Chikashi Kubota, Animation Director1
Character designer and animation director, ONE PIECE THE MOVIE: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island
; character designer and animation director, One-Punch Man
(TV Series). Tokyo native. Has provided key animation, character design and animation direction on numerous projects.
We ask what it’s like to serve as animation director on a CG project, with the important role of providing 2D corrections over 3D work.
What kinds of things posed difficulties during production?
When the description came in that this would be a 3D CG film, of course I had some trepidation. But beyond that, whether in 2D or 3D, was the sense that I just wanted to keep working with Dragon Ball. When I read the script, I was incredibly excited — it reminded me of my days buying Weekly Jump and reading the latest chapter of Dragon Ball as a kid. I was like, “Wow, this is new Dragon Ball!” (laughs) With a 3D project in particular, I felt like I might be able contribute my fixation with replicating Toriyama-sensei‘s style, on top of simply rendering the characters in three dimensions. Everyone has a sense of that distinct “Toriyama quality,” and I pored over the work of previous animators and their own approaches to representing Toriyama-sensei‘s artwork to convey that in the film.
You’d previously served as a key animator on the last film, Dragon Ball Super: Broly, and became animation director for this film. How did that feel?
With this film, I wasn’t part of what we’d call the layout and roughs stages in terms of 2D animation. Normally I’d like to be more involved there, but all the movement that came my way afterward was so lively I needn’t have worried. It was like a different culture, or grammar. I’d think, “Oh, they put this kind of frame in here. I see.” Sometimes there were even cases where I felt there was a bit too much motion, but I was in awe of how much control you could feel over even the smallest details, in comparison to 2D animation, where things tend to fall quietly into line. Even the production floor responsible for producing the visuals differed greatly from 2D animation. With so many processes, parts and people, I looked forward to seeing the images being brushed up with each new take.
For my work as animation director, I used an iPad to layer corrections directly over the 3D-rendered images. With 3D, changing even one line can result in the need to adjust the whole model, which can be quite troublesome. I had to take extra care to explain exactly why a certain change was needed, sometimes leaving written “illustrator’s perspective” notes to carefully detail why one thing would work, another wouldn’t, etc. What surprised me was that even in cases where I’d think, “Was that too much? Will they fix it?”, the scene would come back exactly as I’d requested. Everyone was working so hard. There were so many times I’d get an “animation director corrections” take passed back to me and be touched by the fact that all the changes were there.
What are some of the key aspects or special scenes to watch out for?
From Dr. Slump
to Dragon Ball
, from Son Goku’s growth, to his marriage, to the birth of his first child — there’s always a sense of the unexpected. The unexpectedness of Toriyama-sensei
‘s analogue art making the transition to digital. The “unexpectedness” often seen in Toriyama-sensei
‘s world is well and alive in this film. I talked about my excitement over being involved in the newest installment at the start, but I hope you can also find excitement over the unexpectedness of being able to enjoy Toriyama-sensei
‘s latest Dragon Ball
story in 3D. The film is brought to life entirely in 3D space, so new discoveries await watching Toriyama-sensei
‘s characters move around in their three-dimensional world. We’ve gotten to employ camerawork we’d often shy away from in hand-drawn animation too, so it should be visually refreshing.
My favorite scene in the film is the one that takes place in the rain. In hand-drawn animation, rain visuals always tend to feel rather plain, but here were able to represent the 3D texture of raindrops in interesting ways, leading to visuals not yet seen in the series. There are lots of other differences between this and 2D animation, so please enjoy the film!
Any message for the viewers?
Back when I was reading Dragon Ball in Weekly Jump, there was both the manga and the anime. One of the reasons I first aspired to become an animator was that I was in awe of the fact there were professional adults who were able to take this great Dragon Ball manga and turn it into an anime for us kids. From the performers to the writers to the artists, I deeply admired everyone involved in production and the final animation made up of all of their work. This time, I feel like it’s my turn. I owe it to everyone to pay back the excitement that Dragon Ball gave me back then. That’s the attitude with which I went into my work.