By AnimeEv 1 year, 11 months ago
We recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with anime director Seiji Mizushima at Fanime in San Jose California. Mizushima may need an introduction for those of you who don’t follow staff credits, but rest assured his resume is impressive and varied. After working his way up through the industry ranks Mr. Mizushima had a hand in directing shows like Evangelion, Shaman King, Full Metal Alchemist, Oh! Edo Rocket, Slayers Next, and Gundam 00. He also directed the anime version of Hanamaru Kindergarten, which is streaming stateside on Crunchyroll.
Mr. Mizushima sat down with us during the con and spoke about direction, writing, and his personal history as an anime professional. And he was a mensch, to boot.
Ani.me: First off, thanks for coming and thanks for taking the time to meet with us. We appreciate it, and our fans say hello. What do you think of San Jose so far?
Seiji Mizushima: I think it’s a nice town but it’s a lot cooler than I thought it would be.
Ani.me: How did you become interested in working in animation?
Seiji Mazishima: Like most of us I liked watching watching anime as a child, I love manga, and then I decided “maybe making a career out of this would be something that I would like to do.” And like a lot of people Gundam was kind of the trigger for everything, and it’s kind of what made me want to do a lot of research, reading magazines, and that kind of is how it all began for me.
Ani.me: Excellent. What was your first production? What was the first thing you worked on in a professional capacity?
Seiji Mizushima: If you mean strictly speaking from working in the industry I actually was in manufacturing cells, that is where I started. And then when you go up into like actual production of anime stuff one of the first things I worked on was Doraemon.
Ani.me: So you actually made cells, like, the acetate?
Seiji Mizushima: I was capturing (photographing) cells. I took pictures of films one cell at a time, then they were collected and sent to a video center for post-processing.
Ani.me: That sounds like it took a ton of time.
Seiji Mizushima: (Nodding) Oh yeah.
Ani.me: How did you move into direction from just taking pictures of cells and whatnot?
Seiji Mizushima: So believe it or not, before I became a full-on series director I was a series director for a show and believe it or not it’s actually very easy to became an episode director because obviously there’s so many shows and so many episodes that, pretty much, if you’re doing good work you just volunteer and say “hey I want to direct an episode.” And eventually your time will come, and if you continue to do good work with your individual episodes then eventually they’ll offer a series as a kind of a reward for doing a good job with doing episode direction.
So I was doing a lot of freelance, and so I worked on projects that I thought were interesting to me; every time I’d go to a studio I’d present the project and say “this is what I did, do you have any fun stuff for me to work on?”
Ani.me: So when you direct do you take influence from outside mediums, painting or live-action filmmaking?
Seiji Mizushima: I watch just about everything, all the old classic stuff and all the new stuff and I feels creators for just about any entertainment medium really should do this just because it’s a good way to get exposure to everything and make your stuff better.
Ani.me: Do you have a favorite live-action director?
(Much talk about how he’s a big fan of Aaron Sorkin and his work on the West Wing. We discuss the difficulty of translating Sorkin’s work into Japanese.)
Seiji Mizushima: I like Sam Raimi. If you go into Japanese directors I like Tsukamoto Shinya. I’m 45 yeas old and I am very good friends with a lot of writers that are very in touch with the real world stuff, the political stuff, so that’s why a lot of stuff I end up creating and directing kind of leans toward that and I would like my viewers to kind of say “hey, there’s this part of the world too.” I’m trying to introduce them to that.
Ani.me: Is it common for you to revisit your works? Do you see points where you would do something different if you could?
Seiji Mizushima: Most importantly, I’d like to keep creating more of those works. But looking back at my older works is like… if I was to remake them, perhaps it would be different and go a slightly different way, but ultimately I think what I did is in the past so that represents what I was doing then, so I mostly don’t really feel a need to touch them too much.
Ani.me: It’s hard to explain, but many American fans have a very strong attachment to the series, and just being involved to a lot of people was a big thing, and when you think of Evangelion today, and your involvement of it, what comes to mind?
(Pause to clarify translation)
Ani.me: (Re-statement) When you think of Evangelion today and what it’s become in society, what comes to your personal mind?
Seiji Mizushima: I’m super happy that it’s still popular, I’m very good friends with Hideaki Anno, the series director. I think he’s a very unique director, have a lot of respect for him, and I feel, even if it was just one episode, that if I didn’t work on that series I probably wouldn’t have gotten the amount of attention from other projects later on and I feel that it was kind of a turning point in my career that really kicked it into high gear, really made me a known face in the industry.
Ani.me: Do you feel that you’re involvement with it makes you a part of animation history?
Seiji Mizushima: Me?! I’m not quite sure if I can say that I feel that I’m part of the history, because I only directed one episode. Now that I’m a series director I have other projects I need to focus on, but I sometimes feel that I can go out and scream “I was a staff member on the Eva team!”, and sometimes I can let that be known.
Ani.me: Another very important TV series for American fans, people are very passionate about it. I was wondering (as) the series came from the comic, if you felt a lot of pressure while adapting the comic for Television.
Seiji Mizushima: Unlike in America, FMA’s original manga was very niche in Japan, only the real hardcore fans were like really into it. So in that sense I really didn’t feel it was just converting another manga series into an anime series. When I first got the project, only two volumes were actually printed of the manga, but in the middle of production a third came out, so I was … when we were planning the project at the beginning it was a one-year long show so it was about 50+ episodes, and we figured maybe about half of the series could be based on the original source and maybe half would probably have to plan for original content, because there was nothing original to plan it for. So in that sense I really didn’t feel pressure because there was nothing to base it on in the first place.
(Note: While speaking in Japanese, Mizushima also stated that it wasn’t a manga series that was as popular as your average Shonen Jump title)
Ani.me: When Hughes died in episode 25 I was depressed for a week. I was wondering if that was a common response or if I’m just strange.
(He hears the number of the episode out loud and laughs. His assistants laugh too.)
Seiji Mizushima: So up until the part where Hughes dies… that had already been released in the manga, so most Japanese fans were prepared for it and I feel that episode 7, which is the episode where the little girl Nina gets turned into the chimera and gets involved in the whole kind of alchemy politics and business, was more shocking and I put a lot of effort into that. I felt that even though the fans were more prepared for that one, because it had been out for awhile, it was even more traumatic because of the situation. So I feel that episode 7 has more impact as an episode.
Ani.me: In Japan specifically?
Seiji Mizushima: In Japan.
Ani.me: It seems different from some of your previous works. No alchemy, no giant war machines… how did you come up with your method for the series?
Seiji Mizushima: So it’s not like a series needs mecha or alchemy to be successful.
Ani.me: (Jokingly) It doesn’t?!?
Seiji Mizushima: And Hanamaru was based off an original work as well and so I talked to the creator and had kind of a brainstorming session and decided on a relaxing pace, a little bit more easy-going. And honestly the methods we used to create it and the struggles we faced for that were no bigger or smaller than the struggles we faced making any show, really. There’s going to be hurdles to cross with any production.
Ani.me: Keith Lee asked what programs were used to animate Gundam 00 because he thought it was very striking.
Seiji Mizushima: Did you mean specific CG programs? It’s just a pretty accessible animation software called Basil, I’m not quite sure, I don’t recall it being anything particularly specific. Sometimes I’ll even go in with Photoshop and just adjust stuff as I need to. So they’re animation tools that anybody can have access to; it’s nothing special. I saw the Adobe building in San Jose and said “thanks for everything!”
(Mizushima bows, laughing)
Ani.me: When bringing Gundam 00 to the big screen, what were your main concerns? Did you get to accomplish everything you wanted to?
Seiji Mizushima: From the very beginning I really wanted to make a movie of this and while I was in the process of making the TV series myself and Kuroda-san, who wrote the scenarios, actually both came up with the movie scenario right then and there so it was actually ready to go to be produced before even the TV series finished up so in that sense it wasn’t that difficult.
Ani.me: Thank you very much for taking the time to meet with us today, we appreciate it, and all of our fans say hello and they’re very excited to ask you questions.
Seiji Mizushima: Thank you.
Special thanks goes out to Fanime’s translation staff for helping with the interview.
evangelion, fullmetal alchemist, gundam