American Panels
Japanese Panels

Anime Expo

AX Memories Home

Japanese Guest and Industry Panels
  Focus: Haruhiko Mikimoto
    One of the most popular character designers to this day, Haruhiko Mikimoto answered many eager questions posed by the audience.  Summarizing most of the answers, Mikimoto started out drawing simple characters in grade school and moving on to full mangas in his junior high school years.  He went on to share many manga shorts with fellow artists and soon decided to focus his skills at Studio Nue.  It was there he met and befriended Shoji Kawamori (mecha designer behind the Macross Valkyrie) who recommended that he work on a new mecha show project with him.  Mikimoto submitted his designs to the glee of the producers and the rest is history.  In retrospect, Mikimoto sketched Minmei out as a girl-next-door type, but as the show progressed, so did her personality.  The Macross TV series essentially got most of its influences from pop culture; fashions, idol singers, comedy, and strong females.  Asked about his personal profile, Mikimoto gave thoughts about his favorite medias to work with.  He preferred water colors for drawing and oils for background scenes.  As for his "HAL" signature seen on all his works, he was known as "Haru" to friends and colleagues, but when 2001 A Space Odyssey was in vogue, he decided to go with "HAL" as his popular signature.  Asked which out of all his characters who were his favorite, he smiled and responded with "that is an often asked question," and said he'd leave that to impartiality because he doesn't take a personal preference to any of his characters.  Designs are submitted to the producers and then subsequently more stylish designs are done according to how the show progresses.   Asked about the status of Marionette Generation manga, he confessed that the story tends to get lop-sided and bored or stressed out at times... it was thought of at the last moment.  In Mikimoto's spare time, he enjoys photography instead of drawing to relax himself.


  Focus: Producing Anime
Attending Guests: Junco Ito (Producer of Kabuto), Buichi Terasawa (Kabuto, Cobra, Midnight Eye Goku), Haruhiko Mikimoto (Macross, Gundam 0080), Yoshiyuki Tomino (Gundam), and Ken Iyadomi (Akira Committee, L.A. Hero Producer for Guyver and Orguss).
View of the panel proceedings
Ken Iyadomi (center)
Buichi Terasawa (second from left)
Yoshiyuki Tomino (center)
Junco Ito (center)
Haruhiko Mikimoto (center)
    Following is an excerpted transcript of the panel in response to questions from the audience:

Iyadomi: The position of Japanese animation is not well understood yet.  Licensing and the U.S. entertainment market is very large.  We're still in the promoting stage, spreading what Japanese animation is like through the fans.
Terasawa: There are many levels of control all of which involve numerous designs, story, etc.
Tomino: Absolutely, and the work cannot really begin without guarantee of TV broadcast, especially for shows with giant robots. Mecha shows cannot begin without a sponsor, a toy lineup, etc.  Trying to satisfy all these conditions and incorporate unique ideas to make show different and special is very hard.
Junco: But then, not all productions are like Tomino's.  Most producers only need to control budget, licensing, and the creations.
Iyadomi: And Bandai wants to bring Gundam to US but they don't have the rights.
Terasawa: Of course, there are many different types of animation.  The first type is the comic-to-anime in which a great deal of control is given to the original writer/artist.  The second type is original story-to-anime in which the producers have more control.
Tomino: Every ten years, TV programming changes.  In the early years, the important thing was ratings by comics or stories.  Then came direct links to merchandising; products for girls and guys.  Then came the anime produced to increase sales of those products like video games, model kits, and toys.  People wanted to identify good products with good shows.  Of course, a master like Miyazaki started out with side-stories and is an exception.  From an economic standpoint, a show should be able to recuperate from the investment.
Junco: Nowadays, anime is refreshingly developing more into a medium for artistic expression.  As for the rising number of anime companies to produce all this anime, a few thousand of those companies are actually 3-10 person animation groups.  Very few animation companies have 10 people or more.
Tomino: If you look at the credits, you'll notice repeats of a lot of names (multi-tasking staff).
Mikimoto: Doing many things supplements income such as with stories, artworks, and character designs when you are popular.
Terasawa: Manga makes good money, and spending the money to make good anime works well, too.
Junco: The bigger the production, the better it is.  Unfortunately, theatrical releases to OAV budgets are 10 to 1, but return is about the same.  We have to make do with tiny budgets unlike Disney.
Mikimoto: With increases in the quality of animation production, studios like to emphasize with characters that look more colorful and stylish. 
Tomino: Japanese are envious of foreigners, and they want characters that look more like Caucasians.  We've developed a complex where we should embrace foreign relations with a more international look.  This aspect of Japanese anime can be exploited very effectively.
Terasawa: I believe it's the complexes of war, the Disney complex.
Junco: As well as influenced from American sci-fi films.   Shoujo manga takes influences from the European aristocrats.
Tomino: Unfortunately, good animation requires too many people and labor costs eat up budget.  In the future, CG may help with extra labor.  The staff don't make a lot of money, and at this point, I don't recommend entering the anime field.  The most frustrating part about producing anime are the businessmen who don't care about quality creative controls.
Junco: A worldwide global market would probably be considered.
Iyadomi: If I had the power, I'd bring more anime over to US first. 


  Focus: Yoshiyuki Tomino
    Single-handedly the most popular producer of his time, Tomino has crafted a unique story and molded it into an amazing giant robot show that devours the competition with its style and action and has amassed a large number of copycat shows to reap the benefits. But Tomino is quite a humble man, as most fans could tell in his panel, and admits that Gundam is the worst example of title use for a show's success. To summarize most of the answers, Gundam started out as a three-volume novel series and should have ended there. It was a mistake to stretch it to a span of 10 years through Zeta Gundam and Double Zeta Gundam and much regretted, but the Gundam title was needed for marketing. The subsequent Char's Counterattack movie was supposed to wrap up the entire story by bridging the gaps between Zeta and Double Zeta. It didn't stop there. New creative works such as Gundam 0080, 0083, F-91 movie, and a possible new TV series (later known as V-Gundam) took the throne and helped breathe new life into the Gundam universe with better stories, more realistic mechas, and a wider variety of influential characters, and Tomino is honestly happy to see that.

Tomino had much to say when asked about the making of Gundam and the roots behind the show's success. The original Gundam story was actually never influenced by Heinlein's Starship Troopers story...the show came first and then he read the book after, noticing some of the parallels of the power suit universe. Of course, Heinlein's power suits were vastly smaller than Gundam's Mobile Suits. Tomino also added that as influential as Gundam is, we will most likely not see a real Mobile Suit any time in the near future, but it would be gratifying to see something like it on a smaller scale. The concept for the show was influenced by 2001 A Space Odyssey and Kurosawa's action films, and it there ever were an LD release for Gundam in the United States, Tomino had to first come up with 80,000 friends who would definitely buy it.

Confronted with the Newtype concept, Tomino responded that it is like attaining enlightenment in the realistic sense of earthly religions. He joked that he could not really explain it well because he is an Oldtype so had to describe the experience through his characters in many different ways throughout his novels. 
  Panels were also held for Buichi Terasawa (Kabuto, Cobra, Midnight Eye Goku) Junco Ito (Kabuto), and Keiji Nakazawa (Barefoot Gen)