I’ve got all three bikes parked in my garage, had them shined this morning too.

All Illustrations by Sajiki-san, our character and concept designer, whose usually serious and calm demeanour vanishes inexplicably to be replaced by loud, gregarious laughs and silly antics everytime he gets into a conversation with Matsui-san, my lighting chief, who oddly enough displays the same affliction. Crazy folks.

Yesterday we were handed the storyboard for Freedom 3, which promises more action scenes than both 1 and 2 put together. I can’t wait to see the finished product, but with significantly more shots than Freedom 2, it simply means more time in front of my workstation for the next 2 months or so.

Jan 11th 2007

Those were some screencaps off the 4th 30 second spot for Freedom now playing on Japanese television. You can also catch it streaming from the official Freedom website here.

Happy New Year folks !

Jan 2nd 2007
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Films Retrospect 2006

Total tally for films watched in 2006 stands at 28 in theatres and 96 on dvds, making that 124 in all ( Click here to see the entire list ), down from 178 in 2005. This decline is largely due to a full 5 month hiatus from summer as I got bogged down by my film project and job search. Here are my top 10 favourite films viewed in 2006, in no particular merit.

1)Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright)
2)Munich (Spielberg)
3)Children of Men (Alphonso Cuaron)
4)Proof (John Madden)
5)Crash (Paul Haggis)
6)The Constant Gardener (Fernando Meirelles)
7)Wallace and Gromit : Curse of the Wererabbit (Steve Box/Nick Park)
8)Planet Earth (Documentary, David Attenborough)
9)Paprika (Kon Satoshi)
X)Matchpoint (Woody Allen)

It is regrettable my access to the latest films are always at least 4 to 6 months behind the living world due to Japan’s inexplicable slow release system, which I am more than resigned to having been here for almost 3 years. Notably Korean and Japanese films are missing from my favourites as there hadn’t been any winners like Tony Takitani last year. I hope to catch The Host soon. A few other notable films I enjoyed were Lord of War by Andrew Niccol, I’ve been his fan ever since Gattaca; Team America World Police, Jarhead, and A History of Violence. I think the worst film of 2006 had got to be Eragon.

With that, here’s to a bountiful year ahead for film watching !

Jan 2nd 2007

Its 6 weeks into work here at Freedom Committee and I continue to be astounded by the animation giants that surround me. ( I am composing this post in a rare studio moment where work stands still for a second while waiting for lighting jobs to come in. ) For starters, my effects chief Yamaura-san, a nice lady who offered us delicious croissants last week, worked on Morimoto’s Noiseman Sound Insect, as well as Glay’s Survival 2D, a piece very personal to me because I first saw it as an animation student 8 years ago and which had a very big influence on my final year animation project. Then there’s Abe-san, the colour designer, who addresses me as kou-chan, worked on Jinroh The Wolf Brigade and Watabe-san, the background artist and mecha designer, whose credits include Ghost in the Shell 1 & 2, Patlabor 2, Nausicaa, and of course, Akira. The list continues. I’m pretty microscopic around here, a tiny microbe stuck on a speck of dust.

Ok, back to work…

Dec 13th 2006
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Working 12 hour days is becoming the norm as the deadline for Freedom 2 draws closer, and with the animators finishing up their scenes work is piling up as they get passed on to us for lighting and rendering. Just last friday we had first look at the 30 second spot for Freedom 2 that will be up on Japan TV soon, and it feels great to be involved in a project that is always on air, at least for the better part of the next 2 years until Freedom Project concludes with episode 7. Crunch time has barely started.

I’ve not had any decent chance to watch films the past few months, but with me settling down pretty comfortably at work now I really want to make up for lost time. Its time to get back to the source.

Dec 10th 2006
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Steamboy Studios in Ogikubo, Tokyo. Previously the workplace for Otomo Katsuhiro’s Steamboy crew, its now home to the Freedom Committee team.

Nov 20th 2006

Today the entire Freedom Committee team bugged out of the office earlier for our ( 3 newcomers, including myself ) welcome party. Certainly its but a good excuse for everyone to get sloshed but the Japanese do take their drinking very seriously !
The lowermost photograph just above this text shows ( from L to R ), Matsui-san, my lighting, rendering and compositing chief, next Morita-san, director of Freedom Project, and Sajiki-san, whom together with Morita-san were the genius minds behind Kakurenbo, the award winning short animation film.

With Freedom 1 releasing on the 24th this month and its preorders hitting the number one spot ( beating Stand Alone Complex, yeah ! ) on many Japanese websites I suppose there’s reason for some celebration afterall. Next stop, Freedom 2.

Nov 16th 2006
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Get yours today.

Nov 12th 2006

Some cool stuff that comes along with work on Freedom Project : 1) My email address is myname@steamboy.net, which I am more than ok with; 2) Otomo ( yes, the dude who created that somewhat famous animation Akira ) came by the studio yesterday, tying up some loose ends on a new animation film soon to be released. His work desk by the way, is really untidy…ha.

Here at Sunrise Studios Ogikubo work has commenced on episode 2 of Freedom, with epsiode 1 scheduled for dvd release later this month. Today as the entire Freedom team sat down with the director to run through the storyboard it dawned on me that I was the only foreigner working on Freedom. I wonder if I should feel hououred or alienated, perhaps a bit of both. Its no mistake however that my companions are some of the most talented animators here in Japan, many of whom have worked on Otomo’s Steamboy; my animation “supervisor” is a kid 21 years old.

So…back to work.

Nov 3rd 2006
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Browsing through a dvd shop in Shinjuku this evening I was pleasantly surprised to see Freedom Previsited soldout only a day after its release; I suspect the same to happen for Series one , slated for a late November release. Order yours today from Amazon Japan ! Haha. I was thinking wishfully that perhaps I might be entitled to a free copy when I start work but I ordered one anyway to boost Freedom Committee’s sales. What’s left to do is just the anxious wait for Otomo to pop by the studio…

Oct 29th 2006

Blue Skies.

Oct 18th 2006

The year was 1989. I was on a usual weekend family visit to my grandparents place. It was totally mundane and largely routine; we would always arrive in the mid afternoon, have dinner prepared by my grandmother, and then head home around 9 or 10 o’clock. But something that would transpire that evening made it an unforgettable day etched forever in my memory. My youngest uncle, whom me and my brother liked immensely because of his huge collection of Japanese comics and cartoons, was once again poised to impress us with his latest acquisitions. Popping the laserdisc ( I still remember vividly those huge and cumbersome laserdiscs, awkward by today’s standards but state of the art then ) into the player as the film started, the television screen was filled by the image of a huge and hulking crater, as a bold red title appeared.

The film was Akira. Neither me nor my brother had ever seen anything as devastatingly powerful and at once shocking; indeed, few animation films past and present can challenge the sheer awe and depth of this groundbreaking animation masterpiece. I was immediately hooked; I must have lived and breathed Akira for years to come, watching the film countless times and poring over the comics, its imaginative and detail artwork the stuff I wish I could one day, if even just a tiny percentage of that beauty, recreate.

Fast forward 17 years into the future, I am now 27 and on a film scholarship here in Tokyo, Japan. Its a cold October evening and I’m rushing around like a madman in Ogikubo, searching frantically for the studio where I was supposed to attend an interview for a job that should have started 30 minutes ago.

“Where the hell have you been ? Get the f**k outta here, we do not entertain late comers.” These nightmarish thoughts, soon to become reality I figure, flashed over and over again in my mind.

* * *

One hour later. I emerged from the studio, bowing profusely. The director said he liked the work he saw on my website, hopes for me to begin work with them soon.

The name of the studio, stuck nonchalantly on the door, read Steamboy Studios; the name of the assignment that I am soon to embark on : Project Freedom; character designer; Katsuhiro Otomo.

I’m greatly honoured to join the Project Freedom committee, standing on the shoulder of giants. To me, the chance of working on a Otomo Katsuhiro film is nothing short of a dream come true. I live a blessed life, I think.

Here are the 300kbs, 500kbs, and 1Mbs previews of Freedom.

Oct 14th 2006
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