Tatsuo Sato is the famed director of Martian Successor Nadesico, a classic of the 1990s robot genre and one of the defining parodies of the era, as well as the recent shows Moretsu Space Pirates and Rin-ne no Lagrange. He agreed to talk to us in private just after the press conference—which, in some ways, is really the first part of this conversation. For instance, we had just learned that Rasmus Faber had won the right to do Lagrange’s OP by competition, and started this interview by asking him more about Faber.
Did you ever listen to Rasmus Faber’s “Platina Jazz” arrangements of anime songs? Which songs did you like?
It was played as the BGM at the gym I go to, so I don’t really have an idea which track was my favorite. Sorry about that!
What anime inspired you to enter the anime industry?
While I certainly watched anime as a child, I really just wanted to go into the film business, the visual arts in general: not only anime but live action as well. I didn’t have any connections at first, but my sempai just happened to be already working as an animator. He introduced me to that particular exam, and I got in the anime industry. In terms of my career choice, I wasn’t aggressively seeking to be in the anime business [in particular]. I just wanted to do something related to the visual arts.
So which visual arts in particular inspired you?
As far the decisive elements of visual art [that got me into it]: sure, I like it when stories, drama, and visuals are combined into a narrative film. But the most inspiring piece of work for me was “Powers Of Ten“, which is a science film that starts from the human body and goes down to the microscopic, even atomic level, and then goes up to the universal or galactic scale. I thought it was amazing that it could depict, using a scale of 10s, to go from large to small, and small to large. It was very impressive, and that kind of filmmaking does something even more fundamental than storytelling. From that starting point, I got interested in visual arts, including anime.
Back then, it was on film, so the picture was [perhaps] not as refined. But what it wanted to depict was very clear, and I found this was one way of expressing it.
Nakajima Megumi [as Ranka Lee] said “Kira!” [as her catchphrase] in Macross Frontier. Madoka says “Maru!” [in Lagrange] in a similar way. Was that an intentional response [to "Kira"]? What kind of process went into deciding that?
Well, for that, the producers wanted to have a catchphrase, but we said, “Isn’t that going to be too much like ‘kira’?” At that time, Nakajima Megumi hadn’t been selected yet to sing the OP. I said, “It’s not Nakajima Megumi, so let’s not do that!” But they replied, “This time, it’s a robot anime, so don’t worry.” At that time, Nakajima Megumi’s name wasn’t even on the list. But when we started to produce the music, we thought her songs were great, so she got selected, at which point we said, “It won’t overlap [with Macross], will it?” In hindsight, it was coincidentally similar. While we didn’t intend it, I think it’s alright if people think we did it intentionally!
Well, among otakus, it was alleged that it was an ambition or even a conspiracy for “Maru” to replace “Kira.”
Well, in the anime world, a lot of things that pile up coincidentally can get seen as being inevitable. For example, a lot of anime have overlapping seiyuu casting, and so people wonder, “Why are all the seiyuu the same?” But it’s just a coincidence. A very talented seiyuu, prior to becoming famous, might have a lot of openings in her schedule, so before she knows it, her schedule quickly gets filled up with offers and jobs. Her management doesn’t fill up her schedule with jobs because they think she is a famous seiyuu, but rather, if there is a good seiyuu with lots of opening, they want to make sure she gets more work. That pattern is more common. It wasn’t about deliberate imitation.
Where do you see the anime industry going in the next 5 to 10 years? Do you see any upcoming trends? What do you see for the future?
In the press conference, I said I wanted to focus on TV. I think there will be more movies. The 13 episode cour is so weak as a series, so hard to sell and market [as a whole]. If so, then it’s better to make films to keep the TV series longer, and approach to sales or marketing is what a lot of people are thinking is the better way.
Last: where can I buy your T-shirt?
I bought this in Japan, it just recently came out. Probably you can get at Amazon.
Thank you very much!