Yoshihiro Watanabe (渡邊 義弘) is a character designer and key animator for anime series such as Heaven’s Lost Property, Haganai, and The Testament of Sister New Devil. He’s also known for his mechanical designs in popular shows like Please Teacher!, DearS, and Silent Mobius. The ConFreaks and Geeks staff had a chance to chat with Mr. Watanabe during FanimeCon 2016.
Interviewed by: William Hong and Arlette Agati Translated by: Michelle Rogoyski Transcribed by: William Hong
CFG:How are you enjoying Fanime so far?
YW:It’s very fun so far.
CFG: What inspired you to become an artist?
YW:From a young age I liked drawing and looking at other people’s drawings, so I thought it’d be nice to become an artist.
CFG:What was your favorite artist when you were growing up?
YW:Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Gundam designer. Also Kogawa Tomonori.
CFG:Did you have a favorite anime or manga growing up?
YW:Dr. Slump and Doraemon, of course. There’s so many I don’t know where to start!
CFG: Do you have a favorite currently?
YW:Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou! [laughs]
CFG: Which series did you enjoy working on the most?
YW:Another hard question! [laughs] Of course, I like the ones I did character designers for. I did the illustrations for Transformers: Micron Densetsu (Armada in the US).
CFG: What was the most challenging scene you’ve had to animate?
YW:The type of scene where you have a lot of people is very difficult. Anime openings are especially hard because of how there’s a lot going on. At the same time, we’re not giving a lot of time in the schedule for making these before it broadcasts. So it’s hard because of the lack of time and sheer amount of effort.
CFG: Is there one that comes to mind?
YW:Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, also known as, Haganai was especially difficult. The English translation is “I Have Very Few Friends.” [laughs] There are a lot of female characters that show up, so it’s a very busy opening. There are a lot of people and they jump, put on costumes, and a lot of other things happening. So that was very hard to work on.
CFG: Was it difficult breaking into the anime industry when you first began?
YW:It’s not hard to get into the anime industry. [laughs] It’s continuing is what’s hard, not starting.
CFG: In what way has the anime industry changed since you started?
YW:When I first started we were still using cel animation. So around the 2000s is when the digital revolution happened, so I’ve been through that. The people who were making the cells said they weren’t making them anymore, so were forced in a sense to move to the digital medium.
CFG: Was that a difficult transition for you?
YW:I welcomed it because I felt there was more potential with digital and it really wasn’t that different for me. In one sense there was a negative in that with cel animation there was a point where you could stop improving upon the product. But with digital animation, up until the last minute, people are trying to make it better and better. So in terms of workload it’s been a hard transition because we’re expected to work until the last minute. [laughs] With film it’s just like a one time thing.
CFG: Do you have a favorite female character that you’ve designed?
YW:Ikaros and Nymph from Heaven’s Lost Property are my favorites. I was so moved when I saw the characters I had designed come to life with voices…I cried when I saw that.
CFG: What about your favorite mechas that you’ve designed?
YW: So from the same series, Heaven’s Lost Property, there’s a character known as Pants Robot that’s made up of underwear, basically. [laughs] He appears in the first season. He transforms into a motorcycle. I was inspired by real life garage kits.
CFG: Do you prefer drawing female characters or mechas more?
YW:Mmmmmmm…! [laughs] If you keep doing just one, you get sick of it. So it’s nice alternating betweeen them, so I enjoy doing both.
CFG: Do you read American comics? If so, which one have you read?
YW:I have. I didn’t read them, per-say, but I enjoyed looking at the illustrations and artwork. They’re actually very expensive in Japan because they’re full colored and they have to be imported. I didn’t have access to them when I was a kid, but I when I moved to Tokyo I had access to the comic book shops that sold American comics. So Transformers, Batman, and Tim Burton’s art.
CFG: Is there a particular international artist that you like?
YW:It’s hard to think of someone on the spot….I like Hellboy, so Mike Mignola. The opening of one the shows I worked on, The Testament of New Sister Devil, drew a lot of influence from Hellboy. Like the high contrast colors. I buy things even when I’m unsure of the creator. [laughs] Things like Antman and other Marvel comics, but I’m not sure of the names of the creators.
CFG: If you weren’t in the anime industry, what would your other dream job be?
YW:Just to clarify, animation and manga are considered different industries. So I’d want to be a manga artist. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t become one that I became a character designer.
CFG: What do you like to do for fun?
CFG: What would you tell someone trying to break into the anime industry? Any advice?
YW:It’s a really tough industry to continue in, so you really need to make sure you’re ready for it. On the other hand, we’re always lacking people, so I want anyone that’s interested to give it a shot. We definitely welcome that!