George Wada worked as a producer as Production I.G. with hits like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Kimi ni Todoke. He left Production I.G. to start his own production house, WIT STUDIO. The studio only founded in 2013 has produced Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, The Ancient Magus’ Bride the currently airing Vineland Saga and mega-hit Attack on Titan. We had the chance to sit down and talk with Mr. Wada at Crunchyroll Expo in San Jose, California..
Honey's Anime Exclusive Interview with George Wada
You had a successful career at Production I.G. so why did you decide to start your own production company?
Well, first all the producers in Japanese Anime want to have their own company. So, if a producer has a lot of charisma or leadership skill, he can get people to follow him and it makes it easier to start his own company. Production I.G. has a brand with works like Ghost in the Shell and I wanted to work on projects, not in the same genre. I wanted to create my own company to allow me to pursue it..
The new WIT Studio animation, Girl from the Other Side, has some new and impressive technical aspects to the design that give it great texture. Can you elaborate on the process and style choice?
The Girl from the Other Side was created almost exclusively by two animators. The animators involved were originally on the more artistic side of the anime design process. In Japan you have two different kinds of animation, one is artistic and the other is for the mass entertainment commercial market. The new challenge that WIT Studio is taking on is creating an anime geared toward the entertainment side but using animators skilled in the artistic side..
Can you elaborate on some of your new techniques?
We recently started doing Stop-Motion animation. An example of the kind of show we are working on is, I’m not sure what the title is in English, but it has to do with Sheep? (Reporter offers --Wallace and Grommit and Shaun the Sheep?) Yes. That's it. We are working on things similar to Ardman Entertainment..
What does it feel like for WIT Studio, a company you founded, to become one of the major studios with hits like Attack on Titan and lead to them being trusted with many other major franchises??
It is a compliment to us that people now recognize the quality and talent of our staff. The trust lets us start projects and do titles we’ve always wanted to do. We are also now in a place where we can go to intellectual property holders and ask them for the rights to do an anime instead of waiting for them to choose us..
Has the popularity of anime the increased volume of programs and the shorter timeline threatened the quality of that production?
We at WIT try to limit the number of works that we do to prevent a drop-in quality. We have also shared production with other studios to lessen the burden. We have also taken projects directed at younger audiences which have less complicated art. I think the anime industry is moving towards segmenting into kinds of studios, those that create works with high production value and those that produce lesser production value for a mass-market audience. WIT is striving to do both..
You have worked on a verity of projects in your time as a producer and now a company president what would you consider a highlight in that career?
The first part is all of us tend to just sit in front of our desk all day and draw and draw and draw. We all get up and go to work 365 days every year. We all have pride in our work. I think that the fact that our work reaches a large English speaking audience despite being in Japanese is an important benchmark..
Hōzuki no Reitetsu is a comedy which makes it different than a lot of your other titles. Is WIT Studio looking to make additional forays into the comedy anime realm?
The director Hiro Kaburagi is very good at comedy. So, when he leads a project it tends to have a comedic element to it. We have a project coming out next year called Great Pretender and that is a comedy and will be directed by Kaburagi..
Did you expect to see such success from Attack on Titan?
WIT Studio was still an unknown when Attack on Titan was started and no one in Japan was expecting it to do very well. The same went for Psyco Pass, we didn’t get any accolades until episode 11. WIT Studio is now considered a safe bet for a project in the industry..
What do you think the appeal of Attack on Titan is that attracts it to such a large audience?
I’ve talked to a lot of people about this. I found it interesting that someone told me that they thought of Attack on Titan as a Zombie story. You have the Walking Dead in America and we have Titans in Japan. The scariest thing for the Japanese is the unknown. The idea in Titan is that everyone on the outside is the same but, on the inside, they can be different and in some cases Titans. The other universal theme from all over the world that might attract audiences is living peacefully behind your walls and being attacked from something beyond those walls.
The anime industry is known for having a difficult work-life balance. Is there a way you promote a better work-life balance at WIT??
A large portion of the production staff is married and has families, and we try to help preserve that, but, however in the industry when you are in the industry and making anime there are some nights when you have to sleep at the office until the work is done. The reward for that is after the projects wrap you get to take a long vacation. We organized into production teams and don’t have people working on multiple projects so we can facilitate those post-production breaks.
How will we look at the art of anime in a thousand years? Will we look at it in the same way we look at art and poetry from the Heian Period of Japan?
Probably, or more so I hope that anime will be recognized that way for its contribution to our culture.