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Interview with ‘Blade Runner 2022’ Animator Bahi JD

October 30, 2017 6:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

When it comes to interviews I’ve been dying to bring to life since the very conception of OTAQUEST, formally exchanging words with rapidly-rising animator Bahi JD was definitely somewhere near the top. There’s not a single day that passes that I don’t learn something new about the Austria-born creative, and having the chance to further develop on everything I had already discovered was something I couldn’t help but desire. If you don’t quite know his name yet, I can only hope that changes soon.

With an entire catalogue of work that can be found in series such as “One-Punch Man,” “Space Dandy,” the more recent “Blade Runner Black Out 2022,” and an ever-developing list of different titles, he’s a powerhouse force that won’t be disappearing any time soon.

There’s a lot of different reasons to appreciate his work as a creative — from his self-made position in the industry, to his persistence in everything he does, Bahi JD wins us over in every regard. That’s why we’re so excited to bring you this interview with Bahi JD, which can be found in full below:

It’s a pleasure to speak to you today Bahi JD, before we get too into things, can you give us a brief introduction?

My name is Bahi JD and I’m an animator from Austria who is currently working in the Japanese animation industry. You’ll sometimes see me working in the field of illustration too. 

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into animation, as well as the steps you took to break into the Japanese animation industry?

I’ve always been fascinated by the world of animation; as early as my school years, I’d constantly be scribbling in my textbooks to create small flipbook-style animations. Perhaps the point where I found myself completely captivated by the world of animation, however, was when I discovered the animators behind some of my favorite titles. Classics such as “Princess Mononoke,” “Akira,” Mamoru Oshii’s “Ghost in the Shell,” “The Iron Giant,” “FLCL,” and a long-list of others had an extremely strong impact on me.

The discovery of these animators eventually lead me to an article about an animator called Ryo-Chimo who utilized an unfamiliar tool to me at the time — the digital-drawing tablet. Ryo-Chimo was especially noteworthy due to his online-postings of his works, and his eventual breakthrough into the animation industry. It was after this I decided to pick up my own digital-drawing tablet, and began practicing animation for fun. It was at this time that I also got in contact with other animators through the internet to ask for their advice — animators such as Cindy Yamauchi, Keisuke Kojima, and Majiro are the first to come to mind. 

I made some gif-animations and sent them to anime producers, but it just wasn’t enough to land me a job. I was undeniably rejected quite a few times. 

Cindy Yamauchi gave me some particularly good advice on the aspects I would need to improve and further develop. It’s not just about being a good animator, it’s also about having strong and flexible drawing skills. You have to show you can draw anything in any style, and you need to be capable of drawing good layouts, which is perhaps one of the most important aspects. During this time I had no idea what “layouts” were, so I picked up and studied a book called “Studio Ghibli Layout Designs.” 

I kept working on my portfolio and would send it back and forward with Cindy Yamauchi, who at the time, was working on a new TV series. She showed my works to the director and producer of the company, and eventually I was hired to work on Shinichiro Watanabe’s “Kids on the Slope.” It was at the same time that director Takuya Hosogane approached me to animate for his Vocaloid music video alongside Shingo Yamashita and Ryo-Chimo. 

In those early days, there was a lot of trial and error involved for me, but the director, producer and animators were very supportive. It was during my learning process that they taught me a lot of different aspects of anime production, and it’s for that I'm very thankful.

You mentioned a few before, but what were some of the animated series you grew up on? Was there much of an anime scene in Austria, or did you have to discover it all on your own?

When I was a child, I grew up watching various Nippon Animation productions such as “Peter Pan no Bouken” and “Heidi.” Later on in my teenage years, however, I would go on to discover “Akira,” “FLCL,” “Ghost in the Shell,” as well as a number of Studio Ghibli films, all of which influenced me. I also enjoyed the animation within works such as “Gurren Lagann,” “Dennou Coil,” “Cowboy Bebop,” and held “Samurai Champloo” in particularly high regard, especially due to it’s incredible soundtrack by Nujabes and Tsuchie.

There was, and still is a strong anime scene in Austria and Germany — TV channels used to broadcast a lot of anime back then. I include Germany as well because a lot of our TV channels were actually the same; even MTV Germany used to broadcast anime. 

With all that being said, there was still a lot of anime that didn’t make it to the television. Those are the series that I discovered through both my friends and the internet. I think with the internet, there’s even more of an anime scene all over the world now. 

Jumping forward quite a bit, you most recently worked on the Watanabe Shinichiro-directed “Blade Runner Black Out 2022” anime short. Can you tell us a little bit about your work on that?

Being both a fan of “Blade Runner” and Watanabe Shinichiro’s works, I was definitely excited to work on the short. We had an entire meeting at Cygames Pictures where Shinichiro Watanabe showed me the storyboard, and we discussed which scene I’d like to work on. I animated the scene where both Trixie and Iggy are fighting the guards. The scene was split into two parts; the first part was animated by the legendary Hiroyuki Okiura, and the second part was my own work. 

It was a great pleasure to work with Shinichiro Watanabe and his team. The character designer Shukou Murase is one of my absolute favorite character-designers. The soundtrack by Flying Lotus was also really great, he captured the atmosphere of “Blade Runner” meticulously, all while adding his own touch to it. 

In your work on the animated project, there’s a mix of fluid motions and dramatic reaction. Can you describe how you went about planning this scene?

Shinichiro Watanabe had a rough storyboard for my action scene, though since it was a rough storyboard, I had a lot of room for new ideas. He allowed me to change up both the action and choreography, as long as it followed the continuity of the other cuts and worked well. You’re always able to try new things during layout and show it to the director for approval. 

The choreography was a real challenge for me, I hadn’t animated any scenes where a single character is pitted against a lot of others before this. I ended up researching a whole bunch of martial arts videos as preparation for the choreography. 

When characters are fighting, you try not to make your choreography look “choreographed.” Making it look natural, that’s always the main challenge. I wanted the audience to be able to follow the action without issue — when there’s a lot of characters on screen it can become hard to follow during fight scenes. I started very roughly with the drawings, almost like a storyboard while planning the action.

Regarding the question about fluid motion and dramatic reaction, to give an example; when Trixie jumps for a kick, I slow down the action to allow time for the motion of the leg to build up energy — in animation, we call this “anticipation.” This way when it snaps super fast, you have the reaction. You can tweak these actions by experimenting with both the “timing” and “spacing” of slow and fast motion. 

When working on the “Blade Runner” project, you had some big-name individuals working alongside you. Was there anyone in particular who really impressed you with their talent during the creation of the short?

I was honestly impressed by everyone’s work on the short film. Especially the cuts by Hiroyuki Okiura, Shinji Hashimoto, Shinya Ohira, Tatsuyuki Tanaka, and Mitsuo Iso.

Every time Hiroyuki Okiura finished a cut, I would ask the producer to let me take a look at it. I’d sit there for an entire hour just staring at each and every frame — his work is absolutely brilliant, and extremely educative. His sense for realism is incredible, and it’s totally his own imagination and skills. He doesn’t use any reference, so when you look at it, you can truly learn the technical work of a master. 

It was also nice to have Tatsuyuki Tanaka on the project. More recently, Tatsuyuki Tanaka’s mostly been active as a director, illustrator, and character designer. As a fan of his work, I was definitely excited to see his key-animation again. He’s a very strong animator, and also worked on “Akira” when he was only 22 or 23. 

In a previous interview you conducted, you mentioned you consider Shinya Ohira to be one of the greatest animators. What do you think of his work on “Blade Runner,” and did you get the chance to talk to him?

Shinya Ohira is someone with the ability to be both stylistic and realistic at the same time. He has extremely high technical skills, and a great artistic vision. On top of that, he manages to balance those two traits well. His work is emotional, expressive, and dynamic. His scene in “Blade Runner” is a flashback to the past, where I felt he captured the feeling of that “memory” very well with the rough artstyle and animation. 

I met him one time at Comiket at an animator booth with Yoshimichi Kameda and others. At Comiket, there’s a lot of different animator booths, and you can find sketchbooks, art books, and flipbooks by a number of great animators such as Mitsuo Iso, Shinya Ohira, and Yutaka Nakamura. I recommend checking out the animator booths if you ever go to Comiket, the art books are great.

From the very beginning with “Kids on the Slope,” then “Space Dandy,” and now “Blade Runner,” what is it about Shinichiro Watanabe as a director that keeps calling you back?

I’m more than happy a great director like him continues to work with me. It’s always a pleasure, and I learn a lot each time I work with him. He also allows me to be very expressive when working on his projects.

It’d be fair to say that none of the anime projects you’ve worked on have been “ordinary.” Series such as “One-Punch Man,” and “Ping Pong” immediately spring to mind, but what is it that draws you to these out of the ordinary series’?

I’m just a fan of the projects, and of the people who end up working on them. I like to work on projects where I can learn a lot as an animator from the team members. These kinds of projects can be very challenging, so it’s always exciting and interesting.

Where do you see the anime industry 10 years from now?

That’s a hard question. I’ve not been in the industry for a very long time, but in the time that I have been here, I’ve seen much improvement over the years. I see a good future for the anime industry, and things are improving step by step.

Young animators in the industry are very passionate and are improving every single day, so I think there’s going to be a new wave of big-name animators in the future. More generally, the people here work with strong passion and enthusiasm. They love to animate together, and it’s this strong passion for animation amongst these young creators that gives me hope we’re heading towards a promising future.

Working as a foreigner in the Japanese animation industry, is there any advice you’d give to others looking at following in your footsteps?

Learn the Japanese language, communication is very important. There are English speakers in the anime industry, but they aren’t always going to be there when you need to communicate with everybody.

Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to those following your works?

Thank you for all of your support, and thanks for appreciating animation! 

Jumping over numerous hurdles presented by the industry, Bahi JD is a name we’re certain to see for years to come. He’s a creator with clear inspiration, but also someone unafraid of paving his own paths — and we can’t wait to see where he goes next. If you’re interested in checking out more of his works, you can find him on both Twitter and Tumblr where he frequently shares what he’s working on, as well as sharing glimpses into the life of an animator.


Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time International Release Date Announced

March 16, 2018 4:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Studio TRIGGER's incredible Little Witch Academia was a series that stole our hearts all the way back when the first movie released in 2013. After a second film would go on to be crowdfunded entirely by fans across the globe, and a massively-successful anime series would be produced in 2017, it was finally teased that Little Witch Academia would be receiving its own video game on both PlayStation 4 and Steam.

Well, you're not going to need to wait much longer to get your hands on the game, with Bandai Namco Entertainment announcing audiences in the United States and Europe would be able to begin playing the game from May 15. In celebration of this announcement, Bandai Namco Entertainment began streaming the game's opening movie:

Having launched in the latter half of 2017 in Japan, it's exciting to see that English-speaking audiences will finally be able to have their hand at the game. Described as a "3D Action Beat Em' Up" by the team at Bandai Namco Entertainment, you can check out the game's original story below:

Having been inspired by a famous witch named Shiny Chariot, an ordinary girl named Atsuko (Akko) Kagari enrolls at Luna Nova Magical Academy, a prestigious school for young girls training to become witches. Before starting summer vacation, Akko and her new classmates find out about an inexplicable phenomenon at Luna Nova caused by the Seven Wonders, which has been passed down for several centuries. Now it's up to Akko as she takes on the adventure to unravel the mystery surrounding the Seven Wonders.

With just a couple of short months until fans can get their hands on the game, we want to know what you're hoping to see. You can find further information about Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time on the official website.


FLCL 2 & 3 Get a New Visual From Character Designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

March 16, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

There's a lot of hype building for the upcoming FLCL 2 & 3 anime all around me, and it's not without good reason. Produced by Production I.G. and set to release at an undisclosed time in 2018, the series builds off the original Gainax & Production I.G. anime from early 2000. We've got a feeling we'll be seeing a bit about the series announced during the upcoming Anime Japan, but before that, we've been given a new visual from character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. 

There's a bit to take in from this image, most notably of which probably includes Haruko Haruhara in the background, as well as the classic Vespa SS 180 that kicked the whole series off almost 18 years ago. Additionally, we see new character Hidomi front and center who you may recognize from the trailer that released some time ago. Also yes, they feature those same Axent Wear look-alike headphones that caused all the controversy when the trailer first released.

Set to air as to six-episode series in the United States, FLCL 2 & 3 acts as both a tribute and continuation of the adventures of Haruko Haruhara and Naoto Nandaba. We're excited to see the directions the new season of the series takes us, and hope it leaves the same impact it did all those years ago. You can find the official website for FLCL here.


SKY-HI Shares Latest Single 'Nani Sama' w/ Music Video ft. Moga Mogami

March 16, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

It's been about five years now since I first heard the lyrical-stylings of Tokyo-based rapper SKY-HI when he collaborated with Japanese trackmaker Tofubeats on the mind-melting "Fresh Salad" from his Lost Decade album. Ove those five years, we've seen the growth and progression of SKY-HI in his solo career outside of his usual work with Japanese pop unit AAA. Today we see the next step in that progression with the release of "Nani Sama feat. Boku no Ririkku no Bouyomi," a hard-hitting track featuring incredible production value and lyrics. 

Released ahead of his upcoming "Best Catalyst" album which is set to release digitally on March 21, the track was shared alongside an extraordinary Atsunori Toushi-directed music video. Those watching the music video might be surprised to spot Moga Mogami in there, playing the focus character in this unbelievably gorgeous music video. I'm not quite sure whether it's a crime to write about, or in this case affiliated artists three days in a row, but I'm doing it anyway.

If you're interested in checking out SKY-HI's upcoming album, you can pick it up for digital pre-order here.


Galaxxxy Is About to Present Their Latest Time Sale to the World Live

March 15, 2018 6:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Testing, testing... is this thing on? HAI DOMO, Tokyo-based fashion brand Galaxxxy desu!

If you're not in the know about Tokyo-based fashion brand Galaxxxy, that needs to change. They're a model example of Tokyo's vibrant and colorful street fashion scene, and you've absolutely seen us talk about them plenty. Well, they're about to go digital in the most literal use of the word, broadcasting themselves live as they share their latest time sale. Taking place on March 19 from their Shibuya flagship store, viewers from around the globe will be able to tune in and get their hands on some seriously good sales.

Hosting the stream will be Galaxxxy store staff member @yaaaaaneee and guest @mio.the_newperformer. Those of you interested in tuning in listen close; the live stream will be taking place at 9:00 pm (PST) and at 1:00 pm (JST) and will run for a total of an hour. If you're looking for where to go, look no further. Galaxxxy will be hosting the stream on their official website, which is accessible here. I'll definitely be in the stream checking out everything that's shared and maybe even picking up a few new pieces myself.

Image: Galaxxxy


MyAnimeList Has Opened Their Own Online Manga Store

March 15, 2018 4:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

MyAnimeList has announced their latest venture, kicking off their digital manga store as part of a partnership with both Viz Media and Kodansha Comics earlier this month. It's an interesting move for the indexing website, with the store currently available in a handful of countries across the globe. 

As of the time of writing this piece, there are currently roughly 200 titles from both publishers, with more being added in the near future. Taking a look through the website, and you'll find prices ranging from $6.00 to $12.00 and above.The store integrates the now 12-year-old database's extensive index into the store and vice-versa, allowing for individuals to discover and learn more about any given manga series before diving into it. 

Those of you interested in checking out the new digital manga store can head over to MyAnimeList and get reading!


Kyoto Animation's 'Violet Evergarden' is Coming to Netflix in the US in April

March 15, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

It's been a long wait for fans of Kyoto Animation in the United States when it came to watching the Netflix-exclusive Violet Evergarden, but it seems that wait is finally coming to a close. While much of the rest of the world was logging into the online streaming service weekly to view episodes simulcasted alongside their airing in Japan, the United States had been exempt until the full series finished airing for "binge-viewing" purposes, as Netflix likes to put it. Listed for an April 5 premiere date in the United States, it's time to catch up on the series' first season.

Originally airing in Japan on January 10, and becoming available in select regions internationally on January 11, it's taken almost four months for the US to get their hands on the visually spectacular series. Originally catching the eyes of the anime fandom at large following the release of the first CM which utilized some of the most complex animations in a very long time, it immediately hit the must-watch list for many including myself. For those of you unfamiliar, you can find the series' full synopsis below:

The Great War finally came to an end after four long years of conflict; fractured in two, the continent of Telesis slowly began to flourish once again. Caught up in the bloodshed was Violet Evergarden, a young girl raised for the sole purpose of decimating enemy lines. Hospitalized and maimed in a bloody skirmish during the War's final leg, she was left with only words from the person she held dearest, but with no understanding of their meaning.

Recovering from her wounds, Violet starts a new life working at CH Postal Services after a falling out with her new intended guardian family. There, she witnesses by pure chance the work of an "Auto Memory Doll," amanuenses that transcribe people's thoughts and feelings into words on paper. Moved by the notion, Violet begins work as an Auto Memory Doll, a trade that will take her on an adventure, one that will reshape the lives of her clients and hopefully lead to self-discovery.

If you're curious to check it out, or have been waiting an entire four months to get your Violet Evergarden itch scratched, you can find the series on Netflix, here


Moe Shop Releases Latest EP 'Moe Moe'

March 15, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

After much waiting, France-based producer Moe Shop's latest EP "Moe Moe" is finally available in digital format. The EP, which calls on the talents of some of Japan's greatest female artists, went live at 12:00 pm (JST) and has seemingly been making waves both in Japan and around the globe since. We originally broke the news that the EP was in the works just a few months ago, and after all that waiting, we couldn't be happier with the end result.

Looking at the first half of the EP, we open with the shimmering sounds of "Magic (w/ MYLK)," instantly tearing listeners away from the moment and throwing them into a funk-driven groove, straying away from anything the artist has ever put out before. Following that up is the sensual collaboration with Puniden, "Virtual," a tongue-in-cheek story of love that blows me away every time. One of the most requested collaborations in recent memory, both Moe Shop, and YUC'e go above and beyond in "Baby Pink," and I can only hope to see the duo team up again in the future.

Jumping to the second half of the EP, we're thrust into the hard-hitting flow of newcomer maisou in "Lovesick," a first-time collaboration for the duo. Breaking through after this is "Notice (w/ TORIENA)," one of the earliest pieces from the EP. Putting down the Gameboy for just a moment to demand "Senpai" to notice her, TORIENA absolutely kills it here. Wrapping the whole EP up is one of my absolute favorites, "Fantasy (w/ MONICO)," a whispy slow-paced track that makes for the perfect end to the EP. Its down tempo leads combined with MONICO's de-tuned vocals send shivers down my spine every time.

If you're interested in checking out more of Moe Shop's works, you can find them on both Spotify and Bandcamp. Moe Shop's latest EP "Moe Moe" is available for purchase here.