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.

IRIE

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.