Yu-Gi-Oh! Animators Shuji Maruyama, Junichi Hayama at Youmacon 2018

November 9, 2018 at 11:00 pm | Posted in 5D's, Duel Monsters, Japanese, The Dark Side of Dimensions, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | 2 Comments
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Shuji Maruyama and Junichi Hayama at Youmacon 2018 opening ceremonies
Shuji Maruyama (left) and Junichi Hayama

Fans of anime, manga, and Japanese culture descended upon Detroit, Michigan, last weekend for the annual Youmacon convention. This event would be a very special one for animation fans because the convention welcomed four animators straight from Japan, including two highly respected and beloved Yu-Gi-Oh! animators.

Making his first ever appearance in the United States was Shuji Maruyama, a very prolific Yu-Gi-Oh! animator and animation director who has worked on Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, 5D’s, ZEXAL, ARC-V, Bonds Beyond Time, and The Dark Side of Dimensions. Maruyama is probably best known by fans as the character designer for 5D’s. More recently, he has worked on Fuuka, Recovery of an MMO Junkie, and Hanebado!.

Returning for his second appearance at Youmacon was Junichi Hayama, who has served as an animator and animation director for Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters and as a key animator for The Dark Side of Dimensions. Hayama is well known for his mastery of the brush pen and has most recently been working on Golden Kamuy.

Joining Maruyama and Hayama were two more talented animators: Mamoru Yokota, who has worked on Death Note, Naruto, and Gatchaman Crowds; and Shigefumi Shingaki, who works full time at Toei Animation as an animation director for One Piece.

Over the weekend, all four animators participated in live drawing events, where cameras were homed in on their paper and pencils to get an up-close view of their artistic process, and in Q&A panels where they tackled burning questions from the audience.

But there was one very special panel that was not to be missed by any Yu-Gi-Oh! fan: “Draw of the Cards.” Moderated by Anthony “Kroze” Kresky of Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged fame, Draw of the Cards was dedicated entirely to all things Yu-Gi-Oh!, with Shuji Maruyama and Junichi Hayama offering insights about the Yu-Gi-Oh! series they’ve worked on and delighting the audience with their illustrations.

This post contains a full transcript of the Draw of the Cards panel and also highlights the Yu-Gi-Oh! artwork that Maruyama and Hayama presented at Youmacon 2018.

Transcript: Draw of the Cards, a discussion about Yu-Gi-Oh!

Kroze: I’d like to start this panel by talking about what goes into animating and drawing a show that’s highly based on just people playing cards against each other. How do you make that exciting from an animator aspect?

Hayama: That’s something that the author of the source material really thinks of so I really don’t have any say in that.

Maruyama: This is a work with an actual proper source material so I make sure a lot of the elements from the source material are not lost in the adaptation.

Kroze: Since it’s coming from manga source material that already exists, has there ever been any difficulty adapting something over into the animated show that was easier to tell over in the manga?

Maruyama: I want to really keep the elements from the source material intact so I make sure to use the same “image.” So I really want to make sure I preserve the touches, the styles, the expressions, and the angles that are from the manga and convert that into an animation style.

Hayama: Exactly what Maruyama said. Adapting from manga to animation — they seem very similar but they’re actually very different in a lot of components. In manga, most of the time a lot of the motion and feelings are all condensed into one single image. Whereas in animation, you have to keep in mind that it is in motion and you really want to have fluidity in the entire content. At the same time, knowing how to make sure that the essence of the source material is intact while converting that to a fluid motion is what separates amateurs from veterans.

Kroze: Do you ever look to the cards for art inspiration when adapting some of the sequences into animation?

Hayama: We don’t actually take inspiration directly from the cards. There are dedicated people that deal with the monster designs so that they can be adapted from the cards to the animation. [Takahiro] Kagami is one good example of them. He is known among the fan community as one of the best animation directors in the production team.

Maruyama: Kagami did a lot of the earlier monster designs as well as the God Cards’ monster designs.

Kroze: Yu-Gi-Oh! has had a lot of great characters over the many years. Is there any character that you take pleasure in animating and drawing?

Hayama: I don’t have a particular favorite character because I make sure that plot lines and story lines are intact, and so I see value in all the characters.

Interpreter: Is that genuinely your answer? Or are you saying that because you don’t want to answer the question?

Hayama: No, seriously! Every single one has an important role in the story line.

Maruyama: Just from the ease of drawing, I really like to draw Yusei because I draw a lot of him, so I’ve got a lot of practice for him. But my particular favorite is Bruno from 5D’s. I like his role in the story and his design.

Kroze: Because Yusei is simple for you to draw, does it make the action scenes a lot easier to create? Does it let you be more dynamic because you don’t have to concentrate that much on Yusei?

Maruyama: Hmm…

Hayama: The more you draw, the easier it gets. You have the image of the picture revealed in your mind, so there’s one less thing to deal with. So sometimes even the smallest details like how his fingers appear, the more you draw, the more you memorize how they actually look. So in other words, practice makes perfect. At some point, it becomes a habit as opposed to a task.

Kroze: All of the Yu-Gi-Oh! shows have so many action sequences in them. Are there any particular ones that stand out that you had a lot of fun animating?

Hayama: I don’t remember. Sorry.

Maruyama: It’s not an action scene, but one of my favorite scenes is in Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters when Yugi is dueling Joey while he was being controlled by Marik. I love that, especially the scene where, after the duel is over, Yugi jumps into the water to try to help Joey. That’s one of my favorite scenes because it really allows me to reidentify, to reassure that their friendship just goes above and beyond what friendship really, truly is.

Kroze: At this point, I’d like to take a couple of questions from the audience.

Audience member: You’ve talked about which characters you look forward to drawing. Which characters are the most difficult to draw?

Hayama: Actually, monsters were really hard to draw. In Duel Monsters, there’s that black magician wearing some sort of belts fighting against Pegasus.

[Audience members shout out the name — Magician of Black Chaos.]

Hayama: When I saw that character design, I was like, you’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me.

[The audience laughs.]

Maruyama: A lot of the dragons in 5D’s were really hard to draw because a lot of them were 3D designs, even though some of them, like Black Rose, were drawn most of the time. Including that, there are a lot of dragons that were designed from the get-go through computer graphics as 3D models. They didn’t consider animators at all during that design process so I struggled with that.

Audience member: Have you ever played the card game itself?

Hayama: I don’t have a clue about it.

Maruyama: Recently, I’ve been playing Duel Links.

Audience member: Of the different summoning mechanics — Normal summoning, Xyz, Synchro — which is the most difficult to incorporate into an action sequence?

Hayama: I don’t understand all the different summonings so I just try to have fun without caring about them.

Maruyama: Summonings and the transformation portions are probably one of the most inspiring, appealing portions of the anime so I make sure to use some variations so there’s not all the same recycled motions. I have fun trying to come up with different kinds of animations.

Kroze: Are there any transformation sequences from other shows that you’ve look to for inspiration for some of those summoning sequences?

Maruyama: Not really. Not any one in particular.

Audience member: Which of the Egyptian God Cards is the hardest to animate?

Hayama: I don’t know. Which one’s are the God Cards again?

[Maruyama lists them off for him.]

Hayama: Which one’s the blue one? That’s the hardest. All of them are hard to illustrate.

Audience member: I was assuming it would be Ra because of all the scales and everything. The yellow one.

Hayama: I try to forget about bad memories.

[The audience laughs.]

Maruyama: Back when God Cards were the thing in Duel Monsters, I was still just pretty new, so I struggled with all of them.

Audience member: Are there any other series’ animators who you respect and who you draw inspiration from?

Hayama: Once we go down that rabbit hole, there’s no end to it.

Maruyama: True, but…

Hayama: I worked on Fist of the North Star. During that time, the character designer, Masami Suda, was like my mentor figure. A lot of my work has many elements that I learned from him. At the same time, when I was someone who just enjoyed anime not as a professional but as a viewer, I believed some of his touches are kind of reminiscent of the original Gundam series.

Maruyama: I learned a lot of things from [Takahiro] Kagami, one of the animation directors from Duel Monsters. A lot of my works are similar to his style.

Kroze: Is there anything in Yu-Gi-Oh! that you haven’t worked on that you want to work on? Like GX.

Hayama: As long as I get paid, I don’t care.

[The audience laughs.]

Maruyama: If I get asked to, I will be happy to do it.

Audience member: Are there any American series that influence your art?

Hayama: I watch The Simpsons. I also watch a lot of American comic series, from Marvel and DC. I watch them just for fun, but if I see something interesting, like certain layouts or designs, I might get inspiration from them.

Maruyama: I watch Pixar for fun, but I don’t think it really inspires my work because the styles are completely different.

Audience member: Have either of you worked with the creator of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Kazuki Takahashi?

Hayama: Nope.

Maruyama: I just said hi to him once.

[The audience commiserates with him — “Aww.”]

Hayama: I would like to meet him for a very personal reason. Takahashi worked on a spin-off manga of the anime Go-Q-Choji Ikkiman by Toei Animation. I was a fan of the show so I want to meet Takahashi just for that personal reason.

[Note: The Go-Q-Choji Ikkiman anime and manga aren’t available in English. According to the Go-Q-Choji Ikkiman Japanese Wikipedia entry, the manga was serialized in Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine in 1986 and was compiled into two graphic novel volumes. Takahashi worked on it using the pen name “Kazuo Takahashi.” -ravegrl]

Audience member: When you’re not animating, what’s your favorite thing to do at home?

Hayama: Rest assured, I don’t work all the time. I watch movies and drink a lot. The usual things.

Maruyama: Same.

Audience member: How did you get into the animation industry?

Hayama: Back when I was in high school, my friend’s brother was involved in an anime production. I mentioned to my friend that I might want to be an animator some day. “Oh, you want me to introduce my brother to you?” So I met him and asked if there’s a special school for this. “No, don’t do it. Don’t do it.” Two months later, I find myself introduced to a new company. After five minutes of introductions and a simple interview, they were like, “When are you going to come?” I started in April and the rest is history.

Maruyama: I went to a special school for animation. From there, I met the first company that I worked for, and now I’m here.

Kroze: Seeing as how this franchise has had a lot of people work on it, is there anything that either of you feel like you’ve contributed that you hope makes a lasting impression on the franchise as it moves onward?

Hayama: I will leave that to the viewers and the audience’s discretion.

Maruyama: I hope the character designs will stay intact as long as the series does continue.

Audience member: For Maruyama, you’ve talked about how you’ve drawn inspiration from animation director [Takahiro] Kagami. Do you know the story behind why, in so many of Kagami’s episodes, Joey is often shown making a tough-guy pointy-chin face?

Maruyama: Kagami really likes Antonio Inoki, who is a well-known pro wrestler in Japan. Kagami is a fan of him and so he played around with the thought that maybe Joey really likes pro wrestling. So in certain scenes, he added some references to some pro wrestlers in terms of their facial expressions or emotions or playfulness.

Audience member: Apart from the card game, Yu-Gi-Oh! known mostly for the hair. Which character’s hair is the most difficult for you to draw?

Hayama: Tristan. Tristan has a distinctive pointy hair style. What makes it difficult is that it really depends on the angle it is seen pointing. [The subsequent explanation is inaudible because of the excessive laughter from the audience.] That makes it difficult because the angle really changes his hairstyle. I saw the character design and was like, you’ve got to be kidding me.

Maruyama: The character Vector in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL. His hair is very hard to draw. Similar to Tristan, the angle really dictates how the hairstyle looks. In the show Ashita no Joe, the main character has a very interesting hairstyle as well. Depending on the angle, the hair goes on one side or the other. Even if he looks straight forward, it still goes a little to the left or right. Likewise, for Vector, I really have to think about how, if I am looking straight at him, how the hair would look.

Audience member: If you have the chance to create your own monster card or Yu-Gi-Oh! card, what ideas would you have for it?

Hayama: I won’t know until I try.

Maruyama: I will try to design a cute girl, like Dark Magician Girl.

Audience member: In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, the final villain, Z-One, has a really interesting design. Where did the idea for his design originate?

Maruyama: I didn’t design him so I have no idea. But the first time I saw that design, I said that looks really tedious.

[Note: The actual designer of Z-One is Shinichi Miyazaki, who is credited in the endings of episode 65 and onward for his “Concept Design Cooperation.” Miyazaki recently tweeted an early design sketch and character concepts for Z-One. -ravegrl]

Audience member: Did you enjoy working on ZEXAL more or 5D’s? Which one was more fun?

Maruyama: I had more fun with ZEXAL because it was a little more colorful and playful. In 5D’s, very early on, the main character gets arrested. That sets up the tone of the show to be kind of dark. I think it’s not my actual output that is dark, but that darkness is something that I have to keep in the back of my mind when I’m actually illustrating.

Kroze: Speaking of 5D’s, the show, like you said, has a very dark tone. While manga is always black and white, 5D’s definitely has a very prominent “color” to it that makes its darkness feel entrenching. Is there anything that you looked at that inspired how you approached the darkness there?

Maruyama: There are actually dedicated people that deal with the color tone and the director and the people that handle this idea. They handle the tone of the colors and they make sure it’s all consistent with the story and throughout the series. So I didn’t have much of a say in the actual color.

Audience member: In the Dark Side of Dimensions movie, Kaiba and Mokuba don’t have their lockets on. Do you know why their lockets aren’t included in the movie even though they always wore them in the TV anime and manga?

Maruyama: I have no idea. I was given the designs from the directors. There’s nothing that took place in the background that we know of or any theories we can verify.

Audience member: Was there ever a time you had to animate something where you said no, you couldn’t do it, or had to change the way it was animated because it was too difficult to create?

Hayama: There were many occasions where I’ve thought it’s impossible to do a certain thing within a certain given schedule. Before I decide to accept the job, I make sure it’s something that I can finish. Because if you do accept the job that’s nearly impossible to do, you will always experience something bad.

Maruyama: No comment. [Laughs.]

Audience member: Do you have any favorite old American action movies?

Hayama: Escape from New York.

Maruyama: Back to the Future.

Interpreter: Is it a sin to have never watched that movie?

Kroze: What?! Are you serious?

Hayama: You’re joking! How sad.

Audience member: In Duel Monsters, Noa’s story arc wasn’t in the manga. What is it like drawing something that doesn’t have a source material?

Hayama: Even during Noa’s arc, I was just an animator, so I wasn’t part of the actual major staff. The director and the scriptwriter are the ones who make the decisions about the details. But, having said that, I did feel that it was kind of different than usual, that it was kind of weird. But a job is a job.

Maruyama: What Hayama said.

Kroze: I have a final question for both of you. This is a little bit of a silly one, but the phrase “the heart of the cards” is used many times in the series. What do you believe the heart of the cards means?

Hayama: Sorry, I have no idea.

Maruyama: I’ve never heard of that.

[The audience laughs.]

Interpreter: “Kādo no kokoro wo shinjiru” — “To believe in the heart of the cards.” [The interpreter places his index and middle fingers on top of his wrist, as if he were pausing before drawing a card.]

Hayama & Maruyama: Aaah!

Hayama: It’s a fully mental thing. Probably a full mental hypnosis.

Shuji Maruyama and Junichi Hayama’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Illustrations at Youmacon 2018

While the animators were answering questions during the Draw of the Cards panel, they were also busy putting pen to paper. What were they drawing? This panel was technically a Q&A panel, not a live drawing panel, so there were no cameras set up that pointed at their papers. So, the audience would just have to be surprised.

At the end of the panel, Shuji Maruyama and Junichi Hayama revealed what they had been working on and invited the audience to approach them and take photos.

Maruyama wowed the crowd with his Yusei Fudo and Jack Atlas:

Yusei Fudo and Jack Atlas illustrations, drawn live by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Close-up of Yusei Fudo in an illustration drawn live by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Close-up of Jack Atlas in an illustration drawn live by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Hayama’s Seto Kaiba and Yami Yugi left the audience awestruck:

Seto Kaiba and Yami Yugi illustrations, drawn live by Junichi Hayama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Close-up of Seto Kaiba in an illustration drawn live by Junichi Hayama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Close-up of Yami Yugi in an illustration drawn live by Junichi Hayama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Needless to say, everyone was astonished by the works Maruyama and Hayama managed to turn out while they were casually chatting with the audience. They are both truly masters of their craft.

These are the only two Yu-Gi-Oh! pieces that Hayama drew the entire weekend.

Maruyama, however, created more Yu-Gi-Oh! illustrations at other live drawing and Q&A panels that weren’t specifically dedicated to Yu-Gi-Oh!.

Here is another take on Yusei and Jack by Maruyama. This photo is from fellow animator Mamoru Yokota (@yokotamamoru).

Yusei Fudo and Jack Atlas together, drawn live by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon on November 2, 2018

Seto Kaiba was a very popular request for Maruyama. He drew Kaiba and Blue-Eyes White Dragon twice using two different styles at two different panels:

Seto Kaiba drawing a card with Blue-Eyes White Dragon, drawn live by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Seto Kaiba standing with Blue-Eyes White Dragon, drawn live by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon on November 4, 2018

All of these illustrations by Maruyama and Hayama were given away to lucky audience members.

On Facebook, Yu-Gi-Oh! voice actress Erica Schroeder, who was also a guest at Youmacon, shared a story and photo of how she had the great fortune of running into Shuji Maruyama in her hotel lobby. After Maruyama learned that Akiza Izinski is her favorite character that she has played, he whipped up an original illustration for Erica in minutes.

Erica Schroeder, Shuji Maruyama, and Maruyama's illustration of Akiza Izinski

Truly a moment she won’t ever forget!

At Youmacon’s Artists Alley, the animators had their own table set up where they accepted a very limited number of commissions over the weekend. When they weren’t attending panels or sightseeing in Detroit, they were busy drawing at their table. Youmacon attendees could commission an original piece of monochrome or full-color artwork on a shikishi — a hard paper board often used in Japan for autographs, paintings, and calligraphy.

Shuji Maruyama displayed two sample shikishi at the table — one with a color drawing of Yuma Tsukumo with Astral, and another with a monochrome drawing of Yami Yugi and Seto Kaiba standing back to back.

Yuma Tsukumo, Astral, Yami Yugi, and Kaiba illustrations on two shikishi by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon 2018

Yuma Tsukumo and Astral illustration on a shikishi by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon 2018

Yami Yugi and Seto Kaiba illustration on a shikishi by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon 2018

Throughout the weekend, all of the animators held autograph sessions where they each offered posters to fans that featured original illustrations from anime series that they’ve worked on.

Junichi Hayama’s print showed Saichi Sugimoto and Asirpa from Golden Kamuy. But Shuji Maruyama’s print was this masterpiece of Yusei Fudo, Jack Atlas, and Yami Yugi:

Shuji Maruyama's original print with Yusei Fudo, Jack Atlas, and Yami Yugi illustrations

Want to see Shuji Maruyama and Junichi Hayama at more events? Contact your nearest anime convention’s guest relations staff and let them know!

Follow Shuji Maruyama on Twitter, @masyuu_nemunemu.

And follow Junichi Hayama on Twitter, @hayama11.

* * *

If you enjoyed hearing from Shuji Maruyama and Junichi Hayama, check out my coverage of Youmacon 2017, where Hayama made his first American convention appearance. At that event, Hayama spoke in greater depth about his background, techniques, and the animation industry.

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

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?


What’s your favorite genre?


What’s your favorite color?


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.)

Update (November 9, 2018): Junichi Hayama returned to Youmacon in 2018, together with fellow Yu-Gi-Oh! animator Shuji Maruyama. The two held a panel dedicated solely to Yu-Gi-Oh!, answered fans’ questions, and showed off plenty of amazing illustrations. Check out my write-up of the event!

[YGO: TAS] Episode 62 – Winged Dragon Of Rawr! / “Where’s The New Episode?!” – a short film

September 15, 2014 at 4:50 pm | Posted in Duel Monsters, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series | 2 Comments
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Tea after gawking a little too much at a fully nude Marik
It’s not the new episode that she’s gawking at…

And so, the Battle City tournament ends. I sure hope Kaiba isn’t butthurt about the outcome and doesn’t do something drastic, like blow up the island and kill everyone! Check out LittleKuriboh’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged episode 62, “Winged Dragon Of Rawr!” now available at TeamFourStar.com. New episodes will be available exclusively on TFS for one week before being uploaded to YouTube.

LittleKuriboh had previewed an incomplete version of YGOTAS episode 62 at conventions earlier this year before premiering the full product at Anime Expo in July.

A month ago, LK had stated that he was holding off on releasing the new episode because of some “big news” that he was waiting to announce. For those out of the loop, LK has made Team Four Star’s website his new home for videos after Blip.tv closed his account at the start of this month.

“[W]e wanted to make sure we actually had a place to put the episode before uploading it,” wrote LK’s wife Marianne Miller in a new post on TFS that further clarifies the situation.

To help raise awareness of his move, LittleKuriboh today also released “‘Where’s The New Episode?!’ – a short film” costarring fellow voice actor and abridger xthedarkone. (Why are you watching this when you could be watching the new episode?!)

LittleKuriboh’s home on TFS is gradually coming together as videos continue to be added and he gets his own section in the drop-down menu at the top of the page. I’ve added LK’s newest videos to my page for YGOTAS streams and will update the old links to point to his other TFS uploads once the dust has settled over there. I haven’t decided if I’ll update my YGOTAS downloads page since it doesn’t look like LK will be offering downloads any more. When Blip.tv discontinued support for iTunes distribution earlier this year, neither LK nor YGOTAS fans made a stink about it, so there doesn’t seem to be much demand for downloads anyway.

Update (September 29): YGOTAS episode 62 is now available on YouTube. More of his videos will soon be added to TFS, LittleKuriboh tweeted.

Anime Convention Update: Youmacon 2014

In a move that surprised nobody, Detroit anime convention Youmacon announced last week that LittleKuriboh will return as a guest to help celebrate the con’s 10th year! Also in the guest line-up are the members of Team Four Star and loads of anime voice actors, including Steve Blum, Caitlin Glass, and Johnny Yong Bosch.

Attendees of last year’s Youmacon got a special treat when LK announced that he had obtained the full script for Naruto The Abridged Movie (yes, the real Naruto The Abridged Movie) from MasakoX. As longtime followers of Naruto Abridged know, Vegeta3986 announced the production and casting of the movie back in October 2009. The movie was only partially completed and the subpar eight-minute clip that was made became a running joke among abridgers for its quality and long production time.

LittleKuriboh, Team Four Star, and Linkara performed a live reading of the script at Youmacon 2013, including the parts that never made it onto video, getting about halfway through the script before their panel time ran out. Lanipator and LK haphazardly suggested that they would finish the reading this year. Will attendees get to hear the thrilling conclusion to the story that was never be produced? I sure hope they continue. What kind of awful people would they be if they just left it on a cliffhanger?

Youmacon will be held on October 30 through November 2 at the COBO Center and the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan. This will be LK’s sixth Youmacon appearance.

More Anime Cons for 2015: AOD, MomoCon

LittleKuriboh also has two more cons booked for 2015. First is Animation on Display (AOD), which will be held on January 31 and February 1, 2015 in Burlingame, California. Joining LK in the spotlight will be Marianne Miller and Robbie Daymond, who plays Tuxedo Mask in VIZ’s new production of Sailor Moon.

Then, from May 28 through 31, LittleKuriboh will be returning to MomoCon in Atlanta, Georgia. LK had hinted earlier this year that MomoCon would be a possibility, and it’s exciting to see him welcomed back. Other guests announced so far include comic and animation writer Greg Weisman and actors Keith David, Crispin Freeman, and Steve Blum.

My page for LK’s Anime Convention Schedule is now updated with these latest stops.

[YGO: TAS] Which Side Video Should Little Kuriboh Release at Youmacon 2012?

August 8, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Other Stuff, Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series | Leave a comment
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Joey choosing a door in episode 122

Here’s your chance to influence which side video project Little Kuriboh might offer his fans in the near future! On Facebook, LK asks:

Which of these side videos would you want to see released at Youmacon this year?
1: Cr@psule Monsters 3
2: Evil Council 6
3: Season Zero 3
4: Evangelion Abridged 2
5: Naruto The Spoof Sequel Movie

Hmm, this is a tough choice! Evil Council 5 ended with a dramatic cliffhanger, so I’d love to see how that plays out. But seeing another Cr@psule Monsters episode would be one heck of a treat, especially since the last video was released four years ago! Then again, the most recent Naruto Spoof episode really reminded me how crazy awesome and fun that series is. And as a Yu-Gi-Oh! fanatic, how could I not want to see more Season Zero? And…

Wha? Evangelion Abridged 2 is really an option? You mean it wasn’t just a one shot?! Fans always seem to ask him if he’s making more, LK tweeted, and he did have fun making the first one, so he’s tempted to make another. At one point in my life, I was completely obsessed with Evangelion, and now that LK has opened the door to making more episodes, that part of me is itching for more.

Ack, life is filled with such hard decisions. Vote, vote, vote!

Youmacon 2012 will take place between November 1 and 4 in Detroit, Michigan. This year, Little Kuriboh was invited as a guest for the fourth year in a row.

[YGO: TAS] Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time Abridged

November 7, 2011 at 12:00 am | Posted in Bonds Beyond Time, Other Stuff, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series | 3 Comments
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Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time Abridged logo

Youmacon has really established itself as the convention to be for creators and fans of abridged series. This year’s event certainly didn’t disappoint — not with yesterday’s premiere of Little Kuriboh’s long-awaited abridged movie, Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time Abridged in 3D! See it only on YouTube (for now) divided into three separate videos: part 1, 2, 3. Lots of laughs? Check. Plenty of new music? Check. Killer original animation? Check. No homo? We’ll see about that.

The film stars TheAzureCrow (Semisoma) as Yusei, ShadyVox as Jaden, and Little Kuriboh as Yugi and Paradox. The original animated sequences were created by CrikeyDave, MasakoX, and The Amazing Rinbo.

Thought TheAzureCrow was also going to voice Paradox like in the original trailer? Nah, that wasn’t meant to be a permanent thing, says LK. And whatever happened to “Jaden and Yusei’s Excellent Adventure“? LK simply changed his mind about that. It happens. (The fact that he hadn’t seen the movie back then probably had a hand in it, haha).

The Unoriginal 3D Spoof Movie Soundtrack

Enjoy the songs? ShadyVox has the MP3s and master tracks for “Stronger,” “Freestyle Time,” and “Beelzeboss” on YouTube. Just check the description for each video. Download away and get cracking on those remixes!

Where are the Other Goodies…?

Late Friday evening, the members of Team Four Star hosted The Roast of Little Kuriboh, with Kirbopher, Psyguy, and other special guests also in attendance. Fans agree that the hilarity — the uproariousness — of the 18+ panel was brought to a whole different level with LK showing up to the event completely plastered. Unfortunately, there has yet to be any footage of the panel made available, with some attendees indicating that any unofficial filming was not allowed. This won’t stop LK’s fans from camping out on YouTube though!

And sadly, despite his original plans, Little Kuriboh did not hold a Naruto Spoof panel at this year’s event. Maybe another time!

[YGO: TAS] Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D Movie Abridged Trailer – Youmacon 2011

September 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Posted in Bonds Beyond Time, Other Stuff, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series | 1 Comment
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Screenshot from the trailer for Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D Bonds Beyond Time Abridged

He hasn’t forgotten about it. Yesterday evening, Little Kuriboh uploaded a trailer (on YouTube, Blip.tv) for his upcoming Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time Abridged movie! (Haha, it’s going to be in 3D?) The video is also available for download via Blip.tv in AVI, M4V, and MP4 formats.

Need another reason to go to this year’s Youmacon? The abridged movie will premiere at the Detroit, Michigan anime convention, to be held on November 3 through 6.

ShadyVox and TheAzureCrow (Semisoma01) are still on to play Jaden and Yusei respectively. The song in the trailer is “Stronger,” with lyrics and vocals by ShadyVox. The song is a take off of Kanye West’s “Stronger,” which in turn samples Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.”

With video in hand, Little Kuriboh is focusing all of his efforts on creating the highly anticipated final product. Will it live up to the expectations that have been building over these last couple of months? Will we end up seeing a lot of YGOTAS fanart of this?

Jaden & Yusei’s Excellent Adventure Teaser
10th Anniversary Abridged Trailer

[NTACFSSS] Naruto Spoof Youmacon 2011 Promo

September 2, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Other Stuff | Leave a comment
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Logo for Youmacon 2011

Some of Little Kuriboh’s best creations include a catchy song, and LK certainly doesn’t disappoint with his newest video uploaded yesterday evening to YouTube: a promo for the upcoming Youmacon 2011 event! David Bowie-sensei-kun tells you all about the convention in the form of one of his signature psychedelic musical numbers.

Guests at this year’s Youmacon, held between November 3 and 6 in Detroit, Michigan, will include TeamFourStar, Vic Mignogna Migderpaderp, Fred Gallagher, and of course Little Kuriboh. This will be LK’s third year in a row attending the Detroit anime convention. Also present will be Kroze, Kirbopher, and much of the cast of the Wha-Chow! podcast.

Update (September 4): LK uploaded one more Youmacon promo this morning. Guess who’s in it? It’s Kroooooze!

[YGO: TAS] Ask Marik Ishtar Anything on Formspring

August 21, 2011 at 8:27 am | Posted in Other Stuff, Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series | 2 Comments
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Marik Ishtar in Bakura's mind in episode 79

Have you ever wondered what Marik Ishtar will do once he takes over the world? Or what tattoos he has on his body, other than that large, crazy one on his back? Or whether there is anything more than friendship between him and Bakura? Find out the answers to these questions and more on Marik’s Formspring account, then ask your own! The account was created yesterday morning by Little Kuriboh.

So why did Marik suddenly join Formspring? “I wish to spread myself all over the Internet,” he said. Hmm, who or what else would he like to spread himself all over?

One More British Anime Con…

At Nom-Con in Dublin, Ireland earlier this month, Little Kuriboh said that he might not be attending another anime convention in the British Isles unless “some crazy miracle happens.” Well guess what? In a “secret last-minute guest announcement,” the British anime convention Alcon has announced LK as one of its guests this year! LK will be returning to Leicester, England for a third year in a row to attend the event between September 8 and 11. MasakoX will be there, too! And unlike last year’s event, which had an adults-only age restriction, Alcon 2011 will be open to anyone 16 years old and over.

…And Some U.S. Anime Cons, Too

Thought Little Kuriboh wouldn’t be heading to any U.S. anime conventions for the rest of this year? Guess again! In the past few days, LK has announced some great stops that he will be making in America. First up is Youmacon in Detroit, Michigan on November 3 through 6. TeamFourStar will be present as well, and they’ll be roasting poor LK at an 18+ panel! Oh man, I hope fans get some video footage of this! Listeners of Wha-Chow! can also rejoice, for Psyguy and many of the other podcast regulars will also be attending, too (though not as guests). Next, LK will head to Anime Vegas, taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 11 through 13.

He’s not done there. LK has also already announced plans for cons in early 2012. Between February 3 and 5, he’ll be dropping by the Dartz-favorite Kami-Con in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for the third year in a row! Then, it’s off to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for Anime Milwaukee between February 17 through 19.

Whew! Once he gets some free time (lol), I hope he makes some promos for all these events!

Follow Marik on Twitter


October 3, 2010 at 8:35 am | Posted in Other Stuff, Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series | Leave a comment
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Screenshot from LK's YGO INCEPTION SPOOF video
“I think I’ve found a way home, and this last card game… that’s how I get there!”

Little Kuriboh Pictures is back with a new movie trailer: “YGO INCEPTION SPOOF” (on YouTube, Blip.tv)! As “Mind Heist” plays in the background and images of a cool-headed Kaiba and well-uniformed Joey roll by, LK reminds us that he and TeamFourStar will be at Youmacon 2010 at the end of this month. Download this trailer today and compare it with the actual Inception trailer that it parodies!

With its witty one-liners and original artwork, this new video surely tops LK’s Watchmen trailer as the superior display of the badassery that Yu-Gi-Oh! can achieve.

[4Kids-YouTube] Yu-Gi-Oh! Episodes 138-140, English dubbed

September 13, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Posted in 4Kids, Duel Monsters, English dubbed, Yu-Gi-Oh! | Leave a comment
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Marik taunting Yugi in episode 138
“New episodes? Gimme!”

At last, the final showdown of Battle City is here! Yugi and Marik square off for the Battle City crown in episodes 138, 139, and 140, made available yesterday on 4Kids’ YouTube channel. Kaiba gives Yugi his Fiend’s Sanctuary card, but will it be enough to defeat Marik? The fate of the whole world hangs in the outcome of this wicked Shadow Game!

As usual, you can find the links for these dubbed Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes on YouTube’s Shows portal and my page for streaming dubbed episodes.

Youmacon 2010 logo

Well, Alcon 2010 wrapped up yesterday… And so ends Little Kuriboh’s world tour via anime cons, a trek that crossed three countries on two continents! Fittingly, his last con of the summer then brought him right back home to England.

LK’s next convention visit won’t be until the end of October when he attends Youmacon, an event that he has said means very much to him. Last year, LK premiered two new episodes at Youmacon. What goodies will he bring as a guest to this year’s con? Hopefully, we’ll see a promo video for the event soon!

Youmacon 2010 will be held in Detroit, Michigan from October 28 to 31.

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