10/12/2008 Archived Entry: "New York Anime Festival Part 2"
By Jilly Gee and Linda Yau Photographs by Jilly Gee and Linda Yau
Vampire Hunter D Panel
Featured at the Vampie Hunter D panel were Hideyuki Kikuchi, the author of the novel series, Yoshitaka Amano, the illustrator for the novel series, and Kevin Leahy, the English translator for the novel series. Mr. Leahy was not only a panelist, but also the translator for Kikuchi and Amano.
Despite both working on the series for over 20 years, Kikuchi and Amano do not meet much. As for first impressions, the D picture that Amano presented was not exactly what Kikuchi had in mind, but the editor assured him that this was the kind of illustration that sold books. Mr. Amano countered that he has drawn D exactly as he appears in the books, eliciting laughter and applause from the audience. The editorial staff has ample say in which illustrations actually get used, choosing them based on the pacing of the book and spacing them evenly. There are many scenes from the books Amano would like to illustrate, but not enough room for all of them. "When he draws D, he really doesn't have anything decided, aside from the fact that D is going to be wearing a hat, wearing a long coat, and having a sword on his back; he doesn't have any other plan going in." While working, Amano tries not to have anything around so that he can have a blank slate to come up with a picture. Kikuchi, on the other hand, has all kinds of video monitors all over his house, usually playing horror or science fiction movies constantly while he's writing, but even he has to turn the sound down with all the monster noises while he's working. Amano sometimes will procrastinate, at one point sketching a rose that he thought was too good to just throw away, so he gifted it to Kikuchi, which drew some aww's and applause from the audience. Mr. Kikuchi jokes that if he holds on to it for a couple of more years, it will really be worth something.
One audience member wondered why the series was intentionally vauge, which prompted Mr. Kikuchi to take note to put more detail into future volumes as he did not mean for the series to be vague at all. Another audience member asked where Kikuchi's supernatural influence comes from, to which the author replied that he belives that his interest in monsters and creatures like that are in his blood. He visited places where he should have been able to see ghosts and was disappointed that he did not see a single thing. Amano jested that there were all kinds of ghosts at this event. Asked how Kikuchi's life philosophy shows in his works, Kikuchi points out that Vampire Hunter D is set in a post-apocalyptic world, drawing laughter from the audience. More seriously, he would like to do something lighter and brighter, with things that don't exist in the world to make something new.
Question for Mr. Leahy: What are some of the challenges you face in translating Vampire Hunter D? Leahy's answer: I think the main challenge has to be some of the cultural differences. Unlike many of Kikuchi's books, the D series isn't set in Japan, so I don't have to worry about explaining aspects of Japanese life, but social aspects where people are often referred to by what they are, not who they are. The character's name might sometimes only be used once or twice in the entire book and the rest of the time they just refer to him as the doctor, the sheriff, the other brother, the younger sister, something like that. We don't really use that kind of social system in English, so often I'll replace all the references of the sheriff with his name in some cases. I try to balance it out with the way we would say it naturally in English and the way it actually is written in Kikuchi's books.
Question for Kikuchi and Amano: What are your impressions on the movie?Kikuchi's answer (as translated by Leahy): The first one was not what he imagined it, but then the sales took off after that and he really couldn't argue with it. As for the second one, it was everything he ever could have wanted in an anime. Amano: Me too desu. Leahy: No need to translate that.
Big laughs all around.
Asked what other incarnations of the Vampire Hunter D series fans could look forward to, Kikuchi mentioned that the people who worked on Bloodlust are interested in doing another Vampire Hunter D movie, but at the moment, Kawajiri, the director, is rather busy, so if he were to do it, it would be several years down the road. There have also been talks about another game, but due to a hitch in the movie rights, it is in limbo at the moment. There is also a comic book adaptation coming out, which he is looking forward to, to see what people do with the depth of the world.
On the subject of D's inspiration: Kikuchi: As far as him being taciturn, that was also intended to make him the kind of character that women would find attractive or interesting. Amano: Does it not matter what the men think? Kikuchi: Yeah, basically. Much audience laughter and applause ensues. Kikuchi: As long as we've got Mr. Amano's illustrations of D, the ladies should be happy, and that's enough, isn't it?
The panel ended with a dramatic reading of The Wanderer's Ship by Tom Wayland, Veronica Taylor, Rachel Lillis, and Michael Sinterniklaas, voice actors in various anime series.
Yoshitaka Amano Panel
Best known for his Final Fantasy, Vampire Hunter D, and Sandman illustrations, Yoshitaka Amano was the featured guest at this panel. Translating for him was once again Kevin Leahy, English translator fo the Vampire Hunter D novels.
The panel started with Mr. Amano telling the audience of his own idea for a hero, Octopus-man (or Tako-man). The story would take place here in New York and like a real octopus, the hero would change his color to blend in with the environment and use his suction cups to climb up the sides of buildings. It would involve a regular boy who fused with an octopus from outer space. His weakness would probably be that a lack of water would cause him to shrivel up. He would actually be an anti-hero, fighting against civilazation and the way it's destroying the environment, with beings such as Sharkman as his enemy. Amano is rather busy with is regular work, so has not had time to devote to this hero. Someday it will be introduced in some form or another, though, and he looks forward to feedback.
Mr. Amano also talked about another hero story he was working on, which involved a rock musician summoned to a bar where time is somehow twisted and he goes to New York City 10,000 years in the future. From Washington Square, he could enter into different places and time. Amano apologizes that that's pretty much how it stands at the moment, as he has not gotten to the end yet.
What US comic artists do you admire? Amano's all-time favoite comic artist is Neal Adams. Several years ago at the San Diego Comic Con, he actually met Neal Adams and he was thoroughly impressed and very excited that he was actually able to get Neal Adams's autograph. "You know the feeling," Leahy knowlingly says to the audience. When Amano was a teenager, he was really interested in American comics, but there really weren't all that many American comics in Japan at the time. He would go to the used bookstore and wade through the big box of comics priced at ten cents each and when he found one with art that he liked, he would be like, "Score!" It was a short-lived victory, however, because at that time Neal Adams was doing the covers for almost every DC Comics book, but not the interior.
As it happened, someone at DC Comics came to see one of Amano's showings and that was how he was asked to do the Sandman poster. Neil Gaiman took notice, which was how they ended up working on the Sandman project together, kind of like fate. Amano also did a Batman and a Superman poster for them, basically fulfilling all the dreams he had as a kid. All of this happened in New York.
You've worked on several mediums, including paint, glass, pen, ink, and t-shirt. Which is your favorite and what was the most challenging for you? Mr. Amano likes drawing on paper best, the way it bends and rolls. If there's a big piece on the desk, he can roll some of it up and work on part of it. The illustrations in the book ends up being rather small, but he draws them much larger. The reason for that is there are some things that just can't be drawn on such a small scale. While drawing is his job, when his artwork is in the hand of different professionals, it ends up being used in different ways. In the hands of a publisher it becomes a book; in the hands of a game creator, it goes into a game; in the hands of people doing a play, it becomes background scenery. He doesn't worry too much about the actual medium his art is going to be used in because what's important is just concentrating on the drawing itself. After all, if the product is not good, it does not matter how good his drawings are, because a bad product will not sell. That being said, he really doesn't trust the various mediums all that much, as the only thing he can be responsible for is his drawings. The media does have its place, though, as it's thanks to them that he is able to put out books and games and get his works into people's hands. Amano remarks that he probably got a bit too serious with this topic, drawing laughs from the audience.
What are you currently working on? He is working on a new project with Dark Horse called Shinjuku with an artist by the name of Ming. He's got an outline that he should be sitting in his hotel sketching out the roughs for, but he hasn't yet, which is "not good". The story is about Los Angeles and Shinjuku and the deadline is in October, which is "not good at all". It should be out at the beginning of next year. He also has other secret projects in the works and when he goes back to Japan, he has some gallery work to continue, big pieces, two to three meters.
As an artist, over the course of your career, technology has improved leaps and bounds. How has that impacted your style?
As far as technology like CG, you can't really do much with CG. He pretty much sticks with the tried and true thing that people have been doing for hundreds of years with paper and pencil. He doesn't know if it's good or bad that he still does things with paper and pencil. It's just a matter of technology; if technology ever gets to the point where you can draw just as easily as with a pencil, then he will start using that as well. He wants to do the American hero type project, of course, but he also would like to work on some other things on a larger scale, such as walls and murals and ceilings, but he still has to work on his techniques. For example, in Final Fantasy XI, instead of just a regular map as that would have been kind of boring, he wanted to include some of the world view, the mythology, in it. There have been similar illustrations from the Japanese feuding states period back in the 1500's. In a game like Final Fantasy, utilizing the most recent technology, te thought it would be good to use that to express this hudreds of years old artwork. Thinking of the fantasy world as if it were a real world, he wanted to put these mythological characters around the map.
What is it like working with Mr. Kikuchi?
In Japan, he rarely ever meets with Mr. Kikuchi as they are both homebodies. Here in New York is actually the first time the two have spent time together in a long while. He of course always reads the Vampire Hunter D novels before they come out so that he can do the artwork. Mr. Amano jokingly checks around for Kikuchi before continuing. Usually, Kikuchi is running late with his deadlines, so he will write up a tenth of the novel and the editor or the publisher will bring over that tenth. When they get close to the deadline and Kikuchi only has a hundred or so pages written, Amano is given the general gist of the story instead so that he can get the rest of the illustrations done in time for the deadline. What actually ends up happening, however, is that when the story is done, the scene that Amano illustrated ends up not being in the book. He's not sure how it works here, but in Japan, they end up using the illustration anyway. Sometimes the book Kikuchi sets out to write becomes two or three volumes, so some of the illustrations done for the first volume would cover stuff from the following volumes, but it makes for a great D story. That's what's awesome about the story, though, that there is so much story that it won't fit into just one book, that it needs two or three. "But we really can't trust him." Mr. Amano comments that Kikuchi's latest book just came out and it was great.
You've collaborated with many talented authors, including, of course, Mr. Kikuchi and Neil Gaiman. Are there any artists or writers around the world you would like to collaborate with in the future? The people's he's worked with so far have been so incredible that he can't imagine anyone being more incredible, but if anyone knows of someone, please tell him!
On brainstorming and creative process with a project:
It varies from project to project, but basically he looks at what they want and he starts doing lots and lots of sketches. Then from his own sketches, he chooses what he thinks is closest. Out of all the sketches, he might take five or six and show them to the people he's working for and get feedback and then do the same thing again. In the past, he had the experience where he was working on a certain book and he would draw about 10 pictures, get them all colored and everything and then show them to someone and out of those 10, they would choose one and he would do an actual drawing out of that. By now he's gotten to the point where he's not doing all that many roughs anymore or in some cases the roughs are actually becoming the finished product. So it gets a little smoother as it goes along, but that's not necessarily a good thing. As far as work and assignments like that go, it's okay to have some that are kind of easy assignments. They can't all be easy, but by the same measure, they can't all be hard. When you've got a hard assignment and you're working really hard to get something out there, it gives you new ideas for other things as well, so it's good to have a mix of the easy and the tough ones.
On inspiration: He draws his inspriation from places. When you come to New York, there are things you can only think of in New York. For example, the New York Salad project. He was working here in New York, working during the day, and at night he went to make some food. He was chopping vegetables and he had some time, so he was looking at the garlic and sketching it, and the garlic turned into a little fairy. It was about three years ago that he did these sketches and they were put together in a book in Japan. Based on these illustrations, NHK did a 3D animation. Tako-man is another example of inspiration he would not have had if he had not come to New York.
This is an highly anticipated event, since the winners for the masquerade will be going to the World Cosplay Summit, which is a cosplay contest in Japan. Lines to this even began long before the event began.
This is a picture of the press interviewing the first VIP (people who paid $150), and this man waiting was actually a Rie Tanaka fan straight from Japan.
People were actually not allowed in the room, because there was no more seats.
This is a picture of one of the memeber from last year's Team USA.
This is a picture of this year's winners of the Masquerade and heading to Japan as Team USA.
So Sunday came, and the last day of the con was upon con-goers.
A highlight for many fans that day was Rie Tanaka's panel, and autograph. So here is a picture from her panel.
There was this Chalk Art drawing in the dealer room. The artist was drawing the mural especially for NYAF, he began on Friday, and here on Sunday it is finished. An homage to Vampire Hunter D's creators.
This was a cute cut-out found outside near Rie Tanaka's autograph session, which was swamped.
More pictures of the event, can be found at here, or more coverage can be found here, and more.