An amazing night of AO goodness at Fanime tonight.
Fanime put together an E7: AO event this evening, screening the first three eps of the series. As well, Funimation had a rep there (no plans for the stream to catch up, unfortunately) and the Guest of Honor was Koyama Shigeto. He’s a designer who’s résumé is a who’s who of great BONES and GAINAX shows – Eureka Seven (both series), EVA, TTGL, Star Driver – as well as the classic of classics, Seirei no Moribito. He designs mecha, characters are settings – but it’s clear that robots are his first love. He answered questions from the audience for about an hour after the screenings – this is him responding to my question about whether not using CGI was something BONES considered vital to the E7 brand.
He spoke for several minutes on this topic actually, so I had to cut the video short. Basically he said (to great approval) that the folks in charge at BONES come from a long tradition of hand-drawn mech series, and they believe firmly that mechs should be drawn by people. And if studios like BONES don’t hire artists to draw their mecha, those artists won’t be able to work and the craft will die out.
I must say, the show was even better the second time – on a big (ish) screen. I definitely picked up some clues that I missed previously, and the show generally played beautifully – well-paced, old-school gorgeous, emotionally honest. Crowd reaction was extremely positive. I’ll save most of my critical reaction for the next episode post, but I just want to repeat – I think the complaints I’m seeing about this show are both depressing and misguided. It’s excellent, with a chance to be truly great – almost a deconstruction of the genre. Here are some of the highlights from Koyama-sama’s answers:
- There are actually three character designers, but (and there’s a big hint here) Yoshida Kenichi designed “characters who have a direct connection to the first series” – i.e. Ao and Naru. Oda Hiroyuki handled most of the rest
- Among the stuff Koyama designed for AO are Noah and the Secret.
- The staff is working on AO “24/7” at the moment, and hates him for leaving the country now. Kyoda-sensei promised serious bodily harm if he revealed any spoilers (not that a couple of yahoos in the crowd didn’t try).
- He said certain elements were written into AO to “make sure fans of the first series will enjoy the connection. There are hints about this in every episode”.
- He said one of the things the creators tried to do is make the music of E7 reflective of the time, and that each series is quite different musically for this reason.
- Among other gigs, Koyama-san works with Studio Khara on the EVA films (he designed Asuka’s plug suit). He also did the character design for Joey on Heroman. He said Stan Lee’s directions were “He’s 13 and poor” and that’s it. When he showed his final design to Lee, Lee said “He looks like a girl!”
- If he had to pilot only one, he’d rather pilot Nirvash over an EVA – but he loves both.
- Biggest influences were designers like Okiwara Kunio and Izubuchi Yutaka. But one of his favorite mecha designs is Eve from “WALL-E” – because it’s so incredibly simple.
There were a few Bandai AO posters raffled off – gorgeous huge things, signed by Koyama-san with a Noah drawing – but I didn’t win. C’est la vie.