Mecha Personnel Profile: Hiroyuki Imaishi – A Director Whose Style Pierces The Heavens

In the anime fan community, everyone seems to know and love Studio Trigger. They are known for their energetic, youthful, eccentric and unrestrained animation style, and which makes almost every anime series they produce so well received and highly rated. Behind the style and success of the Trigger, is a man whose artistic vision pierces the heavens, that is, director Hiroyuki Imaishi.

I. Background:
Hiroyuki Imaishi, born on October 4, 1971, grew up in a middle-class family. Since he was 10 years old, he has seen the theatrical version of Mobile Suit Gundam, thus his love for Gundam and model kits was kickstarted. When he was in middle school and high school, Imaishi joined cinema and visual media appreciation clubs and around the same time, began to practice drawing manga. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in an art college to study film, but he turned his attention to animation instead, and during that time he started making his own anime.

Imaishi took his baby steps into the anime industry after being employed by Gainax and participating in the Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) project as a douga artist, and thanks to his talent, he gradually gained the trust of Gainax and got entrusted with more important positions. He was further involved in their next project, FLCL (Fooly Cooly) (2000), as storyboard artist, key animator, animation director for most of the episodes, and art layout manager. In addition, he also participated in the production of Aim for the Top! Diebuster (2004) as key animator and mechanical animation director (in episode 4).

The biggest turning point in Hiroyuki Imaishi’s career was probably when he was entrusted with the directorship of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007), a mecha anime series full of optimism and style that I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of (or seen) at least once. Thanks to the success of that series, Imaishi received many arts awards, and his name also rose to fame, leading to him taking the helm in Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (2010).

After Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt ended in 2011, Imaishi left Gainax and together with Masahiko Otsuka and Kazuya Masumoto founded Studio Trigger. Until now, besides being a board member of Studio Trigger, he has also participated in directing many Trigger anime series, from Kill la Kill (2013), Space Patrol Luluco (2016), to Promare (2019) and most recently Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (2022), all of which were successful and highly rated by the community and critics alike.

II. Notable Works:
Throughout his career, Hiroyuki Imaishi’s works as both artist and director have been numerous in quantity and excellent in quality. As an animator, he has done lots of key animations and storyboards for multiple mecha anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dai-Guard, Gad-Guard, Gaiking: Legend of Daikū-maryū, King of Braves Gaogaigar, Getter Robo: Armageddon, Diebuster, Heroman, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Star Driver, etc. When sitting in the director’s chair, Hiroyuki Imaishi was able to make 100% use of his artistic sense, thereby giving birth to many works full of his unique style.

As a follower of Yoshinori Kanada’s school of animation – an influential animator in Japan and known for his intense action scenes, Hiroyuki Imaishi creates anarchic, hyperactive, and wildly deformed animation that never sits still. His style is the antithesis of anime in which animation plays a secondary role to the plot, bringing back the animator-centric approach and innocent fun of old anime like Gutsy Frog (which is one of his main inspirations). In short, in the works of Imaishi, animators are the main priority. In addition, he also utilizes his years of drawing manga into his works, such as in FLCL and Karekano.

Loving the mecha genre, and being a big fan Xabungle, Hiroyuki Imaishi gives back to the passion that inspires him: not only has he done countless key animations for many mecha anime, he has also created Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Promare, two must-see mechas for anyone who enjoys pure entertainment and non-stop action. In particular, Gurren Lagann is not only an extremely excellent anime with animation scenes full of motion and energy, gathering the essence of mecha series from each period and then re-conveying it, it also helps younger generations, myself included, to get to know and enjoy Super Robot, a subgenre that is no longer as well-known as before. Hiroyuki Imaishi’s contributions to the mecha genre are really no less than that of his predecessors.

For mecha fans like me, the very “raw” fire that Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann lit up inside each of us is hard to fade from memory, and the name Hiroyuki Imaishi will forever be associated with the words like “hype”, “fire” and “style”. I hope that, no matter what kind of anime he wants to produce, in the future, Imaishi sensei will still release anime filled with his extraordinary style like so far.

III. Gallery:

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