He's an underrated talent in the world of anime, and sadly many of the people at otakon didn't even know of his work besides being a character designer/animation director/intro director for Samurai Champloo. As a result the room I was in was sparsely attended, probably a fraction of the crowd that would attend a well-known English voice actor's panel.
Nakazawa was a quiet guy dressed mostly in black, but with a bit of an "artsy flair" to him, dressed in varying shades of grey with thick black glasses. Even though he was quiet, he had a wonderfully dry sense of humor that I could probably never capture in words, it was subtle and timed just perfectly with just the right amount of irony to bring a smile to everyone's face. The panel began with his film reel, including a short I haven't seen before with very muscular characters colored in many different brillant colors to Japanese rock music, followed by clips from Samurai Champloo and a few of his other works.
I'm not good at doing transcripts (if I had my laptop there I would have transcribed the session) so this will be a summary of what I saw from the notes that I culled together, on a small steno-pad. So here it is, enjoy! :-)
Nakazawa on his Origins
Kazuto Nakazawa said that he started drawing ever since he was a kid, and that he always really liked drawing. He was inspired by Gundam (which he guessed made him "normal"), and really wanted to work for the animation studio Madhouse since he was young. He went to an animation school where the school closed down due to lack of attendance right after he graduated, and then applied and succeeded at joining the wrong studio. After figuring out the studio was not the right one he joined Madhouse.
Nakazawa on the Kill Bill Anime Sequence:
For Kill Bill, Nakazawa talked about how demanding Tarantino was to him and his team. He would constantly tell him to do impossible scenes, then see the scene, and tell him to make it even more impossible. Nakazawa continued to say that Tarantino would then take difficult scenes and have the production team completely rework them just because he didn't like one little detail in them. He ended it by saying that while he respected Tarantino, he was quite challenging to work with.
Nakazawa on the Linkin Park Music Video:
He said that the video didn't come out the way he would have liked it to. He didn't like how the final video came out, and preferred the version that he did originally, implying that he didn't have a say on the final cut. He ended his discussion of this video by saying that he was proud to have received an MTV music video award for it, if it was for his original version.
Nakazawa on Shinichiro Watanabe and Samurai Champloo:
Nakazawa said that while he loved Watanabe's work, he was originally uninspired by the choice of music for this anime. He was not a big fan of hip hop, and had a hard time channeling his interest in that music into his work for the series. Other than that problem, he enjoyed working with Watanabe and enjoyed the show.
After his introduction he opened it up for a Q&A session. The Q&A session covered misc works from him, here are some highlights:
Nakazawa on Genius Party:
His short in Genius Party would be mainly a series of things that one usually finds on the cutting room floor in most films. He went on to describe it as a series of scribbles, crinckled paper, and other things that would give the film a chaotic feel.
Nakazawa on "Comedy":
Comedy was a short that he had put together pretty much by himself. He called up a few friends to help him on it, but the bulk of the work was his own. For this short, he was inspired by Franz Schubert's music(1) and the manga of Moto Hagio(2). He went on to say that he loved music, and he was always thinking of graphics to put to music, which is how he came up with the idea for Comedy. Also, the reason why the black swordsman was black, was that he was going for a gray-scale feeling, and wanted there to be a contrast between him and the female character who was mostly white. He closed this segment by thanking all of us for seeking out this work, and urged those of us who haven't to check it out. (He seemed to be really appreciative that fans had gone out of their way to check out one of his own works).
Nakazawa on "Black Heaven":
Nakazawa also had a little bit to say about his work as character designer and on the intro to the hair metal inspired anime (created by Hiroki Hayashi, who did Tenchi Muyo), Black Heaven. He said he had loved music from the 1980s and he transplanted the feeling of that music in his characters. He also talked about how he and the creator would trade music during production.
Nakazawa on the "Sketchy Style" found in some of his work
The Sketchy style of the Kill Bill anime and the music video for Likin Park (the guy who asked this question incorrectly credited him for doing Kid's Story in the animatrix) was not his invention, but instead the invention of another animator, Shinji Hashimoto(3), who first used the style in Isao Takahata's film My Neighbors the Yamadas.
After that Nakazawa left, telling us once again to check out "Comedy", and thanking us for spending time with him. Later at the con me along my buddies at Neo Battle Peasant hosted a Studio 4C panel, at which I showed a clip from Comedy, thanked the Otakon staff for inviting such a talented director, and urged people who saw him walking around at the convention to thank him for his wonderful work.
Finally to end this post a bit off topic, there was a trailer for a new film from Katsuhito Ishii and Takashi Koike (Trava Fist Planet) called Redline, about a group of futuristic race car drivers which will be eventually (late 2006?-sometime in 2007). I urge all of you to keep an eye out for this one, the design looks fresh and innovative, and the story seems like it will be a lot of fun. On the downside I inquired about the "Hiatus Status" of Trava and even though Madhouse had produced it, the president Masao Maruyama, didn't know it even had existed, thus it seems the project might be dead.
1. Schubert is an early 19th century composer, who is credited with the piece "Ave Maria", which served as inspiration for and as the background music of Comedy. He's considered a leading figure of the Romantic period in classical music.
2. Moto Hagio is the mother of modern female authored shoujo manga. Part of a group of women called the 49ers, she along with her contemporaries created many of the conventions that shoujo manga use today. Prior to theses women shoujo was authored primarly by men. Very few of her works are published in the states, and the few that are, are out of print (like "They were 11"). A bit of trivia about her is that director Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue) also cites her as a major influence.
3. Anipages information on Hashimoto, who is one of the most influential Japanese animators: here
Updated with more information and edits Aug 16 9:30 am