Production I.G> WORK LIST> Le Chevalier D'Eon> SPECIAL FEATURE> Les 24 Chevaliers Part XVI: Hideyo Yamamoto (Episode Director)

Les 24 Chevaliers Part XVI: Hideyo Yamamoto (Episode Director)

It is about time to introduce another figure in an animation TV production, the episode director. Eventually, 13 episode directors participated to the series, including series director Kazuhiro Furuhashi himself. Episode directors take care of single episodes, and not rarely they are also in charge of the storyboards. In this sixteenth part, meet Hideyo Yamamoto, a long-time collaborator to I.G's works, who for the Chevalier D'Eon worked in episodes 2, 8, 16 and 22.

Part XVI
Hideyo Yamamoto's In principio erat Verbum: "Revolving!"

Hideyo Yamamoto
Episode director and storyboardist. He started his career with Production I.G and moved to Bee Train before becoming a freelancer. Major works include the TV series Noir, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Otogi Zoshi, Eureka Seven, and the OVA The Prince of Tennis: The National Tournament.

What made you participate in the Le Chevalier D'Eon project?
I had previously worked for Otogi Zoshi (*) and that led them to offer me work for this one. When I heard the story concept, I thought, "Story situated in France on the eve of the French Revolution and the main character getting into sort of like a spy activities - that's interesting!" and I accepted the offer.

Please explain your job as an episode director.
Roughly speaking, I am like a mediator who passes on the series director's intentions to the staff, like the animators, the background artists and so on. I don't simply pass it on, but I add my own ideas. Director Furuhashi let me work freely to a great extent.

The concept for this anime is based on actual history. Is there anything you keep in mind in your role?
We had a very difficult time imaging things relating to the lifestyle in France, Russia and England in that period. For instance, what kind of cosmetics did women use in those days? Or how did they take baths? The resources were limited, so I am sure the people who prepared them have worked very hard. For some of the things we weren't able to dig up, we had to create them from present day examples and make them look real. And in Le Chevalier D'Eon, the characters are expected to look real and the theme of the story is grave, so I made sure that the characters did not overact like typical manga characters. And I also tried to show contrast between darkness and light to give tension to the scenes. In this sense, I like the scene where you can see the exchanges between Durand and Maximillien in the Episode 16. This is one example of showing in detail the emotional swing of the characters. These scenes as well as the action-filled scenes give focus to the story.


Comparison between storyboards and actual scenes, from episode 16.

How were the staff meetings conducted?
Director Furuhashi let me decide the rough outline, so we kind of had meetings to focus on the details. For instance, the sword duel between Durand and Teillagory in Episode 2. We paid attention to the character details such as, "Teillagory is a veteran sword master, whereas Durand shows his inexperience by making unnecessary moves and lacks self-composure" or "Durand always teases Robin and treats him like a child." Of course, Robin is the only harmless character in the story and all the rest have something up their sleeves, so it's complicated. As for the storyboards, too, I basically prepared them in the usual way and it was up to the director to finalize them. There were also meetings with the animators. I gave brief guidelines for the scenes and character psychology at the first meeting and that's it. I don't give detailed instructions. Basically, I leave it up to the animators' imagination and when I review them, I'd ask them to tone it down if there are excessive actions or add more actions that seem necessary. There are quite a few action scenes with characters wearing frilly dresses; it was really a lot of work.

Is there anything new you are challenging as an episode director?
In the unsettled days immediately before the French Revolution, the characters of Le Chevalier D'Eon change their standpoint in various ways as their own value systems crumble and their hidden ambitions uncover. We did pay attention to how we portray the psychological changes they go through. We tried to render not only the clear superficial expressions, but we also tried to convey deep thoughts by means of slight nuances. On the other hand, we did try some extreme facial expressions, too, even though it's difficult because many of the characters have pretty faces. For instance in Episode 16, when Mary Charlotte evokes her elder sister's spirit in a ritual, we intentionally put on an expression that faintly recalled a horror film with wide open eyes. In these scenes, we took a risk in expressing the "scariness" to the extent of ruining the character's original personality. By doing so, I think we were able to showcase the concept of the story better.

What did you discover or gain through working in this project?
An exclusive advantage in working in a digital environment was, for instance, when we had to move characters in a small frame, we were able to first create animation using a magnified version and then later digitally shrink it. These small ingenuities accumulated to improve the finished scenes. They let me apply these techniques in other projects. The best part I can point out can be seen in the background pictures such as the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, where we used the camera mapping technique. The amount of information that's dealt on the screen has increased tremendously. Compared to the older animations, it's just amazing how far we've come. On the other hand, when we need to emphasize the emotion of a character, we zoom up on this character and reduce the amount of information on the screen intentionally. It's wonderful to have more of these options in screen directing.

Who is your favorite character?
I'd say Teillagory. He is a subdued, composed and mature person. I think he is really cool, because he is very skillful with swords, but at the same time, he could be mischievous. In the second episode where he makes his first appearance, I concentrated on displaying his neat sword moves.

Finally, could you give a message to the viewers?
Please enjoy the show to the end! We have surprise twists that build up to the very last episode!

(*) The line producer for Le Chevalier D'Eon, Tetsuya Nakatake, was also the line producer for Otogi Zoshi.

© Tow Ubukata · Production I.G/Project Chevalier 2006