Animage 08/12 – Mai Nakahara and Kouki Yoshimune

August 25, 2012

(This interview came out shortly after the second episode aired.)

– That was a difficult first two episodes.  What were your impressions when you first read the script?

Nakahara: I had never imagined that kind of development, so honestly I was worried.  It was a very different Yui from the one I knew from the original novels and the radio program, even in her manner of speech.  I was also surprised to see her talking with her friends.  The contents were painful, but as the recording sessions have continued, I feel now that it was good to have those first two episodes.  I think people will feel the same way as they continue watching the story of TE.

– What was the intent in placing such a hard development in the prologue?

Yoshimune: The original novel was serialized in a gaming magazine, so we assumed that the reader already knew the Muv-Luv game series and didn’t include many detailed explanations about it.  But for people who are first experiencing Muv-Luv through the anime, we thought that we have to convey the setting in an easy-to-understand way.  We were worried that unless we made the characters’ situations and feelings understandable, Yui would just come off as an eccentric and unsympathetic character.

Nakahara: I’ve been doing the radio show and Yoshimune-san has explained things to me before, so I understood Yui’s thoughts to a certain extent, but these first two episodes make it much easier for me to grasp what she is feeling.

Yoshimune: In that sense, I really remember you saying, after the recording for the second episode, “I don’t think I can interact normally with Ono-san (Daisuke Ono, voice of Yuuya) anymore” (laughs).

Nakahara: I may have said something like that (laughs).

Yoshimune: Having experienced that kind of battlefield in the first two episodes, Yui can’t help but be strict towards Yuuya (laughs).  When I see you gradually growing closer to Yui’s feelings, I feel how amazing being an actor is.

Nakahara: As a character’s feelings flow into me, I sometimes get so pulled along by them that I can’t tell anymore whether they are the character’s feelings or my own.  The characters and settings in TE are so well made that I may just be getting pulled along by Yui.

– Yui has a tough past, but she’s also awkward.  You really want to root for that kind of character.

Nakahara: If I was just playing her without knowing anything, I might have thought she was just a hateful character who looks down on others (laughs).  But when I think about how Yui went through the kinds of things we saw in the first two episodes to get to where she is now, I actually think it’s very adorable how she tries to put on a brave front.

Yoshimune: It’s an important part of her that she’s a young girl struggling to be a soldier.  Although she normally only shows the face of a soldier, if someone suddenly calls out to her, she might go “Huh!?” and forget her soldier-like attitude for an instant.  That’s part of what makes her charming to me (laughs).

Nakahara: Since she’s normally so cold, when she unconsciously shows a cute side, I get a little excited myself (laughs).  Yui will gradually show a little more of that cuteness as we move forward.

Yoshimune: There will be more developments for the fans who want more of that Yui (laughs).  Please look forward to it.

– What do you think of Yuuya?

Nakahara: He’s such a child (laughs).  He looks like he has it together and is able to get along with people, but from an adult point of view there’s a lot to be concerned about (laughs).  Yui herself is too busy with her own things, so she doesn’t have the strength to deal with that yet though.

Yoshimune: That’s your own personal view, not Yui’s, right?  How very elder sister-ish of you (laughs).  Yuuya always fights against his surroundings, and because he wasn’t raised properly like a child he can’t yet become an adult.  Yui is somewhat similar, but in her case what shows on the surface is her soldier side, or her family status – her “public” face is what draws attention so she comes off as imposing.

Nakahara: It’s true that if Yui were really as mature as she appears on the surface, she might be able to deal with Yuuya better.  They’re both such children (laughs).

– Please share the scene from the first two episodes that left the strongest impression on you.

Nakahara: I would have to say the fall of Kyoto . . . the flow of the story strongly affected me.  The process itself of losing your friends one by one surprised me.  On the other hand, what really raised the tension was the first appearance of the Takemikazuchi.  That was so cool I screamed out loud without thinking!

Yoshimune: That scene was so good even the staff working on it were screaming out loud.  What really left an impression on me was the scene where Yui was screaming her lungs out.  When you have a “screaming” scene, I think it normally just comes out as “crying”, but this one really was “screaming” – it was very intense.

– What can we look forward to in the future?

Nakahara: In the beginning I was always with Yuuya, but in the future I will also have scenes with Cryska.  Two girls and one boy usually means a love triangle, but this won’t be such a simple story.  Please look forward to seeing the different characters’ relationships.

Yoshimune: For me, I’m happy seeing every scene.  Just seeing everything moving is very touching, and makes every scene seem new and interesting.  The Yui service scenes that everybody has been waiting for made my heart pound too (laughs).  Still, of course I think the dialogue between Yui and Yuuya is the biggest draw.  In the beginning there are a lot of disagreements, but that clumsy feeling comes across very well, and even the adlibbed parts are interesting, so please look forward to that.

Nakahara: I think fans of the Muv-Luv series have been waiting a long time for this anime, but we have really been waiting a long time as well, so each week we’re very happy to record our lines.  For people who have come in through the anime, the first two episodes will help them understand Yui’s emotions, so I hope we can enjoy the series together.

Yoshimune: We are creating something that can be enjoyed by new and old fans alike.  I myself look forward to each TV broadcast, so I hope we can all get excited together . . . for things like Yui’s bashfulness (laughs).


Total Eclipse 06-07

August 17, 2012

When Total Eclipse was first launched, it was intended to be a 12-chapter side story meant mostly to advertise Volks’ A3 line of TSF figures.  A fairly modest storyline was conceived for it – after all, there’s not a whole lot one can do in 12 chapters, and anyway, it wasn’t at all clear back then that there was even an audience for a Muv-Luv spinoff.  The creators obviously haven’t gone into detail about their discarded plans, but I would imagine the characters remained on Yukon Base the whole series, and to the extent there was a story at all it mostly revolved around Yuuya and Yui coming to understand each other.

But plans change.  The series was a smash hit.  The serialization was extended indefinitely.  Suddenly, a small story about test pilots on an obscure base wasn’t going to cut it.  The creators now saw the opportunity to expand the story of Total Eclipse, to go bigger and feature larger conflicts that were not possible in a 12-chapter story.  But these kinds of changes don’t come about immediately.  They need time to plan out their more ambitious storylines, and in the meantime, new chapters have to come out every month, which can’t launch any new plotlines while they’re still laying out their new direction.

They’ve never said so directly, but it’s abundantly clear to me that this change happened during these beach episodes.  During serialization, these chapters were even blatantly labeled “Intermission #01” and “Intermission #02”.  The idea is simple – having wrapped up their first major arc, they can pack the characters off somewhere on an standalone adventure for a couple of months while they figure out where to go next.  The characters themselves are interesting and well-defined, and good conflict can come from simply allowing them to bounce off each other, without the need to get bogged down in plot.  Afterwards, the characters return in time to embark on a new, bigger story.

As for the anime episodes themselves, there’s not a lot to say.  Given the state of anime today and the sheer number of episodes they have to throw around, it was obvious to me that they would expand this section to two episodes.  I will say that I keep expecting the worst from this adaptation and they keep surprising me with how relatively restrained they can be.  Two episodes is a bit long for this amount of material, and it would be easy for them to pad it out with typical fanservice scenes.  Instead the fluff is kept to a bare minimum, and most of the show’s running time – particularly in the second episode – is devoted to replicating the more serious conversations between characters basically word-for-word.

And that’s pretty much it.  There’s not much in these episodes to talk about, because they were intended mostly as a bridge between the first, rather subdued arc, and the much larger, more ambitious arcs to follow.  It was here that the creators first began to see the potential of Total Eclipse, that there was enough fan interest in the larger universe to support another major franchise, rather than a small-scale side story.

Total Eclipse 03-05

August 2, 2012

I haven’t decided yet if I really want to make a post for each episode, or how often.  I mostly started this blog to translate interviews and such, and that hasn’t changed (look for new interviews coming soon).  That said, I’ve been taking this opportunity to reread each chapter of the novels as they air on TV, so I have a somewhat unique perspective on how the show’s been doing.  I’m thinking I may make a post like this every few weeks, depending on how much I feel like saying.

The major thing that leaps out at me, rereading the novels, is that everything is just a little more dialed back than in the anime.  Maybe that’s the nature of the medium – things just feel more lively than when you read words on a page.  So, for example, Yuuya still mouths off to Yui, but without animation you don’t see him rolling his eyes, and without voices you don’t hear the obvious sarcastic edge to his words.  The net effect is that Yuuya doesn’t come off as insubordinate to Yui as he does in the anime.  And even then, during his first major argument with Yui, he’s well aware that his attitude towards a superior officer is enough to earn him a beating, and he’s a little surprised that one isn’t forthcoming.  This is part of the reason he keeps thinking of her as a “Japanese doll” – she simply doesn’t seem to show the range of emotions that he would expect.

(Don’t worry though, eventually Ibrahim punches him in the face for his trouble.)

Yuuya’s attitude comes from many different factors, of which his hatred of the Japanese is just one piece.  He has serious problems with authority, period.  He’s been sent to Alaska precisely because his superiors know he’s a problem soldier, and want to wash their hands of him.  At one point, when thinking about how he can get along better with Yui, he ruefully admits to himself that if he were capable of adjusting his attitude to please his superior officer, he wouldn’t have been sent to this dump to begin with.  He’s probably not wrong when he says to Vincent that this transfer is something of a demotion.  In fact, part of the reason he feels free to cop an attitude towards Yui is because, in his eyes, he can’t possibly be punished any further than he already has been.

As for Yui herself, her problem is that everything she sees and does is through a Japanese perspective.  Not only does she live in an Imperial Japan that is surely heavy on nationalism, she belongs to an elite samurai lineage.  That colors everything she does.  She opposed Project XFJ to begin with, not wanting foreign input into a Japanese TSF – and she especially opposes having an American test pilot rather than a Japanese one.  So she naturally latches onto Yuuya’s Japanese heritage, hoping to mold him into a “proper” Japanese pilot.  She has absolutely no concept of the tolerance for other nations’ cultures and beliefs that must exist in a mixed-nation UN base.  So it’s not really a surprise that nobody else seems to like her much.  Yuuya quickly bonds with his fellow pilots in Argos Flight, but after a month on base, it doesn’t seem like Yui is friends with ANYBODY.  I find that this quirk makes her a lot more likeable as a character.  If everybody else simply backed her up and agreed with her, she would become very annoying very quickly, and the show itself would become unbearably preachy.  What makes her tolerable is the fact that everybody else sees her as a huge pain, which helps make it clear that she’s not nearly as right as she seems to think she is.

As an example of how Japan-centric her thinking can be, when she first meets Yuuya in the novels, Ibrahim introduces her in Western name order, given name first.  She promptly reintroduces herself in Japanese name order, family name first.  In her eyes, she is probably trying to maintain her Japanese identity in an intimidating foreign country.  In Yuuya’s eyes, though, she is asserting the superiority of Japanese culture over that of her host country, blatantly pissing on the concept of “When in Rome”.  And quite honestly, Yuuya is probably closer to the truth than Yui is.

One part in the novel I really liked was Yuuya growing frustrated when it is announced that he will pilot Ibrahim’s Active Eagle.  He immediately sees that he’s being slotted into the heel role of the “hotshot new pilot who waltzes in and replaces the beloved captain”.  Although everything he says to Tarisa about not being used to the Active is correct, another reason he proposes to switch machines is to avoid this impression.  This is also why he asks Stella about winning prior to the simulation starting – he’s worried that Stella may not put her best effort into fighting her own teammates alongside the new guy.  Worst case scenario, he’s even worried that it may devolve into a 3-vs-1 fight.

There’s a cute scene in the novel where Vincent reveals to Yuuya that the mechanics all have a pool going on whether Yuuya or Yui will “surrender” first.  Apparently, making bets on the various pilots around base is how the mechanics pass the time.  Just look at how into it the mechanics are in episode 5 when Yuuya and Yui are arguing in the hanger.

In the novel, Argos Flight spends their downtime in a bar.  I liked that; it was a small hint that our characters were slightly more like adults, as opposed to the characters in the original Alternative story, who ate all their meals in a cafeteria.  I don’t like how the anime seems to have changed it to some kind of family restaurant.  And I especially don’t like how they seem to have changed it to some kind of family restaurant with a big-tittied waitress who dresses pilots up in cosplay.  That’s stupid.

The anime doesn’t draw attention to it at all so I imagine a lot of people didn’t notice, but in episode 5 Tarisa’s Active Eagle – the one that was damaged in the fight with Cryska and Inia – has been repaired and is back in action.  So as of episode 5, Argos Flight consists of the Shiranui Second, two Active Eagles, and a Strike Eagle.  And speaking of that Active Eagle, one shady aspect that isn’t really touched upon in the anime is how nobody seems to have been punished for that accident.  Yuuya tests his theory by approaching Soviet territory and taking out a drone being used in an exercise by the Scarlet Twins (the anime used a similar scene in episode 5, reversing their roles).  He isn’t punished for his unilateral action either, which leads him to suspect that somebody higher up desperately wants intelligence on the Scarlet Twins and their Terminator, and is covering up the incidents – Yuuya suspects it’s Heinemann.

The incident with Yuuya and the drone is part of a larger storyline that has pretty much been cut from the anime.  Frustrated with his new assignment, Yuuya becomes much more intrigued by the pilots who he saw take Tarisa down.  He quickly figures out that they must be the strongest pilots on the base, and he intends to strike up a little rivalry with them.  He takes down their drone to catch their attention.  And when Argos Flight runs a simulation with them, Yuuya becomes frustrated that he can’t hope to match their score with his Fubuki.  That’s also why he’s so shocked to find that Cryska and Inia are the Scarlet Twins – he can’t believe that Inia is one of the pilots he had considered his rival.