A cel project focused on the future rather than the past.

CEL LAB CEO / Founder of Wish Co., Ltd.
I have been involved at the forefront of anime production in Japan, starting from the age of anime cels for 45 years. I have accumulated experience in cel painting, color designation, and production management, as well as established a company specializing in the drawing and finalization of anime called "Wish." I have worked on numerous notable works, including the "Gundam" series.

I first encountered cels about 45 years ago. I was captivated by the fascinating allure of adding colors to cels and dove into the world of anime. Over the years, I gained experience in cel finishing, color specification, and production management. Eventually, I took the leap and established my own specialized animation and finishing company called "Wish," where I worked on countless anime productions alongside a staff of over 100 members.

With the complete digitalization of anime production in 2003, cels disappeared from the production process. Knowing that once they were gone, bringing them back would be quite challenging, I sought advice from various people on whether it would be possible to continue creating at least one anime using cels. However, the desire to continue working with cels was overshadowed by the significant benefits of digitalization. Unfortunately, my dream went unfulfilled. Since I couldn't store cels indefinitely, I had no choice but to discard all my cel sheets, as well as the precious paints that brought these cels to life, without being able to use my entire stock of 400 colors.

Fighting the problem of paints: harnessing the power of experienced creators, while enjoying the creative process

And now, 20 years later, here I was convinced anime cels would simply disappear. When the idea of reviving cels first came up, I didn't take it seriously, thinking it was impossible without any tools or resources. But when I heard that there were still some cels, as well as at least 10 colors of paint in existence, a glimmer of hope sparked within me. I decided to try painting a cel as an experiment. Using just 3 to 4 colors, I created an image of a samurai. It turned out to be not half bad. I started thinking maybe it wasn't 100% impossible; there might be a way to make it work! Let's try! Let's find a way!

The biggest challenge in the beginning was the lack of paint colors. We came up with the idea of mixing paints ourselves to create the needed colors, and that's when we reached out to Keiko KAI, a specialist in anime color who has been involved with anime since the cel era. I started working on black-based colors, while I asked her to work on white-based ones. We have been conducting dedicated experiments and slowly but surely making progress. However, the obstacle of formulating paints is greater than anticipated, and there are still many challenges ahead. Nevertheless, we feel hopeful that we will find a way. Even each sample where the paint mixture doesn't work is evidence that we are challenging ourselves and taking small steps forward in our pursuit of cel revival.

Figuring out how to restore old cels is also an important task. We don't, however, just want to reproduce the past; we want to explore new techniques and experiment with different approaches. Passing down the knowledge and skills from the artisans of the past to future generations, nurturing them, and trying new things that are only possible with this project are a few of the many things we attempt every day. We're even considering using cels for more than just anime. Rather than simply "reviving anime cels," this project seems to be evolving into something more interesting, with a broader scope.

Surely, there are limitations. Yet there is meaning in challenging ourselves to see how far we can go.

Before deciding to undertake this major project with CEL LAB, I had considered moving on from the world of anime. I believed I had already passed on everything I had to offer to others. However, when this opportunity arose, I felt that there was still something left for me to pass down. Anime cels hold value deserving of this. I wanted to somehow preserve them, and I recalled the feelings I had sealed away 20 years ago. Considering my age, I knew this was my last chance. I am well aware of the challenges that lie ahead. However, if I didn't leverage the knowledge gained from my various experiences, the revival of cels would be even more difficult.

There are limitations to what we can achieve with the materials and tools currently available. But within those limitations, I believe that challenging ourselves to see how far we can go holds significant meaning. That's why I want to take on this final endeavor. I want to fulfill my responsibility for the future of anime and cels.