Interview with Chief Animation Director of My Hero Academia Yoshihiko Umakoshi

With the ending of several major Shounen Jump series such as Naruto and Bleach, anime fans flocked to one of the newest breakout anime of this generation, My Hero Academia. During a time of struggle and decline in the animation industry, Yoshihiko Umakoshi talks about his perspective on the changing world of anime as well as his current role as Chief Animation Director of My Hero Academia. Although this interview took place before he could see the overfilled panel for My Hero Academia, Mr. Umakoshi was excited to see all the fans who had come to Anime Expo. Previously, he came to Los Angeles during Comikaze and attended this year’s Anime Expo under Funimation.

APA: As a veteran of the anime industry, what is your perspective on the changing environment of anime? You’ve worked on a number of different titles that include Magical Girl series, such as Ojamajo Doremi and HeartCatch PreCure!, as well as a numerous Shounen series.

Umakoshi: A lot of things have happened to accumulate up to this. People in the industry are very overworked and tired and that’s the current situation in the industry. I hope we can survive somehow. For people who work on these projects, our thinking is that we need more time.

APA: I spoke with another veteran in the industry and he told me that the number of animators in the industry are shrinking. Do you have any inspirational words for those who want to be in the industry or those in the industry right now?

Umakoshi: Just because I survived in the industry thus far doesn’t mean that I can freely invite people to join in. You have to have a passion for this type of job. If you’re passionate, and if you like what you do, you should pursue it.

APA: Who is your favorite character in My Hero Academia and why is that?

Umakoshi: All Might. He’s really fun to draw. There’s that gap between his macho version and his skinny version. And he’s the pillar of the story. In that sense, I really like him. If All Might is uncool, there is no My Hero Academia.

APA: That’s true, he can be cool and cute at the same time.

Umakoshi: Definitely.

APA: As the chief animation director of My Hero Academia, what’s your process of portraying action sequences? Such as All Might’s punches or Deku’s One For All attacks?

Umakoshi: Depicting actions are fun, but fight scene choreography is pretty much set. We have to put ideas together to make it unique, especially for different characters. That’s something that I, and other animators, enjoy doing. It’s a challenge to make each scene different. For example, it’s the animator’s job to show the strength of different characters by having them be defeated with one punch or multiple punches. Since some characters are not as strong, they need to punch multiple times.

APA: Since you’ve worked on series of completely different genres like Magical Girl and Shounen series, is the process different when drawing facial expressions?

Umakoshi: The process itself does not really change. It all depends if there’s original work for it or not.

APA: Will we get to see any of your trademark styles in My Hero Academia? Each animator has their own flair or personality that they put into the series they work on.

Umakoshi: Actually, I don’t do that. My style is basically to be truthful to the original. I don’t try to add or try to put my style to the original work. As opposed to [completely new] series, I try to make it as close as possible. When you animate, you have to draw so many characters over and over. As you go through that process, you come up with a way of making it your own, in terms of the drawing process. I think that translates into the end product that is perceived as my style.

APA: I think it’s important for fans to understand that. I’ve seen a lot of international fans praise the changes that go into the Blu-ray/DVD release in comparison to the TV broadcast. Can you give us some insight as to how long it takes to touch up on these scenes?

Umakoshi: I don’t know how much I can talk about that, but in terms of the TV broadcast, there isn’t much time to make changes. We were able to do that adjustment because it was towards the beginning of the show. And we pick the scenes that are favorites or that we feel are significant.

Kalai Chik

Pop culture writer focusing on animation, music, and games. Los Angeles native, USC alumni, and contributor for Asia Pacific Arts since 2015. Follow me on Twitter, @kalai_chik.

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