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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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Animator Kojo Tanno is Crafting Mysterious and Dreamy Shorts

May 22, 2018 3:00pm
by Lizzy Zhang

Do you enjoy the kind of abstract, dialogue-less, post-or-near-apocalyptic, heavy impending-doom-vibe type of story that hits all of the right spots? Did you enjoy ‎Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, Minetarō Mochizuki’s Dragon Head, or all the mysterious hallways and special abilities in Kazuma Kondou’s Deadman Wonderland? Independent animator Kojo Tanno is creating brief clips that capture such aesthetic with a thick air of mystery, all from his home in Nagasaki.

I really don’t feel as if I can properly put his works into words that will do them justice, so check out this short video:
 


A Google search for Tanno will yields mostly ambiguous results, including long-since archived articles by sites such as Crunchyroll and Anime News Network covering his video “VIEW” from 2012. There are quite large gaps between his uploads, with his first Youtube upload, “SAYONARA, WATASHI...” being from well over 9 years ago to date. Since then, however, Kojo Tanno has uploaded a total of 14 videos to his YouTube channel, his most popular being “JOSHI ni tsuite (Regarding Girls) that holds its ground at nearly a million views:
 

With all that being said, however, it's his recent video “QUARANTINE” that has been making its rounds on Twitter as of late. Since its initial posting this past February, I've been digging deeper and deeper into his works, leading me to his recently launched Patreon. Contributors are granted the ability to see his filmmaking progress, ask questions, and buy exclusive merch that he makes available only to patrons. With his Patreon, Tanno aims to gain funds to produce his own film, something that longtime fans have probably been waiting for almost 10 years now. 

Kojo Tanno’s works often have non-conclusive endings that leave your mind to fill in the rest of the story. The symbolism in each video is left to the viewer to contemplate. He’s definitely a mysterious guy, and I’m personally really excited to see where he takes the rest of “QUARANTINE”. If you’d like to follow along as well, be sure to check out Kojo Tanno’s Twitter for updates and occasional livestreams. If you’d like to contribute a little bit every month to his filmmaking, you can find his official Patreon, here

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New ‘Hunter x Hunter’ Collaboration Earring Unveiled

May 22, 2018 2:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

Togashi Yoshihiro’s Hunter x Hunter isn’t the sort of series that gets a lot of merchandise, but that just means that it’s always a special time when some does come out - even when it hits a little too close to home.

Contains spoilers for Hunter x Hunter.

A new collaboration piercing was unveiled today, and it’s not what you’d expect, like a replica of Chrollo Lucifer’s earrings, or even Kurapika’s for that matter. Instead, the iconic and heartbreaking adult form of Gon Freecss - playfully called ‘Gon-san - which he transforms into after giving into his rage and trauma following the revelation that Kite cannot be brought back following despite Neferpitou’s healing powers, is now available to hang on your earlobes.

Coming in at around 3000 yen for the normal version and 10,000 yen for the ‘high-end model,’ the earring highlights Gon’s extremely long hair in this form - making the piercing very long, around 90mm in fact. Depending on how your ears are pierced and your personal preference, you can also choose between an earring and piercing design for the part that attaches to the earlobe. Wearing just one of the unique ear pieces looks great, as shown below, but you can also buy a pair of them. Pre-orders will be open until August 5 on Premium Bandai’s website.



Seeing such a heartbreaking and iconic part of the series turned into an accessory was surprising to hear at first, but after seeing images of the design, I must admit that it definitely makes for a rather unique accessory. That being said, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen Gon’s adult form turned into apparel, as he also made an appearance on one of the Jump 50th Anniversary Uniqlo collaboration shirts. These shirts have quickly made themselves at home in my closet, so I suppose wearing an earring of Gon-san isn’t a step that much further removed - even if it is a little bit close to home.

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MONDO GROSSO Shares New Music Video for 'One Temperature'

May 22, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Following up from the March 21, 2018, release of MONDO GROSSO's seventh studio album, "Attune / Detune," the legendary producer is back with their latest collaborative music video alongside Big-O, "One Temperature". Shared via the official avex YouTube channel earlier today, the music video utilizes a number of 90s filmography techniques to create the perfect throwback sound to accompany the song's hip-hop lyrical basis. Let's take a look at the music video below:
 


Released within the nine-track album "Attune / Detune" that released earlier this year, "One Temperature" takes MONDO GROSSO's signature sound to fresh places, something that rung especially true across the whole album. I couldn't picture the track with vocals from anyone else, either, as Big-O lets the lyrics flow in a manner only he can execute so well. There's little room for error on this track, as well as the rest of the album, and this one is definitely going to be bopping for days on end. 

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Puma x Sega Sonic & Dr. Eggman Sneakers to Release June 5

May 22, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

It was just a short period of time ago during the month of March that the world was first teased with initial images of SEGA and Puma's collaborative Sonic the Hedgehog sneakers. The initial pixelated imagery left a lot to the imagination, but it wasn't until earlier today that we finally got our first real look at the RS-0 Sonic and RS-0 Dr. Eggman sneakers, as well as their release date and price point. Set to hit the streets on June 5, 2018, at a total cost of $130 USD, the sneakers are a mostly subtle throwback to a couple of gamings most iconic characters. 
 


Initial impressions of the sneakers are scattered and mixed, with some in love with the inspired designs and colorways, while others are finding faults in the "high price point" and material choices. While I sit on the positive side of the fence when it comes to this one, I will admit I'm not exactly jumping at the initial images of the materials, though that could change when I actually get to see a pair of these sneakers in person. I can't picture everyone picking these up as everyday pieces, but I'm sure any fan of the series could incorporate them quite well.

Set to be made available worldwide from June 5 at a price point of $130 USD, you'll likely want to jump on these early before they sell out. Those interested in picking up a pair can make their way to the official website for further information.

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‘Steins;Gate 0’ Takes Over Akihabara With Collaboration Events

May 21, 2018 4:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

Akihabara is featured in many anime, but I think it’s safe to say that none of them have been as effective at advertising the otaku hub as the science-fiction adventure series Steins;Gate.

The way that Okabe, Mayuri, Daru et al. are situated so well in the locale has gone a long way in making the area an integral part of the series. This, along with the excellent storytelling and character writing, has been an excellent advertisement for the otaku hub since the original game’s release to critical praise in 2009. For me as well, experiencing the same locale as the characters of Steins;Gate and being able to feel the spirit of the series in the area is a key part of why I love it so much.

That being said, with the new Steins;Gate 0 anime beginning it’s broadcast this season, it seems only fitting that the whole city mobilizes to advertise it. And so it has - not just with billboards on the Sofmap and Sega buildings, but with a multitude of collaboration events and goods also.

Running until May 31, the first major collaboration is with the AR app “Butai Meguri,” which will be using Akihabara as it’s playing field for a new Steins;Gate themed adventure titled “OPERATION;HEPHAISTOS.” This is actually the second time the app has crossed over with the series, previously running an event in Saitama. By using the app and visiting iconic Akihabara locations such as Chuo-Dori and Animate, players will receive a free badge set featuring Kurisu and Maho. There are only eight locations to visit, and anyone familiar with the area will probably be able to do it in no time, so it definitely seems worth giving a go.

During the time of this event, there are also plenty of food-related events scheduled. Firstly, Cafe Mailish is holding a special event to in honor of the “Supa Hacka” himself, Daru. It will feature a special themed menu as well as a gallery for the loveable otaku himself. An odd choice perhaps, but not when you realize that Daru’s birthday was actually on May 19 - so I’d like to think that we’re throwing the often unappreciated Daru a birthday party.

Kanazawa-style curry chain GOGO Curry will also be serving up a special collaboration curry and clear file in their Chuo-Dori store. The curry utilizes fried chicken - an ode to Mayuri’s own love for “Juicy Karaage Number One” - which is in turn drizzled with a yellow sauce, named “Gelsauce” after the “gelbananas” of the first series. I was able to sample the dish, and as usual, the curry was excellent, but what made it even better was the clear file that came with it. The humorous design features Okabe holding some GOGO curry and Kurisu with one of their signature forks. This collaboration curry will set you back 1200 yen, a little expensive but definitely worth it.

Even if you’re just walking around Akihabara, not aiming to participate in any of the above events, it seems almost impossible to escape the series at the minute - many of the vending machines have been adorned with Steins;Gate characters, Dr. Pepper is doing a crossover with the series, and even without any explicit reference to the series, it seems as though Steins;Gate has once more entered into the soul of Akihabara. As it should be.

For more details on collaboration events, check out the official website

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Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is Coming to Nintendo Switch... Via Streaming

May 21, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

In a weird turn of events, Capcom announced earlier today that they're bringing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard to Nintendo Switch in Japan on May 24, 2018, but only a version of the game that has to be streamed via their cloud servers. If that wasn't odd enough, beyond the fact that you're streaming the game, at no point will you actually "own" the title, with Capcom requiring players buy 180 day passes at the price of 2,000 yen every half-a-year. 
 


Those interested in playing the game will be able to simply go to the JP Nintendo eShop and download the 45mb Resident Evil cloud application, beginning the initial 15-minute trial before deciding if they want to purchase the full game pass. Included in the cloud version of the game, players will have access to all available DLC including Banned Footage Vol. 1 & 2, End of Zoe, and Not A Hero. Players are recommended to either have a 5ghz router or be using ethernet to enjoy a stable experience, though internet speeds will definitely be a major factor.

While it isn't particularly a standard in the West, nor in most of the world just yet, cloud streamed games have unfortunately been gaining more and more traction over here in Japan. Just recently we saw the launch of Phantasy Star Online 2 for the Nintendo Switch running on a similar cloud streaming platform. In my personal experience with that title, in particular, the game was riddled with lag and delays which effectively rendered it unplayable for the better part. We'll definitely have to see how Resident Evil 7 performs, especially if it is following that same path. 

While there's currently no official word of a Western release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard on Nintendo Switch in the West, and we quite strongly doubt there ever will be in this format, we'll be sure to keep you up to date if any information does arise. Until then, we'll be giving the Japanese eShop version a try. Those interested in checking out further information can find it via the official website.

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FLCL Progressive Receives New Trailer Ahead of June Premiere

May 21, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

The countdown has begun and we're officially less than two weeks away from the June 2 premiere of Toonami's FLCL Progressive. In preparation for the story that's about to unfold before our very eyes, Adult Swim has begun streaming the first English dubbed trailer for the series. The first entry into two brand new FLCL stories, FLCL Progressive follows 14-year-old schoolgirl Hidomi as her life takes a turn for the weird as we're taken through the wild ride that is adolescence. Let's take a look at the new trailer below:
 


Set to premiere on Adult Swim's Toonami block on June 2nd, 12:00 am (Eastern Time), FLCL Progressive will consist of a total of six episodes. Viewers in Japan will have it a little differently, however, with the show set to release as a single film that will actually come out after the other story, FLCL Alternative. Reasoning and structure behind this are currently unknown, but that could make for an interesting twist amongst international discussion. Toonami describes the series below:

FLCL Progressive tells the story of 14-year-old Hidomi, her classmate Ide, and two otherworldly beings, "Jinyu" and "Haruha Raharu," who are determined to unlock their hidden potential. Mixed up in this is an all-powerful force known as "ATOMSK," a gorgeous vintage car... and a certain Vespa Scooter.

For many international anime fans, the original FLCL acted as a cornerstone in their developmental years alongside the anime medium. Now over 18-years since the original series aired on television, we're given the opportunity to expose an entirely new audience to such an important series in fresh and exciting ways. With less than two weeks to wait until the series finally premieres, we'll be sure to keep you updated as further information is revealed. Until then, be sure to check out the official website.

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