I studied animated film direction under Hayao Miyazaki of STUDIO GHIBLI and Satoshi Kon of MADHOUSE. Some of the titles I have worked on include “Yu-G-Oh!”, “Tekken” and “Martian Successor Nadesico.” I have also produced and directed live action films, music videos and commercials, and teach video production.

I have recently done the animated sequences for the live action version of “Attack on Titan” to be released in Japan this summer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X0i4gnbBOA

My Kickstarter for my animated film, “Coluboccoro,” is now live. Please have look: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1287579779/coluboccoro Anime Herald (thank you!) did an article answering a lot of questions about it, so you can catch up here: http://www.animeherald.com/2015/04/07/kickcolle-profile-coluboccoro/

Ask me about working with the titans of animation, animated titans, or anything!


I will be answering through a translator, so please understand it may take a little longer to answer. Thanks!

Update: Thanks everyone for your great questions! I had a wonderful time hearing what was on your mind! I hope I can see you over at the Kickstarter page. If/when we get funded we will have a surprise or two in store、so stay tuned!

Comments: 63 • Responses: 20  • Date: 

shadowofdreams20 karma

Lately there has been some controversial comments by figures such as Miyazaki and Anno that there is a stagnation in the anime industry, yet at the same time it feels like avenues such as Kickstarter are opening new doors for Japanese animation. Where do you think the industry is heading? How has the industry changed since you started?

itoso37 karma

I not in disagreement with their statements to be sure. It may just be the older generation vs the younger generation type debate, but the target for most animation nowadays stands with the adult demographic and the animes themselves are made to be very easily understood.

That is the fate of what it takes to make animation as a product to sell rather than a work of art to be appreciated.

I agree that there are far too many animes that are there just to make money and have nothing to say about the state of the world we live in today. There is no message. Directors, I believe should be using their work to make a statement. That is why I believe in crowdfunding. That is really the only place that a creator can be completely independent.

shadowofdreams10 karma

Huh, interesting! I definitely notice the amount of money focused anime. Are there any recent anime or newer creators that you particularly enjoy? I really enjoyed Gatchaman Crowds and Shirobako and have been following Kenji Nakamura.

itoso14 karma

Yeah, I have been following along and really enjoying Shirobako. It is the realest anime I have seen in a while, because all the people in there are based off of real people. The former president of Madhouse, Maruyama-san whom I had the pleasure of working for, is the president of the studio in the anime, so I get a kick out watching it. The real Maruyama-san also is a big foodie and loves to cook!

db500711 karma

What is the most challenging aspect of making a crowdfunded anime project?

itoso17 karma

The biggest challenge is having to do everything yourself. On a more traditional project I only had to worry about the anime production itself. With a Kickstarter you have to be not only the animation studio, but also the whole production company, which means doing the physical product manufacturing and all that is included with that.

I actually backed an animation project before I did Santa Company. When the disc arrived, the box it came in was rather bland and I must say I was a bit disappointed. I did not want my project to end up the same way, so I decided for Santa Company I would splurge on the packaging, to actually make it feel like you were getting a Christmas present. It was a lot of work, but there was a sense of satisfaction that came with it as well.

Gigafrost5 karma

I've kind of felt like Santa Company was pretty good quality for the budget. Could this maybe be a result of doing a lot more of the work yourself?

itoso7 karma

The Kickstarter total only partially funded Santa Company, I had other funding to help with the production.

surrealeus10 karma

I see that you're learning the Unreal Engine. Do you plan to try to make video games in the future? Also, you travel around Japan a lot (I read your twitter). What would be your favorite place in Japan?

itoso13 karma

Well, I am working on that! Let's see how good I get!

Since I was born in Hiroshima, that would be number one! A close number two would be Kyoto for its temples and beautiful scenery.

aurthurallan9 karma

I have a sister whose dream is to work for Studio Ghibli. How did you get into the business? What are things that helped you out along the way? What would you have done differently?

itoso13 karma

That's great! I heard they cutting down on their staff. What does she do?

I got into the business when I did an audition for assistant director with Mr. Miyazaki.

Things that have helped out? Animation to me about the pictures (a picture is worth a 1000 words.) I can get my message across without the use of language. That has been particularly helpful as I have been trying to bring my work abroad. The pictures speak for themselves, while I myself can only speak Japanese.

I really wouldn't have done anything differently. I am happy where I ended up and am excited about what the future holds.

bsus14127 karma

今晩は, 糸曽さん. (こんにちはかも?) It’s so great to see Japanese animation directors presenting new work here on Kickstarter. I loved the concept and story of Santa Company, and look forward to seeing the stellar work here. With the world of digital animation being more and more globalized, what makes crowd-funding platforms stand out for you (i.e. as a tool for animation works)? Is there anything you hope to see published in the future using this platform?

itoso9 karma

Thanks! There definitely fewer works on Kickstarter than had been even just recently, and I think that is really to bad because the crowdfunding platform is the perfect place to be as free with your work as you want to. You get to make the animation that you want to make. I would like to see more creators do independent projects through crowdfunding.

What would I like to see crowdfunded? Dreaming Machine, of course!

Ekowc6 karma

Now that Coluboccoro is close to funding, Is it difficult to find animators for your projects?

itoso4 karma

We have animators for Coluboccoro. The team has been together for a while now and finishing the anime won't be problem.

Finding animators is not a problem. Finding good animators takes some time. Many animators are with studios, so that means getting together with those studios or asking friends. Then it is a matter of getting them all together and trying to fit everyone into some kind of schedule.

After Coluboccoro finishes, I will have to start all over and put together another team.

Tintero5 karma

Good evening! Thank you so much for doing an AMA.

What advice would you give to an an animation student about looking for internships and finding a studio to work for? Is there anything you know now that you think is crucial or would have loved to known as an amateur?

anything about the actual industry itself you think should be changed? I hear being an animator in Japan comes with a lot of work, not much pay and a studio mostly concerned with selling than making works of art. I study animation and I'm scared that my passion will turn into a menial assembly job once I graduate. How do you not lose your drive and desire to create when working on someone else's fantasy world?

Anyway, your work is amazing and I appreciate your effort to keep cell shaded, hand drawn animation alive. I look forward to seeing your new Kickstarter project and loved any future works of yours. ありがとう!

itoso5 karma

If you're talking about an internship in Japan, well there isn't really a system set up to handle interns...

The best advice I can give to you is to try and find work with a director that you can respect. If you respect them, you will also probably like the worlds they are making and it will be so much easier to cooperate and keep your passion alive.

torisunanohokori5 karma

Do you have any hints as to what the "underlying theme" for this trilogy of films including Santa Company and Coluboccoro you allude to on the Colu project page is? I like to explore stuff like that as I watch.

itoso6 karma

That would be giving it all away now wouldn't it? :) You will have to wait until the last movie, sorry!

But! I can tell you there is something with one of the character's names...

GinzoKazama4 karma

Animation looks wonderfully done. Have you produced manga's or, if not, do you have any plans on doing one (or more)?

itoso6 karma

I have done a Santa Company manga a while back , but it never went to print. I did do a Santa Company short novel that I added as reward for that Kickstarter. The novel was like a prequel to the movie.

bearhater994 karma

Could you tell me about your daily life while working on some of the projects when you were working under Madhouse or Studio Ghibli?

itoso9 karma

Life and work at Madhouse: 1:00PM go to work (Kon-san coming in at the same time) 7:00PM to 10:00PM Break for dinner with Kon-san. Kon-san likes to drink, so he kept on talking with I was only drinking Coke.:( 10:00PM Finish with dinner and go back to work! 10:00PM to 5:00AM Work! Kon-san gets to leave at 1:00 with the last train for the night. I am still working. Then go to bed, ready to start work at 1:00! Sundays off! Thank heavens.

ApparentlyCool4 karma

Hello, I am currently just a high school that has always been in love with anime, manga and well japanese culture because of the beauty that it's drawing style portrays. So I have always been interested in not only drawing but being able to bring even more life to those images through the tools that are available in the computer. So I was wondering about these things: 1) How did you practice your anime drawing? 2)Which software's are best for anime drawing/animation?

itoso6 karma

I spent at a lot time studying different animes and different animators and their styles. You need to look at as many different works as possible. I did a lot of looking at already produced animations and then trying to recreate the story boards. You have to imitate first before you can move on to your own style.

I personally use Adobe products. But most of the Japanese animation studios use RETAS STUDIO animation software.

ion_arms4 karma

Santa Company is a real joy to watch, even with English speaking anime fans! Is there any chance any of your Kickstarter films like Santa Company or Coluboccoro might have English dubs one day? Could crowd funding make it a possibility?

itoso4 karma

I am checking it out right now!

I would like to add it as a stretch goal. Not just for Coluboccoro, but also for Santa Company!

seelanser3 karma


What are a few things you experienced while working for Ghibli and Madhouse??

Good luck on your Kickstarter project!!

itoso13 karma

From both Miyazaki-san and Kon-san I was so impressed just seeing them work- not only their talent, but the sheer amount of work they produced at blistering speeds! Kon-san could crank out buildings moving frame to frame, sightly adjusting his ruler 5 mm at time to produce the motion effect. I was so surprised he could do it so fast, but he said you have to get good even at the boring things.

I do remember a time I was working with Miyazaki-san alone. He turns to me and says, "I have a new idea, tell me what you think. I am picturing a girl washing the back of a god. Pretty interesting, huh?" I said back to him, "Honestly, I don't see what's so interesting about that." Well that scene he was thinking of turned out to be Spirited Away. I wish he would have gone on to explain a bit more...

immorta13 karma

Aside from what you have worked on, what is your favorite anime of all time?

itoso7 karma

Tokyo Godfathers Spririted Away Lilo and Stitch How to Train Your Dragon Monsters Inc. - I was really influenced by this one and you can see some similarities with Santa Company???

Albert_Borland3 karma

Hello. What's your favorite beer?

itoso10 karma

Coke - I loved the Christmas image with Santa drinking a Coke!

whatsyourfavecolor2 karma

What's your favorite color?

itoso7 karma

Silver and Blue!

heerotx2 karma

I assume that some of the initial work on Santa Company had been performed before the kickstarter. If you were doing an anime OVA (30 min) project from scratch, what would be a normal ballpark cost?

itoso6 karma

You are looking at $170,000 to $250,000 for an original work.

btcprox2 karma

Do you actually play Yu-Gi-Oh? Or are there other games that you like to play?

itoso8 karma

I can confidently say I played it once! So no, not really.

Yeah, I play a little bit on my phone when riding the train. 逆転裁判 Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney!