This is an extremely long, extremely rambling interview. Even reading it gives me a bit of headache; translating the whole thing is out of the question for me. I’ve picked out the parts that I think shed the most light on the anime.
Q: You are credited as “Executive Producer” on the show, so what is it you do?
A: I make unreasonable requests and piss people off. Other than that, nothing really (laughs). Thankfully, director Inagaki and the rest of the staff are fans of the Muv-Luv series and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, so it’s a very happy situation for me. Actually, because they have so much respect for the original, they can be biased towards faithfully reproducing the original work. So from time to time I have to tell them “I don’t want this to be the exact same story as the original”, or “I want newcomers to the anime to be able to understand the world of Muv-Luv”, or “I want Alternative fans to enjoy this”, and then people get pissed at me (laughs). Also, I serve as an original work supervisor, meaning I check over the settings and worldview. Basically I look for mistakes. As far as the story, characters, themes or developments go, fundamentally the director decides those things, so I don’t ever force the issue by saying “That’s different from the original, so fix this.” I instead say “This is how the original is like, so the final decision is up to you.” This is just my belief, but a work should by guided by a single person’s vision. So I’ve decided that my role is to provide the director with as many choices as possible. So when I get a script that the director has OK’d, I’ll mark it up 100% with red. But as I just said, these are not demands for fixes, but just a way of letting him know “In the game, this scene will turn out this way”, pointing out useful information and future developments not in the novels – like a “summary memo”.
Q: It sounds like you’re leaving things to the director, and trusting the staff.
A: That’s right. The truth is, regarding the art style, many of the staff at Age were looking for a simple, current feel. But the director said he didn’t want to make something that would be forgotten in a few years, but rather something steady and lasting, so in the end I decided to leave it up to him. Of course, we built up a trusting relationship for close to a year, so rather than having us amateurs say this and that, I wound up thinking it’s better to keep things according to the director’s taste. And at any rate, director Inagaki is not the kind of person who would take my “leaving it up to him” to mean “he can do whatever he wants”. He is a fan of Muv-Luv, and he feels the burden of both new viewers and the people involved with the original work. Well, I think it’s because he’s such a person that he fell in love with Muv-Luv and Alternative to begin with (laughs). Against such a person, I don’t think it’s right to use my authority as the original creator to complain about things other than the setting and worldview, like the show’s direction and sensibilities.
Q: You’ve said that even though this is just the first step towards the future, if this doesn’t turn out well there won’t be any future, so it’s quite a decision to leave such an important role to somebody else. After all, even if you trust the director, there are still many other people on the production staff.
A: That’s true, but ultimately, they are the people who are struggling the most. Whether you’re creating something or just doing a job, if you can’t feel that “This is my own personal battle”, the results will be weak. That’s why, whether it’s the director or the anime staff, or even the publicity staff, I want them to feel not that “I’m working on somebody else’s thing”, but that “This is something I did! This is something I participated in!” This is how Total Eclipse is set up as well. Total Eclipse is a story about people on the job. The main characters are all everyday people. In Alternative, Takeru may see things from an everyday perspective, but he is also a superhero who saves the world, very different from us. And supporting him is Yuuko, who moves among the most influential people in the world, and who holds tremendous power and authority – a cheat character. Even though she uses him for her own gain, she watches over and supports him. And as a bonus, he also has Sumika, who holds the key to the world. But, Yuuya has nothing. He has even lost his father, and with him his identity. He is totally alone – or at least that’s how he feels. And the people around him are all everyday people, with no cheat characters like Yuuko to serve as backup. If you were to compare them to our world, they would be like 20-something salarymen (laughs). In that sense, for the people working on the Total Eclipse anime, if they feel that this is not just one of many jobs but something they can place their own feelings into, if there is a small part where they can feel that “This is my avatar”, they might feel closer to the material. That’s the kind of really adolescent thing I’ve been thinking (laughs).
Q: What are you impressions of the Total Eclipse anime staff that have been announced?
A: Director Inagaki is a very passionate person. He isn’t one to talk much, but he has his pride as a creator, and he has a good balance of stubbornness and flexibility. Before we got too deep into writing the scenario, if I pointed out that a certain idea he wanted to do was impossible in terms of the world setting, he would go deep into thought for almost an hour, going “Hmmm~”. And then, I would mull it over and suggest to him, “Well, if we do it like this, we could do something similar.” In that way, he can pull even better ideas out of me, kind of satisfying his selfishness in a sense (laughs). This is a great thing about him, that even though he is in a position to do whatever he wants, he wants to make sure that things stay true to the original. I think when he goes “Hmmm~”, he is taking what he wants to see as a fan, what he wants to accomplish as a director, and how he wants the Muv-Luv series to develop as a true believer, and letting them all fight it out (laughs). I’m totally sympathetic to his desire to see all of those wishes fulfilled. My job is to supply the director with different choices, so I propose a lot of those sorts of ideas, as well as telling him how the second half of the game will develop, and how the other related projects will move. The director was already a fan since the time of Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu and Kaseki no Uta, so I have a strong sense of solidarity with him, as someone who has walked the same path I have (laughs). I think normally you would just think of it as a job and keep things real businesslike.
Q: If possible, could you share a specific story?
A: As a fan, he felt that “Muv-Luv is all about the Takemikazuchi!”, and really wanted it to appear from the first episode. I told him that from both a story and setting perspective, that would be difficult, and he went “Hmmm~”. But when we came up with another angle and decided to go with that, he looked at it from the perspective of a director and said “The main character’s machine, the Shiranui, has to appear in the first episode!” It would be difficult to do both, so he became very conflicted (laughs). Then, he started going “Hmmmmmmmmmm~” again (laughs). I got into the spirit too and we kicked around a lot of ideas, and after several hours we arrived at a decision. That’s the way it usually goes. I can tell that Director Inagaki is a very serious person who approaches Total Eclipse and Muv-Luv with great love and attention to detail.
Q: How about the other staff members?
A: There’s such a high hurdle to entry that when we went around asking for guest illustrations, people would jokingly tell us “I’m scared of all the settings in Muv-Luv” (laughs), so I left the selection of people completely to the director. I keep saying this, but fundamentally we are making director Inagaki’s film, so I think it’s best for him to choose people he works well with – sort of an “Inagaki Japan” kind of team. As a result, he called out to a bunch of people who had played Muv-Luv and liked it to work with him, so I’m sure there will be no problems (laughs). Last year, I met with some of the staff once, and they seemed very dependable, and I started to look forward to the broadcast even more. Of them, the one I’ve known the longest is Rondo Mizukami-san. I’ve known him since the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien anime spinoff AyuMayu Theatre, and he did the SD drawings for Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu. He knows our tastes and characters, so having him as an animation director is very reassuring. With him on board, I can’t help but think we should have some cute SD characters doing a surreal preview, like a “Yukon Theatre” (laughs).
Q: What did you think when you saw the character designs?
A: Yumiko Hara-san’s character designs have a very feminine kindess and delicacy, while still being sexy. It was the same way with the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien anime, but a female creator’s linework has a different kind of appeal and sexiness to it than a male creator’s. Perhaps it’s not like today’s relaxing artstyle, but her robustly drawn characters really fit the story’s themes and image. Personally, I really like them. I particularly like the expression of sorrow that they have (laughs). I can’t wait to see them moving.