top of page



Graduate Interview

Ayaka Nakata

The first graduates


Ayaka Nakata is a noteworthy multi-creator who illustrates picture books and teaches at her alma mater, Tokyo Zokei University, while working on individual and group-produced animation projects. In this interview, I had a frank chat with her about the successful path her life has taken as one of the first graduates of Tokyo Zokei’s Animation program. (Interviewer: Takanaka Shimotsuki, February 13, 2021)​

──In addition to being active as an animation artist, last year saw the release of your first picture book, Mushitori Asobi*1. Was it your love for drawing pictures that led you to also make animation?

I recall drawing a lot of manga and anime-style characters in junior high, but I wasn’t that interested in animation. In high school, I joined the choir, which shows I wasn’t that serious about art as a career. Yet, at the same time, my interest in picture books had grown stronger, since I’d been drawn to the works of Errol Le Cain*2 and Gabrielle Vincent*3 long before that. So, it was around this time that I had a vague desire to become a picture book illustrator.

For that and other reasons, I started attending an art college prep school near my high school. However, I still hadn’t thought in detail about what I wanted to do in the future.

*1 Mushitori Asobi: a picture book about insect collecting, published by Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers as the April 2020 issue (Volume 613) of its monthly subscription science picture book series, Kagaku no Tomo, and Nakata’s debut work. Text by Takenari Inoue.

*2 Errol Le Cain (1941-1989): Singaporean illustrator who worked primarily on picture books. He published many picture books, including Hiawatha’s Childhood, which won the Kate Greenaway Medal. Le Cain passed away at the young age of forty-seven.


*3 Gabrielle Vincent (1928-2000): Belgian picture book illustrator who became famous with her major picture book series, Ernest et Célestine. Nakata was strongly drawn to Vincent’s La Petite Marionnette, a story written without words of any kind.



Mushitori Asobi (April 2020 issue of Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers’ Kagaku no Tomo series)

──Attending an art college prep school means you applied to art colleges, right?

I took entrance exams at several art colleges that offered design programs but ended up failing them all. [laughs] It was while I was studying to retake the exams that following year that Tokyo Zokei created its Animation program. One of the teachers at my prep school suggested that if I was interested in picture books, animation might be another option. So, I decided to add Tokyo Zokei to the list of colleges whose exams I’d take the following year.

──And the result of your renewed attempt at getting into an art college the following year was...?

In the end, it seems I was destined to be accepted by Tokyo Zokei only. It was as if the university was giving me a chance when I had nowhere else to go, and all I feel is gratitude for that. [laughs] I hadn’t really thought much about animation up to that point, except that I could draw it in the style of picture book illustrations. Also, my knowledge on the subject was limited to things from studios like Disney and Ghibli that were shown on TV.



─So, you paid more attention to animation after you entered college?

That’s right. After getting into Tokyo Zokei, I started looking for animation and animators that I liked. The ones that had the most obvious influence on me were Yuri Norstein and Koji Yamamura*4. I also learned about Georges Schwizgebel*5 later and came to like him a lot. When the Day Breaks*6, which I saw in class one time, also had a big impact on me. 

While not related to animation, I also like Stasys Eidrigevićius*7. For my first animation piece, Shitauchidori ga Naita Hi (2004), I just happened to use a pastel-like style for it. Yet, when I think about it now, I wonder if that was due to his influence. I think I was also drawn to the deep-cutting satirical perspective of his works.

Another reason why Shitauchidori ga Naita Hi looks like I painted it with the pastel rubbing was because I was going through a period where I was concerned with how I captured the outlines of objects, and was averse to the process of drawing an outline and filling it in with color. However, each piece I do now is in a different style and how I add the finishing touches varies quite a bit. For example, when I was making Kikimimi Dainimaku: Kagami (2007), my final year project, I thought a lot about how to express motion blur as I drew.

*4 Koji Yamamura (1964-): Picture book illustrator and world-famous animation artist known for his animated shorts. He has released several award-winning animated short films, including Mt. Head and Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor, and has received the Grand Prix at all four major international animation festivals.

*5 Georges Schwizgebel (1944-): Swiss animation artist who gained attention worldwide with his 1974 short, Le vol d’Icare, and continues to release such unique films as 78 Tours (1985) and Romance (2011).

*6 When the Day Breaks (1999): Canadian animated short, co-directed by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, portraying the everyday lives of anthropomorphic animals in the city.

*7 Stasys Eidrigevićius (1949-): Internationally active multi-artist from Poland. Many of his picture books, posters and other works have also been introduced into Japan, and an exhibition of his work was held at the Musashino Art University Museum in 2019.


──What was life on campus with your fellow students like?​

I don’t think I had that much fun. [laughs] Everyone in the first class was quite independent, so there was almost no chance for us to hang out together. I did, however, make friends at college. I stayed close with the classmates I co-produced Shitauchidori ga Naita Hi with, even after we finished it. My impression of the second class was that they all got along well, which made me think they were a completely different species of human. [laughs] 

I was completely uninterested in the art festival at the school, spending that time on my own projects instead. Animation takes a lot of time to make. [laughs] In retrospect, it feels like I wasted a good opportunity.

As far as classes went, I’d say only a third of the students in the Animation program were able to turn in their assignments. Qrais, who you interviewed before me, would make his own pieces and show them at film festivals, in addition to his homework, as if it was part of what was expected. It was because of the influence of classmates like him, and the recommendations of my professors, that I started polishing the pieces I had done for class and showing them at film festivals.

Kikimimi Dainimaku: Kagami was the only one of my works I never submitted, because I was only able to make a very small portion of a long story. At the time, I was adamant about not showing it publicly because I kept telling myself I’d finish it after graduating. So, even after I graduated and found a job, I spent years on it, but it ended up being incomplete. These days, people like Taku Furukawa, as well as my fellow Tokyo Zokei professors, are kind enough to say it’s a memorable short but they also point out that it’s unfinished. [laughs] 


大学でNFB(注8)の作品とか、いろいろな海外のアニメーションを見て惹かれるようになったものですから、最初は卒業後に「アニメーション作家を個人でやろう」って思ったんです。造形大に入る前年に山村浩二監督の「頭山」(2002年)がアカデミー賞短編アニメーション部門にノミネートされましたから、そのことも関係していると思います。「これがアニメーション作家の生き方なんだ」って、憧れたんだと思うんですよ。そういう生き方を信じられたっていうか…。しかも大学の講評会に御本人がいらっしゃった時に、私の出した「舌打ち鳥~」が「すごくよかった」っておっしゃってくださいましたし。それがきっかけで山村監督には、作品を作るたび見ていただいたり、さらにアルバイトもさせていただいたりして、いろいろお世話になりました。アルバイトは「カフカ 田舎医者」(2007年)の仕上げの手伝いということで、色鉛筆のタッチをたくさん、動画に描き足させていただいたんです。おかげでタッチを入れながら動画を一枚一枚見ることができましたから、「こんなふうに描かれてるんだな」とか、監督の作業姿を見て「こんなにコツコツやってらっしゃるんだ」と、いろいろ学べる機会になりました。当時の私にはアニメーションに関してのコンプレックスがたくさんあって、それは「自分に才能がないからじゃないか」みたいに思っていたんですが、そういう環境の中で「未熟な自分が大変がってる場合じゃない」と思えるようになったんです。そんな大学生活の中で、卒業した後に「どこかのスタジオに入って」っていうのは、最初のころはあまり選択肢に入っていませんでしたね。ところが私は第一期生で、先輩もいなかったものだから、じゃあ実際に個人作家としてどう生活していくのかっていうことがわからなかったんです。それで「広告だったら、いろんな絵柄でアニメーション作れるんじゃないか」と思い直して、CMを中心に手掛けるアニメーション制作会社に就職することになったんですね。

注8: NFB(National Film Board of Canada)は1939年に設立されたカナダの国営映画スタジオで、短編アニメーションとドキュメンタリーの制作で国際的に知られている。「ある一日の始まり」もNFBの生んだ傑作の一つ。





またアニメーションスタッフルームにはいろいろな専門分野の人たちがいて、その後作る「ヨナルレ Moment to Moment」(2011年)の共同監督となったサキタニユウキともそこで出会いました。彼はコンポジット(=映像合成)の専門家だったんで、得意分野や考え方がまったく違うのがかえってよかったと思うんですよ。だから自分たちのアニメーションを作る時は私が絵を描いて、彼がペイントとコンポジット、そして演出は共同という制作スタイルが自然とできた。おかげで仕事が忙しい中でも作品をコツコツ作り続けられましたし、今でもずっと作り続けていられてるというのがありますね。


注9: 小堤一明(1955年~)はアニメーション監督、イラストレーターで、「こづつみPON」の名前で活動。テレビアニメや自主制作作品、CMなどを多彩に手掛け、造形大学など大学での教育指導にもあたっている。



The Toothman (2003)



The Toothman (2003)


そうですね。次の「目線」(2014年)ではNHKから依頼があって、完成したそれが「テクネ 映像の教室」という番組で放映されましたから。自分でも好きな作品で、「マルチスクリーン」というテーマをいただいた時に、すれ違う人間関係みたいなものを分割した画面の中に落とし込んでみたんです。私はエッシャー(注10)の絵も大好きなんですけど、あのねじれた空間のおかしな感覚を映像で表現したいと思っていることもこの中に入っていますし、大学卒業後はそれが自分のテーマとして根底にある気もするんですね。

仕事のほうでは、新しい就職先で「ふるさと再生 日本の昔ばなし」(テレビアニメ・2012~2018年)なんかを作っていくうちに作家とディレクターの仕事がくっついたみたいな形になって、自分の絵柄で仕事ができるような機会も増えていったんです。そういう中で、フリーランスとして独立する直前に作った「T.A.O.」(2019年)というミュージックビデオ(=MV)があるんですが、これは私にとって集団制作の良さを実感できる作品になりました。洛天依(ルォ・テンイ)という、中国の初音ミクみたいな人気ボーカロイドの作品で、ただそういう可愛いキャラクターは私の得意分野ではなくて。そこで造形大の同期生だったイラストレーターのフブキさんに、MV用のキャラクターデザインを依頼することにしたんです。それで私は演出と作画監督に集中できましたし、フブキさんのデザインは本当に素敵だったので、レイアウトが上がってくるたびみんなで「可愛い!」と言いながら、社内の子たちと一生懸命作画しました。3D制作の班もがんばってくれて、自分の想像を飛び超えたものをスタッフたちに上げてもらえる。そんな嬉しさを味わったのがこの時ですね。

注10: M・C・エッシャー(1898~1972年)は世界的に有名なオランダの版画家。騙し絵のような独自の作風が後世のクリエイターたちに大きな影響を与えた。無限階段を描いたリトグラフ「上昇と下降」など、代表作も多数。



The Toothman (2003)










2004年 『舌打ち鳥が鳴いた日

2005年 『おばあちゃんの作業部屋

2007年 『聞耳 第二幕 鏡』(卒業制作)

2008年 『コルネリス』


2011年 『ヨナルレ Moment to Moment』



2012年 テレビ東京『ふるさと再生 日本の昔ばなし』


2014年 『目線』Eテレテクネ映像の教室



2016年 Eテレ『少年アシベGO!GO!ゴマちゃん』


2018年 NIKE『JUST DO ITスキージャンプ高梨沙羅編』

2019年 MV 洛天依『T.A.O.』

2020年 絵本『むしとりあそび』福音館書店

bottom of page