Mob Psycho 100 is the second project of ONE, the famous amateur mangaka that wrote One Punch Man. The director of the TV Anime series, Yuzuru Tachikawa, decided to go back in time and look at the work he’s done since he took the job, since he created the series taking advantage of various sakuga (animation) techniques.
The opening and ending animations are among the highlights of the show. Miyo Sato, the animation artist behind the ending sequence, used a technique called Paint-on-glass. Her works have been accepted at various competitions around the world, and her unconventional animation that continuously alters shapes has attracted a lot of attention.
I visited Ms. Sato and asked her about how she created the ending sequence and about the technique, Paint-on-glass.
First of all, please tell us how you got the ending animation work for Mob Psycho 100?
An acquaintance of mine informed me about the director, Yuzuru Tachikawa, apparently wanting to create the ending using the oil painting technique. So, I exchanged some emails with him and then I joined them to help working on the show itself at first.
I see you worked on the show, too. That includes the part where the Ceiling Crasher ghost appears and vanishes in the first episode, for example, right?
That’s right. Basically I’m working on ghosts and some scary scenes. [laugh]
The ending footage is mainly done in monochrome, but those scenes in the show are in color.
Right, I’m using colors there. They usually send me the storyboards, layouts, and time sheets first, and then I start drawing in reference to them.
Were you already familiar with the methods and techniques for commercial animation and how to read time sheets and such?
No, it was my first time. I didn’t have such experience before, but the director suggested that I learn them so I could make use of them in the future too. There are several key frames, and I drew the in-betweens according to the time sheet… like two or three frames per second. (※ The anime runs on 24 frames per second. The more frames there are, the more gradually it runs.) When there are instructions, I follow them, but when there isn’t one, I decide on my own.
So, you do the in-betweens for the animation, according to the key frames. How do you actually work on Paint-on-glass work?
I have my workshop at the corner of the company office. First I need to work in a darkroom to shut lights out. In the darkroom, there is a drawing desk and a camera just above it to shoot the painted pictures. I have a LED tracing stand placed below a sheet of glass that I paint on, and keep a PC by it to check the captured images. I use a stop motion software called “Dragonframe”. I mix watercolor with glycerin and paint with it on a glass sheet, capture the image, and then, alter the paint, capture it again, and repeat the process.
So, you alter the painting once you capture the image once. That means, you can’t redo the same work again, right? How do you manage retakes when the director asks you for adjustments?
As for retakes, he sends me the images with photoshopped corrections, so I rework based on them. I send him every image I capture to get it checked, and continue working like that.
And you were offered to do the ending sequence, as you started working on those scenes for the show?
I had thought that the ending footage plan had been withdrawn for a while. So, when I actually received the offer, I was so pleased. [laugh] At the briefing session for the ending, we listened to the ending song and they asked me what I think about it. At first, I thought I had to make a cool footage introducing various characters to go with the wild upbeat music. But then I was told, “That will be done in the opening, so you don’t need to do it in the ending.” [laugh]
Coming up with ideas and the actual creation of the footage
It was the director’s idea to feature Reigen. Reigen’s private life doesn’t appear much in the original works either, but he lives in a frugal apartment. The director suggested to show a bit of Reigen’s private life in the footage.
I see, that’s how its concept was first determined. How did you start to work on it?
At first I listed out what Reigen would do at home in the morning. After narrowing down the list, I did some photo shooting using an actual model. After finishing the indoor shooting, I went to Choufu city to shoot some outdoor material, without even knowing what to shoot.
Why Choufu city?
The town in the original work is supposed to be Choufu city. But I heard it really didn’t matter where. [laugh] In Choufu, I did some shooting while walking along the riverbank. Once I was done with shooting, I edited them on my own, and then traced them to draw storyboards, and showed them to the director to check them. Then, I was summoned at the editing studio, and there we polished the live action sequence with Mr. Tachikawa and the technical director, decreasing a lot of cuts to make the complete version in live action. Then finally, I started painting on glass according to the live action sequence for the animation.
So, you didn’t use the storyboards after all?
We did when examining each cut, but it was faster to directly edit the video footage, so we didn’t need them later.
How long did it take to create the actual ending animation by Paint-on-glass?
About a month.
Did you ever get stuck?
Well, I used rotoscoping (an animation technique to trace over footage) for this ending, but I had to adjust some details as the character’s physical ratio was different and I added some background too. Those are the only parts where I was held up.
What exactly did you do for rotoscoping?
“Dragonframe” can capture motion videos. So, I had layers of a video and photos on my PC screen, and painted on glass while checking the PC screen. Paint a bit, check the PC and paint. I’ve always wanted to try rotoscoping with Paint-on-glass, so I’m glad I could actually do it.
I saw “a setting picture of a hand” drawn by the character designer/animation director, Yoshimichi Kameda, pinned at your desk. Did you pay special attention to hands?
Mr. Kameda seemed to be particularly conscious of hands, but I haven’t got a chance to ask for his feedback yet. I hope he likes my work.
The Paint-on-glass technique blends in well without making the viewer feel unusual!
How did you determine Reigen’s activities in the morning?
I pictured what men would actually do in the morning in real life. Reigen is a mysterious character, but I don’t think he would do something too different. So, I picked things like watering the plant in his room and smoking a cigarette.
Giving water to the plant from the glass he was drinking is very memorable and it’s a likely action that Reigen would do.
He lives alone, so letting him use his drinking glass seemed more realistic than a watering can. It just popped into my head as I was shooting.
Reigen smoking also shows another side of his character, different from who he is when he is with Mob. Besides, his motion is quite sexy.
The ending animation is in monochrome to feature the time he spends alone before he meets Mob. So I made his movements somewhat sexy on purpose to avoid making the sequence too plain. I also talked with the female producing staff at BONES and asked her opinion, like what would turn them on. [laugh] So, I enjoy the reactions from Reigen’s fans, as I can see that the message is conveyed and that pleases me.
The end of the sequence is in color when he meets Mob. Whose idea was that?
I came up with the monochrome idea for the whole sequence, and the director suggested to make it in color at the end. I haven’t asked his intention for it in detail yet.
How did you like it when you first saw the ending on air?
I doubted for a while that the ending would be actually aired till the last moment. [laugh] Because I was rather scared that it might hamper the main story with its peculiar animation. But as I watched the show, I found many different types of sakuga (animation) blending in well, including Paint-on-glass parts, without giving unusual feelings, and I could feel easy watching the ending too.
Do you like Mob Psycho 100?
Sakuga (animation) is amazing! While I’m the one who’s been studying animation, I regret that I didn’t know much about TV anime before. So I’ve started watching some now!
That pleases me. [laugh] Since you started working on commercial animation, have you ever felt uncomfortable about drawing the characters made by others and not of your own?
I was simply pleased that I could utilize my own technique in commercial animation. I also wanted to find out what more was possible with this technique. I don’t want to settle my own style yet, and I want to try more things while I can. So I didn’t find anything uncomfortable joining them.
Do you think joining them would help you with your future activities as an animation artist?
Yes. A lot. Especially, I managed to represent the horror element particularly well, better than all my previous works. Now I can do horror, too. [laugh]
The impetus for becoming a Paint-on-glass artist
Now let me ask you about your past. What made you so interested in the technique, Paint-on-glass, at first?
A friend of mine showed me a PV when I went to Nagoya University of Arts. It was produced by a Japanese film-making team, using a similar technique as Paint-on-glass. I had only worked on sakuga drawings on paper, so I had no idea how it was made and had to watch it repeatedly. I soon saw that it looked like a painting on glass. At that time, a musician I knew asked me to create a PV for them. I used my room as a darkroom and started shooting only at night.
It’s amazing that you actually tried doing it before you knew what the technique exactly was.
I guess. [laugh] I bought some acrylic plates, and placed my VCR downwards on the desk that I still use.
What kind of painting materials did you use then?
I used oil paint mixed with more oil for the first several works. But then I noticed that oil paint dried up after a few days and wasn’t very convenient to use. Then I learned about an animation artist of Paint-on-glass, called Caroline Leaf. She was using watercolor mixed with glycerin on her work. I tried it and it never dried up. I’ve been using watercolor mixed with glycerin since then. I’m happy with it since I didn’t like the smell of oil paint.
What was it like when you first completed a footage using Paint-on-glass?
I didn’t draw storyboards back then. I was only playing around with it, enjoying how the images altered, instead of like trying some techniques. Many people pleased me saying that it was their first time seeing anything alike when they watched the completed work.
Then you took a bit of break, and started doing Paint-on-glass again.
That’s right. That was when I entered the graduate school of film and new media at Tokyo University of Arts with an animation major, two years after finishing the university in Nagoya. I had to create a footage during my time there. I decided to dig down what I had done previously, and created one using Paint-on-glass. I made another footage called Fox Fears for the final project using Paint-on-glass. I think the method suited me the best after all.
Fox Fears has been recently accepted in the Short Animation of Competition Category at Tokyo Anime Award Festival 2016 (TAAF2016), and you’ve been exhibiting it at film festivals overseas.
I also did some sand painting on “Fox Fears”. Using sand wasn’t hard to start with; you paint with your own hand and the material is very similar to paints. My favorite artist, Caroline Leaf, is also famous for sand painting and has done an adaptation from Kafka’s story “The Metamorphosis” using sand. It served as a great reference for me to work on “Fox Fears” as an adaptation work. Not many artists use Paint-on-glass in Japan and my work draws attention out of novelty, but there are many Paint-on-glass artists overseas. The National Film Board of Canada is very well-known for independent animation works, and the quality of their Paint-on-glass and sand painting is very high. I used to check them out very often when I was a graduate student.
What attracts you so much about this technique, Paint-on-glass? Is it because the technique accommodates your creativity and adapts to your creative pace?
No, it’s quite the opposite. It’s completely unpredictable. When you draw on paper, your drawing lines just appear as they are, but when you paint on a glass sheet, you can find transitions and variations of the paints, or sometimes residual images like un-erased parts of what you had painted, etc. I really enjoy going through such a creative process and find it very important. It’s like playing with sand; you can create something while enjoying the sensation of the painting materials. That’s what draws me to it.
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