During the Crunchyroll Expo, we had the chance to listen in on a panel involving Masahiko Minami, president of studio Bones. If you’re not aware, Bones is responsible for several popular anime from the last two decades, including the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime and Brotherhood, Ouran High School Host Club, Soul Eater, My Hero Academia, SK8, and many, many more.
Here are the questions and answers that were discussed during the panel. So read on to see everything that Masahiko Minami had to say regarding life working at Bones, how the studio works its magic, the thought process behind their brilliant works, and what’s next for the beloved studio, and your favorite animes.
▍Life in Studio Bones as Masahiko Minami
Q: What does an average day look like for the president of studio Bones?
Minami: So rather than a company President, I think of myself more as a producer. I work really closely with the other producers at studio Bones.
I collaborate on all the different projects ranging from working on the script all the way to the design. During my day working at studio Bones, usually in the mornings, I check my emails and I replied to all these different people and then in the afternoon, usually, you know, it’s full of meetings.
And then at night, you know, I dabble in some alcohol. So I do drink but, it’s usually with other work colleagues and other members of the animation industry. So at night, we gather we talk about our projects, and we talk about what’s going on within our different studios. So you know, please think of it as work.
Q: So I also wanna ask Minami-san, how did you get your start in the anime industry?
Minami: So this kind of brings me back to a really long time ago, but just like everyone here you know I really loved anime as a child and my favorite anime growing up was this animation called Moomin from Finland.
So I also grew up with other animes like Space Battleship Yamato or the Gundam series and I grew up with a deep interest in media and I even studied it in college. However, when it came to working, that’s when I moved toward more specifically animation. So actually to tell you the truth, I was actually aiming to be a director.
So the truth is I was a big fan of the director Tomino Yoshiyuki who worked on Gundam and I really appreciated and respected his work. So I joined Sunrise to work closely with him. However, during my time here, I realized I appreciated and had more fun working on the direct production, and so that’s the direction I went in instead.
Q: I’m curious to know you got some which anime title do you think started getting bones more recognition from the fans?
Minami: So in my- I really believe it probably was Fullmetal Alchemist. That really made everyone aware of Bones. So during that era you know we were working on Fullmetal Alchemist also Wolf’s Rain and Ouran High School Host Club.
And I think these projects really were the ones that you know, helped bring Bones to a worldwide audience, and so for Bones, I think yeah, it’s really these three main projects.
▍Bones Work Ethics and Commitment to Quality
Host: So let’s start off with a movie that came out last year, which is Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution. Bones recently animated this, you know back in 2020-2021, but I believe that Bones originally had something else in mind, when working on the original Eureka Seven anime series years ago.
Q: So I’m curious to know what made bones want to animate these three new HI-Evolution movies. Was there anything you wanted to achieve differently with these films?
Minami: So we first worked on Eureka Seven around 16 or 17 years ago with the image that you should watch the first anime series you get into the rest of the other Eureka Seven creations. There’s also the TV series Eureka Seven: AO, and then we then created the theatrical version of Eureka Seven. So, once we created that, we thought to ourselves, oh, what’s next? And that’s how we came upon the HI-Evolution movie.
So for these high evolution movies, I’m sure there are many of you in the audience who have seen them. But also maybe there’s uhh, quite a few people that have not seen it. But we really wanted to, wrap up the HI-Evolution movie in order to kind of set the tone for the next Eureka Seven series and to create new opportunities for the story. So we know we want to make make it more fun, make it more interesting. So I hope you can all look forward to the next series of Eureka Seven.
Q: Awesome, so now let’s move on to Josee, the Tiger, and the Fish. Bones worked on this romance, anime film in 2020 and it’s based on a Japanese short story written by Seiko Tanabe in 1984. What about this story drew you in and the studio?
Minami: So you know, with Josee, it is originally a book made by Tanabe, but there are no missiles. No explosions, no robots, no fights. So this is very out of the ordinary. If you look at the kind of projects we work on at studio Bones.
So director Tamura, who also worked on Noragami, really insisted that he wanted to try out something new and try working on a film. So we tried to line it up for him and Tamura, you know, imagine that this movie would be about two hours. And we really wanted to challenge ourselves and also challenge Bones to take on this new type of work.
You know, we thought it might have been kind of interesting and producer Suzuki also insisted on moving forward with this project and I asked them “Oh you know that are there going to be robots? Are there going to be any fights?” And they both said, No, but they were so passionate and so insistent that all I could really do was say yes.
Q: Speaking of great anime. An amazing film from last year, and original anime that we love here, SK8 the infinity; This is the first anime that’s based on skateboarding. So I want to ask what inspired Bones and Utsumi sensei to produce this anime.
Minami: So just like what I mentioned with Josee. The same producer, producer Suzuki is also the one who worked on SK8. So from Utsumi sensei, we noticed her talent in other works. And I really wanted to work with Utsumi So when we were discussing and I asked, Oh, is this project going to have any explosions? Is there any action? Robots?
So skateboarding is, you know, kind of interesting to me because I like sports in general. So I thought, you know, maybe we should try this. It might be kind of interesting to do a sports anime, but we really haven’t found much of an opportunity until Utsumi came to me and said “Oh I really want to try this skateboarding anime”.
Since Utsumi really insisted. I thought, okay, this might be fun. And last year from January to March, SK8 was only broadcasted for one season but I see from the reaction from our fans, that it was actually pretty popular domestically. And then from what I can see also internationally, I think as an original work it turned out to be very successful.
Q: How did the BONES become the animation studio for The Case Study of Vanitas?
Minami: This one finally had some action, haha.
So the original publisher is Square Enix and we worked together With Square Enix on Fullmetal Alchemist. So since we work often together, you know, they brought the idea of Vanitas to me and I read through the manga and I thought, oh wow, this is really awesome.
The art looks so wonderful, but with art that nice, it’s really hard to animate it and hard to bring it to life because there is that delicacy between manga and animation. So with that in mind, I thought these new challenges would be a good opportunity for us to learn and you know, create a great animation.
So Vanitas only ran for two seasons or two cours, and there are still lots of things left that we weren’t able to express, or really bring to life as animation. So it would be really nice if we would be able to continue to bring Vanitas to life.
So, last year, we also picked up on a lot of other projects, like Carole and Tuesday, Godzilla Singular Point and etc. I’d really wish I could show you some of these projects, but we already have a lot going on. But yeah, I just wanted to mention those as well.
▍While You May Watch A Season Once, We Work on it Everyday
Q: What’s the most challenging part when it comes to animating Mob Psycho?
Minami: So ONE who is the original artist and author has incredible- insane world-building skills. With animation, you really have to be careful about how you treat that kind of world-building and making the environment. So that was really difficult for us to handle and be able to express accurately.
So, in most animes, even the ones that we work on other than MOB Psycho, there is kind of like a hybrid structure to adding CGI along with hand-drawn animation. However, with MOB Psycho there’s absolutely no CGI at all whatsoever. Everything is hand drawn. So I really want to drill the point of how amazing and how wonderful hand-drawn animation is.
But I do have to say it is incredibly hard and it takes so much effort from all of our animations staff. There is a lot of struggle that goes into creating hand-drawn animations. And so, it’s really in its own separate category. It’s really in a different world.
Q: Bungō Stray Dogs is a very entertaining anime and it can be quite a complicated story to follow, with each season adding more character development, and the pacing’s incredibly important to the show. Does Bones have a particular approach or strategy for determining the pacing for each episode for Bungo?
Minami: Kafka Asagiri helped us so much with the scenario in the script.
So for every cour or every 12 episodes, the director and Asagiri work very closely together to plan out how the story will be divided between these 12 episodes, making sure it all flows together smoothly when you look at them as a single cour.
So for this project director, Igarashi worked very closely with every single part of Bungō Stray Dogs. You might watch, you know, each cour maybe like, you know, once a year or like at an even slower pace.
But Igarashi works on Bungō Stray Dogs every single day and he works on everything from storyboarding to all these individual frames. For him, you know, he worked much time and effort into Bungō Stray Dogs so that it can become the great anime that it is and so it would make us really happy if you continue to appreciate all the work that he put into it.
Q: We’ve been able to enjoy a new season of MHA or film almost every year for this franchise, And so, can you explain to us how BONES is able to consistently deliver strong animation quality and release new content each year?
Minami: So, with My Hero Academia, the source material (the manga) continues along. And so, we also keep up with that pace, and so we treat MHA like an annual series.
So it’s very consistent, very constant. And our sub studio, C studio is dedicated to My Hero Academia, and they’re just constantly working on My Hero Academia, in order to bring it to the quality that you guys see.
So one benefit of keeping the project within one studio is that the individual animators within that studio become more skilled and more talented in animation. However, that also comes with a downside they’re constantly bickering and fighting with each other over how certain scenes should be done. But that allows us to keep up with the great animation quality because we have such talented animators.
Horikoshi sensei the original manga artist with My Hero Academia is just amazing. I feel like with us adapting My Hero Academia into anime, we are just keeping up with Horikoshi’s pace of creating a new chapter every single week. So I feel like if we don’t do our best, we’d be betraying him.
Other than Mob Psycho 100, we also have many works in progress right now. Although they will be released next year. I can’t really talk. Were announced what they are, but please be patient. And I hope you look forward to all of our new projects. Thank you so much for coming today.