Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!]

On Sept. 27, I was invited to visit Kadokawa’s in-office theater where they hosted a 3-hour-long screening of anime trailers of new titles and series scheduled to start in October. The purpose of the event was to get more people invested in watching anime series rather than giving up on a new title before even watching the first episode (colloquially called 0話切り or “zero wa giri” in Japanese). Over 100 people from anime studios and related industries were invited, as well as the producers and directors of the titles being shown. I had the very rare opportunity to have an interview with a number of my heroes to discuss their new creations as well as their love for anime.

Interview with Hisanori Yoshida

Mr. Yoshida is a radio host for the Nippon Broadcasting System (日本放送) and has worked as a broadcaster for many events and programs both for TV and online. He is also a great fanatic of anime, manga, and idol groups, even having done voice acting for a number of anime series. He also took part in organizing the day’s event.

Gin (G): Thank you very much for being here with me for this interview. I’m a great fan of yours and have enjoyed many of your broadcasts on various anime conventions and events. Now, I would like to dive right into today’s anime trailer viewing. How did this event come to be and what is the core concept behind it?

Mr. Yoshida (Y): I for one enjoy watching all kinds of anime, and given the time I would love to scavenge and watch as many undiscovered, obscure anime series as possible. However, due to the sheer abundance of anime that is out there now, I’ve come to notice there are people who give up on watching a newly airing series without even watching the first episode; what is referred to as 0話切り(“zero wa giri”) in Japanese.

This is a real shame, especially considering that anime viewers may be missing out on what could potentially be a new favorite of theirs just because they believed the series would not meet their expectations or be in their taste. This got me thinking about whether there are any conventional yet interesting ways to get anime enthusiasts excited for new anime series that haven’t been tried yet. During this time, I met with Mr. Yanase, who helped with organizing this viewing event, and does he know his anime!

Mr. Yanase told me that during his free time he would organize all-nighter anime screenings with his friends. At these screenings him and a group of people would watch recordings of the first episodes of all the anime series of a new season, consecutively. Sometimes, the viewing takes from evening until dawn!

I found this to be very interesting, and while I personally would love to join in, it didn’t seem too practical as an event to constrain an audience for half a day watching anime. Then I remembered seeing mash-ups of upcoming anime trailers put together in videos online, and I thought to myself, what if we could organize something similar by working with various anime studios to make our own trailer bundle and hold a public viewing of it? We’ve seen trailer mash-up videos score big numbers of views online, and I thought having an official version for everyone to enjoy would be a big step forward in encouraging anime enthusiasts to get invested in watching new anime series.

G: I am also very excited for this viewing and looking forward to some new anime series to keep me busy for the upcoming fall season. As an anime enthusiast yourself, what do you think gets people invested or otherwise find interest in watching anime, whether it be in Japan or overseas?

Y: I think both myself and anime fans are looking for similar things; we want to be excited. I know it’s really hard to get motivated to watch an anime series when you feel like you’re being subjected to cliched taglines, blatantly safe sequels or by-the-numbers story arcs repeatedly. I think it’s important to create opportunities to present anime enthusiasts with hidden gems and unique attempts at making innovative anime, which is what I believe is one of the most efficient ways to heighten engagement.

Directors and studios spend so much of their effort and time on creating these anime series and it breaks my heart to see any of them go unnoticed. The reality is with such an abundance of anime getting released in one season, there are very few options for small studios and new creations to get the publicity they deserve. I wish to do as much as I can to expose anime to a wide audience, and hopefully this viewing event can help do so.

G: I agree, with so many to choose from it can become a little overwhelming trying to pick a series to start with. Sort of like picking a bottle of wine.

Y: In spirit, this event aims to be like Robert Parker; the only difference is that we will be recommending anime and not wine. For example, the announcement of March Comes in like a Lion getting an anime adaptation was a big shocker for the fans of the original manga. Being a fan of the manga series myself, the fact that one of my favorite manga is becoming an anime, topped with the fact that anime studio Shaft is working on production, gives me a big reason to watch the series. But more importantly, I want to be surprised today. We’ve managed to get over 50 trailers of fall anime series, and what would make me really happy is to find something completely unexpected that will get me interested in watching the full series. I believe that is what is going to be the key feature of this viewing event.

G: Finally, I would like to ask you which of the new fall anime series stands out to you the most?

Y: Personally, I will be watching WWW.Working!!, and as mentioned before, March Comes in like a Lion is going to be a very special production to me. But these are anime series I will be going into knowingly, either from prequels or other mediums. The sole purpose of this event is to expose and surprise ourselves with something we’ve never heard of before. What I look forward to is any of the anime off this list to fly in the face of my anticipation and expectations and give me something completely unexpected. Just like how The Flowers of Evil was to me. I’ve always enjoyed the manga series and gave it a 9/10 on my own scale. When I heard they were working on an animated adaptation for the manga, I had little faith they could recreate the story and feel. But once I started watching the series, everything about it was so unexpected and completely blew me away. Now, it’s one of my all-time favorite anime series.

I have a great amount of fun scavenging and introducing friends and anime enthusiasts to all sorts of anime, and wish to continue creating opportunities to do so as much as possible.

Interview with Haruki Hayashi

Mr. Hayashi is an anime producer and has worked on multiple notable anime titles including Miss Monochrome, K, Shonen Hollywood, Yondemasuyo, Azazel-san, and Coppelion to name a few.

Gin (G): I’m a huge fan of Yondemasuyo, Azazel-san and that was my introduction to your work. Could you give us a short backstory of some of the anime series you’ve worked on as well as an introduction to the latest anime you’re working on, Sengoku Choujuu Giga?

Mr. Hayashi (H): I’ve worked as a producer on various anime series including Yondemasuyo, Azazel-san, as you’ve mentioned, the anime series and movie for K, Ms. Monochrome, and others. The latest series I’m working on is going to be a 5-minute anime short series focusing on historical events that took place in Japan during the Sengoku period. The characters are based on warlords from that era but depicted as animals in the artstyle of the oldest recorded manga in Japan, Choujuu Giga. Each episode has a resolution and can be watched on its own. We aim to replicate historical events that happened in Sengoku Japan through comical storytelling by animal warlords.

G: What made you choose the art style of Choujuu Giga?

H: I’ve always been interested in utilizing a sumi painting artstyle for an anime and have noticed very few anime making use of this particular approach. Coincidentally, around the same time I was given the opportunity to work on a new series by the production studio behind Sengoku Choujuu Giga, and I found this project to be a perfect chance to try something entirely new. The ideas that the studio pitched got me intrigued immediately, and I agreed to take part in making this new anime series, implementing new techniques along the way.

G: So it sounds like Sengoku Choujuu Giga is going to be a completely new experience for you and the viewers alike. With only 5 minutes of airtime, it seems like a big challenge to illustrate a story and conclude every episode with a punchline. Do you find this to be so?

H: I’ve worked on anime series with a shorter runtime compared to other productions. Yondemasuyo, Azazel-san was just under 15 minutes, and squeezing in a concise story whilst building on character development and even adding comedic scenes was no easy task. But, at the same time, shorter anime episodes are very fun to work with. With a shorter runtime, I believe leaving a big impact on the audience becomes the biggest priority. With 30-minute episodes you can take your time to build on an immersive story and let the audience grow to like your characters. That kind of anime is also a lot of fun to work on, but I really enjoy getting really creative to try and fit in as many of my ideas as possible within a limited amount of time.

G: From the variety of trailers prepared for today’s screening event, which anime series do you find interesting or unique?

H: I’m very much looking forward to the second season of BBK/BRNK. Utilizing full 3D CG for an anime series is simply amazing to me. I would have never imagined CG to produce such emotion and intricate designs like in BBK/BRNK. After the 2000s, CG became more abundant but was usually used exclusively for machines like robots and naval ships and not as much for human characters.

G: Until recently, I wasn’t a huge fan of CG animation. It always felt like the CG clashed with the hand-drawn animated backgrounds or characters. But after having watched the first season of BBK/BRNK, I was also astonished by how much emotion could be portrayed through CG.

H: I’ve read reviews on 3D CG anime and the popular argument is that there is a lack of warmth to the characters. But when I see recent 3D anime series, there is a great amount of human emotion that comes through the CG graphics. While I still enjoy conventional hand-drawn anime series, I find this new technology just fascinating and cannot help feel that 3D CG will take animation to another level. I would actually love to work on a full CG animation someday.

Interview with Babazono

Mr. Babazono is the producer of the Gakuen Handsome anime series. The series marks his first time in the role of producer, and he also voices one of the main characters in the series, Sakuya Mitsurugi.

Gin (G): I could not be more excited for this anime to start, especially because I am a huge fan of the original game. Though I’ve only seen the gameplay through Let’s Play videos online, the minute I was hit in the face with the uncanny humor, crude illustrations, and the distinctive voice acting I found myself a follower of this cult classic. Could you please tell us how you got involved in the making of the anime adaptation of Gakuen Handsome?

Mr. Babazono (B): I’m actually a big fan of the game myself, and through a series of events I got to meet the indie group who made the game, Team Yokkyufuman (チーム欲求腐満). Together, we joked about the possibility of the game getting an anime adaptation. But for many indie game developers, getting a studio to make an animation of their creation is a big achievement, so for the team I think it was more wishful thinking than just a joke.

After getting to know the team behind Gakuen Handsome and learning about the growing popularity of the game with core fans, I got involved in making mobile apps for the series with the help of my company. The apps were a success, and suddenly the possibility for an anime series was not looking so impossible. This ultimately lead to the crowdfunding project for developing and publishing the Gakuen Handsome anime within my company. I didn’t have any former knowledge of producing anime nor did we have a studio. Once we managed to hit our goals for the crowdfunding, we literally built an animation studio in one of the corners of the office I work in to start developing the anime series. I had no prior knowledge or experience myself, and everyone included in the project was very anxious whether it would work or not. Now, thanks to the fans and all the support we received, I can say that our company completely depends on Gakuen Handsome and we are riding on its success as a franchise.

G: Seeing Gakuen Handsome only rise in popularity, do you think that it getting an anime adaptation was inevitable?

B: To be honest, I’m still in disbelief that we’ve actually managed to make the anime series. In my view, it was one fortunate coincidence after another that led us this far. When I became familiar with the team of the original game, I asked them about possible sequels in the future. Since I work for an IT company we did have some ground knowledge for making apps, and us collaborating with them was possibly the catalyst for starting the trend. But I never expected that we would come this far.

We literally started from scratch with a very limited budget and almost no understanding of how animations are produced, so there was always a sense of uncertainty. I worked very closely with Team Yokkyufuman to make sure the anime series was as faithful to the original game as possible. When we reached our target for the crowdfunding project the thought of making an anime series was almost like an illusion, but during the process of development everything felt very real and almost overwhelming.

G: Gakuen Handsome is an indie developed game, so compared to bigger title games there must have been unique complications in making the anime adaptation. Could you give us an example of some of the challenges you overcame?

B: While we knew Gakuen Handsome has a strong cult following, we knew it was going to be a challenge to get the attention of a larger demographic. Gakuen Handsome is not based on an existing novel or manga series, making it very difficult to publicise to anime enthusiasts who are not aware of the original game. Being a fan of the game, I thought it best that we emphasize the distinct charms the game already has - from the quirky humor, to the crude character illustrations, to the voice acting done by amateurs. The development of the anime series was almost fully directed by Team Yokkyufuman, and while we had the original crew of the game providing us with the visuals, voice acting, and script, I took on more of an assistant role by helping promote the anime, buying supplies, and helping out the crew in any way possible. I even voice one of the main characters in the anime series which was a big challenge in itself for me.

G: So the dream team who made the original Gakuen Handsome game was also in charge of the anime?

B: That’s right, and I had intended to hire all of the original members. However, unfortunately, part of Team Yokkyufuman left before production and we weren’t able to get in touch with them. With part of the original crew missing, we questioned whether it was actually worth it to continue with making further adaptations of the Gakuen Handsome franchise. But being a huge fan myself, I really wanted to see more of it. Now that I have a hand in making the series, I couldn’t just let Gakuen Handsome end abruptly and let any ideas go to waste. I actually look forward to watching the entire series as a fan, rather than an anime producer.

G: And I also look forward to seeing it this fall. In addition to Gakuen Handsome, will you be watching any of the other anime titles that will be airing this season?

B: I’m actually more familiar with web comics and indie published creations. And I’m very happy to see Kiitaro's Yokai Picture Diary getting an anime adaptation. I’ve always enjoyed the distinct atmosphere of the comic series and look forward to watching the full series.

Interview with Nao Hirasawa

Mr. Hirasawa is an anime producer working at anime studio Ultra Super Pictures. His most recent project is the second season of BBK/BRNK, titled The Gentle Giants of the Galaxy. He previously worked with Production I.G. and has also produced Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, Broken Blade, and Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne.

Gin (G): I have been waiting anxiously for the second season of BBK/BRNK to start, so it is an absolute treat to discuss this series with you. May I ask you, the producer, what makes this series so special to you and the fans?

Mr. Hirasawa (H): First and foremost, BBK/BRNK is one of the very first original mecha anime series in the world to be fully animated in 3D CG. With many mecha anime series veering toward a serious story and mature audience, BBK/BRNK is a unique production within this genre, and we believe it will be one of the frontrunners of full 3D CG mecha Japanese anime. Additionally, for any anime studio making the second season of an existing series is always difficult, and we have definitely put a great amount of effort into keeping the series compelling for our fans and audience so they can continue to enjoy the story of BBK/BRNK.

Furthermore, what makes BBK/BRNK unique is that because the series is in full 3D CG, as the software we use to program becomes more sophisticated, viewers will clearly see an improvement to the graphics and fluidity of the anime series with each episode. With better tools we can consistently create more intricate designs and provide much more emotion to our characters as we work further into the series.

Secondly, the story for BBK/BRNK weighs heavily on family. The series begins with a family getting ripped apart, and we the viewers get to see how this family tries to find each other and reunite, which was depicted in the first season. The second season will give you an in-depth look into the dilemmas and emotions the family undergoes, especially the brother and sister. At times we chose a light-hearted, comedic narrative as well as plenty of action and serious dialogue to tell the rest of the story.

G: BBK/BRNK is a completely original anime series that was released at the time of anime studio Sanzigen’s 10th anniversary. From time to time, we as fans are pleasantly surprised by stunning, original anime works making a spontaneous break, but I think many anime fans, including myself, were caught off guard with a fully 3D CG anime series. How is it that you can create such emotional and expressive characters using CG?

H: Actually, once you create the model of your character in CG, the rest is easy to work with in addition to being able to maintain a consistent quality in detail. Of course, with hand-drawn anime, the animators have much more control over adding intricate facial expressions, providing warmth and complicated human emotions. I believe the current challenge with 3D CG is how close we can get to obtaining the same warmth and emotion out of our characters done through conventional hand-drawn anime. We’ve put a great amount of effort into adding minute details to the characters in BBK/BRNK and we hope that it is evident for viewers. Without a doubt, the overall quality of an anime series is an important aspect. But more closely at hand, I would like to see how much we can achieve with 3D CG and what it potentially has to offer, as well as even find a way to integrate hand-drawing and CG technology with one another to create something unique. It is important to pay respect and learn from contemporary animation styles to improve on our techniques, and for us it is an endeavour to find more possibilities in using 3D CG for creating anime.

G: I must say BBK/BRNK was an eye-opener for me. As you have mentioned, there is so much more that can be expressed through CG animation than we could have ever imagined a few years ago. By watching progressive episodes of BBK/BRNK, viewers are simultaneously looking at the progression of CG technology. It’s such an interesting way of watching an anime series to me.

H: With that said, I believe 3D CG technology is still very much in its developmental stages. Various anime studios are taking the time to learn, optimize, and try different methods with this technique, and I’m sure we will see a number of noticeable improvements very soon. While some people gratefully describe studio Sanzigen as one of the pioneers in 3D CG animation, I know that the tables can be flipped at any moment. With hand-drawn animation, development and workflow has been researched enough that most studios use the same optimized methods of creating episodes. 3D CG is dependant on the software we use, thus it gives us more freedom to change our operational schemes according to what software we use. If a more innovative method is thought out, there is the potential we will be left behind by other individuals or studios. We live in an era where animating has become much easier with the development of intricate software. We have an obligation to continue learning from contemporary techniques, implementing them into our technology, and also keeping an eye out for the latest innovations and breakthroughs being made with 3D CG technology.

G: After joining today’s screening of 50+ trailers of upcoming anime, could you tell us which anime series caught your interest the most?

H: That’s a very difficult choice to make. I think Nobunaga no Shinobi does a fantastic job of being a purely enjoyable anime. The tempo is very fast and keeps your attention. I look forward to watching the full series. On another note, I found Yuri on Ice terrifying. Figure skating is a subject I’ve always wanted to work on as a 3D CG anime. In fact, I was very confident that the movements of figure skaters could only be generated with CG technology. I was astonished that the anime studio behind Yuri on Ice decided to develop the series with hand-drawn animation.

Hisanori Yoshida and actress Yui emceed the entire anime trailer screening event for approximately 3 hours while the audience watched trailers to 50+ anime titles that are all scheduled to begin airing in October. From time to time between the trailers, directors and producers of the last shown anime gave speeches regarding the production and how much effort and passion has gone to each creation.

Taking the time to watch an entirely new anime series can be a gamble. With no prior knowledge of the anime, you might ask yourself whether it’s really worth spending hours on what you might ultimately find mediocre. And with so many anime titles being produced every year, how would you ever know where to start? Having had the chance to sit down and really take a good look at every trailer, I was able to set aside these anxieties for once and focus on what I might have been missing out on.

Anime producers and directors are very much like the viewers. They are fans of good anime, like ourselves, and they want to see something that excites them. For them, the amount of effort, time, focus, and the anxiety over whether people will enjoy their creations are elements that usually go unnoticed by viewers. I believe that having fans see their works and hearing what they think of them goes a long way for directors and producers to keep pursuing anime production.

I had such a great time interviewing the anime producers and Mr. Yoshida and discussing what we enjoy about watching and making anime. I look forward to many more social events like this, even at a greater scale, to remind ourselves that what we love about anime is discovering something new and exciting and sharing that experience with others who enjoy it as much as we do.

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article with photography by Takemori S.

Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 1
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 2
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 3
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 4
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 5
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 6
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 7
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 8
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 9
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 10
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 11
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 12
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 13
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 14
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 15
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 16
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 17
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 18
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 19
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 20
Exclusive Interviews with Anime Producers at KADOKAWA's Anime Trailer Screening Event [Gin-Chan Reports!] 21

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