Translation: A Threeway Conversation with Ebata Risa, Kawamori Shouji and Koyama Kariko
April 1, 2013 6 Comments
From Sheryl ~Kiss in the Galaxy~ volume 3 (April 13, 2011)
Disclaimer: Translation completed 1 April, 2013. As always, any mistakes or misinterpretations are mine and mine alone. Please do not copy and paste this anywhere else online, though you are quite welcome to refer to it in discussions etc.
Post unlocked: November 4, 2015
A conversation with cute songstresses…just kidding! In this discussion, the two artists join the director to spill everything about what happened behind the scenes of Macross Frontier!
Koyama: How did you decide on the design for Sheryl, Alto and Ranka?
Kawamori: For Sheryl, as the top idol of the galaxy, we asked for something that would fit the image of ‘the Galaxy Fairy’, and Ebata-san came through with this splendid picture.
Ebata: One where she was crouched down, hugging her knees…
Kawamori: I felt like it went right through my heart. (laughs) The mood it produced then did it all over again…in the end, Sheryl was the first one whose design was decided.
|This isn’t that first image, but it seems to have been one of the earliest ones…|
Ebata: Sheryl pretty much remained unchanged from that, but Ranka and Alto took forever to design.
Kawamori: It was around 2006 or thereabouts, if I remember correctly. Before I met Ebata-san face-to-face, we’d asked for competitive submissions of designs for some of the major characters – Alto, Sheryl, Ranka, Michel. By the power of that image alone, we ended up asking Ebata-san to design all of those characters. At first, Alto was more of the cute sort rather than a beauty.
Koyama: You mean, something like Luca?
Ebata: Yes, like that.
Kawamori: You could even say he looked like he could have been Ranka. (laughs)
Ebata: All of them were a lot shorter than they are now, both in terms of body proportions and height.
Kawamori: If we talk just about Alto, we’d already confirmed his background as a former Kabuki actor, but he didn’t even have the Japanese hairstyle that he does now.
Ebata: Sheryl was also very cute.
Kawamori: As for Ranka, the general lines have not changed all that much, but her eyes weren’t as big as they are now.
Ebata: She was even shorter than she is now, like, this little round thing.
Eyebrows and boobs
Koyama: In terms of the design, were there any parts that were particularly troublesome?
Kawamori: The hairstyles of the two heroines, definitely. For Sheryl, her initial design had such an impact that we were able to decide everything very quickly, but her hair was unexpectedly difficult to draw. That was my blindspot. (laughs)
Ebata: Fluffy long hair is actually really difficult to draw.
Kawamori: And on top of that, Sheryl would always change her hairstyle depending on what she was wearing! Even the colour of her hair would change. Normally, we wouldn’t ever go this far. (laughs)
Ebata: As for Ranka, we really anguished over her hair, didn’t we?
Kawamori: We tried a lot of hair styles, but we always felt like we’d seen them somewhere before. As we muddled about that, Ebata-san proposed a style that had something of a dog-ear look.
Ebata: So that she wouldn’t look too grown-up, we made it shorter, and then Kawamori-san said that we might as well go all the way and make it move like dog ears do! (laughs)
Koyama: And then there’s that ribbon you can see behind it…?
Ebata: That’s meant to be something like a ‘reverse headband’. (laughs)
Kawamori: It also makes those sides that look like dog-ears stick out a bit more, just like the root of a bird’s feather does.
Koyama: How about Sheryl – was there anything that you’d bear in mind when drawing her?
Editor (addressing Kawamori): Was it your idea to make Sheryl’s eyebrows really thick and handsome? (laughs)
Kawamori: No no, there was nothing of that sort. (laughs) Ebata-san said that it would convey the air carried by foreign talents.
Ebata: Stars like Audrey Hepburn, for example, had very well defined eyes and eyebrows, right? That’s the image I was going for.
Kawamori: And one more thing, when I first saw the design, it was the thickness of her lower eye lashes that really stood out to me. I’d never seen something like that before. But the flip side of this was, of course, that they were really difficult to draw. (laughs)
Ebata: We wanted to make something different from the characters that already existed. After wringing my brains up about it for a while, the thought passed through my head: why have we not seen any characters with thick lower eyelashes up till now? However, we didn’t realise that this was a blind spot until we tried to see what it was like in a long angle shot, and it stood out way too much… (laughs)
|She really does have incredibly thick eyelashes!|
Koyama: Could you tell us now about how the design of Sheryl’s body was developed?
Ebata: We didn’t want her to be just another character with a big chest, we were aiming for well-shaped breasts! (laughs) Rather than big breasts, beautiful breasts!
Kawamori: Due to the tastes of animators (in the industry), there’s a problem in that bust sizes tend to be inflated. (laughs)
Ebata: Even though part of Ranka’s character blueprint is that she hasn’t got a chest…
Editor: In terms of bust size though, isn’t it Klan and Grace, with Sheryl a bit smaller, and then there’s Ranka?
Kawamori: True, Grace’s is indeed bigger. (laughs)
Ebata: That’s just the surplus that comes with being an adult. (laughs)
Kawamori: Sheryl is meant to be ‘slender’, after all.
Ebata: And the person with the biggest chest is probably Nanase, really.
The birth of Orleans
Koyama: How did you go about deciding the clothes that Sheryl wore? The costumes like the ‘White Rabbit’ in the first film, and the second film’s nurse and army uniforms?
Kawamori: For the ‘White Rabbit’ costume, from the start, we had the theme of that concert as ‘cogs and gears’. Besides that, we also had the idea of a dialogue between the black and white Sheryls. But I didn’t really give a directive for it, rather, when discussed it with Ebata-san, the theme evolved from ‘cogs and gears’ to ‘clocks’, and then she came up with the idea of using Alice in Wonderland. From Alice, we decide to go with the (White) Rabbit. And then, we asked Kanno Youka-san for a song to match. At any rate, Ebata-san brought with her a lot of sketches each time, and I’m really grateful for that.
|I’m not sure why it’s more popular myself, but I’m a fan of the ‘White Rabbit’ one, too. ^^|
Ebata: It was as if I couldn’t draw enough, really. (laughs)
Kawamori: The ‘White Rabbit’ design actually came from something Ebata-san drew during the TV series. Amongst the many sketches she produced, I found this one design that fit the image perfectly.
Ebata: Those were some fearsome treasure-hunting skills.
Kawamori: And because the design for the ‘White Rabbit’ was simple and cute, we went with excessive detail for the ‘Black’ one. We also made it much more revealing. But we were really surprised that, after the first film was released, it was the ‘White Rabbit’ that captured the spotlight.
Ebata: True – I never expected the ‘White’ one to be more popular.
Koyama: Next, what about the nurse uniform from the second film?
Kawamori: For the second film, the most difficult thing to do was to make it different from the first. Even though (Ebata-san) gave us a lot of great costumes, there was still some overlap when we animated them. In real life, costumes would become something very different just because of where they were made, but this is really difficult to animate.
Ebata: It’s also difficult to bring the patterns to life.
Kawamori: We held a lot of costume meetings to try to deal with it. Having decided on ‘Alchemy’ as the theme, we found it really difficult to decide on a concept for the stage to replace the ‘cogs and gears’. After we came up with the idea of making the stage ‘a laboratory’, the test tubes and frescos came to mind. And from the test tubes, we came up with needles, from which the idea of making Sheryl a nurse was born. Going through that process actually gave us some costumes that were more fitting for the theme of ‘Alchemy’.
Ebata: You mean the ‘fantasy-type’ ones, non?
Kawamori: But if we had her wear fantastical costumes for an ‘Alchemy’ theme, then it’d be too ‘straight’, so-to-speak. So, going back to the discussions we had over wanting to see some costumes based on uniforms, we thought we’d go with the nurse idea.
Ebata: True, we did have those discussions. However, at the time, we thought that having a ‘Sexy Nurse’ would be rather cliched…
Kawamori: But then we decided that, since we had an ‘Alchemy’ theme, then there was no way we could go with anything but a nurse. (laughs) Furthermore, Ebata-san drew us a variety of sketches depicting Sheryl as a nurse, which was a great help. In the end, we used all of them. (laughs)
Koyama: Finally, could you tell us about the military uniform that Sheryl wore, the one that became a key promotional image for the second film?
Kawamori: Once we came to the second film, this was something that Ebata-san said she absolutely wanted to do.
Ebata: Because it had what we’d call the final battle, what do you call it, the white outfit (白装束)? I wanted it to show her spirit. On top of that, after all the cute clothes I’d given her, I wanted to try something that made her look cool. Speaking of which, that jacket is actually a shortened gakuran* – I just really wanted to draw her butt. (laughs) The highlights on her butt!
* something that the yankee types at school like to wear, apparently. – karice
Koyama: When I was drawing the military uniform on the inner cover of this third volume of Sheryl, that was the part that took all of my attention. My editor kept telling me to redo it. (laughs)
Kawamori: Ebata-san, next time, it’ll be terrible if you don’t draw her from behind. (laughs)
Koyama: Could I ask each of you what your favourite costume is? If there’s something you wanted her to wear, pray tell as well.
Ebata: There’s a black evening dress in one of my sketches that I really wanted to have Sheryl wear. It was a very graceful long dress and made her look very grown-up. It was quite plain, but very revealing, something that would have been fitting at a bar. It was something that we weren’t able to fit into the anime.
Kawamori: We actually have a lot of costumes for Sheryl that we haven’t put out. There were lots of reasons for not using them, for example, they didn’t fit the songs, or were just too difficult to draw.
Koyama: So which is your favourite costume, Kawamori-san?
Kawamori: Well…there are so many fantastic costumes that it’s difficult to choose just one. The first one that I felt was decided in a flash was the dress that Sheryl wore in the final battle during the TV series. It had a good balance between in that it was relatively easy to draw for the key frames, but also rather florid – I really loved it. After that, I really loved the the White and Black Rabbit set once we got that in motion. The extremes that we went to with the Black costume turned out really well. Although she was a rabbit, there was something of a bat in that costume as well. And we decided not to actually give her rabbit ears. I especially like the key promotional image that we have of the half-Black half-White Rabbit Sheryl. She’s in the middle of changing between the two, and that’s just irresistible to someone who makes transforming robots. (laughs)
Ebata, a good workman who does not blame her tools!
Koyama: Ebata-san, which is your favourite?
Ebata: Hm…the military uniform that she wore for “Sagittarius 9pm~” is something that was really inspired by her personality. But I really didn’t think that it would be used. (laughs)
Kawamori: Really? The moment I saw it, I thought “That’s it!” (laughs) It’s normally a properly girded uniform, but in a huge change, super sexy when it’s taken off. It was even better because it had both sides to it.
Koyama: Ebata-san, if possible, I’d like to know a little more about the materials and the set-up that you have when drawing.
Ebata: If I’m using a computer, then it’s a six-year old machine that I paid 55,000 yen for. In other words, if it’s a large picture that I’m working on… (wry smile) I don’t really use a particular desk for drawing. In recent years, LED light boxes have become available, right? Thanks to those, I can draw anywhere, for example, I sometimes pop a cushion onto my knees and place the light box on top of that. That’s the kind of thing I do.
Koyama: So do you use the computer for almost everything nowadays?
Ebata: A computer is really no more than just another tool. Recently, having found that I wasn’t drawing much by hand, I started doing some water colours. I have gotten tired of drawing on the computer, so I also use crayons and stuff. For Ranka’s “Magical Girl” promo image, I actually wanted to use crayons and coloured pencils to give it a picture book feeling. But because my scanner does not pick up the coloured pencil marks that well, I had to touch it up on the computer.
Kawamori: In fact, the illustrations of Sheryl that you did for “Northern Cross”, those sketches that you made with coloured pencils, were so good that we even used them for the ending animation.
Ebata: I really do like using coloured pencils. Unlike paint, it’s something that you can use even when you don’t have water or anything else. The colours, too, can be mixed if you try hard enough.
Koyama: I really like the girls that you draw, because I can feel your love in the colour you put into their knees and shoulder, their wrist joints, and their lips and skin. I was wondering, when you are drawing, which points are you most particular about?
Ebata: If we’re talking about anime, then we hardly ever see what lips are really like, right? So for copyright images (official images made by artists using the characters), I try to make them look like the girls have lip gloss on and so on. Every time we latch upon a new theme, I really pay attention to the lips. It’s the same with clothing materials. I want to draw fur so that it looks like fur.
Kawamori: Ebata-san, you see things from both the male perspective and the female perspective, which is good because you can fulfill the expectations of both sides.
Ebata: Actually, I want to mimic the pure cuteness of Koyama-san’s work.
Kawamori: You’re right, there’s a feeling of transparency in her art.
|I suppose that this could be Koyama’s version of the first Sheryl image that Ebata came up with…?|
Koyama: Thank you. (blushes) Besides the lips, are there other parts that you are particular about?
Ebata: I have a thing for joints – I love drawing things like hands and ankles. People talk about “the mysteries of the human body”, right? With that in mind, just looking at how muscles are attached makes me salivate a little. (laughs) I think it’s just beautiful. I also think people’s sides, the part under their arms, are important. Conversely, when I see people who draw women’s breasts in a perfunctory way, I wonder why in the world they do that. (laughs) And finally, I’m also a woman myself (laughs), so I’m really into shoes. Although we don’t often get to show them in an anime.
The Secrets of the Ending
Koyama: Lots of elements were included in Wings of Farewell, but as the director, are there any scenes you want viewers to pay particular attention to in order to analyse the film?
Kawamori: There are many such scenes. For example, let’s take the concerts. It’s hard to include lines (of dialogue) in the concert scenes, so it’s difficult to advance the story. Instead, we gave each of the concerts a theme – the concepts of ‘alchemy’ and ‘magical girl’ were laid on top of the movie’s theme(s). Viewers may find it interesting to try and link/associate the movie’s theme with the themes of the concerts.
Editor: From the subtitle, ‘[~the wings of love’s separation]’ [「恋離飛翼」= ren-ri-hi-yoku] I got the image of ‘marital vows’ [「比翼連理」= hi-yoku-ren-ri], the phrase that gives us the meaning of ‘two as one’.
Kawamori: Besides ‘two as one’, those two (things) are not things that are similar, but rather there is a sense that they are of different natures. To be precise, we could say they are ‘three things of (three) different natures’. When [beings] that are completely different meet, something new is born – something like that. From the start, all Macross works are permeated by this theme of overcoming culture shock, overcoming the culture gap, and giving birth to something new.
Koyama: Sheryl and Ranka, Alto. Woman and man…that kind of meeting?
Kawamori: That’s one of them. The film was constructed so that you can figure out the outline from your first viewing, but those kinds of meanings are doubly or triply loaded into it. The way we made this film could be looked at in terms of a jungle or a coral reef, each of which can be explored by various routes. Girls might look at it in terms of the love triangle, mecha-lovers might approach it from the mecha-chasing perspective – and so on. And after seeing it many times, you’d have found many routes that you didn’t see on your first viewing, you’ll have a more rounded grasp of the film. That’s how we made it.
Koyama: That’s how it is for me. I’ve completely jumped on that bandwagon.
Kawamori: For example, in the small video that runs during the ending (credits), we’ve taken clips from both movies as well as from ‘Nyan Kuri’, and there’s also meaning in the order of the clips.
Koyama: Other things, like the dialogue and the lyrics, also leave an impression. For example, ‘Open Ranka’ and ‘he’s dancing’「 傾いてやがる」 and so on…
Kawamori: With the amount of time we gave to the songs, the lines of dialogue became shorter, and stronger, holding all kinds of meaning. In other words, rather than everyday language, we used words that ‘dance’「 ‘傾いて’います」(laughs).
Koyama: I really want to ask you about the ending. What kind of image, or what kind of message, have you encoded in it?
Kawamori: For this, please think about what Ranka says in the epilogue, and watch the (small) video that plays during the ending. There’s a hint there, something of an answer. It seems that a lot of people unexpectedly missed that cut in the excitement [of their first viewing]. Even though we** made it disproportionately long (laughs).
Koyama: So there’s also meaning in the ending video and in the song Ranka sings?
Ebata: A lot of people seem to have missed it.
Kawamori: That’s right. Because we’re** mean, we** purposely made the video small (laughs). I thought it’d be a good thing if reactions changed depending on whether people saw it or not. It might be best to view this film from a seat right in the middle of the cinema, and towards the front.
**I’ve made these plural, but they could well be singular (i.e. Kawamori could be referring to himself alone). The Japanese text doesn’t indicate which one it is. ——karice