Interview with mechanical designer Shinji Aramaki

 Interviews  Gordon  30-Mar-2021 18:00   No comments   6100 reads

We conducted an interview with Shinji Aramaki in March 2021. Shinji designed the vehicles, the mechanics of the vehicles and the accessories for the cartoon series.

He is also responsible for the complete development of Shark and Manta, which were never intended to be toys!

Shinji gave us in the interview insights into dei creation of the vehicles in the cartoon.

Thank you very much Shinji!

Thank you Shinji for accepting the invitation to grant us this interview. Can you introduce yourself to the visitors of our site and to all fans of MASK?

My name is Shinji Aramaki, I'm Japanese, male, born in 1960, and I've been working in animation design and direction since 1982.
For the past 20 years, I've been working mainly as a director and designer for CGAnimation. I've worked as a designer on Genesis Crimber Mospeada (ROBO TECH), Bubblegum Crisis, and Full Metal Alchemist. Full Metal Alchemist", "Wolf's Rain", "Gasaraki ", "Soul eater"

As a director, I have directed "Metalskin Panic MADOX 01", "Appleseed", "Starship Troopers: Invasion", "ULTRAMAN", and "Ghost in the shell_SAC:2045". Currently in production is "BLADE RUNNER Black Lotus".

How did you come to work on M.A.S.K.?

Around the end of May 1984, a producer from an animation production company, who was a friend of a friend of a friend, came to the planning company I was working for, looking for a mechanical designer for a Japan-US co-production. br />According to him, the job was to stay in LA for 4 months to work on the mecha design for the US-Japan co-production TV animation series "Pole Position". I had just finished one of my jobs at the time, so I said I would love to go.

So I spent the entire summer of that year working at a studio in LA called DIC. After I finished that job, in fall of 1984, a producer at DIC Tokyo asked me to design a series of 63 episodes. That was M.A.S.K. I was 24 years old.

Please tell us about your work on M.A.S.K. What exactly did you do?

First of all, I went to the DIC studio in LA, where they showed me photos of toy prototypes (about 10 kinds) and design sketches, and drew them up as animation design sheets. After that was all done, I went with an interpreter to Kenner, a toy manufacturer in Chicago, and had a meeting with the toy manufacturer's staff. But I think what I really did there was to take pictures of all the toy prototypes. At this stage, the vehicle design and gimmick were already decided.

After that, I went back to Tokyo and drew up final line drawings of the vehicle character sheets for all the vehicles for animation at a studio in Tokyo. After that, I designed all the vehicles, mecha, and props that would appear in the anime script for 63 films. I was free to design anything that wasn't already on the market. All this work was done in almost a year.

For T-BOB there was already a rough round design before I joined the project, so I transformed it into a one-wheeled bike that kids could ride.

I didn't touch the masks that the main characters wear at all. The character design staff worked on the settings for the animation.

I think I also created the animation design for the main characters' base (Boulder Hill). I also remember that I designed the circular room inside (Mask Energy Room), but I'm not sure.

How did you go about designing the vehicles?

For the vehicles that became products, we had sketches by Kenner staff and toy prototypes. However, since most of the vehicles were based on American-made cars, there were not enough materials about the original cars in Japan. So I remember buying a lot of books and magazines about cars in LA.

However, since there were no plans to make products for Manta (Nissan 300Z) and Shark (Porsche 928), I was told that I could do whatever I wanted, including the base car, so I designed them freely, including how they would transform. I was surprised to find out later that there were a toy of Manta in the market.

There are a lot of rumors about the vehicle Shark, it was often seen in the series, in 20 episodes. Did you have a model or sketches from Kenner specifically for it?

As I answered in the previous question, I designed the Shark and Manta freely, including the selection of the original cars, and there were no instructions or sketches from Kenner, except for the functional aspect of Shark, that it would transform into a submarine.

Do you know if there were plans for a 3rd season, such as the Splitt Seconds?

I only did the design work for the first 65 episodes (I don't remember for sure), so I'm not sure how much of it was the first season. At the time, I don't think I heard anything about a sequel series being made.

Do you have any exciting insider information for us?

Shark and Manta were the cars of the president of the animation company I was working for. One was the actual and one the cvar before. (laughs)

Also, two years before this job, I was working as an external designer for a company called TAKARA, designing a series of toys called MicroMan, which later became TRANSFORMERS, a transforming robot. So when I first saw the sketch of a MASK toy, I thought, "Why doesn't it transform into a robot? (laughs).

Thanks to MASK, you have given hours of fun to hundreds of thousands of children. Now those children are adults who remember MASK as something legendary. Do you ever think about this?

MASK was one of the first things I worked on in my career, and it was a cartoon that never aired in Japan. In fact, I hadn't even seen most of the episodes, only one or two. In fact, I hadn't even seen most of the episodes, except for the first and second, and they were all in English, so I didn't even remember much about it until recently.

Recently, I've been going abroad for work a lot, and I've met more and more people in Europe and the U.S. I was surprised and happy to learn that MASK, one of my old jobs, still has a lot of fans.

Although it was not aired in Japan, it was a great pleasure to be involved in a work that entertained children all over the world.

Also, I didn't know until 2012 that Manta, which I designed freely, is now available as a product. (laughs).

What other DIC series did you work on?

"Pole Position", "M.A.S.K.", I did almost all the mechanical design by myself. "I helped a little with "G.I. Joe." Dinosaucers" was done in my studio, and I helped a little.

Last but not least, do you have any sketches of your work on M.A.S.K.?

Unfortunately, I don't have any of them left. All I have is a Manta toy that I got from a friend from France. (laughs).

Thank you very much.

The interview was translated from Japanese

A small selection of works by Shinji


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