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Director Maeda Blends Media in <I>Last Exile</I>

11 Jul, 2003 By: Jessica Wolf

The difference between American anime fans and Japanese fans is that Americans are more positive and more expressive when it comes to their favorite anime stories and in how they enjoy events like the recent Anime Expo in Southern California, said anime director/designer Mahiro Maeda.

Maeda, at Anime Expo to promote his newest project, Last Exile — Volume 1, his first with Pioneer Home Entertainment, is a leader in the world of Japanese animation, having worked on Laputa: Castle in the Sky for Studio Ghibli, designed monsters for live-action Gamera movies and the popular anime serial “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” and directed Final Fantasy: Unlimited. He's also one of a select few directors to be invited to work on Warner Home Video's Animatrix DVD, directing two short films for the Wachowski brothers' animated Matrix project — The Second Renaissance Part I and II.

Maeda served as production designer for the upcoming Last Exile, which streets in November from Pioneer. The story, a teen-oriented, action-adventure-fantasy follows a pair of orphans who adventure through the sky in a galaxy torn apart by interstellar war.

Last Exile has an interesting look, Maeda said, of part hand-drawn animation and part computer-generated. “It is very advanced in how it will incorporate the two different mediums,” he said.

Maeda also said anime lovers are in for some surprises thanks to Last Exile's design. “It seems at first glance that it is set in the early 20th century,” he said. “But it's not actually so.”

Maeda was approached to participate in the Animatrix and chose to work on the background-building Second Renaissance shorts. He was especially drawn to these two Wachowski-brothers-written sequences because, he said, “they were very authentic and classical in content.”

He said he was “very pleasantly surprised” at the success the Animatrix has found on video, especially among more mainstream audiences.

His favorite short on the disc, other than the two he directed, was Matriculated, Maeda said, adding that he shares speculation that particular tale could serve as a hint of things to come in the final Matrix installment, Revolutions, due in theaters this fall.

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