Interview: Tsutomu Mizushima

mizushimaTSUTOMU MIZUSHIMA profile
Born on December 6, 1965 in Nagano Prefecture. Tsutomu Mizushima joined Shin'ei Doga as a production manager in 1986. He debuted as a unit director for the TV anime Oishinbo, then worked with the same role for the TV series Crayon Shin-chan, and later directed two feature films based on the same character, Crayon Shin-chan: Storming Glorious Grilled Beef Road and Crayon Shin-chan: Storming Sunset Kasukabe Boys. He left Shin'ei Doga in 2004 and became a freelancer. Since then his works include scenario writing/directing for the OVA Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan ("Club them to Death" Angel Dokuro-chan), and scenario writing for the OVA, Ichigo 100% (Strawberry 100%). xxxHOLiC - A Midsummer Night's Dream is his first feature film work as director since his departure from Shin'ei Doga.

Part 01


Q: How did you come to join xxxHOLiC - A Midsummer Night's Dream team?
A: I was contacted by the producer Toru Kawaguchi when I just started to look for projects as a freelancer. I had thought I wouldn't be able to work on a feature film for a while, so I was very lucky.

What did you think of the original manga version of xxxHOLiC?
I thought it dealt with a very interesting worldview; for instance, its cynical portrayal of people in modern day society as well as the authors' views on how discourse has meanings and also how everything is predestined. I had spent most of my time in the comic anime world, so I was a little nervous. But since there were some comical elements within the overall horror tone, I decided to join the party. Personally, I think "laughs" and "scariness" have very much in common. They do not appeal to reason, but they overwhelm our minds directly. I can't explain it well, but I always felt that they had the same feel. Of course, it could be only me who thinks this way. (lol)

How did you like working at Production I.G for the first time?
The last time I came to I.G was as a production manager. At that time, they only had one location, which is now its headquarters. This time around, my first meeting was at a new building (ING Building,) so I felt like "a kitten in a strange land" and kept quiet. I think I.G has a very solid production system. I felt that I came to a very sound workplace. I also noticed there were a lot of young people. If you have a company this size, you usually have a range of different age groups, from veterans to rookies. Here at I.G, they have an overwhelming number of young people. This was strange. Yet I was the latest rookie at I.G on the xxxHOLiC team, so I had so much to learn and I made new discoveries all the time.
I.G is a clean and tidy workplace. I think people can be proud of that. And I hope they will keep it that way. If the entire animation industry changes in this way, the image of animation would improve. I would hope this happens.

Producers and other staff in the production section seldom get angry, but they don't just let people get away with whatever as well. I get timely reminders when I forget things. You know, I sometimes forget things that were decided over a week before. They would remind me about a day in advance and I'd say, "Phew, I'd almost forgotten about that..." I haven't missed anything and I'm really grateful to them. Actually, it's only a matter of me having to be more responsible. Sorry guys for the inconveniences.

How were the actual production methods?
When I joined as a director, I think the rough idea of the story was already decided to some extent between the two scenario writers, Junichi Fujisaku and Yoshiki Sakurai. Of course, I attended the scenario meeting, but I decided to let the two writers do their jobs and, for my part, to concentrate on trying to accurately put their creation ? the world and the worldview described in the scenario ? into a film. Luckily, Sakurai-san was on the same floor, so I only had to walk a few steps to ask questions when I had any.

Director of photography, Hisashi Ezura, art director, Hirata-san, as well as Tamori-san and his 3D team were all amazing and they continuously surprised me. I mustn't forget to add Kazuchika Kise, who was the character designer and animation supervisor. Nothing is impossible for Kise-san. I had a strong conviction that he drew hip and cool anime, so I was really shocked to learn that he was also good at comical drawings. I always looked forward to the key drawings of his that were delivered to me. To tell you the truth, Kazuchika Kise, Hiroyuki Okiura and Shinya Ohira are celebrities for me. I mean, they are all legends. (lol) And they were drawing according to my lousy storyboards. I was not only excited, but also rather embarrassed!

(to be continued...)


© 2005 CLAMP/Kodansha/"The Movie xxxHOLiC A Midsummer Night's Dream" Committee

Part 02


Q: What do you remember the most about working with your staff?
A: Actually, I have only met Kise-san twice so far. I met him for the first time at the character design meeting. I did not see him for a long time until when I went to the Studio 2 to request something. I greeted him and said, "Good work," then he looked at me blank. His face said, "Now, I don't recognize this guy with a bag of cuts." He might have thought I was one of the production staff. (lol)

I personally was shocked when I first received Kise-san's character design list. They were 14-head figures. I'd never seen such exaggeration. I was used to 3 to 5-head figures in past anime. I could not get used to them for a while. (lol) Of course I am used to them now. I feel odd when I see other anime; the figures seem too short.

Did you experiment with anything new in the feature film xxxHOLiC - A Midsummer Night's Dream?
I asked Ezura-san to minimize the flare effect in the animation. Lots of I.G's animations utilize this effect to look cool, but for this anime, we used a lot of scenes with simple composition of cell drawings and the background. You know, the present animation industry seems to be overloaded with flare effects everywhere. I thought if Ezura-san stopped using it, maybe everyone might think twice about it. When you use the cell drawings directly, the sky looks clearer and actually looks better.

Which is your favorite character?
I can identify the most with Watanuki. He is in a way small-minded and also seems vulnerable to criticism. He would also be complaining a lot to Domeki and Yuko, but that's not because he doesn't like them. I think he is cute overall, including the fact that he is a bit conceited.

This is not related to your question, but I would like to apologize to my staff for not providing the storyboards on time. They were finished on April 1 (*), but I wasn't intending to make it that day and delayed the process.

Do you have something to say to those people who are restlessly waiting for watching the movie?
I would like them to enjoy the unique and genre-crossing worldview the anime illustrates. This is one anime both female and male followers should enjoy. Please immerse yourselves in this strange world.

(*) The ideograms for "Watanuki" mean also "April 1".


Recorded at Production I.G, Tokyo on a certain day of June 2005


© 2005 CLAMP/Kodansha/"The Movie xxxHOLiC A Midsummer Night's Dream" Committee