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Interview: Shigeto Koyama Talks About Baymax, GAINAX And Kill la Kill

Shigeto Koyama helped signed Baymax from Big Hero 6. Credits: Shigeto Koyama.
Shigeto Koyama helped signed Baymax from Big Hero 6. Credits: Shigeto Koyama.

Shigeto Koyama, I knew his works before his name. From a young age, I have been a fan of his without knowing. This man has influenced my teenage years with titles like Gurren Lagann and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. Those new to the anime scene would know of his works as well. Namely, the Rebuild of Evangelion trilogy, Kill la Kill and, of course, Big Hero 6’s adorable Baymax.

Last weekend, he graced STGCC 2015 where I got a chance to speak with this amazing man who helped shaped my view on anime. And, wow, was I nervous. Still, his genuine demeanor and answers put me at ease and I wished I had more time and actually understood Japanese enough to talk to him personally!

The interview was conducted in the presence of a translator. 

Welcome to Singapore! How are you enjoying STGCC 2015 so far?

Thank you. I am enjoying the convention. It is very different from the west, like San Diego Comic Con, where when comic and toys come together, the comic element tends to be stronger. Here, the toy element is more prominent. As a toy/figure collector myself, I love it.

Big Hero 6 is an amazing movie and got everyone loving the adorable Baymax – the very Baymax that you help designed! Would you be able to tell us more about how you got onto the project?

It is an interesting story actually. The director actually came down to Japan for inspiration. More specifically, he went to Akihabara searching for toys, acting as inspiration for what Baymax was to be. He bought a toy, which he then found out was actually designed by me. He called me up right after for a meal and you know the rest of the story.

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. Credits: Shigeto Koyama.

One of my favourite shows from you is actually Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt! It is one that is greatly influenced by western animation and design, and even had a live-action element to it at the end. Was it difficult for the studio to adapt to this style?

There were a lot of troubles actually as Japan was not really into that style. The main team comprising of the six of us – me, Hiromi Wakabayashi, Atsushi Nishigori, Hiroyuki Imaishi, Masahiko Otsuka and You Yoshinari – went and edit the animation ourselves. It was easier than teaching others and gave us the liberty to do it in a style we envisioned.

The show was well-received overseas, but not so much in Japan?

It did not do as well in Japan as they did not like the main characters to be too sexy. A pure, sweet character would appeal to them more. Overseas, however, was very different. The fans are very passionate and are asking for a sequel.

With your work on Disney’s Big Hero 6 and foray into western-styled animation with Panty and Stocking, any chance we will get to see your work in more collaborations overseas?

There’s actually a project related in this context, but for now, I cannot reveal more. I am enjoying what I have been doing so far, and will continue doing so. Whatever is fun to me, I will take it as inspiration. When I see something interesting, I will remember it for later on.

Here, he veers off into describing how he would take inspiration from the mask a fellow interviewer was wearing, or how the different in body size between the friends make for a human/robot-duo.

Kill la Kill ending scene featuring Mako.

Getting back to Japanese animation, you worked on the ending scene for Kill la Kill featuring Mako Mankanshoku. It was really adorable and different from the feel of the show, what was the idea behind it?

I worked on it along with Imaishi and Wakabayashi – we form the big three known as Geekbot (he proudly gestures to his shirt with the logo on it). I felt that it acted as a comic relief, as the show was going into a more serious direction.

Was it because Mako was such a hilarious, out-of-the-box and cute character? Or, was something else the trigger for her to be in the ending scene?

When Imaishi heard the song, he know that it should be Mako. However, at that time, he was busy with the main story, so they got me to do the character designs for the ending song.

I would like to thank Mr. Shigeto Koyama for taking time out of his busy schedule for a quick chat with me during STGCC 2015. I am looking forward to his new project, and cannot wait to see more of his work on an international stage!

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