At this year's Barcelona Manga Fair, One Piece Film Gold staff members Hiroaki Miyamoto (director), Masayuki Sato (character designer and animation director), and Hiroyuki Sakurada (producer) sat down with us to talk about their work on the most recent One Piece movie, yielding a nice conversation about their way of working within not only the franchise but the entire anime industry.
So how do you become the director of a One Piece movie?
Hiroaki Miyamoto: I spent six years working on the TV series, so the studio already knew me. Normally, One Piece movies are directed by people who have been involved previously on the TV series.
In terms of continuity, who is this movie for?
Miyamoto: It has nothing to do with the TV series. One Piece Film Gold is a completely new thing made to entertain people.
Hiroyuki Sakurada: The movie's target audience ranges from long-time One Piece fans to people who have never heard of the series.
How is working as a producer at Toei Animation?
Sakurada: It's kind of weird (laughs). I go to the office in the morning, I read manga, I eat while reading manga, I have some meetings during the afternoon about the storyboards, and I watch anime at night.
What can you tell us about the differences between producing a franchise like One Piece compared to more minor works?
Sakurada: Well, we try to get as much as we can from Oda, his opinion is really important during the creative process. We have to think like he thinks and put those thoughts into every One Piece production. For example, talking about One Piece Film Gold, Oda has been involved since the beginning: screenplay, character design, even the music and voices used for the movie. So that's the main difference from most other series.
Are franchises like One Piece or Dragon Ball infinite or do they have an expiry date?
Sakurada: There won't be any expiry date if people accept what we're creating, but that's something we can't decide.
Even if there's no new material left?
Sakurada: Well yeah, we create the content, but it's people who decide if they like it or not. And we're going to do our best to create really good content!
Do you feel a high sense of responsibility when working on a franchise like One Piece?
Miyamoto: As a director, I feel a lot of pressure. But this is something I've always wanted. When I was young, I read the One Piece manga and watched the anime, so I dreamed of ending up as part of the series staff. I've achieved that dream, so I feel really fulfilled.
What about you, Sato? Did you follow One Piece from the beginning too?
Masayuki Sato: I have to admit that when the One Piece manga started its serialization, I didn't read it and didn't have a lot of interest in it. However, when I got to work on the franchise, I started reading it, and I love it! So now I'm really happy to be part of this.
It's your third time on a One Piece movie. What have been the differences from Gold to Strong World and One Piece Z?
Sato: As an animation director, the biggest difference has been using a mixed animation technique. As character designer, I don't think there's a lot of differences except that I'm now doing a better job. I do adaptations from Oda's designs, and that's something that doesn't really change, but I'm getting more experienced as time goes by.
Comparing your recent work on Pretty Cure All Stars: Haru no Carnival, where you made the original character designs, how does your creative process change with One Piece movies, where you have to adapt someone else's work?
Sato: The main difference is that while original designs have a component of creative freedom, they're also more difficult to create. On the other hand, if you have something already created like One Piece, the difficult part is to adapt your style as much as you can to the reference, which in this case would be Oda. But in general, it's easier copying rather than creating designs.
Would you say that you have freedom when it comes to choose new projects?
Sato: I have freedom to choose one project or another, but not for creating things from scratch.
In One Piece Film Gold, the starting point is the City of Las Vegas. When did you decide to place the action there?
Sakurada: Upon choosing the movie's theme, I met with Oda and the director to talk about where we should place the setting. We chose the casino as the movie's principal axis because money can't buy freedom, and that's the main theme — One Piece characters fight a character named Tesoro, who symbolizes money and power.
Tesoro and Carina were created for this feature film. Are you happy about how these two new characters have developed?
Miyamoto: From my point of view, Tesoro is really frank as well as sensitive. He fights to get his freedom. Luffy and Tesoro are opposites, but they have a similar nature. Carina, for her part, was a childhood friend of Nami's. They were rivals, so when it came time to imagine her, the intent was to create an even more sexy personality than Nami, following Oda's style of drawing girls.
Sakurada: What's interesting about Carina is that she's a mysterious character. Even though she fights against Tesoro, it's not clear whether she's on one side or another.
How big is the workload behind a movie like this?
Miyamoto: In terms of animation, 300 cuts and around 4000 key animations are needed for a One Piece TV chapter, while we made 2000 cuts and 76000 key animations for One Piece Film Gold.
Are you planning to come back to the TV series?
Miyamoto: Right now I'm working on other projects, but if I get asked to return to the One Piece TV series, I would accept the offer.
What are your thoughts about the current state of the anime industry?
Sakurada: Anime is getting more and more internationalized. Some productions have become such a big success through this that people in the industry are doing their best so this can stay a permanent trend.
Sato: On the animation side, I don't know what's going to happen with technology, since I don't know if technology will move faster than people. So I don't know if CGI and animation made with tablets will leave traditional animation in the dust.
Miyamoto: In fact, in One Piece Film Gold, we used 3DCG mixed with the traditional way of creating animation. We tried to go one step further.