Akiyama Katsuhito

Director Parts 1-3

Mr. Katsuhito works at AIC and directed many of their early OVAs (Original Video Animations), such as Gall Force. In recent years, he has directed many AIC TV series, such as Mahoo Shoojo Pretty Sammy and Dai-undoo kai. In the series [Bubble], he supported the production as director and supervisor.

Bubblegum Crisis (eps. 1-8) was a series planned by Artmic, and it began as a video-animation production through Artmic's collaberation with AIC. Even before that I worked as a Artmic's video series Gall force, so at Artmic, almost on a daily basis Suzuki-san (Suzuki Toshimichi) and I conversed about work and a variety of other miscellaneous subjects. In these conversations, Suzuki-san said, “For my next project, i'd like to do something with the feel of Yami no shikake-nin (Fixers in the shadow).”

At that time there was a rough plan that was written up by Sonoda-kun (Sonoda Ken-ichi), Kakinuma-san (Kakinuma Hideki), and Aramaki-san (Aramaki Shinji), and when I was shown it, I thought: “Oh, this looks interesting.” When I joined Gall Force it's structure was mostly set already, but with Bubble, only the character and world had been determined. So what made the work particularly memorable was the fact that I was able to shape what I was filming from its outset. Bubble had elements in it that were challenging as a video anime, so we made it our aim to “pursue new filming techniques, one episode at a time.”

I directed episodes 1 to 3 and took the position of supervisor for episodes 4 and 5; on episodes 6-8, we let each director do whatever they wanted to do. With respect to producing a series this was an extremely novel approach which resulted in some disjointedness in the films, but as a result, I think that the creators' tastes were brought to life. The reason why it worked out this way was because Bubble had in itself the allure and vast world view that enveloped its creators.

For other creators, it became possible to depict Bubble from a different perspective than that of the three episodes I directed. Within the “Knight Sabers vs. Genom” format, they went ahead and did anything that they wanted to do, as much as possible. Of course, I was one of them…

For me, my favorite is the opening music scene of Episode 1. That was one in which Aramaki-san adjusted the storyboards to fit with the music. When I saw it again several years later, I felt: “It's quite rough. Mabye we should've done a little more on this part, like this [and so on],” but Oomori Kinuko's song is really good, and even if there's material fit for reconsideration, I still love that scene.

At the time, when Aramaki-san told me that “It's the image of Streets of Fire.” I thought to myself, “That kind of cinematic development would be good too.” Se we felt: “Let's make some interesting and cutting edge imagery,” and various “live action” expressions were incorporated. So it was a trial and error process. It would be misleading to call them experimental films, but in these episodes, I could try various styles of expression.

The title “Bubblegum” Crisis was probably coined by Suzuki-san. I am not sure if he did consciously or not, but this series happened to be created at the height of “bubble” economy in Japan. I think he had some talent for foresight.

[AnimEigo comment, 2004]: Mr. Suzuki once told AnimEigo CEO Robert Woodhead that a “Bubblegum Crisis” was what happened when you blew a huge, wonderful bubblegum bubble, and everything was great until it popped and got all over your face and hair. It was either a metaphor for the rapid explosion or technology, or he was pulling our CEO's leg.

If I were to say why I—who, in contrast didn't feel those kinds of things much—became interested in the world of Bubble, it was because at the time, I was thinking about the problems of the day. Though the timeframe of the story was set in the year 2032, at the time we were making Bubble, economics was taking precedence in the politics and philosophy of Japan, and it seemed then that it was going to continue that was, more and more as time went on.

As Tokyo became more metropolitan, perhaps there would be no more residential districts inside of the Yamanote loop line, and perhaps the people would begin to cluster on the outside of the Yamanote line. For example, the center would become the mercantile metropolis, and in the Kanagawa-prefecture area, perhaps a large industrial area would develop.

I thought that this kind of tendency in planning would be extremely dangerous, and as you know, about that time, rising land prices became a topic of popular conversation. So episode 3 (one of mine) with its political undertones might not been too much fun for those who watched it. Maybe I got a little feisty with that one, as I conveyed the sense of danger that I was feeling at that time: “This is what I think. What do all of you think?”

However, if ever there was a multinational enterprise, a super-enterprise such as Genom, wouldn't that be the first thing they'd think about? I thought to myself: “Genom even controls politicians; what is their thought process?” This actually became a topic of conversation, and the conclusion was that the common people would begin to suffer badly. As I thought, “if only there were people like this,” I though that perhaps we could use the Knight Sabers.

However, if there is an aspect of regret, that would be that we were unable to thoroughly depict the ominousness of Genom's existance, i.e., something about their final goals. It would have been nice if we could have ended the story with the Knight Sabers at least being able to wound Genom, though clearly they could never destroy it.

I think about that even now, and a while ago, Oobari Masami said to me, “I bet you too would like to conclude the Knight Sabers' story,” so I asked him, “Oobari-kun, what would you do?” He said, “in the end, giant robots will battle each other.” This comment pretty much sums up his personality.

Those of us who were involved truly loved the work we called Bubble. To Oobari-kun and Gooda Hiroaki, Bubble was their directorial and supervisional debut, so I have the feeling that it was the first work into which they were ableot blast out whatever was pent up inside. So Episodes 5 and 6, which were made by Oobari-kun, were quite shocking to me; those stories could make you really tearful… they made me think, “Ahh, this is good.”

While Gooda-kun was making episode 8, I was working on the next production; that was a piece in which he employed his own unique style. Gooda-kun's film was distinctly different from Oobari-kun's, and frankly it was a bit of a culture shock. I truly admire how meticulously he plotted the dramatic development of his episode; it was like watching an extraordinary flower blossom.

What the respective director and supervisors wanted to express was truly evident in their works. And even if their viewpoints became disparate, it is all legitimate entertainment. It make me happy if viewers would enjoy these aspects of it, which are different from other series. I feel that Bubblegum Crisis came to me at a time when I had just begun to harness my own potential within the genre of video anime (OVA).

On Gall Force, was my directorial debut, with no prior experience, all I could do was just work HARD and do whatever I could do. By the time of Bubble I found a little bit of [creative] leeway within myself, so I feel that in parts of it I was able to impart my very own directorial expression.

To put that extremely simply, I'm left with the memory that “that was fun,” from the beginning until the end of the production. I like all the work I've done and have gotten attached to them, but I don't have a lot of memories like the ones about Bubble. AIC President Miura Tooru and I went to Artmic every day, and with Suzuki-san, Kakinuma-san, and Sonoda-kun from 10 at night until nearly dawn, chatting about things like: “So what then should we do with Bubble?” or “What new thing can we do next?”

I loved working on Bubble, and I feel that my life at that time was extremely fulfilling. It has been about ten years since, but upon reflection, I really feel wistful. It's not that I've forgotten, there's a wistfulness about it that revives that time when I was working on it. I feel that it's a little different from the wistfulness I feel for other work I've done.

The difficulty with Bubblegum was that we didn't know what lay ahead; there was no overall organization of the series itself, so in the beginning, tentatively, we were just going to make one episode. However, after the storyboard was finished they said, “This might turn into a series,” so in a panic the revised the entire storyboard.

From my standpoint as director, it was maybe a little arduous. Despite the fact that Suzuki-san, Aramaki-san, Kakinuma-san, and I had a lot of workable concepts (and I thought all we had to do was link it all together). However, it was not easy to keep on producing episodes without knowing a clear plan of how many total they want us to make.

On the other hand, since we (people who did eps.1-3) did everything we wanted to do, the creators who did the following episodes could take over the job and freely cook their episodes the way they wanted to do.

Episode 4 was directed by Hayashi Hiroki, who was going to direct a new series; it indeed showed his tastes and likings, and it had a real American-kind of development. Oobari-kun had a radical debut with his “Oobarism” drawings (Laugh). And then there was Gooda-kun's delicate touch. It shows in each of their respective episodes.

Episode 7 was Urushibara-san's animation and the director was Takayami Fumihiko of Mobile Suit Gundam. There are OVA series in which directors swap turns, but it's rare to fin one in which [directors] keep changing with each episode. While they all worked within the frame work of Bubble's world, what's contained in the series Bubblegum is clearly reflect the viewpoints of those who followed up, which were in different areas. They all thought, “it would've been more fun if we went in this directions.”

Wouldn't Bubble be more interesting if it took the direction that was different from the episodes up to 3 that I did, which wasn't an aspect of that I had? Those who followed in participation found for themselves their respective niches: “if it's up to me, I'd change this.” I think it took the following shape: “We won't change the fundamental framework, but we want to take a deeper plunge in this area, and what'll we pick up from there as we go along?”

So it had a feeling that, people with good interpretive powers regarding the work participated really well, they fell in love with the Bubblegum world, they did what they wanted to do in that world without breaking that world, so as a result—even though I don't think that it was completely unified—wit was the reason that they established themselves within the scope of the world-view of Bubble.

With regard to myself, in as much as at the time I was contemplating doing really lots of things, it was a work into which I was able to really pack a lot. Anyway, aside from the world called Bubblegum being fun and the question as to what extent I was able to depict how fun it is, it was a work that I made while having fun, so I myself think it's a lot of fun.

Naturally there are many parts of it that the subsequent staff would find embarrassing, but I was doing the best I could do at the time. There were all having their own debuts, so in that sense they are precious pieces for all of us. For all of us, this was really our debut title. The fact that Bubble is being released as a box set is, I guess you could say joyous for us. Also, I say to everyone that this box set is a real best buy! (Laugh). It's truly fun, and that hasn't changed even now.

As a work of its time it was truly a trend-setter, visualy it was also cutting edge. It was film that challenged the limits of possibility in Japanese animation at a time when CG was not available as it is now, so if viewers would see this aspect in it too, that would make me happy.

A new Bubblegum Crisis TV series in yet another form is soon to be introduced. I think that, in as much as Hayashi-kun is going to be the director, he will take it in his own direction. It seems like I'm going to be watching over things from the standpoint of something like a graduate of Bubblegum, but mabye I'll do one or two storyboards. I look forward to how everyone will receive this new Bubble.

(11/29/1997 at AIC)