In this interview, we talked about episodes from the latter half of the season when Koide storyboarded and directed the second half of the series, the amazing director Masayuki Kojima, and the changes in the animation industry after the Corona disaster.
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Director Masayuki Kojima’s storyboards that are easy to convey Made in Abyss
-This series is very popular overseas as well. As a producer, how do you feel about the response from overseas?
Shinpei Yamashita: I am aware of it from a commercial standpoint, but I don’t try to make it for foreign audiences in the production process. Rather, we place importance on how to express the original work. Anime is already an export industry, and overseas sales are already higher than in Japan, and many of the subscribers to the KADOKAWA Anime Channel on YouTube are from overseas. However, this doesn’t mean that simply making a product with an eye on overseas markets will make it sell. As a matter of fact, when we released the first PV before the first season aired, we immediately received inquiries from overseas licensees. They said, “This is the kind of adventure fantasy we are looking for,” and I realized that this is the kind of work they were looking for. I think Kevin Penkin’s music was also a big factor. I think the inclusion of non-Japanese sensibilities in the work made it easier to resonate with foreign audiences. The first season and the movie version were highly acclaimed, so we already had a lot of trust in them, which is why we received offers from overseas licensees to purchase the second season as soon as we released the teaser visuals.
-The original work is also excellent, but it is the quality of the animation created by Kinema Citrus that has made it so popular. I think that the presence of Director Kojima is a big part of that, of course. From your point of view as animators, what type of director is Kojima?
Takashi Koide: Of course, Kojima is a great director. Kojima is able to show us various directions in his storyboards, and he confidently draws the storyboards that shape the story. From our point of view, we can easily tell what he wants to create by looking at the storyboards, so it is as if we are working as we are guided by the storyboards. When you work on a video production, you realize that there are many things that can go wrong just because of the way a storyboard is drawn. If the message is not conveyed in the storyboards, the images will be different from what was envisioned.
Yuka Kuroda: It is easy to convey the goal you are aiming for, but it is difficult to realize it, or rather, it is difficult to reach it.
Koide: That’s right. But I think Director Kojima is very well suited to Tsukushi’s original work, which has many maniacal elements.
Kuroda: It’s tough to draw, but the director does a good job of balancing the storyboarding, which is one aspect that makes the drawing process bearable.
Yamashita: In recent animation, everyone wants to move things around, but there are times when it is more pleasing to stop the animation and let it flow. Does that mean that Director Kojima’s storyboards are good at moving the parts that need to be moved and stopping the parts that need to be stopped?
Kuroda: Yes. It is very easy to see.
Koide: It’s not that Director Kojima doesn’t move at all. He also does a lot of everyday movement drawings, but I think he is very good at keeping the same level of movement drawings.
-Was it Mr. Munenori Ogasawara, the president of Kinema Citrus, who offered Director Kojima the chance to work on this film?
Yamashita: Just as Ogasawara-san was thinking of doing something with Director Kojima and Kazuya Kise, I approached Kinema Citrus with a project I had in mind at the right time. The first meeting was held between the four of us, and eventually Hideyuki Kurata, who wrote the script, joined us, as well as the art, setting, and other staff.
-I read an interview from around the time of the first season, and I heard that Mr. Kise said at first that he would only do character design because he felt sorry for the children.
Yamashita: Despite saying that, he did the animation direction for the first episode in the first season, and he also took on the character design for the movie version (laugh). In the second season, Kuroda-san was in charge of the character design of the new characters at the request of Director Kojima, while keeping the setting of Kise-san as it is.
-When did you start work on the second season?
Yamashita: We started discussing the second anime season right after the movie version ended, so it took two and a half years before the broadcast. There are other works that require a little less time to produce, but “Made in Abyss” took about two and a half years.
Koide: It took quite a bit of time just to create the setting.
Kuroda: The residents of narehate village are also set up one by one.
Yamashita: We created settings for about 200 residents of the narehate village. The volume of settings alone is many times that of a normal work, and the design leader, Takeshi Takakura, and his team have come up with a tremendous amount of settings for each and every one of them, complementing the original work. In addition, the tools carried by the Ganja team are from a different era than those carried by Rico and his team, so we had to create all of the settings for those small items as well. I think this work was possible because Mr. Takakura, Mr. Osamu Masuyama, the art director, and other great people in each section were able to think with the same level of imagination as Tsukushi-sensei.
Episode 10 was a wonderful piece of work.
-I believe that you are known for your direction and drawing of action scenes, and I wonder if you are also particular about action scenes yourself.
Koide: In terms of animation drawing, I actually don’t like action scenes very much. I chose action drawing when I first joined the company, and that is why I have continued to do it (laugh). It’s not that I don’t like drawing, but I originally joined the company because I wanted to direct, so I didn’t expect to continue working as an animator for so long. So I am glad to have been able to direct “Revue Starlight,” and I hope to continue directing in the future.
-Did you not work on the animation direction and storyboarding for this film?
Koide: I storyboarded the 10th episode of the full-length anime
-Given the flow of the original work and the number of episodes, isn’t this an episode with a lot of climactic action?
Koide: Yes, that’s right. It ended up being an action-packed episode (laugh). But I was happy to be allowed to direct an animation in Director Kojima’s work.
Yamashita: Director Kojima alone drew about 10 episodes of storyboards for the second season. It is a work that could not have been created without Director Kojima, so it is actually a great thing that there is someone here who can do the storyboards. It would not have been easy to draw this work even if we had brought in someone from the outside.
Koide: The settings are enormous. I was also able to draw it because I was working on site and have seen Director Kojima’s storyboards.
Yamashita: The contents of the 10 episodes are wonderful. Please look forward to it.
Koide: I was only allowed to quietly ride on the portable shrine that Director Kojima carried, so I hope it will be a good and proper one.
-While Director Kojima storyboarded most of the episodes, you asked Koide to storyboard only episode 10, so you had an agenda, didn’t you?
Koide: Why is that? Perhaps because there is a lot of action?
Yamashita: Since the time of the movie version, Director Kojima had said that he wanted to ask someone to work on the episodes with a lot of action, and he had several offers, but in the end, he asked Koide-san. I offered him the chance to direct not only the action, but also the emotional aspect of the episode, as it is the episode where Reg and Fapta meet in the past.
The gap between successful and unsuccessful works is widening in the animation industry.
-Please tell us about the changes in the animation industry over the past few years.How has the environment changed for Kinema Citrus since the Corona Disaster?
Koide: The number of people working remotely has increased considerably, and those who used to work on paper have shifted to digital quite a bit.
-Kinema Citrus was one of the first to go digital, wasn’t it?
Koide: That’s right. No newcomers draw on paper, and we teach them digitally. However, when you produce one or two series of animation in parallel, there are not enough human resources for digital alone. For titles such as “Abyss,” we have veterans who are good at drawing on paper join us, so we are still using a hybrid of paper and digital.
Kuroda: In my case, I enjoy drawing on paper because I can draw with momentum. On the other hand, with digital, I can see and draw details, which is fun in its own way, so both have their good points.
Kuroda-san, do you use both paper and digital media in your work?
Kuroda: Basically, I work digitally. When I work as an animation director, I use paper to draw what comes out on paper, and when I work digitally, I look at it digitally. The final revisions of the original drawings were also done digitally. As I mentioned earlier, digital allows you to see every detail, so you tend to spend more time on that.
Koide：With digital, you can zoom in and out as much as you want, and you can make unlimited changes to the picture, so you can’t take the plunge and say, “That’s it. That’s why I think many people take longer to draw digitally. This is a good thing about digital, so it is a difficult part. I think there are merits and demerits, but I think there is definitely a 100% switch to digital, and I think it is natural that this has been accelerated by the remote work that has increased due to the Corona Disaster.
Yamashita: From a producer’s point of view, the Corona disaster did not cause a major drop in anime sales. Real events were in a difficult situation, but on the contrary, anime is an entertainment that can be enjoyed at home, so the overall impact was minimal.
-What kind of vision does Yamashitasan have for the future of the animation industry?
Yamashita: If there was a negative aspect of the Corona Disaster, it was the spread of a value system in which it is easier to go along with what everyone else is saying is good than to discover new things to like on our own. As a result, the gap between successful and unsuccessful works has become extremely wide. The same is true of “Made in Abyss,” but the situation is such that sequels to popular works are keeping customers in the fold, so the question is how to create new works. I mentioned that animation is an export industry, but there are many overseas customers who come into contact with works without any information, so in that sense, it may be important to expand the overseas market. I hope we can successfully combine the best of both worlds.
Thank you for watching, and we’ll see you soon.
Made in Abyss (World’s largest number of translations)