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Interview: Anime Producer Mitsuhisa Ishikawa

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We sent Keith Miles to Imagina, one of Europe’s biggest digital content festivals, to talk to Mitsuhisa Ishikawa,about Imagina, British anime and what Production IG have planned for the future.

SKWIGLY: Can I start by asking why it is important for an anime producer to attend Imagina, a European animation festival?

MITSUHISA ISHIKAWA: Production IG is a production house in Japan producing titles famous allover the world, such as Blood Lust Vampires and the animated sequence in Kill Bill. It is interesting that many people know what we produce but they are never really aware of who the people behind anime really are. I would like to show the human side of Production IG and a human face to anime.  Imagina is an opportunity to do this whilst meeting creators from throughout the world.

SKWIGLY: Interest in anime has increased greatly in the last few years and its popularity has spread throughout the world. What is the next step for anime?

MITSUHISA ISHIKAWA: It is true that Japanese animation has become huge, known throughout the world.  However our feeling is that anime is still ‘underground’ and has a way to go before it is in anyway mainstream. So the next step is to make Japanese animation part of the mainstream animation business. In Japan we produce a very high quality product but we still need to recoup our costs. If wedon’t get to this next step, to this mainstream level, it is going to be very difficult to produce such high quality films for very much longer. It is important to appeal to the younger generations so that we can achieve this mainstream goal. Having a young target now will mean that in ten years time this goalmay be reached.

SKWIGLY: In London last year, County Hall held an anime festival and competition. A studio has been set up with the aim of developing a kind of British anime style(serious laughter from Ishikawa and translator).Do you think that Japanese anime, with all the cultural attachments that it has, can achieve this mainstream goal or will it be of necessity watered down in order to do this?

MITSUHISA ISHIKAWA: If I am asked to bet on whether a British version of anime would succeed, maybe I would have to say no. As a matter of fact in Japan, let’s say we produce 100 titles but only 2 of them will be really successful. So the success of Japanese animation is based on the quantity and our percentage of success. In England it would be impossible to produce 100 titles and therefore be able to sift the good from the bad. You won’t have the comparison between good and bad production, and this is really the secret of the success of Japanese animation. If you don’t have the numbers to compare between good and bad, say you put all of your efforts into one or two productions, it is impossible to succeed. Logically the chances of you hitting a gem are against you.

SKWIGLY: Production IG has been established and successful for some time. What is next for the studio?

MITSUHISA ISHIKAWA: In Japan animation is strictly targeted to male or female, whether teenagers or whatever age. There are different targets for each age, sex or type of group. So Production IG has produced animation for male teenagers and now in the production line are tiles which will target a female audience. Already there is a TV series set in the 8th Century as well as others whish will have that female target. The ambition would be to eventually produce titles that would appeal to all of the various targets. Films such as Ghost in the Shell: Innocence would never have a large female following.

SKWIGLY: What volume of work can we expect from Production IG over the next few years?

MITSUHISA ISHIKAWA: Currently an anime feature would take between one year and eighteen months to produce. A film such as Ghost in the Shell: Innocence would take four years. It is always a balance between production and cost on the one hand and quality on the other. Production IG are aiming to have the capacity to produce one major feature per year. That is if we can still maintain the quality.

SKWIGLY: Good luck with that.

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