Monday, May 28, 2012

Fanime 2012 – Koyama Shigeto Character Design Panel

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A list of the series Koyama Shigeto has worked on is a veritable Hall of Fame for modern anime.


  • Seirei no Moribito
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • Tengen-Toppa Gurren Lagann
  • Eureka Seven/E7 Astral Ocean
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
  • Oreimo
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
  • Star Driver
  • Heroman
  • Michiko to Hatchin

There are certainly artists with longer resumes, but I can’t think of one with a better batting average.  Even the shows on that list I don’t consider classics are visual standouts.  Today’s panel was focused on the character design side of Koyama-san’s career, though he did touch on the mecha design side as well. 

video


What an amazing experience this was.  I was seated in the front row in between someone from Viz and somewhere from Pixar, there as guests of Koyama-san.  He’s a tremendously funny and unassuming person – obviously passionate about what he does, and a huge fan of American animation as well.  Basically, he had his laptop connected to the monitor and the audience got a chance to see everything on there – the original rough sketches from Star Driver, proofs of the magazine cover drawings he recently did for Ayanami Rei and Asuka Soryu Langley, sketches with editor’s feedback notes – you name it.  Sadly Koyama-san asked that we not film or photograph any of the images, but it was quite a trip.  He even hopped onto the net to show us examples of points he was trying to make, occasionally pulling up some hentai by mistake (which drew quire a reaction every time).

In between chugging Five-Hour Energy and doodling (that's Panty he's working on in the video, and Spiderman in the left of the threesome) in Photoshop, Koyama-san had many insightful things to say:

  • In anime, the most important element in character design is the hair “(80% of the time, hair is key.”)  You must be able to differentiate the characters by hairstyle, and be able to do so in silhouette.
  • Don’t waste time detailing stuff like shoes too much, because the audience will hardly ever see them.
  • The silhouette and the hair color is the way he tries to establish a character’s personality.
  • When he was doing the character designs for Stan Lee’s avatar in Heroman, Stan became upset because some of them had him angry or scowling.  He insisted that Koyama-san only draw him smiling, but Koyama-san sneaked  in one with a frown so his director wouldn’t reject them.
  • When a character’s hair curls inward towards the center of the face, they’re an introvert.  Among the examples he cited were Joey Jones and Ayanami Rei.
  • When a character has their hair clipped or pinned, that reflects that they’re holding a part of themselves in check.  He cites Eureka and Anemone as examples, but notes that Eureka took off her clips after her relationship with Renton liberated her, while Anemone never did.
  • When a character’s hair is completely wild and unruly, they’re a free spirit.  Examples: Psy and Holly.
  • When a character’s hair curls outward, they’re generally an extrovert.
  • When he designs mecha, he thinks of them as people rather than machines (citing Wall-E as the ultimate example of this in American animation).
  • When he was designing Samekh from Star Driver, the motif he used was a castle with a golden crown.
  • Samekh was the largest and probably most detailed mecha he’s ever designed.  He felt the need to apologize constantly to the animators for the excruciating levels of detail he used in its design.

Astonishing Detail
Afterwards, there was another raffle – and this time I got lucky.  I won a signed copy of Koyama-san’s doujin “Blue” from Heroman – featuring Lina and the other characters.  It’s signed on the back, with a greeting and drawing of Joey Jones.  Pretty awesome, I must say.  I’m not a huge fan of the series as a dramatic enterprise, but the art is a fascinating blending of American and Japanese styles.  It’s obvious that Koyama-san takes a lot of pride in Heroman, because it’s the one series where he was the exclusive character designer, and he’s drawn a couple of doujinshi to further explore the visual styles of the characters (including “Yellow”, which Arabesque mentioned in the comments of the previous Koyama post).

Sadly Koyama-san was having so much fun with his laptop there was no time for Q & A, so I didn’t get a chance to ask him what work he did for Moribito.  Next time!

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Greetings from Joey
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Chug!  Chug!  Chug!


5 comments:

  1. Love you long time, GE. Thanks for blogging this event!

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  2. Hi this is Satsuki his translator and friend. For Moribito he says he worked on props and weapons. The spear of the main character etc. Sorry we didn't have time for Q&A. >_<

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    1. Satsuki-san - thank you so much! I'm very grateful that you stopped by to let me know. And please let Koyama-san know that Moribito is in my view the finest TV anime ever, and the combat scenes with his weapons are unparallelled.

      The panels were terrific - easily my favorites of the convention. I'm a huge fan of AO also (I review it for this site and another as well, Random Curiosity). You don't happen to have one more of those AO promotional posters, do you? ;-) It was love at first sight Friday evening...

      どうもありがとうございました

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  3. Sorry in advance for the multi-quotes >_<
    ''I was seated in the front row in between someone from Viz and somewhere from Pixar, there as guests of Koyama-san.''

    So you got to be like a celebrity, seen things no one else in the general public had seen, won a prize, and had a jolly good time.

    Mind rubbing some more salt in that wound of mine lol?

    (but seriously, I'm glad that it was a good experience for you through out the whole thing)

    '' occasionally pulling up some hentai by mistake (which drew quire a reaction every time).''

    Pft, by mistake you say. That was no mistake, dude wanted to show off his hentai collection! And you told me the dude was trolling Stan Lee in the last post... Koyama-san is a troll, through and through!

    ''that's Panty he's working on in the video, and Spiderman in the left of the threesome''

    That ... must have been some hentai!

    Ahem ... so I guess that was an 18+ panel right?

    ''Don’t waste time detailing stuff like shoes too much, because the audience will hardly ever see them.''

    Someone should leave that memo to the Phoenix Wright art team!

    ''When he was doing the character designs for Stan Lee’s avatar in Heroman, Stan became upset because some of them had him angry or scowling. He insisted that Koyama-san only draw him smiling, but Koyama-san sneaked in one with a frown so his director wouldn’t reject them.''

    Trollololololololol

    '' notes that Eureka took off her clips after her relationship with Renton liberated her, while Anemone never did.''

    That's an interesting parallel, though I don't know how much it holds by the end of that show (I think that she ended up being healed as well by Dominic)

    That said, part of the reason I always did like E7 was the contrast shown in Anemone's and Eureka's story arcs, the many artiest representations of that contrast. One of my favorite drawings of the two has to be this cover

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Eureka-Seven-Vol-9-DVD/dp/B0012OTRVG/ref=pd_sim_d_h__3

    ''Samekh was the largest and probably most detailed mecha he’s ever designed. He felt the need to apologize constantly to the animators for the excruciating levels of detail he used in its design.''

    You should have read some of the comments on that episode. They were working on it when the earthquake hit, so the working conditions were pretty bad, and they were working against a dead line. It's amazing just how good the episode ended up being once it came out. Major Kudos to the BONES staff.

    '' I won a signed copy of Koyama-san’s doujin “Blue” from Heroman''

    SO JELLY!

    '' It’s obvious that Koyama-san takes a lot of pride in Heroman''

    Yeah, which makes it all the more sadder that it turned out to not be that great. It' amazing something with such potential could end up being so ... bad.

    I mean hell, it wasn't just the visuals that kicked ass, even the music was pretty epic! and the Cover for the OST was rocking (I guess that's where ''Joey is in a rock band'' comes in)

    ''including “Yellow”, which Arabesque mentioned in the comments of the previous Koyama post''

    Wow, I got a mention!

    I would love to own ''Yellow'' alongside ''Blue'', but alas I have yet to find a copy within a reasonable price. If anyone knows where I can get them, please let me know.

    ''Sadly Koyama-san was having so much fun with his laptop there was no time for Q & A, so I didn’t get a chance to ask him what work he did for Moribito.''

    What? So you mean dude was just checking out his hentai on puplic like it was nothing?

    Man got some balls, that's for sure lol

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    1. Heh, that was Google image search hentai - not on his laptop! Koyama-san hopped onto the net several times (this may have been on his Ipad actually, both were hooked up) to look for examples of what he was talking about. And it was SAFE SEARCH OFF.

      Completely random I was in front - I was part of the press pre-seating and it was a full boat, so they moved us all to the front.

      "Threesome" as in the three figures he doodled. Sheesh! This was an all-ages show.

      Koyama-san had an amazing Eureka-Anemone pick (though I don't think he drew it) in Valdemort fashion, two halves of the same silhouette.

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