Otakon 2010: Welcome to the Space Show Press Conference

Producer Ochikoshi Tomonori worked on Blood+, Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maiden as well as the currently airing Senko no Night Raid. Director Masunari Koji was the original creator for Kamichu! and directed many popular series including Fullmoon wo Sagashite, R.O.D. and Saber Marionette R. Character designer Ishihma Masashi was the key animator on Digimon Adventure the movie, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Honey and Clover and R.O.D. among others.

Q: Is there any project they have previously done or is in the works that they would like to work on?
Ishihama: There was a work called Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei and this allowed me a lot of freedom so this is a recent work that I enjoyed. If I’m allowed, if the opportunity comes, I would like to work on a music flick with animation included and would like to try something new on that.
Masunari: First of all, for the works I enjoyed during the actual production going on, it’s always very tough. But when it’s done, all them were very fun. And for any project for my future? Actually we just finished Welcome to the Space Show so I’m kind of like empty right now and I would like to restock on what I want to do for now.
Ochikoshi: Of course I have been involved with many works but for Welcome to the Space Show, this was my first theatrical work and had I learned a lot and it was interesting. And for the future, since A-1 Pictures have not done any giant robot battles, I would like to try on that one. But I overheard that giant robot battle are never hot in the United States. Why? Can you tell me? *laughs*

Q: For Welcome to the Space Show, you cast children for the voice actors instead of normally cast of adults to play the children? What was the influence of this decision.
Ochikoshi: When we create the visuals, there’s always a certain type of lie in there to make believe. But to mix reality or truth in there is very important to make reality so that was the reason.
Masunari: And also realistically speaking, perhaps if we try to find five main characters worth of adult voice actors who can portray all different kinds of children voices, it would have been hard to gather all those five good voice actors than finding the actual children actors. When we have adult actors do the voice for the child, just once they have to go through the filter of thinking “I’m playing a child’s part”. On the contrary, when the child actor is doing, to start with, he is already a child so the filter is already lost. And straightforwardly he can be able to concentrate on acting which is one of the strengths of child actors.

Q: The movie is a little over two hours. The time is kind of long for an animated movie (for any movie.) It will make it distributing it theatrically very difficult. Did that enter your minds when you were editing it into a two hour movie or are you going to edit it down for a theatrical release?
Masunari: Honestly speaking, we do understand that it is a little bit of a problem. But when I thought about the story of the work, it was necessary to have this length. And I think it was the best length to portray what was necessary. [One of the Aniplex staff stepped in to clarify the question.]
Ochikoshi: If there is any specific reason that force us to shorten the movie, let’s say maybe a tv program-unless it’s going to be less than two hours, we won’t get on the tv slot or something like that-unless that kind of limitation occurs, we are not considering reediting a shorter version for the theatrical release just because it’s too long. We believe that the current length is a necessity and is the best. 

Q: Specifically for Pochi and Nepo, where did you draw your inspiration for those character designs?
Ishihama: First of all for Poohi, I believe that idea first came from director Masunari. He said that first the children thought that it’s dog, but then he happened to be an alien which was interesting. That where the Pochi design ran from a dog alien. And for Nepo’s design-wise…. For this project, we had the talented creator named Okama-san and the director had asked him to create multiple designs for all of the aliens. One of which that stand out just happened to be Nepo’s base design and from then on, Nepo was created.

Q: Once again on the character design, were you influenced at all by the moe movement in Japan when desiging them?
Ishihama: For character-wise in Welcome to the Space Show, there was no effect for the moe at all in my mind. Between me and the director, we have chosen the most cute character, but there was no influence of moe in the reference of the cuteness.

Q: Why did you decide to premiere the movie in America at Otakon and what did you expect from the American audience reactions?
Aniplex staff: The Otakon chair was interested in the movie, he saw it premiere in Japan, and wanted to show it at Otakon.  He really liked the movie and really liked the creators. So they suggested me that we show, Welcome to the Space Show at Otakon.  Time timing was great so contacted them, and we’re happy to be here so that was why it happened.

Q: What do you think of the American audience’s reactions?
Masunari: Well, we couldn’t check on all the reactions from the audience unfortunately as you know what happened yesterday. *audience quips with ‘fire alarm’* But for speaking of the early part of the show, at least many of the things that we inteded for the audience to react, we have seen a very great reaction from the audience. Perhaps in comparison to Japan, perhaps 50% more bigger, straightforward reaction than we had anticipated so that was great.

Q: What do you mean by straightforward reaction?
Masunari: For instance, one of the examples is the scene where the chidren eat the wasabi and cry. In Japan, probably the audience would just kind of smirk. But here everybody would actually laugh out loud, voicing the laughter so that’s why everybody has a more straightfoward reaction.

Q: With the popularity of Miyazaki and some other Japanese filmmakers in the art house community, do you plan on doing a theatrical release for this and rolling it out to art houses? Or are you doing a one night only thing? Do you see this as rolling it out to theaters in the US?
Ochikoshi: Miyazaki Hayao as you know is a world greatly known creator. Since this is our first try on theatrical release, there is no comparison. We cannot start in the same position as they have already been establishing all these years. However, that being said, we do intend to show this throughout the whole world. So we are planning to take this around the world to cinemas, awards and competitions. And try to increase the opportunity for people to see this as much as possible. Of course, there are business restrictions, and theater owners and things, so I cannot say for what our plans going to be, but we definitely would like more people to see it as much possible.
Aniplex staff: The movie was already premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and shown in England, Germany and Sydney. [One of the press added the last one.]

Q: Since you are at the end of a project, is there a way that you like to recharge from previous projects and get ready for the next project?
Masunari: This time it was a bit special since it was a theatrical work. But normally when I work on a TV series, when a tv series is done, I put myself canned in my room at home. And keep on reading all those mangas and novels that I couldn’t read during the production for a month. And then after that, I will maybe take a short trip or somewhere to rest myself.
Ishihama: As an drawer/artist, I do not need to take a break off in order to refresh. Rather, I would like to try to challenge for something new. So for me, in order to refresh and recharge, I need to get back on a new work as soon as possible.
Ochikoshi: In my case, I can keep on working and working, so I never get a chance to refresh.

Q: You mentioned before, Ochikoshi-san, that you wanted to work on giant robots. What kind of giant robot/mecha anime series do you want to work on?
Ochikoshi: If you live in Japan, most of us from the childhood time, we’ve been growing up watching many, many types of giant robot shows and animation. Japan has been creating these kind of types of giant robot shows for tens of many years. Specifically maybe something like Gundam where people can enjoy for year after year for many times would be great. Of course, when we get the opportunity to try our new show, we would like make it something totally new, not like anything else that has been done before.

Q: Which giant robot series do you like?
Ochikoshi: Among the Gundam, I like the first Gundam the most. 

Mansuarni: I like Hideo more than Gundam.

Ishiahma: Of course I like the first Gundam. No one expected us to talk about mechas as much.

Q: Alot of people say that anime is a gateway into Japanese culture for alot of Americans. How do you feel about that idea as being cultural ambassadors from Japan to the Americans and the world?
Masunari: That’s a very interesting question because when we live in Japan, Japanese society do not treat us in that way so we don’t think about it that way. In Japan, rather animation is still more treated like a subculture. However, the world is now treating anime as a very big form of artistic expression. So we believe that it is rather the world that is putting Japan and anime closer to them.
Ochikoshi: Among all the entertainment genre existing in the world, it is very hard for any of the Japanese entertainment industry to compete on the same platform, on the same level. However, it seems like the game and animation seems to work in the world level in Japan. There are many of my friends in the music or the film industry. They say that it is very challenging for the Japanese entertainment industry to compete in the world. In comparison to that, games and anime are allowed to compete. At the same time, I personally do not feel like I represent the Japanese culture, but I would definitely like to use this opportunity to express to the world what we have.

Q: Why do you feel like gaming and anime succeed whereas other Japanese entertainment don’t do as well?
Ochikoshi: I think one of the advantage is it is easier to do the localization when it is anime. What I mean is like in the case of anime, all you have to do is do the voice over and change the words and we can easily get rid of any type of racial differences or national anthems or any of those kind of things can be eliminated from the work. That is why I think it the localization helps us to make anime more competitive. 

Q: What does it feel like to work on such treasured and works that influenced the anime community over here such as Gurren Lagann, Speed Grapher, Kite or Read or Die?
Ishihama: While I’m working on those works, I am actually not thinking of how it is perceived by the world. It just happen that the work I did was well received. But if anybody said that my work is affecting anything else in the world then that would be great.

Q: Ishihama-san, you said earlier that you like dogs. There are other animators who also like dogs and place their favorite pet in the animation they make. Would you ever consider doing that again besides Welcome to the Space Show?
Ishihama: I’ m not particularly thinking or considering of using them. But since many of my designs comes from something close to me so perhaps maybe in the near future you will see something near some of my pets into the next design.

Q: What was it about Welcome to the Space Show, what was it about the story that drew you into the project? What was that something in the story that have that “I want to work on this project, I want to do this.”
Masunari: First of all, this is an original story that we have created. So rather instead of we were attracted to the story, we created the story and forced everyone to join us. On this work, this is basically an adventure story of the five children. And we purposedly tried to recreate the feeling that camera is following these five children’s adventure…kinda like a reality show in a way. If each audience feel like they themselves are the sixth child, joining the adventure, we feel that it is our intention to make them feel that way.

Q: What do you think from your point of view makes a character memorable or iconic in fan’s minds?
Masunari: First of all, I never created the character with the intention of grabbing the audience’s attention to that character. When I create the characters, we think about the background of the character, how this character had been living, what are they going to do from there. We try to create this character that is actually living now and that’s the way of creating character rather than a certain type of formula. And whether it is a good or bad character regardless. If the character is living that movement, then that character will be very appealing definitely.

Q: Anime is so detailed, that we can see new things in repeat watchings. For Welcome to the Space Show, what are details in the movie that you want your fans to be able to catch?
Masunari: Wow, that’s a tough question since there’s so much detail that we put in there. Many of the things we want the audience to realize, we put it in an easy place to see so I think people can see it easily. However, when Pyonkichi appears at the last moment, many people wonder why Pyonkichi suddenly appears over here. But if you look out at the movie from the beginning again, there are a lot of hints in place as to why Pyonkichi would come at the end. Specifically, according to amount of infomration that is put into the work of visual entertainment, animation I beleive is a key to make them believe there are lot more information in the work even though there is actually not that many. On the contrary, on the actual film cinematography, the key is to limit what they put in there and make them concentrate on what they want to show. That’s a kind of contrast between animation and film. In case of our work on Welcome to the Space Show, we have purposely put more information then considered norm into this animation. When we usually live in our normal life, our eyes catches so many information from what you’re seeing. But your brain is limiting the information what you’re actually understand. In this case, we wanted to recreate this process on the screen. When you watch this anime, your eyes would see so many details and your brain will try to understand and limit what you’re seeing. We wanted to recreate this process although it is very difficult decision to put in that much details into the animation work. We also understand this is a very tough for the audience too, since there’s so much information on the screen.
Q: That’s okay. That means we just buy the dvd and blu-rays and watch it many many times.
Masunari: Thank you. [in English.]

Q: What were some of the influences behind the story of Welcome to the Space Show? What went into influencing and inspiring the story?
Masunari: How we came up with this story? Or something about how the production started?
Q: How did they come up with the story.
Masunari: There is four of us in the group, Kurata Hideyuki who is not here today. At the beginning there was only a theatrical release in our minds. So the four of us together, “What should we do for the theatrical release?” That’s how we came up with this story. Something that would fit with a theatrical release. When we started talking, at first we said, “Let’s make it a story of children.” And then it derived to, “Let’s make it a children’s summer adventure.” And then “Okay, let’s have the children help out a dog.” And so it went from one thing to another, together in the story. When we recognized it, they were all in space. They all went up in space.

Q: The Japanese is more conservative on financing and putting money into projects. Looking at released schedules of live action and anime. There is an increase in movies that are based on prior projects whether in light novels or manga or other types of media. This was an original story. Was there any problems fincinacing an original movie or anime?
Ochikoshi: First of all, when the project stated, it was already decided that A-1 Pictures and Aniplex would do the project together.  At the beginning point, we did not have any problem in financing because that part was already taken care of from the start. But of course that was only possible because we’ve been working with this staff together for many years. There was actual numbers and trust that made this project come true. 

Q: ‘Anime no Chikara’ is all original tv anime. How is that tv segment doing and what are some upcoming shows?
Ochikoshi: ‘Anime no Chikara’ is on TV Tokyo with also working Aniplex and A-1 as well. We currently have a total of three works on ‘Anime no Chikara’. One of the meanings of ‘Anime no Chikara’ is to create, to find out and develop the new generation of new creators.  Even in Japan, ‘Anime no Chikara’ is a very well-received project.  So for us, after these three works are done, we’re going to take a break and we’ll think about what we should do next. However, there is meaning in continuing on the next project. So we definitely would like to consider in the future, to rejoin again and keep on continuing ‘Anime no Chikara’ work.

When Masunari-san talked about the audience ‘laughing out loud’ in comparison to the Japanese ‘smirk’, I’m reminded of the movies I saw in Japan last year. As I mentioned before, for whatever their reasons (they’re too reserved, too polite, concerned about bothering their neighbors,) they are silent even at the most hilarious of moments. Only during the One Piece movie did I hear audible bursts of laughter…though not so much as it would be here. So I understand completely, the context of the answer.