AX2012 – Madhouse Panel

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by Sam W., staff writer, Inside AX – Anime Expo

On Day 3, people again packed the panel hall to listen in to Morio Asaka (Dir. Cardcaptor Sakura) Kunihiko Hamada (Character Design, Chihayafuru) and MADHOUSE team member Takya Tsunoki. All three worked on the recent series Chihayafuru, but were willing to share their opinions on their previous work as well as the state of the industry. They started by expressing gratitude at the turnout and didn’t waste much time answering some fan questions. Here are some of the highlights below.

A question directed at Asaka, what was your favorite episode of Cardcaptor Sakura to direct? He responded with the predictable “of course I love all of them” which garnered a laugh from the crowd. He later explained that his personal favorite was where Sakura loses an important report her father was working on. Unable to fix the issue with her powers, Asaka said the lesson was “magic cannot fix everything”. He felt that particular sentiment was central to a show like Sakura.

Was there anything too challenging by working on Chihayafuru? Asaka professed a difficulty in portraying “Karuta” (the dense Japanese card game the show is based around) in a way audiences could understand. But through their hard work in communicating the underlying themes and story the creative team felt a great deal of accomplishment.

It was at this point that a giant Keroberos (Sakura’s stalwart mascot companion in Cardcaptors) came into the room. Conversation stopped as Morio Asaka took in the dedicated cosplayer. Later, it would be Asaka asking Kero if he could take his picture with him!

What are some of the differences between big productions and small productions? Hamada jumped in on this one. He said he generally enjoys working more on smaller projects. “The more popular the work is the more my boss or producer is on me,” Hamada said, which elicited a great response from the audience.

Then a pretty big conversation started when the three men were asked for their opinion of moe, or anime that predominately features cute, female protagonists. Usually moe deals with the sexuality and fan-service nature of its characters, and does a “hard sell” in its advertising.

Hamada stated that he feels the anime industry is on the other side of the moe boom. But also not to downplay the importance of moe in the marketplace. There is a lot of depth even to shows that can be described as moe, even when they appear to be very simple. On a personal level, he confessed he liked to work on projects with more “art”. Whether that means in subject matter or otherwise he never clarified.

Asaka simply said that “moe sells, so it won’t go away”. Personally he is not a huge proponent of moe, he’s a more visual guy, but “visual doesn’t sell very well,” in his words.

Tsunoki ended the discussion by asking the crowd if they like moe. After a rousing “Yes” he said that, to him, moe is just another genre. It sells, but having something high quality and having something moe is not exclusive. As long as it adds to the variety of anime out there it can only expand the audience for all anime.

Asaka finally thanked everyone for coming out and that all three of them were humbled at the turnout. He then asked if we could check up on the Keroberos cosplayer, who seemed asleep in the back of the room. Fortunately, they were okay, and it seemed appropriate that Kero gave a big thumbs up to the MADHOUSE crew.

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