Dengeki Hobby Magazine 12/2002

July 24, 2016

Here’s a special bonus for everybody.  In the previous post I mentioned that in October 2002, Volks (specifically, their A-Brand division) unveiled figures for 5 Fubukis and Miki in her pilot suit.  A few years ago, I went digging through some old magazines in my closet, and I found this issue of Dengeki Hobby Magazine, which actually had a feature on those new figures.  It was a huge shock to discover that I owned something connected to Muv-Luv from so long ago, just sitting in my closet completely unbeknownst to me for over 10 years.

As a rule, I don’t post pictures on this site because I like to encourage people to buy them for themselves, but seeing as how this is a monthly magazine from 14 years ago, I think we can bend the rules a little.  So here we go:

Some things of note:

The article writer gives Age a few gentle jabs at how the game still hasn’t come out yet, which warms my heart a little – even in 2002, the Muv-Luv tradition was alive and well.  In fact, at the bottom of the first page, you can see the info box read “Release Date: 2002 – under adjustment”.  That’s not a release date, that’s an admission that they don’t have a release date.

At the end of the article, the writer explicitly points out that there is no mech labeled 03, clearly inviting speculation as to why.  Of course, now we know that the reason is because that’s Mikoto’s unit, and labeling it as such would have clearly shown that the Mikoto who pilots it writes her name with different, more girly kanji.  Nowadays it seems clear that Mikoto is the missing character in this lineup, but back in 2002, Unit 03 could easily have belonged to Sumika, Kashiwagi, Akane, or even Kasumi (who by this point had appeared in promotional materials, but whose role in the story was still a secret).

Finally, the article finishes off with a special comment from Kouki Yoshimune himself – although this is from so long ago that the name “Kouki Yoshimune” didn’t even exist yet.  During this time, he was known as “Yoshida to Iu Ikimono” (“The Creature Called Yoshida”).  Here’s what he had to say for this article:

I’ve heard that the modelers at A-Brand are starting to get worried that the robots in Muv-Luv are just a gag, and they won’t actually appear in the game at all (sweat).  For the record, they will indeed appear, so please be at ease!

The robots will appear starting about 1/3rd into the story, and these Fubuki models in particular will appear quite a bit.  Still, this is a bishoujo game, so we can’t give the mechs more focus than the characters themselves.  Instead, rather than focusing on one over the other, we are working to put all our efforts into both.  After all, if A-Brand is going to put in this much work, we can’t back down either.  Those of us working on the game are pouring our souls into making sure that we don’t lose to A-Brand’s figures!

To everyone reading Dengeki Hobby Magazine, I would be very happy if you take an interest in Muv-Luv after seeing these figures.  . . . But to be perfectly honest, I would have wanted these figures much earlier (cries).  If we had had these before, it would have been much easier to draw these robots . . .

It’s a pretty standard statement to give to a magazine, but what stands out to me is the “1/3” comment.  It suggests that, even this late into development (they would release Muv-Luv only 3 months later), they were still hoping to include all 3 chapters of Muv-Luv into a single game . . .


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.

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!

Newtype 02/16 – Minami Tanaka

February 21, 2016

– How did you feel when you read the original novels?

I had heard that it was an intense story, but I made my way through it much more easily than I thought I would. The world it portrays is very cruel and savage, and everybody could die at any time, right? But, there are people the same age as me who are holding on. It’s because it’s such a cruel world that I was sucked into this story of people living strongly in it.

– Even though the story is set 30 years ago, in 1983 East Germany.

That’s right. It takes place before I was even born, so the situation is completely different than it is now. However, Katia’s way of thinking is very close to our generation, which never knew the Cold War, so it was easy to empathize with her.

– What did you think of Katia?

She’s almost like a little puppy, with her head filled with dreams. Even while surrounded by savagery, she’s kind of flighty. Even though normally you would think “There’s no way you can do this”, she displays her ideals in a very pure way. I think that kind of honesty is what has the power to change everybody.

– Amongst her teammates, Theodor in particular thinks of Katia as an important person to him.

In the beginning, he’s always clicking his tongue at her and being really mean to her (laughs). I always think of the protagonist as being this hot-blooded manga protagonist type, so to see a very detached type like Theodor surprised me. Even though Theodor can’t trust any of his teammates, Katia is the kind of person who trusts everybody. So when Theodor meets Katia, he begins to open his heart, and as the story progresses he starts to become more like a real protagonist.

– This is your first time appearing in a robot anime, right?

I felt like “Finally, I get to ride in a TSF and fight!” I can’t experience the feeling of becoming one with a robot and fighting in real life, after all. In the beginning, it was a big deal for me to get to watch all these veteran actors perform up close. The first barrier was whether I would be able to say “666th TSF Squadron” without messing up. After that, there’s a scene where Katia is explaining the names of the TSFs, but even though it was my first time saying it, Katia should consider this common knowledge. I had to practice a lot at home to be able to say it without sounding weird.

– Did the actual recording session go smoothly for you?

It was a big help to me that I got to record Katia for the game before the anime sessions. I understood her from the game, so I had a clear image of her in my mind. I recorded the game by myself, so I had to imagine the dialogue between Katia and Theodor. But for the anime, I had both the film and the other cast members, so it was very easy to match up with them.

– The broadcast is about to start, so tell us what to look out for.

This is a franchise with a long history, but the story is easy to understand and you get sucked into it from the very beginning. You get very concerned about how this hopeless situation will develop, and about the fate of the characters and the future of this world. The battles are amazing, and the BETA are very disgusting (laughs). I think this is a show that many types of people can enjoy, so please watch!

Tech Gian 02/16 – Tetsuya Watanabe

February 19, 2016

– Please tell us what you thought when you first read Schwarzesmarken.

My first impression was that it was a very serious story. At the same time, I was of the generation that saw the reunification of the real-life West and East Germany in real-time, so I wondered if it was really OK to tell this kind of story in an anime.

– Please tell us what you were eager to accomplish as the director of Schwarzesmarken.

I was thinking to move the project in the direction of a war story. I was worried about how far we would be able to take it in an anime production, though.

– Please tell us what aspects of characters like Theodor and Irisdina you paid attention to in portraying them.

For Theodor, I wondered if it was possible to portray him as a protagonist-like protagonist. It’s a standard story for a protagonist to revive after suffering setbacks, but lately it’s uncommon to see a character like Theodor have his setbacks portrayed this way. As for Irisdina, I wanted her to be like Maetel from Galaxy Express 999, somebody that Theodor and Katia could look up to.

– Please tell us a scene from the original work that resonated with you. Also, tell us how you portrayed this scene in the anime.

When I started working on Schwarzesmarken, I felt once again that things like haze and smoke are key ingredients to a war story. As winter grew closer, I became keenly aware that we wouldn’t be able to film the battle scenes in such a snowstorm in live-action, so I was glad that we were working in animation.

– Please tell us what you paid attention to for the TSF movements and battles.

The story basically involves a bunch of mass-produced units, so it was very difficult to portray who was riding in which machine. It’s easy to spot Annet since she has her sword, though. We developed snow as a key part of the visuals, but I was worried if it came out well or not.

– Finally, please give the fans who are waiting for this anime a message.

Schwarzesmarken was originally a novel series, so I consider it my challenge to see how much of it we can turn into a TV series. Everyone, please give us your support.

Tech Gian 01/16 – Nozomi Yamamoto & Minami Tanaka

February 6, 2016

– Tell us your first impressions of Schwarzesmarken.

Yamamoto: I had already played Muv-Luv and Alternative, so as I read the Schwarzesmarken novels I was very nervous about how the characters in Schwarzesmarken, which takes place in the era before Alternative, would survive in such a severe situation. There wasn’t just the fear of the BETA, but the human feud between the East and the West in old Germany, and I thought this really was a story full of despair.

Tanaka: I first read about it in the documents at the audition, and my first impression was that it was full of difficult words. Afterwards, I read the novels, and I thought things like “How will a cynical main character like Theodor change when he meets Katia? I want to know what happens next!” as I made my way through them. The world setting was also very interesting, and it felt like I was being pulled into that world.

– Tell us how you felt when you were cast in Schwarzesmarken.

Yamamoto: I had already played Alternative, so at the audition for Schwarzesmarken, I wanted to get cast no matter what (laughs). So, I wanted to audition for a character that I had the greatest chance of getting, but I wound up being called to audition for Irisdina, which honestly I thought was pretty hard . . . Of all the characters I’ve played so far, most are characters like Katia who are pushed around by the story, and it would be my first time playing a commander-type character like Irisdina. I was worried “Can I do this?” while I auditioned, but I was chosen to play Irisdina, and I was surprised but also very happy. The recording for the game came first, and I would carry around the game script that was the size of a telephone book, and whenever I had a little time I would go to a karaoke box and practice my lines there.

– So you felt a strong pressure since this was a type of role you had never played before?

Yamamoto: Irisdina is a perfect heroine without any weaknesses, right? On the other hand, I’m weak to pressure, and as a person I’m pretty soft (laughs). So I just felt that I had to practice no matter what. Schwarzesmarken has a lot of difficult words, so I wanted to go to the recording having mastered all of my lines. I’ve played a lot of different types of roles, but I may have practiced more for this one than any other role.

– How about you, Tanaka-san?

Tanaka: I was also very happy to be cast. I heard that Katia was “an oasis in the midst of war”, so I wondered how I should play her, but at the first recording session, I was told “Just play her naturally”, so I played her with a voice very close to my normal voice.

– What do you each think about your characters?

Yamamoto: Irisdina is a character who has been through a lot, so she may look perfect and cold, but she also has a kindness that envelops Theodor, and I think she is a wonderful woman. It would be very comforting to have someone like her at the top, and I look up to her as a woman.

Tanaka: I thought Katia was a very cute and energetic girl. I wondered how she managed to live life so cheerfully in such a savage world. She can say something like “We can defeat the BETA if the West and East work together” that shocks the people around her while wearing a calm face, so there’s a part of her that is ignorant of the world. But she holds an important key to the story, so I feel like that part of her is a natural gift.

– Tell us something you paid special attention to, or had trouble with, while playing your characters.

Yamamoto: I paid special attention to bring out both Irisdina’s strictness and her magnanimity. What I had trouble with was tuning my voice to Irisdina’s voice. I generally play a lot of high-pitched characters, so it took a little bit of time to adjust to the way Irisdina would often speak her lines in a low and crisp fashion.

Tanaka: Katia has a pure heart, so I made sure not to forget that. I also took care to portray her earnestness when heading into the battlefield. Also, I’ve only been in normal-style stories, so at first I was worried if I would be able to scream in battle. But during the recording, I studied the other actors and thought “Ah, so this is how you scream!”, and I was able to do it.

– Tell us which character you like besides your own.

Yamamoto: I really like Gretel. Even as she carries many emotional conflicts, she tries to find the right path for herself. I think that is a very difficult thing to do in the atmosphere of East Germany. Despite that, she is trying her best, so I felt that she was very strong, and I felt like cheering her on.

Tanaka: I like Theodor. For this kind of story, I think a hot-blooded main character is very common, but Theodor has a painful past, and his heart has been twisted. Katia helps Theodor heal his heart and allows him to mature. I was drawn to that part of the story.

Yamamoto: Also, I really like Walther. He is strong and dependable – that’s very attractive in a man. I think Irisdina trusts Walther very much, so that secretly makes me happy (laughs).

– Tell us your thoughts about recording for the game.

Yamamoto: The game has much longer expository lines than the game. There were a lot of difficult lines, and I’m recording in the booth by myself, so as the session progressed, I got weaker and weaker (laughs). But during breaks, I would pump myself up by thinking “I’m Irisdina so I have to act more courageously!” Also, we recorded the game before the anime, so I had to imagine what everybody else sounded like. On that note, I had worked with Minami on “Wake Up Girls” before, so it was very easy to imagine what Katia-chan sounded like. Even on “Wake Up Girls”, I thought that Minami could act very honestly, so I thought she was perfect for the role of Katia-chan. So, I felt like I could hear Minami’s voice just by reading the script. On the other hand, I just couldn’t imagine myself speaking so bluntly to veterans like Theodor’s actor Suzumura-san and Walther’s actor Miyake-san (laughs). I had to act those lines while reminding myself “This is Irisdina!”

Tanaka: I was very nervous at the game’s first recording, but as the remaining scripts started to dwindle, I would think “I really managed to record this much!”, and I was left very satisfied when I finished recording for the first game.

– Tell us a memorable scene from the game.

Yamamoto: The game has quite a number of scenes that aren’t in the anime. There are scenes were Irisdina just laughs suddenly, and I hope people enjoy those parts.

Tanaka: There’s a scene at the fortress where Katia is carrying a dying soldier, and that’s the scene I remember the most. In that scene, Katia learned that there are people fighting hand-to-hand, and I was also drawn into the scene as I recorded it.

– Now, tell us what it was like to record the anime.

Yamamoto: When we started recording the anime, I got to hear what everybody else sounded like, so I was glad to resolve that mystery from the game (laughs). In the anime, a lot of important elements are packed into each episode, so you can’t look away even for a second.

Tanaka: Everybody has been teaching me all sorts of things during the recording sessions, so I’m always very grateful. For the game I always recorded alone, but for the anime everybody is together, so I feel very secure.

– Tell us a memorable scene from the anime.

Yamamoto: I like the scene where Theodor is talking to Irisdina in the church. Even though Theodor hated Irisdina so much, he learns what Irisdina is truly thinking for the first time, and his relationship with Irisdina begins to change, so I think it’s a highlight of the show.

Tanaka: Right from the start, Katia gets slapped by Gretel and punched in the stomach by Sylvia, and just gets in a lot of trouble. It shows you what a relentless world this is, but even still Katia doesn’t get discouraged.

– Finally, please leave a message for your viewers.

Yamamoto: I want everybody who has already played Muv-Luv to see what kind of battles happened in the past. Also, we’re currently doing a radio show, and in contrast to the brutality of the main show, you can think of it as a place to heal your soul.

Tanaka: Fans of the original work have been waiting for this, and new fans can experience the Muv-Luv series and spread it even further. Please get immersed in this world and get excited together with us. Thank you very much.

Schwarzesmarken Interview

September 29, 2012

So, I felt like taking a small break from the TE interviews by translating something a little different.  Here’s an online interview with the creators of Schwarzesmarken.

This interview was conducted with Hiroki Uchida (author), Akira Yamazaki (one of the writers for The Day After and TSFiA), and Hiki (the novels’ editor).

Minor spoilers for Schwarzesmarken, I guess.  I don’t think they’re any big deal.  This is supposed to be free publicity for the novels, after all.

– Let’s start with Uchida-san’s profile.  I hear you would write historical fiction.

Uchida: In college, I would write military fanfiction as a hobby.

I don’t know if I should say this too loudly, but I would write somewhat oddball fanfiction like putting *eaf-san’s “T* Heart” characters in a warzone, and put that on the web.

At the time I had no intention of becoming a real author, but as I put out doujinshi, an editor acquaintance of mine asked me “Do you have anything you’d like to write?”  I responded “I might like to write something like this”, and he said “Write up a proposal and bring it to me”, and that’s how it all started.  When I brought them my proposal, thankfully it was accepted and became a novel.

– The editor must have really liked you.

Uchida: Yeah.  I wrote over 20 historical fiction novels, mostly related to World War II.

– And then, how did you get into Schwarzesmarken?

Uchida: At the time, I knew someone in the Age staff, and that person told Yoshimune-san (Kouki Yoshimune, CEO of ACID, creator of Muv-Luv, Muv-Luv Alternative, and Total Eclipse) that he knew a guy who knew a lot about military history, like the Eastern Front of WWII, and gave him my name.

Then, when Enterbrain-san released Age-san’s “Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works”, I wrote a short story about a mechanic for it, and that’s how I got started.

About a year after that, I brought them a proposal for a story about Germany in the Alternative world.

That proposal was set at a joint West Germany/East Germany pilot training academy, and they would get into a lot of youthful hijinks, and then the BETA would start the European invasion – it was a pretty light-hearted proposal.

But then, Yoshimune-san told me “Nah, this isn’t your kind of story.  You like more gritty, bloody stories.  You don’t have to lie to me.” (laughs)

And then it turned out that Yoshimune-san actually already had a story set in Germany bouncing around in his head.  “You want to write this instead?” “Sure!”  That’s about how things turned out (laughs).

– Tell us about your writing pace.

Uchida: I’ve already long since burned through all the chapters I had built up before the serialization started, so now I’m always fighting against the deadline!

This is the first time I’ve done a serialized story, and at first I couldn’t quite get into the rythm of it.  That’s why, I’m very sorry, but I will be putting my historical novel series on hold for the time being.

For now, I’ll be focusing on my Muv-Luv related work – writing a chapter every month, as well as writing stories for mooks.

– Tell us what your goal is as an author.

Uchida: I’d be happy to see my work animated . . . also, for the time being my goal is to put food on the table as an author!

– Thank you.  Now, let’s move on to the main subject.  The original creator and the author are different, so how does that system work?

Yamazaki: As an employee of Ixtl, the company in charge of rights management, I’ll answer this question.

Schwarzesmarken is based on an original story outline from the original creator Kouki Yoshimune.  Uchida-sensei, editor Hiki-san, and I, Yamazaki, in charge of the overall layout of the Muv-Luv series, all get together and decide on the finer details.

Uchida-san is generally the one who expands on the story, delves into the main characters’ feelings, and fleshes out the supporting roles, and then Yoshimune-san looks it over, and if he gives the OK then we go with it.

It’s a pretty complicated project, so if Uchida-san hadn’t volunteered, this title probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day (laughs).

Hiki: For the current serialization, Uchida-san plots out the entire chapter.  Using that as a base, each month Uchida-san, Yamazaki-san, and I have a meeting to work out the details.  Afterwards, Uchida-san writes the manuscript, and Yamazaki-san and I edit the final product.

– So, has the ending been decided since the very beginning?

Yamazaki: This story’s ending is pretty much decided.  The worldview is connected to Muv-Luv Alternative, so we can’t tamper with it.  So, unfortunately, East Germany will not be able to fight off the BETA.  The endings to the main characters have basically been decided, but there’s some wiggle room for the sub-characters.

Uchida: It’s fun to flesh out the characters whose endpoints have already been decided.

After all, one of the fun parts of writing a historical story is to take what has been recorded in the timeline and say, “This is how that event unfolded.”

Yamazaki: Schwarzesmarken is set in 1980s Europe, but we have a project called Duty -Lost Arcadia- set in 2000s Europe.  I think this is the fun of a shared world, that maybe a surprising character will turn up in a surprising scene in another title.

– What parts are a struggle?

It’s a serialized story, so establishing the flow of a story every month is hard.  While finalizing each chapter every month, I also have to think about the structure of the story when it is compiled into a single novel.  And strictly speaking, I also have to think about the structure of the entire story – that is what takes the most thought.

Also, I have to think about the using tactics and terrain against the BETA, and how to deploy the army, and keeping these things in mind while writing is not an easy task.

– What did you think when you saw the illustrations?

Uchida: When I heard that Carnelian-sensei would be handling the artwork, I thought, “This is gonna work.” (laughs)

Thank you so much for providing such beautiful illustrations every month!  I’d like to take this time to express my gratitude to Carnelian-sensei!

I gave Carnelian-sensei the character settings and information, and when I first saw the character layouts she sent back, it took my breath away . . .

Yamazaki: After the author had been decided, Yoshimune-san thought that in contrast to the gritty Uchida-san, an illustrator with a gentle touch would be a good match.  He wanted to find someone with a moe-style art who could draw military works.

However, when Yoshimune-san advertised on Twitter as part of the search for an artist, Carnelian-san volunteered almost as soon as he finished typing (laughs).

You may be aware of this, but the two of them used to work together in the past, so it seems the details were ironed out very smoothly.

– What scene are you fond of in the story?

Uchida: I like the ending to volume 3.  Writing it was a lot of fun.  It’s a scene where Theodor has managed to bring Irisdina and Katia’s ideals to life in some small way, so it felt like all his hard work since the first volume has paid off.

Basically, I like writing scenes that resemble the scenes in robot anime or action movies that I thought were cool, and I hope I managed to convey that atmosphere.

In all three volumes, there’s a scene at the end where Theodor matures a little, and I like all of them.

– Tell us how the title was decided.

Uchida: According to Yoshimune-san’s original proposal, they were the strongest TSF squadron, but also the most hated, so the name should be something like “Death Squadron”, something that sounds cool.

But “Death Squadron” didn’t have the right hook to it, so we all talked it over, and the title Triage was suggested.

Triage refers to classifying wounded allies on the battlfield, with a black tag signifying they cannot be saved and must be abandoned, and prioritizing those with a red tag.  In order to save as many lives as possible, they must choose to abandon those who cannot be saved.  Then, those who are abandoned would hate them and treat them as if they were Grim Reapers – that’s what it boiled down to.

Then, we thought about a black tag, black mark, black verdict.  Black is Schwarzes, so Schwarzesmarken.  We decided that a Russian officer was praising the success of East Germany’s 666th TSF Squadron, and gave them that nickname.  And that’s how they got their slightly grammaticaly incorrect nickname – that’s the story we came up with when we decided on the name Schwarzesmarken.

And then there’s the emblem design.  Yoshimune-san designed that emblem with the horned skull.

– Please tell us the appeal of the TSF Balalaika.

Uchida: It’s a 1st generation unit, but I like the balance between slender and massive.

I bought enough Revoltechs to make the entire squadron (laughs)!

Yamazaki: We had revealed the monochrome design a long time ago, but when we colored it and equipped it with supplemental armor, it looked completely different.  It really felt like a main-character machine (laughs).

Hiki: The explosive reactive armor Schurzen was Yoshimune-san’s idea.  The Type-92 supplemental armor used by the Gekishin and Shiranui has these hexagonal explosive reactive armor on it, and when the BETA come into contact with it, it can detonate.

The game doesn’t have a scene that uses this, but there’s an illustration of it in Integral Works.

Also, in addition to piercing the BETA, the pointed tip of the Schurzen can also dig trenches.

Yamazaki: When the game was under development, the explosive reactive armor was designed, but there wasn’t time to create the images of it, so they had to cut it from the game while weeping (laughs).

In the 80s where Schwarzesmarken is set, when compared to the 00s where Alternative is set, communication performance is not so good.  The data link is still in the developmental stage, so under bad conditions the performance is limited, so some units are equipped with parts on the head to enhance communications.  In Schwarzesmarken, this is Irisdina’s MiG-21PF.

– Do you need permission to create your own terminology?

Uchida: In general I tend not to use original words, but when necessary I’ll get permission first before deciding whether or not to use it.

I do like to use cool-sounding German words as a gadget.  The German language really stimulates the “chuuni” mind (laughs).

– Is it hard for you to express your own style within the Muv-Luv world?

Uchida: No, not at all (laughs).

I get to put in all sorts of things I like, like how cruel the Stasi could be, so my tastes are very much reflected.

The truth is I really like board games, so to draw on that hobby, I include a lot of situation maps (laughs).

– You mean like the active defense?

Uchida: That’s a real-world tactic that I adapted for the Alternative world.

Hiki: The TSF is not a weapon that can do anything by itself.  The performance of the 1st generation units is especially not that high, so coordination with other units like tanks and self-propelled artillery is important.

Building position and holding the line of defense is a major part of Schwarzemarken within the shared world of Alternative.

Yamazaki: For instance, tactics may be developed and used in this era, but they were relatively ineffective, so we don’t see them in the world of Alternative.  Or, TSF performance has improved so those tactics are no longer used.  These are things that we have discussed, and it conveys a proper sense of history.

Also, the fundamental BETA behaviors are not totally understood by humanity, so in this era, they thought of it like this, but later they learned they were wrong.  Yoshimune-san asked Uchida-san to include that kind of setting for people to notice.

Also, they way the heroine keeps getting knocked around is a special feature.  I didn’t think she was going to piss herself.  That must be Uchida-san’s taste (laughs).

Uchida: No way (laughs).  If you put a pure and innocent character like Katia in front of characters stained by war, of course she’s going to get it from them (laughs).  And anyway, if you’re going to talk about people pissing themselves, Alternative had Marimo-chan . . . (laughs).

– Finally, tell us a little about the next volume.

Uchida: The highlight of volume 4 is Liz.  Many new truths will come to light.

On top of that, a major BETA offensive begins . . . East Germany is on the brink!  The Stasi makes its move!  What will you do, Theodor!! . . . that kind of thing.

The thoughts and feelings of all the characters will collide at once, so please look forward to it!

Animage 09/12 – Mai Nakahara & Hitomi Nabatame

September 24, 2012

– What do you think looking back at the prologue?

Nabatame: I was surprised at the first two episodes.  I once again understood that these characters live in a world where these kind of things can happen, and when I thought about being in this world myself, I really was scared.  Cryska appears starting in the third episode, but compared to Kyoto, I thought Alaska is pretty peaceful (laughs).

Nakahara: For me, in the first two episodes, Nabatame-san and Noto-san (Mamiko Noto, voice of Inia) weren’t there, and then we had those developments . . . in the third episode, everybody was there, and I felt “TE has finally begun”.

Nabatame: Also, while I knew that Cryska used a two-seat machine, when I saw the anime I really felt for the first time the proximity and the relationship between the two as they talked.

– What did you think of each other’s characters?

Nakahara: I thought Cryska would be a little more harsh, but she’s more adorable than I imagined.  You can feel that at her core she’s a nice girl.  As for Inia, she looks cute on the outside but mentally I think she’s a strong girl.  I think Cryska is actually the weaker one inside, and she’s the one who needs to be protected.  Maybe that gap is what boys swoon over (laughs).

Nabatame: When Yui was in school, she was so young and cute, it was quite an impact (laughs).  But when you get to the third episode, because of what she accumulated in the first two episodes, she has that quiet strength.  Because you don’t feel that kind of strong will from Cryska, she feels less dependable and more fragile.  Of course Yui is still cute even now.  She’s very bashful.

Nakahara: Being seen being embarrassed is what is most embarrassing for her.  That’s very fitting for her age (laughs).

– Yui and Cryska have also come into contact with each other.

Nakahara: They’ve talked, but only as soldiers, and only about Yuuya – it’s only with Yuuya between them that they first build a relationship.  Yui is intrigued by Cryska, but she herself is still just a child and she has her hands full with Yuuya and herself, so I think she can’t spare the time to think about Cryska.

Nabatame: And Cryska only starts to be interested in Yuuya because she finds out Inia is interested in him.  There’s no connection between Yui and Cryska, and the three of them can’t quite be said to be in a love triangle yet.  I hope people watch to see how the relationships between Cryska and Yuuya, and between Yui and Cryska, develop.

– Please leave a message for the fans.

Nabatame: The story is going to develop in a large and thrilling way.  The cast and staff are all excited about this show, so I would be happy if you can feel that emotion through the screen.

Nakahara: I’m too close to Yui, so every week the day before the recording sessions is always exhausting (laughs), but everybody is putting their soul into their performances, so please look forward to what comes next.

Newtype 09/12 – Daisuke Ono

September 18, 2012

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

– How did you feel when you started Total Eclipse?

Ono: The Muv-Luv series is a world setting on an enormous scale, and this is the first anime series made from it.  Yuuya is a character in Total Eclipse, but he shoulders the expectations of this entire world, so I felt a lot of pressure.  I prepared for it by reading up on the original work and the world setting.

– What did you feel when you first saw actual footage from the series?

Ono: It was powerful.  I was especially surprised at the weight of the TSFs.  Recent robot anime seem to focus on “speedy movements”, but these were clearly heavy.  They felt like real “weapons of war”.  More than anything else, the weapons just feel vivid.  The sound of gunfire, the light of lasers, the sensation of swords colliding . . . they all convey a sense of pain.  There’s a reality there that arouses your sympathy.  I think that’s the charm of TSFs.

– The use of military jargon everywhere is another charm point.

Ono: It’s tough using specialized language to argue with Yui (laughs).  Particularly talking while in the cockpit, there’s a lot of messages and alerts to give, so it’s hard to put emotion into them.  I hope some of that irritation gets conveyed.  Also, I’d like people to pay attention to the operators’ lines.  Hearing their long string of status reports is one of the true pleasures of SF anime.  Completely different from the kinds of lines you put emotion into, they are the special highlight of SF.

– In episode 3, Yuuya finally appears, and the story begins to move.

Ono: Yuuya just feels very young.  Yoshimune-san once told me “Yuuya is a lot like me when I was younger”, and that really stayed with me.  When you’re young, you’re very brash, conceited, and you can’t see what’s around you.  I hope I can bring out the embarrassing parts and the self-loathing parts that are a part of every young man.

– Yuuya’s growth is a major axis for the show.

Ono: He can’t seem to break out of his shell, and that can frustrate him.  But in a way he also has a magnetic personality.  He always has people close to him who can offer advice or have his back.  Even in Alaska, he makes friends quickly.  He’s young, green, and can’t see what’s around him, but he has a human feel to him and he can attract the people close to him.  That’s a fun part of him to play.

– Episode 5 seems to foreshadow Yuuya’s growth.

Ono: He began to see himself in the Shiranui Second, and he was able to accept his Japanese blood just a little bit, showing some mental growth.  On the other hand, I think it was also a scene where Yui showed off how amazing she is.  She wanted Yuuya to see something in the midst of battle, so she chose to fight him on her own – she wouldn’t do that unless she can see the big picture.  What Yuuya learned from the battle was that “I have to get stronger” – he can’t catch up to Yui, who sees the battle on a much larger scale.  He’s still got a long way to go (laughs).

– Yuuya also seems concerned with the Scarlet Twins.

Ono: Those two are still very much a mystery, but we can slowly start to see his association with Inia.  I think Inia is a type of person that Yuuya didn’t have around him.  She’s the type of person who goes beyond military and work, and approaches him with raw feelings.  It’s not romantic in nature, but perhaps he felt the warmth of another person.

– The series is now approaching its 7th episode, so tell us what to expect coming up.

Ono: Although the highlight of SF robot anime is the mecha battles, episode 7 features the show’s other draw, the appeal of the girls.  You can pay special attention to the process of Yuuya and Yui’s hearts growing closer.  Yuuya is pretty thick, and Yui has the bashfulness of a good old-fashioned Japanese woman.  Their feelings run along parallel lines, never getting closer, so please enjoy their frustration (laughs).

Newtype 08/12 – Takayuki Inagaki

September 1, 2012

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

– That shocking opening was an anime original development different from the original novel.

Inagaki: Because the original work has a very unique world setting.  In order to insure that the characters’ actions and words are convincing, I believed that people must know the basic worldview.  Why are they fighting, and why are there TSFs?  For instance, if you watch a World War II film, you can’t feel the weight of it unless you understand the state of the world at that time.  Instead of having the war as a background detail, we needed to see just what the characters are experiencing at the core.

– We also got to see Yui’s more personal side, rather than her military side.

Inagaki: In the original novel, Yui was portrayed as a mature soldier from the very beginning.  In our original episodes, We focused on Yui from the past.  It’s like, having gained the experience from the battles shown in the first two episodes, Yui becomes a more proper soldier, and sees things at a higher level than Yuuya and the others.  Without this impression, when Yuuya and Yui argue, they just sound like they’re throwing insults at each other (laughs).  As a result, you can’t see what they’re actually trying to say.  In a sense, Yui has the same kind of mental issues as Yuuya, so we chose to establish the character’s backbone by portraying her first.

– Since we’ve seen the real battlefield, we can understand Yui’s frustration with Yuuya and the others.

Inagaki: Unless we understand her backbone, she comes across not as a “tsundere” but just a “tsun”.  So that people can acknowledge her as the heroine, we took great care to show her personality.

– How were you thinking to approach the fans who learned of Total Eclipse through the anime?

Inagaki: Ideally, both longtime fans and new anime fans should be able to enjoy this.  We are aiming to create something that new fans can understand easily, such as including these original developments.  Starting with episode 3, we will be following the original novels, but I think we’ve made something where even first-time viewers can follow the flow of the story.  The original novels included a lot of logic surrounding the larger world, but this is a 20-minute episodic animation, so we’ve made the human drama the foundation.

– The character designs seem to be even more mature than the novels.

Inagaki: That is because this is fundamentally a story about life and death.  In this world setting, we still use guns and other weapons that exist in real life as well, so rather than the more anime-type deformed character style, I think a more realistic approach would fit better.  I wanted something that doesn’t appeal only to this era, but matches the reality of the drama.

– The first two episodes also had anime-original characters.

Inagaki: As far as their design goes, we on the anime side were the ones who created their settings.  As an aside, one of the characters was intentionally made to resemble Cryska’s mood, so that it would foreshadow the rivalry between her and Yui.

– There are a lot of points to pay attention to visually as well.

Inagaki: For instance, look at the photographic processing for the pilot suits.  We went through a lot of trial and error, and it sure was a lot of trouble (laughs).  Also, I’d like to be able to respond to the fans’ hopes regarding the mecha portrayals.  Regarding the TSFs, I’ve mainly asked for the image of “something with a lot of weight moving”, and although in a sense this is the complete opposite of that, I also want to show that exhilarating feeling.  As a Tactical Surface Fighter is supposed to be based on our own tactical fighters, we can’t lose that sense of exhilaration.  I would like to be able to include both of these contradictory portrayals.

– The long-awaited appearance of the BETA is also something to watch for.

Inagaki: The test footage looked so lifelike it was actually a little disgusting to look at (laughs).  This time, the BETA will be drawn in CG, but the samples were even more shocking than I had imagined.  I come from an animator background, so I can imagine how a picture will turn out, but with enough effort CG could actually be mistaken for the real world.  I think we’ll have to adjust things so it will be suitable for broadcast (laughs).

– Starting with episode 3, the stage will move to Yukon Base, and the story will start to move.

Inagaki: Although this is a work with appealing points like TSFs and the BETA, the main focus is the ensemble love drama.  Please keep an eye on the drama of the various characters.  Yui and Yuuya’s collision is the start of the story, and from episode 4 on the gears will start to turn, and as we reach the turning point the show will become even more interesting.  I think that this point will be easy to understand and easy to enjoy for both fans of the original and new anime fans.