Andrew Upton ’12, an aspiring animation producer, was recently hired as a production assistant at MAPPA, a Japanese animation studio in Tokyo. Involved in every aspect of production from start to finish, Upton calls his position a “stepping-stone” to becoming a producer.
“Production assistants are in a unique position to learn about the animation industry from every angle,” says Upton. “It’s our job to keep the production on track and on schedule, which is a daunting job at the best of times. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
MAPPA was established in 2011 by Masao Maruyama, the founder and former producer of Madhouse Studio, which is one of Japan’s top three animation companies and a pioneer in modern animation. MAPPA has produced many popular anime and manga series such as “Kids on the Slope,” “Hajime no Ippo: Rising,” and “Ushio and Tora” and this fall will release its first feature film, “In This Corner of the World.” Excited to “simply be a part of that world,” Upton says he’s looking forward to playing his part in creating and distributing such “diverse and versatile media.”
Upton believes animation connects people physically and emotionally. Through his work, he hopes to teach others that animation is not only something to be enjoyed by children, but a “rich, dense and incredibly varied” media that has something for every generation.
“The characters and the story may be fictional, but the emotions the characters are feeling are real. They are human and they resonate with each and every one of us,” says Upton. “These emotions are the common denominator that link us all as human beings regardless of age, race, sex, country, language, or cultural background.”
Ultimately, Upton says he hopes to bring some of the values of Japanese animation to the U.S., where the genres and topics explored are limited compared to the freedom of Japanese animators. He says Japanese animation is an “incredibly powerful” teaching tool that conveys entertaining stories as well as values and life lessons. While becoming a producer is Upton’s goal, he explains that his more important vision is to make animation that can be more accessible to foreign audiences and “reach an even larger audience across the globe.”
Before landing his position with MAPPA, Upton worked at perfecting his Japanese language skills. After graduating from HWS, he attended Middlebury College’s Intensive Summer Japanese Language Program. Having studied Chinese at HWS, he furthered his language abilities studying abroad in Beijing through CET Academic Programs. After finishing his studies in China, he spent two years in the Japanese Language Program at Keio University in Tokyo, where he studied at the second-highest level in the program and was a leader of the University’s international student exchange support group and a member of the University’s English language newspaper circle, Mita Campus.
At HWS, Upton was an Asian studies major and a history minor with a focus on Japanese history. He was a member of the Anime Club and co-president of the Media Club. He studied abroad in Hikone, Japan during his senior year.
Above, Andrew Upton ’12 (left) poses for a photo with Keishi Otomo, director of the live action version of “Ruroni Kenshin,” and his friend Takumi Ishikawa, former president of Mitacam at Keio University.