Okada Mari on the people who’ve made her who she is
May 22, 2016 8 Comments
Here’s the other half of Okada Mari’s bandai channel interview from March 25 of this year. In it, she discusses the anime, directors and screenwriters that have influenced her on the path to developing her own style as a creator. Among these luminaries are Dezaki Osamu and Kawamori Shōji, the latter of whom she regards as an inspirational genius. What I found particularly interesting was what she said about how she works with the other staff to bring these stories to the screen.
I forgot to mention this for the first half last week, but the interview was conducted and written up by Nagakawa Ryūsuke. Also, this is the 6th post in my “On Anime ‘Writing’” project, so if you like it, feel free to check the others out.
Bandai Creators Selection: Okada Mari, part 2
Her anime debut: DT Eightron
In the time we have left, I’d like to ask about some of your previous works. Are there any shows that have left a deep impression on you?
Okada: I’d have to say that DT Eightron (1998), the first show I ever worked on, holds a special place in my memory. The director was Amino Tetsurō, and I really owe him a lot.
What do you remember most about Director Amino?
Okada: He was a director who placed a lot of importance on the space “between the lines.” At that time, I was a writer who always left many things unsaid—stuff “between the lines,” so-to-speak. The points I liked and focused on were not really looked upon favourably by the industry, and I was going through a sense of crisis, wondering if my way of thinking was just wrong. That’s when I met Director Amino, and he helped me realise that it’s okay to place value on that. Of course, it’s not enough by itself.
How did you come to debut with DT Eightron?
Okada: At the time, I was working on something in a separate genre. But he asked me to help the series composer, Hideki Kakinuma, with typing (the scripts) up on a word processor. In other words, I was asked to turn the handwritten versions into clean copies. Then when I was at the studio, Director Amino asked me “Do you want to become a screenwriter? This is an original anime, a road movie type story, but we haven’t finished coming up with all the details, so why don’t you share some of your ideas with us?” I took him up on that and threw out a crazy amount of ideas, and he just went: “Alright. Now go off and write this.” In the end, he got me to write the five episode scripts for the second cour.
Are there other shows that have left a deep impression on you?
Okada: I can’t put them in a particular order, but recently, I rewatched Angel Tales (2001) and had one of those “If we did it now, this is how it would turn out” moments. Director Ochi Kazuhiro was really passionate as we were making it, and really placed a lot of importance on some of the ‘who cares about that?’ things I was fixated on. It was based on a manga, but went into original territory midway.
What would you say are the significant aspects of that show?
Okada: The story is pretty amazing/crazy. The main characters, Goro Mutsumi, had kept 12 pets in his past life. That life is over, and they all died back then, but they’ve now been reborn because of the feelings of gratitude they have for him, and they want to pay him back. What’s more, they’re all now in the form of bishōjo (laughs). I have my favourite scenes for each show that I’ve worked on, and in this case, there’s one involving Nana and Akane—formally a dog and a fox respectively. Because Akane was chased by hunting dogs in her past life, she doesn’t like Nana. So Nana tells her “Nana is a good little doggy” (Nana wa yoiko no wanko da yo.)—I really love that line.
It’s a really rhythmic line, one that rings in your ears (laughs).
Okada: It’s an episode where they go out to collect wild grasses for food (side dishes). Nana can’t eat grass, but she does her best trying to collect them anyway. Nothing much really happens in that episode, but you see this little girl giving it her all to do something so meaningless… And in that situation, you have this line of “Nana is a good little doggy” (laughs). When I look back on it now, for some reason, tears just come to my eyes. Though I’m not sure if fans will become interested in looking the show up based on this (laughs).
What are you talking about? It’s a series that’s highly regarded by those who know about it.
Okada: I really owe a lot to Director Ochi. And the animation was very pretty too, so I hope that you will all give it a try.
Working with a genius on Aquarion EVOL
Although it’s like IBO in that it’s a ‘mecha show’, Aquarion Evol (2011) has got a rather different taste. Can I ask you about your experiences on that?
Okada: The impression I have of Director Kawamori (Shōji) is that he’s very intense. Like, I feel that “This is what a genius is like.” Pure, without any wicked thoughts, someone who thinks everything through to the end, no matter where that takes him. At the same time, there’s something that he’s lacking, that he’s missing—a bit like IBO’s Mikazuki. In order to bring Director Kawamori’s incredible ideas into existence, as a writer, there’s a sense that we’re being spun round and round on the receiving side. But then the feeling of wanting to throw back a pitch that will surprise him builds up inside of us. That’s the kind of person I became. Working with Kawamori is heaps of fun—it’s almost like being in an after-school club. Even when it’s just the two of us chatting, all of a sudden, one of us would be like “I’ve got it!” or we’d dive to the floor and just start scribbling down some notes. We’d be getting all worked up, just the two of us, like “That was crazy, huh?!” (laughs)
Sounds like a workplace that’s full of excitement.
Okada: For sure! Director Kawamori is really pure at heart, such that his excitement just shows on his face, and it sweeps me along as well. And he’s really keen not just about anime, but also about plays and shows, so I learned a lot from that. In this industry, there are people who say that “Anime has to entertain”—you can almost say it’s a motto. But in Kawamori’s case, even if he doesn’t put it into words, his very existence and the actions he takes are entertainment itself (laughs). And so you can just believe in him. He’s a director that I respect, and that I really, really like. I’d definitely love to work with him again.
The rhythm that is born at the ‘scripting’ stage
Are there any other works that you’d like to talk about here?
Okada: Well, because we spend a number of years working on originals from planning all the way through to broadcast, I do have a lot of emotional attachment to them. But there are also quite a few adaptations that I am attached to. Sketchbook ~full color’s~ (2007) is one such work. Director Hiraike is also of my generation—I worked with him even before working with Director Nagai. The original was actually a 4-panel gag manga, a fluffy and gentle work, it wasn’t a moe work or anything like that. So it was pretty difficult trying to make it a 13 episode-long series.
So, how did you go about putting it together?
Okada: The Sketchbook manga wasn’t like the popular 4-panel manga of today, which tend to have some kind of overarching story—instead, many of those panel sets were their own mini-story. So it was difficult to construct something chronologically. But if we did make it into a full-on drama, then it would kill what was good about the manga. So we tried to use some kind of ‘gradation’, for example, even when we had to switch panel sets in and out, we’d find ones of a similar rhythm to bookend each episode. I think it worked out pretty well… Oh, my apologies—it sounds like I’m just singing my own praises (laughs).
No need to apologise—it’s really interesting to hear about what goes through your mind during this part of the process.
Okada: A lot of what goes into the experience of (watching) an anime adaptation comes from what’s added during the storyboard or during the actual production of the episode. But I try to think about that final product during the scriptwriting stage as well. For the screenwriter, our first customers are all of the staff, including the episode director. So it’s important to write something that they’ll think is interesting. In a book, that’s all encoded in the words, so there’s a strong sense that the words I put down on paper are the raw materials. These last few years, when I’ve thought about how I can write a book that will inspire all the staff, I tend to come to the conclusion that it’s all about ‘rhythm’, which I mentioned just now as well. I don’t mean something like ‘putting foreshadowing here, so that we can get a certain effect there’. Rather, something like lightly drawing attention to several story threads or emotional arcs outside of the main ones, making them more or less prominent in order to build a good rhythm. That’s something that I paid a lot of attention to in Hanasaku Iroha (2011). The information presented at the start and the information (we?) chase after, the way that the characters’ actions are carved out—all of these are things that I believe can be expressed in words in a visual manner, such that readers can see it. But this is still something that I’m thinking over in my own head, so I really want to find my own style/model/template.
Passion that comes across to the viewers
|Aim for the Ace!|
Among the shows you watched when you were young, were there any that you would say were formative experiences for you?
Okada: The shows directed by Osamu Dezaki have left a huge effect on me. In particular, The Adventures of Ganba (1975) was something that I watched as a kid, and I loved it even more once I was old enough to understand what it was all about. Director Dezaki’s anime leave you with the feeling that you’ve just seen something amazing. Ganba, for example, wasn’t just something light, it also had frightening parts, and that intensity just drew me in. I also love Treasure Island (1978) and the feature-length film, Aim for the Ace! (1979). That opening, where the narrator goes “On rainy days, blast Goemon away!,” is something that has really influenced me as a screenwriter. The rhythm of the entire movie was created in that one moment. Using that as the hook is something that I think only Director Dezaki would have been able to pull off. It’s not just about bringing together a large number of staff, he’s a director that had something, an ‘it factor’. I really do think he was someone special. I really wish I had been able to work with him.
Are there any other shows that influenced you?
Okada: As a girl growing up at that time, Studio Pierrot’s Magical Girl Series1 was at the centre of my life. Friends and relatives bought me toys from Creamy Mami, the Magic Angel (1983), and I have some silly, clichéd memories of hiding in my room playing at magical transformations (laughs). I also loved Magical Princess Minky Momo (1982)—its series composer, Shudō Takeshi, was a writer that I really looked up to.
|Magical Princess Minky Momo|
Could we say that a common point between all of them is that they all depict humans through and through?
Okada: Wow, I’m really happy (to hear you say that). Come to think of it, all of the episodes that left an impression on me as a child were written by him.
Another thing about Shudō is that he didn’t pull his punches just because it was a show for kids.
Okada: I want to be someone like that. In fact, I kind of want to do it to the point where you might call me immature (laughs). Of course, taking it too far actually brings down a show, so I wouldn’t say that that’s the one right way of doing things. But I want to face both the work and myself from front-on. If I don’t, then it’s disrespectful to both the people I’m working with and the viewers as well. I also don’t want to have any regrets.
And the warmth (or lack thereof) that staff have for their work is something that does come through to viewers.
Okada: The amount of passion (we feel) is definitely conveyed to the viewers. Making an anime is a group projects, so it’s difficult to give your all on something when someone else isn’t doing the same. Hence, even if there are a few collisions here and there, a show made at a studio where people can clash healthily has power behind it. To help make shows that can blast everyone away with that tremendous passion, I want to write scripts that contribute to such a workplace, scripts that help give life to the charm of the images on our screens.
New encounters and new challenges in this season’s new shows
Can you now share what you think is significant about the two new shows you’re working on for this Spring season, Kiznaiver and Mayoiga (The Lost Village)?
Okada: Kiznaiver is, as you might imagine, a project that began when we put the words “kizuna (bond)” and “naive” together. Because TRIGGER is responsible for production, you might think that it’s going to have lots of action, but it’s actually a show about ‘adolescence’, with themes such as friendship and (romantic) love. Director Kobayashi (Hiroshi) said that he “didn’t want to lean towards action,” wanting the story to focus on the relationships between the characters instead. It’s something that unpretentiously wrestles with puberty, but in a way that’s different from AnoHana or Anthem of the Heart. It’s the first time in a long while that I’ve faced the challenge of writing all of the scripts, so I hope that you will give it a try.
And for The Lost Village, you’re working with Director Mizushima (Tsutomu) for the first time.
Okada: This one became something of an expedition. Director Mizushima’s works often have a lot of information contained within, so much so that I’ve often wondered what the episode scripts were like? You just can’t work that out based on what you see on the screen. Now that I’ve worked with him, I’ve finally solved that mystery—“they’re 100 pages long (with approximately 200 characters each page).” Normally, even the heavy episodes are no more than about 75 pages long, so 100 pages seems crazy. But Director Mizushima is able to manipulate that at will, such that he completely paints the final film in his own colours. I felt like I was dancing in the palm of his hand (laughs).
So you have been blessed with yet another new encounter.
Okada: I have indeed. It’s a show that should give rise to the reaction “What the hell is this!?” so please look forward to it.
I will indeed. Thank you very much for your time today.
(Profile) OKADA Mari, who comes from Saitama, is a script writer who works on a variety of media, including direct-to-video films, games and radio dramas. Her anime debut was in the 1998 TV series DT Eightron. Since then, she has gained attention through her work on the series composition and scripts of numerous other series, including true tears (2008), Toradora! (2008), Hanasaku Iroha (2011), AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day (2011) and Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea (2013). 2015’s The Anthem of the Heart marks her first effort at writing an original anime feature film. She’s also working on Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, which began in the Fall 2015 season, as well as Kiznaiver and The Lost Village for Spring 2016.
Disclaimer: As always, the translation is entirely mine, as are any mistakes and misinterpretations. Please do not post this translation anywhere else, though feel free to link to it if you wish. —karice
- A series of five magical girl anime made by Studio Pierrot. ↩