Japanese anime has taken the world by storm more than ever before.
We conducted an interview with an anime production studio called MAPPA to find more about their passion about anime and their exclusive stories behind anime production.
This is a large-scale project with the collaborative efforts of anime news websites throughout the world. These websites include Anime! Anime!, an anime information website, Tokyo Otaku Mode, which has more than 20 million followers on Facebook, and Bahamut, a major company based in China.
Please check out our full list of interviews here.
MAPPA’s representative works: In this Corner of the World, Kids on the Slope, Terror in Resonance, Yuri!!! on ICE, Rage of Bahamut Genesis, Zombieland Saga, Dororo, Banana Fish, Dorohedoro, and Listeners.
In 2011, Masao Maruyama, who had resigned from animation studio Madhouse, established MAPPA at the age of 70. In the following year, MAPPA drew more attention from its originality and high-quality performance by continuously producing TV anime series, such as Kids on the Slope and Teekyu.
In April 2016, Manabu Otsuka, one of the founding members, became MAPPA’s next president. Within that same year, Director Sunao Katabuchi’s animation feature film, In this Corner of the World, was released. The film’s production funds were raised by crowdfunding and became a success. It remained in theaters for a national record of 1,173 consecutive days and sold more than a total of 2.1 million tickets, which successfully earned a box-office revenue of more than 27 million yen.
MAPPA continues to produce high-quality works by collaborating with famous directors such as Sunao Katabuchi, Shinichiro Watanabe, and Sayu Yamamoto.
In this interview, Ms. Fuko Noda, the head of the production department who works under current president Manabu Otsuka, talks to us about the company’s future plans in detail.
(Interview/composition by Minako Nakamura, filmed by Sota Obara).
A studio formed of people with strong aspirations to produce new and exceptional works yet to be seen in the world.
—What led to the establishment of MAPPA?
Otsuka: MAPPA ( Maruyama Animation Produce Project Association ) is originally a company that Maruyama, who had resigned from Mad House, wanted to establish in order to somehow release In This Corner of the World with Director Sunao Katabuchi.
Maruyama’s close connection, Director Soichiro Watanabe, then joined the company which also led to the production of multiple TV series.
The staff that joined MAPPA at the time, including myself, all joined because we wanted to work with Mr. Maruyama, Mr. Katabuchi, and Mr. Watanabe.
—What was the studio’s atmosphere like when it was initially founded?
Otsuka: You can say that it was like a group of rowdy pirates (laughs). Before coming to MAPPA, I had been working under Studio4℃’s Ms. Eiko Tanaka so I was frequently shocked by the difference between studios.
However, I noticed that the company was not too concerned with the specific details. MAPPA had this old-fashioned mindset that supported the idea of “as long as we produce excellent anime, everything else doesn’t matter too much”.
It felt like we were running against the wind because we had many people quitting their previous job to produce “exceptional” anime with Katabuchi and Watanabe.
—Following Madhouse, MAPPA is also known for producing high-quality anime. What are the things that you took over from the Founder Mr. Maruyama?
Otsuka: His mindset of “difficult requests are fulfilled with difficult aspirations”. This means that obstacles in front of us may be tough and intimidating, but facing them could help you discover new ideas or accomplish something unexpectedly.
This anticipation of finding new discoveries is what I have learned from both Mr. Tanaka from STUDIO4℃ and Mr. Maruyama. They were similar in that aspect. That is something that I am aiming to accomplish.
—One of the goals behind the establishment of MAPPA was to produce Director Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World. How did you respond to his demands?
Otsuka: What I mean by the word “difficult”, as I mentioned earlier, are things that you cannot do normally. Director Katabuchi’s works were “difficult” because their plays were very detailed which required many video recordings.
We understood the purpose behind this after his explanations. However, every time we completed a scene, we were not sure if we had fulfilled all his goals. Mr. Katabuchi’s thought process is far beyond our own.
Mr. Katabuchi spent his entire life to arrive at this stage, so we understood that this is not what younger generations like us can accomplish easily. We were desperately trying to keep up with him.
In September 2019, Contrail Corporation was founded as a studio for Mr. Katabuchi’s next anime, and we intend to improve that aspect of the anime production.
→Next page: “Enjoyable” is the most important driving force.