I was frankly surprised to see Shiki Douji listed as a guest at this year’s Sakura-Con, given that Full Metal Panic! last aired with a sequel in 2006. However, upon further research, I see now that there is a new work coming out later this fall. I feel that the convention could have promoted this new work a bit more, or at least should have highlighted Shiki Douji’s appearance more so old fans and possible new fans could unite at her panels. Then again, I was unable to sit in on her first panel, so perhaps that drew a larger crowd than this second session.
Douji-sensei was very sweet and took her time answering each person’s question. She saved her live drawing for the end, so was rushed for time during that segment. It was nostalgic remembering my love for the anime as I listened to her, and I’m excited to see the new show later this year. And yes, Fumoffu! is the best!
*Any transcription below is provided first through a translator’s words, then paraphrased as needed by me.*
Shiki Douji: Hello everyone, I think some of you may have come to yesterday’s panel. Thank you very much for coming today. My name is Shiki Douji and I work as an illustrator. Is there anyone who knows of any of my other works than Full Metal Panic!? Today I’d like to answer all of your questions. If anyone has questions, please don’t hesitate to come up and ask.
Q: I met one of my best friends because of Full Metal Panic! and your illustrations on the novels. I want to say thank you for that. We were doing an online role playing game where…we starting talking about how much we loved Full Metal Panic!. When you character design, what do you start with–what they wear, the facial expressions, body language?
A: If there is an interesting story I’m adapting, I can design as written in the text. If not, I use my own imagination. With regard to actions they take, I think about their personality, their background. I think in my lines how they’d act.
Q: What influenced your art, and from when you first starting illustrating Full Metal Panic!, how did you evolve to your present style?
A: As a child, I was influenced a lot by anime. Like Urusei Yatsura. So for Full Metal Panic!, I was illustrator on that for 12 years from beginning to end. During that time, things of course evolved, the world changed. Rather than thinking about it, I think it was more natural that I evolved. It wasn’t due to any thinking about it.
Q: How involved in general were you with the anime-making process when they were adapting the manga? What do you think of the studio switch in season 2, with KyoAni, if they did a better job than the previous studio [Gonzo]?
A: With regard to the anime, I did join the character design meetings with the designer there for the anime. I was able to look at their designs and show mine. With season 3, one of the characters actually changed from a boy to a girl. There are brothers who change to sisters with that translation. We had to re-design them from the beginning with that transition. It was in that meeting where we discussed the new direction for the characters. Fumoffu is the one I like the most. It makes you laugh.
Q: You’ve worked on a number of series over the years. What was your favorite scene to illustrate?
A: In the 11th or 12th final episode of the novels, there’s a scene where Tessa gets down and kisses the ground. Other than that, probably the last scene of Full Metal Panic. That image actually spans two pages of the novel. When I talked with the original creator of Full Metal Panic and brought my ideas and he shared his, we were surprised because we had the exact same idea.
Q: Do you like digital or paper better, and why?
A: I like both of them. With digital, you can create something digital and it’s easy to revise it. When you’re drawing by hand, you only have one chance to get it right, but there are also happy and lucky accidents where you discover something new.
Q: Is there something you find very difficult to draw, and something very easy to draw?
A: Hard to draw: robots. The design is very detailed and complex. There’s a design and sometimes I don’t know what’s on the other side of the design. It’s difficult, but I enjoy it.
Bonta-kun is very easy. I love drawing him.
Q: Is it common in the industry for illustrators to request modifications, and are any of the requests ridiculous?
A: Occasionally, yes. I actually work on the illustrations on a lot of card games. There are rules on how they should look. If I violate any rules, I have to change it. But with Full Metal Panic!, I pretty much never had to change anything. It was accepted as is. Of course, if you get a lot of change requests, then it’s difficult. Ideally, I don’t like it when people ask me to change things many times.
Q: In addition to the novel and animation, there are a variety of other Full Metal Panic! properties out there, like in video games. Did you get consulted in the realization for those purposes as well as consultations for the anime?
A: Yes, so there are illustrations where I was asked to draw, like Super Robot Taisen. For things that appear in the novel and not the manga, I also draw those.
Q: I love Full Metal Panic! and I’m sure everyone here is familiar with it. I’m not familiar with a lot of your other works. For someone who wants to start with something new you’ve worked on, what would you recommend and why?
A: I’m working currently on many novelizations, and some are still under development. I’m not sure if this is available in English, but there’s one called Youheidan Cooking Team (Youheidan no Ryouriban). It takes place in a fantasy world. The hero is transported into this fantasy world and there’s a battle going on where the hero is forced to cook. Through this hero’s cooking, the characters in this fantasy world get stronger and stronger.
There’s also one called Survival Strategy (Takenaka Hanbee no Seizon Senryaku: Sengoku no Yo wo Ayatsuru “Chashitsu” no Naka no Eiyuu-tachi). Takenaka Hanbee was a warrior from the Sengoku era. A modern Japanese person is embodied into his body during the period of the warring states. The hero uses his knowledge of modern Japan in order to survive and win during that Sengoku period.
There’s another called Demon Ruler. This is where a modern Japanese person uses smart phone apps to battle evil. I’m currently creating this character for Demon Ruler. There are various others. Please read any of these.
Q: How does it feel as a woman working in a field dominated by men? Has it ever been a hindrance to get to where you are now?
A: Indeed, there are many men in this industry. But there are many women in the industry as well. But the image is that men are the main people influencing this industry. The reason I say that I don’t understand why there is that perception is, personally, I don’t feel discrimination. I don’t think there’s a difference in the work that women are asked to do versus the work men are asked to do. For some reason…robot creators, mechanical design…seem to be directed to more men in that area. There are fewer women in that area.
Q: There is a female animator…[missed name]…doing the sub-character design for the upcoming season [Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory]. Did she talk with Aya Yamamoto?
A: I’ve never met her. I’ve only met the main character designer. I’m sorry!
I’m often asked when I’m here visiting if I feel compared to males in the industry. I think in the Japanese anime and manga industries, it doesn’t matter. I don’t think there is any discrimination. Within the industry, there are people with certain skills, areas that they are good at. In the industry, the request to animate goes to the person who is best at that, no matter if it is a man or a woman. Whoever does the best job. Is that an issue here?
[Sounds of assent]
- Bonta-kun with a bazooka
- Clara Mao, Kurz’s daughter (from FMP Another)
- Since you love Star Wars so much, maybe something from Star Wars?
- Kaname, Harry-sensei
While Douji-sensei originally asked the audience to provide suggestions for her live drawing, she ended up waiving them all and overruling with Kaname, Tessa, and Sosuke, the main trio of Full Metal Panic! I thought that was a bit silly given her original request, but I can see how some of the more obscure suggestions would be difficult to fulfill right off that bat. She wasn’t able to finish the drawing within the time frame at the end of the panel, but promised to fill it in later before putting it up for auction at the end of the convention.