Interview with Yasuhiro Irie

Yasuhiro Irie is a well known animator and director who worked on extremely popular shows. He did not only direct one of the most popular shows in the west, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, he also directed and animated all by himself Soul Eater‘s first opening. Earlier in his carrier he was also responsible for the art direction and most of the key animation on Cowboy Bebop‘s 20th episode Pierrot Le Fou.


Lately Yasuhiro Irie has taken a break from big productions to dedicate himself to his personal projects. Since 2013 he has been drawing Halloween Pajama, a fun manga where Ran Jakou fights against evil spirits in her dreams. As I met him at this year’s Japan Expo Mr. Irie told me he would start a Kickstarter campaign so that he could fund a pilot episode for an anime adaptation of Halloween Pajama. He decided to adapt a side story of his manga, Halloween Pajama in Seattle : The Dream Catcher.

Mr. Irie and I have since kept in touch and he was able to answer some of my questions concerning Halloween Pajama.

I have noticed that you attend many anime conventions all around the world, Halloween Pajama in Seattle is inspired by one of your travels overseas. What is it that you like the most about those travels, and what events abroad did particularly strike you ?

Yasuhiro Irie : I have participated in lots of anime conventions so far. I attended Big Apple in New York, CONNICHI in Germany, Paris Manga and Japan Expo in France, Japan Expo in Belgium, Japan Weekend and Salon del Manga in Spain and Sakura-con in Seattle. They are all unique and wonderful events. Among those travels, one that stood out was the city of Seattle. Under the modern streets are undergrounds a 100 years old !  I was very surprised. I had a lot of fun in this incredible place, I felt like Jean Valjean walking down Paris’s sewers. That’s where I got the idea for Halloween Pajama The Dream Catcher.

You want the animated episode of Halloween Pajama to be a musical, can you tell us more about what you have in mind ?

Yasuhiro Irie : My favorite animated musical is The Prince of Egypt. The visuals are magnificent and the images are splendid and full of energy. I got interested in animated musicals watching that movie. Animation aside, my favorite musicals are Les Misérables and Annie. Singing allows a more direct expression of the characters distress, joy and sorrow. I loved seeing the live performance of Wicked. Halloween Pajama will be directly influenced by what I felt watching Wicked. It will be a cristallisation of all the emotions I felt watching all those musicals.

The illustrations that you have posted regarding the anime give the feel that the episode for Halloween Pajama will have a similar esthetic as your work on the opening for Soul Eater, is it the way you want to go visually ?

Soul Eater is a work that fitted my sensitivity. It is an opening that I directed and animated all by myself without any constraint, I gave birth to it very naturally. To what extent I will be able to move away from what I did on Soul Eater in Halloween Pajama is one of the most important challenges I am facing. However I will not betray my sensitivity and I think both works will convey similar feelings. To surpass one’s past work is one of the themes of Halloween Pajama.

What are your ambitions for Halloween Pajama after The Dream Catcher gets its animated episode ?

After The Dream Catcher I’m wanting to adapt all 360 pages of my manga into a TV series. I’d like to create a 12 episode show with an extraordinary animation which everyone will appreciate. I also have a few other episodes I am working on like Halloween Pajama Christmas, Halloween Pajama Easter and so on. I still have tons of announcements to make ! I would also like to have my manga translated into French, not only The Dream Catcher but the whole 360 pages.

In your Kickstarter you point out the working conditions of animators and how you would like to improve salaries of douga-animators in an effort to be able to train young animators. Can you tell us more about your take on how the anime industry works and the condition of animators ?

Life as a young animator is painful. Salaries are so low that they can’t support themselves without the help of their parents, even though they work more than twelve hours a day. It has been like this for thirty years now, but in the past years the increasing amount of lines and precision in the drawings has pushed animators in their last retrenchments. To answer this problem there is only one option : to raise the inbetween animator’s salary. Regarding Halloween Pajama, we envisage to pay inbetween animators a high income so that they will be able to work in good conditions.

Can you tell us more about the production and the team behind Halloween Pajama ? How many people are you working with ? How much work does this represent ?

I am personally taking care of writing, directing, storyboards and all of the key animation. OZAKI Tomomi is in charge of Character Design, she has worked as Character Designer on works such as KURAU Phantom Memory and Le Chevalier d’Eon. All the key animation will be drawn by myself. Once this work is done, I will have a studio take care of inbetween animation, compositing, coloring, backgrounds and framing. All this will take shape once the crowdfunding campaign is over. But as I will be asking a trusted studio and staff I can assure you the result will be wonderful !

I would like to thank Mr. Irie for taking the time to answer my questions. The crowdfunding campaign only has a few days left and really needs your support.

Interview with Shinichiro Watanabe

During Paris Manga & Sci-Fi Show 21 in february 2016 I had the chance of interviewing Shinichiro Watanabe and ask him a few questions about his latest works. This is a translation of the original interview which I made for the website Otaku’s Mafia World and which you may find right here. I’d like to thank all of Paris Manga & Sci-Fi Show’s staff and Chahid, without whom this interview wouldn’t have been possible.


When you first started working in the anime industry you worked on Aoki Ryuusei SPT Layzner alongside Takahashi Ryosuke. Could you tell us how this experience influenced the way you are working ?

Shinichiro Watanabe : At that time I wasn’t directing anything but I was a production assistant. Takahashi-kantoku isn’t the kind of person who does everything himself, he’s used to delegate work to other people. I worked in the same way on Space Dandy as I was really influenced by him.

About Zankyou no Terror, the show seems to be an obvious hommage to Taiyou o nusunda otoko (The man who stole the sun). Do you think terrorism has changed nowadays compared to the 80’s ?

Shinichiro Watanabe : I was in fact really influenced by Taiyou o nusunda otoko when I wrote Zankyou no Terror. However, Taiyou o nusunda otoko came out thirty years ago, we’re not in the same era anymore. At that time nobody imagined that Japan could undergo terror attacks. It is so peaceful that the hero in Taiyou o nusunda otoko tries his and at terrorism but doesn’t even know how to proceed. Zankyou no terror is more of a serious show, way darker, because in the last thirty years there were a lot of terror attacks, even in Japan in 95. It’s true that in Japan the popular shows are those with cute girls in it or handsome guys, they are shows that are intended to be watched without thinking. I wanted to create a show that makes people think, that wouldn’t just be a consumer product, it’s with this in mind that I created Zankyou no terror.

In France a former geopolitics teacher and geostrategic expert at the military academy declared that terror was always a state act. He also declared that 9/11 could have been done by the american government. Terror is a delicate subject, do you think Zankyou no terror is a bold and committed work ?

Shinichiro Watanabe : I didn’t feel any pressure while creating Zankyou no terror. However it took five years to set up the project because it is hard to find investors with a serious project like this one. The sponsors prefer to give their money to projects with cute girls, they won’t bother with shows that have a political aspect like Zankyou no terror.

Is there a show you would have loved to work on ?

Shinichiro Watanabe : I would have loved working on Lupin III part I, it’s the anime that influenced me the most, sadly I was still in elementary school at that time so it wasn’t possible. By the way, there are lots of Lupin III series but I only like the first one, don’t get it wrong !

What are your favorite movie, book and music band?

Shinichiro Watanabe : My favorite movies would be Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon and Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry featuring Clint Eastwood. Regarding books, I really like Philip K. Dick’s Science Fiction works. Regarding music, it’s really hard since I know so many and produce music too ! But if I had to chose one it would be the Japanese band YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra) which influenced me a lot !

About Space Dandy, can we consider that if Chirico Cuvie from Soukou Kihei Votoms is one side of a medal, Dandy is the other face ?

Shinichiro Watanabe : I clearly didn’t think about it when I was working on the show, but now that you say it it’s obvious ! I must have done it unconsciously by my master’s work, Takahashi Ryousuke who I deeply respect.

While working on Space Dandy was there anything that particularly stroke you ?

Shinichiro Watanabe : One of Space Dandy’s writers, Nobumoto Keiko, already had worked with me on Cowboy Bebop. She was very slow with writing her scripts. Every weak we has meetings with all the writers and since she took a long time to write, she didn’t come most of the time. There was a time she didn’t come five weeks in a row, we were wondering if she really existed ! If she wasn’t a ghost, a ghost writer ! Once in a while she came by and everyone was surprised !

In an interview with Anime News Network, the animator Bahi JD, who worked on Space Dandy, said that Yutaka Nakamura added a scene that wasn’t in the storyboard. Is it true and what did you think about it ?

Shinichiro Watanabe : Yutaka Nakamura is someone special. The best action scenes in Cowboy Bebop were animated by him. Since he draws such spectacular actions scenes I usually let him a lot of freedom so it happens quite often that he ends up drawing cuts that weren’t planned in the storyboards. For example, there was this scene which was intended to have ten images and he made the double ! He adds a lot of ideas in his action scenes, in my opinion he is the Jacky Chan of animation !

You seem to be in good terms with Masao Maruyama and studio MAPPA which already produced two of your works, Sakamichi no Appolon and Zankyou no Terror. Do you like working with MAPPA and can we expect more collaborations between you and this studio in the future ?

Shinichiro Watanabe : Studio MAPPA is a great studio si I’d love to keep working with them. The studio’s director, Mister Maruyama often asks me to work with them ! And you just can’t say no when he asks you to work with him. He’s kinda the japanese animation’s Yoda !

Have you already thought on working on a new project ? Can you tell us something about it ?

Shinichiro Watanabe : I do have a new original TV Series in mynd. I already have all the ideas in my head. Sadly the producers will yell on me if I talk about it here. However it should come out in 2017. Maybe !