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Interview: 'Promare' Director Hiroyuki Imaishi & The TRIGGER Team

This month fanfavourite Studio Trigger's first feature film Promare hits US cinemas thanks to GKIDS Films- with the Fathom Events premiere event on September 17 and 19 Followed by a limited national release on September 20.

Thirty years after flame-wielding mutants called The Burnish first attacked, a dangerous new breed has appeared- and the Burning Rescue Team are humanity's last hope.

AFA's Dan Hamman caught up with some of the Studio Trigger team: director Hiroyuki Imaishi, designer Shigeto Koyama, Creative Director Hiromi Wakabayashi, and Designer SuperLog. Dan got to talk with them about their debut film- a colourful and energetic piece that is distinctly Imaishi yet pushes Studio Trigger into new territory.

AFA : I heard about Trigger’s reception at Annecy, that the screening was like a party atmosphere, everyone was so excited. When I saw it myself, Promare really felt fresh and surprising

When did you (Imaishi) and Nakashima decide to make a movie about firefighters?

Trigger: The original concept was…we just wanted to do something with fire. That was immediately after making Kill La Kill. We knew it was going to be a movie, and that was all really. So, taking the theme of “fire”, then the concept would naturally become something about fire fighting at some point. The concept of the main character changed a few times during production too.

That’s surprising, he’s [Galo] such a strong and earnest optimistic character in the Imaishi style.

I guess it’s Lio who was originally intended to be the main character, so that is what changed the most. The initial version of Lio was more like Simon from Gurren Lagann, so we made a lot of changes to his personality, at least.

Did making it a movie afford more freedom than a TV show?

I suppose so.. The broadcast stations have a lot of rules, so this allows more creative freedom.

Was this movie’s style a conscious decision to move away from the usual Trigger look?

Yes, that was an intentional departure, especially the reliance on CG. It would have been very difficult to do this kind of production in a TV series.

How early did you start collaborating with the CG studios?

It was one of the initial ideas, so from the very start.

The spirit of Trigger lived in the CG animation, but it didn’t feel like it was directly mimicking hand drawn animation either, the two mediums really met halfway.

I am a storyboard artist in my other job, so I just have to ask you about that. Was anything different with this project?

The method didn’t change that much. It’s all about the idea, really. If it’s a traditional hand-drawn scene, I knew [how to storyboard it] and if it was CG, it was also mostly designed beforehand. In a few cases it didn’t work directly, but it was all planned.

This question is for [designer] Shigeto Koyama. Were you on the project at the start and were you there all the way through?

From the beginning until the very last moment. I designed all the characters and the mechs.

“Deus Ex Machina” in particular was such a great design. (I was reminded of Koyama’s most famous design, Baymax, for the Disney movie Big Hero 6, but bit my tongue before mentioning the resemblance)

I’ve been working with Imaishi for a very long time, so he naturally had a lot of input into the design as well. If Deus ex machina was your favourite, that’s a really niche pick, not many fans have said that. It’s not the coolest!

On the note of creators, Trigger has a great spirit of embracing influences. 

(Imaishi took this)

Well...if there’s something you like, you can’t really just add it in, such as a homage, in the case of a design for instance. You need to include it only when you have a reason. Not just one reason is enough, really, you better have 2 or sometimes 3 when you want to include such a thing.

The cofounder of Trigger, Yoshinari said he is a ‘disciple’ of the Yoshinari Kanada school of animation. Do you all feel the same way, and feel his influence? Or is it something you don’t think about anymore?

Well, I think there are a limited number of people who can even say they are truly under his influence. Yoshinari san is one of the few.

That’s a modest response.


In the credits for the movie, there was a special thanks mention for the Yonkers Fire Department, in New York (state) ?

So, in the early days of production, we did a kind of location trip there, to use it as a reference. We got reference material and interviewed the firefighters. They were kind enough to show us the rescue equipment, and we were influenced by the pleasant ‘at home’ vibe the department had. We hope that was well reflected in the movie. Especially the locker room and how they were decorated in a personal way.

Thanks to the team at Trigger and to GKIDS Films and Brigade Marketing for setting up the interview. Find your nearest screening here.