MATRIX: What are some of the recent projects you’ve worked on?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: On THE ANIMATRIX I worked with Watanabe-san on A DETECTIVE STORY and KID’S STORY. Before that I was a key animator on the film Akira, many years ago. More recently I worked on Spriggan, Perfect Blue and Spirited Away. Perfect Blue is the film I was involved in the most; I did key animation for around 36 scenes. For example, there is a particular scene where one of the characters is killed, and I did all of the key animation for that scene.

MATRIX: At Studio Ghibli?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: Perfect Blue was done through Madhouse [Production and Design Studio for WORLD RECORD and PROGRAM], not Studio Ghibli. I did work for Studio Ghibli, though; I had a contract for two productions. One was Spirited Away and the other was Houhokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun; it translates into English as, My Neighbors the Yamadas.

MATRIX: How many key animators are there on a typical project?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: For theatrical features, there are around 50 key animators. I don’t remember how many key animators there were on Akira, but on Spriggan there were around 50.

MATRIX: From a key animator’s point of view, how is the work divided?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: Everything is decided according to the personality and originality of each key animator. A scene goes to a particular animator because of the characteristics of their drawings.

MATRIX: When we were talking to Watanabe-san about KID’S STORY, he said it was you who came to him with the idea of using a scratchier style; where did that come from?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: Basically I don’t like drawings that are drawn very clear-cut. I prefer sketchier pictures that have more atmosphere to them. I have used this sketchy-type technique on two other productions. The first time was on the titles for a earlier project, and the first time I used the sketchy style from beginning to end was on a film for Studio Ghibli.

MATRIX: Is this style close to the way you want to be animating; does your style change?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: What I did for KID’S STORY is the closest so far to the effect I’m after. My style hasn’t changed much from the way I’ve been doing it for the past few years. This is the technique that I’ve been developing for a while. It just comes naturally; I don’t even think about it anymore.

MATRIX: This particular style is more challenging for both you and the in-between artists; how do you feel about this?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: I know it is a burden for the key animators and in-betweeners — the key animators in particular started to wonder how they were going to illustrate the scenes with the sketchier drawings. It’s been very hard for them. I help them out a lot, drawing the basic actions and the things they cannot do, and try to assist with their drawings.

MATRIX: How many key animators are there on KID’S STORY?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: Between ten and fifteen. Key animators work with an animation supervisor who is in charge of the drawings to check if they’re done correctly.

MATRIX: With an extra level of difficulty to the process, how are the key animators responding to such a non-traditional style?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: In animation, everything used to be drawn on cels, so it was easy to incorporate sketchy drawings to add a touch of a different style. But now that things have changed and everything is digital, the process has changed and the responsibility has really shifted to the key animators to set up the look of the style. I haven’t had a chance to meet with the computer colorists yet, so I don’t know what they are thinking or what kind of response they’ll have.

MATRIX: How did you find yourself working with Watanabe-san?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: Fifteen years ago, when I first became an animator, I met Watanabe-san when he was working at a company called Sunrise. The first time I worked with him was 15 years ago at Sunrise, and I haven’t seen him since… until this project. This is the first time we’ve worked together with him as the director.

Even though I hadn’t met with Watanabe-san for 15 years, he had been watching the work I’ve been doing. So when he became involved in this production, he called (in the fall of 2000) and asked me if I was interested. We met and discussed it, and at the meeting he showed me a picture of Clayton [Watson, plays the Kid in THE MATRIX RELOADED], and I really wanted to draw him, so I decided to join the project.

MATRIX: Once you became involved in the production, what were some of the things in the story you discovered?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: All I could focus on was the tight schedule, I didn’t have any room to think about challenges, though I did enjoy the process of making the picture. I’ve just been focusing on finishing it on schedule.

MATRIX: Did you utilize the footage of Clayton that Watanabe-san filmed in Australia?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: Yes, I referred to that for almost everything. Every action he did on the tape, I looked to put into my drawings.

MATRIX: What about when he jumps on the skateboard?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: [Shinya] Ohira did that particular scene, not me. He is very good at skateboarding, so it was very helpful of him to draw that action scene of Clayton.

MATRIX: As a child, how you begin drawing?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: I have an older brother, who is also an animator, so when I was in kindergarten I subconsciously tried to imitate everything my brother did. Ever since, I’ve spent a lot of time drawing.

MATRIX: Is there any rivalry between you and your brother?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: I used to be competitive, but now I try not to be… now I try to avoid working with him on projects whenever possible. But of course I find it helpful that we both work in this field. I got into animation for two reasons: first, I like animation. Second, since my brother became an animator before me, he told me a lot about working in the field, so his input really motivated me to become an animator.

MATRIX: Do you view working on a short differently than working on a theatrical film?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: Everything is condensed when you’re working on a short film, but the energy I pour into the production is the same as what I do for a theatrical picture.

MATRIX: What has your experience on this film been so far?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: It’s been difficult, but I really enjoy working with Watanabe-san and on this project. I always have a mix of high spirits and high tension. I’ve been working on this pretty much whenever I’m not sleeping.

MATRIX: As a fan of anime, can you still watch your own work from a fan’s point of view?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: Yes I can, so I believe I’ll be very happy to see the actual film after everything is done.

MATRIX: Can you cite major influences on your work?

HASHIMOTO-SAN: When I became an animator, I challenged myself by working in a lot of different techniques. I tried to invent and push myself and enjoyed it a lot, but I went into kind of a dead end. Now I’m been going back to those first drawings I did before I became an animator, to try and find my way to something new and better, something original.

MATRIX: Thank you, Hashimoto-san.

Interview by REDPILL

Translated by Isako Shibata

July 2002