Amidst the star-studded line-up at Anime Festival Asia 2013 in Singapore, recently, we caught note of a very special personality who was making a very quiet appearance. Bushiroad was one of the sponsors and participants at AFA2013, and they were holding events to promote Cardfight Vanguard, a series of trading card games.

As a special event, they held an autograph session with Mr. Masami Obari, a relatively unknown talent who was known there as the man who provided the illustrations used in the ending cards for each episode of the Cardfight Vanguard TV anime.

However, Mr. Obari is actually legend among a different group of fans. He has also worked as mecha designer, key animator, and director for some of the most popular super robot anime since 1988! Some of the more popular titles he has worked on includes the Yuusha Series (Brave Fighters), Fatal Fury animated movie, Super Robot Wars OG Inspectors and more recently Gundam Build Fighters.

We were extremely lucky to be able to spend a few minutes with him and got to him to answer some of our questions.

The famous ‘Obari Sword Pose’. Click to zoom.

You’re famous among super robot fans for creating the Obari Sword Pose.

Oh really? This was named after me?

Well, the fans call it that. But why did you create it, and how did you come up with it?

It’s actually a pose which originated from Sunrise’s Yuusha series. I think it was a scene where they were overpowered by almost twice the amount of people. You have to think about this in a 16:9 frame format. The pose was made to intimidate so that it wouldn’t give the impression that they were outnumbered. Well in the end, I think the pose was just to make everything look cooler.

So you made the sword pose… because it’s cool?

Because it’s cool.

(Obari goes into a dramatic pause…)

Even in Fighbird (Taiyou no Yuusha Fighbird/The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird, 1991) and quite a number of other series, this pose made its debut. Up until this pose was created, we had a couple of ideas and hypotheses about it. The main point of the pose was to raise the weapon up high…

(…he raises both arms in the air as though holding a sword…)

…and bring it down with great force!

( and he swings it down, almost hitting the table.)

…and with the right timing, it appeared VERY cool. Even when other series copy this pose, you can see that the main point is preserved. So I think the ideas that we get before deciding a pose is pretty important as well. Even now while we’re developing other series, we’re likely to continue implementing this pose and I hope the viewers would watch it in action.

Your animation is always very dramatic, very low camera angles, face close-ups, and heavy use of sakuga. What do you think of using 3DCG in anime?

I see, 3D animation. There is a sense of depth and distance to it. When I was the director of Super Robot Taisen, we actually incorporated both 2D and 3D elements. We focused on the more dynamic elements like designs for 2D and for 3D, we definitely made the machines the main focus. Among those designs, we keep the humanoid robots 2D, the more machine-element robots are 3D, that sort of hybrid combination. That’s what makes up Super Robot Taisen.

As for our latest, Gundam Build Fighters, we divided the task for the opening because the designs are more suitable to different elements. 3D has its pros and cons and we’d probably continue using it in the future, but we’d like to use it depending on its suitability to the project. Certain projects are better in 2D and certain projects makes use of 3D better. For now we’re observing the situation but well, we’re going to make it happen. 3D robots and all, we can probably make it by next year.

So have you watched Pacific Rim?
I loved it! I watched it several times! I love Gypsy Danger! Gypsy Danger is different from other Jaegers, it’s got that feeling that makes it seem like it’s the only super robot.

Yes, especially with techniques like Rocket Punch, right?

The main character lost his brother, Yancy right? So it’s like Gypsy Danger houses his brother’s soul. That’s why to me it seems to different compared to Crimson Typhoon or Cherno Alpha and that makes it look like Gypsy Danger has something special going for it.

It’s also got all sorts of poses, like the Elbow Rocket or that pose with the sword. It actually feels more like anime than a tokusatsu (special effects) show somehow. I love it so much, I want to join the design team if I could.

Mr. Obari explaining the layout and concepts behind the Obari Pose

Okay, one last question before we go: What’s the most important thing that an animator or mecha designer should have?
I think input is pretty crucial. Having a lot of experience is important, you can’t just sit at your desk and draw all the time. You should go places and eat different foods and experience different things, enjoy all sorts of activities and put the inspiration you can get from your experience out on paper. For people aiming for this job, myself included, we should go out and play, you know, absorb all sorts of knowledge.

Also, for people who want to focus mecha design, you need a solid study of the human anatomy especially for humanoid robots. For example, bone joints and fingers, it’s said that you can’t draw a robot if you don’t study it properly. Even designers for Gundams do that, so I think the study of the human body is pretty important when you want to design robots.