Masashi Kudo is well known for being the Character Designer for the adaptation of the popular Shonen Manga Bleach. In more recent times he also has made his directorial debut on shows such as Sanrio Boys and Chain Chronicles and has had an overall round out career. Eager movie lover and RPG fan, his hobbies had more than once an impact on his works.
During his visit to Paris in November 2018, we were able to meet with him and discuss his beginnings at Studio Artland as well as some more of his most memorable and influential times working in the industry.
Where did you study animation? What path did you take to become an animator?
Masashi Kudo: At first, I studied at a specialized school for two years, and then I started to work by joining Studio Artland.
What school did you study at?
M. Kudo: Yoyogi Animation Gakuin.
How was it to work alongside Ishiguro Noboru?
M. Kudo: Mister Ishiguro was the president of studio Artland. When I was still a child, I loved to watch his shows like Macross, and I asked myself if I would be able to work with him someday. I entered Studio Artland around the time Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu [Legend of the Galactic Heroes] was airing. It was a space opera show similar to Yamato or Macross. My work was very stimulating, and Ishiguro’s taste inspired me a lot. After the end of season 4 and during the production of the Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu Gaiden, I started to study the way to do Genga and special effects directly under his supervision. It indeed was a great experience, which I recall back even today.
Do you remember what your first Genga was?
M. Kudo: My first Genga? What was it already… I think it was a game Genga.
Was it for Gineiden [Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu]?
M. Kudo: I don’t think it was Gineiden…
You enjoy foreign animation, is that so? American animation?
M. Kudo: Yes, like Disney, for example.
Is it because Ishiguro worked on American animation?
M. Kudo: Well, I didn’t know about that!
You also worked with studio Sunrise. When did you start as a freelancer?
M. Kudo: When I was 23, I left studio Artland to become independent. The first work I’ve made then was on Tokyo Mew Mew with studio Pierrot.
You then worked on Planetes. What kind of designs did you make?
M. Kudo: I worked on little objects and accessories, for example, lunches, cups or weightlessness layouts in the spaceship and the designs of small furniture.
What memories of working on Planetes do you keep?
M. Kudo: When I think about it today, it was amazing to gather all these talented members on the team. Everyone became a director or main character designer. Regarding how it was possible… Before that, we made Rean no Tsubasa… Wait, no, Rean no Tsubasa was made after Planetes. But before there was Overman King Gainer. And on King Gainer, Yoshida Kenichi and myself helped a little bit. Then the team members reunited once again on Planetes. In terms of timing, it was great to have gathered all these talented members.
In a way, mister Tomino gathered geniuses who then met again for Planetes.
M. Kudo: Yes, kind of (laughs)
How was it to work with mister Taniguchi? Wasn’t it too harsh?
M. Kudo: Mister Taniguchi was the head of production, so he was strict about production. But in terms of creativity, we could make a lot of things. It was enjoyable.
Who do you consider your mentor in the animation field?
M. Kudo: Like a master? There’s a lot of people, but if we talk about their works, there’s Yoshida Kenichi and Chiba Yuriko. There’s a lot of people who became like professors to me.
And what about your mentors concerning direction?
M. Kudo: Concerning direction, it has to be Tomino Yoshiyuki. His work inspired me a lot. There’s also Abe Noriyuki. I’ve worked on Bleach with him for eight years, and he taught me how to work too.
He encouraged you.
M. Kudo: That’s right.
Regarding Bleach‘s last ending, you did it all by yourself. How did you make it?
M. Kudo: As an animator, I also wanted to work on production. The first time was back when I worked at studio Artland. Do you know Ohashi Yoshimitsu? Recently he directed Kokkoku at studio Geno. At that time he was at Artland for the production of Daichi Akitaro’s Ima Soko ni Iru Boku [Now and Then, Here and There]. He watched how we worked and advised us on animation. When I saw this, I realized we could do this kind of work too, and I wanted to give it a try. That time, I told mister Ishiguro that I wanted to do work on production, and he responded: “As long as you know how to draw, draw.” At the time he wouldn’t let me do it. Ever since I always have kept his words in my mind. On Bleach‘s last ending, I was able to take care of production for the first time. I was in charge of everything for the first time.
Do you know when Bleach‘s anime will carry on?
M. Kudo: Last time Mister Abe gathered the team, he said he hoped that the team would still be the same if it goes on. But there’s nothing official yet.
M. Kudo: Thank you! (laughs)
Do you want to create original works as a director?
M. Kudo: Since I entered the animation field, I’ve always wanted to create original works.
What genre of works?
M. Kudo: There’s no particular genre but something with an original, interesting theme. Recently with Chain Chronicle and Sanrio Boys, even though they are based on games or others, the anime’s story remains its own. The anime is an original work. Thus I can put a bit of my personal experience.
You like video games, RPG, Fantasy, is that how you ended up directing Chain Chronicle?
M. Kudo: At the time a producer called me to tell me about the project. He asked me, “Kudô you do like RPG, don’t you? Well if it’s the case what if you made an anime for Chain Chronicle?”. At that time, I was playing a tabletop RPG with Ookubo Masahiro who participated in writing the script.
Did you know Chain Chronicle before that? Had you ever played it?
M. Kudo: I started playing when they gave me the project.
What other RPG do you like? Older games, for example.
M. Kudo: My favorite is Chronicles of Lodoss War. Obviously, I also like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. But if I had to choose one, Lodoss for sure.
You also worked on Golden Kamui, didn’t you?
M. Kudo: Yes, on the ending. The rest were for magazines illustrations. I also did some Doujinshi for Comike, but these aren’t official.
What are your hobbies? Boardgames?
M. Kudo: Yes, I do like board games, RPG, movies…
What kind of film? Japanese, American?
M. Kudo: Everything. During my time in Paris, I went to Bercy’s Cinématique française. There was an exhibition about Sergio Leone.
What are your favorite movies?
M. Kudo: If we talk about anime, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. That’s more of a subculture thing, but there’s this old movie, The Passion of Joan of Arc from Carl Dreyer, it’s from 1928. I really like this one.
Have you ever visited the “Puy du fou”? It’s kind of an amusement park about historical figures and events like Jeanne d’Arc and others. There are shows, historical reconstructions, etc. It’s quite popular with the Japanese people.
M. Kudo: Oh, I want to go now!
Did you go to Annecy’s international animation film festival?
M. Kudo: I would like to, but I didn’t have the opportunity yet.
Do you have something else to add?
M. Kudo: Right now, I’m working on a new project. The title hasn’t been announced yet, but it will launch next year.
Will you work on it as a director?
M. Kudo: For my next work as a director, I can’t say if it will be next year or in two years. Right now, we are currently in preparation. Firstly, next year the announcement will be about a game, and we will present character designs. It will surely be a 3D game. For the time being, I’m working on the character designs for next year’s animation.
Currently, M. Kudo is working on the latest Sakura Taisen project, which more than likely is the one he was referencing above.
We want to thank M. Kudo for his time, as well as the team at Paris’s Manga Cafe for allowing us to conduct this interview.
Interview by Ludovic Joyet
Translation by Antoine Jobard
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