Exploring sakuga – An interview with Blou

The other articles in this series are available here : Part 1 ; Part 2 ; An interview with manuloz

This series on the sakuga community is going to be half articles, half interviews of members of the community. The goal of these interviews is to provide some individual and personal accounts of the growth of sakuga, to accompany and contrast with the more general articles.

This time, I talked with Bloodyredstar, aka Blou, sakuga fan and production assistant at Studio Tonton, currently making an amateur Naruto OP and ED. They’re looking for background artists, so if you know some, get in touch with them !

How did you first become an anime fan ?

I always watched anime on TV when I was a kid. Stuff like Naruto, Dragon Ball or even City Hunter. Then naturally I started watching on my computer as I grew older.

And then how did you become a sakuga fan ? Did you become aware of certain styles, or scenes that stood out ?

Sadly not really. I don’t remember how but I came across kViN’s twitter one day. I didn’t even have an account and it took me some time to make one but I put his twitter in my fav and I browsed it every two or three days.

It was fascinating to learn about all the names and all those trivias and stuff. Even nowadays, I don’t think I’m a good sakuga fan because I’m more interested in direction and the behind-the-scenes than animators’ styles.

That’s interesting, pretty original I’d say. Do you remember when that was ?

Around Winter or Spring 2015 I think : I created my twitter and sakugabooru accounts in May 2015 so that should check out.

And then, how did you get more involved in the community ?

Creating those two accounts at first. I was also on the irc but I couldn’t speak english so I was mostly reading. Then one day I came across another (french speaking) sakuota, alecchi. Having another person sharing the same passion made me more invested and I even started uploading on sakugabooru.

I guess the booru wasn’t as big as today, there must have been a lot less posts

Yeah a lot less. The number of users was obviously much lower. But also the way we upload was different. Shorter posts and there wasn’t a focus on uploading everything good in an episode. Users would upload their fav scenes. That’s why the new wave of users like me are now going back on those series, uploading stuff that was left out. We call that “milking series”.

Did you ever try animation ?

Yes I tried but I really suck at drawing sadly. If I could draw, I would have become an animator for sure.

But now you’re working on a Naruto OP project… Could you tell me how it started ? Was it your idea ?

A few months ago, I made the decision that I would like to aim to work as a production assistant in Japan so I had the idea of doing something like that but I never thought about doing it for real. Especially since it has been a running joke for year to do a project because narutosakuga discord server has tons of artists, with many already working on anime.

One day we were talking on the rkgk channel of the server and we were complimenting @InfernoCop‘s drawings. Then I made the usual joke. But people took it seriously and were excited so I created a discord server and we started the project.

So you’ve taken up the role of PA ?

Indeed, that’s the only thing I can do anyway.

Are you many working on it right now ?

Honestly, yes ! About 50 people if we only count the OP, and we got some new animators for the ED.

Oh, so you’re doing an ED too ?

Yes, it’s directed by @HachiKirra. At first, we had too many animators so we decided to do two sequences at the same time. But Hachi became too busy with his anime works and it took him  a while to complete the storyboard.

So you have pros among you ? Are there many of them ?

Most aren’t even animators! It’s a project for fun and we weren’t ambitious at all at first. But it got more ambitious when so many people started to join. So in the “sakuga team” you have people from varying levels, whether they’re just hobbyists or professionals working in the industry.

So I guess this is a pretty formative experience for all of you ?

Indeed, that’s the second main goal of the project. We’ve been learning a lot. Whether it’s the pipeline itself or how to work with artists… I’ve learned a lot. I also made many mistakes from which I’ve learned valuable lessons.

Moreover, many people in the industry are really kind and passionate so we were able to contact some of them, even Japanese ones, to help  us or offer advice when we were stuck.

Without spoiling it, could you tell me a bit about how the end product is going to look ? Have you decided on a song ?

Well we don’t really know how it will look, we’re currently in a sort of R&D for the compositing if that makes sense. But I’m hoping it will look like an anime obviously. For the song, I will keep the OP one a surprise since I haven’t revealed it publicly. The ED is the song Hatsumi by Gesu wa Kiwami no Otome. One of my favorite japanese bands.

One last question about it : if you’re on schedule (I hope you will), when do you think it should come out ?

My goal is to release the OP at the end of the year. However, we’re currently having issues due to the lack of background artists so I hope it gets resolved soon.

Well, if you’ve got this kind of problem, it means you’re just like a real anime production…  And to come back to the previous discussion, why do you like animation so much ? And anime especially ?

Hmm that’s a good question… Well firstly I like japanese anime in itself. The tropes, characters, themes, the format, etc. But also I love the way anime are done. When I watch a live-action movie or even an animated movie/series that isn’t japanese, I don’t pay much attention to the technical aspects. But with anime, I can’t help noticing and enjoying that aspect.

I also find fascinating how anime can make us feel such strong emotions with very simple things. Never would I have thought I would cry watching K-ON, yet…

I can relate to that… Does what you said about the technical aspects mean that you’re not that interested in Western animation ?

Not at all, in fact.

Oh ok. Now, how would you define sakuga ? How would you explain what it is to someone that knows nothing about it ?

That’s a hard question. It’s hard because sakuga is a word we borrowed to mean anything. But weirdly enough, we all understand those meanings in the community.  Sakuga was a word to talk about good animation but now we use it as a general term for anything related to the technical aspects of anime.

That’s a pretty interesting perspective. What do you mean by “borrow” ?

Well, sakuga means animation or pictures in a broad sense. But now we use it to say stuff like sakuga community, etc. So we created a new meaning that works pretty well.

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