The comic Oni Kudaki (Huitula/Matsui) available from Fantacore Media shop.



The very first time I arrived in Tokyo in the summer 1999. It was the beginning of June and the hot and humid rainy season about to begin. The purpose for me being there was to spend the next three months getting more into the production process of Japanese anime. At that precise moment, carrying my luggage through the crowd of Shinjuku station, I wasn't aware that I would be spending my time in that same fascinating concrete jungle for many times to come. It's difficult to define what it exactly was about Japan that had always been pulling me in. And although I knew that one day I would go on searching for the answer to that question, it certainly was surprising how fast that all would eventually happen. A big arigato for that to Mitsuhisa Ishikawa for inviting me as the president of Production I.G, and also to Arata Iwashina, being the production coordinator of Production I.G at that time. Fortunate enough for me, the Japanese editions of the CD-covers I had painted for such heavy-metal band as Gammaray were already known, which undoubtly made it a bit easier for me to get into the community and culture which traditionally, and even still, is relatively closed when it comes to contacts with the outside world and "gai-jins" in general.

Production I.G (Ishikawa/Goto) is a Japanese animation production company which belongs to the ING-Corporation aside with three other companies. Production I.G is the main studio which produces animation for full-length theatre distributed feature films, on video, television and games. Production I.G is owned by Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, who is also the president of the ING-Corporation. Since 1987 the company was previously known as IG Tatsunoko, but changed its name in 1993. The amount of employees is about two hundred, of which part works as freelancers. Production I.G became internationally recognized especially for its full-length anime movie Ghost In The Shell, which rapidly became a cult movie since its publication in 1995, and still is one of the most well-known examples of Japanese anime around the world.

The studios

The studios of Production I.G are situated in Kokubunji, Tokyo, 20 minutes west of Shinjuku by local train (Chuo-line). The studios themselves are located in three different buildings, some blocks away from each other. The main reason for this is the price and tightness of the office space availabe in Tokyo. When expanding, the only option getting more space is to take it wherever being available. Studio Ghibli, known for Hayao Miyazaki's movies Princess Mononoke and Sprited Away, is also located just a couple stations away from the studios of Production I.G.

I.G Headquarters I.G studios Ogura-sensei

Production I.G headquarters and studio Ogura in Kokubunji, Tokyo - The main door of Production I.G animation studios - Hiromasa Ogura on the phone.

Studio Ogura

The BG-department responsible for the background paintings, run by Hiromasa Ogura, is located in the I.G headquarters building some blocks away from the animation studios. At the moment, besides Ogura himself, there are seven young and very talented BG-artists working at the department. Ogura himself has worked as an art director in such big anime classics as Ghost In The Shell, Wings Of Honneamise, Patlabor (The Movie) and Jin-Roh, and his talent has been highly appreciated throughout the anime field.
Ogura-studio is however kind of an exception to a rule, since in Japan studios concentrated on background paintings have generally been independent companies, from which the BG-paintings have been commissioned. I have the great honor to begin my excursion into the production process right away in the Ogura Studio. Although in -99 in Production I.G the backgrounds are being done also with computers, it's delightful to see to how vast extend the backaground paintings are still being hand-painted at Production I.G. That can certainly be regarded as a special characteristic about Japanese animation, of which are a good example also the latest Miyazaki movies. Although a computer is a very usefull tool in many ways, it has to be said that in background paintings painted by hand there is always that special something that really makes the backgrounds alive and breathing. That certain human touch.

At the Ogura-studio employees use a list where they write down their hours. Not so surprisingly the working morals is very high and working is extremely intensive. Work begins about 9:30 a.m. and stops around 08:00 p.m. Half an hour lunch-break is included in the 10-hour working day and only Sundays and every other Saturday is holiday, depending on the department.

I'm surprised of the open-heartedness and kindness I receive from Ogura-sama since the very first time we meet. Despite of beeing a great master at his field, he also turns out to be a very warmhearted and funny person from who I'm able to learn a lot. Despite the occasional minor troubles concerning the language barrier, Ogura-sama becomes an important mentor to me, and a sensei who I will always respect as a top-professional as well as a person.

BG-studio Ogura Suzuki-san Ogura-studio BG-artists: Suzuki, Satoh, Ii ja Chubachi.
Suzuki-san on details.

Besides Ogura himself three of the studio's artists have been making the BG-paintings for the full-lenght anime movie Jin-Roh (1999). Satoh (24), Ii (26) and Kazato (22) have all been working for Production I.G for three years. The average age for the employees seems to be way under 30 years, and usually on the background there is studies at the local art and animation schools.
At the same time paintings are being done for many different projects. Usually the works are being painted on just barely bigger paper than standard A4-paper, Nicker Poster Colour used with about 30 different colors in bottles. On a wet paper first the basic color surfases and tones are being painted with a bigger brush, after which you move on to smaller details little by little. Also the straight lines are being painted with a brush, taking support from a ruler and a stick gliding on its groove. A paintbrush is used only very seldom to achieve some certain effects, still most of the painting is done with a traditional brush. Hair-dryers are also being used for drying the painting when needed. Depending on the project, various different styles are used in the background paintings. In a realistic animation like Jin-Roh also the background paintings are extremely realistic and reveal the professionalism taken as near perfection as possible and the sense of esthetics.
While not working on a precise project, all the freetime is used for making painting excercises, taking advantage of the studio library consisting various books on nature and photography. Also different variations are being done from the same painting, variating the colors and the impression of lighting.

Jin-Roh (feature)

Jin-Roh is the last full-length feature film of Production I.G, produced as a traditional cel-animation. To a large extend the production has been completed by people previously known as the creators of Ghost In The Shell. The story is based on the script of the Ghost-director Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, Avalon). Jin-Roh has been directed by Hiroyuki Okiura who worked as the character designer and key-animator in Ghost In The Shell. In its realistic visual approach Jin-Roh differs enormously from the more common TV-anime style and stylistically reminds a lot of Ghost In The Shell. Also the production schedule has been relatively long, about two years. There are about 900 background paintings needed for the movie of which high state-of-the-art quality has been supervised by Hiromasa Ogura.
The director of the movie, Hiroyuki Okiura, has also worked as the key-animator, character designer and storyboard artist in the production. The storyboard of Jin-Rohin consists of 600 pages and about 3000 drawings. (600 * 5 drawings).

Jin-roh With Okiura Jin-Roh-model heading for the storage.

Me myself, Ghost In The Shell designer Hiroyuki Okiura and studio animator. (Jin-Roh preview at Roppongi).

At the Jin-Roh preview

June the 16th 1999 I have the privelage as the only westerner to attend the Jin-Roh preview organized by Production I.G. At the screening there are also representatives from the media, Manga entertainment and Bandai Visual. The preview screening is being held at the 20th Century Fox theater near Roppongi.

Blood (The Last Vampire)

Blood (The Last Vampire) is a 50-minute digitally produced animation movie which, due to some productional delays is still in production during my visit. The director of the Movie is Hiroyuki Kitakubo, who has also drawn the storyboard for the movie. The original character design was drawn by a freelancer, manga artist "X", but his too sketchy drawing style lead the animation superviser Kazuchika Kise to make the drawings all over again. Well, anything can happen.
There are alltogether 666 shots in Blood (shot/cut), and 30 key-animators. The use of 3D software enables vider use of "camera" angles, and 3D work has been used a lot during the production of Blood.

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