Shinichirō Watanabe (渡辺 信一郎 Watanabe Shin'ichirō?, born May 24, 1965 in Kyoto) is a Japanese anime filmmaker, screenwriter, and producer. He is known for directing the popular anime series Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo.
Watanabe is noted for blending together multiple genres in his anime. For example, in Cowboy Bebop, classic cowboy western mixes with 1940s/1950s New York City film noir, Jazz music and Hong Kong action movies, all while being set in space. In his later work, Samurai Champloo, Watanabe mixes the cultures of Okinawa, hip-hop, modern-day Japan, and chanbara.
After joining the Japanese animation studio Sunrise, Watanabe supervised the episode direction and storyboards of numerous Sunrise anime, and soon made his directorial debut as co-director of the well-received Macross update, Macross Plus. His next effort, and first full directorial venture, was the 1998 television series Cowboy Bebop. It was followed by the 2001 film, Knockin' on Heaven's Door, and in 2003, Watanabe directed his first American produced anime, the short films Kid's Story and A Detective Story, both part of The Animatrix, an anthology of animated shorts of back stories from The Matrix. His next directorial effort was the anime television series Samurai Champloo which began broadcasting on Fuji TV in Japan on May 19, 2004.
He directed a short film called Baby Blue, a segment of the anthology film Genius Party which was released on July 7, 2007. In recent years, he has been active as a creative music producer, overseeing the 2004 film Mind Game and 2008's Michiko to Hatchin, and also supervised the storyboards for episode 12 of Tetsuwan Birdy: Decode. He will also be working as an associate producer on the upcoming live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop, alongside fellow Sunrise staff members Kenji Uchida and Keiko Nobumoto.
- Obatarian (1990; episode supervision)
- Genki Bakuhatsu Ganbaruger (1992; episode supervision)
- Cowboy Bebop (1998; director)
- Samurai Champloo (2004; director)
- Eureka Seven (2005; supervision of third ending theme)
- Tetsuwan Birdy DECODE (2008; storyboard supervision, episode 12)
- Michiko to Hatchin (2008; music producer)
- Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto (2010; storyboard & unit director, OP)
- Armor Hunter Mellowlink (1988–1989; episode supervision)
- Capricorn (1991; co-supervision of storyboard)
- Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory (1991; episode supervision)
- Macross Plus (1994; director)
- The Animatrix (2003; episode direction)
- Macross Plus: Movie Edition (1995; director)
- Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door (2001; director)
- Mind Game (2004; music producer)
- Genius Party (omnibus): Baby Blue (2008; director)
- Cowboy Bebop (2011 film; associate producer)
Watanabe has a distinct vision regarding the importance of the film score of his works and believes that music is the universal language. Cowboy Bebop is widely respected for its multiple layers and deep characters, combined with a very free-flowing feel to the story itself (heavily influenced by American culture, especially the jazz movements of the 1940s, hence "bebop"). This style is blended with a phenomenal score by the prolific composer Yoko Kanno featuring jazz, blues, and funk music. In Samurai Champloo, an Edo period piece, the anachronistic soundtrack draws heavily from hip-hop music, and is full of melodic beats with record scratches.
Speed and focus
Watanabe's films revolve entirely around pacing. His stories move with a very deliberate flow; constantly slowing and speeding up, keeping the viewer off-balance and totally involved. Watanabe's characters often move the same way. In Cowboy Bebop, Spike seems almost lazy and uninterested in his surroundings most of the time - his hands stay in his pockets, or he's seen leaning against a wall, but once the action starts, Spike moves quickly and deliberately, using everything around him to his advantage. This attitude is notably recurrent in Mugen, one of the main protagonist of the Samurai Champloo series.
- Shinichiro Watanabe at Detroit Film Theatre, Feb. 8th, 2006
- "『カウボーイビバップ』映画実写化へ向けて始動！" (in Japanese). Sunrise. 2009-01-15. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
- Shinichirô Watanabe at the Internet Movie Database
- Shinichiro Watanabe at the Anime News Network Encyclopedia