Behind the Scenes at Bones – Crunchyroll Expo 2022

In its over 20 year history, Bones studio has created animated series and films that have touched generations of viewers. Whether it’s a classic like Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, Eureka Seven, Vision of Escaflowneor Ouran High School Host Club or one the studio’s fresh entries like My Hero Academy and The Case Study of Vanitas, the studio has earned a reputation for its expertly animated action sequences and consistently beautiful visuals. Minami sat down with Crunchyroll senior brand manager Chris Han to discuss the studio’s legacy and current work.

What’s it like being the president of Studio Bones and what does your average day look like?

Minami: Rather than company president, I think of myself as a producer and work closely with our producers and collaborate on all the projects from script to design. In the mornings I check my emails and the afternoons are full of meetings and then at night, I’ll dabble a bit in alcohol.

I do drink…but it’s usually with other work colleagues and other people in the industry. At night we gather and talk about our projects and what’s going on within our different studios. Please think of it as work.

How did you get your start in the anime industry?

Minami: This kind of brings back to a long time ago but just like everyone, I loved anime as a child and my favorite was Moomin from Finland. I also grew up with other anime like Space Battleship Yamato and the Gundam series and developed a deep interest in media which I studied in college. But when I started working, that’s when I moved into animation. To tell you the truth, I was originally aiming to be a director. I was a big fan of director Yoshiyuki Tomino who created Gundam; I really appreciated and respected his work so I joined Sunrise to work with him. However, during my time there I realized I had more fun working on the direct production, so that’s the direction I went in instead.

Which anime title do you think started getting Bones more recognition from fans?

Minami: It was probably Fullmetal Alchemist that really got everyone’s attention. During that era, we worked on FMA, Ouranand Wolf’s Rainand I think these projects really got us more attention overseas.

(Regarding Eureka SevenWhat made Bones want to animate the three new Hi-Evolution films?

Minami: We first worked on it 17 years ago with the idea that you should watch the first anime before starting the next entries – there’s also the tv series AO and then the theatrical version. When we thought about what comes next, that’s when we thought about the Hi-Evolution movies. I’m sure there are many who have seen these movies, but there may also be quite a few who have not seen them. We really wanted to wrap up the movies to create a spot for the next entry.

How about Josee, The Tiger and the Fish?

Minami: Jose was originally a book by [Seiko] Tanabe but there are no missiles, no explosions, no fights. It’s out of the ordinary for a Bones project. Director [Kotaro] Tamura, who also worked on Noragami, really insisted on trying something new and working on a film. Tamura imagined it’d be around two hours long and challenged himself and Bones to take on a new type of work. Producer Suzuki insisted on moving forward with it. I asked about robots and fights but they said no. But they were so passionate and insistent that I had to say yes.

(Regarding Sk8 the InfinityWhat inspired Bones and Hiroko Utsumi-sensei to create this anime?

Minami: Like I mentioned with Joseproducer Suzuki worked on Sk8. I noticed Utsumi-sensei’s talent in her other works and I really wanted to work with her, so when we were talking, I asked if it’d have explosions or robots and she said “no, skateboarding.” Skateboarding is interesting to me because I like sports in general; I thought of making a sports anime, but we hadn’t found an opportunity until Utsumi came to me and said she wanted to try this skateboarding anime. Since she insisted, I thought this might be fun. Sk8 was only broadcast for one season, but I see from our fans that it was popular domestically and internationally, so as an original work it turned out to be pretty successful.

(Regarding The Case Study of Vanitas) How did Bones become the animation studio for this title?

Minami: This one finally has action! The original publisher is Square Enix and we worked together before on FMA. They brought the idea of Vanitas to me and I read through it and thought it was great and the art was wonderful. But with art that nice it’s really hard to animate it and bring it to life, because there is that delicacy between manga and animation. But I thought these new challenges would also be a good opportunity for us to learn and create a great animation. Vanitas was only for two courses and there are still lots of things that we weren’t able to bring to life yet, so it would be really nice to be able to continue bringing Vanitas to life.

(Regarding Mob Psycho 100) What’s the most challenging part when it comes to animating the show?

Minami: ONE-Sensei’s world-building skills are off-the-charts insane, and in animation you have to be careful how you treat world-building and environments, so that was difficult for us to handle and express accurately.

Most anime, even the ones we work on other than Mob Psychothere is a hybrid structure to add CGI along with hand-drawn animation, but in Mob Psycho there is no CG whatsoever. I want to drill home the point of how amazing and wonderful hand-drawn animation is, but I do have to say that it is incredibly hard and takes so much effort from our staff. There is a lot of struggle that goes into creating hand-drawn animation; it’s in its own separate category.

(Regarding My Hero Academy) How is Bones able to consistently deliver strong animation quality each year?

Minami: Everyone just does their best. With MHA, the source material keeps going so we keep up with that pace. It’s more like an annual series, it’s very consistent. Our sub-studio, C studio, is dedicated to MHA. They’re always working on it to bring it to the quality you guys see. One good thing about keeping it within one studio is that the individual animators within becoming more skilled and talented, but that does also mean they’re constantly bickering with one another about the best way to do it. Horikoshi-sensei – he’s just way too amazing. I feel like with us adapting it into an anime we’re just chasing Horikoshi. If we don’t do our best, we may be betraying him.

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