I guess it’s time for some words on Hiroyuki Kitakubo considering how much buzz he created recently. Ever since he opened his twitter account he and his tweets have become a regular topic on 2channel’s sakuga thread as he sure talks about interesting stuff. However, as person he strikes me as a bit arrogant and self-aggrandizing, at least judging by his tweets and messages I’ve exchanged with him. Since he’s following me on twitter and he doesn’t want me to make ‘advertisement’ for this Malaysian ‘shit anime’, I refrained from posting a direct link to here. Yeah, you read correctly, he’s hardly enthusiastic about this TV anime, but it’s somewhat understandable. He’s a director that always tries to gather the best people and who values talented staff above all, and now he has to work on a series for Malaysian kids which is produced in Malaysia, Philippines and China. I mean, he’s a high-profile director who won awards at Animation Kobe and Japan Media Arts Festival and now he has to work on this. As opposed to some news on the web he said he didn’t direct this anime, but had just an adviser role and he would protest at GONZO for this incorrect information. It’s obviously a job he doesn’t want to be associated with and also a job he doesn’t want to do but has to due to his financial situation or whatever, so it’s better to expect nothing of this. Yet what really bugs me is that ‘Satria – The Warriors of the 7 Elements’ is slated for Fall 2012 – that’s almost two years away. I hope this is not the only thing he works on in this period. However, I somehow suspect this could be the case since finding other work might also be pretty tough for him. Ever since he directed ‘BLOOD’, he hasn’t done much other notable work. There has been much speculation about the reasons, for example that he was fired from Production I.G. some time after ‘BLOOD’ (which makes sense since he’s never worked again there ever since). And he seems to have blown it with many other studios as well probably due to his slightly bad character. And there’s also a rumor that he was involved with the drugs scene back in 2006 and thus has now a hard time to find a job, but take this with a big grain of salt.
‘Satria – The Warriors of the 7 Elements’ is a collaboration between the Japanese anime studio GONZO, Malaysia’s National Film Development Corporation and Malaysian animation studio Funcel. However, Kitakubo tweeted that 22 out of 26 episodes are outsourced to China for a budget of only 2 million yen per 30 minute episode, that’s about as much as ‘Astro Boy’ had back in 1962. So as I said above, it’s better to not have high hopes for this.
Despite directing a renowned anime movie like ‘BLOOD’ and being a very talented director and animator, Kitakubo is not very well-known among anime fans, so let me do a short introduction. First of all, it’s notable how young he was when he debuted as inbetweener on the very first ‘Gundam’ series in 1979, namely only 15 years (right after middle school). And with 21 years he already directed his first anime, the ero-OVA Cream Lemon 4: Pop Chaser. He was attached to a variety of studios during his career, early on he worked for Nakamura Pro and then Neo Media before he established the free animator group Studio MIN with four others in 1982 (MIN derived from minimum). Other famous animators in that group were Yuji Moriyama, Hideki Tamura and Nobuteru Yuki. Studio MIN eventually dissolved in 1991, around the time Kitakubo worked on the movie ‘Roujin Z’. What’s remarkable with all of the anime he directed is the incredible staff he gathered – be it ‘Pop Chaser’, ‘Roujin Z’, ‘Golden Boy’, ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’ or ‘BLOOD’. He seems to know very well that he can’t successfully realize his vision as director without talented people. The 80s and 90s were the period where Kitakubo was at the height of his fame – all of his work from that era is highly recommended – but during the last 10 years he more or less vanished from the scene as I’ve already pointed out above. He reportedly said on an event of the previous year that he worked on a TV series (probably ‘Occult Academy’) and a ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ movie adaptation. We know that he was kicked out of ‘Occult Academy’ at the planning stage, but what happened with ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ isn’t really clear.
One thing that is also often talked about but not really important is how he extremely changes his appearance (esp. hairdo) from time to time. Around the time he made that guest appearance on the BS Anime Yawa show some years ago many thought he was a different person. The rightmost picture was taken last year at the ‘Anime no Chikara‘ introduction event.
What is often overlooked is the fact that Kitakubo is an amazing animator as well, but understandably so since most of his great animation work lies buried in otherwise boring 80s and 90s series and OVAs. His key animation on ‘End of Evangelion’ might be the most famous, he was one of the animators responsible for the awesome action in that movie alongside Mitsuo Iso, You Yoshinari, Tensai Okamura, Masahiro Andou, Takeshi Honda and others. This was his part:
As for some topics raised by Kitakubo on his twitter account:
♦ he criticized Hayao Miyazaki for copying from Fleischer. Kitakubo thinks that it is okay that this robot was used as an homage in ‘Lupin’, but not that Miyazaki used the same design without permission in ‘Laputa’, called it an ‘original work by Hayao Miyazaki‘ and now displays a monument of the robot at Ghibli museum and charges an entrance fee as well.
♦ he told the real story behind the ‘Chobits’ OP. He wasn’t credited for storyboarding it and mentioned how CLAMP wasn’t okay with showing Hideki and Chi nude while the director, publisher and TV station approved. I got the storyboard via mail so that I could convince myself:
♦ he tweeted about the troubles he had with ‘Toward the Terra’ OP2. In short, there were only three weeks time for this OP and he had considerable problems since he didn’t get a spotting sheet (which is used to synchronize animation and music), so he had to use his ear and a stopwatch to do it without and even got everything right in the end! Also received the OP storyboard for this one, very nice work considering the pressure of time.
♦ he talked about his work on the ‘Sakura Taisen: Atsuki Chishio Ni’ OP. To make a long story short: Director Susumu Kudo wanted to do an entirely new OP that is different from the previous ones, and Kitakubo confirmed with the director that this time there shouldn’t be this typical cut where the characters are lined up with their faces seen from the side. However, in the end the director corrected Kitakubo‘s storyboard with his own hands and put in such a cut…
♦ this PV of Maaya Sakamoto‘s song ‘Feel Myself’ was directed by Kitakubo.