Yoshino on the Frontier TV series: triangles, loli characters and working with Kawamori
July 31, 2016 6 Comments
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…
—I’m sure this question has been asked of and answered by you many times already, but why did you not settle the love triangle between Alto, Ranka and Sheryl?
The truth is, we were debating whether to settle it or not right up to the end. Then, as we were all focusing on the endgame, even though none of us every put it unambiguously into words, everyone began to feel the same way. That it wasn’t something that would end along the lines of someone winning, along the lines of Alto ending up with one or the other; that it need not end in that manner.
A lot of people on all sides even started joking that, if that quiet and unsociable Alto were to act naturally, he’d like the sky more than either girl anyway. And the result was that [we] decided not to force a conclusion, but to let them all go on and move forward in accordance with their character personalities.
At that time, [we] all wondered, “Won’t the viewers be angry?” “Probably. But that’s fine, I’m prepared for that.”1 But after than, when the feedback from the viewers had come in, Kawamori-san may have gotten rather down. It seems like he was really bothered [by what everyone said]. However, whilst watching both girls on stage during the concert at the Budoukan, we had the following conversation: “It’s good that we didn’t settle it, huh?” “True that. If we’d settled it, this concert would definitely have been rather strange.” (chuckles).
—But even if you put it that way, whilst “Alto-kun who loves the sky” is certainly appropriate up to a point, from around episode 22, it seemed like his relationships with each were the focus of his thoughts and actions, right? In episode 22, he even spent the night with Sheryl…when I spoke to the voice actors [for this book], that episode came up. The clamour it caused is quite interesting.
(Chuckles). Well, that scene certainly developed in a way that made everyone incredibly interested in what happened next. For my part, I don’t want to talk about it, so I’ll leave it to your imagination.
When we recorded the dialogue for that episode, we’d already gotten to the point where the recording video was composed of key frames and storyboards (the animation was still incomplete),2 and a somewhat sensational rough cut of the scene had been selected. And the reactions from the voice actors—and from the staff on this side of the booth—included quite a few “Oooh…!”s.
But no, I do wonder what actually happened that night (chuckles). Only Alto and Sheryl know the truth.
—Might that ‘sensational cut’ be resurrected for the BD or DVD, perhaps!?
Well…I wonder what we should do with it. But rather than placing your hopes on the TV version…it might be better if to invest them in the films. We could also use it for publicity (chuckles).
—And even after than, Alto’s strange advance continues. In episode 23, he said that he entered S.M.S. for Ranka’s sake, but follows that by telling Sheryl that he’ll return to her side in episode 24. And then we have his “You are both my wings!” in the final episode!
I think that Alto doesn’t have much self-awareness. And his level of ignorance about himself corresponds to how terrible he is (chuckles). Speaking for myself, however, until the conversation between Sheryl and Alto before he goes off to battle, I really didn’t know how their parting would turn out.
But you know, I do think it’s good that we didn’t settle it. It’s great that viewers can see the ending the way they want, according to whomever they were supporting, be it “he was heading to Ranka’s side, right?” or “No, Sheryl’s the one who won.” Since everyone will see things in a different way anyway, there’s a feeling on this side that we need not settle it either.
Will Klan Klan also become happy?!
In a sense, could we say that the romance between Klan and Michel really contrasted with this triangle? Like, it’s one that simply was not fated to be.
Just like Klan’s genes, they were just clumsy. It’s mentioned in the show as well, though there’s no explanation for it (chuckles).
But I think the viewers have been really kind on that front, since Klan’s character settings are like projectiles, lacking in consistency. That’s something I was aware of right from the get-go. Like, “she’s stacked as a giant, but becomes a loli—why?” But the viewers just let us off the hook with the explanation of “she’s got clumsy genes”—that’s the definition of kindness, don’t you think? (chuckles)
—Didn’t any of the staff lay into you about the reasoning behind her character settings?
Not at all (chuckles). Rather, they just went “Cool!” (chuckles) So I was like, “Oh, I see. They won’t lay into me about this kind of thing!”
—But Klan ends up being quite pitiful.
She might find some salvation in the films, perhaps.
—You mean we haven’t seen the end of her story yet?!
I think that it would be nice if Klan has some things to be happy about. I want her to be happy.
The core of another triangle is…Mishima?!
—And do pardon me, but how could you have the nerve to just throw all of those settings and contrivances at us!
We changed a heap of stuff with each and every revision of the episode script (the scenario). We just inserted the ideas that came out at each meeting without thinking about what would follow. I figured that, in any case, it was just myself who would suffer later.
I was also pitching a lot of ideas at Kawamori and the rest, cramming them all into the scripts. But Kawamori’s the type of person who would pitch tonnes of ideas right back at you. Upon receiving them, I’d go “Dammit! I’m not going to lose to you!” and pitch at him some more. That’s pretty much how the scripts were written.
And when both Kawamori and myself seemed to be heading into really crazy territory, Director Kikuchi would be like “Now now” (chuckles). “Let’s think this through—this is for TV, after all.”
And whilst we were working together like that, Producer Kasai (Tsutomu) from Satellite would be sitting there with an incredibly worried look on his face (chuckles).
But then, Producer Sasaki (Shiro) from Victor Entertainment would cut in with an “About this song…” He was all about the music (chuckles).
When there’s only one screenwriter involved in the script meetings, it gets pretty lonely. In that sense, everyone around me, even the producers from Big West and Victor, were all saying whatever they wanted to say. And I picked up their ideas and put them into the episode scripts. And so the script meetings really were a whole HEAP of FUN.
—Moving on to the relationship between Grace, Mishima and Bilrer—which you might call another triangle—that was pretty interesting, too. Each of them had their own motivations.
We figured that that the image of Bilrer—as a middle-aged Zentradi that has a steam train—was pretty sweet.
—What in the world is that train?
Actually, around episode 15, I had written some lines into the script about that. But as we progressed through the drafts, they slowly disappeared.
“Right now, we’re pioneers that are opening up the great American continent. We’re the frontier. If we were to name one thing that has enabled us to advance this civilisation, it would be that we blazed our way out West and laid the tracks for the stream trains. I want to become the king of exploration, the railroad king. I’m a Zentradi, a Zentradi that fought in Space War I. That’s when I first encountered Earth culture, which was a great shock to me. And when I went back and studied human history, it turned out to be a history of wars, a history of conquering the peoples who were there first. Even we are on that same path. Like you, we are descendants of the Protoculture. Let us go forth!” In the end, it was completely cut out (chuckles).
But well, I did write a few lines about exactly what old man Bilrer was thinking into the script. But then I took it out myself, but only after I had everyone read it, so that the staff knew what his motivations were.
I tend to write pretty long scripts—my first drafts tend to be around 90 pages. I’ll include settings and lines about characters’ emotional states that aren’t needed, and once the staff are aware of them, I’ll start cutting out the parts that the viewers don’t absolutely need to know. That’s the way I work.
—Where in the world would those three have met?
Hm…I don’t know, but Bilrer is basically the guy who holds Frontier’s economy etc in his hands, so he probably won’t have met Grace face-to-face. On Grace’s part, she’d probably have come to know about SMS as an organisation that has also come into contact with the Vajra. Bilrer was after fold quartz (the crystals of the Vajra)—he wanted to take control over them so that he could create a railroad spanning the entire galaxy. Basically, the galactic railroad. Transportation and communication—that’s what Luca was talking about—the idea is that, by controlling transportation and communication, you control the galaxy. But Grace and her fellow conspirators wanted to take it one step further, to the establishment of of a galaxy-wide thought-network.
—Does that mean that Mishima was the one standing in between the two of them?!
That’s right. Heartily going along with both of them but scheming to come away with the best part for himself (chuckles). Like, he’d be thinking “Hehehe…all according to plan!” (chuckles) His strategy would have been to make use of the others’ motivations in order to rise up in the world.
—Hearing that, now I think that his hairstyle was perfect for him! Mishima!
Mishima probably thinks it’s a cool hairstyle—that’s why he’s got it. I think that he’s a young man who would live with thoughts like “Hehehe, I’m evil” and “Hehehe, I’m a horrible guy” running through his mind. With regards to Cathy, the main thing on his mind would undoubtedly have been “Well, she’s a useful woman that I can use and then throw away.”
—The series also ends without us knowing the fate of Macross Galaxy. Can we also expect something about that in the films?
I wonder… I did pitch quite a few ideas for the films, but it ultimately depends on what Kawamori decides to put into his storyboards. It’s like “Kawamori, do your best!” (chuckles)
From the SDFM generation to the Frontier generation
—Finally, what would you say you have gained from working with Kawamori?
I found it really fascinating to work with him. The task that I had to fulfil in writing the episode scripts was, in the end, to amuse and interest Kawamori with what I’d written. If he bought into it, then the whole staff would become infected with his enthusiasm. And in the end, that would also be translated across to the viewers.
Actually, I was one of the many viewers who watched the original SDFM every Sunday afternoon at 2pm, sitting upright in front of the TV. Because of that, I felt that the life of the Macross series would end if Frontier tripped up—that really scared me. I was frightened because I loved it myself.
But when I saw the the special premiere episode, the “Deculture edition,” that absurd fear was blown completely away.
At the time of the first TV series, those young Studio Nue staff were all in their early 20s, still with virgin hearts, you could say (chuckles), overflowing with libido. Since then, Kawamori has passed through a good 25 years, so I wondered whether he’d be able to keep it up. I felt that I had to be the one with the virgin heart, but at the start of the Deculture edition, that scene where Sheryl descends onto that gravitational block! Her breasts just bounced so gently! When I saw the character acting that Kawamori put into the storyboard, I felt that everything would be fine.
And I also thought: “I’ve lost” (chuckles).
I’m sorry. Kawamori, you really are amazing. Even though you’ve got your own children, you’ve held on to that heart (chuckles).
I was so impressed, my respect for him was renewed.
—What do you mean when you say “respect”?
Well, I mean, that someone like me, who has been watching since the first Macross, has been given the opportunity to write something in that very series. If, next time, the people who were introduced to Macross through Frontier similarly have the opportunity to make another addition to the franchise—I think that would be fantastic.
This is the 9th post in my “On Anime ‘Writing’” project, in which I have been looking at how the key staff of producers, directors and screenwriters work together to plan and write the shows that grace our screens. If you liked it, I hope you’ll check the other posts out, too. And feel free to drop me a note or question—whether here, on twitter, tumblr or ask.fm—about any other series that you’re interested in for behind-the-scenes info!
Disclaimer: As always, the translation is entirely mine, as are any mistakes and misinterpretations. Please do not copy and paste large portions of it anywhere else, though feel free to link to the post itself if you wish.
- Yoshino does not specify who said any of these quotes, which is why I’ve used “we” and haven’t put names to any particular quote. ↩
- ’afureko’ 101…the dialogue recording for a particular episode usually occurs a number of weeks before the episode airs. So as to help the voice actors with the timing for their lines, a rough cut of the episode is usually put together for the recording, and the seiyuu will stand in a line behind the mics, watching it on the screen. Ideally, the animation is meant to be completed by this point—which is why it’s called the “after recording”—but in practice, the cut gets more and more ‘primitive’ as production goes on. You can see an example of this in SHIROBAKO (try comparing episodes 2 and 10). ↩