August 14, 2008
This all began with Dai Sato. He's been on the writing teams behind Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Samurai Champloo, and Eureka Seven. He's listed as working for FrogNation, a company that specializes in cross-continental anime and videogame projects. Delighted to find a map to FrogNation HQ, I (and my trusty partner) headed out. We were armed with gifts of chocolate and maple cookies, plus my Master's thesis questionnaire on anime and the creative process. We had a map. We had Suica cards. We were prepared.

Or so we thought.

The thing about ambushing creators is that they might not be there in the first place. This is a big holiday season in Japan -- the whole city feels like it's on summer vacation -- and maybe that was the case here. But for all appearances, FrogNation HQ appears abandoned. First, it's in a converted residential space, the first floor of which has become storage for a second-hand shop which appears to no longer exist. No one answers the door, the mailbox is full, and the buildings behind it are all being bought up for condos. Despite the website being live, no one has answered emails.

Are you out there, Sato-san? It's me, Madeline.

Of course, the news isn't all bad. Despite the fruitless attempt to find FrogNation, we did discover the Yoyogi Animation Gakuin, an "anime school" nearby. Once again, however, they were closed. But I'm a fan of any school which allows this guy to stand guard. He's a six-foot high model of some kind, and he's got wicked claws and a pretty scary face. This photo doesn't really do him justice. I'm not sure which project he's from. (If anyone does, let us know.) But I'm sure saying hello to him is a great way to start off your school day.

In addition, we discovered the generosity and patience of the people we encountered. Construction workers, police officers, and everyday salarymen and -women were eager to help us. One man in particular brought us to the building in question, and even called FrogNation for us from a payphone on his own dime. (The phone number didn't work.) I ended up giving this man some of Sato-san's chocolate, because he certainly earned it. Wherever you are, 'tou-san, I hope you enjoy your sweets.

Stay tuned for more posts as I sojourn through Mitaka in an attempt to give my favourite animators their due...in chocolate form.

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Comments:
Sounds like a pretty cool trip... I get the image of people backpacking door-to-door of animation studios, heh.
That's about the size of it. Some people backpack Europe. Others go in search of anime studios (and jazz clubs, as we've discovered).
If you are looking for Sato-san, you should try looking here:

http://www.storyriders.net

Good luck :)
Thank you so much! I am writing the email right now. :) I wish I had known earlier; I would have looked at Comikket!
Im a graduate of Yoyogi and while I was there I worked for them translating the textbook for the VFX scool's special effects make-up department. That creature could be one that the original head of the department created (he moved to the US before I started there and worked on projects like the Grinch). Or, what I actually think is that it is one of Steve Wang's creations either done for the school for a lecture or possibly from the live action Guyver movie he directed and did the effects on. He was (whe I was there) a regular lecturing coming twice a year.

In case you are not familiar - he is an effects artist in Hollywood - he created the original Predator among other things.
Shall I pour some salt in your wounds and say I just finished meeting and speaking with Dai Sato over the course of 3 days at AnimeFest in Dallas, Texas during the Labor Day Holiday? :)

If you had done some Net research before you did your trip, you would have realized Dai Sato left Frognation in 2007. There are about 3 articles mentioning it, very hard to find.

I must say, that if you ever get the chance to meet him, you will deeply enjoy it. He is an amazing person.

By the way, he has some really fascinating projects on the horizon. One of which will lead you on your next trip to Amsterdam, Holland. Yes, Amsterdam. He is fascinated with the cultural exhange between Japan and Amsterdam, dating back to the Van Gough days. (note the influences in Samurai Champloo) Look for a project called Ikoi soon...

Curiosity peaked yet? I recently played him in a game of rock, paper and scissors to win an art book of some artists featured at Storyriders. It is now a personal treasure. The artwork is amazing!
I met Dai Sato at the AnimeFest in Dallas, Texas. It was a glorious moment.


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