Interview #04Music, Eva, and Bicycles
20 Years of Graphic Designer Masashi Ichifuru

Graphic Designer Masashi Ichifuru

A Sudden FLCL Job
And on to an Unknown Field…

One characteristic of Ichifuru and company’s job was not to just design the actual product, but also the whole user experience, from the packaging and the instruction manuals, to the product promotional video. 

“I think if you like music you will understand, but if you have a cool CD or LP, it’s not just about the sound; you don’t want to get rid of the jacket or the ‘obi.’ As we came to do this job by ‘prolonging our fun,’ we didn’t want to just do any designs for useless items. With that in mind, in the end things like images and various techniques are essential. While now I am personally focused on graphics in my work, the other two guys specialise in images and editorials. As a result of building up our skills in areas that are of interest to us, we have the TGB that you see now.”

Around the same time as the LEGO job, there was also a package design job for FLCL which was directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki, the assistant director on the Evangelion TV series. It was said that the seller, King Records, contacted TGB after reading an article about them in a design industry magazine.

“It was a really unexpected job. As among the three of us, I watched anime the most, inevitably the work fell to me. Actually in 1997 I spent 10 months living in London, and I saw the Evangelion TV show there. However the me of that time was too busy focusing on music, so I didn’t spend too much time watching anime. But when I heard it was GAINAX’s work, I thought of Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise which had a big impact on me when I was in elementary school, haha. As I didn’t experience the Eva boom directly, I didn’t really feel in the mood. But since at that time the GAINAX studio was in Mitaka, near our neighbourhood, I thought to myself, ‘I could ride my bike over there,’ and, ‘I always wanted to visit an anime studio,’ haha.”

In fact when he got the message, at the time he could not decide whether he would be able to take the job or not.

“Anime-like designs weren’t really my area. Just like the music jobs, if we tried to represent something we didn’t really know about, the people who were really into that stuff would be able to spot us as fakes. At the first meeting, I sat down with Mr. Tsurumaki and Mr. (Yoshiyuki) Sadamoto. Listening to them, they didn’t really want to do a very anime-like jacket like what was popular back then. Mr. Tsurumaki placed a lot of importance on the value of packaging from that period. There wasn’t any Internet distribution back then, and we couldn’t predict that packaging would gradually disappear. He said that in making a product, there was no point in having worthless packaging. When I heard this I knew that it would be ok.”

As Ichifuru was still a novice at the time, and this was his first moment entering an unknown field that was completely different to the music industry he was familiar with.