Young Ace – 2009 – Sadamoto

Originated from theplanetsthatmatter.com via gainax.forumfree.it  (5/23/13)

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Yoshiyuki Sadamoto is one of those names to remember if you’re getting into manga or anime. Gainax’s de facto lead character designer, his work has appeared in virtually every animation Gainax has produced in the past two decades, all the way down from Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise to the Evangelion films coming out now. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also had his hand in game franchises such as .hack and penned several popular manga series, not the least of which is his still-running retrofit of Evangelion.

The latest issue of Young Ace included an entire, separate mini-volume entitled Osada-bon 2009. This mini-volume is entirely composed of artwork and manga by Sadamoto, in addition to an interview. In the interview, Sadamoto discusses some of the finer aspects of his design philosophy, as well as dropping some tantalizing hints about future projects. Check it out!

Note: the following translation is completely unofficial. tPtM is in no way connected or affiliated with Kadokawa Shoten.

Young Ace: The current Evangelion manga series has really begun to take a departure from the original television series. Can you tell us anything about the direction the manga will head in?

Sadamoto: The original Evangelion film, End of Evangelion really expressed (creator) Hideaki Anno’s psychological landscape at the time. I’m taking Anno’s story as a basis, and filtering it through the lens of my own interpretation. I’ve always considered Evangelion to be, at its heart, the story of the relationship between a father and his son. I’ve been pursuing this angle from the outset of the manga series, and I’d like to pursue it to the end.

YA: How are you involved in the recent film updates of Evangelion?

S: The new films were originally intended to be a sort of “digest” of the original television series, but as you can see particularly with You Can (Not) Advance, they’ve begun to take a direction of their own. The theme will be that of isolation, if I’m not mistaken, and I don’t believe that the story will be connected to my manga adaptation. That said, I’d like it if fans appreciated the new films and my manga version as separate stories.

YA: We’re probably jumping the gun a bit here, but do you have anything in mind that you’d like to begin working on when you finish with the Evangelion manga?

S: After dealing with complicated concepts like the elimination of mankind and battles with angels, I think I’d like to take a little time to work on something more related to my day-to-day, immediate surroundings. For my next manga project, I’d like to do something more compact and approachable. As examples, there’s Archaic Smile and R20, both of which I was hoping to see to at least one full volume. When Evangelion wraps up, I’ll consider pursuing these projects or some other project of similar scale.

Incidentally, with a recent installment of Archaic Smile, (writer) Mako Takaha revealed that (protagonist) Kobayakawa is a divorcee, and that it was this which led him to his initial encounter with the Buddha statue. This really roused my interest in continuing the series.

CHARACTER DESIGN

YA: What sort of thing do you think you’d be interested in doing character design for in the future? Also, are there any character designs you’ve done of which you’re particularly fond?

S: I think it would be interesting to do some designs for something fanciful, perhaps even something in the fantasy genre. Watching Mr. Okazaki, the avatar designer for Summer Wars, at work, I thought that what he was doing looked really interesting, and even felt a bit envious (laughter). At any rate, each of the characters I’ve designed have some special touch or trait that I really like, so I can’t say that I have favorite characters, or even characters I’ve come to dislike.

YA: Reviewing your work as a character designer over the years, do you have any thoughts to share?

S: Around the time Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise came out, I was young and competitive and channeled all of my efforts into drawing characters that were as detailed and realistic as possible. Taking note of this and reflecting upon it as I began the character designs for my next project, Nadia: the Secret of Blue Water, I tried to make characters that were more animated and expressive, the way that they are in manga. Moving from that project to Evangelion, then on to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and eventually to Summer Wars, I think that I’ve slowly eased back into a more detailed and realistic style. Well, FLCL and Diebusters are exceptions, of course (laughter).

Particularly with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars it was important for me to create designs that fit (director) Mamoru Hosoda’s ungilded style of presentation, with the result that, visually, I think the designs do share a lot in common with the designs I did for The Wings of Honneamise.

As far as what I can say about character design in general, if your characters reflect the fads and trends of the time, they’ll quickly look dated, so it’s wise to avoid this. Also, while it may sound a bit pat, I do try to design my characters to have universal appeal. Of course, I also work to meet the wishes and needs of the directors I work with, as well.

SUMMER WARS

YA: So, what did you think of the final product?

S: I thought that it was a wonderful, heartfelt family film. I thought the relationship between (love interest) Natsuki’s great-grandmother Sakae and Wabisuke (the illegitimate son of Sakae’s deceased husband) was particularly well handled.

YA: How was it, designing characters for the film?

S: Man were there a lot of characters (laughter)! When the story was first being introduced to me, I had difficulty keeping track of all of the characters. To make it easier for the filmgoers to follow along, I tried to design the characters so that their family ties and personalities would be immediately apparent. I stuck with a more orthodox style, to avoid confusing viewers. We really wanted Summer Wars to be a film that families can go and enjoy together during the months of summer break.

THE NEW EVANGELION FILMS

YA: Could you tell us a bit about your impressions of the new Evangelion films?

S: The new films are so accessible! It really surprised me; it wasn’t what I had been expecting. There are certain small details in the presentation, like the way music from the Showa Period is played in the background, that I thought were very Anno-esque, though (laughter). In general, the new films are something just about anybody can enjoy and appreciate. Anno’s really calmed down since getting married (laughter).

A lot of people are saying that Shinji is much more optimistic and willful in the new films, particularly in You Can (Not) Advance, but I’ve always thought that the original film, End of Evangelion, was the exception. Shinji is pretty dark and introspective in End of Evangelion, but I never got that impression of him watching the television series. I was really moved by Shinji’s strength and unwillingness to give up in You Can (Not) Advance. I also thought that Rei’s character was much less of a question mark. She was more fleshed out. Her speaking style is so rapid fire (laughter)! I really thought that you can perceive her gradual change in character in the new films. Asuka’s also more approachable as a character. In a bit of a change from the original series, she doesn’t just reject Shinji outright, but actually displays a degree of jealousy. Her character feels more like an actual teenage girl.

The original series, the original film, and the new films are all windows into Anno’s inner world, so it’s interesting to see all of these changes.

YA: Could you tell us a bit about the making of You Can (Not) Advance?

S: Well, of course, I had to do the design work for Mari, a new character. I also had to design Mari’s school uniform and the plug suits for both Mari and Kaoru. Fortunately I was able to confer with (fellow artist) Shigeto Koyama over the design for Asuka’s plug suit, and used the results of our discussion in designing Asuka’s plug suit. I made some small updates to Shinji, Rei, Asuka, and Kendou’s design, and updated Touji’s attire to make it look a bit more modern. I was also in charge of the color design for the films.

I had to redesign the interior of Misato’s car to make it look more modern. I also handled the design layout for the scene where Mari alights on the roof — quite the introduction! This is the first time you see Mari’s face clearly in the film, so it was important to get it just right. Oh, and I also did the teaser poster which included Mari and Asuka, as well as three separate designs for the advance tickets.

YA: What did you think when you first heard about Mari?

S: I thought it was fitting that the new films should include a new character. I really strove to design a character who was distinct from Asuka and Rei, though I do worry that there are some small but telling similarities that remain. My idea was to create a character so distinct from the other Evangelion characters as to almost feel out of place in the Evangelion world. I suppose I could’ve designed her as a sort of “halfway point” between Asuka and Rei, but Asuke and Rei are both such strong characters, in their own separate ways. I wanted to bring something completely different to the table with Mari.

For Mari, I’d been asked to design a character who “goes about with a parasol, like the sort of heroine you see in an anime”. As I initially designed her, she was very adult-like, having attended a strict private Christian school in Britain. However, in the original script, there was a scene where she returns home to a room full of birds and dogs and begins talking to them, to indicate that she was also rather idiosyncratic. Mr. Anno had also requested that she be more adult-like in appearance and manner than either Asuka or Rei, to set her apart. And that she have a huge chest (laughter).

There was a television drama I’d really been enjoying at the time I began designing Mari. The heroine in this drama had a pair of long ponytails. I really liked this character feature, and worked it into Mari’s design. After all was said and done, we ended up with the design that we have now, although there are still many elements of my personal tastes and interests of the time in Mari’s design (laughter).

Incidentally, I decided to give Mari glasses because I thought that this would be a simple yet affective way to set her apart from the other characters. Some people have said that she “doesn’t seem like an Evangelion character”, which is exactly what I was aiming for. I’m glad to see, though, that the majority of people have appreciated her character.

YA: How did you go about designing Mari’s uniform and plug suits?

S: I’d been asked to make Mari seem very British, so I tried to design accordingly. For her school uniform, I thought that a large bow and long socks, along with a traditional checked skirt, would look the part.

For Mari’s old plug suit, I combined a rich green that seemed to me very reminiscent of British clothing with the design aesthetic of the space suits the Soviets were using around the time of the Cold War. The Soviet space suits are the reason for the checkered pattern of the lower half of the suit. Because Unit Five uses a lance, I also looked at a lot of fencing outfits and tried to incorporate elements of those into the design of her suit, as well. However, I also included what look like large plugs where pipes and the like could go, to convey the impression that this is, after all, a plug suit just the same as those of Shinji and the others.

On the other hand, when I designed her new plug suit, I wanted it to look more sleek, capable and well-crafted than the other plug suits. I wanted it to have the appearance of something that was just manufactured using the latest technology. For inspiration, I looked at the design differences between the Lotus Elise Series I and Series II. Lotus’ vehicles really have that feel of a classic design updated to the cutting edge.

YA: We don’t suppose you can drop any hints about the upcoming, third Evangelion film?

S: Actually, I’ve yet to hear anything from Anno at all, so I really can’t (laughter). Even with things like Mari appearing in both You Are (Not) Alone and You Can (Not) Advance, the story followed that of the television series to some extent, but who knows? Maybe the next story will be a complete departure from the television series. Given the possibilities, it should really be interesting to see where things go from here.

YA: Which do you think will end first, the new films or the new manga series?

S: Hmm… good question (laughter). I think I’d like to wrap up the manga series first, and begin to devote my time to Q, my upcoming project.