Anime! Anime! – Tetsuya Watanabe

(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.

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2 Responses to Anime! Anime! – Tetsuya Watanabe

  1. aaltomies says:

    Would you happen to have an email I could send some contacts to?

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