FRI’s eye: The methods and stance towards production of GONZO, an animation study famously known all around the world – Second Part –

Continuing from part 1, we carried on talking Mr. Ichi Eda, head of the production and animation business departments, about GONZO’s anime production.

— There are some people who are hoping to get a job at GONZO since it is now established in Okinawa. Could you give us more information about GONZO’s reasons for this location, and its future plans there?

Eda Well, firstly Okinawa Prefecture is an inviting place for the entertainment industry, but also, wouldn’t everyone just love to come to Okinawa? *Laughter* That also makes it easier to recruit people. Furthermore, GONZO Okinawa has become a studio specialized in 3DCG, so its staff spend the entire day looking at a screen. For this reason, it’s psychologically very important to be able to look outside and see the blue sea stretching outwards. Also, another reason is that the rent is cheaper. With 3DCG we don’t need to be close to Tokyo, because there’s no need to send papers back and forth.

— I feel like GONZO has always taken the initiative when it comes to working with CG
Eda Other companies had already been using it before us, but we were one of the first to use a tablet for drawing on, and now it seems like the entire industry is shifting from using paper to a paperless approach. If we were to shift to a paperless approach, all the data from animators spread across all regions of the country could be quickly sent to Tokyo to be analyzed through software, so management would approach things in the spirit of “the animation director hasn’t checked this yet, but work is being done on the cuts from all different locations”. I guess this future situation will mean that old veterans, who have learned to work with paper, will need to teach younger generations who have started out by working on a tablet…

— So GONZO Okinawa is in the process of strengthening its business foundation?
Eda Exactly. We would like to expand much more in the future. Currently, our GONZO Okinawa staff are very few people, but we’re planning on expanding as the situation changes.

— Finally, in what kind of working environment would you prefer to continue making “classic GONZO” titles?
Eda My first request would be “an environment in which creators can work easily”. Of course, we’d also have to talk about remuneration, but the main thing is to provide creators with an environment in which they can work uninterruptedly. The fact of the matter is that this area of work includes really busy periods of time, and periods when there’s no work at all, so for up to 1 or 2 whole months when there’s no work it can really feel like we’re neglecting them. Creators are usually self-employed, so with this system it’s hard for them to make a living. In order to achieve a better balance, I’d like to offer them a system of continuous work. That’s what I mean by “an environment in which creators can work easily”.

— “Continue offering what we have been offering so far”, right?
Eda To put it plainly, we must “not abuse something until it dies”. Also, our current set-up still occasionally forces us to burden our staff with sleepless nights of work, since our schedule is very disorganized.

— This must be a common problem, but where do you think it originates?
 There are many reasons, but I think the biggest one is thinking “I would like to try at least to make a good quality product”. To be honest, what ends up happening is that we give priority to our schedule and say “well, it’s OK if it turns out looking a bit weird”. With this attitude we’ll never make it. Neither the director nor the animation director would ever be satisfied with this. And yet, we can’t just say things like “please postpone the broadcast date so that we can make something good”, so eventually…we end up with too much work.

— Schedules and quality, it’s the eternal struggle, isn’t it?
 But being aware of it is very important, because if all of us in the workplace weren’t thinking of “making something good”, we might as well quit doing it. Although on many occasion we also feel like we should have compromised a little bit in order to at least finish making our product *laughter*. However, I never want to lose that fighting spirit which makes me strive towards “making a good product”.

– That’s a great opportunity to show one’s skills as a producer, isn’t it? The reason the staff can relax while working is because there’s someone telling them “I will take all responsibility for this, so just relax make something good”.
 If those words actually made them relax, we’d be in trouble! *Laughter* Sometimes the staff also prefer it if you tell them that “it’s OK to deliver the finished product on the day before the deadline, if that means we can raise its level of quality”. Of course, that doesn’t mean that “working all night long will definitely help make this into a better product”, but I think it’s important to organize the work flow in a way that respects people’s fighting spirit, that respects that inner voice which says “let’s make something good”.

— Amongst all the productions you have worked on, which one had the smoothest organizational flow?
 None of them. They were all plagued with difficulties. *Laughter*

— But it would be problematic to feel satisfied with that situation, wouldn’t it?
 You are absolutely right. Sometimes, if for example the lip-sync doesn’t exactly match up, it’s easy to say “well, the average viewer won’t even notice the difference”. However, what we call “Japan quality” emerges precisely out of correcting small mistakes like that one.

— In a Japanese workplace it’s not common for people to just say “well, this is OK I guess”.
 In that sense, Japanese staff have a stronger sense of artistry in their work. Their level of quality is that of a true artisan. That is why I’m always so thankful when I see young people working so hard for such small incomes…but it’s also important to not take advantage of them.

— Thank you for your time.

That was our talk with GONZO, a studio famous for its high quality animation, and we were surprised (?) to learn that their passion even extends to the organization of their work environment. Clearly, it seems that in order to create excellent products you also need to set up an environment which allows creators to fully express themselves.

Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment. This article was written by the member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests that discovered from daily life.

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