Kawamori Shoji talks ‘story’ in Macross Frontier

This is Kawamori’s interview from 2059: Memories, which was published in October 2008. (Which means that I should really have tackled this interview before I did the fan book ones…oh well…) The interview was accompanied by a short commentary on each Frontier episode. I’d originally planned to dig up a friend’s old translations…and then I found out he only did five of them, after which I realised that there’s a heck of a lot more text than I originally thought.1 All of which is to say…I wasn’t able to finish them this week, so they’ll be in a follow-up post. Until then, here’s the last of the interviews that I’ll be doing for the Frontier TV series.

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Kawamori Shōji
Born in 1960, and hailing from Toyama Prefecture. A visionary creator active in a wide variety of roles, ranging from developing original works, scriptwriting and directing to mecha design. He’s produced work not only for the screen, but also toys, games and various publications. Most representative of his anime oeuvre are the many entries in the Macross series. As a director, he’s also worked on shows like Genesis of Aquarion (2005) and Earth Girl Arjuna (2001).

Is there anything that happened during production for Macross Frontier that has left a deep impression on you?

There are many things like that, but first and foremost, we actually wanted to have it on air one year earlier. Read more of this post

Sound! Euphonium at the theatre: a performance to behold

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July 1st, the final screening of the Sound! Euphonium film at Sunmall Cinema

I can’t believe it’s already been 10 weeks since I saw Sound! Euphonium at the cinema. In fact, it’s been so long that the BD has now been released, and I’m wondering if you will actually believe that I did, in fact, write this review based on a trip to the cinema back in July.1 That’s a slightly depressing thought, considering that I had to take a 5-hour round journey out from Tokyo to find a screening in a small-town mall. I’ve taken day trips out of Tokyo before…but that’s the first time I’ve ever taken a day trip to see a film—at about $40, the train fare cost more than everything I bought at my destination! But…was it worth it? Absolutely.

** WARNING ** SPOILERS AHEAD **

They’re pretty slight, as I’m mostly referring to changes between the two versions of the narrative. But I still strongly recommend that you see the film for yourself first! —karice

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Kikuchi Yasuhito: Remembering Love via Macross Frontier

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“Basically, we just go at it right from that first chord.
If there’s a problem somewhere, we’ll think about it later.”

The vivacious and rhythmic scenes unfolding on the screen, which words cannot describe. Be it the battles or the concerts, the life in the imagery is unmistakable! We speak with series director KIKUCHI Yasuhito, who has brought us this extravagance, about the ideas behind the direction of Macross Frontier.

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The inner strength of Mirage Farina Jenius

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As many people would know, Macross Delta is the show that I’ve been following most fervently these past two seasons. The vibe on the show has been somewhat mixed, though relatively positive until the show took a quiet and information-heavy turn over the last few weeks.1 Relatively positive, that is, except with regards to Mirage. Many of the fans who declared for her in the early episodes have become increasingly disillusioned with her character and story arc. Unlike Sheryl from Frontier and Misa from SDFM, the word is that she does not have the qualities that a main character deserves. In a word, she just isn’t anything “special.”

It took me quite a while, but I can now confidently say that I completely disagree with that reading of Mirage. Disclaimer: I’m a Freyja fan, and even now, she’s still my favourite character. Hence, even though I was also amongst the crowd wondering out loud if Mirage was ever going to step up and do something interesting, it never really bothered me that she hadn’t. That is, until the last month or so, when disappointed fans really started ranting about her online, particularly after episode 20 seemingly cemented her place as the ‘support role’ in the triangle. But I found something more in that episode’s key scene. I saw a rather unusual character arc for Mirage, one that is grounded completely in the notion that she isn’t special. In fact, that is precisely what makes her so inspirational.

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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.

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“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

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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!

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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!

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“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…

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Teasing out the Joker Game Timeline

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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 engage 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.

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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

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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 ‘writing’ stages 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