fanime 2008 gurren lagann construction panel

“Who do you think I am?”

Yoshinari and “Hige” and TL

Got a lot of responses (both real life and e-mail) concerning Fanime, so not exactly sure what to write about. For all the people who did come up and randomly introduce themselves to me, you were all very cool and very nice. For all the people who e-mailed, I’ll try to get back to everyone once I’m less busy, or your e-mail will end up in a future post. I’ll eventually do a wrap-up post, but two big events on Sunday for Gurren Lagann fans: GAINAX meet and greet and the Gurren Lagann construction panel. I thought about which one to write about first… and I’ll go with the construction panel since it’s easier to write about… and I’m tired.

Also, again, I’m paraphrasing and abbreviating a lot since a lot happened. And I’m tired.

For this panel, it was all GAINAX and two Fanime staff translators. From left to right, there’s Yoh Yoshinari (I’ll refer to him as “Yoshi” from now on, since that’s the abbreviation I used in my notes) who is the mecha designer for Gurren Lagann. Then is Manabe, the marketing director. His job is to promote the series and control Takeda’s mouth. Next is Takeda, who told us to call Manabe “Hige” since he has a beard.

Manabe: “I don’t like [the name].”
Takeda: “Sure, Hige.”

Needless to say, my notes for Manabe are abbreviated as “Hige” and “Tak” for Takeda. Then Yamaga (“Yama”) and Masahiko Otsuka (“AD”), the assistant director. Also, even more needless to say, despite my abbreviations and note taking skills I learned from college, my hand was sore writing down everything. Didn’t get any good pictures since my camera’s batteries were dead and didn’t get a chance to swap until the end. Translators sat between Hige and Tak as well as between Yama and AD.

First question was inspiration for the characters, and AD said that it all came from the director. “Nakashima (scriptwriter, further abbreviated as SW) then took the concept and made the characters.”

Next one was “Is the movie a recap?” Crowd was very interested in this one. Yama: “Officially not announced any details about the movie, so I can’t talk about it. Part 1 is ‘Part Gurren’ so it can be assumed that part 2 is ‘Part Lagann.'”

Then the first repeat question from yesterday: favorite character! Actually, not bad since three new panelists. AD said Nia, Yama stuck with Yoko… “The ones who cause the most trouble are usually the cutest. I mean trouble as from the seiyuu, but not Yoko’s. I like Yoko. I did work passionately on Simon so I see I could have done this or that differently.” Sounds like the home team disadvantage theory. He continued that “Marina Inoue was a newbie but perfect for the part.” For people who remember best of 2007, I gave Best Seiyuu of 2007 to Yukari (Nia) over Marina, who got runner-up. See, I’m telling you that her talents are wasted as a jellyfish.

Tak stuck with Lord Genome. “Since I’m an old man, I liked the guy from the old man planet. He thought Lord Genome wasn’t always a great dad, he did come through at the end.” Hige: “Our animation staff is Gurren-dan rowdy.” And very friendly at the meet and greet, I may add. “But when magazines asked me for promotional drawings, the animators didn’t want to draw them. I felt like Rossiu. I also don’t like to take the easy route.”

Tak jumped in with a hilarious, “It’s all about the easy route.”

Yoshi sympathized with Rossiu as well. He doesn’t speak much, and I’ll explain why next post.

Next question was if they’re going to collect all the eyecatches into an artbook. Just want to note that Tak was the one picking who gets to ask questions, and he usually picked cosplayers with “Viral!” or “Ano Simon!” So if you want to get his attention, probably want to dress up as Lord Genome. Anyway, Hige said that there’s no current plans, but there’s a book on Amazon that has pretty much all the eyecatches in there already.

After that was a question on Boota’s evolution. Tak: “Spoilers… you guys sure you want me to answer that?” Huge roars from the crowd. “Boota has a lot of spiral power. He never grows up and is a kid. His human form signifies his spiral power at its potential… plus it was a [dream trap].”

Someone then asked about how did they pick the seiyuu, and Yam answered that they listened to seiyuu CDs and then narrowed them down to five. They took in opinions from the director, SW, etc, and then have auditions for the five finalists. He then mentioned that at GAINAX, sometimes their own animators direct… which is sometimes challenging since even though they can draw well, doesn’t mean they can direct well all the time. He also said that during the year, he would go drinking with the seiyuu and give advice, mostly to Simon’s (Tetsuya Kakihara) since he was a relative newbie and Simon is a difficult character due to the maturity.

Then they wanted some questions for Yoshi, since he had to leave soon. Inspiration for Dai-Gurren… Yoshi: “I used to build models when I was young, and they were clunky things. I wanted to bring it back.”

On building on various mecha… Yoshi: “You know the Russian dolls? But in reverse.” Matryoshka 4tw.

On drawing mecha with two faces… Yoshi: “Easier to draw robots with two faces. Originally, didn’t plan on it, but it came out that way.”

“CD” replaces “Yoshi” on the far left

Then Yoshi left, and Toyonori Yamada replaced him. He is the Composite Director (CD, to not be confused with the other “Yamaga”). Yama explains that CD came from an old style where cels are placed on top of each other. Nowadays, since no one uses cels, it means pretty much everything in the animation process. AD then added that CD added a lot of effects into the show.

Next question asked if the music was pre-recorded. Tak: “In normal anime, animation is never complete when music is done. The animation is fit to the music.” Then he went into the Iwasaki / Hiroyuki story from yesterday but also added that “Our animation staff really falm palmed when we first heard it. The music was really good. We shrieked when we heard the song with the rap lyrics.” Hige added that Gurren-Para was coming soon to the movie website.

Then someone asked if there were plans on expanding the universe. Hige: “We’re making a movie!” Yama: “Do you want a new story?” Extremely loud roars. Tak: “I want to say something, but I can’t.”

Next question was the inspiration behind Yomako-sensei. (The translator got corrected by the panel on the pronunciation of the name.) AD: “I think it is what you think it is. The end.”

Next question was my only one (a lot more people today than yesterday): “Who are the characters in the first two minutes of the series?” AD: “Simon. I bet you’re thinking that the beginning and the ending do not match. In the beginning [of the design process] we had an idea, but it went beyond the original idea as the series progressed. It evolved beyond the point where the staff could control it.” Tak: “At GAINAX, our specialty is not being able to control it.”

Somehow, I feel the same way about my readers sometimes. But I thought it was interesting that the series really become more grand and more epic because of the staff working on it. Later on, we’ll get a reason as to why it changed.

Then the next question was about DDR having the ED song. Everyone was confused by this question, and it took like four tries before the panel lost the “???” look. Hige basically said that Konami is a major sponsor, and they own all the Gurren Lagann videogame copyrights, so they can do whatever they want.

“What is the hardest episode to complete?” Panel almost unanimously agreed on 15. 15 is the Simon / Lord Genome beatdown. CD: “15 was tough. Normal episodes are 300 cuts, and 15 had 450 cuts. Extra cuts equal about an extra week of work, but the deadline per episode was still fixed at one month. And after we were done, we had to start on 16 immediately.” Hige then pointed out that we should read the production blog on the website. Even has Fanime stuff on it already.


So if it took 1 month per episode, then it took almost 2 and a half years to animate Gurren Lagann… so I can see how it could evolve and change. But my gosh– that’s a long time in the making.

Next question was about episode titles, and Tak said that it’s the director’s choice. The story can be split into four parts, and each part is represented by what the characters were going through. But he also said it was a lot of just the director having fun (damn, wish he came… but it was explained at the meet and greet why not). “At GAINAX, we have a box of storyboards, and each one is written in that style [for the arc]. So it was the director having fun.” Fun is always good. :)

“Why drills?” Tak: “Director wanted drills, and the SW went, ‘Hun?'” So Nakashima interpreted it into something… that it goes forward as you turned it. The drill represents a spiral and that represents DNA. Understanding his vision, hence the enemy are Anti-Spirals.”

Yama: “As you know, drills don’t look like they do in [Gurren Lagann]… triangle with lines… that depicted the imagery of drills we had when we were kids.” He also added that the director took the series not as a sci-fi series but a mecha series.

Tak: “In Japan, we used to have a submarine with a drill in front. Thundercats? People back then were excited about having drills on robots, and since then robots have started getting drills for hands.” I don’t remember much from Thundercats besides it was mentioned in a Bad Boys 2 rap video. “Most men over 35 get burning (moeru!) when they see drills. Can’t explain why, but interesting. Must be the spiral power.”

Next question was about if any animation got left on the cutting room floor, and AD basically said that since it takes so much effort to animate anything, they never cut anything.

Then a question about video games, and, again, it’s Konami. There’s a DS game, a few mobile phone games, but they haven’t heard of anything else. (Go write in and bug Konami for a Winning Seven / Gurren Lagann crossover!)

“How long from idea to airtime?” Yami: “If you think of before we had a title, five years.” “How did you know it was going to be your next project?” “2002.” Wow, even if it takes two-and-a-half years to animate, this is still a lot of time for one project. I wonder how long it takes other studios to bring something to fruitation.

Following that, the question was, “Why does Simon say, ‘I’m nobody’ at the end?” I thought this was an interesting response. Also note that the translator basically forced the AD to answer as no one else seemed to want to. AD: “Until he asks that, he wonders who he is… he starts to say who he is but stops. But in that scene, the boy doesn’t care who he is. There is meaning that he is talking with a boy… so Gurren is Simon’s story. And it continues with the boy. So the boy represents the next generation, and the next generation doesn’t care who you are. You can look at it that way. It’s just my interpretation, if you can think about it for yourself, it would be great.”

Sounds just like a dad dealing with a rebellious kid. If you haven’t noticed yet from this panel, there are a lot of themes about aging and mortality and time. That’s not a coincidence.

Hardest part of animation? CD: “For Gurren Lagann, everything. One thing we paid attention to, since we have a reputation, was to take great care to make the battles and action sequences look really nice. The director really looked over the animator’s shoulders.”

Then the final (and most hilarious) question: “Why does Leeron look the same?” Tak: “Leeron is an interesting guy, ain’t him? There are many possible reasons, many theories, and here’s some. Is he a clone? A beastman? An alien? Probably not a frickin’ human. The last theory is that gay people don’t age.” Roar from the crowd. “It is interesting that he doesn’t change.”

Yama: “So we wanted to show human aging in Gurren Lagann. We will get old. We will get wrinkles. But it’s not a bad thing. It is human, and it is happiness. So when you are young, you have fun, but as an adult, you also have fun.” He then said something very interesting… “When you are young, you tend to say things like ‘Who do you think I am?’ but when you get older, you find it who you are no longer matters.” Mmm… sounds like an answer to a few questions ago, doesn’t it?

He then added that “I don’t know why Leeron doesn’t age, but it gives emphasis to those who do so. So if you are young in your twenties, please watch your Gurren Lagann DVDs again in twenty years. You might see something you didn’t see when you were in your twenties.”

I just want to end this post by saying that I think that this GAINAX is not the GAINAX of old. The principle players are older, and based on what I’ve heard today, it’s almost like Gurren Lagann is an extension of maturity of not just themselves but of the company. They wanted to emphasize the aging aspect, as well as their feelings towards it. It’s almost the opposite of Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever.” They don’t want eternal life but rather to graciously and without fanfare pass down a better life to those after them.

Or maybe I’m just really tired.

(BTW, separate announcement about their next project. They told us to go visit ANN at the end of the panel.)

10 Responses to “fanime 2008 gurren lagann construction panel”

  1. Please tell me you didn’t scare the crap out of them with that story of yours.

  2. Well, if this is the final ‘hurah’ from ‘old Gainax’, then I have no complaints. Gurren Lagann is and forever will be one of my favorite anime shows. I’d put it into words, but you already did it better than I could possibly do. Believe. The show made you believe. I believe in Gurren Lagann, just as I believe in Gainax. Where ever they go from here, atleast it won’t be boring.

  3. You know, normally I hate finding out what the hell is going on behind the actual work because it takes a lot of the mystique and fun out of it, but that was actually pretty enlightening. And now I’m all excited about their new series too (though I wonder how long it’s going to be until it’s actually done, huh…)

  4. “it took almost 2 and a half years to animate Gurren Lagann”

    Maybe that puts an end to the retarded myth that switching back to normal after episode 4(?) was caused by an uproar from the viewers. The egozentrism of otakudom really knows no bounds.

  5. >>See, I’m telling you that her talents are wasted as a jellyfish.

    That’s Rina Satou who voices the jellyfish, not Marina Inoue.

  6. Some of those Nia’s on the left look kinda manly….
    Also, Kid Simon in the middle has an awesome pose.

  7. One of the Rossiu cosplayers and I hatched the idea of ‘Lady Genome, the Spiral Queen.’

  8. I figured you’d be there.
    I wish I hadn’t missed the Gainax panels. If only I could remember what I doing instead.
    Fun times though, except…
    how the hell did my group get the ONLY white maid in that cafe damnit.
    I want PC Gaming back next year.

  9. >> That’s Rina Satou who voices the jellyfish, not Marina Inoue.

    I was tired and was on full auto-type mode.

    >> One of the Rossiu cosplayers and I hatched the idea of ‘Lady Genome, the Spiral Queen.’

    Awesome, great idea. Takeda-san would get a kick from that. I think a little boy Nia would go great with Lady Genome.

    >> how the hell did my group get the ONLY white maid in that cafe damnit.

    I take it you didn’t get serviced by the three HIMM girls…

  10. I wasn’t angry at them aging, I just really really didn’t like that after all that they got such a crappy deal. Both Yoko and Simon lost a lot and Yoko was rewarding with a man chin and Simon was rewarded with being a hermit, which went completely against his established character. I would have preferred them not to have added the epilogue, but they could have at least paired Simon and Yoko in it. Also don’t like their answer to the why Yoko had a marriage with Kittan and not Kamina in that sequence, they basically side stepped it. It was obvious the meat of the question was did Yoko love Kittan more but they ignored it. Still my favorite anime in years.

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