Shōji Kawamori on conceptualising Frontier: gut feelings and cyborgs

Continuing my exploration of the creation of Macross Frontier, this week, I bring to you Shōji Kawamori’s interview from the official fan book. Here, the director delves into the real-life concepts that he drew upon, including some surprising elements of scientific research and the complex ecological systems of the Amazon. He also discusses the fold bacteria that are now featuring in Macross ∆, and how they are relevant to the core theme of communication and discommunication in Macross.

“What matters when you want to change something is
whether you can come at it from a different angle.”

Love triangles, singing and variable fighters. Along with the Vajra and implant network that support these three elements from the ground up. These are the background settings that give rise to the immense depth of the story before us. In this interview, we probe into the origins of this fantastic world. Read more of this post

Reflections on Winter and Spring, and Pick that Voice!! Part 1

You really are an idiot!
Yes, I suppose… Indeed, yes, I am…which is why I’m interrupting my regular content to bring you something of a stopgap post…

Last year, I finally stopped writing ‘review posts’ for each and every series I’ve seen. With the way I’ve engaged with the shows I’ve watched over the past few years—a heavy focus on one or two to the detriment of all the others—it just did not seem appropriate or fair. However, because I am quite selective about the shows I watch, I want to remember them more than simply as a rating in MAL. That’s why I gave myself a couple of posts about all the other stuff I saw last year, and was intending to do the same this year.

But then I also gave myself a little game to play for this year: Pick That Voice!!. I have since picked out more than twenty seiyuu, which made me realise that it’s probably more useful to post these results after each cour. So, from here on out, I’ll be writing these short summaries and the results of my little game at the end of each of the Winter/Spring/Summer/Fall blocks of Japanese programming. If I ever get myself down to just one or two series per cour, I expect that I’ll only be posting about the game…but in that case, then I hope some of you will share some of your own Pick that Voice!! results, too!

On special powers, fantastic creatures, sextuplets and zombies!

Read more of this post

Yoshino on the Frontier TV series: triangles, loli characters and working with Kawamori

This is the interview that Yoshino Hiroyuki (Series Composition / Episode Script) gave for the Macross F Official Fan Book, which was released in January 2009. In it, he elaborates on the controlled madness through which he worked with Kawamori and the various producers to create the story and scripts for the Macross Frontier TV series.

I wish I’d translated this interview in full years ago. The first third—which is about the all-important question of the love triangle—was translated by Gubaba around the time the fan book was released, and updated by me a few years later. But what I was really interested in was Yoshino’s detailed description of who was involved in the script meetings and what each of them contributed to the scripts that he was in charge of putting together. It probably wouldn’t have stopped the viewers who were ranting at Kawamori and/or Yoshino over the ending, but at least it would have clarified what went on behind-the-scenes for the rest of us. In any case, I hope you all find it as informative and amusing as I did!

“Won’t the viewers be angry?”
“Probably. But that’s fine, I’m prepared for that”

Frontier, the show that has entertained us with a myriad of triangles—it’s not just Alto, Ranka and Sheryl! We also have the magnificent curiosity that is Grace, Mishima and Birler. Here, we speak to the person behind the colourful relationships that form the basis of our tale.

If we’d settled the triangle, the concert at the Budoukan would have been…

Read more of this post

Teasing out the Joker Game Timeline


Last week, I wrote about five moments within Joker Game that made the show a worthwhile watch for me. However, another factor involved some of the other places where I engaged with it, namely twitter and tumblr. I know that many fans, especially in the West, maintain that there should be no need to engaging with material external to the show itself. But whilst I understand the argument that the show should be evaluated on its own merits, expanding my engagement to these other forums helped me enjoy it all the more.

For example, Read more of this post

The Five Moments that made Joker Game work for me

Joker Game is a show that drew some mixed reactions over its run. Early on, the dark and stylish atmosphere of the promotional videos drew attention, presumably because that’s an aesthetic that Western viewers want to see more of. Given the setting, a number of voices also expressed hopes that we’d finally have a series that seriously tackles the question of what Japan did in the first half of last century.


As the season wore on, however, most people started to complain about a range of things they didn’t like. From the explanatory monologues to the unexplained reasoning that some of the spies used to solve their cases1—I was quite bemused by these contrasting views—and the episodic nature that prevented us from even recognising which of the spies we were watching, much less form some kind of emotional attachment with any of them. Some soon rationalised the latter, in particular, as being reflective of the nature of these men: we’re not meant to get to know any of them because they’re meant to blend in and take on any role required of them. Whilst this worked for viewers interested in learning about techniques and tools of espionage, others found the lack of handles for engagement problematic.

Personally, I found Joker Game to be one of the more compelling shows I followed in the Spring season. Part of it undoubtedly has to do with the veteran voice actors, all of whom have distinctive voices. I picked out five of the eight spies from the PV itself, as well as Seki Tomokazu, and I’m sure fans of each of the other three would have recognised them immediately, too. In any case, that’s how I knew who was whom, especially after I sat down one evening to match each voice to a name and appearance. What can I say? I’m first and foremost a seiyuu fan, after all.

But the main reason that this show will make it onto my 12 Days of Anime list this year is actually due to the writing. Yeah, I know: what the heck is ‘writing’, right? But after months of reading interviews and listening to podcasts about screenwriting, I do have an answer for that, at least for the purposes of this post. Here, I’ll be talking about five character moments that got me completely invested in Joker Game. In fact, these five moments suggest that the show’s writers had a very clear idea of what the show was about: Yuuki, the spymaster holding the strings. Read more of this post

Masterpost: On Anime ‘Writing’ Project

Since I’ve managed to pick up all the interviews I was looking for, it’s probably time I set up a Masterpost for this On Anime ‘Writing’ project of mine.

As many of you will already know, I’m currently carrying out a blog project about the role that anime screenwriters—such as Okada Mari, Urobuchi Gen and Yoshino Hiroyuki—play in the anime production process. All related posts can be found under the tag, but this is where I’ll keep a record of all the editorials and translations that I’ve published as part of it, along with links to any other relevant translations I’ve done in the past.

If you’re new to this project, I recommend starting with my first editorial, where I compared the planning stage of the typical anime production with that of Avatar: The Legend of Korra. A more comprehensive collection of links to behind-the-scenes resources can also be found on ‘White Box’ Treasure. I hope you find this project interesting and informative, and that you will join in the discussion on anime production here and elsewhere! Read more of this post

Kawamori x Yoshino on Creating Macross Frontier


This was a discussion between Kawamori Shōji (Chief Director) and Yoshino Hiroyuki (Series Composition), in which they discussed the genesis of Macross Frontier, the 25th anniversary production that reignited the Macross fandom both in Japan and around the world. It appeared in the first volume of Animage Original, which dates from August 2008. Since it was released during the second half of the show’s original TV run, there is nothing in the discussion about the controversial ending. However, I do recommend this to anyone who wants to know where the ideas for their favourite characters came from, or who is interested in the earliest stages of creating a TV series.

At first glance, “an incompatible pairing.” On one side is the genius designer and director whose unique works such as Genesis of Aquarion have attracted the support of a core group of fans. On the other is the popular screenwriter that has participated in all manner of hits, starting with Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. How did these two creators, who arguably stand at opposite ends of the anime world, come together to develop the story of Macross Frontier? Read more of this post

Catching up on Chihayafuru: Poems 161-165


Before I begin, a heads up: I managed to catch the two Chihayafuru films on the work trip that has helped delay this post by three weeks, so look forward to some reflections on them soon. For the moment, let’s just say that I was glad that I’d been reading William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade

But for now, let’s take a look at a rematch that so many of us thought we were waiting for: Chihaya and Arata face off against each other…but the only person who would know what meaning the match has for them—Taichi—isn’t there. Read more of this post

Sounding off on anime sound design

How important is sound in the shows we watch? Each season, anime journalists and fans alike watch and discuss the shows that grace our screens, generating thousands of words as we dissect the stories and characters of whatever we’ve tuned into (and sometimes, even the shows we’re not watching). Significantly fewer words are devoted to appreciating good cuts of animation, though it has gotten much easier for Western sakuga fans to connect with others with a similar bent. A number of fans might also comment on the voice acting, particular where it concerns their favourites, whilst others will rave or rant about the theme songs and musical soundtracks, especially the work of big names such Sawano Hiroyuki or Kanno Yōko. Rarely, however, do we see any in-depth discussions about a show’s sound design, and the way it influences our viewing experience.

And who remembers this lady? If you don’t, here’s where I got the pic from.

Why is this? What we hear clearly affects our appreciation of a show. For example, if if a voice sounds too old or young, we can fail to connect with a character or even the work as a whole. This disconnect is probably why I cannot watch most dubbed anime—I can’t stand the way Japanese names sound when spoken in an American accent. Many of us also have favourite composers and soundtracks (or lament how repetitive and thus boring they are), as well as favourite anime artists and anime theme songs. But how are these disparate elements put together to greater effect? And is there another element of sound that we barely register, but whose absence would be greatly missed? To tease this out, this week, I look at what goes into the sound production/design of an anime series, drawing on examples from some of the shows I’ve seen over the last couple of years. Read more of this post

Catching up on Chihayafuru: Poems 158-160


The semi-finals of the national team tournament. Mizusawa vs. Fujisaki, and Hokuo vs. Fujioka East. Sadly for our protagonists, both Chihaya and Arata’s teams lose 3-2, even though both of them win their own matches against Yoroshiko and Hyoro respectively. But in setting up a long-awaited rematch that I’ll get to next time, Suetsugu Yuki takes us into the minds of some of the minor characters that we haven’t really looked at before… Read more of this post


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