While touring ACEN, we had a chance to attend a press event featuring iconic anime director Nabeshin, known for such series as Excel Saga and Nerima Daikon Brothers as well as inserting himself into his own series while cosplaying as Lupin the Third! Here are some great questions from assorted members of the press (including yours truly)!
Q: Anime is a global form of entertainment. Does its popularity in America and other countries influence the way it’s being made and is that being thought about as new shows are coming about and being created?
A: To be honest, the Japanese creators basically market their products towards the Japanese people, so I think that the Japanese still don’t understand what would make it out into the global market. It’s all based on the Japanese market initially. When the Japanese people make their creations in Japan, they might change a couple things based on laws and productions of other countries, so they’ll make it for the Japanese market and just tweak it a little bit for the global market.
Q: How would you compare the fans across the world?
A: Just comparing Japanese fans and American fans, I might get a cheer or a round of applause in Japan, but here (in America) everyone is energetic and cheers with me. But in general, I look a little different, so when people see something coming on there’s actually a reaction there. Even by Japanese standards, does this look a little rare *points to afro*, maybe a little substandard or out of the ordinary? So, as an interviewer, you may interview a Japanese person and they might look a little more serious or strict. As a Japanese person, the Japanese in general are kind of shy so there’s something that gets a little lost there. So even if I don’t understand the language, there’s still some type of communication going on there. I feel very happy that with the language barrier I can actually communicate with all my fans.
Q: So if you, as a creator, have popularity in America or influence over American audiences, how has that affected you personally?
A: So, obviously, I’m a big fan of some American products (author’s note: Nabeshin was wearing an Iron Man power glove during the interview). Being a fan of other influences and different countries, I do have things of different countries that I like. But I keep in mind that I don’t want to get too influenced, because then it would be a Japanese guy trying to create something that’s American. I don’t want to become someone from another country trying to mimic something. I keep in mind that if I’m making something Japanese, that it inherently has the Japanese culture embedded into it.
Q: What do you look for in new projects? What interests you? Is there something you try to find with new projects or do you just enjoy the work?
A: I do try to create something that either I or the audience have never seen before but ends up being something similar that I’ve made in the past. I do try to make sure it’s not something similar I’ve already made. My recent project was actually translating a Chinese animation into a Japanese audience, so I got a glimpse into what the Chinese think about Japanese culture. It was made from a Chinese point of view but turned into a Japanese animation, and then you have a Japanese director trying to translate that into the Japanese market, so it was kind of a joint venture between the Chinese and Japanese cultures. It was a realization that collaboration with different countries was something interesting and never been done before. That may be something I look into in the future.
Q: A lot of your works tend to parody or poke fun of a lot of Japanese society and pop culture, which is very rare in a lot Japanese media. What drives you to this type of humor?
A: Picking up something that everyone is familiar with, something close to a normal person that’s watching an anime, you have the creator and someone who’s watching it come closer together by parodying something that everyone thinks about. It’s a simple kind of humor, and I end up doing that initially a lot. But even if I do parody something, I make sure I’m not making fun. I might poke fun about it, but I’m not making fun of the original creator or the original thing that’s being parodied.
Q: The world has changed over the course of your career. How have the things that have influenced you, the things that you think about when making your own products, changed?
A: The influence of the internet is actually quite scary. Back in the day, you would create something for people to watch it or review it, but there was always a time lag. You would read that and get some feedback, but now that feedback is instantaneous. There’s no time lag between people watching it and their “critiques”, so to say. Recently, there’s a lot of feedback of what the viewers are wanting, so the viewers are coming to an opinion to the people who are creating it. The creators can only create something that the viewers are asking for. There’s no creativity, there’s just making something that the viewers are wanting, so I feel like there’s just a little bit of a boxed-in feeling coming from the internet. As a creator, you have to make something with just a little different point of view than the viewer, but right now the viewers are giving some kind of feedback to the anime-making companies and now the creators are boxed in and out of the way. Me, personally, I’m able to interact with all my fans directly and communicate with them, so I have that happiness of taking that fun and making that into some kind of animation that make people laugh.
If you ever want to meet Nabeshin for yourself, keep in mind he’s a frequent guest of ACEN and often holds public panels as well! He’s pretty easy to spot out on the show floor too, as, even though he wasn’t wearing his trademark Lupin cosplay (according to him he’s the real Iron Man and only wore the Lupin clothes because of how much Lupin looked up to him), you’ll probably spot him thanks to his giant afro. Underneath that goofy exterior lies a man with a lot of insight in the industry, so check out one of his panels if you ever have the chance!