Production I.G> WORK LIST> Oblivion Island> SPECIAL FEATURE> Interview with Naoyoshi Shiotani (1)

Interview with Naoyoshi Shiotani (1)

Naoyoshi Shiotani
Born in 1977, Shiotani is one of Japan's most promising young animation creators. His early works include TV series Windy Tales (key animation supervisor, 2004) and Blood+ (2005), for which he also directed the kaleidoscopic third opening film, Colors of the Heart (check our special feature here), selected in competition for the 11th Holland Animation Film Festival. His directorial debut, Tokyo Marble Chocolate (2007) was awarded with the Grand Prize in the Feature Films Section of SICAF 2008. Shiotani joined the staff of Production I.G's first 3DCG animated feature film, Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror as storyboard artist an animation director, but also contributed the island design concept and designed Cotton, the sheep-shaped plush doll that belongs to the protagonist, Haruka.


A very standard question to begin with. Why did you decide to start this profession?
I guess I was influenced by my father, who was an amateur painter. He passed away when I was just 1 year old, so I hardly remember him or what he did, but I grew up in a house full of the paintings he left, and they fascinated me throughout my childhood.
Then, I suppose I was also influenced by all those Hollywood movies and animated programmes I watched on TV. At a certain point I started feeling frustrated with being on the passive side, I mean just a watcher, and not on the creative side of that marvellous world. I wanted to draw, and I liked movies, so I guess animation eventually came up as a sort of natural consequence.

What kind of anime did you watch? Have you been inspired by any particular title?
I grew up in a place in the countryside, so there was not much anime on TV. However, by the time I was in junior-high, this thing called video tape recorder emerged, giving me more opportunities to watch series and movies.
Kiki's Delivery Service was the first movie my mother took me to when I was at elementary school. I liked Ghibli movies such as My Neighbour Totoro and Porco Rosso, but also The Secret of Blue Water and Patlabor. I also loved Disney animation, such as Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland and Snow White.
But what made me think of joining the animation industry as a teenager was Wings of Honneamise. A unique world reconstructed in every detail, those astounding backgrounds, the battle sequence at the end and the dramatic rocket launch. I was so impressed with that perfect combination between pictures and story, and I can say that that movie is still inspiring me today.

From Blood+ third opening film Colors of the Heart, directed by Shiotani in 2006. The film was selected in competition at 11th Holland Animation Film Festival.

How did you join Production I.G?
When I was in high school I used to draw a lot, but not in anime style. I had this aspiration of becoming a creator somewhere inside of me, but it was not specifically aimed to the world of animation. But at the time I had to decide what to do after high school, I applied for an animation school, but rather because it allowed me to study drawing techniques. Here I also discovered René Laloux' La Planète sauvage, that many of my fellow students did not seem to appreciate, but I just loved.
At the second year, I heard that Production I.G was holding an employment test on regular basis. At that time I was fond of [Japanese] period movies, especially those with Toshiro Mifune, so the day of the interview I brought a lot of drawings of samurai and warriors. Apparently, Kazuchika Kise (*) noticed my samurai-only portfolio, perhaps because at that time he was working on Blood: The Last Vampire, and before I knew I found myself with my desk next to him!

One scene from episode 18 of Le Chevalier D'Eon. This marked Shiotani's debut as episodic director in a TV series.

What was your first project at I.G?
In-between animator for the opening movie of a Sakura Wars game. From there, I think I went through all steps: in-between checker, key animator, key animation supervisor, character designer. However, animators usually works on single scenes separately. I thought that I had to learn more about connecting scenes into a flow I needed experience in directing and storyboarding, so I looked for that kind of job inside of I.G. I was given a great opportunity with Colors of the Heart, the third opening film for Blood+, and then I directed one episode in Le Chevalier D'Eon.

And then came Tokyo Marble Chocolate.
This project was the starting point for a new challenge. I had been offered my first directorial role, and we had a really tight schedule, so I was particularly apprehensive. I remember I relentlessly worked day in day out for months, and the staff had to sleep in the studio an embarrassing number of consecutive days, but the teamwork was excellent and we really bonded together. This was a priceless outcome. I think I did my best within the budget and timeframe I was given, so I don't have regrets.

Chizuru and Yudai, the young and insecure couple portrayed in Tokyo Marble Chocolate, Shiotani's award-winning directorial debut.

And it also won the Gand Prix at SICAF 2008 as Best Feature Film.
I remember that the producer called me early in the morning the day of the ceremony. He was overexcited. "We did it! We got the Grand Prix!" he yelled over the phone. It was amazing! At that time I was right in the middle of the production of Oblivion Island, so unfortunately I could not go to the award ceremony, which I still regret. It is strange when you think of it, but when you receive some kind of recognition from outside of your country, it makes you feel happier. It's a sort of greater honour.

(*) One of Production I.G's super animators, and chief of Studio 2. His works include Ghost in the Shell, Blood: The Last Vampire, Innocence and Musashi: The Dream of the Last Samurai.

(1 - to be continued)