Translation: A special dialogue with Aoki Ei and Nagano Toshiyuki
October 25, 2015 8 Comments
From Animedia, May 2015 (scans here)
I am so drained from all the translations I’ve been doing over the last week that I’m not sure how lucid my (brief!) comments here will be… In any case, here’s the second interview that I summarised back when those post-series articles were first published. Most of the questions that I didn’t include in the summary are about what it was like learning how to incorporate CGI into a show — I found them pretty interesting, though I don’t really expect many others to feel the same way. However, one thing that became clearer for me after rereading this interview was what Aoki’s original ideas for both Slaine and Inaho were. So as not to disrupt the flow of the interview, my comments on them are the end of this post — I sense that what I have written there would raise the ire of many a Slaine fan…but well, I’ll steel myself for any fallout. Hopefully, it’s been so long since the series ended that there won’t be one…
Disclaimer: As always, this translation is entirely my own work, so any mistakes and awkward turns of phrases are mine (although I would very much appreciate it if anyone who spots a problem leaves me a comment so that I can correct it).
You are welcome to link to this or quote parts of it, but please don’t copy and paste substantial amounts elsewhere.
And without further ado…
Striking out where no one has gone before: the blood and tears of forging an original work
– How do you feel, looking back on the production of A/Z?
Aoki: For us at TROYCA, an anime studio formed so recently, this was our first work. Having taken on one of the leading roles in the company, you could say that I hardly knew what was left and what was right. On top of that, a mecha anime is something that takes up a lot of time and effort. Looking back now, we were probably a bit crazy to take this on…
Nagano: That’s true… To tell the truth, we’ve had several conversations about this, about how it would have been better if we’d done something a bit lighter, something a little more relaxed (chuckles). From my position as the person responsible for sorting out who and what we need (i.e. the line producer), there were a lot of materials that we needed to prepare because it was an original work. Furthermore, none of us–Aoki and myself included–knew much about 3DCG. So we were rather stressed out right from the start.
|By-the-by, the MdN magazine specials on how the fonts, colours and publicity posters etc
were developed are also pretty interesting.
Aoki: Mecha series really do require a mountain of preparatory materials. In our case, we had lots of characters and a large variety of different Kataphracktoi as well. Add to that the spaceships and landing castles, and the Lunar Base…there were loads of setting materials that we had to create for our version of the world. All of the robots were done in 3DCG, but this was the first time that I’ve been involved in a production that used such techniques. So, at first, I believed that “Even though we’ve got so many robots, it’ll be fine because they’ll all be done in CG!” Quite a delusion, that was (chuckles).
Nagano: Since I was completely new to this, I thought that once the modelling has been done in 3DCG, all you’d need to do is insert that into the scenes, so it’d be easier than drawing by hand… Of course, the reality turned out to be quite something else.
Aoki: For the 3DCG, we asked A1-Pictures and other people outside TROYCA for their help. If all that the scenes required was for close-ups of the Kataphracktoi, then we certainly could have left it all to them. But the battle scenes take place against various backdrops, so our background artists needed to draw those buildings and mountains according to the ‘passlines’ (= lines of perspective) laid on top of the CG. Furthermore, effects such as explosions and details such as the fragments from destroyed Kataphracktoi all need to be dealt with during our animation production process. But who would do that, and how? At first, we had no idea how much work that would be, so it was quite chaotic in the studio, but as time went on and the episodes came to fruition, we slowly got the hang of it.
– What did you feel was the most difficult thing during production?
Aoki: Since it was a completely original work, as the director, I was really worried. When it’s based on some other work, you can just refer to that whenever you’re stumped. But when you’re creating an original work, it’s like you’re going out into the open ocean without a map or even a compass. Given the multitude of paths that the story can take, you feel a lot of pressure having your hand on the rudder, steering the vessel in the direction that you think is best.
Nagano: And it’s not like you can just do whatever you want: you need to feel your way down the best path with the limited funds at your call.
Aoki: The amount of funding limited the number of Katophraktoi that we could create, and so it was also a waste to have them just appear in one episode, just to be taken down. So we needed to build a story where we could make the most of them. To put it another way, “cost-effectiveness” was something that we had to keep in mind as we went about making this series.
|Is that one of the reasons Argyle and Hellas were two-episode fights?|
– And after all this time you’ve spent in production, what do you feel are the fruits of your labour?
Nagano: There’s a saying that “Trouble is worth your while even if you have to by it,” and that’s precisely what it felt like. We ran into numerous challenges, but all of that went into the blood and bones of our staff at TROYCA. In particular, we got a lot from being so deeply involved in the 3DCG production process.
Aoki: TROYCA is still a very young company, but we’ve gained a lot of confidence from having made it through to the end with Aldnoah.Zero. It was a really high mountain, but I’m really glad that we managed to climb it.
The places that the three arrived at
– Out of all the paths you could have taken, could you tell us how you came to this particular conclusion?
Nagano: The idea that Asseylum would marry someone in order to bring about peace between Earth and Vers was in the original plot outline that Urobuchi came up with. However, we didn’t really have a clear idea of what would happen to Inaho and Slaine at the very end.
Aoki: The very first idea I came up with was that Inaho would become isolated from those around him because of his one-minded drive to save Asseylum, whilst Slaine would similarly isolate himself in his obsessive quest for power. Denied by the world that surrounds them, the two would fight their final battle and fall to Earth, where they’d live, hidden away in some quiet little corner… But because that conclusion was too dark for a TV series, it turned into something with just a little more salvation in it.
– That Asseylum married Klancain was really surprising.
Aoki: Urobuchi’s plot presented this image of Asseylum placing her duty as Empress first, sealing her own personal feelings away and marrying a Vers Knight in order to be able to call on both sides to end the war. When I first read that, I was really taken in by her. Hence, right from the start, we worked on crafting the story towards her making that decision.
– But still, it was a bit of a shock to see Cruhteo’s son run away with everything, even though he only appeared a few episodes before the end…
Aoki: What was important wasn’t so much which character Asseylum married, but rather that she made the decision to marry an Orbital Knight with the political power to back her call for peace. Hence, our original plan saw her marrying one of the middle-aged male knights. We also considered having her marry Mazuurek. However, it would have been strange for her to marry some old bloke that showed up at the end just for that, and whilst Mazuurek is a good person, his position amongst the Knights means that he simply doesn’t have the kind of authority we’re talking about. That’s where someone proposed the idea of “Cruhteo’s son” being the person she marries.
|The declaration that the story was crafted towards…|
Nagano: Within the Orbital Knights, Cruhteo’s standing was about the same as Saazbaum’s. On top of that, since Slaine had formerly served him, and had ‘inherited’ the Tharsis, you could say that they had a fateful connection, too.
Aoki: That said, at first, you really pushed the ‘romantic love ending’ where Asseylum would end up with the person she loved.
Nagano: Since this story was more or less very thin on ‘romance’, I thought that it wouldn’t hurt to do that (chuckles). But if we’d gone with it, then the one that didn’t end up with her would have met an really unrewarding end.
– In the end, how did Inaho and Slaine feel about Asseylum?
Aoki: In Inaho’s case, the analytical engine in his fake eye said that “he misidentifies her as part of himself.” But I doubt that Inaho himself would be able to express in words how he feels about Asseylum. Slaine, too, has strong feelings for her, a mix of (romantic) love, respect, yearning and esteem. Basically, she’s someone that he treasures. That said, I’d be happy if viewers decide for themselves how Inaho and Slaine think and feel.
|In the end, Lemrina was the only character who clearly stated her feelings.|
The state of Earth and Vers after the final battle
– What happened to the rest of the Orbital Knights after that battle?
Aoki: Some of the knights accepted Asseylum’s declaration and have started along the path of coexistence with Earth. But I’d say that there are others who refuse to go along with her intentions and will resist to the bitter end. By-and-large, the war between Earth and Vers is over, and various governments are in the process of establishing peaceful and friendly relations. However, there are a few regions where conflict is still ongoing. In the first place, whilst the Vers Knights followed the Emperor’s direction, they are aristocrats possessing a certain degree of autonomy, so there’d be a few who would want to keep the lands that they’ve claimed. Hence, the fighting isn’t completely over yet.
Nagano: The trade between Earth and Mars has Vers providing Aldnoah technology in return for the resources that they need, so it’s of equal value to both. At the very least, the life of people on Mars will improve from what it has been up to this point.
– What benefits does Earth get from obtaining access to Aldnoah?
Aoki: You can basically think of Aldnoah as ‘a great source of energy’. If its power is distributed widely enough, then the energy problems that Earth has should see some positive developments.
|Aldnoah Reactor 01: will this lead to the end of ‘resource wars’?|
– I see. By the way, for a show about an interplanetary war, relatively few of the main characters died. That was rather unexpected.
Aoki: Well, as their creators, we do have a lot of emotional attachment to them. As we developed the story, we also began to feel that we didn’t want to kill anyone just for the sake of killing them (lit: if it had no meaning). It’s one thing if a character’s death has real significance within the story, but I don’t think it’s good to just cut off a young life in the bud.
Nagano: For example, the death of his friend Okojō was what cemented Inaho’s determination to step up himself and fight. Then we had Cruhteo’s death, which meant that Tharsis would come into Slaine’s hands. And finally, it was through Saazbaum’s death that Slaine obtained a large amount of political power. These three deaths are the ones that you can say, with certainty, had meaning.
|In terms of homages, this is an easy one to pick…|
The many fruits obtained from the difficult production process
– Across all 24 episodes, which of the battles has left the deepest impact on you?
Aoki: For me, it was the Nilokeras fight in the second episode. That was the first time we’d attempted to animate a robot battle in 3DCG, and it became clear just how much more complicated and difficult the process was than we’d ever imagined. We’d only just started the production process, but it was like we’d fallen into a scene of carnage, like “there’s no way we’re going to make it like this…”
Nagano: Whilst working on that episode, we even held an emergency meeting about what we should do from here on, right? At least we can look back on it fondly now.
– The different abilities that the Vers Kataphraktoi had were also memorable.
Aoki: At first, we just went with stuff from the classics, like barriers and beam sabres. But towards the end, there were some pretty unique Kats, huh? Like “let’s go with yo-yos this time!” (chuckles) Paying homage to classic mecha series was one of the things that made this fun for us creators.
Nagano: There was a plan for one with teleportation abilities too, but we ended up not using it. Takayama Katsuhiko, who was responsible for Series Composition, also wanted to go with one that would expand in size by absorbing things from the surroundings, as in the game Katamari Damacy. He really held onto that idea. But making that happen with CG would have been really difficult, so we had to shelve it.
Aoki: In the end, that idea became Ortygia’s replication ability. We felt that this would give us the better chance of success.
|What you can end up with in Katamari Damacy…!|
– Finally, do you have a parting message for the fans?
Nagano: We were only able to make it all the way to the end because of all of you fans, who kept giving us your feedback. For example, recently, we were really motivated by all the Valentine chocolate you sent to the characters. The largest bounty went to Inaho, followed by Slaine, and Cruhteo and Marito also received some. We’ve received a whole lot of messages from you, our audience, and no matter what the content of those messages were, we’re really grateful that we got such a big response to this show.
Aoki: This really is a show that was possible because there were people supporting us. I don’t really believe in the adage of “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” but all of your voices really helped prop us up even as we fought right down to the very last minute. So thank you very much for watching Aldnoah.Zero all the way through to the end.
|source: Aoki Ei|
And some quick comments:
Personally, I really like the character arcs we got. I’ll leave aside Inaho for the moment (there’s another interview where Aoki summarises what his character arc actually was, and it’d be interesting to see if any Western AZ viewers actually picked up on it), but to be honest, I think that the original idea for Slaine would have made me dislike him. Why? Well, the original character differs from the one we got by two key points. First, he wasn’t devoted to the princess, at least, not to the same extent; and second, his quest for power wasn’t about protecting someone else, but rather about revenge (and probably power for power’s sake). The vibe I’ve gotten from parts of the fandom suggests that many Slaine fans would love to have seen this character instead. However, those traits suggest to me a rather more ruthless character that may not really have cared for anyone else. By contrast, the character we got was someone who cared a lot, but chose to kill those feelings because he wanted to protect the one person he cared about the most. Personally, the main reason I feel for Slaine is that I understand why he felt he had to harden his heart; if he didn’t have those kind feelings that he had to kill, I wouldn’t have felt for him at all. Instead, he’d probably have been a villain that I’d have been happy to see dead. This is all also connected to why I think the ending we got holds the most promise for Slaine’s happiness in the future…but that’s an essay for another day.