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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.

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maisou Releases Chillout New 'Fuyukan' EP

July 16, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Tokyo-based musician maisou has been making some serious waves this year, kickstarting her musical career with her self-titled heater at the end of last year, then working together with France-born Moe Shop to create "lovesick". Now we're finally getting another taste of her sound, working together once more with T5UMUT5UMU to craft her debut five-track EP, "Fuyukan". Released via Japanese netlabel OMOIDE LABEL, you can check out "Fuyukan" below:
 


From start to finish the EP embodies the exact chillout vibes necessary for these excessively hot summer days. There's no doubt that the EP is a departure from maisou's usual hard-hitting flow, but it's exciting to see a more slowed-down side of her music as well. There's an extremely raw energy to the EP, an honesty to it that feels lacking elsewhere, maisou isn't just saying words without depth. Spread out across five tracks, maisou's latest "Fuyukan" is every bit worth the listen.

Available now via OMOIDE LABEL's official Bandcamp, you can get maisou's "Fuyukan" EP as a free download, here.

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2ToneDisco and Happy Kuru Kuru Release 'Napoleon' Music Video

July 16, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Los Angeles-based trackmakers 2ToneDisco recently saw their entry into the idol world via their synth-heavy collaborative single with Tokyo's own Happy Kuru Kuru, "Napoleon," just a short while ago. The single was a departure from the group's typical high-speed sounds, yet it was still one that offered their usual sugar sweet lyrics. Over the weekend we saw the release of the official music video for the single, crossing between both Tokyo and Los Angeles with stitched footage of both groups.
 


We wrote up about "Napoleon" in the past when it first released, and not much in regards to my thoughts have changed. It's still a gorgeous utilization of Happy Kuru Kuru's vocal dynamics layered over 2ToneDisco's signature sounds, that much is certain. It's certainly cool seeing both Tokyo and Los Angeles interwoven in the music videos footage, looking through both the similarities and contrasts in the eyes of both 2ToneDisco and Happy Kuru Kuru.

Released via Los Angeles-based netlabel Attack the Music, "Napoleon" is available for free download and streaming via all major platforms, here.

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News

American Comics Legend Jim Lee Shows Love for My Hero Academia's All Might

July 16, 2018 8:00am
by Eddie Lehecka

American comic book legend, Jim Lee, has shown off his otaku pride with a recent sketch he shared on social media.

Lee is best known for his work in the 90's as the penciler behind Marvel Comics' X-Men #1 (still the highest selling issue of a comic ever printed), as well as a co-founder of the industry shaking Image Comics. Now he is the COO of DC Comics and keeps a very active streak on twitch doing live drawings as well as sharing new artwork regularly on Instagram and Twitter. If you're familiar with his work at all it should not be much of a surprise that he's a fan of anime & video games, showing off sketches of characters like Dragonball Z's Son Goku, and Overwatch's D-Va in the past.

Today he took to Instagram and Twitter to show off a sketch he drew of My Hero Academia's All Might, a character who in his muscle form seems ripped directly from an American comic book made in the 1990's. While this clash of a Japanese character with one of America's most prolific comic artists seems like a no-brainer when you consider the facts, we can't ignore how absolutely perfect this pairing is.

Those who know me well know that I am a massive American comic book fan in addition to Japanese manga, and Jim Lee is definitely someone who has had a lot of significance in my appreciation of the artform. The overlap between anime/manga personalities and American comic creators is something I'm an avid purveyor of, often making sure friends in my circles know about American comics & variants that are featuring art by Japanese illustrators (I might just have to do some kind of piece about that down the line), so I couldn't help but jump at the chance to get the word out about this as well.

I would love to see what series creator Kohei Horikoshi thinks about the work, maybe we'll have our answer later this week since the two comic giants will be appearing at San Diego Comic Con! In the meantime you can follow Jim Lee on Twitter, Instagram, and twitch.

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Aqours Welcomed with Dazzling Rainbow at Anime Expo

July 13, 2018 1:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

For a long time, it seemed like having a virtual idol concert outside of Japan was merely a pipe dream - after all, there was a whole world between it and the fans. But Anime Expo has proven consistently that lives can be a success overseas, and the welcome that the members of Aqours from the Love Live! franchise received at this year’s AX showcases the dazzling potential that these lives could have.

The members of Aqours were welcomed by a huge crowd of enthusiastic overseas fans this weekend at the Microsoft Theatre. Much like their Japanese counterparts, they came armed with penlights and happis, showing their dedication and love for the franchise. But they didn’t just come with enthusiasm. They came with a plan - to wow the performers with a rainbow of penlights. In precise timing with the song, fans would change the color of their penlights and raise them to create a rainbow that stretched all the way to the very back of the venue. It was truly a sight to be sold, and the performers were moved to tears.
 


Such a sight didn’t come from nothing, however, it was thanks to months of hard work and dedication by the team over at the Aqourainbow Project. Leading up to AX they tirelessly worked to raise awareness about the plan, producing a very detailed video about how the rainbow would work in the Microsoft Theatre and even handing out flyers to raise awareness about the plan outside the venue on the day of the live itself. Seeing their hard work pay off must’ve been a great feeling, and they deserve to be applauded.
 

Further projects surrounding penlight performance at the live included the Yousoroad and Kananrail Project, which while unfortunately didn’t gain as much traction as the Aqourainbow Project and therefore didn’t happen, showcased a similar level of dedication and love for the franchise.
 

And that’s what this live should be telling those who organize them - they can and do work overseas. Overseas fans are just as passionate, just as engaged, and just as willing a customer as a Japanese fan. In fact, the number of obstacles overseas fans have to climb over are more numerous, making them often even more engaged with the franchise - not only the language barrier but also sheer distance, with many Love Live! fans traveling across the country to be in with a chance to see Aquors. Multiple city dates in the US wouldn’t be unprofitable, nor would the welcome be lukewarm. It would be as warm as they get back home.

Even Japanese fans were impressed by the enthusiasm and passion of overseas fans, with some exclaiming “They really did a rainbow” and others commenting “The organization of overseas fans is really amazing!”. Furthermore, it seems like the idea for the rainbow is spreading to Japan, with attendees of the Fukuoka live taking place this weekend attempting to organise a repeat of the AX spectacle. It’s worth noting that a fair number of the Fukuoka attendees are actually overseas fans, many of whom choose to enter the ticket lottery for the Fukuoka live because there is a higher chance of winning, but pulling off the rainbow in Fukuoka will definitely inspire Japanese fans to do the same as well.

Fans are cooperating and showing their passion in other ways as well. UK-based group Aqours Tea Party are currently lobbying to get a delayed live viewing organised in the UK, the success of which could spell a new dawn for lives in the west. But as it stands, overseas fans have clearly demonstrated their passion and willingness to support lives overseas. What remains to be seen is if that passion will be rewarded. Aqours Tea Party is currently running a general interest survey in a delayed live viewing. You don’t have to be a UK resident to fill it out, so please show your support if that’s something you’d like to see become a reality.

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TiMEMAXERAS Release Debut EP 'SUGAR C and THA FRESH!'

July 13, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

There's been an undeniable resurgence in appreciation towards 80s Japanese pop music over the past few years, with many international fans looking back to the past for what they would consider a fresh new sound. It's not without good reason either, that timeframe birthed an entire generation of sounds that to this day hold their own as timeless classics. This is where Tokyo-based musical duo TiMEMAXERAS comes into play -- bringing a modern twist to the sounds of the past through their debut EP "SUGAR C and THA FRESH! " released via Attack the Music.
 


Delivering an authentic 80s Japanese sound direct to your feed, TiMEMAXERAS is fronted by both sound designer SUGAR C and image designer moji8fresh. Their debut EP, "SUGAR C and THA FRESH!", is filled to the brim with masterpiece after masterpiece, with a remix by French trackmaker Moe Shop tying the whole package together. Released today via Japan-focused netlabel Attack the Music, TiMEMAXERAS is coming in hot, and we're sure they won't be slowing down any time soon.

TiMEMAXERAS - SUGAR C and THE FRESH!

Tracklist: 

  1. MAKE IT LAST FOREVER
  2. Runaway
  3. TONiGHT
  4. Tokyo Night Flyght
  5. TiME MACHINE
  6. Tokyo Night Flyght (Moe Shop Remix)
Available now for free download via Attack the Music, further information on TiMEMAXERAS can be found via their official website.

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Neko Hacker Release New EP 'SUMMER', New Music Video

July 12, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

For a group that was quite literally formed this year, self-described "Kawaii Future Rock" band Neko Hacker most definitely have a lot going for them. This week marked the release of the duo's second EP, the fittingly-titled "SUMMER!", as well as the release of an all-new music video for the track "Night Sky (feat. Mashilo & ichika)". It's not too often that an artist can burst onto the scene and leave me clinging on the edge of my seat for their next release, so I'm definitely excited to see how much I can listen to this new EP too.
 


There really is one question on my mind, and that's how long is it going to take before Neko Hacker are picked up to start working on anime OP/EDs? There's an undisputed energy to everything they've released to date that makes for the perfect match, and I can only hope that one day it gets applied fittingly. As a little bonus, you might note featured artist Mashilo as a particularly familiar face, especially if you're familiar with the always incredible CY8ER idol group that she is a member of. 

Available now for streaming via both Apple Music and Spotify, you can find further information via their official website.

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The Original 151 Pokémon are Getting New Plush Toys

July 12, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

With the upcoming Pokémon Let's Go! games set to bring trainers back to the Kanto region -- the setting of the original Pokémon titles -- there's certainly a lot of reasons to be excited as we inch closer to the game's release. Even if the idea of the new game isn't quite hitting that same sense of nostalgia brought forward when thinking about trying to catch them all during your childhood years, maybe this will tickle your desire to collect them all. The Pokémon Company have this week announced their upcoming "Pokémon Fit" line of plush toys, offering all 151 original Pokémon in an adorable new form.


Launching across Japan at numerous Pokémon Center locations, fans will be able to pick up the initial lineup of 30 Pokémon from July 13 and then the remaining 121 Pokémon from November 2018. Priced at roughly $10 a piece, the plush toys are described by The Pokémon Company as palm-sized toys. At that price, it would cost buyers over $1,500 USD to catch them all, if you're able to get your hands on them fast enough. The first run of 30 Pokémon contains a mostly oddball collection of various creatures, while of course containing both Pikachu and Eevee.

Available from today at Pokémon Center locations across Japan, you can find further information on the Pokémon Fit toy plush collection via its official website.

Source: IGN

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