Eunyoung Choi is an accomplished producer who co-founded Science SARU with visionary anime director Masaaki Yuasa in 2013. The two have formed a long-lasting partnership, collaborating on projects such as Devilman crybaby, Ride Your Wave, and Night is Short, Walk on Girl.
In addition to her work with Science SARU, she has also been involved as a key animator, storyboard artist, and episode director on numerous anime including Space Dandy, Kaiba, and Ping Pong the Animation. She is currently set to work on the upcoming film Inu-Oh, which will be released in 2021. Her most recent project with Yuasa, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, is based on a manga by Sumito Oowara and will debut in January 2020. The story follows three first-year high school girls who meet at their school’s Video Research Club (or Eizouken, in Japanese) in hopes of making their own anime.
MANGA.TOKYO had a chance to speak with her at Anime NYC. We talked at length about her career, the upcoming Eizouken! anime, and her potential future as an anime director.
MANGA.TOKYO: You’re here at Anime NYC to premiere the first episode of Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!. How did this adaptation first come about for your team at Science SARU?
Eunyoung Choi: Whenever we finish a project, we normally talk about new possible stories with our partners, and we are open to consider everything: manga, novels, and original stories. One of those ideas was the manga Eizouken!. While we normally don’t have time to read all the manga in the market, [Masaaki] Yuasa knew Eizouken.
He read about the manga by doing an ego-search* of his own name. He came across people saying that he should work on Eizouken! and mentioned how great the manga was. So, he wanted us to check it out, and it was amazing.
*The act of searching one’s own name online. Also known as ego surfing.
You’ve worked with Masaaki Yuasa on many different projects. How did the two of you first meet and get involved in the anime industry?
I was actually in an animation studio, Gonzo, and was working on conventional anime television shows. I wasn’t really good at it and was kinda struggling.
I just came back from London and heard a rumor that Yuasa was working at Madhouse. I found out he was working on Kemonozume. So I prepared everything for my portfolio and whatever I had. I showed the producer and they said that I could adapt to the style because my portfolio looked similar to the project. They gave their approval and I adapted quickly to the project because it suited me, and I worked really hard.
I first met Masaaki Yuasa at an animation meeting. Before that, I’d watched some of his work on the opening sequence of Chibi Maruko and the feature film Mind Game, so from his work I initially thought he would be a weird person. I mean, I loved his work, but I wasn’t so sure about what his personality would be like.
At the meeting, he was calm and spoke in a soft tone, and it was completely the opposite of what I thought he would be like. He was very open to ideas at the meetings, and very flexible. So, it wasn’t what I was expecting from him.
In 2013, you and Masaaki Yuasa founded Science SARU to help create an episode of Adventure Time. Now, you’re taking on many responsibilities as the main producer and head of the studio. Were there any difficulties adjusting to this new role and how did you adapt?
It’s very different, but on the other hand, I have knowledge of and experience with the artists we work with. For me, it’s easier to talk to them because they used to sit next to me when we worked together as animators. We understand each other better, so I know how they can feel sometimes. Other times, I have to say ‘we have to do this or that,’ and I try to help the artists to understand why. I think having better communication with each other helps a lot.
Being an animator and creator is a very individual pursuit, and when I did that work, I needed to focus on myself and what I needed to do. What I’m doing as a producer now has more responsibility, because I have to make sure the team is okay and that we can deliver good quality projects on time. It’s a different process, but I’m enjoying it a lot.
At the end of the day, I’m delivering what we have worked on and loved to people around the world. I want to do it more. We make precious projects and they’re very valuable to us, and to the audience. I help deliver this priceless work that we’ve all created to the fans and the partners. I’m very privileged and honored to be doing this.
One of my all-time favorite anime series is Space Dandy and you were involved with the production of episode 9 (“Plants are Living Things, Too, Baby”). What was your creative process in setting the tone and theme of that episode? Was there anything that influenced you?
I talked to Shinichiro Watanabe after he called on me to make one of the episodes. He said I could do whatever I wanted and I was like, “You sure?” I met him afterwards and discussed some interesting ideas. We talked about my concept for the planet the episode takes place on. I thought about some ideas and plants came up. I developed that idea and talked about it more with Watanabe, after I’d thought about the story and worked out all the details.
Plants seemed really easy to draw. If there were too many realistic characters, I didn’t think I could match them in the same way as in the other episodes. So I just went with the idea of plants.
I just have to thank Watanabe’s team for giving me the opportunity. He makes a lot of fun projects. Working with him, so many artists can express the way they feel in the way they want to. So it’s all thanks to him.
Is there a chance we’ll see you direct your own anime series one day?
I don’t even know myself. For the last five or six years since we started Science SARU, I’ve been a producer, running a business and manager for the artists since the beginning. They always asked me if I was going to direct and animate, and I always said no. I had to say that very clearly; otherwise, they would ask me to draw something.
It’s been a while, but for six years I’ve stood strongly as a producer. We have had very good managers and potential producers come in. So maybe once the pipeline has been settled, I can think about it. But, I’ve had very enjoyable moments as a producer by putting all the talent together to make a project.
On the other hand, I’m thinking about directing a little bit now compared to before when I didn’t even want to draw. Six years has passed, so you never know. Maybe yes, maybe no.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is set to premiere on January 5, 2020. You can follow their official website and Twitter account below for more updates.