After becoming one of the key animators in episode 65 of Boruto: Naruto Next Generation, Balinese animator Ida Bagus Yoga aka guzzu has become widely recognized by anime fans in Indonesia who can recognize his name that has appeared quite frequently in the ending credits of various anime projects, including episode 6 of SSSS.GRIDMAN anime.
But not many knows that before he was involved in the Boruto project, he was previously involved in one of the Chinese anime productions, To Be Hero Season 2. He has also been heavily involved in various Western animation projects such as the Castlevania animated series on Netflix.
Through interviews conducted via e-mail, one of our contributors talked with guzzu to share his experiences as an animator for Japanese animated series. In this interview, guzzu tried to explain his workflow as a freelance animator for foreign studios, pointing out the problems that occur in current anime production, the risks that might be faced by animators while working in Japan, and his response to the current “sakuga community.”
Thank you for taking the time for KAORI Nusantara. First of all, maybe you can introduce yourself and explain to the readers what do you actually work on in the animation industry?
Hello, thank you for the question. My name is Ida Bagus Gede Yoga Narayana, you can call me “Bagus” or “guzzu.” In the animation industry, I am a 2D animator. I work remotely (working at home, though in the future I’d like to work abroad) with overseas studios. In this industry, I am known as a “key-animator.” In addition, I am also a special effects animator (animator who specifically makes animated effects such as fire, water, explosions, etc.), a supervisor (someone whose job is to correct/give feedback to other animators), and sometimes co-director at Studio Yotta, Vancouver, WA, United States.
There are still many Indonesians who do not understand the work of animators. What exactly is the animator doing in making an animation?
Animators are professions that draw or move a cartoon character on the television screen. Aside from that, animators can also do other things such as animating fire, water, explosions, gusts of wind, destroyed buildings, and so on.
Why do you want to be an animator? How was the learning process?
I don’t know. At first, it was just a hobby. In the past, I did not understand that an animator is a legitimate profession. I learned animation because I liked to see my pictures move on a computer screen. I want to be an animator because I was very happy to watch Naruto fight when I was little. I am not good at describing the method of learning, because I did not learn the principles and theories about 12 principles of animation back then. I learned a lot from friends who are also animators, and other professional animators. The way I study is always by observing and copying the techniques used by those animators until I find my own style. If you want to know more details about the animation process, you can search and read the book “Animator Survival Kit.“
How did you initially become an animator in the Japanese anime industry? Who contacted you?
At first, I just uploaded my works on Twitter. Many directors, animators, and other artists use the platform. There are many benefits if you can speak English and often sharpen your quality of work.
Then I was contacted by a Chinese studio because there were some animators who were said to be big fans of my work, and the animator recommended me to Studio LAN. The studio is located in Guangzhou, Shenzhen. At Studio LAN, I was given the opportunity to work on their own intellectual property (IP) project entitled To Be Hero Season 2. After the work was released to the public, there were a lot of talks that Studio LAN took the risk of recruiting animators outside of China or Japan. From that point, my name came to be known amidst the intense competition in the animation industry. So more or less, I’m pretty lucky and the quality of my animation is considered quite above their standards.
What obstacles did you face while doing remote work for overseas studios?
The initial obstacle that I face most often, clearly, is the language barrier. Fortunately, English is already considered an international language, so I don’t really think about it since from my name alone, many studios understand that I don’t speak their language. Another constraint is accessibility. I used to have trouble communicating with clients because I didn’t have a stable internet connection. Back then, I often communicate with mobile tethering. While to download and upload files, I always went to the internet cafe. In addition, the low-end specification of my laptop made my work quite hampered because the laptop was not good enough to open large files. For example, I was given a scene that already had a 3D model of the background and I could set the layout in a 3D program. But now, everything is stable and there are no obstacles.
Currently, you have been involved in various anime titles, ranging from To Be Hero Season 2, Boruto, to SSSS.GRIDMAN. Could you explain how the work is done? To whom do you communicate?
In To Be Hero, I communicated with my team through an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) or Discord. With those methods, I can communicate with the Production Manager and Director at the same time, though we communicate more safely on IRC and it’s easier to send files there. This same process happens for Boruto and SSSS.GRIDMAN.
The 65th episode of Boruto also starts from communication via Discord without the involvement of Studio LAN. I helped the director of the episode (Chengxi Huang) to create a discord server for our team. Whereas in SSSS.GRIDMAN, me and my friends were assisted by the production manager from Studio LAN. Studio LAN often offers freelance and in-house animators to studios in Japan because usually many Japanese studios are too overwhelmed to look for professional animators who can create extreme/fighting/action scenes. So, Studio LAN took the opportunity to offer our quality to those studios (Trigger, Studio Bones, J.C. Staff, Madhouse, Kinema Citrus, etc.).
While working in the anime industry, does your work always come from the Studio LAN? Or maybe sometimes from other studios or even large studios like A-1 Pictures?
Not always. After my name was in Studio LAN and Pierrot’s production house, I was immediately contacted by other studios, such as Kinema Citrus, JC Staff, Satelight, and A-1 Pictures.
In episode 65 of Boruto, you worked on one of the cuts in the Naruto and Sasuke battle against Momoshiki. How were you chosen to work on the section? Is this something determined by the director or can the animator ask for the scene that they want to be animated?
I once remarked to Seki-san (Chengxi Huang) that my favourite Naruto episode was when Naruto fought Sasuke, even though they were working together. I like the chemistry between Naruto and Sasuke and their friendship in the original anime. So maybe, I was given the privilege to animate the scene because Seki and I were also big fans of Naruto. Chengxi Huang also initially get into this profession because he used to watch Naruto when he was little.
How did you visualize the scene? Do you use special references?
I have been given a little reference from some footages in Boruto The Movie. Aside from that, Seki-san said, “you can animate the scene as you like, you can also change my storyboard and make it more interesting!” After that, I used the opportunity to show my abilities to the world.
Outside of the anime industry, I was very interested when I learned that you have been involved in several American animation projects such as the Castlevania series on Netflix. Are there any differences when working in a project from a Japanese studio with an American studio?
Animated series like Castlevania, Avatar of The Legend of Aang, and The Legend of Korra are actually outsourced to Korean studios (Studio MIR, MOI Animation), so I had to adapt to the workflow of Korean studios. A little different from Japanese studio workflow is in the ways to fill out their version of the timesheet.
My rough animation for Castlevania Season 2, Episode 6 and 7 (explosion) pic.twitter.com/BzZ6uTvcSC
— guz (@guzzu97) November 3, 2018
When the Korean studios contacted you to work for them on their western animation project, was it also through Studio LAN connection?
I was not contacted by said Korean studio, but directly from the studio that had Castlevania‘s IP, Powerhouse Animation and Frederator Studios, located in Texas and New York, United States.
What exactly is good animation according to guzzu? What does he think about the overwork in the production of anime? The interview will be continued on the second page.