Sakura-Con 2017 – Kenichi Sonoda Live Sketch

I’m really loving these live sketches! They allow the guest to further elaborate on their discussions and show a bit of playfulness. Slightly different from the other two live sketch panels, Sonoda-san requested questions involving some type of visual he could draw while answering the question.

Similar to my reaction to Shiki Douji, Kenichi Sonoda’s appearance surprised me a bit since most of his more famous works aired in the 80s and 90s. Of his anime, I am familiar only with Bubblegum Crisis. He is also well known for Gunsmith Cats, Otaku no Video, Riding Bean, and Gall Force.

*Any transcription below is provided first through a translator’s words, then paraphrased as needed by me.*

Kenichi Sonoda: It’s actually my first time doing a live drawing session so I’m not sure how it goes and how it’ll work. We’ll how it goes. I’d like to take your requests and talk about my works. If you have any questions about my manga or manga in general, please feel free to speak up.


Q: Where do you get the inspiration for strong female characters?
A: Since this is a drawing session, let me talk about the visuals today. Maybe the face, eyes, the view from above, or the silhouette–if there’s a strong enough characteristic for the character, I feel they’ll get that kind of strength. With just this, I think some people might be able to tell which character this is.

[Shows live sketch outline]

When it’s an action sketch or manga, I put in a lot of effects so the lines look rougher, but if there’s a strong silhouette, even from the silhouette you can tell which character it is. The silhouette is something I feel is extremely important.

Q: Have you drawn guns so much that you can do it without help [references] anymore?
A: Yes, I can do it. It’s just that cars or gun fanatics, any minor mistake I make they start yelling at me, so I’m extremely cautious to make sure I make no mistakes. When I’m drawing, I look at references a lot.

[Draws gun]

As you can see, without looking at any reference, I can draw this much, but I’m sure my poor fans looking at the balance won’t be satisfied with what they saw. So yes, I need to look at references.

[Is shown toy gun by questioner]

I just received a prop from the guest, but it actually doesn’t appear so much in my works so much because it’s commonly used in other dramas and I feel like I don’t need to draw this so much in my work.

Q: Originally you out started with writing Riding Bean, then it became Gunsmith Cats. Can you tell the story of the evolution between those two?
A: I actually touched on this a little at my Q&A yesterday, but I don’t have any rights to the anime works. Therefore, if I were to recreate the exact same Riding Bean, I don’t have the rights to the name and it can’t look the same. That’s where the title changed, and the look and feel of things. That’s how the design changed a little bit for Bean Bandit.

The inspiration of this rough sketch came from Sylvester Stallone and Arnold’s first Terminator movie; that’s why the shades he’s wearing are the same shades Arnold in the first Terminator wears. And if you look at the signature x mark at his eyes, even if the signature chin is cut off, you can tell it’s him with the x mark.

Q: You mentioned you had a fondness for Lamborghinis in your previous panel and that the Diablo caught your eye. Would you be able to draw that or any other cars?
A: …When I was a kid, I liked the LP more than the S because it was classy, but as I grew up I’ve become more fond of the simpler look of the S.

Q: Scramble Wars and Ten Little Gall Force are some of the most unique works I’ve seen–would you draw the four TV Bubblegum Crisis characters in chibi form, or at least just Priss?
A: [Draws Priss only] Her distinctive characteristic is her sharp-looking eyes, so that’s where my focus is right now. When I drew this type of chibi, deformed characters, it wasn’t so common and I felt like a bit of a front runner in anime and was proud of it. To explain further about deformed characters, quite a while back there was an author whose…characters would be egg-headed figures, so I wasn’t the only one doing this type of character. But I felt myself and others were doing this subtle formations not in just manga, but also in derivative doujin works.

Q: We’re artists–do you have advice on drawing characters’ eyes and would you do a live sketch of us quickly?
A: That’s a bit difficult! Maybe face the audience so they can do a comparison between the picture and you? You know doing impromptu sketches of people is quite difficult!

[He gives them the picture and follows up giving the other pictures to the related questioners]

Q: I would like to see you draw Misty May from Otaku no Video, the bunny girl from Gainax? How many rounds of revisions do you get in your work in character design?
A: As far as the rounds are concerned, if it goes well, the first round might suffice. At times, no matter how many rounds you do it won’t work. Once you hit the deadline, if I still couldn’t decide on one, whatever is at hand is what I’m submitting. If it’s a character I really like, then usually the first time will suffice. Regarding Misty May, she actually took two rounds and the second worked out. The first round did still appeared in Otaku no video. I ended up using both designs.
How many of you in the audience are familiar with the anime Magical Emi? I actually copied a bit of that design for Misty May. For example, this short necktie. And the long gloves she’s wearing are also from Magical Emi. The work was about a catchy character with an I’m-going-to-take-on-the-world feel, and one of her characteristics is her shaking boobs, which you see commonly today. But realistically, back then, the boobs shouldn’t be alternating up and down. They should be more in sync. When I gave directions to Gainax, I insisted they should be alternating. They did as I told them. The animator from Gainax back then was the one who also did the art direction for Nadia and first episode of Otaku on Video.

Q: What’s one of the most important things to learn when working with other artists?
A: When I was working on anime, I was with a company called Artmic, and I was doing a lot of designing and package design, but I wasn’t working so directly with animators themselves. I merely worked together with them. As far as what I was influenced by in other works as such, I was only looking at the works already out in the world, completed works, and getting influenced there. Do you have any questions I can draw with?

Q: What’s the different between a short rail and a modern rail?
Your question is about the earlier manga and the later manga?
[Draws two examples]
The top is the short rail and the bottom is the later version. If you look at the later model, the rail extends much longer. The shorter rail version uses a much harder metal, and, in the later model, they decided to use a type of model that’s softer for the sake of increasing productivity of manufacturing. In order to compensate, that’s why it has a longer rail.

Q: What is your opinion on the changing styles of the industry, particularly moe, cuter, rounder faces?
A: As a fact, it does seem there are a lot more moe-centered anime recently, but I don’t think that…means there’s lower quality anime. You can have very cute characters with a strong story line. For example, there’s a work called Madoka with its cute style, but the story is hardcore, even brutal. While the appearance is cute and frail, what’s behind it is a well-established story. I’m relieved those styles still exist. In more recent works, I’m fond of Kemono Friends.

Q: What was your inspiration for Cannon God Exaxxion, and can you draw a gun from it?
A: There wasn’t so much inspiration, but more so a dissatisfaction/displeasure that there were so many robot anime out there not focusing on canons and big weaponry. I figured, if no one else is doing it, I’ll do it. I figured if I’m going to make a robot from a canon, it should be in the center of the robot. That’s why the barrel sticks out forward. By centering the canon barrel, I felt that no matter how much of a recoil I get, the body should be able to absorb everything. If I were to make a robot just holding guns, it feels more like humans, and what’s the point of doing this with a robot?

As far as setting is concerned, I would have a gun with a 44-mm barrel on the right. On the left, I’d have an 88-mm Gatling with three barrels. When I was a kid, I liked military models, like 1/45th scale by Tamiya. That’s why I love German weaponry. When the anime Girls und Panzer came out, I was hooked.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you draw action scenes? Can you also draw Bean Bandit from Riding Bean?
A: No!
How about Rally?

You’ll notice a trend in the later questions of Sonoda-san not fully answering questions in favor of drawing the requests. This is actually how it happened!

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