I’ve had an interest Takashi Kawabata’s work for quite a long time, and one day I was empowered with the desire to ask him about himself and his career. I didn’t think about publicizing that conversation at the time, as it was mostly personal interest; but almost a year later, I’ve come to realize that there aren’t any interviews or columns with him readily available in English. I thought it would be nice to share just a little bit about Kawabata-san with others, and I’ve received his permission to do so. The content is mostly unchanged, but I’ve removed a few things from the original transcript.
Sarca: As a long-time fan of yours, would it be okay to ask who you might consider to be your directing mentor?
Kawabata: Hello, this might be a bit of a disappointing answer, but I’ve never been mentored by someone else, so there’s not really a person I would consider to be my “mentor.”
As for influences, however, I’d have to say that after having worked with him for many years, [Akiyuki] Shinbo-san could be considered one; but I feel like that’s a bit different than a “mentor.” It’s kind of similar to the nuance of saying that if you share the same dining table, your tastes in food will become similar.
Sarca: I was searching for a source of influence. If memory serves, before you worked with Shinbo-san, you worked at Studio Kuma, right? Did you experience any similar influences there?
Kawabata: If you mean that sort of influence, then no. That started with my work with Shinbo-san at SHAFT. Until then, I just did my work on a one-off basis, so it wasn’t really a situation where I could have gotten much influence from working there.
Sarca: Hajime Ootani-san did an interview with Hisae Kumakura-san where he talked about his inspirations. According to him, he was so moved by Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke that he wanted to work in animation, but once he began working in anime, he found himself working in a different style than Miyazaki.
By chance, were you also someone who developed a different style than who you were inspired by? And, if there is such an inspiration, could you tell me what it is?
Kawabata: This was quite a thought-provoking question. Ootani-san, you think deeply, I am impressed.
My starting point was quite different. I just sort of ended up in this career, so I didn’t have a goal in mind from the beginning like Ootani-san did. As a result, I don’t really feel my inspirations have particularly changed either. Rather, I get the impression that it has built up over time.
The influence of anime on my work is likely rather minimal. In actuality, I don’t really watch anime either. I don’t think I’m doing it intentionally, but I seem to be avoiding it. Since it’s close to my work, is it that I don’t want any influence? Or am I worried I might accidentally copy it? I might be feeling something along those lines.
If I were to state something influencing me, it would probably be live-action dramas, illustrations, or photographs. I don’t know how much they influence me, though. I’m just enjoying those things as a fan. I think as a result of those influences, people say that my storyboards don’t look very anime-like in terms of the layouts. There are a lot of directors who dislike that.
Sarca: Although you didn’t have an inspirational moment like Ootani-san, I think that’s interesting in its own way. I think you have a unique style that people ought to see.
[Tatsuya] Oishi-san seems to be influenced by the French New Wave cinema, and through that influence I think truly marvelous works can be created with a unique flavor. If you don’t mind, could you reference some illustrators and photographers who impress you?
Kawabata: It’s hard to give an answer as to who, as I can’t really come up with a specific person.
I really like [Alphonse] Mucha’s beautiful designs, and I like Chihiro Iwasaki’s kind atmosphere, and I think Seiji Fujishiro’s silhouettes are interesting too. As you can see, I’m not particularly interested in styles or individuals, so I can’t really say they have much of a specific influence. Recently, I’ve been deeply interested in the American drama Breaking Bad, especially the spinoff Better Call Saul. The incredible impact that the layouts had in these shows was marvelous. I felt an intense jealousy while watching them.
I hope this answer is somewhat interesting to you.
Sarca: Thank you for your hard work, Kawabata-san. And thank you for answering despite your busy schedule. It was indeed helpful and interesting.
Takashi Kawabata is an anime director and storyboard artist who started his career as a production assistant at Studio Kyuuma in the mid-2000s. Shortly thereafter, he started taking on jobs as an assistant episode director and episode director. His work became especially noticed through his freelancing work for studio SHAFT starting in 2010. Most recently, he has contributed storyboards to Luminous Witches, the Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – The First Kiss That Never Ends special, My Hero Academia 6, and Campfire Cooking in Another World with My Absurd Skill; as well as directing and storyboarding the openings for Koikimo and My Hero Academia 4’s second half.