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Yann Le Gall: French animator working on major Japanese animation projects

The French animator is currently working at the Japanese production studio, E&H Production. (yannrugaru on Instagram)
The French animator is currently working at the Japanese production studio, E&H Production. (yannrugaru on Instagram)
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15 Apr 2024 05:04:13 GMT9
15 Apr 2024 05:04:13 GMT9

Amin Abbas

DUBAI: Yann Le Gall is a talented French animation art director, background designer, and storyboard artist who worked on Japanese animation projects such as ‘Ninja Kamui,’ ‘Meiji Gekken 1874,’ ‘Cannon Busters, Basquash!’ and more.

Le Gall told Arab News Japan that he was introduced to Japanese animation through French television in the 1980s. “I watched shows like Captain Tsubasa and Saint Seiya, but I was still a young kid and had no idea they were from Japan at that time,” he shared. 

The animator fell in love with Japanese video games when he was a teenager, specifically the 1997 video game Final Fantasy VII. “I think the strongest shock I ever received from any Japanese art piece was when I played the original Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation. It ultimately led me to get more interested in that nerdy culture of Japanese video games and manga when I was in high school,” he told Arab News Japan. 

“I think it was about that time that I started to think I wanted to become an artist and create stories, characters, and worlds as memorable as the ones I was experiencing in video games and manga,” he added. 

After graduating high school, the artist applied to art school. “I wasn’t thinking about working in animation at that time, since I wasn’t watching anime at all,” he said. “I started changing my mind slowly as I got introduced to more and more awesome Japanese anime masterpieces from classmates and teachers (Perfect Blue, the Ghost in the Shell first movie, Jin Roh, Cowboy Bebop, and Studio Ghibli movies). So, I then decided to aim for an animation school in Paris.”

Furthermore, the animator was taught animation by David Encinas, a French animator who worked in Studio Ghibli. “He didn’t stay there for very long, but he was the first to pave the way for all the other French artists that followed,” Le Gall said. 

One of Le Gall’s works. (Supplied)

Le Gall visited Japan for the first time in 2008 to work with the renowned French animator Thomas Romain, who worked on the Japanese series ‘Ōban Star-Racers,’ as he was developing his own project ‘Basquash!’ at his studio in Tokyo. 

“He wanted to hire some French artists for his background team so he offered me to come and work with him for one year,” Le Gall reflected. “It was my first time going so far away to France and for such a long time. The least I can say is that it was truly a life changing experience.” 

After the production of ‘Basquash!’ ended, the artist visited other Japanese cities like Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. “During my first year in Japan, I also had the chance to visit some legendary studios and to meet some of my favorite Japanese artists,” he told Arab News Japan. 

Prior to moving to Japan, Le Gall worked in French animation studios, but ultimately decided to settle in Japan to immerse himself in the animation culture there. “Japan seemed like the only way to work on high-quality animation with genres that I enjoyed,” said Le Gall.

The animator faced various challenges while working in Japan. “It was a tremendous amount of work, with quite a lot of pressure as we needed to deliver one episode per week for the TV airing, while maintaining a high level of quality on the backgrounds,” he reflected. “For six months, I was only working and sleeping and I didn’t have much time for anything else.”

Le Gall’s work for Ninja Kamui. (via X)

Le Gall shared that he believes that Japanese animation studios are working towards achieving a work-life balance. “I have a feeling that Japan is changing in a good way; even though it’s still far from perfect in many places, Japan’s state and studios are paying more attention to the staff’s working conditions. I have recently been ordered to take my due holidays by my company,” he told Arab News Japan. 

The animator is currently working at the Japanese production studio, E&H Production. He worked as a background director for the company’s first original project, ‘Ninja Kamui,’ which was recently released. Additionally, he has started working as an episode director for the company’s upcoming project.  

The French artist visited Dubai in 2023 and was impressed by the modern architecture of the city over the last two decades. He is looking forward to coming to the Middle East region again in the future to visit natural and traditional places.

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