Interview with Legendary Character Designer: Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

NadiaAt Japan Expo 1st Impact 2013, Jonelle from “Ramen & a Half” had the pleasure of interviewing iconic artist and character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto.  His famous works include Nadia, Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars.  Emanuel, the agent for Yoshiyuki Sadamoto was our translator during the interview.

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RTNDR:  What was your background and inspiration in becoming a character designer and artist?

Sadamoto:  First, it was the director Yamaga Hiroyuki, the director of The Wings of Honneamise who asked him to do the character design.  It started here.  Up to that time, it was manga that had led him to draw his own characters for his personal works and this, in turn, led him to work in character design.

RTNDR:  And where do you draw inspiration for your characters and stories? I know from Nadia it was influenced by Jules Verne and I wanted to know if you draw your inspiration from literature or from other sources?

Sadamoto:  For example, Nadia – it was in the spirit of Jules Verne’s (Captain) Nemo, the girl is coming from India, but in the scenario of Nadia, she was from Africa.  So, I mixed it, and she’s from Egypt, and thinking about Cleopatra. So I mixed it to create Nadia, from Persia, Egypt and France.

RTNDR:  You’ve created many works since Nadia, like Evangelion, I was wondering how different is the industry when you started compared to today?

Sadamoto: You have to consider the sponsors, you have to study the market. The biggest difference is it’s difficult to make challenging movies. Who knows what’s going to work or not work? Or what’s going to be profitable? If someone wants to make a movie with a beautiful girls, then everyone will want to make a movie with a beautiful girls. Also, if you make Evangelion, then everyone will want something like Evangelion. You don’t have any say to try something original – you just have to follow.

On another point, Bandai spent a lot of money on a big project that I was taking care of in the beginning of my professional career. This is near unimaginable these days when a company would invest that much money on a “beginner.”

RTNDR:  As the industry evolves, do you feel your character designs and your character design philosophy evolves with the time? Does it ever change?

Sadamoto: There was a big change from the time of Honneamise and on. The fact is if I started from Honneamise and went straight to Nadia I wouldn’t be able to draw Nadia. In the middle there was Gunbuster and (Haruhiko) Mikimoto was the main character designer for the series while I was the sub – I learned a lot on that series. From that experience why I was able to draw Nadia.

RTNDR:  Sadamoto-san, you’ve inspired me as an artist and a lot of young people out there to follow in your footsteps in the industry, and I wonder whom or who was your inspiration?

Sadamoto: In manga, there’s Nagai Go, Matsumoto Reiji, and Sakaguchi Hisashi who’s not well known in America but he created a series called Ikkyu. When I was younger, I was really fond of Go Nagai, Ultraman, and Kamen Rider. Then, when I was interested in working with animation professionally, I was astonished by (Katushiro) Otomo and (Hayao) Miyazaki’s works.

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Our Retrenders team would like to thank Mr. Sadamoto-san and his staff for taking some time in granting us this interview at Japan Expo 2013.  We also like to thank Sara and her team from the Japan Expo Media Relations.

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