Interview with Director Hiroyuki Kanbe

We at Neko’s Shiritori had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing director Hiroyuki Kanbe at Fanime. His last notable appearance at a US convention was at Otakon 2013 when he was with the Oreimo team. Hiroyuki was primarily an animator for most of his career. His projects included Viper’s Creed, Chrono Crusade, and many others, but he’s most known for directing Oreimo.

Transcribing the interview was allowed, and there will be no posted video recording. The answers were from the translator.

What made you interested in animation?

Ever since he was very young he just loved drawing as far as animation is concerned.
He had a friend in high school who was very into anime and convinced him to go into animation.
That kind of turned out to be the spark in pursuing his career.

Considering your career spans over many decades, has the advancement of technology changed the way you work?

Obviously the biggest change across the last couple of decades has been the fact that cells have been almost completely eliminated from the process. No longer is it being hand-drawn nor photographed by hand to make the cuts. Everything nowadays is having CG integrated into it. Series like Arpeggio are entirely done in CG now. The ability to use computers in this fashion has become more prevalent. He is more interested to see what will be the next step in the industry.

Out of all the projects that you have been involved with, what is like the most memorable project you have worked on that you feel proudest of?

So of course he had a lot of good times as an animator, but if he had to choose it would have to be Oreimo. He didn’t really have much experience with that kind of content. He tends to focus more on realistic art and action oriented animation, which is also why Viper’s Creed was much more his forte. Action and battling were closer to his specialty. Both were great times.

Why do you think Oreimo is so popular? How does it feel to direct a series that was already successful and popular?

In regards to the first part of the question he had already read the light novel, which was already incredibly popular. He thought ‘wow this is really fun and interesting.’ It just happened that the author and the opportunity to direct the series came his way. He was already so impressed with the earlier work that the job was simply win-win for everyone, for the studio and myself.

Would you want to animate your very own project someday? Something all original content?

Yes absolutely of course if he could do it.

When deciding to directing, have there been difficult choices with how closely you follow the source material?

Of course it’s difficult to represent something in a different medium form and transition into animation. As a director his goal is to preserve the overarching image of the original work so that fans of the original work as well as people that became fans through the animation will be content with the transition.

Is there something upcoming or unannounced that you would love to be involved in?

Definitely there’s stuff that’s out there. So there’s a manga currently called World Embryo that’s being written by Daisuke Moriyama who is also the author for Chrono Crusade which he has worked on previously.

How does one balance out directing and animating? Do the two go hand and hand?

Obviously when you’re a director you have to oversee the entire project to the full extent. When you’re an animator, you just needs to focus on making the art look really good. When transitioning over to directing, there was a lot more responsibilities that he had to take on, while making sure that the source material is available and assembling a cohesive direction. It’s been an evolution for him transitioning from animating to directing. While it’s been challenging he has been enjoying it.

How did you initially get into directing?

Of course his directorial debut was Viper’s Creed. That offer just happened to come along one day. It was one of those cases where he was taking short film projects and overseeing those that lead him to transition to an offer of a full-fledged TV series.

Is there’s a series you did a long time ago that you would love to do a “remake” of using today’s current technology?

It’s not something he put a lot of thought to. But after pondering about it, he feels like something such as Fatal Fury. Drawing a new Fatal Fury would be interesting.

We noticed you worked on Cowboy Bebop the movie. What was it like to transition into a series that was already complete but you didn’t necessarily work on the TV series?

Actually he had an offer for the TV series, but he turned it down. So it wasn’t necessarily difficult that it was already animated by other people. He just did his usual key animating as he normally does. Since it’s the highly anticipated high-budget feature anime film, he definitely put a lot of effort into the fine details of key animating. He needed to make sure it was as clean as he could make it.

Any techniques you used back in the 90s that you feel is kind of a lost art nowadays?

Definitely cel shading in regards to techniques. Back in the 90s what he kind of misses nowadays is the passion level of people working on key animation. ‘I LOVE DRAWING’ used to resonate every moment of the day. He doesn’t see that passion anymore and people are more quiet and reserved; the level of energy isn’t the same anymore. He hopes he can see a resurgence of that.

Light novels have been immensely popular to be animated. Do you find this trend to continue through this decade, or do you find the possibility of studio original animations to rise?

He feels light novels will still be the primary form of new anime adaptations. He expect this trend to continue for many years to come.

We thank Director Hiroyuki and the staff at Fanime for the interview. We look forward to his future projects.

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