Interview with Animation Creator Junichi Yamamoto [1/3]

The originality that is realized in characters like Pikachu from Pokémon and Luffy from One Piece can create attachment to a work and a sense of reality for it. Techniques, such as 3DCG adopted in Toy Story or the technique called rotoscoping that is used in the currently broadcasting TV anime The Flowers of Evil, form the appearance of a work.

However, that is not all there is to it. “Story” could be given as one of the reasons that make us as viewers deeply empathetic to a work.

So, what is a story. What kind of story moves people? While thinking about such things, we approached animation creator Junichi Yamamoto, who told us about the way to express a storyboard, 3DCG, and a story.

TOM: Is it true that when you were a kid, 80 people gathered to draw illustrations?
Yamamoto: When I was in elementary school, there were so many people who wanted to draw illustrations that an illustration club was made. We would divide the group into 40-40 people, reserve two classrooms, and all of us would silently copy manga, myself included. I have memories about earnestly copying in 4th, 5th and 6th grade. I was also repeatedly doing copies in calligraphy which I was learning at the same time (Yamamoto is an 8th dan in calligraphy).

Later, in middle and high school, after watching Shunji Iwai’s [1] movies such as Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom? and director Hosoda’s [2] GeGeGe no Kitaro, I wondered what kind of structure they had, and tried to make a storyboard for them, imagining that maybe they made up the story following this train of thought.

Maybe because of the many years of experience I had, I grew accustomed to the idea that “if you want to remember something, you should copy it.” I had the feeling that if I imitated people, I would gradually become able to make works worthy of viewers’ appreciation. It’s not merely an imitation, but an inductive approach searching for the work’s essence. In other words, I realized that the trick to progress is remembering the “basic form” once.

TOM: So you imitated various works in your school years?
Yamamoto: Well, even saying that I wanted to learn about works of art and imitate them, there was only a Tsutaya [3] near our house. To me, Tsutaya was the window to the world. I often rented DVDs and watched both live-action movies and anime. I also gathered the pamphlets from anime and analyzed them in my own way.

I think it depends on what period you watch it, but I also ran into works that gave me the impression that “the creator made this for himself.” No matter how miserable the world might seem, in the end, movies and anime give us hope. Maybe that is what motivated me in becoming an animation creator.

TOM: Did you learn storymaking the same way you did with pictures, by decomposing and imitating?
Yamamoto: It’s not only me, I think most authors are like that. In Anemone (a work Yamamoto published in 2011), which is based on the story of Alice in Wonderland, I expressed the concept of wandering into another world and going home having gained something in my own way.

The reason we authors fix our attention on such classical workpieces might be because we are drawn by the intensity of a story that was polished for 100-200 years. I think that if we extracted the common features of the group referred to as ”famous works” or “classics,” we might only find about 20 story patterns that move people emotionally. You can follow a story pattern common in famous works and adjust it accordingly to the present era by introducing Twitter and Facebook into it, for example. Also, while sticking to the form, you can show something that deviates from it. That way, fresh stories can come out of the same story pattern.

© Junichi Yamamoto

[1]: Japanese live-action director. His most known works are Swallowtail and Hana and Alice.

[2]: Mamoru Hosoda is an animation director. His representative works include Wolf Children Yuki and Ame and Summer Wars. In addition to Digimon Adventure, he also directed the film Digimon Adventure: Our War Game!.

[3]: Japan’s largest music/movie rental shop chain.

"Anemone" independent animation © Junichi Yamamoto
"Anemone" independent animation © Junichi Yamamoto
memory7min © Junichi Yamamoto
memory7min © Junichi Yamamoto
memory video continuity 2008 9 © Junichi Yamamoto
memory video continuity 2008 9 © Junichi Yamamoto
Interview with Animation Creator Junichi Yamamoto [1/3] 6
Interview with Animation Creator Junichi Yamamoto [1/3] 7
Interview with Animation Creator Junichi Yamamoto [1/3] 8
Interview with Animation Creator Junichi Yamamoto [1/3] 9

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