Imaishi / Nishigori Panel (Gurren Lagann)

Studio Gainax has made several visits to the United States in the last couple of years promoting their hit series Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. In 2008, they brought around 30 members of the series' production staff to FanimeCon in San Jose. Unfortunately, Director Hiroyuki Imaishi and Character Designer Atsushi Nishigori were both busy working on the Gurren Lagann movies and could not attend. This year though, both men were invited and appeared as Guests of Honor at Anime Expo 2009. The panel began with a quick formal introduction of the guests Hiroyuki Imaishi and Atsushi Nishigori. It was noted that it was their first American event and focus panel, so they decided to open the floor up for questions and answers. Note, we have excluded some of the more obscure questions from this article.

Will there be a Kamina CD?

We definitely wanted to start making character CDs with Yoko, and the next one would most likely be Nia. We'll definitely consider a Kamina CD.

Is there plans to make any more sequels to Gurren Lagann?

Imaishi: At present, we're not really thinking of doing anything more with the Gurren Lagann series, but if you asked the same question about Evangelion 10 years ago I would had said no also. So there may be a possibility in the future.

Plans to include Gurren Lagann in Super Robot Taisen?

Imaishi: I definitely would love for it to be in there but I am not quite sure about it at the moment.

Which were your favorite scenes in the anime, anything that stood out?

Nishigori: I got quite a list I enjoyed, but I really liked working on the scene where Kamina dies, [gasps by audience] it was a powerful experience. I also enjoyed episode 9, when Nia makes her appearance for the first time. Episode 19 with the leap in time was a fun one too. And of course anything relating Yoko's breasts [laughs and cheers by audience].

Imaishi: There were a lot of experience I went through along the way, I would say the ones that stood out the most was in one of the final scenes where Grand Zamboa comes out, also when Kittan comes out and topples the enemies. A lot of great memories associated with those scenes.

Any changes that you wish you could do to make the story better?

Imaishi: If you divide the series into the earlier part and later part with the time jump, we went relatively slow in the early part and towards the end we had to pick up the pace. There were some things I was a little less satisfied with, but when we came out with the film I felt I could clean some of that up and improve it so overall I was satisfied.

How did drills become a part of Gurren Lagann?

Imaishi: I am often asked this question and it's difficult to answer. In all the ways a drill is used in Gurren Lagann, it is completely unrealistic. We might even say it is ridiculous or even stupid, and I thought it was kind of fun and interesting to take this drill that you really can't do much with and the characters do all sorts of things with it. So with that premise we moved forward with that idea it lead to all sorts of interesting things. Basically that's how it started.

Are any of the surviving members of the Dai Gurren Brigade at the end of the series engaged in any relationships?

Not really [laughs].

Any differences from the original concept for the series compared to the final series?

Imaishi: When I first concieved the idea for the series, it was suppose to be more of a gag anime with more jokes and nonsense. When I proposed the idea to the staff, they weren't very warm to the idea. The series evolved into something more serious and cooler than what I had originally forsaw.

What were the inspiration for the characters and story? Were there drugs involved?

Nishigori: Did it really seem like something I took drugs and made? [Laughs]

In designing the characters I wasn't trying to put a lot of originality, that wasn't my goal, but I was trying to do a compromise. I had been in Gainax for almost a decade, and I loved their design and style. When designing these characters I wanted to do something consistent with Imaishi's style and the general Gainax feel. With that said, in drawing the characters I wanted each one to be easily accessible and understandable. Something that grabs you, for example characters like Simon I gave him acorn like eyes, other characters may have drooping eyes or pieces of hair sticking up just things that would catch your eyes. That was another one of my goals when designing the characters.

One of the exceptions is Attenborough who was designed by Imaishi, sort of a weird character who I didn't have much to do with.

Imaishi: The original idea of the story was taken from the Warring States period, very violent and turbulent; putting the premodern characters into a futuristic context, even into space. So starting with that contrasting idea, we kind of went with that as our basis.

Who is your favorite character from the series? Why?

Imaishi: I like Kittan. Oh! I see we have a Kittan cosplayer over here [audience cheers]. And of course I like Attenborough.

Nishigori: I'd have to say Yoko. But I like them all; it is almost like they are my own kids.

What was your inspiration for the catch phrase for "Who the hell do you think I am?"

Imaishi: Actually Kazuki Nakashima, who did the series composition, came up with that line.

Would you call this the manliest anime of all time?

Imaishi: [laughs] Thank you very much. My manly soul is nonexistence that I'm not quite sure how it [the anime] came from there, but yes that is a wonderful compliment.

Did you feel sadness when Kamina died?

Nishigori: Yes, but when you are drawing a character dying. It is your hand that is drawing his death and as an animator that is a burden that you have to bear. You have to live with that if you want to be an animator. From the very beginning, it was decided that Kamina was going to die. Going into animating or designing that character, I wanted to make him a kind of character that would have the most awesome death that I could think of. I felt that it really defined the elements for the series.

The animation of episode 4, when Kamina and Simon could not fight because of hunger, was very rough compared to the rest of the series. Was there a reason for that?

Imaishi: I have been watching anime for a very long time. Anime long ago was different in contrast with the anime today. Before anime wasn't quite as standardized, you got a little bit more individual flare throughout the piece or sometimes between pieces. The lack of consistency was something I really enjoyed as a sign of artistic craft. If you compare that with anime today, it exhibits great skill. There are fantastic techniques that go into the design of contemporary work, but at the same time it feels a little bit too standardized. I respect all of it that I don't try to regulate the consistency as tightly when I'm directing the pieces.

Gainax has the ability to stitch everything together without any parts falling out. Is there a certain approach that Gainax does in keeping that balance in a series?

Imaishi: It is great that you noticed that, which is definitely true. While designing these series, we think about obtaining a total balance more than the technical skill. We often put ourselves in the position of the audience and ask ourselves what kind of balance would they appreciate and enjoy. We try to reach as many people as possible by achieving that balance.

Which male character do you relate to the best?

Imaishi: I would have to say Attenborough. [laughs]

Nishigori: In personality wise, I have to say Simon.

Panel ends with great applause and cheers, autograph tickets are also handed out at the door as attendees leave row by row. As an added note, Gurren Lagann's Producer Yasuhrio Takeda and Marketing Head Yoshio Manabe were both present in the audience.

(Don't forget to read our interview with both men here.)

Audio transcription by Theodore Mak and Kevin Yen

Last modified on Saturday, 31 March 2012 03:25
(0 votes)