Interview Made in Abyss Akihito Tsukushi director Masayuki Kojima talk!


The TV anime Made in Abyss finally reached its final episode on Friday 29 September 2017. The story is still going on, but the tough big adventure of Rico and his friends, which fascinated many viewers, has now come to an end.

This time, to commemorate the final episode, we would like to present a dialogue interview between the original author, Tsukushi Akihito, who created such an adorable and harsh world view, and the director, Kojima Masayuki, who completed it beautifully as an anime. They have shared many of their thoughts on “Made in Abyss”, so please take a look!

reference animaite taimes

All unknown worlds are fantasy.  Made in Abyss

-Mr Tsukushi, how did you conceive the story of Made in Abyss? And how did you design the epic world of the Abyss?

Tsukushi: I get my inspiration from a lot of different places. I’ve always loved games, and I was in a game company for about 10 years because I liked them so much. That’s why I’m good at fantasy, and I can create stories about diving into holes without any resistance (laugh). But there are a lot of dungeon stories where you fight with swords and magic. I wanted to make a down-to-earth fantasy story, not like that.

One of the works by Hiroshi Arakawa, author of Fullmetal Alchemist, is called Silver Spoon. It’s a story about going to an agricultural high school and learning there, but when you read it, it describes a lot of things that you don’t know about, even though they are real things. It says that when you ride a horse, you feel like you become one with the earth, or that you have a strange feeling of growing taller. I thought: ‘This is fantasy! I thought. I thought, I can draw a noli-fantasy in this way (laugh).

All: (laughs).

Tsukushi. First of all, I wanted to create a fantasy with a proper path, because things have a causal relationship. Then I had the opportunity to visit the museum Museum in Ueno and saw a tree on display. When I saw the tree on display and it was explained to me that “tens of thousands of creatures live in this one tree”, I thought, “This is it!” I rather than expanding the world anymore, if I could expand the micro-world of trees, I could create something interesting. That’s what I thought.

Kojima : In that sense, all the worlds I don’t know become fantasy.

Tsukushi: That’s right. In “Made in Abyss”, I wanted to make the readers think, “Oh, I see”. I thought that even if it was a completely unrelated lie, if I could make it realistic and convincing, I could make it a grounded fantasy (laugh).

Kojima: In terms of the unknown, other worlds and agriculture are in a sense the same.

It’s surprising, I didn’t realise that the idea for that world view in Made in Abyss came from The Silver Spoon. Next question: what did Tsukushi-sensei and Kojima-sensei each think when they heard about the idea of an anime adaptation?

Tsukushi: To be honest, at first I thought it was a five-minute animation or something. Then I heard that it was 30 minutes long. I thought, this is insane (laugh).

All: (laughs).

Tsukushi: Because, if they’re going to make an anime out of this, I wonder if they’ll be able to handle that…

Self-restraint. Please enjoy this edition.

Tsukushi: That would be insane. That’s why I didn’t have any expectations, thinking that they probably wouldn’t actually do it. I was more focused on the fact that if we were to make an anime, we’d have to speed up the pace of the book. My first impression was, “Oh no, what am I going to do after this, ……” (laugh).

All: (laughs).

— (laugh). Incidentally, at what point did you hear about the idea of making an animated ?

Tsukushi: It was when I was drawing the middle of volume 4, so I think it was around April 2015.

Kojima: It was the same time for me. Ogasawara-san, who is a producer at Kinema Citrus, approached me and said, “I’m working on this next project, how do you like it?” He gave me a copy of the first volume. At that time, I saw the cover and the inside colour pages, and at that moment I thought, “This is definitely interesting! , Well, at the time I was brackets and said, “Let me think about it” (laugh).

All: (laughs).

Kojima: The cover and colour pages were so convincing in their world view that I immediately thought, “What would happen if I moved this?” I could imagine all sorts of things. When I actually read through the book, it was even more interesting than I had imagined, and I was reminded that I really wanted to do it. I think we were up to volume three at the time. Meetings started soon after that.

Tsukushi: Yes, I did. I remember when the director handed me a storyboard saying, “This is what it will look like if you move this”, I was so moved that my body went numb. Just by looking at the storyboard, I could see that the images were moving so much. I couldn’t believe it (laugh).

–What did you think when you saw the finished product?

Tsukushi: I saw the movie at an advance screening. First of all, in the first episode, the expectations I had in the storyboards were far exceeded (laugh). The strange livestock, which I was asked to draw because they were necessary, moved perfectly, and combined with Kevin’s (kevin penkin) music, I thought, “Oh, this is going to be an extraordinary animation,” and “This is something that has never been done before. The director said, “I’m going to do everything that’s drawn,” but I didn’t expect it to go this far ……(laugh).

Beautiful music by kevin penkin

Tsukushi: This is, you know, I mainly answer what they ask me. But the staff asks me a lot of questions. That’s it, digging down to the roots. And they also give me bad advice on the integrity of the setting (laugh).

All: (laughs).

Kojima: No, they don’t!

tsukushi: The way you say it is different. They work with me on the details. For example, I was once asked, “What does the town of Aus do for fuel? I answered, “They have a lot of trees, so I guess they use them as fuel,” to which he replied, “But this town obviously has more than 1,000 people, so at this scale, the trees will be completely cut down in a few years. I had no choice but to reply, “Oh, that’s no good then” (laugh).

Everyone: (laugh).

tsukushi: At the time, I think we settled on a setting where relics that emit heat were placed in key locations.

Kojima: The fact that you can ask questions like that means that there is that much tolerance in the original work. If not, we would not have asked the question in the first place.

Tsukushi: By the way, after the fuel issue was resolved, I was asked, “Well, what do you use that windmill for? I answered, “Mainly for pulling powder” (laugh).

— Do you feel that the visual details of the manga get involved in the root of the setting?

Tsukushi: I guess that is how you can make the design more convincing when it is actually animated. When I was watching the anime, I thought, “I see,” because even the plaster used in the town was drawn in detail.

Kojima: When I ask them about that, they give me an immediate answer. That means they have thought about even the parts that are not depicted. They really helped me out.

The animation was produced while the original story was still being serialized. Did Tsukushi-sensei have any influence from the animation in writing the original story?

tsukushi: There are many (laugh). The biography scene in the last episode was an idea that came up because I wanted to have a closing development in the ending scene. I really wanted to show that ship in the original story. It’s a bit different from the anime, but I redrew the storyboards and ended up putting it in (laugh).

Kojima: That’s great because that’s how you can redraw it.

Tsukushi: It’s really just a small difference. It’s just that it’s the first time or not the first time I’ve flown a message ship. The other difference is the town of Aus that is shown at the end of the anime. That is also a part that has not yet been depicted in the original work, but since we are going to go to the trouble, I thought it would be good to show it first in the anime.

Tsukushi: I was also influenced by the way the characters were drawn. The character designer, Kazuya Kise, is very good at drawing adults. I immediately adopted his style, thinking, “I see, I can draw them this way.


In animating manga–

-The voices of the characters, sound effects, background music, etc. are also very attractive. What aspects of the animation voice did you focus on?

Kojima: As the teacher said a little while ago, Kevin’s music is very good. I think he helped me a lot. It has a different flavor from the usual anime songs.

Tsukushi:It’s all very theatrical.

Kojima: To be honest, I did not expect them to take that approach. So I thought it would be difficult to use it, but strangely enough, it worked. I felt that this was his power.

Tsukushi: It fit those rounded characters.

Kojima: That one is strange. I don’t know to what extent he consciously created it. When I first offered it to him, I asked him to read the original story and “write the song in his own image.

Tsukushi: As I recall, that song was already included in the after recording.

Kojima: Actually, that was not a song that Kevin specified. I said I wanted to use one of the songs from the demo tape, and he reworked it to match the storyboard video. At the time, it was just the chorus, but Kevin wanted to add vocals

All: (laughs).

Kojima: Since it was an OP, I thought that would be okay too. I asked him to do that, and he came up with that great song, so I am really happy about that.

Tsukushi: The pictures are also good. The cityscape spreads out while showing the characters in the distance.

Kojima: Kevin decided on the composition of that as well, along with the camera work. He was very cooperative and enthusiastic, which made me happy.

–The tone of the music was also in keeping with the worldview of “Made in Abyss”.

Kojima: At first I thought the song would be a bit more ethnic, but Kevin wrote a song with a stateless feel. If it was ethnic, it would have been a song melted into a certain country, which would have been counter-intuitive to this worldview.

Tsukushi: That’s one thing that exceeded my image. I thought it would be more Celtic.

–What were some of the challenges and difficulties in animating the grand fantasy world of the Abyss?

Kojima: As I mentioned earlier, my starting point was that I was so impressed with the world of the original work that I wanted to express this world in anime. I knew how to convert it to a different medium, anime, without losing its appeal, because the original story was so well written. The problem was how to make that happen.

Kojima: I have a long career, so I felt that I could make use of all the know-how I had accumulated in that field. I drew 10 of the 13 storyboards. I wanted to do that because I wanted to do that, and if “Made in Abyss” was going to be made into an anime, it was important to make the pictures look good, so I wanted to take responsibility for them myself. Besides, if I decide on the storyboards, it will be easier later on (laugh).

Tsukushi: Already, most of the pictures fit the anime.

Kojima: As long as we have a storyboard, we can make sure that all the staff members have a common understanding of the story. I wanted to include as much information as possible in the storyboards. This time, it was possible to do so both in terms of schedule and my work. I am glad that we were able to do it.

-Despite the harsh and demanding adventure story, the two main characters have a cute visual, but is this what you were aiming for?

Tsukushi: No, there is no aim. It’s just a matter of the design (laugh).

All: (laughs).

tsukushi: Until I was in high school, I could not draw cute or round characters. I focused on how to draw creatures with many warts and how to draw the cut surfaces of those warts realistically. Then one day, a junior member of my group came in and drew a cute, round picture. It was very well received. I thought, “Ah, times have changed,” and started painting with him. As a result, I feel like those drawings became more and more similar.

I had always been good at drawing tough developments, so I thought it would be no problem to do that with the current picture style. That’s why I could draw Rico and the others even if they were messed up. I am the kind of person who used to draw that kind of thing. I was able to take a big stance and say, “There will be a gap, but I don’t think there will be any discrepancy.

I don’t intend to complete the animation.

–Do you have a favorite or recommended scene from the anime?

Tsukushi: I especially like episodes 1 through 3. The reason is that the beginning of the first volume that I drew myself is too hard for me to read again (laugh). It’s hard to read, and it’s not coherent. So I really like the flow of episodes 1 to 3, which were brushed up and made more interesting.

Tsukushi: I also really like how the music and images match each other. I think it was in episode 3, when the leader says, “You’re going to the latrine too, aren’t you?

Kojima: In that scene, I gave instructions for the music to be used, but the sound director, Mr. Yamada , had already edited the music before I told him. He said, “You chose this song because this is what you wanted to do anyway” (laugh).

Tsukushi: Wow, you were really aiming for the right music.

Kojima: Even in the same song, I changed the modulation. I was impressed by Yamada’s skill.

Tsukushi: You can hear the greatness of the song when you listen to it with the sound turned up loud. Then there is episode 10, which changes the color of the story. It was so intense that I can never watch it again. Also, I haven’t seen it yet (at the time of the interview), but I’m sure that the final episode will be my favorite as well. In many ways (laugh).

I would like to ask the director, is there any particular area that you focused on?

Kojima: I put the same effort into every scene, so I don’t have anything in particular to say. However, I was anxious about the first episode because I changed the structure of the original story in many ways. I was confident, but I wasn’t sure what the audience would think. I was filled with anxiety at the advance screening (laugh).

Tsukushi: After it was over, you said, “I’m tired. ……” (laugh).

All: (laughs).

Kojima: Well, I was really tired (laugh). So in that sense, it left a lasting impression on me. Afterwards, I heard the reactions of the people who saw the anime and was relieved to hear that it was surprisingly well received. That gave me confidence for the future.

Tsukushi: We changed the structure from the original work, and there are many parts that have been improved. The same goes for Ozen final recollection scene.

Kojima: That was largely thanks to Kurata (Hideyuki), who was in charge of the series composition. Kurata-san puts it all together beautifully.

Tsukushi: In the original story, I took Liza out at the very end of the second volume because I had to bring a good scene to the end of the second volume due to the length of the book, but I had them extend it further back so that it just coincided with the farewell scene and the emotional scene of the recollection. It’s amazing, isn’t it?

–And now that the anime has reached its final episode, I would like to know what you are thinking about, as long as you can talk about it.

Tsukushi: That’s right. It has a great ending, doesn’t it? But in order for them to continue, I have to draw something interesting first. Yes, I will do my best (laugh).

Kojima: Naturally, I have read volumes 4 and onward, but when I first heard about the anime adaptation, I had no intention of completing it. Rather, since the original story is still going on, it would be more interesting to leave the mystery as it is. Even if I were to complete something, it would not make much sense.

Kojima: So from the beginning, I thought that if I got as far as I could go, I would end it there. But, well, I tried to end it in a way that would be pleasant as an animation. So, if there is an opportunity, I would like to continue from there.

Tsukushi: Even though it’s the end of the show, he says something meaningful like, “I’d love to see you again….

Kojima: I wasn’t aiming for that, but it was like a message to the fans, wasn’t it?

–Thank you very much. Now, finally, if there is any message you would like to convey from . Tsukushi sensei and Kojima sensei, please let us know!

tsukushi: If you haven’t seen it yet, please watch the anime. It is a seriously entertaining adventure anime, something you don’t see very often these days. It faithfully depicts the true meaning of adventure, which is to get into danger. It is an anime that offers real thrills and genuine excitement that I myself can feel in my hands as I draw it.

Kojima: As you said, the thrill of excitement is not unexpected. you have to have a really pure story to feel that way.That’s what I liked about “Made in Abyss” when I read it. When I made the animation, I wanted to express it in a way that it would never be lost. I can’t judge whether I can actually express it, but I would be happy if the audience feels that way.

Thank you for watching. If you haven’t seen Made in Abyss, please do so.


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