A total of twenty people were in the room, counting Kobayashi-san and 2 assistants. I counted.
The panel began with a very brief preamble listing Kobayashi’s resume. The floor was then opened to questions. I took the lead and asked about Kobayashi’s influences for Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad. His face lit up. I was about to discover that there are a few things Kobayashi really loves.
Those are, in no particular order:
- Going out drinking
- Punk music
- Going out clubbing
Seriously. He’s a 51 year-old dude who still lives the life of a college student. Good for him.
Kobayashi explained that his influences for Beck included Nirvana, The Clash, The Ramones, and the NY Punk scene in general. Among Japanese influences, he listed Blue Hearts specifically and asked if I had heard Linda Linda:
Kobayashi also stressed that he chose all the music for Beck, as well as oversaw the art direction. The music from the characters was performed by his friends from the band 10-Feet. It was weird asking good musicians to play poorly for the early episodes, but they had no trouble with it. Actually, they found it funny. He also said he was friendly with the Beat Crusaders, who performed Beck opening song Hit in the USA.
The next question was about Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Kobayashi-san visibly winced at the mention of episode 4. My Japanese isn’t good enough to understand what he said to the interpreter, but I got the sense he was trying to say “It wasn’t my fault.”
The explanation seems to be this: Hiroyuki Imaishi recruited Kobayashi to work on Gurren Lagann. Kobayashi’s first work on Gurren Lagann was episode 4, which was the same time that Imaishi decided he wasn’t happy with the development of the characters. Imaishi changed the characters to make them “become stupid.” Kobayashi said that he felt his work on Gurren Lagann became very controversial because of the directorial Imaishi’s directorial decisions. He also mentioned that while Imaishi looks normal, he’s actually very crazy. They are very good friends, and go out drinking together.
The question that followed focused on what it was like to work at Gainax. Kobayashi explained that it wasn’t so much that the studios are different, as much as each production itself is different due to whom you are working with. Sometimes you are working with a particularly young staff with a lot of energy but not much experience. He explained that, sometimes, that is fun for him because it gives him a lot of energy. Other times, you are working with a seasoned staff, often with people you have worked with before. He explained that relationships are very important in the business, and you can’t afford to let people down. He’ll come back to this later.
Kobayashi was then asked about how he feels about the growing use of CG animation. He explained that he didn’t mind it, but from an animator’s perspective you need to realize that the CG-3D animation gives the viewer less of a feeling of speed. This was helpful in his work on Blue Submarine #6, but that it isn’t always helpful.
The following question is about Paradise Kiss. Kobayashi asked the audience if they’ve seen the series. A few hands go up. He explained that he specifically chose Franz Ferdinand for the ending song. He took this opportunity to go off an a tangent. He likes using real places in his anime, but dislikes using the same shot. He’ll often use the same place, but at a different time of day or in a different season to show how things have changed.
He took a few moments to say that it was very important to him that his work stand the test of time. As a result he tries to avoid boring projects.
The topic shifted to Hideaki Anno’s concerns that the anime industry has hit a dead-end, and that it has too many commercial considerations. Kobayashi-san makes a face and shakes his head. He says that he likes to work on a variety of projects, and that interesting people make interesting works. He also laughed and said something about Anno-san that made the interpreter giggle, but it was apparently unfit to translate.
The final question of the event was about the first time he worked at Madhouse. This was a good question, as it gave us a look at a different side of Kobayashi. He became quite serious, and said that he made three very important rules for himself.
- He would show no weakness.
- He would work extremely hard.
- He would drink with the boss.
And that was how I first met Kobayashi-san. While Kobayashi-san is a very big fan of Kobayashi-san, he’s also young at heart. He smiled a lot through the Q&A and seemed very friendly.