Production I.G> WORK LIST> Le Chevalier D'Eon> SPECIAL FEATURE> Les 24 Chevaliers Part XX: Hideki Ito (Episode Director)

Les 24 Chevaliers Part XX: Hideki Ito (Episode Director)

In this XX part of our ongoing Les 24 Chevaliers interview series, we introduce Hideki Ito, another episode director and storyboardist who worked in Episodes 5, 10, 15 and 20.

Part XX
Hideki Ito's In principio erat Verbum: "Encounter"

Hideki Ito
Managing director of Sakura Create Ltd., a production studio he founded in Ueda, Nagano Prefecture. Ito worked for many famous TV series, including The Prince of Tennis (animation director), FullMetal Alchemist, (animation director), Otogi Zoshi (animation director), Ayakashi – Japanese Classic Horror (character designer and animation director in Yotsuya Kwaidan) and Eureka Seven (animation director).

What made you join the production team of Le Chevalier D'Eon?
Producer Nakatake approached me as we had already worked together in I..G's TV series Otogi Zoshi. When I heard about the project proposal for the first time, I liked the story immediately. It's a history drama and the portrayal of characters was appealing. Compared to other typical anime works, there was something unusual about its motif and theme, so I was a bit worried if my studio couldn't handle it, but I really wanted to do it. So I decided to spruce up my staff and accept the job offer.

Please explain your job as an episode director.
First of all, after receiving the script, I had a meeting with the director and then start drawing the storyboards. Although this was the first time I worked with Director Furuhashi, I felt I could fully trust him and I thought I should really come up to his expectations. As for the script, Yasuyuki Muto did a splendid job. I was conscious not to ruin it. Muto-san had totally immersed himself in the world of Le Chevalier D'Eon to write the script and that pressured me to draw high quality storyboards.

As for the actions and movements of the characters, I tried to omit pointless motions to minimize what I drew, so it would be simpler for the audience to comprehend. Actually, if you trim down unnecessary motions, what's left stands out clearly. Then you can identify the nucleus of the story more clearly too. When we actually started working on the drawings, I mainly became a traffic controller, so that the animation staff could work without stressing themselves.

Storyboard and frame from episode 5.

Could you tell us about your company Sakura Create Ltd.?
Some time ago, I left the anime industry and started working as a carpenter in Azumino, Nagano Prefecture. Then there was a development in Ueda, three mountains away from Azumino, to start an anime studio. I thought if there were young people who wanted to work in the anime industry, I should lend a hand, so I joined them. In the beginning, most of the staff had no experience. Gradually, the studio expanded and we even set up a second studio in Tokyo. And we finally reached a point we dreamed of, that was to take "gross orders." Anyway, I hoped all of the staff took advantage of our teamwork and kept enjoying the work.

How did the staff meetings for Le Chevalier D'Eon go?
What stunned me at these meetings with Director Furuhashi was his quick decision making. As the busy production progressed, I saw him handle numerous meetings one after another. I was convinced that the frequency of his brain clock had to be different from mine. As I observed him at work, I realized if it wasn't for him, building the framework of the entire project could not have been possible. I learned a lot from him.

And the script by Yasuyuki Muto was awesome. I felt his energy in the lines. He is actually a very passionate "blazing" man when you talk to him. And both of them liked my storyboards. That was the best moment. I would say I didn't just work for the project, but it was more like I was called to or attracted by this work.

And the art director Ono-san helped me greatly. Even when he was running short of time, he would appropriately fulfill a request I made. I don't know how to thank him for constantly coming up with a superb art finish. As for the animation, I wanted to draw too, since I am an animator myself, but I tested my patience to step back and took to steering my studio staff and focus on the storyboards. I feel very fortunate to have very hard working people in my studio. Each animator has his or her own style, so I tried to assign work so that they can utilize what they are good at.

Storyboard and frame from episode 10.

The story's concept is based on real history. Is there anything you try to be careful about when directing?
In the period just before and after the French Revolution, almost half of the common people were living in a rough condition similar to that of beasts. On the other hand, aristocrats had a sophisticated life of excess. People suffered and survived in a gap in between or in the chaotic mix of both blessed and beastly things. I wanted to portray these people in Le Chevalier D'Eon. I was always thinking about the extent to which I could express the "thoughts" of people in those days. And also I wanted to recount the story through D'Eon, who was a French diplomat. He was a patriot and traveled abroad with missions. He witnessed all sorts of things, so he was an observer of an era, and a witness of the history. By illustrating the brutality of the era, I hoped to shape the story of Le Chevalier D'Eon.

And also, I did not want to create inaccurate images that would be obvious to the French people who might watch the show, so I checked several reference materials to be historically accurate. I think the information delivered on screen is so humongous that it would be difficult to digest everything in one viewing. I am motivated to create pictures in which the viewers will find something new every time they watch it, over and over again.

Which character do you like?
Cagliostro, you bet! (lol) I can understand him without difficulty. He is exactly like me. I feel so close to him. He is a drunkard, but tough. I think he is actually a very capable man. Compared to Vorontsov, who was born an aristocrat, Cagliostro was a commoner without title or fame. So he never lived for an ideal and because of this, I think he led a happy life. And of course as he lives with young and beautiful Lorenza, he should have had nothing to complain. (lol)

Cagliostro (right) and Lorenza (left).

Please leave a message for the audience.
I hope you will watch the show over and over again. I am sure you will discover something new every time. And for those who have never seen Le Chevalier D'Eon, I definitely hope they will. I would be pleased if the audience finds the real history interesting after watching the program.

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