0 Items | £0.00


Production I.G.'s Mitsuhisa Ishikawa

Thursday 13th December 2012

Andrew Osmond tracks down super-producer Mitsuhisa Ishikawa

Mitsuhisa IshikawaAt the Hyper Japan event last month, audiences had the opportunity to meet an anime heavy who might be irreverently called “Mr I” – Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, the co-founder, president and letter “I” of Production I.G. Which, for anyone who doesn’t know, is the studio behind Ghost in the Shell, Blood The Last Vampire, xxxHOLIC, Eden of the East, Patlabor, Cromartie High School, the gory cartoon bit of Kill Bill, and a hundred others. Its current crop on Japanese TV include the future-cop series Psycho-Pass; the robot-building show Robotics;Notes; and the glossy six-minute car commercial below, with character designs by Evangelion’s Yoshiyuki Sadamoto.

This year, I.G. is celebrating its twenty-fifth birthday, and Ishikawa was in Blighty to talk about the studio’s new directions. In his on-stage talk, conducted with Helen McCarthy and media commentator Ryusuke Hikawa, Ishikawa distinguished two strands of I.G anime – strong black coffee and afternoon tea. The “strong black coffee” anime comprises I.G’s action output, such as Blood the Last Vampire and the Kill Bill segment - though from Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell, I.G was blending action with deep thought. The “afternoon tea” anime is aimed at a broader, more mainstream audience, including the cinema films Oblivion Island (scheduled for UK release on March 25th) and Letter to Momo. Both are family movies, fantasy rather than SF, inviting comparisons to Ghibli and Pixar.

Ishikawa acknowledges the appeal of “strong black coffee” anime, not least to the people who make them. “The young staff in our studio always wanted to be popular among girls, so they tended to make violent scenes to look a little bit cool,” Ishikawa said during the stage talk. “Those young men who chose rock music to attract girls usually are not very good academically or athletically, so they chose rock. We weren’t good at anything, so we chose animation, and made Ghost in the Shell. But the fans of Ghost in the Shell are all men, not girls, unfortunately. We turned to afternoon tea after I and my business partner [studio co-founder Takayuki Goto] got married, and we wanted to become popular among children.”

Ishikawa tends to make such irreverent comments about his studio and staff. In a previous interview, he explained that the ideal male I.G director would be a guy who’s hopeless with the opposite sex: “If you’re satisfied on that side, then you don’t create such interesting stories.” Ishikawa is especially mischievous when he’s asked about two of his studio’s most famous directors: Mamoru Oshii, who directed the original Ghost in the Shell, two Patlabors, and The Sky Crawlers; and Kenji Kamiyama, who directed Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, Eden of the East, and the new film 009 RE: CYBORG.

“In a lot of Japanese businesses and companies, you have a sort of master-student relationship,” Ishikawa says. “It started out with Kamiyama as the student under Oshii, he wanted to make the same kind of films as Oshii. So for the first part of his career, Kamiyama was the student. But now what we see is that they’re coming to be more of a rival relationship, more on the same level. Because with any master-student relationship, there has to be a time when the student exceeds the master. And what we’re seeing now is that they’re on the same level and it’s getting towards that point. That’s maybe how you should explain their relationship.” Perhaps they should settle it with light-sabres…

Oshii and Kamiyama are two of the studio’s best-known names, but I.G. has had a large turnover of employees in its quarter-century history. “We take on about ten new animators every year, but of those people, the number who stay for ten years is only about one or two out of every ten, maybe a hundred or so people in total.” I.G relies on new recruits dedicated to anime, who love the form and are determined to join the industry. One such youngster, a lad called Naoyoshi Shiotani, grew up on ‘80s anime such as Totoro and Wings of Honneamise. “He graduated high school, he went to university, he went to a specialist school to learn animation, and then joined the company. And then ten years later, he’s directing his own projects.” Shiotani made the film Blood-C: The Last Dark, due for release next year, and contributed a loveable sheep to Oblivion Island.

For Ishikawa, the passion Shiotani showed is more important to anime than any technical advance. “Technology is important, you have to progress with it, but you need that kind of passion, that desire to do it, to be inspired; rather than looking at that technology and desiring to keep up with it.” For example, the film Letter to Momo, directed by Hiroyuki Okiura, was strongly inspired by Totoro. “It’s really difficult to depict real human emotion in animation,” Ishikawa says. “We wanted to bring it back in Momo, we really wanted to experiment.”

Many of I.G’s anime are hybrids, often mixing CGI with traditional hand-drawings. In recent years, though, there have also been hybrids of other kinds. I.G. anime like Eden of the East and Blood-C have action-oriented storylines, but they integrate designs by famous female artists. Eden of the East used character designs by Chica Umino, creator of Honey and Clover. Blood-C (both the series and film) used story and design concepts by the CLAMP group, which had already worked with I.G. on xxxHOLIC.

“Production I.G’s fanbase is overwhelmingly male,” says Ishikawa. “So what we were really trying to do with Eden and Blood-C was to maybe increase the number of female fans. CLAMP has a mainly female fanbase, so obviously by combining their work with what I.G does, perhaps we would make something that would appeal more to female fans.”

However, if you’re worrying that I.G. will forsake action for sweeter fare like Momo or Oblivion Island, you can rest easy. Of I.G.’s current titles, 009: RE CYBORG looks to be very much in the old-school studio mould, as does Psycho-Pass. I.G. has also recently made Appleseed XIII, a CGI film and series based on the classic SF manga by Masamune Shirow. Mention of Shirow turns our thoughts to Ghost in the Shell – surely I.G. must be planning a return of its most famous franchise? “I would love to talk a lot about it, but I’m not allowed to talk about it!,” Ishikawa apologises.

“I.G is known for edgy films, but I would love to keep making films like Momo,” Ishikawa says. “We’re making both kinds of film. What I really think makes us a good studio is to have both of those colours, not just one or the other. We think the best idea is to go to both extremes, to make the family-orientated films suitable for kids, and to make the more adult films, to make both at the same time. We think that’s the direction we want to go.”

Ghost in the Shell, Eden of the East and Sky Crawlers are all released in the UK by Manga Entertainment. Oblivion Island is coming to the UK in 2013.

Production I.G.'s Mitsuhisa Ishikawa


Ghost In The Shell 2.0

was £19.99
Three years after the events of �Ghost in the Shell�, little has changed at Section 9 except for the glaring void left by the disappearance of Major Motoko Kusanagi, and no one is more affected by this than Batou. In her absence he has become more sullen and withdrawn than ever, taking an interest in philosophy and finding joy only in the company of his pet basset hound. When a string of shocking cases comes to light involving a certain model of androids manufactured by the LOCUS SOLUS company butchering their owners, Chief Aramaki assigns Batou and Togusa to investigate. Batou arrives at one such crime scene and shoots the android just as it is seemingly attempting to destroy itself. When Batou questions why Section 9 is involved in this particular case, Aramaki explains that none of the families of victims have filed lawsuits against LOCUS SOLUS, and that several of the victims were connected with the government.



This Koko is no clown
Opening with a running fight down a freeway where anti-tank missiles and heavy vehicles are tossed around like party favours, the first episode never lets up, setting a standard that the show maintains throughout.


Fairy Tail Music: Jamil

Tom Smith on Fairy Tail’s 8th Opening Theme
If you’re reading this blog, there’s a fair chance that the idea of visiting Japan has crossed your mind a few times. American-born Jamil Abbas Kazmi had a similar thought, though he wanted to take it one step further by establishing a career out there.

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple

The first rule of Kenichi is: big eyes and kick ass.
In the real world, mastering a martial art takes years of devotion. All require a harsh physical regimen that pushes the body to the limit. Of course, we’re dealing with the world of anime, so we have a sneaking suspicion that Kenichi Shirahama might be able to go from shy, quiet bookworm to martial arts prodigy in a matter of weeks. All it takes to send him on the path to becoming Chuck Norris’ worst nightmare is falling for the new girl in class after he sees her single-handedly demolishing a group of thugs.

Mechademia 8: Tezuka's Manga Life

Jasper Sharp reviews a book-length collection on the “God of Manga”
Tezuka’s Manga Life is a scholarly and much-needed attempt to sort out the wheat from the chaff of the Tezuka myth, with its 22 contributors spread over 300+ pages attempting to put the vast output of the prodigious manga artist into context.

Ghost in the Shell Fashions

Helen McCarthy on Major Kusanagi – fashion icon
Ever since her debut, the heroine of Masamune Shirow's manga-turned-global-franchise Ghost In The Shell has been a high-end product. She's a cyborg combat specialist modified to look like a cross between a top fashion model and a porn star, in a world where most of the women we see are as objectified as in our own reality.

Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere

Andrew Osmond tries to make sense of Sunrise's mad new anime
As regular subscribers to Manga Entertainment’s podcast and twitter feed will know, there was some confusion about whether Sunrise’s new comedy-fantasy-action-fanservice series was called (deep breath) Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere or Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. We’re calling it the former in the UK, although releases elsewhere have plumped for the “in” option. Either way, it sounds less weird and Escheresque once you know that Horizon is the name of a pivotal female character in the series. But it reflects the inescapable fact that Horizon is, well, confusing.

Who's Who in Dragon Ball #3

Wonder no more, as we reveal the origins of Akira Toriyama’s creations!
The faces may look familiar, but everything else is different in this classic series!

Magi the Labyrinth of Magic

In search of the animated Arabian Nights
The literary history of the Arabian Nights that underlies Magi is fascinating. The one point that any Magi fan should know to sound erudite is that three of the show’s main characters, Aladdin, Alibaba and Sinbad, are named after famous Arabian Nights heroes. However, none of these heroes were actually in the original collection.

Blood C: The Last Dark

Director Naoyoshi Shiotani on getting the darkness right
“In every theatre you have different light, so you can never be sure what it’s going to look like. So you have to think; will this be okay, will you lose details in that kind of darkness? It was hard to calculate all that.”
Contact Us   |   Refund Policy   |   Delivery Times   |   Privacy statement   |   Terms & Conditions
Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. Production I.G.'s Mitsuhisa Ishikawa from the UK's best Anime Blog.