In early July, I attended my very first convention, Anime Midwest, and I can definitely say that I had a blast.
The wide array of panels to attend like those for star voice actors such as Chuck Huber and Greg Ayres rarely left any moments of boredom, and the thousands of other anime fans to interact with definitely make me anxious to attend even more cons, though this probably won’t be for a little while since my lack of control over my wallet when surrounded by awesome anime merch may have drained my funds a tad too much.
However, my favorite part of Midwest was definitely the Studio Trigger Q&A panels.
Trigger, made famous by their popular original anime such as Little Witch Academia, Kill la Kill, and Kiznaiver, have stolen the spotlight of the anime industry over the past few years, and, as one of my personal favorite studios lately, I was psyched to learned more about the creative processes behind their works.
Additionally, Trigger held not just one, but two panels during their time at Midwest, one being a general Q&A panel, and the other focusing specifically on Kill la Kill, Trigger most popular product. Members of the panel included Trigger Creative Officer Hiromi Wakabayashi, Kill la Kill outfit designer Shigeto Koyama, and character designer Sushio.
One of the big concepts focused on during these panels was how Trigger goes about creating a new series and what they do during pre-production.
They noted that Trigger tends to spend a bit more time on pre-production than other studios, making sure that every detail is set in place before the project ever goes to animation. They cited Kill la Kill as an example, whose pre-production began directly after Gainax’s Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt back in 2010, nearly three whole years before Kill la Kill aired. Granted, this could be an outlier since they also stated that Trigger was founded for the immediate purpose of creating Kill la Kill, but this is still quite an extensive pre-production time, and it definitely shows in the quality of the series. They also referenced the design of Senketsu specifically, whose final form was achieved only after an entire year of design changes.
Another element at the core of Trigger’s personality as a studio is their huge emphasis on design.
One of the practices they use, in particular with Kill la Kill, is bringing together an entire team of 4-5 character designers to sit down and draw characters and other art assets for the series during pre-production, instead of a solo character designer working on everything or individual designers working separately. According to Trigger, having multiple designers gives the characters more individuality, allowing them to stand out much more against characters being created by other studios. Whether you’re a fan of Trigger or not, the one thing you can definitely say about them is that they are anything but generic in terms of design. Sessions like these are where Yoh Yoshinari, director of Little Witch Academia, came up with the designs for the scissor blade and Satsuki’s Bakuzan.
Inspiration, both for story and design elements, was also talked about at great length during the panels, from the influence of Saint Seiya, classic shounen manga, and tokusatsu series on the plot and tone of Kill la Kill, to how Ryuko’s uniform was drawn with bondage-wear in mind. They also mentioned how the Elite Four in Kill la Kill were originally all girls, but changing most of them to men made it feel much more in line with classics shounen manga. Even western storytelling has left its mark, with the original concept for Nudist Beach leader Mikisugi being vaguely inspired by Captain America.
Above all, however, Trigger seems adamant on making sure that they enjoy the product that they’re making.
To quote them directly on the matter, “If it’s entertaining and fun, it’s ok,” be it throwing galaxies like shuriken (Gurren Lagann), creating a cinematic universe for your studio’s entire work history (Space Patrol Luluco), or simply branching out into new genres that they have yet to explore with their unique creative zeal (Kiznaiver). However, I think my favorite line from both of the panels in terms of having fun with production was that the designers would “add spikes to” practically anything to see if it looked cooler, an attitude that is so immaturely awesome that I and the other attendees burst out laughing.
The Trigger team was also very quick to shut down rumors of upcoming projects and preferred to be as direct as possible about what they’re working on.
When asked about the possibility of more Inferno Cop, the clip-art action comedy like nothing else in the industry, they stated that they would like to make more episodes, but it would most likely not be a full season. Inferno Cop is now something that they only fool around with in their spare time, believing that they “should be working on something bigger” instead. Additionally, despite the mad ravings of western fans, Kill la Kill is finished for good, though this isn’t much of a surprise for me. Director Hiroyuki Imaishi rarely ever leaves open-ended stories, preferring to wrap up his plots in a tight package.
Even the seemingly random trivia that they provided us with was a feast for hungry Trigger fans, like how the original title for Kill la Kill was going to be Senketsu no Garment (lit. Crimson Garment), or how Imaishi will default to drawing the DTR when asked to sign autographs. One of my favorite bits of trivia is that Imaishi often relies on prison scenes to convey his message of fighting for individualism and independence. Looking back, a lot of his works do involve confining characters to a prison or other space against their will, be it Satsuki in Kill la Kill, Simon in Gurren Lagann, or Imaishi’s directorial debut Dead Leaves actually centering around a prison break.
Getting to learn this much about one of my favorite studios directly from the source was a hugely enlightening experience, and that and so many more of the things I experienced at Anime Midwest make me very excited to attend next year’s convention for more anime awesomeness.