Yu-Gi-Oh! Animator Junichi Hayama at Youmacon 2017

November 9, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Duel Monsters, Japanese, The Dark Side of Dimensions, Yu-Gi-Oh! | Leave a comment
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Junichi Hayama at a live-drawing panel at Youmacon on November 4, 2017

Junichi Hayama, one of the most popular Yu-Gi-Oh! animators and animation directors among fans, was a special guest at Youmacon in Detroit, Michigan, this past weekend. Not only is Hayama a veteran of the Japanese anime industry with over 30 years of experience, he is also a gifted artist in his own right and has published some famous books cataloging his acclaimed brush illustrations.

Junichi Hayama served as the animation director for Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters episodes 94, 124, 161, 167, 173, and 179. He also worked as one of the key animators in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions. Outside of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Hayama is probably best known for the 13-episode JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure OVA from 1993, where he served as the series’ character designer and one of its animation directors.

At Youmacon, Hayama shared the stage with Mamoru Yokota, a younger animator who has worked on series like Death Note, Naruto, and Gatchaman Crowds. Together, the pair held one Q&A panel and two live-drawing panels where they offered a rare look at their creation process and fielded numerous questions about their careers and the anime industry.

This post compiles all of the Yu-Gi-Oh!-related questions that the audience asked Hayama during his panels and highlights some of his more interesting opinions and responses about his background.

Katsuya Jonouchi, by Junichi Hayama, dated October 4, 2013
By @hayama11 (October 4, 2013)

Meet Junichi Hayama

How did you get started in your career as an animator?

I used to draw a lot of manga and show them to many producers to try to see if I could get them sold. But reading my own manga, I felt like they weren’t interesting or funny enough. So, I felt that I couldn’t become a manga artist myself, that I wasn’t good enough for it. When I graduated high school, I wanted to do something similar so I went into the anime industry instead.

Did you go to school for animation?

No, I went directly to an animation company.

How much freelance work did you do before you entered the animation industry?

I’m still classified as a freelancer, even now. I’m not tethered to any one company.

What was your first job?

Gu-Gu Ganmo.

What has been your most cherished and favorite thing you’ve worked on thus far?

Fist of the North Star. It’s not the project that I like the most but rather is the one that has left the strongest impression on me. This was where I learned a lot of the basics and standard kinds of jobs. It was kind of my stepping stone in a sense.

Is there a person who has been a major inspiration for you?

Masami Suda, from Fist of the North Star, when I first started working in the industry. Suda was an animator who worked on the characters in that project. He was a great animator and had a very cool way of drawing that was very inspirational for me and that led me to where I am today. His work is the standard on which I base my own work today.

Are there any anime or manga that you enjoyed when you were young that inspires your work today?

On the anime side, something that I felt was kind of cool and awesome was Combattler V. The character designs by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko still inspire me today. A lot of my drawings are very much related to his. On the manga side, there’s Chojin Rokku. It’s one of the manga that I used to read. Yuki Hijiri, who worked on that, is someone who’s still inspirational today.

What has been the most challenging project that you’ve worked on so far?

Shonan Bakusozoku. I worked on one of the OVA episodes. This series features a lot of motorcycles and bikes, and there are a lot of fight scenes and gangs in the episodes. In particular, I didn’t know how the structure of motorcycles worked. I never rode one myself and I never really understood how they worked. I spent about two weeks all like, “I don’t know how to draw this. I don’t understand this.” I spent a very long time scratching my head over this. I decided one day I was going to buy a classic model motorcycle to understand the structure. So I bought two plastic models from my part-time job. One of them was a full-fairing version and another one was a very popular version at the time. So, from building these, I was able to finally understand the structure and felt like I was able to fulfill that job. But while I was struggling with that job, I felt like I was never going to finish it and felt a little bit hopeless at the time.

What’s the hardest thing for you to draw?

Things that look like Pretty Cure.

What’s your favorite thing to draw?

The design process of the characters. Drawing them from different angles. That’s the most fun to draw.

When you were a young animator, did you ever think about becoming an animation director?

Yes, I definitely wanted to try it.

How did you feel the first time you worked as an animation director?

I was really nervous. It’s a lot of responsibility because there isn’t anybody else who is checking things over or fixing them for you. You’re the final word, so I was nervous. I was looking forward to it and it was fun, but still nerve-wracking.

Yami Yugi, by Junichi Hayama, dated October 17, 2014
By @hayama11 (October 17, 2014)

Junichi Hayama Talks Yu-Gi-Oh!

Are you enjoying Youmacon so far?

Yes, it’s very interesting. [Hayama points at a couple cosplaying Kaiba and Mokuba sitting in the audience.] They’re one of the interesting parts.

How did you first get to work for Studio Gallop?

I kind of happened to be in between jobs. I got a hold of my friend’s company and kind of asked, “Do you have any jobs or anything that I can work on?” And he’s like, “Well, we have this Yu-Gi-Oh! TV series that we are working on. So why don’t you work as an animation director for it?” And that’s how I got involved with it.

What was your favorite character or scene to draw for Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions?

I actually haven’t seen the finished project. I really liked the first half of the movie when Kaiba and Yugi duel each other. Process-wise, I was kind of only involved in the first stage or so, so I wasn’t able to complete the project with them. It’s a little bit of a sensitive subject.

In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, did you get to draw Aigami?

Who’s Aigami?

[Hayama is taking requests during a live-drawing session.] Can you draw Marik?

[Hayama puts his face in his hands then pretends to cry. He won’t do it. It’s too difficult.]

[Hayama is still taking requests during a live-drawing session.] Can you draw Dark Magician Girl?

Ehh?! No, I can’t!

Who is your favorite Yu-Gi-Oh! character to draw?

Hmm, it’s tough to say.

Seto Kaiba, by Junichi Hayama, dated October 17, 2014
By @hayama11 (October 17, 2014)

Junichi Hayama Talks Art and the Anime Industry

What art supplies do you currently use?

Mechanical pencils. Pentel Art Brush pens. I think there are around 16 colors.

How do you decide which colors to use to accent your art?

I don’t use too many colors. Using just a few colors has more impact.

Do you ever do any digital work? Have you felt any differences with the shift to doing more digital work in the industry?

Yes, I’ve used it. About ten years ago, there was a remake of Gaiking and I had to use digital back then too. So I’ve been using it for quite a while now. [Hayama searches for video of the first Gaiking ending to show some of the digital art he did there.]

What do you think of artists who only know how to draw digitally?

They can do as they want. I don’t have a strong opinion about that.

Is it possible for Americans to work in the Japanese animation industry?

Yes, it’s possible, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it because the work-life balance isn’t great and you don’t really have any free time.

Some of the productions you have worked on are based on manga. How often do you interact with the creator?

It’s not impossible to get to meet with creators and manga artists. There are a few occasions. But the majority of the time, I’m usually working with the director. So working with the director and having meetings and such where we can talk together.

What tips would you give to artists who are just starting off?

Just draw what you like. When you’re doing it as a job, you can’t just draw whatever you want so it becomes a little bit more difficult. So when you’re a beginner, just enjoy it.

Are there any changes you would like to see in the anime industry?

The animation industry is known for its very, very long hours and its poor life balance without a lot of free time. I wish that everybody could have an easier time with a more balanced life and enjoy themselves more.

Katsuya Jonouchi, by Junichi Hayama, dated October 17, 2014
By @hayama11 (October 17, 2014)

Junichi Hayama’s Likes

How much do you know about Western animation?

My knowledge isn’t super extensive, but I do like some American animation, in particular The Simpsons.

Are there any current shows that you like?

The American shows Arrow and The Flash. [Hayama searches for illustrations of Green Arrow and the Flash on his phone that he previously made and shows the audience.]

What’s your favorite anime, in general?

Ashita no Joe 2.

What’s your favorite food and drink?

My favorite food is tofu. My favorite drink is Wild Turkey.

What’s your favorite sake?

Wild Turkey.

What kind of hobbies do you have?

Drinking.

What’s your favorite genre?

Action.

What’s your favorite color?

Vermilion.

What’s your favorite movie?

Back to the Future.

Mai Kujaku, by Junichi Hayama, dated October 17, 2014
By @hayama11 (October 17, 2014)

Junichi Hayama Draws Live

Junichi Hayama draws with brush pens. These pens have a reservoir that holds ink, like a fountain pen, but have a tip that emulates the look of traditional Japanese brushes. Hayama’s artwork is so well known that he has published some books focusing solely on his brush techniques and illustrations. At Youmacon, he showed off artwork from two such books: Brush Work and Animation and Design Techniques for Anime Characters.

There are said to be two different types of artists in Japan: method drawers and talent drawers. Method drawers are artists who can consistently draw the same thing over and over again for everyone. If they practice their method, they can draw very fast. Hayama is a talent drawer. He has an image in his mind, which he translates directly to pen and paper.

This talent of Hayama’s was on full display throughout the live-drawing panels. Not once did Hayama ever sketch out his drawings with a pencil first. Instead, he drew completely freehand. He began each piece by waving his pen over his paper, creating an invisible outline of the image he has visualized in his mind, then immediately started inking. This process makes his illustrations all the more incredible.

Hayama created seven illustrations during his two live-drawing panels. Only one was a Yu-Gi-Oh! piece, but it was a particularly outstanding one featuring Yami Yugi and Seto Kaiba:

Illustration of Yami Yugi and Seto Kaiba, drawn live by Junichi Hayama at Youmacon on November 3, 2017

Close-up of Seto Kaiba in an illustration drawn live by Junichi Hayama at Youmacon on November 3, 2017

Close-up of Yami Yugi in an illustration drawn live by Junichi Hayama at Youmacon on November 3, 2017

Fellow animator Mamoru Yokota, who has not worked on Yu-Gi-Oh! before, showed that he has the skills to be hired for the next Yu-Gi-Oh! project by offering his own take on Yami Yugi:

Illustration of Yami Yugi, drawn live by Mamoru Yokota at Youmacon on November 4, 2017

In Japan, animators normally only sell their works in books. But at Youmacon’s Artists’ Alley, Hayama offered attendees something that Japanese fans never get: the chance to commission a piece of art. Not only that, he was willing to draw anything, not just characters from series that he has worked on. Asking animators to draw for them is considered a faux pas in Japan. There aren’t really events like the ones he participated in at Youmacon, said Hayama.

Yami Yugi and Yugi Muto, by Junichi Hayama, dated May 31, 2015
By @hayama11 (May 31, 2015)

Follow Junichi Hayama on Twitter, @hayama11.

And follow Mamoru Yokota on Twitter, @yokotamamoru.

(Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and readability.)

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