Sadly, I'm not the one who did these interviews (wouldn't THAT have been something!) But since I'd like to gather every existing bit of information available about Jin-Roh, I figured I might as well copy the interviews here. Enjoy!
Taken from EX, issue 4.4, JINROH Movie Premiere at the UCLA Anime Festival
Interview with director HIROYUKI OKIURA
EX: This film really feels a lot like Mamoru Oshii's other works. What was his involvement in this film?
OKIURA: Mr. Oshii wrote the screenplay. After that, it was up to me to edit it and come up with everything else by myself. I tried to add my own touches to make this film feel more like my own.
EX: Does this film follow the continuity of the manga or the live action films?
OKIURA: It's based on the manga version, but the events are different in the film.
EX: People are going to compare JINROH to GHOST IN THE SHELL. How do you feel about that?
OKIURA: Well, I think it's a very different film. GHOST takes place in the future, and this takes place in an alternate past. Although there are maybe some similar themes and ideas, the films are different.
EX: This was your first time directing, right? What was the hardest part of that?
OKIURA: I think the hardest part was just trying to keep track of everything. There is a lot of work to be done and so many people worked on the film.
EX: Did you use a lot of computers to animate JINROH?
OKIURA: Not really, not very much. We used it for doing some of the camera work, but we really didn't use it very much at all.
EX: What would you like to work on next?
OKIURA: Well, since JINROH hasn't been released in Japan yet, it still feels like I'm working on it. So I really can't think about future projects right now.
Taken from Production I.G. Interviewing (Part 1) MAMORU OSHII and Interviewing (Part 2) MAMORU OSHII
Interview with scriptwriter MAMORU OSHII
KAMIYAMA: I'm honored to be selected as your interviewer. As you may know, I was once a part of JINROH team. Today, I am happy to meet with you once again. This interview is for the IG website so I'd like you to tell us something new. Let me start from the pre-production of JINROH. When exactly did you plan the project?
OSHII: Uh... I did GHOST (G in the S) about a year and half ago, so that'll make it 3 years ago.
KAMIYAMA: 3 years ago... and what?
OSHII: I planned the project then.
KAMIYAMA: You mean the feature "JINROH"?
OSHII: Yeah, well, not really. It wasn't going to be a feature at that time. They wanted to make a OVA based on a story called "Kenrou Densetsu." It was right after I did "PAT 2". I was wondering what to do next. Then I thought this would do so I brought it over to Bandai.
KAMIYAMA: You mean the comic book?
OSHII: Right. There were 6 episodes and they've always wanted to make it into an anime, so why not do an anime of 6 episodes? At that time, IG also wanted to do a series with me, so it was coincidental. I brought over the plan to Bandai myself. But when I showed up, they showed me "GHOST."
KAMIYAMA: As to tell you why not do GHOST first?
OSHII: Right. "Kenrou Densetsu" was still at pre-production. They wanted me to be the director for all 6 episodes, then I thought of the perfect man for the position. Okiura should do one entire 3rd episode called "Stray Dog" or something. I asked him and he said that he'd love to do it. I don't remember about the other 5 episodes, but Okiura was supposed to do the 3rd. In the meantime, I was told to do "GHOST."
KAMIYAMA: So you ended up doing GHOST instead of Kenrou. And how did Kenrou become the future project JINROH?
OSHII: Well, Manga Entertainment wanted to do another project after GHOST had become such a big hit. Then we thought about doing JINROH together. Manga knew about Kenrou, which had been translated into English and published in the states.
KAMIYAMA: That's how you've decided to do a feature.
OSHII: They wanted nothing else but feature. But since I couldn't do it alone by myself, Bandai has suggested me to use Okiura.
KAMIYAMA: So is it Bandai who had selected Okiura-san?
OSHII: Well, it was sort of mutual. Ishikawa from IG wanted to go with Okiura and so did Bandai. If he was going to become a director eventually, he should do his debut project with us. That was Bandai's request as well.
KAMIYAMA: Bandai said that?
OSHII: Oh yes. Manga also agreed after discovering that he was the chief animator and character designer for GHOST. Then I asked what I should do, and they told me to stay out of the way! So I begged to let me do the script at least and everybody at Bandai made a wry face.
KAMIYAMA: You mean about you writing the script?
OSHII: Yeah, they've already appointed Ito to do the script. Ito didn't want to do it so he refused. I knew he was going to refuse it because he once told me that he didn't want to write a story that had dogs in it, especially after he wrote "Akai Megane." Well, so they asked me to do the script after Ito refused it. You see, I never wanted to do a script-only project, but I figured that since Okiura was going to be directing, I thought I could do it. Plus I honestly wanted to write one myself. Ishikawa was very happy to have me do the script perhaps because of the right schedule. Since I was the original author, nobody needed to argue with anybody else. The script always turns out the best if it's written by the original author. Then Bandai gave us the "go-ahead" sign sometime last June when I was still working on GHOST. I got the script done at the end of July.
KAMIYAMA: Did you talk to Okiura-san while writing the script?
OSHII: the synopsis...
KAMIYAMA: From Okiura-san, you mean?
OSHII: This is the way to go... he said something like that.
KAMIYAMA: So, what was his synopsis like?
OSHII: He always wanted to do a drama, a serious one that is... follow the royal road kinda thing. He told me that the feature will become the real drama.
KAMIYAMA: So, your intention of directing the feature had disappeared by then.
OSHII: I gave up.
KAMIYAMA: If possible, did you want to direct it yourself?
OSHII: Very much so, especially when I wrote the script. Honestly speaking, I still think that I should've done it myself. I didn't want to give it away to anyone else.
KAMIYAMA: When did you first encounter Okiura-san?
OSHII: I don't remember too well, but as far as I recall from Patlabor.
KAMIYAMA: Which Patlabor?
OSHII: The Movie.
KAMIYAMA: 1 or 2?
OSHII: Was it one? Or was he not there during one?
KAMIYAMA: I don't think he did one... (I did some research afterwards, and yes! He was in one. Excuse me for my misunderstanding.)
OSHII: I remember clearly for PAT 2. I mean, I remember appointing him for PAT 2. I had a very hard time.
KAMIYAMA: You mean appointing him?
OSHII: No, the final production, not the story itself. The animation part was a big work.
KAMIYAMA: You mean Okiura-san's animation?
OSHII: Well, Kise was really satisfied with his work. Okiura's scenes are famous among the animators for being the NO key animation, while it's very simple, the final products look good too. In that sense, I knew the name. And I finally got to see and prove it myself. His key animation and layout works were simply amazing. I told myself that I will be using his talent in my work sooner or later.
KAMIYAMA: So the fact that Okiura-san was appointed as the director was not only Bandai's request, but you also wanted to see him direct your work! So what made you decide so?
OSHII: First, he's always been interested in directing. Secondly, there was no one else.
KAMIYAMA: No one else?
OSHII: No one suitable for a director. I couldn't find anyone from IG or close to IG. I thought about Kise at first but he had absolutely no intention.
KAMIYAMA: So Kise-san basically has no intentions or interests in directing.
OSHII: Absolutely not! 100% NO! So I thought that he couldn't be appointed. At IG, there aren't many young talents who can do a feature direction. Only the oldies like myself, Nishikubo and Yamazaki are there to do it. I had always been seeking some interesting people that I can give this chance to, then Okiura came to my mind.
KAMIYAMA: Ever since GHOST (G in the S), there is an image built up as Oshii = Digital. If you had directed JINROH yourself, would you have done a lot of digital processing just like how you did in your GHOST?
OSHII: Yes, I'd thought about it.
KAMIYAMA: But I think JINROH has a completely opposite world of that of GHOST, meaning it's more analog than digital. If you were to use it, it would be a bit different than how you used it in GHOST?
OSHII: Nothing like the 2D world of computers. CGI can be utilized in various aspects such as on the camera works, effects, especially the water effects. I wasn't planning to add 3D textures to that town (the ancient Gothic-style town in Tokyo). I wanted to use it mostly on the camera works.
KAMIYAMA: The camera movement is the key point?
OSHII: I've learned quite a bit while working on GHOST. A computer can do more than just a simple digital processing. You can use it for the analog world as well, especially for the vertical movements of the camera and lens effects, and lots more.
KAMIYAMA: In that sense, you would've utilized a lot of the digital technology.
OSHII: If it was me directing it, I would say so, and the number of animation would be less than half of Okiura's... somewhere around 30,000.
KAMIYAMA: Using digital technology can no longer be an effective sales promotion, so I believe that you are right about your ideas of utilizing it in a different way.
OSHII: Shouldn't we all go in that direction from now on?
KAMIYAMA: The Animo system that they have been using over at IG is supposed to be pretty good too. The vertical movements of the camera can be done on it also. The problem is that Okiura-san is allergic to computers!!
OSHII: He sure hates it!
KAMIYAMA: He'd rather not use it.
OSHII: I know, he prefers not to. It's not that he doesn't know how to use it. He simply hates it!
KAMIYAMA: As a director, he tries to use it, but then he finds out that he can't draw on it.
OSHII: He always says that it's quicker to draw by hand. This is just his nature. It's not the matter of which is better or worse.
KAMIYAMA: When I first read your script, the main character Fuse reminded me of Okiura-san. I mean the nature is somewhat similar to that of Okiura-san. Did you have him in mind when you created Fuse's character?
OSHII: I never thought of that. I never asked Okiura what he liked or what he was interested in or anything personal. All I knew about him was that he wanted to make a drama and portray the complex lives of each and every characters. He didn't want to do any of that fantasy type movies, just dramas.
KAMIYAMA: It is also my first time working with Okiura-san, but I felt that he and the main character are alike. Okiura-san always had this stoic image at first, and as we started working together, his true character came out which was more humanly. That's how I see Fuse too.
OSHII: Well, I never thought about that. I portrayed Fuse exactly as I felt. Whether or not Okiura wanted to change the looks of Fuse was completely up to him. I was only in charge of writing the script. The way I write my script is that no matter how bad the director is, as long as he follow my script precisely, the final product can get a C+ or more upon completion. Truth of the matter is that this is the first time where the director had his own idea that was different from mine.
KAMIYAMA: I see... How does it feel for you to do the script only?
OSHII: Really frustrating! When I see the final product, it is usually very different from my initial concept.
KAMIYAMA: You mean theme-wise?
OSHII: I mean like the idle story of PATLABOR. This is one of the only project where I did only the script. I felt dissatisfied picture wise, but not so much so direction-wise.
KAMIYAMA: So you don't want to do only the script.
OSHII: Basically not. Not that I hate it, but it just makes things difficult. I respect Ito who has no objection or complaints doing it. I don't know how he can do that.
KAMIYAMA: Hmm... I wonder.
OSHII: This is how I feel. The moment you write, you want to direct.
KAMIYAMA: What do you think the script writers feel?
OSHII: I don't know. I'm not a script writer, but Ito said that he sometimes feels the same way as I do. He gets stressed out too, but that's the kind of work he chose to do, so there isn't much he can do about it.
KAMIYAMA: Now that you have finished writing the script, what may be your greatest expectation for JINROH?
OSHII: I will have no control over the final product that is definitely going to be different, so I only hope that they will try to do their best. I'm talking about the pictures here. After all, the final product only comes out as the director wants it. No one knows what's inside until you open the lid. Directing is nothing but to find your ideas and identities in the already-existing script, and you just use them in what you create. In that sense, there is no way to stop it from becoming something completely different.
KAMIYAMA: You may be right. Even by watching the storyboard, the result may be completely different.
OSHII: Right. I really don't want to see the midway progress. I can only say that I'm looking forward to the final product and hope that they all remember the deadline!
KAMIYAMA: Thank you very much for your time.
Taken from Production I.G. Interviewing (Part 1) TETSUYA NISHIO
Interview with character designer TETSUYA NISHIO
KAMIYAMA: I'd like to start with Mr. Nishio.
NISHIO: Yes, please.
KAMIYAMA: How did you get appointed as JINROH's character designer?
KAMIYAMA: Yes, when did you first hear about it?
NISHIO: When... let's see, at first it was nothing like a chief animator or character designer. It was more like a referral from my friend Yoshihara who was one of GHOST animators. He told me about the project which was going to be directed by Okiura-san. I've always wanted to work with him so I thought that this would be the best chance. And then it turned out that they wanted me to be the chief animator!
YOSHIHARA: I was the one who gave Nishio's phone number to Okiura-san.
KAMIYAMA: I see, so without you, Nishio would've never been appointed.
YOSHIHARA: I believe so... (everybody laughs)
NISHIO: At any rate, I still don't know why Okiura-san chose me. I'm still too scared to ask...
YOSHIHARA: I know why. Arakawa-san who was one of the GHOST animators has suggested Nishio to Okiura-san, who at that time was looking for an animator that can create a realistic image using fine lines. Then Arakawa-san said how about the character designer Nishio who did the TV series "Ninku." In that sense, Nishio was going to be appointed either way.
NISHIO: Is that so?
KAMIYAMA: I see. So, Okiura-san knew about your Ninku and really liked it. I guess you found out something new here! I also hear that you'd never spoken with Okiura-san up until your appointment. What was your first impression of him?
NISHIO: Well, you see, there's more to it before our encounter. I had heard about the offer only indirectly, and I didn't end up seeing him until the fall. This was also the time when we were debating whether to extend the Ninku series or not. If the extension were decided, I would've had no choice but to reject the JINROH offer. Nothing was definite at that time, so I wasn't able to respond to Okiura-san yet. That was the situation. If there had been no conflicts, then I really wanted to give myself the chance with JINROH. That's what I had told Okiura-san.
KAMIYAMA: So you didn't tell him yes or no.
NISHIO: No, I guess I didn't.
KAMIYAMA: And this is what leads to the incident a.k.a. the "drinkers' accident"...
NISHIO: That's right, I totally blew it then!
HORIKAWA: What exactly happened there?
YOSHIHARA: He acted gay.
NISHIO: We had a blast. We were crazy that night. It was our first encounter and we ended up drinking throughout the night.
YOSHIHARA: And people found out that you were gay!
NISHIO: Stop that! (laughs)
HORIKAWA: Was it just you two drinking?
NISHIO: No, Kise-san and Oshima-san were there too. Oh yes, and there was Ishikawa-san. He told me the next day that they had chosen the wrong man! (Everybody laughs)
KAMIYAMA: So you were a deep impact to IG.
YOSHIHARA: I asked Okiura-san about his impression of Nishio and he said that Nishio was completely different from what he had heard from other people.
KAMIYAMA: Like this can't be the real Nishio. (laughs)
YOSHIHARA: I was very shocked when I heard the news. I was like what the heck did this man do?
NISHIO: Well, the first impression is always important, right? I wanted to spice myself up! Well, back to the subject. The Ninku extension had turned out to be only 5 more episodes and JINROH also got postponed till February so it all worked out perfectly and I was able to participate at both.
KAMIYAMA: That's right. I remember that you and I came to IG together in March.
NISHIO: Wow, it's almost a year now.
KAMIYAMA: What did you think of JINROH when you read the script for the first time? Did you think it suited your idea?
NISHIO: Not at all. It was completely different from what I had been doing, so in that sense, it felt very challenging. In fact, I had never done a long feature in full vista, over 10 thousand cels, so it was a great chance! I was just so overwhelmed with such a big position offered to me. Plus I had also been interested in the 70's student activists and security threat like the theme Oshii-san uses in his piece. So I gathered lots of information on it, but then despite my time and effort, Okiura-san had decided not to concentrate too much on these topics.
KAMIYAMA: Not a lot of animators like that subject and you are too young to fit into that generation.
NISHIO: Not really.
KAMIYAMA: Well, I guess Nishio was the perfect choice in that sense.
NISHIO: Well, I'd actually done a storyboard on the topic of the student activists in the 70's for my graduation project.
NISHIO: A love story among the student activists. It's about a man whose friend gets killed by an activist and he struggles to become a stronger fighter.
KAMIYAMA: Then he gets his hair cut short and tells the girl that they are no longer kids.
NISHIO: No, no, it's more entertaining than that. Hey, this is going to be on the world wide web, right?
HORIKAWA: I want to see that storyboard.
KAMIYAMA: Yea, me too!
NISHIO: No way!
KAMIYAMA: Do you have your past ideas in your current designs?
NISHIO: Not really. Okiura-san's ideas are very different from those of mine so I can't include any of my ideas into the work I'm currently doing. It's hard. Only the details of their looks, things they carry, etc were something that I had in my "drawer" so I was able to utilize them, but the characters themselves were something that Okiura-san had to show me. Okiura-san has taught me a lot. He's amazing. I was astounded when he taught me how to distinguish the Japanese from the Westerners. It was like a big culture shock for me!
YOSHIHARA: You mean like the colors of their hair, right?
NISHIO: No!! (laughs) Well, then you must be a Westerner yourself with a bleached blond!
KAMIYAMA: But my mustache is black.
NISHIO: Not to forget your eyebrows. I DID learn quite a bit through a year of working on JINROH. The word "compromise" does not exist in Okiura-san's dictionary. He could easily tell if I was working hard or kicking back by looking at my work, and he was always right! I've gotten much better technically compared to last year. I wish I could redo some of the characters I designed in the past. Since I've never done a big scale project like this one, everything seemed new to me. Everyday was full of surprises and I actually learned the real making of movies! One thing that surprised me about Okiura-san at first was that he wanted to decide on his own about the types of layout sheet he was going to be using.
KAMIYAMA: Uh huh
NISHIO: I was like "wow! they start out by selecting the sheets!"
KAMIYAMA: That's one thing that's different from doing a TV series. There is no time to think, debate or worry when doing the series.
NISHIO: That's right! TV series are usually very systematic. Every one has their own task and knows exactly what to do. There is already a solid track and one needs only to follow the track.
KAMIYAMA: How about the part where the characters have no shadows? I bet it must've been difficult and challenging to eliminate the shadows upon doing this feature. You probably had to pause and figure out how to go without the shadows.
NISHIO: Yes, that's the first thing Okiura-san told me. Try reducing the number of lines and go without shadows. He was like, let's try something completely new and different although he seemed a bit unsure about the idea. But then I suggested the same too! Now that I am the one who made the final decision, I knew that I had to be responsible for this idea.
KAMIYAMA: I bet all the animators were happy about your decision. There is no need to work on the shadows.
NISHIO: That's right. I've done elimination of the highlights in the eyes for Ninku, and now I'm doing the same to the shadows. Do you think that I'd be able to return to the normal drawing after this? (laughs) I wonder if studios will ever hire me again...
KAMIYAMA: Just think of it as gaining experiences by losing something (laughs).
NISHIO: Sometimes my habit comes back and I subconsciously pick up a color pencil to do the shadows.
KAMIYAMA: I used to be like that too. I was always afraid that the pictures will look cheap without the shadows. But when you do the film test, the shadowsless characters don't look as bad as you may think.
NISHIO: But no-shadows and less-lines may give the audience the expectation of an action film. In order to increase the number of action scenes, we're going to have to reduce the number of lines. But Okiura-san didn't want to make it an action film. He wanted to make it more dramatic and emotional instead.
KAMIYAMA: I know. He wants to make something more serene and humanistic.
NISHIO: I started to understand his feelings gradually, but then those animators who don't know anything may be shocked.
KAMIYAMA: Hmm, I wonder... We shouldn't go into too much details at this point. Just so that everyone knows, this film is far from an action film.
NISHIO: That's right. Okiura-san said to me the other day that although JINROH is a Oshii brand, he could make it a lot more exciting now that he is the director.
KAMIYAMA: I see. If JINROH had been directed by Oshii-san, we would have had to draw a bunch of headgearded troops!
NISHIO: I haven't drawn any headgear yet... I really don't know what's going to happen though.
KAMIYAMA: That's true. We haven't done any headgear yet (laughs). Just lots of middle aged men. How many of this old dudes have we done so far?
NISHIO: Let's see... how many? Quite a bit, I believe.
KAMIYAMA: I'm afraid that JINROH may become the first animation feature with so many middle aged men involved. (everyone laughs)
NISHIO: You may be right. I've never seen anything like it before.
KAMIYAMA: Even the main character is an old dude!
NISHIO: 27? 28?
KAMIYAMA: I thought he was 30.
NISHIO: The dude looks old for his age. If you compare Okiura-san's main character on his recent layouts to the ones on his initial rough designs, the recent one looks much older. Most of them looked like young boys in his initial designs.
KAMIYAMA: And the heroine is an 18-year-old girl.
NISHIO: Yes, the funny thing is that it's easier to draw old dudes than pretty girls.
KAMIYAMA: That's cuz you're getting old.
NISHIO: IG is famous for producing old dudes! (laughs)
KAMIYAMA: True, like in PATLABOR 2.
NISHIO: Why is that?
KAMIYAMA: Well, Oshii-san is an old man too.
NISHIO: If you want to draw a policeman most realistically, he automatically becomes an old man. Is that a similar reason?
KAMIYAMA: Right, just like there is no pretty girls or young boys in a police squad. There is a girl character whom we refer to as Jibaku-chan. She is the youngest in the story. I guess 15? Oh, I just remembered something funny! Shimizu-san came to me one day and told me, "what is that street Jibaku (self explosion) is walking on?" I had no idea what he was talking about... self explosion walking? Then I found out that he was talking about the girl.
NISHIO: Shimizu-san calls her without the "chan".
KAMIYAMA: Right, he does. Her actual name is Nanami Agawa.
NISHIO: I was the one who named her Jibaku. Some use the kanji for "Jibaku" and some use katakana for "chan". It's supposed to be "Jibaku" in katakana and "chan" in hiragana. The staff was all confused and later confused me even more! Her name is just like Doraemon. You've gotta know where the katakana ends and hiragana begins. (everyone laughs) Well, let's get back to the subject. One of the reasons I chose to do this project is that there are not many pretty girls in the story, unlike most of the anime. JINROH is very different. It may not fall into an anime category. I wouldn't even want to go near the voice recording (post recording) studio.
KAMIYAMA: Ugh... I wonder if there are that many male voice actors. (laughs)
NISHIO: Old men tend to have lots of different voice types.
KAMIYAMA: Yeah, I guess we're gonna have to use some movie actors after all. I don't know if I want to participate in that crowd for post recording. There is going to be at least one day where there are only guys and not one girl!
NISHIO: Ugh... I believe you're right. (everyone laughs)
HORIKAWA: When a bunch of female actors get together, they chat, smile and laugh etc, but imagine a bunch of old men doing that... (silence)
KAMIYAMA: Let's drop this subject. It's too depressing. Now, Nishio-san, what do you think the best scene in JINROH may be?
NISHIO: Best scenes? You mean in the story?
KAMIYAMA: The climax of the story and also what you think is the best in your own work.
NISHIO: The climax will depend on Okiura-san... oops! (laughs)
KAMIYAMA: What about the part where you can't have anyone else do it but yourself?
NISHIO: I'd say the mob scenes. I want to make it as good if not better than the one from Akira.
HORIKAWA: It must be hard to make a good mob scene. I wonder what kind of information the audience or the people who are not involved in anime productions gets by watching the scene.
NISHIO: People who don't know animations?
HORIKAWA: I assume that the only people who get excited over the mob scenes from Akira and Ponpoko are the ones who have experienced making it.
NISHIO: But when Nostradamus was played in Japan, they made a big deal about the mob scenes made by CG.
HORIKAWA: They made some great profit out of CG.
KAMIYAMA: CG was popular and new then. Lion King was the same too. They used CG for a herd of buffalos.
NISHIO: And we are doing all that by hand. That's going to be our killer promotion! The other promotion would be the complexity of the story. JINROH talks about the dark and hidden aspects of the police organizations and systems. Since the story is so real, some people advised us to do a live action instead of an anime. But I personally prefer to see this kind of stories in anime.
KAMIYAMA: I do too. Oshii told me this before. He started out with PATLABOR 1, then 2 and then GHOST IN THE SHELL at last. They all have very complex stories, and that's why they became wildly well known. I think that is a good start. I respect his strategy. Unlike Ghibli who became popular doing simple stories, IG should do the opposite. We'll do the heavy stories, which is more difficult to make into an anime.
NISHIO: Although the fans are still a minority in the anime industry.
KAMIYAMA: That's right. Guess how many cuts we are doing for JINROH? 1200!
NISHIO: My goodness! 1200?
HORIKAWA: No, 1300 cuts!
KAMIYAMA: And you are the only one chief animator for the entire 1300 cuts!
NISHIO: That's right, me alone. I guess that's what's most significant about JINROH!
Taken from AnimeLand, issue #56, (via C.A.P.O. Headquarters) Talk with the director of Jin-Roh
Translated from French to English by Daniel DeLorme
Interview with director HIROYUKI OKIURA
ANIMELAND: The path you've taken, though it places you in a specific school of anime production in Japan, is not necessarily evident to see from abroad. Born in 1966, in Osaka, you have committed yourself professionally to animation as soon as you came out of college, in 1983. Can you explain the basis of your suprising precocity?
OKIURA: To say the truth, I didn't start working immediately after college, I first got in [lycée], but two months of it were sufficient to make me regret this decision, and I then turned to animation. I've always drawn since childhood, and I discovered the field of animation when I began college. For the whole duration of my studies there, I continued to devote myself to it with friends, in the context of a club which we had created. This is what explains that, when I decided to abandon my studies, I already had a level of competence allowing me to work in this sector.
ANIMELAND: The "Anime R" studio, where you began as inbetweener on television series like Votoms or Galient, is part of the production structures based in Osaka, used often for sub-contracting... What were their main activites and how long did you stay there?
OKIURA: It is indeed a sub-contracting studio which at the time worked mainly on the robot animated series of the Sunrise company. I worked there for seven years, until 1990, date at which I became free-lance.
ANIMELAND: As part of that studio you were entrusted in 1985 with the role of key animator, but also and most importantly the role of animation director on the Vismark (Sab Rider) series, and directed for the first time the animation of all the machines and mechanical parts (designed by Ogawara Kunio) pour the television series SPT Layzner the following year : how do you explain the suprising speed with which you got to the highest technical responsabilities?
OKIURA: What I can tell you, it's that having of course begun, as everybody, as inbetweener, it's on Vismark that I really "animated" for the first time. It is after the beginning of the series that I took part as key animator, and only near the end that I was given the direction of animation. You have to know that this series, which lasted about a year, had been directed from the start (NOTE : for the episodes sub-contracted to Anime R) by Taiguchi Moriyasu, the president of Anime R when he became too busy working on other things, we need a replacement. It's because of this that with an animator named Osaka Hiroshi, who has recently directed the animation in episodes of titles like Escaflowne or Cowboy Bebop, we were given the shared direction of animation on this series, each one working on half of an episode. As to whether the speed with which I climbed the ladder of the profession is a common thing, this kinf of progression varies noticeably depending on studios, and so I can't say much of real significance. But I indeed believe that in my case, things went faster than average.
ANIMELAND: Akira and Venus Wars, in 1988, are your first experiences on big screen movies, and the following feature films of your career, like Hashire Melos or Patlabor, contribute to the impression that at this moment appeared a generation of animators forming a specific group, marked by a tendency towards hyper-realism and very meticulous research to that end.
OKIURA: I have to say that Otomo Katsuhiro, who came from manga to which he had left the mark of his talent, and where he had been a sensation for years for his style and his universes, has also marked the professionals of animation with a similar imprint. Many are the animators of my generation who, having read his manga in their youth or at their beginnings, have been deeply impressed by his graphics, his sense of design, and had from this a decisive influence in their vocation or their work. He brought a new touch and orientation of his own, in his animated works as well as his manga.
ANIMELAND: Most of the movies of that "realist" school, and in particular Akira, have strongly marked the public and the animators of the young generation, in France also. To be more specific, the development of the Osaka studios is largely unknown abroad, and personally, the main example that comes to mind, in terms of career, is the one of Sadamoto Yoshiyuki (Evangelion)...
OKIURA: For Sadamoto and a few other members of Gainax, it seems to me that they're not really originating from Osaka, but only learned their craft there... It is there with Anno, notably, they animated the sequences of the Daikon Films (NOTE : short animations done in an amateur style for a science-fiction convention).
ANIMELAND: In your case, when did you move in Tokyo?
OKIURA: Back when we were making Roujin Z, in 1991. This project coincides with my passage to independant status. Until then, even for feature films like Venus Wars, I had invariably worked from Osaka, with the exception of Akira, for which I went to live in Tokyo during six months...
ANIMELAND: This move also brought a change of level in your career, seeing that ever since, you have worked almost exclusively on cinematic productions. On that subject, Hashire Melos, your subsequent feature film and your first experence in character design, is a unique movie in your career by its theme and its historic nature. The look of these occidental protagonists, rather particular too, was it inspired from a greek source?
OKIURA: For that movie, Osumi Masaki, the director (NOTE : producer notably on the Moomins and the first Lupin III series) guided me with his advice in this design work, which I integrated into the general appearance of the characters. At the time, there weren't as many occasions as today to show this kind of movie abroad, and personally I never thought that this one would be seen outside of Japan. It's the reason why I focused on creating characters who would look natural in the eyes of the japanese public... In particular for the hero, Melos, I designed him brown, with a look closer to japanese standards and a facial form easily touching to our eyes, in contrast to the other characters, with more prominent occidentals traits.
ANIMELAND: This movie also distinguishes itself, it seems to me, by its description of a historic daily life, its stakes, as well as the status that was confered to it by the recommendation of the Japanese Ministry of Education.
OKIURA: In short, there is nothing in common with my other works. When I learned of this project, at the beginning, I told myself that this simply wasn't me, and it's only after having discussed it with Mr. Osumi, and after acquainting myself with his vision of the project and the adaptation he intended, that I made the decision of committing myself to this feature film. As for the results, I must tell you that apart from Jin-Roh, it's my favorite film among all my works...
ANIMELAND: Afterwards you were key animator on the second Patlabor movie, and on the first segment of Memories, project on which you met Otomo once again after Akira et Roujin Z. How did you come to work on the Magnetic Rose part?
OKIURA: In fact, on Memories, the idea was to get together a team for the first, and if Stink Bomb, the second part (to which I also contributed a little), was produced at Madhouse, the two others were produced at 4oC (NOTE : Otomo's studio). The director of Magnectic Rose was Moritomo Koji, and the animation director was Inoue Toshiyuki, with whom I worked many times since Akira. On Melos, notably, his presence had been a great support for me, and it seemed natural for me to return the favor and help him on his next project.
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