The rise of the internet and telecommunications throughout the years has allowed for participation by western animators in the Japanese animation industry to become commonplace. Look no further than the 8th episode of One Punch Man 2 for proof of that, wherewith the support of Studio Lan, talented individuals from all over the globe came together to make their mark on the series.
Their work spanned the first half of the episode where they each contributed “layouts,” that is to say, not quite finished animation but rather the structure of what will eventually become the final scene. Perhaps on a better schedule or a different project, we might have seen their completed genga, but as I’m sure you might be aware, OPM2 has suffered from quite the devious production woes. Please enjoy this insightful interview with the staff where we’ll discuss their personal experience on the project, the difficulties with working remotely, and of course dive into their backgrounds and future plans!
- So, for the readers who may not know anything about you, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into animation, who are your role models or main inspirations?
Julian B: I’m an animator from Australia. I guess I got into animating through watching new grounds and web animators and wanting to try to do it myself early in high school, though I’ve always liked drawing and anime since I was young. My main inspirations right now are Yoh Yoshinari, Mitsuo Iso, Yutaka Nakamura, Norio Matsumoto, Bahi JD, and Xenophoss (Weilin Zhang).
Ryan White: Well, I actually got into animation by mistake, I was originally trying to get into game making. Back in 10th grade, I got into a university program hosted at my high school for game design and creation, and one of the first things we were working with was Adobe Flash. I’ve always drawn my whole life, and I used to love making comics, and even sometimes I’d make pivot animations, but I never really considered becoming a 2D animator. I was also getting into anime for the first time back then, my first anime being “BLEACH”. I fell in love with the show and started making BLEACH fan animations in class. I actually never learned anything else in that program, my teacher felt I had a knack and passion for 2D animation and I just stuck with Flash. I ended up doing competitions at Skills Canada in grades 11 and 12, and I even won nationals in my final year.
I would have to say Masashi Kudo was my first big inspiration for animation, and also by my friend Denis Possmann. (Known as Rayjii)
Daniel Barón: I got into animation casually, thanks to a couple of Latin American animators, Hbruna, TwistedGrim, Joel Guerra, and on. My plan wasn’t to become an animator, I just give it a try and I find the process to be relaxing. I focused on learning for 3 to 4 years. After that time, I started posting some of my work on Twitter, that’s how I found about Guzzu, who is the one that helped me get into Studio LAN.
I got inspired by a lot of animators, some of the ones that I can think of right now are Toshiyuki Inoue, Hiroyuki Okiura, Mitsuo Iso, Shinya Ohira, Weilin Zhang, Jocelyn Charles, Vic Chhun and on. Now I’m more into realistic animation, but that probably could change in the future.
Tim: Hey! I am an animator/illustrator based in Canada. I graduated from the traditional animation program at Sheridan College in 2017. My first job in the animation industry was working as a key animator on Netflix’s Carmen San Diego. Then I proceeded to freelancing. Unlike my web-gen peers who are all so young and talented (TдT). I only started doing bouncing ball in college. I spent most of my time doing digital paintings before then.
My current role models are Eliud Kipchoge and Ouji-san(prince) from Run with the Wind! As for the anime industry, I look up to Satoshi Kon a lot, I bought one of the cells of Millennium Actress! It’s amazing.
Rio Rangel (riooo): I got fully invested when I saw Boruto #65 last year, it was mind-blowing and It really motivated me to animate but I didn’t know where to start since I’ve only started doing animation for a month at that time. Gem and Weilin Zhang are my best webgen inspirations, they remind me of Yutapon for some reason, Gem’s works are very flashy and exciting while Zhang is very grounded to reality. It’s all thanks to Mr. Chengxi Huang’s Boruto #65! I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t saw that amazing episode.
Lzyboost: Hi, I’m a freelance animator from Finland, nice to meet you! When I think what set the ball rolling, one thing always comes to mind: When I was at art school, there was 1 short animation course. There I made my first proper traditional animation. And when I was looking inspiration for it from anime (always being a fan of it), I found the word “sakuga“. Getting to know “sakuga” had a huge long-term impact. Using that word, I found “sakuga MAD’s”, sakugabooru and one which truly set the course for me; “Sakuga: The Animation of Anime (2013 presentation)” playlist on YouTube. As for my role models, I really look up to Yoshinori Kanada and Hisashi Mori, there are many more, but they come first to mind. Also have to mention all of the “webgen” animators, which all have been a huge inspiration for me.
ZucchiniJuice: Hello I’m ZucchiniJuice, I’m an animator and I freelance in the animation industry with mainly Studio LAN. I worked on projects such as To Be Heroine, SSSS Gridman, Daily Life of Xian Wang PV, One Punch Man S2, and others I cannot say yet. (laughs)
My role models and main inspirations are honestly just the friends I make along the way. While I do take inspirations from the most talented like the obligatory Yutaka Nakamura. The people who most influence me and inspire me are the people I work with and the animation friends I have. So, shout out to people like Flame, Kazooma, Retro Ryno, Hero, and more. 🙂
Hero: Hello, I am Hero. I’m an animator from Studio LAN, my position is a little different from the other animators who participated in OPM because I am the only one who has signed a contract with LAN while having the freedom to take outsource work. Half restraint (半拘束) is what the industry would call for this type of contract, basically means I am in-house with the permission of taking freelance works. Although since I live in Canada, and Studio LAN being located in ShenZhen, China, I guess I am (remotely) in-house. (laughs)
About how I got into animation; I had always wanted to draw my own manga, and doing animation had never crossed my mind, I have always thought manga was superior to animation because animation always has to follow what is on the manga. Although I still think that is true in some sense I mostly only see them as a medium and method now.
My encounter with animation was really more like on a whim, I didn’t quite want to enter college after high school, but since my parents insisted, I just picked a school that had a program that is art-related – animation. I thought as long as it seems to help drawing manga, then I was fine with it, and that was how I begin my journey into Animation. Now that I look back at it, I was really being half-baked about my lifelong career. (laughs)
What got me more serious about animation is from the work of Bahi JD, just knowing that him being the first foreigner to work on Japanese work was the greatest inspiration for me, simply because there was the possibility.
And as I’ve continued down on this journey, I have encountered Hayao Miyazaki’s works. And his works have inspired me to aim to become a director. They were the two-person who had the most impact on my career path.
Very nice character animation and impact frames. pic.twitter.com/5YYsnFTkUI
— ペドロ (@evandro_pedro96) May 28, 2019
- Can you tell us how was the workflow between you guys and Studio LAN, and the overall production schedule?
Hero: Overall, it was pretty much the same type of relationship as normal in house studios, the workflow is the same although the subjects might be different, in this case, the ‘Web gen’ animators. The only thing that might be a bit different about the work process is that we communicate mostly on the internet.
Since I also have worked on other projects outside of the connection with Studio LAN, I noticed some differences between the two. When I do outsource work independently, I get engaged in talking with the (outsource) studio’s staff – director and production manager. The director explains to me directly about what is going on in the storyboard as well as answers any questions I may have. (Of course, this is only possible if one can speak Japanese or with an interpreter present.)
In comparison, doing outsource work in Studio LAN requires the staff and production managers to go into meeting in place of the animators as well as translating the meeting notes into English so that the ‘Web gen’ Team can understand what is going on in the storyboard and what the director wants before they start animating. This might be more similar to how in-house studio takes work, except with the workspace being on the internet.
As for the schedule, we are notified beforehand before we accept an offer of an outsourcing project. sometimes if the schedule is too tight, then we have to decline the offer. So when there are multiple offers, it is more likely that we will accept the offer that has a better schedule.
- Since for some of you, it was your debut in the anime industry, what were the biggest difficulties you faced in adapting to an unfamiliar environment? Were you already familiar with the Japanese production methods, anything drastically different in the way you worked?
Julian B: I wasn’t familiar with Japanese production methods so I had to learn how to write out x sheets and stuff. I probably still have a lot to learn. Luckily the other animators here helped me out.
Ryan White: I’ve been doing anime for a little while, but this was for sure still very educational for me. My first debut was on “To Be Heroine”, and I struggled a lot on that show.
Things have improved a lot for me since then, but probably the biggest issue lies in the language barrier. We have a production manager at LAN who can speak on our behalf, but when doing things like timesheets and labeling, it’s very hard sometimes, especially if you haven’t done certain cuts or effects before.
Tim: My biggest headache is the x-sheet. Thanks to Hero for saving my life every time. I haven’t encountered cuts with massive background pans/camera movement yet, I imagine I will struggle a lot with the labeling.
Rio Rangel (riooo): Learning how to do the entire L/O (layouts) was really hard for me especially the first time but I think timesheets are the most difficult to manage. There were some guides on our discord about doing it but reading and trying to learn it all at once was very painful. So, what I did is to ask some of my friends to guide me as I progress.
ZucchiniJuice: … There were honestly a lot of difficulties I had to step up to and overcome. Back when I debuted, I don’t think hiring international foreign animators for projects was common or not very known about how to do so back then. Only now do I feel like anime animation studios are getting accustomed to working with animators amongst the web and same with us knowing how to work with them also. So, to top that off with my own inexperience and my bad Japanese it became a much harder obstacle to overcome… so things weren’t easy back then. However, all of us are determined fellows so we got past it.
- What was your biggest priority, if any, in choosing which cuts you wanted to draw?
Julian B: I wanted cuts that I feel like I could draw some interesting motion with.
Ryan White: The Trophy Ring Girl looked pretty cute. (laughs) I’m joking. (somewhat) Anything where I could show any character acting or animation was where I aimed, I like subtle and weighted movements. I feel like character acting is often overlooked and underappreciated, because of how crazy the action cuts can be. Suiryu also has a great design, so I wanted to animate him as much as possible.
Daniel Barón: I look for the cuts that catch my attention and think that will be fun to do, also the ones that I feel capable of doing.
Tim: My priority is definitely time. I would make sure I can deliver with quality within the deadline, so it means less flashy cuts until I’m more experienced or I have a lot of time.
Rio Rangel (riooo): I don’t really mind, mostly the cuts I did were recommended by others. As long as I can help them, it’s all good as of now, I’m really bad at doing L/O so I don’t really want to risk it.
Lzyboost: I wasn’t sure what to pick, luckily Ryan recommended the Gouketsu transformation cut for me! When I choose cuts, I try to choose ones that I can have fun with and challenge me/something I’ve not done before.
ZucchiniJuice: I’m a simple man you see. I’m not too picky with what cuts I do. So, I don’t really have big priorities on choosing my cuts. But if anything, I like animating action and anime girls. Other than that, I’m fine with most things.
Hero: Although I think animators should be able to draw any type of scenes given, I do prefer choosing parts that contain the potential of showing character acting and atmosphere. Normally a good work would not lack those type of cuts, but speaking for TV series, I think it is rare to see.
Riooo's lightning 🌩️ pic.twitter.com/UOBGShkhpv
— ペドロ (@evandro_pedro96) May 28, 2019
- What are the factors you weigh in your head before deciding to work on a project? And what factor do you consider the most important?
Julian B: Right now, it’s time because I’m in my last year of high school, so time to work on stuff is a bit limited.
Ryan White: Most people in my position tend to take on too much work, and jump at every offer they receive. This job is very rewarding in some ways, but it is an insane amount of work, and the pay continues to be a large issue.
Usually, I think about 3 things, is the project something I am a fan of personally? Or is the studio the type of studio I’d like to continue to work for more in the future? (Something like BNHA for example, a good show, and good studio)
I also think about if the schedule is okay because deadlines in anime are just insane. So far, I’ve usually had 12-24 hours to decide if I want to work on a show after the offer is extended, and I also have to pick which cuts I want. Sometimes less than that. I also think about if the storyboard has any shots that I feel like I could have fun, or animate the type of stuff I want to draw. (For example, trophy girl) (laughs)
Daniel Barón: Now I just think of time, if I have time to work on it I will probably take it if I don’t have time I just pass on it. Character design would be a factor for me, but most of the projects have interesting characters designs.
Tim: Scheduling. If I have time, I’d work on anything!
Lzyboost: It usually comes down to how much time I have to work on it so I can keep a healthy sleep schedule, which admittedly doesn’t always happen because of my excitement for new projects. (laughs)
ZucchiniJuice: The factors that usually dictate whether or not I do a project is pretty much what you’d expect. Do I have a lot of time to work on this project? Do I like the project? But the factor most important for me would likely just be if I like the project. Nothing more, nothing less.
Hero: Aside from in-house work, I think the most important thing is whether the project is worthwhile. That being the staff from all departments are determined to create good works so that we will be dependent on each other rather than hoping someone will fix all the issues. I think that should be the bare minimum.
But it would be hard to tell whether a project will be worthwhile from the appearance alone, so either we have to rely on friends who also worked with the director/studio who recommends the work, or just knowing particular studio or director capable of producing quality work.
(Continue onto the second page) 👇