Anime! Anime! – Tetsuya Watanabe

March 24, 2016

(The original interview can be found here.)

– How did you get involved with this project?

Tetsuya Watanabe: I directed a show called “Kimi ga Nozomu Eien”, and the company that created the original game was Age, who also made Schwarzesmarken.  I think that was how I was brought on.  I always want to make robot shows, but just as I was thinking the number of robot shows seems to be dropping, this project came to me.  I accepted since it would mean I could make a robot show.

– I’m sure you read the novels first.  What was your reaction?

Watanabe: I thought it was like a historical fiction novel dressed up as a robot story.  When I got the offer, I read through all the novels in a rush, and I was surprised.  I thought, “This is what they want to make into an anime!?” (laughs)  I thought it would be very difficult to turn this into a film format.

– Did you think turning the novel into an anime would go smoothly?

Watanabe: The novels describe a lot of things with great detail, so I can use those descriptions to help me.  But the story has a lot of volume to it, so to make it into an anime I have to work on the balance between battle scenes and character drama, and I worried a lot about what to take out and what to leave in.

– How did you resolve this?

Watanabe: The story editor Tatsuto Higuchi-san was a great help.  He would pick up a number of scenes that I had given up on.  He has a lot of experience working on tightly crammed shows, and he’s good at them.  I think he decided we could include them.

– Could you give us a more specific example?

Watanabe: What I talked with Higuchi-san about was picking up the major elements of the novels, and using them to build a story where the characters develop more linearly.  Irisdina is a character that the main character Theodor looks up to.  She’s like Maetel from Galaxy Express 999.  Theodor is somebody who winds up following in her footsteps.

– The novels have a number of heroines, so how did you depict them in the anime?

Watanabe: Irisdina is the heroine we focused on.  We pulled back on Katia and Lise so they aren’t heroines as much as in the novels.

– But in the first episode there’s a silhouette that looks like Lise.

Watanabe: That was foreshadowing for her reappearance.  Maybe I showed a little too much there.

– This story has the deadly fight against the alien BETA, but at the same time there are political elements mixed in, and it’s a very serious atmosphere.  How did you try to portray this atmosphere?

Watanabe: This is historical fiction, so for places like the Soviet Union and West and East Germany, we based them off their real-life counterparts to a certain extent.  It was a very challenging project.  There were areas where we wondered if it was OK to do this.  After getting involved in this project, I learned that the Stasi (East German secret police) that appears in the story was a real organization.  They did some truly terrible things.  There are people who really did suffer.  When I thought about that, I was very concerned about how far we should go to portray this.

– Were there any points that you were careful about as you built the novel’s worldview?

Watanabe: I felt I wanted to retain the novel’s image.  There’s a very suppressed feel to it, so for the anime I also wanted to keep things not too flashy, but not too plain.  Also, since the story is set in East Germany, the show will inevitably have an oppressive image about it.  People in my generation have that sense of what is beyond the Iron Curtain.  As much as possible, I tried to avoid making the show too heavy.

– How did you find portraying the specifics of the German country?

Watanabe: Germany has almost no mountains, so since I was raised in an area surrounded by mountains, drawing that landscape made me pretty nervous (laughs).  The scale is completely different from that of Japan.  The art director Katsufumi Hariu-san helped me out a lot.

– The TSFs performing NOE flight across the vast snowfield is an amazing sight.

Watanabe: The TSFs can’t fly very high since they’ll be shot down by the Laser-class BETA.  That’s why they fly as close to the ground as possible.  There were challenges to portraying it, but it helped that the flat snowfield was easy to draw.  During the first episode, we were still testing how flat we should make the ground, so we put in some bumps.  Then we established the Laserjagd.  As the episodes went on, we started to feel that it was OK not to have any bumps, so we wound up drawing it completely flat.

– The battle scenes are almost entirely in 3DCG.  How was working together with Sanzigen?

Watanabe: I had worked with Sanzigen before and I knew who they were, so working with them was easy.

– The BETA are CG as well.

Watanabe: I was concerned about that part.  The BETA are living creatures, but showing things like getting cut up is not easy to do in 3DCG.  You can’t open a hole in them, and even showing their heads getting blown off in battle is difficult to do.  We tested out a lot of different things in order to show it well.

– If you want the head blown off, you have to create a new CG model to show that, right?

Watanabe: That’s right.  If a TSF slices open a BETA with a sword, you have to create a new 3D model showing the torn-up texture where it was cut.  In addition, the BETA are a mysterious life-form so we don’t know what the cut area would even look like.  We don’t know if they have skeletons either.  We decided to play it like a samurai movie, where after a grunt character gets cut down, he screams and a lot of blood comes gushing out.  That made it possible to portray it.

– I’d like to talk about the Cast.  How was Kenichi Suzumura-san, who played the main character Theodor Eberbach?

Watanabe: He approached the role very seriously.  I knew he was someone I could count on.  After playing Shinn Asuka in Gundam Seed Destiny, he racked up a lot of experience in robot shows.  He pulled the cast forward this time as well.

– Evan Call-san’s music was memorable as well.  In our interview with him, he said we was glad to work on a robot show.

Watanabe: I’m happy to hear that.  After the dubbing for the first episode, our sound director Satoshi Motoyama said “This music is great!”  Music helps to convey a lot of a show’s depth.

– Thank you.  What do you think is the highlight of the show?

Watanabe: Of course I have to mention the battle scenes.  But I don’t want that to be the whole story.  As the novels progress, the memorable story of “Lise’s way of life” starts to come out, so I hoped to portray that well.  I also wanted to show Iris and Theodor’s growth.  I wanted to portray Iris, the perfect woman, and Theodor, who looks up to her and tries to catch up to her.  Coming up, there’s a scene that is kind of like a love scene between two robots.

– A robot love scene?

Watanabe: It’s a scene between Lise and Theodor, but I wanted to see if we could portray it with robots.  I hope you look forward to it.

– That sounds very interesting.  Finally, please leave us with a message.

Watanabe: I’m directing an Age show for the first time in a while.  I worked on robot shows my whole career, but when I had a hole in my schedule, Age asked me to do “Kimi ga Nozomu Eien”.  After that, I fell in love with Age’s works.  Schwarzesmarken is full of that same appeal.  I hope you continue to watch and enjoy the show.

Advertisements

Anime! Anime! – Evan Call

March 19, 2016

(The original interview can be found here.)

– First off, I’d like to ask how you wound up composing music in Japan. What shows led you to have an interest in Japanese anime?

Evan Call: When I was kid, a friend of mine who liked Japanese anime got me to watch shows like Pokemon and Digimon. The show that had the most impact on me was Samurai 7 (2004, GONZO). I got hooked on that show and got into Japanese anime that way.

– How did you become affiliated with Elements Garden?

Evan: That was a real coincidence. After I graduated from the Berklee College of Music, I was wondering whether I should head to Hollywood to do film scores, but the Japanese anime and games I liked had a lot of different genres, so I thought that if I could break into that industry, I’d be able to write a wider selection of music, so I came here on a tourist visa. But, if I couldn’t find a job in 3 months my visa would expire, so I thought that if I couldn’t find a music job by then, I’d become an English teacher. Around that time, a roommate at the share house I was living in invited me to a party. It was a foreigners’ “Super Otaku Party”, so I thought I’d go (laughs). There, when I told a friend of my roommate that I wanted to write music, he said he’d talk to a friend of his, and introduced me to Junpei Fujita from Elements Garden. I sent him a demo and got invited to an interview, and I ended up joining them.

– So you didn’t get in through their recruitment process, but with a demo tape and interview.

Evan: At the time, they weren’t looking for people, but I think it was rare for them to get an application from a foreigner, so they set up an interview for me.

– What did you have on your demo tape?

Evan: A lot of things. Some songs I wrote in college and some orchestral samples.

– Was Elements Garden president Noriyasu Agematsu at the interview?

Evan: A lot of people were there, including Agematsu-san. They were all watching me and I got really nervous (laughs).

– I remember Agematsu-san mentioned you on Twitter in 2014. He said you were a composer to watch out for, and mentioned at the end that you were in fact a really good singer.

Evan: I do sing (laughs). During the application process for college there was a performance test. I wasn’t confident with an instrument so I chose to sing for my test. Lately I like singing rock but I also sing opera.

– You mentioned that you liked metal until you were 18, so what artists did you like?

Evan: I liked European power metal like Blind Guardian and Rhapsody of Fire. Those bands are symphonic power metal. I also liked northern European black metal. Guys who would use death vocals. I actually sing using death vocals for the Schwarzesmarken music (laughs).

– Your music often has a memorable symphonic metal sound to it, so that makes a lot of sense. I thought I heard a track that sounded like that in the Schwarzesmarken PC game, so were you involved with the game as well?

Evan: Yes, I was in charge of both. The anime and game BGMs are linked, so while there are some tracks that are only for the game, there are also some that will be in both.

– I assume you did the vocals for the song track?

Evan: Yes. In the middle I have the main theme motif, and I put the death vocals on top of that.

– You did the death vocals too?

Evan: That’s me (laughs). I hurt my throat then, and for a while I could barely speak (laughs).

– You’ve done the arrangements for songs like Nana Mizuki-san’s “Avalon no Oukan” and Minori Chihara-san’s “Arigatou, Daisuki”, and you’ve composed many other songs, so how do you go about that?

Evan: Generally I follow the orders of the producer, but as much as possible I always try to bring something even more than what they asked for. While I’m bringing my own originality into it, it’s not good to stray too far away from what the producer wanted, so it’s best if I can get something within that range. For example, on Mizuki-san’s “Avalon no Oukan”, we all submitted our own demos. They decided on Junpei Fujita-san’s catchy pop melody, but they also asked for the arrangement to be like my demo. I put in a bunch of orchestral tones.

– How did you get involved with Schwarzesmarken?

Evan: First, the offer came to our company. I was very interested in robot anime, and I thought my melody would be a great fit for it, so I wanted to do it no matter what. I submitted a demo and my profile, with a picture of me riding a horse attached.

– . . . A horse?

Evan: Well . . . (laughs), I didn’t have a lot of pictures of myself, and I thought I might as well send them one that stood out (laughs). It sounds like they really liked it (laughs).

– So they decided it based on your demo and the picture of you on a horse. Is the reason you “wanted to do it no matter what” because it was a robot show?

Evan: Yes. I knew it was a robot show, and when I heard the story I knew it would interesting. I felt I wanted to go all-out on this. I’m very happy to have been asked to do this.

– There have been a number of Muv-Luv franchises, so how did you approach the BGM for Schwarzesmarken?

Evan: Before I started production, I listened to all the previous Muv-Luv series soundtracks. But, I was told that even though this is the kind of BGM they had up to this point, I didn’t have to worry too much about matching them.

– How did you envision the music for Schwarzesmarken?

Evan: Schwarzesmarken is a dark story, just like the other Muv-Luv series. At the very first meeting, I was told to create something very serious. Actually, one of the composers for the previous soundtrack was Taku Iwasaki-san. The truth is, he is someone who influenced me very much. I felt very honored to inherit a project that he worked on. I was very moved when I heard Iwasaki-san’s music for “Rurouni Kenshin”. He is someone who inspired me to become a composer.

– When you become the composer for this series, what kind of meetings did you have with director Watanabe and sound director Satoshi Motoyama?

Evan: Their initial order of music had a ridiculous number of battle tracks (laughs).

– How many were there?

Evan: There were about 60 tracks total. About 15 were battle tracks. The main theme is pretty much a battle track in atmosphere, so there were a lot.

– What kind of image did you have in mind when making them?

Evan: Above all else, I wanted a sense of despair. The main theme is about 3 minutes long, and at the first meeting they told me they wanted each section to have a lot of different twists to it. What they wanted was for the first section to quickly lay out the main theme motif, the middle section to paint a drop of hope in a sea of despair, and the last section to blast out the main theme. I made sure to follow those instructions when creating it.

– I see. By the way, those 60 tracks are for the anime and game combined, right?

Evan: Yes. That would be too much for a 1-cour anime.

– Did sound director Motoyama put together the music order? Did director Watanabe say anything about it?

Evan: I spoke mostly with sound director Motoyama. Also, the game was going to come out first so in the beginning I had a lot of meetings with the game director Hayato Tashiro.

– Did you struggle with any tracks?

Evan: I did with the main theme. It’s a long track, and I was very particular about the orchestration. I also worked hard on the song track, since I did the singing as well. They were all a lot of fun.

– Did they ask you to include the death vocals?

Evan: They didn’t say anything about that. I included it on my own. It was just for my own self-satisfaction (laughs).

– Did you ever hear any reactions from anyone?

Evan: Hayato Tashiro-san told me it was very interesting. I felt like with almost 60 tracks, it would be OK to have one just for my own self-satisfaction (laughs). Of course, I would still have to make it fit in with the story.

– It’s a good match when the music you like to write also fits perfectly with the story.

Evan: Yeah, I really like Schwarzesmarken as well, so making the music was a lot of fun.

– What tracks in Schwarzesmarken do you really want people to listen to?

Evan: I want people to hear the song track I wrote! I haven’t heard whether or not they were going to use it in the anime, but I hope they do.

– What kind of story do you think Schwarzesmarken is?

Evan: It’s a story of people try to grasp hope while surrounded by despair. I almost cried when I read the story. I think it’s an amazing story.

– How did you feel after you finished writing all the music?

Evan: Sometimes I listen to it while I’m on the move. I’ll think to myself, “Hey, this is pretty good!” (laughs) There were times when it was painful, but it’s a show I like very much, and I had a lot of fun.

– What kind of music do you hope to make in the future?

Evan: I like this kind of story, so it would be nice to go in this direction. Of course I like the more slice-of-life stories too, and I want to work on more cheerful shows too, but I think right now the music for a world like Schwarzesmarken fits me best.

– Thank you. Finally please leave us a message.

Evan: I did my very best working on the Schwarzesmarken music. I would be happy if you enjoy the music alongside the story. I hope you enjoy the link between music and story!

– Thank you!