Hidenori Matsubara was one of the few headline guests at SMASH! 2013 and I was lucky enough to nab a seat and to be there for the entirety of his Q and A Panel as well as his Live Drawing in the Art Room yesterday at the convention. It was quite a small affair, it was held on the main stage of the Art Room, but that’s not to say that the place didn’t fill to the brim with eager Matsubara fans. The place was packed and, once again, the doors of the Art Room were closed and the lucky few got a chance to stay. There was no wasted time at this panel, almost as soon as Mr. Matsubara sat down the questions began rolling in and while there weren’t many questions asked Mr. Matsubara sure did answer them in detail.
He started off speaking about his past and where it all began for him, he took the audience through his work at Gainax when he first started out and how it was quite tough in that day and age to be an animator working on such an extensive series like Neon Genesis Evangelion. Despite his large resume a great deal of the questions revolved around his work on both the Neon Genesis Evangelion series and the new Rebuild of Evangelion Movies. We all got a little insight into the world of an animator and how excruciating the work hours are and how much effort these people put into their work.
Q: How have your daily habits changed since you’ve become a top-level animator?
Matsubara: Back when I was younger it was much harder to leave work and return home. I really only went home once or twice a week. I used to sleep under my work desk…at least I don’t have to do that now, although my days and nights have switched but I love what I do so it is not that big of a burden on me.
He spoke more about his childhood and what really drove him to become an animator and a character designer, people where somewhat shocked when he mentioned that his life’s work all came from the simple fact that when he was a child he liked Manga, it was that simple. It showed that the biggest of achievements can come from the smallest of dreams. He kept it fairly light-hearted the whole way through even though he did get into a bit of the tougher moments of his life and his career, he always brought it back with a nice ending to every question in the true Matsubara fashion.
Q. What was the biggest challenge you have ever faced in your career?
Matsubara: Possibly the lack of time and the lack of staff during Evangelion…I used to think that it would be better if everyone worked as fluidly as I did. A long time ago it used to take me many months to make an episode of Anime, now it takes me weeks at a time.
He compared working on the the Evangelion series to the movies mentioning that it is hard to find your feet when working on a brand new series or movie because there is a great deal of stress that comes with making it good enough for people to like, if people don’t like the series then you’ve wasted a great deal of time and put yourself through quite a lot of work and hardships. He explains more in his answers to these questions:
Q. How different is it working on the Rebuild of Evangelion movies after working on the original series for so long?
Matsubara: I was never the top animator for the Evangelion series, there was a lot of work to do and nobody was sure how the series would go, it’s different now though because, in the Rebuild movies, I AM the top animator. While my responsibilities have grown I’m finding it more enjoyable because I know how popular the movies are already and it seems to lessen the pressure while making it more fun to work on.
Q. The odd imagery at the end of the Evangelion series: Was that the directors choice or a budget problem?
Matsubara: A bit of both actually. There was an extreme lack of time by the end of the series, we were only given a week or so to finish it off…I think the ending is fairly odd too, like a lot of you, but I also think it ended the series in a good way, it forces people to think and to make their own decisions on what exactly happened. If we had the time we would’ve had it be a lot closer to what you see in the movies.
Just before Hidenori Matsubara finished up his panel for the day he spoke a little bit about writing and drawing Manga. He said that to him Manga is a hobby and he likes it that way, he mentioned that he feels like a lot of the people out there who want to become a Manga artists should think of it the way he does; as a hobby. “Do what you enjoy and do what makes you happy!” is the way in which he answer his final question. After the Q and A panel he sat down once again to do a live drawing for the audience, the drawing would then go on to be put up at the Charity Auction as one of the items that could be won. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any pictures of the work but I can tell you what it was and for all you Evangelion fans out there; it’s a good one! Mr. Matsubara took the next hour or so to illustrate a couple of drawings depicting Asuka (Evangelion) punching the main chracter, Shinji (Evangelion), right in the face with the last panel having Asuke saying angrily; “The End”. A funny way do end a fantastic panel, once again, in true Hidenori Matsubara style!