaki continued to direct 3DCG movies including Starship Troopers: Invasion, and the 2013 adaption of Space Pirate Captain Harlock.
We caught up with Aramaki at Japan Expo USA in California and sat down with him to talk about his most recent work, Appleseed Alpha which pushes the boundaries of animation with photorealistic CG. We also asked him a little about the upcoming 1/6 scale figurine of Briareos made by Hot Toys and got a glimpse into a possible future of the Appleseed movie franchise.
T-ONO: To start off with a fun question, as a director, what kind of items do you have on your desk?
Aramaki: I have some figures. I have a lot of desks, but the one that I currently work on the most has a tablet surrounded by figures from my works such as Appleseed, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Halo Legends, and Ironman.
T-ONO: We heard that you're a gamer, what kind of games do you play?
Aramaki: Mainly FPS. When I play on my Xbox console at home, I mostly play FPS games and third person shooters. When I'm on my computer or tablet, I play more strategic games like tower defense.
T-ONO: Have any of those games influence or inspire your works?
Aramaki: Yes, absolutely. Almost every game that I played was an inspiration for me. Halo was a huge inspiration and Biohazard that came out a few years ago as well. Basically, every game at some point has given me inspiration.
Aramaki: It was a huge challenge for our staff to be able to deliver the final result within the schedule and budget. Also, I was really interested in this challenge so wanted to do the style in a specific way.
T-ONO: Were there any Easter Eggs in the series that might have been hidden?
Aramaki: I'm not sure if people noticed, but there were quite a few references to the original work. If you look closely, some of the scenes are very similar to the original work. It was really cool for me to do this.
T-ONO: In the movie, viewers get to meet a rather interesting character, Two-Horns in both design and personality. Can you comment on his origins?
Aramaki: Actually, it’s funny because he appears a little bit after Olympus in the original story, but he isn’t the same character as the previous works. When I was working on this, the character became quite different than what he was supposed to be. In the end, he was a character I really loved. [Two Horns is based on the character Sokaku]
From the beginning, I wanted to make this character a little bit different. As you know, he's a cyborg and cyborgs have no expressions. For this character I wanted to do something different and funny. My staff told me to make it more different and that's how he became this way. I was really happy to see the result because he's a really funny character.
T-ONO: If you were given the opportunity to continue the series, where would the next adventure be for Deunan and Briareos?
Aramaki: At first, I gave it a lot of thought and the natural way to do the next part of the story would to portray that story in Olympus. Then I thought it could be very interesting to do some kind of on the road movie. We would see Deunan and Briareos traveling on the road to Olympus, meeting new characters and seeing what happens to them along the way. That's what I would like to do right now.
Aramaki: Yes I was involved. When Hot Toys came to Japan as Hot Toys Japan, the first figures they worked on were Briareos and Deunan. Since then we had a close relationship with each other. Also I have the motivation to produce my work through Hot Toys. So this time too, we were able to ask Hot Toys to make Briareos and was announced at Comic-Con. We are very happy to work with Hot Toys again.
T-ONO: What do you think is the selling point about the new Hot Toys figure?
Aramaki: For Briarieos, it is a cyborg wearing clothes. The design for the vest is actually made with cloth. Underneath the clothes there are cyborg parts, which is not made with metal however the texture really makes you feel like there are machine parts underneath the clothes. So that detail is the selling point.
T-ONO: What are your current thoughts about the usage of CG in the current Japanese anime industry?
Aramaki: Traditionally, Japanese animation is hand drawn. There are some limits to this such as human resources. There is a point where you can't do anymore. I was interested in 3D or CG for quite some time. I went towards this direction quite naturally because hand drawing has reached its limits compared to CG.
I found this very interesting that even though we are using CG, in Japan we want to keep that hand drawing style. I also think that the staffs working on the latest anime have huge respect for hand drawn animation and I feel it's really great.
T-ONO: What do you feel would be the next logical step in the evolution of CG movies?
Aramaki: Changing the style for every movie [I've worked on] was not intentional and it wasn't that we didn't want to do cel shading. It was more of a natural progression to go towards the more realistic aspect of animation.
I'm really excited because I think we will have a new form of hybrid animation. Something that looks like cel shading animation, but it's not. It's something we have a lot to look forward to.
T-ONO: If you had the opportunity to adapt any American or Japanese animation, what would it be?
Aramaki: I would like to do a game like Titan Fall. I think it could be very interesting using 3D animation. I think this kind of work would be really nice to do.
Right now, I'm giving a lot of thought about how to balance my work because the Japanese market and overseas are very different. I really appreciate my American fans, but I don't want my next work to be a hit or miss in Japan. It's hard to find the right balance.
The funny thing is when I made Space Pirate Captain Harlock, I was really thinking about the Japanese market. In the end, it wasn't a hit in Japan, but it was pretty big in France and Italy.
T-ONO: Lastly some final words for our readers.
Aramaki: I am director Aramaki, I been working on the Captain Harlock and the Appleseed series. I am working on other various project, so please be hyped about the new projects thats coming up. Thank you all for your support!