Hideki Nagaishi: Such as with Castlevania, some American artists are making anime-styled animation. Is there a possibility where you could bring American animation culture to Japan, for Japanese creators to make a new style of anime in Japan?
John Derderian: Anime for us is an art form, and if you look at music, there is amazing hip-hop in France, in Sri Lanka, there’s amazing Jazz in Ethiopia. Could classical music only be made in western Europe? Of course not. To me, when you have a great art form, it ultimately starts to transcend one culture or one country. Does that mean that Peru is going to be bigger than Japan in anime? No, anime will always have its home in Japan. That’s where it’s created, there will always be a great authenticity, and great passion, and great virtuosity to the creation of it. But, as any artform grows, I think there’s a benefit and an interesting element that happens when you get different points of view on it.
We’re not providing an opportunity for someone who knows nothing about anime to make anime. When someone like LeSean comes to us or Brad Graeber at Powerhouse Animation, or some of the great studios in Korea like Studio Mir. The people at these studios, all of them, know so much about anime and they have such love of anime that frankly it’s almost insulting to say they don’t make anime, because they’re so deep in the culture. So for us, we would love to facilitate that where we can, but also, I have to always say, I live in Tokyo, our whole team is based in Tokyo, we primarily make Japanese-based anime, with Japanese studios, manga-based, light-novel based, some game-based, all these things, that’s the core of what we do. I think this is another ‘tone’ of “oh wow, partnering LeSean with MAPPA, interesting.” That’s our viewpoint on it, we’re not on the soapbox about it, we do think it’s a great opportunity to create something fresh and interesting.
Hideki Nagaishi: So, you think the originality of each countries’ artists and studios, who understand and love anime a lot, are good elements for creating something fresh and interesting.
John Derderian: It’ll be something different, right?
We will have a new show, Eden, and Christophe Ferreira talked about the countryside in that show which was taken from Provence, a region in southeastern France. That’s unique, okay, that’s interesting. I mean, it’s set in a futuristic time, it’s not set in any one place, so that’s fair. To me it’s exciting when you have those kind of opportunities. We’ve only been here a day in Annecy, but we’ve met with about four European studios, they to me could be amazing partners with a great animation studio in Japan, and work with them and give some of their ideas and Japan gives some of their ideas. Now, some Japanese studios don’t want to do that, they are very creator-driven, and they want to do everything with it, and that’s fine. That makes sense for them. But maybe other studios will try that. Maybe it’s interesting, maybe it’s not. We’re not telling them what to do, they have to want to do it, right? That’s the way we’re looking at it.
If you talk to animators from Paris, and you’re in France, and then we invite them to Tokyo, that’s interesting. I think we can get a lot of creative fusion and something exciting can come from that. France, particularly, has a huge history of anime, from it being programmed here in the 70’s and 80’s, and then having a lot of French creators moving to Japan, which is very interesting.
We want to encourage global interest and participation in anime. Why would anime become stronger with that? Because it means more people will be watching anime around the world, and that’s going to raise all of the best producers and creators in Japan, including Production I.G. and BONES. They are all going to have more opportunities. That’s the theory.
Hideki Nagaishi: When was the first time you encountered Japanese anime culture?
John Derderian: It was actually in high school, in shop class*2, where there was an exchange student from Japan, and he had the Akira manga, and he would just read it. I was always so impressed with him, and he wasn’t translating it but he would walk me through it, so that was the first time I ever really encountered that. There was stuff I saw like Blade Runner (1982), I had reference points, but to me I thought that it was an amazing art form. And then anime I saw later, and stayed with it somewhat over time, but when I came to Netflix, I really dove in even harder.
*2: A class previously widespread in American education, also known as Industrial Arts class, where skills such as woodworking and carpentry are taught.
Trayton Scott: Could you share any upcoming titles from Netflix originals that you can recommend?
John Derderian: We have some great stuff, and we’ve obviously launched one already this year. It’s a season of anime for us, which really started from AnimeJapan*3 at Tokyo in March, going through Anime Expo at Los Angeles in July. We’ve successfully launched Ultraman, and Rilakkuma and Kaoru, both very well-known IPs especially in Asia. We got a show from a manga published by Shougakukan called 7SEEDS that will be developed with GONZO, a Japanese studio, which will be coming out and we are excited about that. And SAINT SEIYA: Knights of the Zodiac with Toei Animation, once again another beloved franchise that we think there will be a big global audience for.
Something that’s not an original for us that’s probably one of the biggest shows on our slate this year is Neon Genesis Evangelion, which is one of the greatest, most iconic sci-fi shows of any medium of all time that we’re very excited to bring to core fans, who’ve had problems accessing it in any great form, as well as for new fans who may have never heard of it.
One of the joys of Netflix is it being a general entertainment platform, so we have tons of people that don’t know that much about anime, but we can use the power of personalization to find them and to say, for example: “Oh, you love sci-fi shows, we see that you watch all these great live-action sci-fi shows. Then, you might like anime, because anime does stuff in sci-fi that’s very unique.” So, that is very exciting as well.
*3: You can read our special report articles on AnimeJapan 2019 linked below: