Production I.G> WORK LIST> IGPX> SPECIAL FEATURE> Double Interview: Atsushi Takeuchi & Junya Ishigaki

Double Interview: Atsushi Takeuchi & Junya Ishigaki

Atsushi Takeuchi was born on April 3, 1965. His main reason for joining the anime industry was to become a mechanical designer. Takeuchi's major works include: Ghost in the Shell (1995, mechanical design, layout and key animation); Avalon (2000, mechanical design); Battle Fairy Yukikaze (2002, 3D special effects director); and Innocence (2004, mechanical design.) In IGPX, he vests the double role of mechanical designer and 3D director.

Born on November 22, 1967, Junya Ishigaki has worked on such projects as the OVA Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz (1997, mechanical design); the TV series Angelic Layer (2001, mechanical design); the OVA Macross Zero (2002, mechanical design) and Top wo Nerae 2! (2005, mechanical design); and the feature film Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shambala (2005, creature design.) He has also designed innovative security robots, Mujiro and Ligurio, exhibited at the Expo 2005 Aichi Japan.

Part 01

First of all, could you tell us how both of you came to join the IGPX production team?
Ishigaki: Initially, the director Hongo asked me to do the prop designs for another project, but that project was on hold for a long time, so we decided to do IGPX together.

Takeuchi: It was Hongo who invited me in as well.

Is this your first time working together?
Ishigaki: We did work together as mechanical designers on the PS2 game Surveillance with Takashi Watabe and Yasushi Ohara, but for that project, we scarcely had any personal contacts, so you could say this is our first time actually working together in person.

Takeuchi: I have worked with Hongo-san in Sakura Wars: The Movie. It is true that in Surveillance, I wasn't in touch with Ishigaki-san and other people directly. A production assistant who was in charge of our work acted as an intermediary most of the time. It was different from how we see each other and work together here for the IGPX production.

On the practical side, how are you dividing your responsibilities?
Ishigaki: Well... There is no clear boundary, so to speak, but we sort of do half and half.

Takeuchi: Hongo told us, "Mixing different approaches in a design line makes a scene interesting," so we talk and discuss to allocate jobs.

What was the process like when you were designing unique IG machines?
Takeuchi: I think each one of us contributed various ideas to decide each machine's capabilities. Then we discussed specific skills. Hongo does not usually make requests to the design line, so when each machine's specifications were decided, we made proposals that matched them.

Ishigaki: We would forward our proposals to the director and ask, "What do you think of them?" If there were problems, he would advise us, but for the most part he would just say, "Thank you". That's it. In my case, when the basic designs were complete, I asked them to begin the modeling process. Then, I made modifications in order to make the final form. He did not ask for alterations by this stage.

Takeuchi: He let us take care of a lot of things including supervising the modeling process.

Did you have a lot of opportunities for brainstorming?
Ishigaki: We went to Yatsugatake together. (I.G has an overnight facility there.)

Takeuchi:Yeah, we went to a retreat and had intense discussions. We also got together at a nearby family restaurant to discuss things. Basically, we talked about each IG machine's distinctive skills to balance the entire machines as a whole. For example, Team Skylark was an all-female team, so we intentionally made an extremely rough machine design for them. And Team Sledgemama's machines came with a missile that's barely compliant with the rules.
What I had in mind when designing was to give each machine a character rather than a mechanical distinction.

Part 02

What would you say was the best part of the designing process?
Ishigaki: At first, I would make reckless proposals such as "expandable hands." They would say yes to all of them, so I often wondered if they were really OK. (lol) I was also glad and pleased to find an influence of Motion Giga in 3D graphic drawings. For example, when I was working on game software, I tried a lot of new things, but in order to realize these movements, they told me they needed more people. They would alter my new experimental movements so that they would fit the number available. Reluctantly, I had to give up. But this time, the machines were the core part of the show, so they took my ideas seriously. You can see the actual movements that match the mechanical frame structures.
For instance, I was really impressed when I saw Black Egg's machine actually stand up at once from a low defensive position that was so similar to the speed mode. IG machines don't have transforming parts. The machines just seamlessly transform themselves from low to high positions and vice versa as they run. I think this is a kind of transformation gimmick that is specific to this show.

Takeuchi: They also let me work on some parts of the storyboards, so I could realize some of the ideas that I had always wanted to do to display the machines. To tell you the truth, I became a little worried because they gave me too much freedom to do whatever I wanted. (lol)

Ishigaki: Having too much freedom made me wonder what to do when I was working on the modeling. You know, you need someone to tell you where to stop or you'll just keep on going. When you're allowed to do anything, you just want more whereas when someone says, "No, we can't do that," then you can settle with what you have.

Takeuchi: The 3D graphics team is really reliable. They don't say, "We can't do that," any more. Instead, they would say, "Sure, we will work on it." And, you know, they don't just come up with what I asked, but with something even better. That means I am responsible for making decisions for colors and even the stencils. Sometimes I get stuck and need to ask them, but they would say, "You can do it your way." That's really great, but it also means a lot of responsibility on my part.

Ishigaki: They also let me check the process midway at all times, so, as a result, I'm involved in various aspects of production. I feel the 3D graphics team is really being nice and helpful.

Takeuchi: As for my part, I would like mechs to show personality as well. I treat each mech as a character and not just as an inorganic material. So I try to over-deform them a little to appeal to their diverse characters. For instance, they change personalities depending on the pilot.
And also, I have tried to use more vivid colors to appeal to the younger audience. IGPX is a motor sport, but to get ideas I checked soccer uniforms and such. Color coordination used in these uniforms seemed to match the style of IGPX, so I thought I could get interesting coloring. Team Skylark's machines are in pastel colors and this coloring alone made them stand out. I think we have succeeded in distinguishing the team from others.

Ishigaki: Team Skylark's machines, by the way, are made all the same except for their head ornaments, so the coloring is the only way to differentiate each one. I now feel that this was rather a good idea.

Takeuchi: It was nice that the originality of the team stood out. Its flower logo was designed by Makiko Asano. It fits perfectly with the fact that a cosmetics company is one of the sponsors of Team Skylark.

Ishigaki: I don't like excessive decoration, so I try to make my designs simple. I think with 3D graphics, people tend to decorate and cover up with unnecessary and meaningless parts. I personally do not like that style, but I can see that it is a sort of major trend. So for this show, I tried designs that made the most of 3D graphics, avoiding dispersive decorations while meeting the quality standard.
But when I first saw Takeuchi's designs, I felt lost. I mean, I almost regretted I was doing it differently. As regards to the worldview, I couldn't help thinking that it would be better to match up our design trends to some extent. But on second thought, when I considered the director Hongo's intention to invite me on the team, I made up my mind to design according to my own intuitions.

Takeuchi: I think we could say it's the difference between "Ishigaki Heavy Industry" and "Takeuchi Industrial." (lol)

Ishigaki: That's right. I was somewhat restraining myself at first, because I didn't want to design something that would interfere other designers' works since all the machines appear in the same screen. But I found out that once they were all made into 3D models, these design drawings that were so diverse and distanced from each other somehow fitted in together, because they had a common denominator as 3D models. Once I knew this, it was easy.

Takeuchi: Do you remember when we discussed our ideas at the beginning? We both had feet that were like sleighs or skates. That was a coincidence.

Ishigaki: Probably, some common thinking would lead us there. The movements would be more graceful. We also had the liberty to decide where to put the color patterns that were stenciled on the IG machine bodies. They gave us data and we could change colors according to our preferences and we used them as a part of our designs so that they would match the original machine concepts.

Part 03

In real motor sports too, they have lots of sponsor stickers placed on the machines.
Takeuchi: I think that's a part of designing. The viewers' consciousness would turn to these signs. I would like to put hints like that in my designs too.

Ishigaki: When I was putting stencils on the machines for Team Velshtein, I was concentrating so much on trying not to disrupt the lines that I didn't pay much attention to a logo for Ishigaki Heavy Industry. By sheer chance I happened to stare at it and noticed a company name "ISHIGAKI," which happened to be my name, clearly printed on one of the stencils. (lol) I couldn't stop from blushing with embarrassment.

Takeuchi: I heard there is a logo for Takeuchi Industrial as well. It's shaped round with vertical lines. Asano-san put it in just for fun. I hope you can find it.

Ishigaki: The director Hongo is long known for using staff names or parody names for his characters. (lol)

IGPX takes place in 2048. How did you portray the near future in the show?
Takeuchi: During the initial brainstorming, lots of ideas popped out. For example, no emission from the cars, card keys, etc.

Ishigaki: Someone said something about Segway-like vehicles in town.

Takeuchi: And public transit such as monorails and trams could take care of the rest. And once you are in the IG City, you leave the cars behind and use only the clean-burning vehicles. I think these were the images we used to have for the near future. But now, it's the opposite. The near future for us is represented by inner cities jammed up and trashed. Something similar to what you see in the film Innocence. But for this production we decided to get back to the start. You could say it's because we're targeting a wider range of audience, from younger children to adults, for this show. That's one of the main reasons.

Ishigaki: The storyline is simple and straightforward as well.

Takeuchi: We seldom see these straightforward stories any more, so this show might give a fresh impression. I was thinking about linear motors particularly. I recently learned that this technology is uniquely Japanese. Americans didn't know about it when I asked them during a recent trip in the USA. It’s been a while since it was first developed, but it had never been applied commercially. For this show, I took the liberty of installing a hybrid system. The hydrogen-fueled engine will be put into practice sooner or later, so in the near future what we're talking about is not a farfetched idea.

Were there any happenings during your designing process that you would like to share with us?
Takeuchi: One thing I can mention is that when we check the 3D graphics, the 3D team wears T-shirts all the same color. For instance, they would be wearing blue one time, then orange the next. They'd wear the same color as when the graphics check pass rate is high. They hoped to repeat that luck, but it seems like their color choices are getting very narrow now. (lol) Anyways, I was curious the first time I saw them in the same colored T-shirts.
And talking about the team logo, such as "Satomi", letter fonts were a half space apart and the Cartoon Network producers told us that it didn't look attractive, so we revised them. There must be a difference between Japanese and Americans on this. We often see Americans wearing unlikely Chinese characters on their T-shirts, but we might be doing a similar thing.

Part 04

At the time we are recording this interview, the show hasn't aired in the US yet, but it would be exciting to see how the American audience will react to the show when it starts.
Takeuchi: As far as the feedback from the producer at Cartoon Network goes, it looks like it's OK.

Ishigaki: Oftentimes, even though I personally think it's "Perfect!" I could be the only person who thinks that way, so I would surely like to hear about the responses.

Takeuchi: It does affect our motivation. Our job is like living on the audience's responses.

What was your impression when you saw Episode 1 for the first time?
Takeuchi: I wished there were more 3D scenes. (lol)

Ishigaki: I was impressed with how the mechs moved so naturally. They possessed a distinct framework, but they still moved naturally without being shaky. That was a surprise. I had imagined certain things from what I heard from people, but when I saw the first episode, I found out that I was deceived in a positive way.

Takeuchi: Miki Yoshida, who is taking the role as captain of the 3D graphics team, is getting better and better in movements. He is leading the entire team. When each machine is in action, you have to be really careful and that's a lot of work. They are doing a great job. They seem to be enjoying the work and improving their skills at the same time.

Are we expecting new designs in the future?
Ishigaki: As of now, I have also worked on an IG machine for another team. It's a collaborative effort between Takeuchi, Ishigaki and the 3D team.

Takeuchi: I designed the machines for Team Satomi, and...

Ishigaki: ...I added gimmicks and ideas for hands and legs, so that they would look like different machines. Then the modeler added the final touch.

Takeuchi: Even at that final stage, an entertaining gimmick was added and a revision was made before it was completed.

What a gorgeous collaboration!
Ishigaki: In a sense, they got more character than any other machine.

What is the best part of being a designer for you?
Takeuchi: Doing only the "mecha" designs is not enough to realize all my intentions. I sometimes have difficulty communicating what I had prepared as a designer to the director, or sometimes my designs are not used the way I wanted and I feel a little stressed. This time, the director Hongo is letting me do all sorts of things, including the storyboards.
It's my first experience to be able to try so many other things and see my ideas from the design process come to life. It's really fun.

Ishigaki: This time we have the 3D capability, so my design will go through the hands of the modeler. That means the modeler will contribute his thoughts into my design to make a machine closer or even better than what I had projected in my mind. That is the biggest impact and I really enjoy it. I see the end result, which is just what I envisioned or even better. I am very pleased.

We sometimes see productions where jobs are divided among the staff and each of them would just do their portions, but for IGPX, the staff works hard together.
Takeuchi: Later episodes will have even more exciting storylines, so I hope you'll simply enjoy the show without thinking too seriously.

Ishigaki: It's airing really late at night(*); so many people are recording the show. I would appreciate it if they would watch the show over and over, and discover more details that we have incorporated in the show. I also watch the show and take note of sections where I'd check again later. (lol)

(*) In Japan, IGPX is aired at 2:40am


© 2005 Production I.G, Cartoon Network, Bandai Visual, Bandai Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.