Translation: Ito Tomohiko x Sanbe Kei on ERASED

ERASED [Boke Dake ga Inai Machi, aka BokuMachi]

A Dialogue between Sanbe Kei (Mangaka) and Itō Tomohiko (Director)

an interview posted on the website sometime in February.

As always, this translation is entirely my own. You’re welcome to link to it, but please do not copy and paste too much of it elsewhere. Otherwise, enjoy.

The Suspense Genre

——Director Ito, could you share with us once again what you thought when you first started reading this manga?

Ito: It’s nerve-wracking to do this with Sanbe-sensei right in front of me…(laughs) but I was really drawn in by how I couldn’t predict what would happen—everything was beyond my imagination. Though I really enjoyed that, the feeling of having my own predictions overturned. From the point of view of being just another reader, I found it really interesting.

Sanbe: On my part, I was always thinking about how I could create that ‘pull’, that key to what makes a suspense story work. As I progressed, there were things that changed from what I’d originally planned, but I think it pretty much went according to what I was aiming for (laughs).

——Sanbe-sensei, you’ve written a number of suspense stories over the years. Am I right to say that this is the kind of story you like to read?

Sanbe: Certainly. I grew up reading Edogawa Ranpo. I read Boy Detectives Club all the way through elementary school.

——Oh, I see. In BokuMachi, Sawada calls Kenya “Kobayashi Boy”—his surname is Kobayashi, but that’s because—

Sanbe: Right. I took that from the main character in Boy Detectives Club. Mystery stories like that were pretty much all I was reading.

——You seem to like to put a lot of foreshadowing in your stories.

Sanbe: I do. But what’s important about foreshadowing is that you don’t whittle down nonchalant, everyday conversations. I slip in little lines that show the character of that person here and there, and they definitely become useful later.

——Director Ito, did you try to change many of those lines in making the anime?

Ito: One of the more major changes we made was in episode 9, when Satoru and Hinazuki had to part—we made slight changes to the monologue that Satoru has at the end of volume 4. The lines in the manga felt really weird next to the storyboard for that episode. In a comic, lines are conveyed through text, so they often approach a literary style; for an anime, you need to adapt it into something that people would say. When you read it, you don’t feel it’s off, but it becomes ‘hard’ when you say it. Not to mention it’s a grade-schooler that’s saying those lines.

Sanbe: I realised the change there when I watched that episode, but from my perspective, what you’d done didn’t feel weird.

BokuMachi_02 BokuMachi_01

Both the manga and the anime are heading to the same place

——Sanbe-sensei, what did you think when you first heard about the anime proposal?

Sanbe: It was something that hadn’t even crossed my mind. I’ve been asked about what kind of ‘image’ I had for the characters’ voice, but I’d actually just been drawing the manga without having something like that in mind… Quite frankly, I was like, “You’re doing this?” I wasn’t sure that people who like watching anime would like it.

——And how did you come around to the idea in the end?

Sanbe: When I spoke with the director and the other main staff, I felt that they really understood what I was trying to do in the manga. I was really happy that they were reading so deeply into it. In fact, I felt that if they were to make an anime from my story, then I needed to make it even better, so I started spending even more time on the manga storyboards (the ‘names’).

——After that, what direction did the discussions take?

Ito: Basically, I kept asking “how are you going to end it?” (laughs)

Sanbe: But it was quite possible that the finale would change too. I think that if I decide how to end something and work towards that, I’d come to find it boring as I go along. Because of that, I just kept going without setting it completely in stone.

Ito: On our part, all we could do was to trust in Sanbe-sensei’s words.

——In terms of the anime, did you want to include as many of the manga’s elements as possible?

Ito: That’s right. We tried not to leave too much out. Even if the way it’s conveyed is different, we wanted to end the story in the same place. And in the end, I think we somehow managed to get there.

BokuMachi_03 BokuMachi_04

The colours and scenery of Hokkaido

——Director Ito, do you also like these kinds of suspense stories?

Ito: Yes. We don’t often see them in anime, so I wanted to give it a shot. We’ve had Death Note in terms of suspense and Hyouka in terms of mystery, but on the whole, there just aren’t many of these kinds of shows. So I was actually pretty worried when we did get the green light on this show (laughs).

——Did you refer to any films for inspiration?

Ito: If you mean films that were shot in Tomakomai City, no—we went out of our way not to make them like that, drawing instead on Western films like The Killing, a suspense story set in Copenhagen. The story of BokuMachi might be said to be rather plain, so if the visuals were also plain, that would have been a death knell. As such, we wanted to make it feel like northern European places like Scandinavia, or London—that’s the look we were aiming for.

Sanbe: The Tomakomai in my mind is grey, like, the colour of lead. The sea and the mountains are all hazy, and when the snow melts away, vistas carved in asphalt float down, turning everything into lead…that’s the image I have.

——So the two of you have a very similar image of the city in mind. Sanbe-sensei, I understand that you grew up in Tomakomai. Besides the colour, what did you think of the Tomakomai depicted in the show?

Sanbe: I was like “That’s it!” with regards to all the buildings. They’re exactly as I remember. In fact, the places that anime staff visited when they went scouting were pretty much the same places I’d been to myself, when I was researching the city for the manga. When I was a kid, I often hung out near the area where Hinazuki’s house was.

——Is that a public housing area?

Sanbe: Yes. I was so familiar with it that when I first drew Hinazuki’s house, I did it straight from memory. And in doing that, I left out both the chimneys and the antenna cabling (laughs). The houses ended up like little boxes. In contrast, the anime version really brought me back there. I was so familiar with it that I’d forgotten what was actually there. I even forgot to draw a stove heater inside Satoru’s house. So when I had a look at the settings materials for the anime, that’s when I first realised “Ack…I didn’t give them a stove heater…” (laughs)

—— (laughs) Back on the anime side, did you all actively try to make it look and feel like Hokkaido?

Ito: When we were there scouting for locations, the image of smoke rising from every single chimney on the street is something that’s seared into my mind. I felt that doing that would give us that additional veneer of realism, so we added cuts of smoke and chimneys at various points in the show.

——Sanbe-sensei, back when you lived in Hokkaido, when you were the same age is Satoru and his friends, what were you like? And what were your teachers like?

Sanbe: Satoru and Kenya are ideal kids, don’t you think? If you asked me whether such kids were around back then, I’d have to say ‘no’. I do think it’d have been good if I’d been a kid like that, but I was actually something of an idiot, someone like Osamu (laughs).

——Director Ito, you mentioned that the manga was really nostalgic for you—is there something in particular that connects with you?

Ito: I don’t think I worked as hard as Satoru to make myself into the person I wanted to be, but I was quite self-aware. You could say that I was a kid who tried to be serious (laughs). In that sense, I was probably quite similar to Satoru.

BokuMachi_05 BokuMachi_06

Sanbe-sensei’s favourite scenes in the anime

Ito: Well, this is pretty nerve-wracking…

Sanbe: (laughs) I’d already been consulted as the show was being made—when I saw the designs and the episode scripts, I was already quite sure that it would be good. But it was even better than I’d expected. I liked the way it developed so quickly at the end of the first episode.

Ito: I’m relieved to hear that (laughs).

——Did you purposefully have it build so quickly at the end of the first episode?

Ito: It’s more like we…had no choice but to do that (wry smile).

Sanbe: (laughs) I figured as much. But it worked really really well.

Ito: Well..that was thanks to the strength of the episode director, perhaps. Or you could even say that we violently dumped it all on the viewers before any questions could come to their minds.

——Sanbe-sensei, what are your thoughts on the subsequent episodes?

Sanbe: I felt that the anime staff really understood what was important and were bringing that out. To tell the truth, I’ve seen all of the episodes thus far many times (laughs). In episode 4, when Hinazuki was standing in front of that brightly lit glass at the science center, the classic anime film, Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer came to my mind. I’d drawn that with the image of Lum standing before the glass at the aquarium, so to have that depicted just as I’d imagined…

Ito: Well…it might have been better not to ask about that (laughs). We didn’t actually have Beautiful Dreamer in mind when we worked on that…

Sanbe: But it was even closer to the image I’d had in mind!

Ito: (laughs)

Sanbe: In the first place, the actual science center that I’d based that place on didn’t have anything like that. Hence, I didn’t really feel it when I drew the scene in the manga. I actually felt that what I’d drawn was kind of weird, out-of-place.

——Did you want that scene to leave an impression?

Ito: We did. Reading the manga, it was like a (ball) pass had come flying my way. A pass that said “I want the viewers to remember this scene!” Putting aside the question of whether the light would come from the display in such a manner, I thought that the shadows really had to leave an impression. That’s why we made the light from the display that strong.

Sanbe: The opening, which debuted in the second episode, is also memorable—both the song and the images. Each time I watch it, I find something new. The first time, I went “Oooh…” and the next time…you can see that guy for a split second, huh?

Ito: Right. Reflected in Satoru’s glasses, which have just been broken (laughs).

Sanbe: I really enjoy those kinds of small details. When work gets hard, I put aside that pressure of trying to get my drafts done, slip on my headphones and watch the opening. That helps me get back into the groove for drawing (laughs).

——If I’m not mistaken, you drew the storyboards for the opening yourself, right? Was there anything in particular that you were careful to do?

Ito: I’m the kind of person who thinks about what to do only after the song has been decided—based on the tune, I figured that the best place to have the title would be towards the end. I also wanted to give a hint about Satoru disappearing, so I put in the shots with the kids running around. After the title appears, the backgrounds appear again, but the kids are now gone.

——It feels somewhat sad, doesn’t it?

Ito: And whilst this was more a result than something planned, because Mitsushima-san and Tsuchiya-san were playing Satoru, they’re placed side-by-side as a double credit. The recording script was the same, and so I wondered if I could use that idea for something. So I needed to have them in the first cut of the opening, but what kind of situation would allow for that? And then, partly because of the word “revival,” I figured that I could have them at the movies, as if the two of them are watching Satoru’s story play out on the screen.

Sanbe: Having the water flood the scenes right where the key of the song changes is really cool. It reminded me of The Shining, so that’s one of my favourite parts.

BokuMachi_07 BokuMachi_08

The mutual influence between manga and anime

——At the point of this interview, Director Ito, you’ve been able to read the penultimate chapter of the manga, right?

Ito: That’s right. I wanted to be able to put as much of the manga into the anime as possible, right up to the end. Even though the way it’s done is different, I think that what we aimed to convey was the same.

——And the manga is now heading towards its final chapter.

Sanbe: I’ve had a lot of difficulty trying to decide how to end it. I have to fill a certain number of pages, so I’ve prepared some new ‘situations’, but the anime doesn’t have the time to cover it all, so they have to be more straightforward. But I also think that we’re effectively covering the same ground.

——Did the anime script influence you in any way?

Sanbe: Quite a bit. First of all, the way it was abridged was really useful for me as a reference. There were also elements that I took from the anime, even whilst I was thinking about really hard myself. I learned a lot from that experience, and received a lot of benefit from it. Not just in terms of ideas, but also in terms of motivation—that’s how they influenced me.

——The manga will be ending soon, but the anime will continue for a little while longer. Director Ito, would you like to say anything to the readers?

Ito: Please watch the show all the way to the end!

Sanbe: I definitely will!

Ito: Huh? (laughs)

Sanbe: I really look forward to each and every episode. It’s been a long time since I saw something so well made…I can’t believe that it came from something I’ve written. So I’m looking forward to the anime as a fan myself!

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

6 Responses to Translation: Ito Tomohiko x Sanbe Kei on ERASED

  1. Frog-kun says:

    Quite frankly, I was like, “You’re doing this?” I wasn’t sure that anime who like watching anime would like it.

    You probably meant “I wasn’t sure that people who like watching anime would like it.” (I checked the original interview just to make sure, haha.)

    Anyway, thanks for translating the interview! It was really interesting. Now I feel the need to watch The Killing, just to see how much of an influence it was over Bokumachi’s direction.

    Also, it doesn’t surprise me that Sanbe was influenced by Edogawa Ranpo… XD


    • karice says:

      Yeah…huge brain fart as I wrote and rewrote parts like that today. Thanks for catching that!

      Now I feel the need to watch The Killing, just to see how much of an influence it was over Bokumachi’s direction.

      I find myself thinking that I need to watch more Western film each and every time I come across directors etc naming them–it was one of Aoki’s AZ interviews that finally got me to watch Roman Holiday!

      Also, it doesn’t surprise me that Sanbe was influenced by Edogawa Ranpo…… XD

      Yeah, he’s like the Edgar Allan Poe of Japanese mystery literature.

      And actually, that line reminded me that there’s a Ranpo Kitan event talkshow write-up that I really should be getting to…


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