Last month, I was at Anime North and attended a panel by Takeshi Nogami and Dan Kanemitsu on Military Girls and the irk. Nogami has worked on a fair few manga (as well as doujins of popular series like Kancolle) and he contributed to the character designs in Girls und Panzer.
What follows is my very haphazard attempt at a transcription. Note that I wasn’t able to jot down everything said in the panel. I took rough notes and nothing is really word for word (I am sorry, I don’t go to many panels). So, please forgive any errors and missing info. I think I’ve got a bit of interesting stuff down though. Most things in parenthesis are my own comments/additions.
The World of Manga Anime Military Girls
Note: This panel was held from 2PM to 3PM on Sat May 28. Guidebook screenshot.
The panel started with a little talk on Dan and Nogami’s respective introductions and histories. Both panelists were comfortable having their photos taken and posted online, hilariously at least in part because both had been turned into anime/manga characters already.
After the introductions, they started talking about the history of military anime and their own connection to it.
In the past, after World War 2, there was lots of interest in military stories. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, they tried to do something different by throwing cute girls into military anime. Boys like tanks, boys like girls, so why not mix them. (<-My wording but I recall hearing something similar to this.)
At first the art style looked pretty different (manly I suppose), but then animators & mangaka became influenced by Shoujo manga and female artistic sensibilities starting mixing in. Before the 80s, manga was drawn very differently, but the rise of Shoujo lead to a change in the art style.
This cute girls mixed into military stuff became big in the late 80s but died down after as interest in military stuff waned. The industry shifted towards fantasy. Shows like Bubblegum Crisis and Macross were replaced with shows like Slayers.
Japan then moved away from military stuff for a while. Dan and Nogami then started talking a little bit about their childhood and growing up.
Nogami mentioned that one of his first memories was watching the original Battleship Yamato. Him and Dan were part of the generation that was enamored by Gundam.
Nogami-san had a rough teenage hood because he was into military stuff, but his peers were not. At the time Japan had moved away from it.
Then in the year 2000, Nogami decided to pursue a career in manga. Unfortunately, this was when military stuff in Japan was at its lowest. Public opinion was also against anything military related.
The first words Nogami heard from his editor were: “Mr.Nogami, this isn’t going to sell and politically won’t work”.
So, Nogami thought about how he could interest editors? What was popular then? He decided that if military stuff alone doesn’t work, he’d bring in something popular, i.e. Cute Girls.
The first manga, and 1st trial if you will, Nogami published was a serious war story, but with cute girls as the main characters. It featured violence and gore and usual war stuff and was thus rather depressing. (I think he was talking about Koutetsu no Shoujo-tachi, but I am not sure. I didn’t hear the name properly.)
Even now, people whisper that Nogami is going to kill his characters, even though he doesn’t write such depressing stories any more.
For his second trial, Nogami wrote Sailor Uniforms and Tanks. The magazine had a limitation that the main characters had to be heroines below 15 and he complied. His editor told him that it was missing panty shots and Nogami, again, complied, but later on the editors backed off. This manga ended up pretty successful and got to Volume 10 (MAL says 9, so maybe I misheard).
Around this time, a title just whizzed past him and the industry. This was of course, Strike Witches. At this point in the talk, they start playing a trailer for the Girls und Panzer movie and then start talking about it. They mention that it recently got released on DVD in Japan!
Dan: “I have my copy of the movie sitting in a mailbox in Tokyo and I am here stuck with you lot.”
Nogami mentions that the movie has been playing in Japan theaters for the past 6 months. Some folk are willing to watch it 30, 40, or even 50 times. They are referred to as Girls und Panzer “meisters”.
Nogami was a contributing character designer for the Girls und Panzer TV show as well as the movie (that is to say he wasn’t the only designer involved). He also worked on doujinshi of Strike Witches, KanColle. He also mentioned Gale Force 4 here, I think (but can’t really see any doujinshi made by him for it? Maybe it was mentioned in a different context).
Nogami: There are 3 different ways to do military cute girls.
- Anthropomorphic: Take an object like a ship or a plane and turn it into a woman. (e.g. KanColle, Strike Witches-kind of)
- Famous People: Take a famous person and turn them into a cute girl.
- Regular girls involved in military stuff. (e.g. Girls und Panzer)
Nogami also mentioned that Strike Witches was interesting because it did both anthropomorphism and famous people. (e.g. The Strike Witches character Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke is named after famous German Pilot Wolf-Dietrich Wilcke. Lynette Bishop is probably named after Billy Bishop and so on.)
Q & A
With that they concluded their presentation and moved into the Questions and Answers Section. Note that I did not write stuff down word for word and barely wrote anything for the questions, so this is at best a transcription of a translation and is from memory with some notes.
Q: Has sales of Kelly’s Hero gone up? (I believe this was in reference to this Garupan scene.)
A: No, not much, but Russian WW2 footage was used and their sale has gone up.
Q: Are situations like the ones present in Shirobako where the animation team and the original author (animated Nogami in this case) disagree common? (Question is paraphrased entirely because I was so shocked by the Shirobako connection, I didn’t write anything down.)
A: I have never had any of my own works animated, but from talking to others, no, they are not uncommon. A breakdown between production and the manga author does happen often. (Nogami takes it on a fun tangent here.) The character based on me in Shirobako was originally meant to be a proper villain, but then the Director (I think it was the Director…) said “he couldn’t do that to Nogami-san” and made him more of a good guy.
Q: What is your favorite WW2 tank?
A: (Accompanied by some fidgeting) I can’t really answer this because I might be accused of not being a tank buff. (Though he mentioned liking the Polish TK-3/TK-S and the German Panzer MK-4 as well as a few others I think.)
Q: Since you were not the only one in charge of Girls und Panzer character designs, did your character designs get changed?
A: When I was asked to work on this, they had conditions: they could chose to refine any of my designs. For example, Oryou‘s kimono was a latter addition and was not part of the original design.
Q: Can the Panzer Girls beat Superman?
A: (After a bit of confusion over the strange question) I am sure they’ll turn him into a Garupan Meister!
Q: In Girls und Panzer, the school is on a ship. Could you tell us about that very interesting decision? (totally paraphrased by me)
A: First of, thank you very much for liking that idea. That was an idea that my good friend Eiichi Takahashi* came up with. (CRIES. I couldn’t take down the name properly, but I am like 70% sure he said it was the Executive Producer Eiichi Takahashi.) You see when the audience first sees the anime, they get confused. Why are these girls in school uniforms driving tanks? Why don’t they have armor? (didn’t totally catch this, but I think he meant a proper tank uniform.) And so on. That is why the episode ends with the ship being shown. That way the audience knows it is not to be taken seriously. (“Suspension of belief!” Dan adds helpfully with cute hand movements.)
Q: Do you have any tank heroes and have you met them or shown them Girls und Panzer? (It was a long question, but something like that…)
A: No, unfortunately I have not gotten to meet any tank heroes despite wanting to. A friend of mine though had an interview with Otto Carius. This was the final interview Carius gave before passing away. My friend got his signature and brought it back for me. (Then after a bit, Nogami remembered something.) Apparently Otto heard about Girls und Panzer from my friend and didn’t say anything, but his face had a smile!
(I didn’t do a good job of conveying it, but that autograph and story was definitely important to Nogami and it would be to most folk, really.)
Q: Could you tell us about the Girls und Panzer spin-off manga and how you came to be involved with it? (I think they are asking about Ribbon no Musha.)
A: After the TV series ended, the Producer was worried and contacted me. There was a 2 year gap between the TV series and the movie, so they wanted something in between. I was told that the manga could not feature any of the anime characters and had to show a school not shown in the anime. Basically it was only the Girls und Panzer World, but none of the characters. I asked “how could anyone do this?” and was told “that’s why I am asking you”. The manga was supposed to end much sooner, but became popular, so it has continued on.
Q: Can we expect the Girls und Panzer movie to be translated into English?
A: We would love for that to happen! But, you need to contact Bandai Vision and tell them to translate it. (Dan chips in here): You know I’d love to translate it, but I am not going to do it unless it is asked of me. (Basically both of them would love for it to be licensed, but neither really have a say nor any current knowledge about the matter.)
Q: Could you tell us about Shidenkai no Maki, your decision to give the aircraft a voice and how it was influenced by Girls und Panzer? (I forget the question, but it was along those lines.)
A: Shidenkai no Maki is its own story, that is different from Girls und Panzer. I gave the aircraft a very male voice because I was bored of hearing girls talking to each other. I wanted the aircraft to have its own personality. When the Drama CD for Shidenkai came out, the aircraft was voiced by Vegeta’s VA (Horikawa Ryo, I think). I was adamant that his voice be lower and the Director got mad at me for superseding his authority!
Q: Earlier you said that after your first manga, people kept claiming you would kill off your cast. Has anyone compared you to Gen Urobuchi?
A: (After some confusion and mumbling) No, I am just a small writer. I could never be compared to a great literary figure like Urobuchi-san.
Q: What is your opinion on telling voice actors how to act and what’s your opinion on dubs? (I think. Didn’t write the question down.)
Nogami: Voice talent think a lot about how to render the role, so as a general rule, I don’t meddle.
Dan: English dubbers are very talented. I wish Japanese companies supervised and helped direct them. When it comes to bad dubs, a lot can be contributed to a lack of communication, but we are getting better now.
(I seem to have lost a lot of context for the previous question, but Dan’s comment on improving English dubs was very interesting and probably true. Basically if the production staff supervises dub creation like they do with the original voice over, quality improves!)
Q: If you were the main character designer for Girls und Panzer and had full say in the designs, would you do it more like Strike Witches, i.e. no Pants?
A: (Dan explains the question to Nogami and after some calm nodding, Nogami answers in ENGLISH): No, Absolutely Not!
Okay, that’s all I’ve got. I messed up the order of the questions and might have missed a few details, but I think I got most of the interesting bits down! Or at least I hope you found something fun/useful in there. If you are curious (you shouldn’t be), I have attached photos of my notes below.
A few hours after the Q&A, we went to the Nogami & Dan autograph session (held from 4:30 to 5:30 PM). The line was very small and basically non-existent, by the time we got there, so Nogami was actually drawing characters as part of the autograph! I had bought a Sayuri nendo thinking I’d get that signed, but when I saw him drawing him pictures, I handed him my notebook instead.
When asked to draw Sayuri, he told me (through Dan) that she is referred to as Zip-chan by the fans because she is always reading Zipper magazines. (I think. I didn’t write it down and had to look it up). My brother didn’t have a character he wanted drawn, so Nogami drew a cute girl on his guidebook instead! Dan also drew a cool picture on my autograph notebook. I’ll post a picture below when I am back in my apartment, but Nogami’s autograph is basically my favorite autograph now!
My Nogami anime vs real tweet became slightly popular among his devoted JP fan base.
When I was in line for Chika Anzai’s autograph, I met a cool Anime North volunteer dude. He was the one that convinced me to go to the Military Girls panel. He told me something very interesting. “You know how in Shirobako, the artists wear ‘armor’? Yeah, I bet that Kimono he is always wearing is Nogami’s armor.”
It took me a bit to understand what he was trying to say and it is definitely a cool thought. I almost wish someone would have asked Nogami about that.
I met cool AN volunteer dude again (met him like 3 or 4 times by sheer coincidence) before the Q&A and he told me an interesting blurb from Chika Anzai’s panel. Apparently, she used to play the trumpet, so she was an excellent casting choice for Euphonium’s Reina!