Location: Anime Boston 2017
Interview Date: 4/1/2017
I’m sure many of you know Masahiko Minami’s backstory:
- Attended Osaka University of Arts (Immortalized in Blue Blazes)
- Worked at Sunrise for 15 years as a producer, production manager and production assistant
- Decided to leave Sunrise and co-founded Bones, along with Hiroshi Ōsaka and Toshihiro Kawamoto
A few years after its founding, Bones handled the anime adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga Fullmetal Alchemist. More recently, they’ve produced such shows as Space Dandy, My Hero Academia, and Mob Psycho 100. It’s difficult to imagine what the anime industry would be like without Bones, and I was glad for the opportunity to sit down with one of the founders and leaders of the studio.
My first question was if he felt he, and the studio itself, had achieved the goals he envisioned at the time of the founding. I was surprised when he revealed that he hadn’t set any goals, and instead kept an open mind about what the studio was going to do.
“I left Sunrise in search of more creative freedom. It is because of that freedom that we were able to make Sci-Fi comedy anime such as Space Dandy. It was an original work that would never have been greenlit at Sunrise.” -Masahiko Minami
(Note: When he was speaking in Japanese, he used the English term “greenlit”.)
He followed up stating that such works as Eureka Seven, Fullmetal Alchemist, and My Hero Academia were all possible because of this freedom.
He added that one of Bones’ first works was Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, which was a co-production with Sunrise.
The next question was about how the industry has changed during his career.
“The media that is animation hasn’t changed much. What is different is the production method. It has gone digital, instead of so much being hand drawn.” -Masahiko Minami
I was curious if the growth of anime in America had affected Bones.
“Most of it was created for television in Japan, but now worldwide distribution has made distribution much faster. We haven’t changed much yet, but in the future we will see much more international cooperation.
The next question was about Anime in South America. The Bones-produced film Sword of the Stranger won for Best Animated Feature at FANTASPOA in Brazil. Minami mused:
“I speak no Spanish, but no English either, so I just have to trust you’ll like what we create. Animation can appeal to a highly diverse audience.”
Speaking of animation appealing to a diverse audience, the next question from Boston Bastard Brigade was about the adaption of Nijū Mensō no Musume (Daughter of Twenty Faces, a co-production with TMS Entertainment). Minami was shocked they were familiar with it as it was never released in America.
“I’m very happy you liked it. When I read the original manga I was captivated. I wanted to recreate that feeling. I wasn’t expecting international appeal.” -Masahiko Minami
He added that he loved the idea of an alternative history world and that producing Concrete Revolutio was a lot of fun.
He came back to my original question of goals unmet:
“As a production studio we have no set goals, but next year is our 20th anniversary. We have new producers and new shows. -Masahiko Minami
He immediately added “I’m not as young as I look.”
He was asked what he likes to watch.
“I loved sci-fi growing up, like Star Trek and Space Battleship Yamato. I enoyed Gundam (the first being a Sunrise production). I still like sci-fi and space battles. What I have never understood is moe.” -Masahiko Minami
The penultimate question was about which productions he felt were the hardest.
“Sword of the Stranger and Eureka Seven were the hardest productions.”
I closed by asking him his thoughts on Blue Blazes (Aoi Honō). He laughed:
“We were so much younger then.”
It’s interesting seeing the trend. Both Minami and Naokatsu Tsuda see international cooperation as being the future of anime. More digital work as well. I’m very excited for what Bones has in store for us for their 20th anniversary.
Special thanks to the Anime Boston staff, including translator Takayuki Karahashi. Thanks to Masahiko Minami as well.