The Present and Future of Anime Studios (Part 1) Bones’ Yoshihiro Oyabu on Producing My Hero Academia
Every year, hundreds of anime projects are started.
These works have come to represent Japan overseas, and years have passed since the days these series were known as “Japanimation.”
Many animation studios have come to represent Japan worldwide, a rare feat for any country.
If you’re an anime fan, then it’s a given that you’d be able to name a few animation studios.
We here at the animate Times have decided to go out and interview those who work at the animation studios that have come to represent Japan. This project is our new series, “The Present and Future of Anime Studios.”
This series will be translated into English, Chinese, and Korean, so more people worldwide can read it.
We hope that this series will bring more attention to Japan’s animation studios.
For the inaugural article, we are going to speak with producer Yoshihiro Oyabu about My Hero Academia.
He is part of Bones, a studio famous for Full Metal Alchemist, Eureka Seven, and Blood Blockade Battlefront.
How is the reaction to My Hero Academia different in each country? Let’s find out!
Yoshihiro Oyabu’s Profile
Yoshihiro Oyabu is a producer at BONES.
He’s worked on titles such as Star Driver, the Darker than Black series, Blood Blockade Battlefront, and Concrete Revolutio.
He’s currently working on My Hero Academia.
The Person Who Understands the Working Conditions Best is the Producer
ーーThank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
Can you tell us in detail how you are involved with My Hero Academia?
Oyabu：What I do depends on the project.
For Bones’ original anime, each producer chiefly works with the creators to start the project.
It’s often the case that we are truly crafting the story from scratch.
In the case of My Hero Academia, one of the producers I had previously worked with from TOHO animation contacted me and said, "This manga has only been running for three months, but have you heard of it?"
I believe that it was around the time that the first volume had gone on sale, and I told them that I had bought
it from the bookstore. From there, we decided that we would work together to create the My Hero Academia anime.
Regarding the staff, I thought that Kenji Nagasaki should be the director since the series is an orthodox Shonen Jump title.
As for the character designer, I could only think of Yoshihiko Umakoshi since his style matched the feel of the series.
I was worried that he wouldn’t even consider my offer. However, he was happy to take on the project.
After that, we made the presentation to Shueisha about what staff members TOHO and Bones could bring to the table.
I found out after the anime production had been decided that the original author Kouhei Horikoshi was a big fan of Umakoshi-san, so I thought that I had chosen the staff well.
ーーI see. So you were involved with this project from the start.
Oyabu: That’s right. The producer is involved with everything from initially choosing the best staff, right up until pre-production and delivering the finished product. In actuality, I don't see each and every single piece of work that needs to be done, but I am present for the critical parts.
ーーSo you witness each part of the process.
Oyabu: That's right. Some people are more familiar with the details than I am, but I'm the one who is most familiar with the overall process.
ーーYou need to be flexible when it comes to staffing, so what kind of reaction was there to your initial presentation?
Oyabu: There were many times when they said, "If the staff is chosen by BONES, then it's OK with us." I was pleased about that. All of the original creators of the works I have produced have been very kind.
I consider myself lucky in that regard.
Horikoshi-sensei highly praised the drawings that Umakoshi-san made. Before we started the first movie (My Hero Academia: Two Heroes), we held a meeting along with Nagasaki-san, and those two seemed like they had a great time.
I'm thrilled that we've been able to have an excellent working relationship with Horikoshi-sensei.
Deku’s Character Design Changed!?
ーーHas anything changed since My Hero Academia became a massive hit? If not, please tell us what’s been the most fun thing about working on a massive hit series.
Oyabu: I’m thankful every time that I get to work on My Hero Academia, a series that’s been successful for so long and broadcasts all across the country during an evening time slot. Especially since the first series that I worked on was Full Metal Alchemist.
I have good memories of the reactions to that series being a giant hit.
However, at that time, social media wasn't so widely used, so now I can directly see the fans' reactions in real-time. I think that's a wonderful thing.
We used to only be able to see the numbers, but now we can see the genuine reaction to the work from fans both inside and outside of Japan, which is wonderful.
For example, when the first movie came out, there was an advance screening in Los Angeles.
The story was right at the point where All Might was an international student. At first, he was studying in a fictional location in America. However, after talking with the staff, we decided that he should be in LA. As soon as the scene with All Might in LA started playing, the crowd went wild.
The enthusiasm that everyone had was terrific.
There was a feeling like, "our favorite anime is now a movie, and we get to see it earlier than anyone!”
The enthusiastic atmosphere was not what you would expect from those enjoying a foreign film.
There is no time lag these days, so overseas fans share the same experience as Japanese ones.
I’m very happy about that.
Just taking our studio's system into account, the more well-known an anime becomes, the more staff members who say that they want to work on it appear. I'm thankful that happens, especially in today's anime industry.
ーーThat is amazing! Has the staff’s reaction changed at all?
Oyabu: When a work is very popular, even those who don't know the details are at least able to say, "I've heard of that anime before," so we can start to speak the same language.
When you're in the middle of producing something, there are some topics that you have to explain from the beginning, however, you end up explaining things like “Todoroki should be like this" or "Deku should be like that.
" When you start with a common language, you can begin to construct the meeting as you like, which is a very good thing.
ーーIncluding that situation, are there any other problems that you encounter when working with such a large property?
Oyabu: When we started planning My Hero Academia, I remember talking with Nagasaki-san about how Horikoshi-sensei thoroughly prepares his manuscripts and how the chronology of the series is carefully planned.
So we first thought that we had to carefully follow the timeline in the original manga and make sure that the viewers didn’t notice any discrepancies.
Manga and anime are expressed in different ways, so you can't make a frame precisely the same.
Of course, you can make animated scenes that leave the same impression as the manga, but even if you take an expression straight out of the manga, it's challenging to make sure that the viewers won't feel as if something is "off."
In manga, you can have wide panels that take up two pages, or have the edges of panels overlapping so the final panel is appealing.
Manga can easily time skip all over the place, but with the way time flows in anime, that’s not possible.
In regards to all of those things, we make thorough preparations, but there were some times when the pose was a bit different, or the line was changed. We tried to make the changes so that those who read the manga wouldn't feel as if something was "wrong."
When Nagasaki-san and I spoke with Horikoshi-sensei, we asked him to understand that anime is a different form of media and that there are different ways to express things. He actually said that we "shouldn't use the panels from the manga as-is."
Although I was glad he said that, I thought that that was a high bar to clear (laughs). Ever since he told me that, I’ve always kept his words in mind when working.
ーーSo although it's the same My Hero Academia, it's actually a different My Hero Academia.
Oyabu: That’s right. It’s My Hero Academia made with anime’s creative touches in mind.
ーーYou spoke a bit about it earlier, but because My Hero Academia has continued for so long, is there any special behind-the-scenes information?
Oyabu: Actually, when we updated the character sheets for season five, I noticed that Deku's character design had changed quite a bit. Some parts had been changing little by little until then, since through seasons one and two the non-hero Deku had been training.
His body had gotten larger, so it changed once around episode five.
When he enters U.A. High School, he had been training for around a year, so his body was different. Umakoshi-san changed this during his edits.
From the second season, the muscles on his body have changed. Updating the character sheets takes some time, so each sheet had to be checked while looking at Umakoshi-san’s edits. However, we’ve been continuing for five seasons, so the newest character sheet is in Umakoshi-san’s current style, which is much different from the first one.
What’s more, the way that Umakoshi-san draws the characters now is much more refined. The staff used to wonder what certain lines were and draw around them (laughs).
However, as we’ve been doing this for three or four years, even if the animation director doesn’t see the character sheet, he knows how to draw them.
Each of the staff has their own way of drawing the characters, which is a good thing.
Not only the hero suits, but also the facial expressions and the muscles on each character is something I want the staff to pay attention to carefully.
ーーI see. Since the anime has continued for so long, the staff doesn’t need to look at the character sheet to be able to draw them.
Oyabu: That’s what has happened. However, right when they get used to drawing the characters in a certain way, the hero suits change (laughs). You can hear things like “It’s like that now!?” in the studio, which causes a great panic.
This is a bit of self-promotion, but Bones released a collection of original images, so check it out to see the differences between Deku’s character design between seasons one and two.
MY HERO ACADEMIA Key animation Art book -ANIMATION ART WORKS vol.3 #26～#38
ーーI want to ask you directly – what do you think is the most appealing thing about My Hero Academia?
Oyabu: I wonder… If I had to put it simply, I’d say that it’s because it is an orthodox Shonen Jump title. Overall, it’s about not only Deku, but boys who come from nothing working together, and through hard work they can become stronger and accomplish something big.
My Hero Academia is a long series, so it’s able to show the growth of not only Deku but the other characters as well.
All of the characters think in diverse ways and has their own understanding of what a hero is. The most straightforward character is Deku, but Bakugo thinks in a different way.
Why they want to become heroes, what they want to do when they become one – you can feel that the young characters in this story are always thinking about that and how they can achieve their goal.
ーーThe diversity of each hero is well-expressed.
Oyabu: I agree. The fifth season focuses on not only the characters from Class 1-A, but 1-B as well. Characters like Neito Monona are unforgettable. Neito's way of thinking is that there is no way that he has the talent to become the main character, so he created his hero persona from there, which is impressive in its own way.
What I mean is that none of the characters in My Hero Academia are poorly done. Each of them has their own appeal.
In the first half of season five, Class 1-B acts as the backbone. You can focus on one character’s growth or watch how all of the surrounding characters grow. Having friends help you grow is a common theme in Shonen Jump manga, and it’s always interesting to see. That is the wonderful thing about this work.
Bones’ Original Work
ーーI think that a producer’s work must take many different paths, but what helps you create good anime?
Oyabu: For me, being a producer doesn’t necessarily require any kind of excellence or talent. If you can work with many different types of people, listen to what many people have to say, and continuously keep that pace up, then I think you can become a good producer.
I can't draw pictures, I can't write a book, and I'm not a talented singer. However, I understand what kind of people can thrive in which environments and listen to what they have to say. It's that talent that makes a good producer.
ーーYou’re kind of a connection hub for many different people.
Oyabu: I’d say so. However, I don’t know if the greatest common denominator is always correct, so it is necessary to sift through many different options. I also have to sit down and speak with the previous generations as an equal.
Of course, I also have a chance to talk with those in their twenties, and it’s interesting to speak with the geniuses from that generation. I’ve made comments such as “You could draw that well from the start?!” and “You’re from overseas?!”
The people I work with have different personalities, are of all ages, and come from all walks of life, so it's fascinating. It's fun to listen to what everyone has to say.
ーーWhat are the plans for more of My Hero Academia’s overseas release?
Oyabu: I think it would be nice if there were episodes made for overseas viewers. I want to make something like an old-school OVA or short story that is released overseas first. I’ve spoken with overseas partners, and All Might is overwhelmingly more popular overseas than in Japan.
Many overseas fans have the impression that a hero is not a boy like Deku or Bakugo but an adult-like All Might.
There are also many enthusiastic Himiko Toga fans overseas, so I think that unlike Japan that there is support for villains.
There are different needs for overseas markets, so I want to make a project for them.
ーーIt’s interesting to hear that about All Might.
Oyabu: The amount of All Might merchandise overseas is totally different than in Japan, especially in the US. The overseas market is large, and there are many people who we can make happy with our work, so I want to try my hand over there.
ーーFinally, I’d like to ask what Bones would like to try and challenge in the future.
Oyabu: The strength of Bones is that what makes us happy is when staff comes together to create. The team works day in and day out, considering how to create an original work, popularize it, and best deliver it to fans. There may only be one original anime announcement every few years. However, even in this generation, we still want to create original work. We want to keep on leveling up and create our own works, which of course, include series that have an original manga like My Hero Academia. Please keep on looking forward to that series as well!
Interviewer – Haruka Ishibashi, Photographer - MoA
▼In Bones’ meeting space, you can find original drawings of their work up until now!
My Hero Academia Season 5 Information
Now on air!
The currently running Weekly Shonen Jump (Shueisha) comic series My Hero Academia has sold over a combined 30,000,000 copies! The hit series by Kohei Horikawa is back as a TV anime.
The story takes place in a world where 80% of the population has a superpower known as a "quirk." Some villains use their quirks for evil, so those who want to take on the job of a hero who protects society attend UA High School. Join Izuku Midoriya and his classmates in their story about growing up, battles, and friendship!
The story takes place in a world where most people have superpowers known as "quirks." Izuku Midoriya, a.k.a. Deku is a quirkless boy who meets his number one hero, All Might. Deku then starts attending UA High School, a prestigious academy that produces great heroes who protect society with their quirks. He improves his ability alongside his classmates in Class 1-A.
The next challenge Deku faces on the road to becoming the best hero is a joint training battle with the school's other class of heroes, Class 1-B! The first direct competition since the sports festival will lift the student's competitive spirits. During this battle, "something" new will be awakened in Deku.
Original creator: Kohei Horikoshi (serialized in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump)
Chief director: Kenji Nagasaki
Director: Masahiro Mukai
Series composition, script: Yousuke Kuroda
Character design: Yoshihiko Umakoshi/Hitomi Odashima
Music: Yuuki Hayashi
Opening Theme: No.1 by DiSH//
Ending Theme: Ashiato by the peggies
Izuku Midoriya: Daiki Yamashita
Katsuki Bakugo: Nobuhiko Okamoto
Ochako Uraraka: Ayane Sakura
Tenya Iida: Kaito Ishikawa
Shoto Todoroki: Yuki Kaji
Eijiro Kirishima: Toshiki Masuda
Tsuyu Asui: Aoi Yuuki
Momo Yaoyorozu: Marina Inoue
Fumikage Tokoyami: Yoshimasa Hosoya
Neito Monoma: Kohei Amasaki
Itsuka Kendo: Saki Ogasawara
Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu: Koji Okino
Yosetsu Awase: Yoshitsugu Matsuoka
Ibara Shiozaki: Miho Sakurazaka
Hitoshi Shinso: Wataru Hatano
Shota Aizawa: Junichi Suwabe
All Might: Kenta Miyake
Official US Manga Site: https://www.viz.com/my-hero-academia
Official US Twitter: https://twitter.com/mhaofficial @mhaofficial
Official US Anime Site: https://www.funimation.com/myheroacademia
Anime Movie Information
My Hero Academia The Movie: World Heroes Mission
The movie will begin screening Friday, August 6th in Japan!
Original story/Overall Director/Character Supervisor: Kohei Horikoshi
■Original story/Overall Director/Character Supervisor: Kohei Horikoshi (Manga published in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump)
■Director: Kenji Nagasaki
■Script: Yousuke Kuroda
■Character Designs: Yoshihiko Umakoshi
■Music: Yuuki Hayashi
Original Comic Information
Viz Media: https://www.viz.com/my-hero-academia
Ⓒ2021 My Hero Academia The Movie Production Committee ⒸKohei Horikoshi /Shueisha
ⒸKohei Horikoshi/Shueisha/My Hero Academia Production Committee
ⒸKohei Horikoshi /Shueisha