If you thought being an anime director was all cosplay groupies and cool action figures, think again. Turns out it’s long, long hours in front of a computer, less-than-fancy convenience store dinners and tons of office all-nighters.
We recently caught up with the anime director of acclaimed Dream Link Entertainment (DLE), Azuma Tani, whose cool name is rivaled only by his dedication to creating the best animated films he can. The man recently spent nearly three months locked in his office to complete the recent Glass Kamen Desu Ga (“I’m Glass Mask, So What?”) film, and for some reason, instead of going on a much deserved vacation, Tani lent us his time to give us a glimpse into the busy, bizarre world of an anime director:
What is it like to be an anime director? Give us a day in the life.
When you’re making an anime, there are two phases: writing and animating. During production of Glass Kamen, I would wake up around 7:30 or so, watch one of my favorite TV shows – “Ama-chan” – then start writing and drawing. At around 10 a.m., people start showing up in the office, so it gets harder to concentrate on writing. That’s when I’d usually switch to animating. My team filters in and shows me the work they’re doing, so throughout the day people are asking questions. I give directions, tell them what’s good and what needs work, etc. I’ll go to lunch around 2 p.m. most days. Most of the time I’ll grab a bento from a convenience store or, if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll get ramen at a place on the corner near the office.
So you’re in the office most of the time?
During production of Glass Kamen, I slept in the office most nights. I’d have dinner at around 10 p.m. – again, ramen or bento – then get back to work. I’d sleep around 2 a.m.
Did you ever get out of the office?
I would go to the recording studio to supervise voice actors a couple times, but I would leave the office, bike out there, spend just a few minutes listening, give my approval and bike back to the office.
Where did you sleep?
I have a tatami mat I’d lay out on the floor in one of the meeting rooms, and I’d use a plush toy of one of DLE’s characters as a pillow. When you sleep on the floor, you get itchy all over, so it wasn’t the most pleasant of sleeping arrangements. Glass Kamen took about three months to complete, and I was in the office the majority of that time – but if you spend too many days in a row in the office, you start going crazy. So, towards the end of production, I’d go home most days. But, my wife and kids were always asleep when I got home at night, and I felt bad waking them up in the morning.
▼ To an anime director, this is luxury accommodation.
So, how often did you get to see your family?
When we were making Glass Kamen, I had dinner with my family once.
Did you have any time for hobbies?
Not really. But, I’m lucky in that my main hobby is riding road bicycles. So, when I go to and from work, and to and from the recording studio, I get some time to enjoy biking. I use a mobile app called Strava ; it records your route, measures your time and average speed, etc. and then compares your performance to other bikers in the area. I’m proud to say I’m ranked first on every route around my office. Once, I got lucky with traffic lights and recorded an average speed of 62 km/hour [editor’s note: this is faster than the speed limit for cars in Japan].
When you’re riding, are you thinking about the anime?
No, no. That’s my time to totally clear my head. I literally think about nothing when I bike.
So, when are you at your most creative?
After 10 p.m., people leave the office and it’s just me and a few others, so things are quiet and that’s the time I really get to think creatively. I also drink a lot of energy drinks and chew a lot of gum – I find it helps me think. But, once I drank too much caffeine and my chest started to hurt. I thought I might have a heart attack if I kept it up, so I cut back on the energy drinks.
At this point in the interview, one of Tani-san’s interns frantically interrupted – something about walk cycles – and Tani had to rush to the rescue, cutting the interview short and exemplifying the die-hard devotion of a pro anime director.
If you’re in Japan, you can see Tani’s newest film in theaters. Japanese speakers can enjoy the short comedy anime version on YouTube, although there are unfortunately no English subtitles available. Yet.
Glass Mask is the second best selling girl’s manga series of all time. It’s been adapted into several anime and live action series, but Glass Kamen Desu Ga is the first feature length film adaptation of the venerated series.
Tani tells us his biggest aspiration is to create an anime from the ground up for the North American market. Our fingers are crossed he gets his wish.