“The animators can enjoy putting the characters in motion, and the viewers can feel that enjoyment as well”
You’ve been creating works that are highly original. I would like to ask you three questions on how you attained that originality.
– Please let us know your criteria when you select a project to take on. What will be the focus?
CHOI Eunyoung: We want to make works of animation that I have hardly seen before. However, it doesn’t mean we are able to make anything that has never existed in this world, so when selecting a project, we remain calm and think about whether we can do it or not, and what new challenges we can take on by carrying out this project.
Proceeding with a project relating to the same type of work is straightforward, and trying something new is not an easy task, but I find it important to have the courage to move forward.
For example, we took on the challenge to produce a feature film for families that became Lu Over the Wall, and we tried making a different type of feature film that led to The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl. Because we took on the challenges of these two feature films, we felt confident in taking on the challenge of carrying out what is now DEVILMAN crybaby, which had an absolutely different style.
When choosing a project, we also consider training the young talent. For a feature film project, only one director and one layout/animation director are assigned to lead the production team and manage everything. But in the case of making a TV series, one director and one layout/animation director are required for undertaking each episode, so the opportunities for young creators to take on the challenge emerge. It is risky to assign jobs to inexperienced young creators, but I think taking that risk will nurture our human resources.
– Could you please let us know what your studio takes special care in through the production process of each animation project, whether that be design, animation, story structure, etc.?
CHOI Eunyoung: For stories, and because the story has a different theme depending on each title, the challenging parts of the project during production are completely different each time. Nonetheless, we’d like to move and inspire viewers by faithfully representing the narrative of each story.
Additionally, we are actively using one of the merits of animation, which is portraying movements with a liveliness that cannot be expressed by actual real-world actions. Once the theme of a work is confirmed, we then think about how to get the movement expressed in the animation that embodies the theme, which is also the reason why we pay attention to the character design and their backgrounds. If a character has a complex design, including many lines, animators would require time and effort to draw even one picture of it, creating smooth movement in animation is a difficult task. However, if we grab the bull by the horns and simplify the design by reducing the number of lines, we can possibly get the characters to move around twice as much, and the animators can enjoy putting the characters in motion, and the viewers can feel that enjoyment as well.
– Animation is the aggregation of the creativity of many creators. What qualities does your studio look for on the selection of each staff for a project team, production environment or the management of each project/production team?
CHOI Eunyoung: The Japanese animation industry has amazing traditions, so I do value them and came to Japan because of them. However, due to the decline of the population in Japan that will lead to a shortage of creators in the future, we are taking on new challenges while considering how to possibly maintain the Japanese animation industry’s traditions and preserve the current standards in creating content.
If you have the willingness to take on new challenges, you will definitely make many mistakes as well. For example, if I convinced everyone to accept a challenge by explaining in the beginning that I found it quick and easy to proceed with the title by utilizing this new method, then everyone will put effort in and try to apply that new method, but sometimes we get scolded for that when they feel the method is rough and careless. Nonetheless, we think it is important to keep taking on new challenges based on that feedback, rather than revert back to our old ways because we got scolded for a new method.
Many of the studio’s works continue to win awards at film festivals around the world. Why are your works highly regarded worldwide?
CHOI Eunyoung: Film festivals award the works born from challenges, hard work, and contribution to the animation culture, rather than the works making lots of revenue. Otherwise, I think many studios and works would be focusing only on what’s best for business.
Science SARU is still a young studio and there are many creators, including Mr. Yuasa, who are proactive in facing new challenges, resulting in very unique works that take on new stories and ways of expression that I have never seen before, and I think that is what makes us highly appraised.
“Members who can build strong teams with strong management are necessary.”
Beginning with the releases of two feature films in 2017, high-quality and attractive titles directed by Mr. Yuasa have been created at breakneck speeds. What is the secret to the production process?
CHOI Eunyoung: There are conflicts between creators and management from time to time, but I think the important thing is that after planning, everyone does their best to follow the schedule tightly and sprint to the goal. In my opinion, many people can’t do it without compromising somewhere, so for that purpose members who can build strong teams with strong management are necessary. I think it’s a big deal to have Mr. Yuasa guiding the team with strong leadership while providing a lot of new ideas, with the staff working on site supporting him.
For example, if we spend four years making one feature film, we will gain about three titles worth of production experience at most in a decade. On the other hand, if we make two or three TV series every year, the amount of experience we gain for that same decade will be completely different. Therefore, when we think about nurturing young talent, we find it necessary to create a certain amount of titles, but if we take on too many projects, we can’t concentrate on our creative work, so keeping that balance is very difficult.
I don’t know what will happen in the next 10 or 20 years since the studio and staff are still quite young, but they agree with me when I say, “let’s take on a challenge!” I think this is something we can only do now, so we are creating many titles.
Are you interested in collaborating with overseas creators, studios or markets?
CHOI Eunyoung: I am very interested in overseas marketing and international co-production. Since Japanese animation comes out with great content, I really think it should be expanded to across the world more than ever. The culture of watching animation has matured very well in Japan. On the other hand, there is a high potential for growth in the animation culture overseas, so I think there are business opportunities waiting.
Please tell us about the vision and future outlook of the studio, both in Japan and overseas, and the personnel and challenges you are seeking.
CHOI Eunyoung: I think it is going to be a lot of work, but I would like our studio to “Stay Hungry”. In terms of the 2D animation culture, Japan has matured the most in the world so it is very difficult to create works that are considered “good” in Japan. This is the reason why it is very important for us to create works that will be valued in Japan and deliver those works worldwide.
In the past, niche animation works were made for Japan only, but now they have been sold widely overseas. Therefore, at Science SARU, we can develop the animation that we love and care about and sell that around the world, even if the potential market in each country is not big and also the fact that Hollywood produces mass-market titles with enormous budgets. I think this is the way of the content business in the 21st century.
The talent we are seeking are those who can focus on producing new things. Of course, it is definitely a necessity to have a sense of stability as a human being, but I think it is very important to have the spirit of challenge as well. From now on, as we think the world will transform significantly, we are waiting for people who can move forward with a positive mindset without considering change as an unpleasant thing.
[Interview Date: 7th May, 2020]