Interview with Norihiro Hayashida: Will 3D save Japanese 2D animation?

Shueisha, the publishing house where Dragon Ball was born, is actively involved in all projects that directly or indirectly relate to Dragon Ball. In 2016, she created the Dragon Ball Room, headed by Akio Iyoku. The latter explained that this structure was born of an interdepartmental collaboration between all the stakeholders of Dragon Ball, with the ambition of supporting and developing the Dragon Ball franchise.

To understand the close ties between all these actors, just look at Akio Iyoku, who is both the head of this Dragon Ball Room, and at the same time executive producer of the film. Dragon Ball Super SUPER HERO. This is the 21st film in the franchise, and above all the 1st Dragon Ball film entirely made in 3D CGI, which clearly did not meet with unanimous approval from Japanese and international viewers, who this time did not responded to Toei Animation’s call (cf. Box Office Dragon Ball Super Super Hero).

Despite the fact that the film’s box office figures are the worst in recent years – and it is easily proven that the Covid has nothing to do with it, since this same year, other Japanese and American animations have great numbers — it looks like the Japanese studios are planning to continue leveraging CGI. This is for example the case of the next animated sand landadapted from the work of Akira Toriyama.

Is 3D the future of Japanese 2D animation?

Will 3D save Japanese 2D anime? Akira Toriyama, the author of the original work, praised it, and the production process of the movie “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” also seems to predict a new era for Japanese anime.

In recent years, animation production technology has advanced a lot, and sometimes it is almost impossible to tell the difference between 3D and 2D. The movie “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” which was released in 2022 is a work that shows the best of using “2D-style 3D expressions” in animation, and the whole world applauded the performance. [Note de : Il s’agit d’une traduction du site officiel qui ne reflète pas notre opinion]. How did the original author, Akira Toriyama, react to the production process of this work which opens the way to a new era of Japanese 2D animation?

Editor’s Note: This article is a transcription of the original Japanese article by Shueisha.

Interview of Norihiro Hayashida by Shueisha

Toei Animation’s Norihiro Hayashida (Animation film producer since 2015)

PART 1: It took 4 pilot concepts in video before the full adoption of 3D.

How did you go about fully integrating 3D expressions in “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero”?

Initially, there was a lot of opposition to adopting 3D expressions within Toei Animation, but there were several people in senior management who said “you have to try”, so in June 2014, production of a pilot version has started. It was only around 2016 that I was able to show it to Shueisha’s Dragon Ball Room and Akira Toriyama-sensei for the first time. We made a total of 4 pilot films, we presented them each time, and we finally managed to have a “Go”.

Which version of the 4 pilots did Akira Toriyama finally approve?

This is a pilot version made by Tetsuro Kodama, the director of Dragon Ball Super SUPER HERO. We received a response like “If you work on this basis, you may be able to achieve a good result”.

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What points did Toriyama-sensei appreciate about the pilot versions?

The movement of the characters. The hand-drawn animation and the action full of realism thanks to the new technology combined well, and the master liked that. Mr. Kodama is one of the few people in the industry who has been researching cel-like 3D animation for a long time, so I think that experience has been put to good use.

“PIANOMAN” is an animated short film directed by Tetsuro Kodama. A work nominated by the 24th Jury Committee of the Animation Division of the Media Arts Festival of the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Director Kodama also participated in the Dragon Ball Super BROLY movie as a CG sequence director.

PART 2: 3D cel rendering [aka Cellulook] is the best way to meet the demand to “keep visual uniformity”.

Shenron CGI

Toriyama-sensei was very enthusiastic in his comments to recommend the Dragon Ball Super SUPER HERO movie.

That’s right ! When I received Shueisha’s great master’s very complimentary comment, I was very surprised that it was written on A4 size paper. I was extremely happy.

Personally, I think this work is the best masterpiece among Dragon Ball movies. However, aside from the viewer’s perspective, what did Toriyama-sensei, the original author and screenwriter, specifically like about this work?

I think it’s the general uniformity of the film. It’s because Toriyama-sensei and Shueisha told us, “We want you to eliminate the feeling of inconsistency in the drawings from scene to scene.” They wanted a sense of consistency in the models and the final rendering.

Vegeta CGI

I see. In the case of manga, the entire work is essentially seamless because that is the trait of the manga artist. For manga creators, there seems to be a great sense of dread that the design will change between each scene.

It’s true that the creators of anime tend to feel that “if we can have an exhibition of kami-sakuga [dessins / animations de très haut niveau], it’s better if the designs are slightly different between each scene”. However, in order to eliminate the feeling of inconsistency between the drawings, the “Cellulook” animation which introduced 3D thanks to the CGI is a top solution.

On the other hand, it now becomes difficult to create a drawing or animation where anime fans can guess who was the animator in charge: “Is this a scene from animator XXXX? »

In effect. This is most noticeable in still images. But with geniuses more commonly known as “super-animators,” you can’t win in a single frame. When it comes to being able to animate a uniform design, the Cellulook 3D is definitely more advantageous. I think that will be an issue in the future.

PART 3: A new form of expression that condenses historical know-how into hand-drawn animation.

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It can be said that Toei Animation is the origin of Japanese animation studios, and they still produce a lot of hand-drawn animations. Does “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” use these traditional hand-drawn animation techniques?

We have people who have been drawing Dragon Ball for decades, so their presence was very important. No matter how good you are at drawing, you can’t draw Dragon Ball like that right away. It goes without saying that Toriyama-sensei’s unique touch is recreated, but there are also many unique aspects to the action.

What kind of positions do they hold?

Animation directors. The workflow for this project was to have them draw three views of the character from the front, side, and back, and after getting Shueisha’s approval for all the characters, we started modeling.

Normally, I think it would be a process of looking at a single image and modeling it as it is, but with Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, the first step was finding a common understanding of how to “make Toriyama” in 3D, so we added a process for creating a three-sided, hand-drawn design. The presence of veterans with their know-how on Dragon Ball has been a great strength in this work. In addition, I gave the animation directors detailed visual correction instructions for each scene and edit, and asked them to make the images more “Dragon Ball”.

So after animating the characters and deciding on the camerawork, you tweaked the footage so that there was no straying from the cel look of Dragon Ball, right?

That’s it. The animation director made corrections for each frame, including hairstyles and outlines, and the animators made adjustments accordingly.

Sacrifice of Gamma 2

I heard that this work is a fusion of new technology and traditional hand-drawn animation, which has been cultivated for many years, and it is a work that expresses all the charm of a Dragon Ball completely new. On the other hand, I felt that the 2D intro, which sums up the main lines of the Dragon Ball story, is a high-quality handwork, which shows the strength of 2D animation, or rather, its power.

This part was made by the animation director Chikashi Kubota, who is one of the team members I absolutely wanted on this project. This is the part I was responsible for in response to Mr. Kubota’s request to be able to “animate 2D scenes, by hand.” It’s only a 2 minute video, but even after the first part of the movie was finished, the prologue still wasn’t finished (laughs). But I think that’s all.

Honestly, I thought it was the most amazing Dragon Ball related movie so far.

In terms of hand drawing, it’s exceptional. It’s really unbelievable. It is truly a divine work (kami-sakuga).

So in your opinion, is Dragon Ball Super SUPER HERO really changing the history of Japanese animation?

The Dragon Ball Super SUPER HERO movie, in brief…

Dragon Ball Super SUPER HERO is a Japanese anime film produced by Toei Animation. The film is written by Dragon Ball manga creator Akira Toriyama. It is the 21st Dragon Ball feature film, the fourth with Toriyama’s direct participation, and the second film in the Dragon Ball Super franchise. But it is above all the first Dragon Ball film to be produced entirely in CGI, that is to say with 3D animations, which earned it a salvo of negative reviews.

Super Hero should have made its debut in Japan on April 22, but following the hacking of Toei Animation’s servers, it was postponed to June 11, 2022. On the other hand, the film has also been announced for an upcoming release in the rest of the world: August 19 in the United States, and October 5 in France.

Other information about the movie

  • Original Writer/Script/Charadesigns: Akira Toriyama
  • Director: Tetsuro Kodama
  • Animation Director: Chikashi Kubota
  • Music: Naoki Sato
  • Artistic Director: Nobuhito Sue
  • Color design: Rumiko Nagai
  • CGI Director: Jae Hoon Jung
  • Voice Actors: Masako Nozawa, Toshio Furukawa, Aya Hisakawa, Ryo Horikawa, Mayumi Tanaka, Takeshi Kusao, Yūko Minaguchi, Hiroshi Kamiya, Mamoru Miyano

Interview/text/photographed by Kenta Terunuma for Shueisha.

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Interview with Norihiro Hayashida: Will 3D save Japanese 2D animation?

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