Made in Abyss: Golden Land of the Rising Sun,” the second season of the “Made in Abyss” TV anime series based on Akihito Tsukushi’s manga, is currently airing to rave reviews.
This is a fantasy work about boys and girls who challenge the mysterious “Abyss,” a gigantic vertical hole. The story centers on Riko, a young girl who risks danger in order to visit her mother who is believed to be in the depths of the Abyss, Reg, a boy-like robot who protects Riko, and Nanachi, who meets Nanachi during their adventure, in a harsh but exciting adventure. The detailed and profound world is beautifully expressed in the animated images, which have been highly acclaimed by animation fans in Japan and abroad.
Kinema Citrus was in charge of the animation production. The studio is 14 years old and has produced “Revue Starlight” and “The Rising of the Shield Hero” among others.
For this interview, we had the opportunity to talk to takushi koide, who directed and storyboarded the opening film of “Abyss season 2,” Yuka Kuroda, who is in charge of character design, and Shinpei Yamashita, producer of the film. We will present a wide range of topics, from their particularities as animators to the animation industry that has changed after the Corona Disaster, in the following two parts.
In this first part, we will focus on the OP video that Mr. Koide has created and is gaining a reputation for, and the topic of character design that Mｓ. Kuroda took on for the first time.
The much acclaimed OP dares to do only the ordinary.
-How do you feel about the response to the second season of the TV anime after it started airing?
Shinpei Yamashita: After the first season in 2017 and the theater version in 2020, there were many people who were already looking forward to this work, so I was not so much nervous about the response as I hoped that those who had been waiting would be happy. I am happy to say that they seem to have been pleased with it, and I feel that its popularity is growing even more thanks to the efforts of the staff who have been involved since the second season, including Mr. Koide, who directed the OP, and Ms. Kuroda, who designed the characters.
-Mr. Koide is in charge of storyboarding and directing this time as the director of the OP. When did you get the offer?
Takushi Koide: I was approached when I was working on “Revue Starlight,” and at the time I said, “I can’t think about it now,” but around the end of last year I was asked again if I would like to work with them. Then, at the beginning of the year, we started working on the storyboards.
-Did you feel comfortable with your own work after working on the OP direction?
Koide: “Abyss” is a strong work as content, and the fans are very passionate about it, so I am praying that I was able to compete with their reactions.
Yamashita: The work was so good that we uploaded the uncredited OP on the KADOKAWA Anime Channel on YouTube. Our sales team said it would be a waste if the text got in the way, and they gladly agreed to do it. The number of views has been growing steadily.
Made in Abyss: Golden Land of the Rising Sun” non-credit opening video
-It was a wonderful completion of the film. How did you decide on the structure of the film, which is a mixture of the present and the past? I think there may be a part of this op that has something to do with the series structure of the main series.
Koide: Director Kojima is a big name, so I thought he would give me some instructions for the OP direction, but he left most of the work to me. I was able to make more suggestions than I had expected. I chose that structure because of the strong relationship with the main story. Since the main story was changed from the original story, starting from the past and connecting to the present, I thought it would be better for the OP to have a relative distance from the main story, so I decided to move forward with the past and present in chronological order, simultaneously and in parallel.
-By showing them in parallel in this way, I strongly felt that the Ganja team was also a team that had the same yearning as Rico and the others.
Koide: I think that’s because the world of Tsukushi’s manga expands into areas that are not depicted in the original work, and that’s why we feel that way. Also, Director Kojima did not exaggerate the main story, but did it in an imposing manner. Seeing that, I couldn’t help but feel the same way, so I stopped relying on tricky expressions.
Ms Kuroda is also the animation director for the OP. What was your impression when you read Koide-san’s storyboard?
Yuka Kuroda: To be honest, I was surprised after the video was finished. When I read the storyboard, I wondered if the audience would be able to understand it because the timing was cut short, but when I saw the finished video, it was perfect.
Koide: It was the latter half of the video where I made the cuts in detail. The first half of the OP is easy to understand and the number of cuts increases drastically in the second half, making it difficult to understand. However, I felt that if the first half was easy to understand, the viewer would be able to understand it as is.
Kuroda: Did you feel that it would be okay if people did not understand it?
Koide: I thought there were parts that should be understood and parts that did not need to be understood, and since the chorus of the song describes the village of Narehate, I thought there was no need to reveal everything in the OP. In some aspects, we were able to do it because we believed that the production team would be able to gather talented production members, even though there would be a lot of cuts.
Kuroda: I thought it was very cool that the camera work and other details were so well thought out, even in the short time frame.
-How much influence did the OP music have on you when you were cutting and designing the storyboards?
Koide: I was greatly influenced by it. For the “short film” and “Revue Starlight” that I am currently working on, I cut the storyboards first, and then had the music written and cut the main story.However, it is difficult to match the music and the video in this way, so it is easier to create the video work if the music is done first. Basically, I believe that the OP should be 100% song-first, and the video should be created by making the most of the song. However, I have also talked with Tomohiro Furukawa, director of “Revue Starlight,” about how it is not good to match the sound too much. It is true that I don’t like to match the sound too much with the artwork. However, the percussion and bass in this piece leave a strong impression, so I decided that it would be better to match the music.
Yamashita: Usually, the audience wants you to match the sound where it should be matched. However, if the sound is in sync from the beginning to the end, it would be a bit uncomfortable, so we shift the parts that need to be shifted, and the balance feels more wonderful. Not only Mr. Koide, but everyone who storyboards and directs, I am always impressed by their ability to create a comfortable pause and timing to match the sound at the paper storyboard stage.
Koide：Today, the world is full of cool videos, including music videos, and I sometimes wonder what the OP video for an anime should be like. I think it should make the original work and the main story look more attractive, but in other words, that’s the only way to win. So I only do what is normal. There is nothing new about it, it’s just something I’ve been doing for a long time.
It’s hard for ideas for Abyss characters to come from an animator.
What elements of what you have just mentioned?
Koide：For many people, this is a method that they know how to receive, “This is how it should be viewed. I dared to do things that might be “lame” as a filmmaker, such as splitting the screen or following the normal chronological order. I made the first half of the song that way, and from the chorus of the second half, I decided to do whatever I wanted, and tried to use techniques that are typical of today.
-I understand that this is kurodasan’s first attempt at character design. Did you feel any pressure to take over from Kazuya Kise, a veteran artist?
Kuroda: Of course there was pressure, but since Mr. Kise had already created the main basis for the first season, I aimed to follow that, or at least get close to it.
-Do you have a favorite character you created for this project?
Kuroda: My favorite character is Fapta. I think she is cuter than when I first created the setting. The original artist and the animation director who participated in the project interpreted it well, and I was able to see and pick up on it even more and make it look better and cuter.
Koide: The biggest difference I feel between Kuroda-san’s drawings and Kise-san’s is the “wrinkle feeling. I feel that the texture and feel of the skin is different from Kise’s. I feel that the design of the Ganja team has a real sense of having been to various places and spent time in various places.
Yamashita: From our point of view, Kise-san’s drawings are complete in terms of settings, but I feel that there is a range of interpretation that is not finalized in a good way as a picture. I feel that the pictures drawn by the big-name artists tend to be like that, but how do you feel about it?
Kuroda: Yes, I think so. There is a good sense of relaxed power, or a sense of leeway. That’s what I’m trying to achieve, but I don’t have much leeway (laugh).
Yamashita: But the design that came up on the site was something I could look at with confidence.
-What do you think is important when creating character designs?
Kuroda: To make the original artist want to draw the characters. When I saw Kise-san’s designs, I wanted to draw them, so I want them to feel the same way.
Koide: It’s a common thing for animators. I want to do this when I see the designs on the character list.
What is your impression of Tsukushi-sensei’s character designs from an animator’s point of view?
Kuroda: There are a lot of accessories on the body, so I think it looks hard to move them as an animator. But I think it is cool to move them, so I enjoy drawing them.
Koide: This may be true of all original manga, but I design things that animators would never think of putting out first. It doesn’t come from someone who thinks first and foremost about making it move.
-The “Revue Starlight” that you were deeply involved in as an assistant director is an original work, but it looks like it was designed to be very difficult to move.
Koide: Yes, it was. I decided with Director Furukawa that since the work depicted a theatrical performance, the costume design had to look good on stage. In the case of that work, I think that we relied on the stage, which is “something other than animation,” and that is why we ended up with that kind of design.
-I have heard that the quality required in the animation industry as a whole is increasing, and the number of lines in the drawing process is also increasing, making it more difficult. How do you two view this current situation?
Kuroda: I wonder. There are times when I would like to move simple characters. But even if it is easy to move the characters, it is meaningless if the design does not match the story.
Koide: Mｓ. Kuroda has done a lot of original drawings, and you are a person who originally likes to move things around. Wouldn’t you simply have trouble if there are too many lines?
Kuroda: Yes. But I am the type of person who thinks it is cool when a picture with many lines is moving, so I understand both feelings.
Koide: I see. But it just occurred to me that OVAs in the 80s and 90s had more lines.
Kuroda: The explicitly gorgeous shadows are moving, aren’t they? It is true that compared to such works, there may not be many lines in the drawings yet.
Yamashita: In recent animations, the texture is created by processing on filming, etc., so I feel that the level of drawing is raised to the level of the finished work rather than the number of actual lines.
Kuroda-san, I think you draw various types of original drawings, including mechanical and effect drawings. What kind of work do you like best yourself?
Kuroda: I like effects the best. I like to draw a sense of mass or heavy objects moving slowly, so I can do that with effects. The first original work that I thought was cool after I entered the industry was an effects work. I don’t remember what kind of work it was, but there was an old original work left in the studio, and I saw it and thought it was cool.
Koide：Your paintings look quite heavy and profound, don’t they, Ⅿs Kuroda? I guess you prefer dense to light and floppy.
-Do you draw effects in “Abyss” as well?
Kuroda: Yes. I was the animation director for the first season, but I drew the effects for the movie version and the second season. In the movie version, I drew the final one-on-one battle between Reg and Bondrud. I enjoyed drawing the scene where Bondrudo comes out of the smoke with a bang. In the second season, I drew the raging sea in the title cut of the first episode.
Yamashita: That cut was Ms. Kuroda! I used it in the advance PV for the second season. I had Toru Noguchi of Sound Effects create the sound effects for it, and the combination of the wave drawing and the sound effects made it a very good cut. I was impressed when I was making the PV myself.
Kuroda: Thank you very much. I am happy.
Koide: From the point of view of an effects animator, it is very encouraging to have someone like Noguchi-san who can create wonderful sound effects.
Thank you very much for watching. See you soon!
Made in Abyss (World’s largest number of translations)