Forbes’s Ollie Bardie conducted a lengthy interview with Shinichiro Watanabe, talking about his beginnings, his work on the anime Cowboy Bebop, what he thought of the Netflix live-action Cowboy Bebop, and his experiences working on The Animatrix.
The interview brings alive much of Watanabe’s life and work, starting with his childhood, which he described as, “I was like a wild boy playing in the mountains and fields. That meant there were no buses or shops around my house. I used to watch TV, but it wasn’t all the time; I was more into playing outside in the wilderness.”
Watanabe describes his early interest in anime and his step-by-step experiences going up the ladder in the anime world. When asked about the Netflix live-action adaptation of his anime Cowboy Bebop, his most famous work, he responded:
“For the new Netflix live-action adaptation, they sent me a video to review and check. It started with a scene in a casino, which made it very tough for me to continue. I stopped there and so only saw that opening scene. It was clearly not Cowboy Bebop and I realized at that point that if I wasn’t involved, it would not be Cowboy Bebop. I felt that maybe I should have done this. Although the value of the original anime is somehow far higher now.”
He also shared some of his difficulties working on The Animatrix. “The original producer on The Animatrix was a really good guy,” Watanabe remarked. “He understood my work and didn’t give me stupid requests. However, he had to leave due to family issues, but his successor, called Spencer Lamm, was awful. So many requests. Change this, change that. It was very frustrating and if these requests were coming from the Wachowskis, I would at least respect that as they came up with The Matrix. So who was the new producer compared to that? He explained that he was the gatekeeper to the Wachowskis and unless he could be convinced, he wouldn’t bring my work to them.”
How did he handle this producer he kept clashing with? “[W]hen I went to Los Angeles for the recording sessions, I told the team that if I saw that producer I would just punch him in the face,” Watanabe revealed. “The producer ended up not coming to the recordings, which is unheard of.”
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, plus its sequel, Manga Art for Everyone, and the first-of-its-kind manga chalk book Chalk Art Manga, both illustrated by professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.