SUCCESS did not come overnight for Mahiro Maeda. Although he had established himself within the Japanese animation industry after working with names such as Hayao Miyazaki in the 1980s, he had to wait 15 years to get his big break - directing his debut animation series Blue Submarine No 6. 'I had been looking forward to the opportunity [to direct] for a long time because I can express all my ideas using the music and colours that I think are appropriate,' says the 38-year-old. 'But [the job] is far more difficult than I'd imagined.' Blue Submarine No 6 is considered a classic among Japanese animation fans. It is all about saving a chaotic world from being controlled by terrorists. The four-part series is jam-packed with computer-generated images. Maeda is currently working on another series, Final Fantasy Unlimited, which is based on the popular video game. It has a total of 52 episodes and will be shown in Japan beginning on October 2. His new series is expected to fare as well as the last one. 'My interest in [these] images started to grow in the '80s,' Maeda says. 'I hope it can become my style in my future work.' Maeda developed a passion for animation and started his colourful career in the field when he was a film student. 'I took one semester off to work as an illustrator,' recalls Maeda, who has been fascinated with comics and animation since childhood. Maeda's early works include Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind, a project he collaborated on with Miyazaki, an animation director whom Maeda respects highly. However, it was his second feature with Miyazaki that really made an impression on him. 'I will never forget working on Laputa,' says Maeda. 'I was the key animator and I was only 24. Since I was still a student I was not very skilful. 'But I really contributed a lot to Laputa, and I have happy memories of the whole working experience and the friendly team.' Apart from working with Miyazaki, Maeda has also worked with another animation master, Hideaki Anno, on Nadia Of The Seas Of Wonder and the critically acclaimed Neon Genesis Evangelion. 'I have long been friends with Anno,' says Maeda. 'I really respect him and I have learned a lot from him.' Anno's first feature film, Ritual, came out last year. So has Maeda ever thought about making movies with real actors himself? 'Not yet,' he says. 'I still prefer animation, which is a better medium to express myself.' It is also a medium popular among both adults and children in Japan. Maeda says: 'Americans treat animation as a form of entertainment for children, which limits its scope.' Final Fantasy Unlimited, which is now in post-production, is taking up most of his time. Any chance he will tell us more about his latest project? 'I am so busy that I could almost die,' Maeda jokes. 'And don't ask me what [the new] series is about because I am not going to tell anyone at this stage.'