Okada Mari on Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans


This interview is the 30th in Bandai Channel’s ‘featured selection of creators’, which is slated to continue until the end of this year.1 In it, (in)famous screenwriter Okada Mari talks about her work on Iron-Blooded Orphans before delving into some of her older works. It’s pretty long, so this post is the translation of just that first half on her experience working with Director Nagai Tatsuyuki on Gundam. (Edit: the second half can be found here.) Read more of this post

Flashback 2011: Yamamoto Kōji (noitaminA) on the future of anime


This week, I bring to you a 2011 interview with producer Yamamoto Kōji. The main decision maker behind Fuji TV’s noitaminA block until he left in April 2015,1 he’s produced almost every single one of its shows—in other words, if you want to know why noitaminA’s doing what it’s doing, this is the guy to ask. The interview dates from this edition of CUT, a film magazine that you could say is Japan’s version of Empire. Those that have followed me for a while will probably surmise that I bought it for the Macross Frontier special (you’d be right), but this is the first interview I’ve ever translated from it.

Why? Well, there were two main things that caught my attention. The first—and the reason why I translated it for this On Anime ‘Writing’ project—is that it gives one producer’s answer for the popularity of Okada Mari and Yoshino Hiroyuki in the anime industry. And the other, which is likely to be particular controversial amongst a certain subset of Western anime fans, is the reasoning behind noitaminA’s shift back to anime aimed at otaku about five years ago. If either of those piqued your interest, read on.

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Kiznaiver and Mayoiga: Okada Mari in Spring 2016

Nagai Tatsuyuki and Okada Mari talking about The Anthem of the Heart (source)

When I declared two weeks ago that I’d be looking at Okada Mari for this next post in my ‘Anime Writing’ project, I hadn’t actually read more than one of her interviews (the noitaminA one that’s summarised with one mistake here).1 Just one week later, I found myself regretting that rash decision, for I’d come across around ten relevant interviews, and had no idea if I’d even be able to put together something coherent. In the end, I decided that the best thing to do was to focus on the offerings this season that she’s had a hand in: Kiznaiver and The Lost Village (Mayoiga).

Edit (2016-07-05): I’ve recently noticed anime fans talking about what I’ve translated here in a slightly out-of-context manner. Please note: these are just smallish parts of the two interviews in question. The Kiznaiver interview is four times longer, and the Mayoiga interview is actually around 8,000 words in total. I only translated the sections that were relevant to the theme of my post: “what part did Okada Mari play in the genesis of these two series?” so please keep that in mind. -karice

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Anime screenwriting — a comparison with Avatar: The Legend of Korra


When I first thought of doing this On Anime ‘Writing’ project, my initial inclination was to go digging for what other English-speakers had already written about it. A number of prominent bloggers and even industry personnel have, in fact, covered anime production in depth over the years. But as I watched SHIROBAKO and puzzled over some of the translator’s word choices, I realised that I’d neglected a major resource—Western TV animation. One year on, after reading some fantastic articles about how episodes of The Simpsons and Avatar: The Legend of Korra are/were made, let me endeavour to share what I’ve learned.

Key differences between the Western and the Japanese TV animation industries

As most anime fans probably know, one of the major differences is that the voice recording for Japanese anime takes place after the animation. Read more of this post

Project Launch: On Anime ‘Writing’

Urobuchi Gen in Tainan (a city in the southwest of Taiwan) promoting Thunderbolt Fantasy. (image source)

In his 10,000 word interview in the December 2014 edition of Newtype, Gen Urobuchi pointed out that a significant number of anime fans had a mistaken impression about what anime writers do. Namely, they tend to believe that the people credited for ‘writing’ (as series composers or script writers) were responsible for ‘whatever happens’ in an anime series. Although he was referring to the Japanese anime fandom, this is arguably even more prevalent amongst overseas anime fans. Everywhere we go to discuss the shows we’re watching, be it a forum, a personal blog, or even aggregate fansites that pay writers to cover shows for them, we’re likely to come across individuals who attribute ‘great stories’ or ‘bad writing’ solely to the writer.

The truth is that, most of the time, what such critics refer to—whether good or bad—should not be attributed to the writer. Read more of this post

On ERASED: comparing the manga and the anime

The town where only I am missing…that is my treasure!

ERASED [BokuMachi] ended this week, mostly to good reviews from anime-only viewers despite a lot of teeth-gnashing by manga readers. Confession time: I actually started reading the manga halfway through the show’s broadcast. In some ways, I’m glad I did, because I’d have been even more frustrated at the manga readers who kept complaining about the anime otherwise. But I also wish I’d had the chance to make it to the end blind, so-to-speak, to see whether director Ito Tomohiko and his team had managed to capture the essence of the story without having confirmed what that essence was through the manga. But what’s done is done, and all of those translations and summaries this week were done in preparation for this post about my thoughts on the anime adaptation.


But before I start, let me recap and surmise the conditions under which the anime team was working. Read more of this post

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).

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What SHIROBAKO should have taught us about anime ‘writing’

With the end of the year nigh, I’m sure that SHIROBAKO will once again be a title on many lips. In fact, the judging committee for the 20th Animation Kobe Awards has already stated in no uncertain terms the impact that it expects the show to have, giving it an exalted place amongst titles such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Puella Magi Madoka Magika.

…a name that harks back to the past, to the ‘white box’ within which production staff members received the finished episode on VHS prior to it airing. Although VHS is no more, and white boxes no longer used, the term apparently lives on.

Personally, I’ve been struggling for almost a year to figure out what I should write in my first piece about this show — not because there is nothing to be said, but rather, because there is far too much. It’s a show I would have loved to have seen a few years ago, perhaps around 2010, when I started really delving into what goes on behind the scenes of my favourite titles. That said, perhaps I would have gained less if it had graced our screens back then, because I would not have known what to take at face value and what to take with a grain of salt, especially given some of the crazy stunts that Aoi and Musashi Animation’s director, Kinoshita Sei’ichi, pull in the course of their work. My sense is that quite a few viewers felt that way, and unfortunately, it shows in some of the continuities in anime critique, particularly in terms of the ‘writing’.

The ‘story committee’: the people involved in script meetings.
Even the youngest and greenest members contribute to the development of the story.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that SHIROBAKO did a bad job of representing what ‘writing’ an anime is like. Read more of this post

The truth about Urobuchi Gen’s involvement in Aldnoah.Zero

Disclaimer: This overview of how AZ came into being is based mostly on interviews I have collected and read over the last eight months, so any translation errors or misinterpretations―though I hope there are none―are entirely my own. Corrections and clarifications are always appreciated. You’re also welcome to link to this or quote parts of it, but please don’t copy and paste substantial amounts elsewhere. And without further ado, let me begin…

Last major edit on September 24, 2015

I am well aware that my love for Aldnoah.Zero makes me an outlier in the Western anime fandom. A lot of my posts and arguments probably make me seem like an apologist, or maybe just someone completely out-of-touch with everyone else. But believe me, although I take pains to justify why I appreciate this show despite its flaws, I’m not trying to convince anyone else that they should like it. Some of its flaws are, indeed, issues that would drive me up the wall if I did not consciously overlook them. But what frustrates me is that people will channel their hatred of the show into ‘talking crap’ about its creators, based on little more than speculation over the deal with Urobuchi Gen. Personally, as someone who enjoys finding out about the creative process, I just want to set the record straight.

The project was revealed on February 16, 2014,
with Urobuchi credited for coming up with the “story.”

This post presents a summary of how Aldnoah.Zero was created, focusing in particular on the pre-production period. One of the triggers behind my decision to torture myself was that some of the things people kept saying about Aoki Ei and co. reminded me of the fandom of another series, where misinformation someone had deliberately spread led to some wild fan speculation and myths that were then used to criticise its creators. In this case, fans just took the ‘fact’ that “Urobuchi was replaced by Takayama Katsuhiko” and ran with it, resulting in a number of theories that are contradicted by what Aoki, Urobuchi and all of the other creators have said. But I’ll leave the verdict up to the reader. You can either believe what they said in all the interviews I reference here, or you can speculate about how they’ve all conspired to cover up what really happened—prizes are available for the most believable and the most outrageous theories!


  • Urobuchi wrote the plot and the history of Earth and Vers; Aoki created the characters and their storylines. This is what they agreed on right from the start (Spring, 2011).
  • Takayama was brought on board towards the end of 2012 because they knew that Urobuchi wouldn’t be able to write all of the screenplays himself.
  • Urobuchi left in early 2013 because of scheduling conflicts (with Kamen Rider Gaim).
  • Despite the switch, Urobuchi’s plot outline has largely been maintained.

As for the non-TL;DR, let me begin with an annotated timeline. Read more of this post

So…who ‘writes’ an anime series? (#1)

SHIROBAKO, an anime series about anime production, tells us a lot about what goes on behind the scenes before the bread and butter of our favourite past time grace our screens each season. Based on where we are at in the show, however, one thing that it probably won’t be covering is screenwriting. And since that seems to be one of the least understood areas of anime production in the West — at least, going by the comments that viewers make season after season blaming this or that writer for ‘bad writing’ and ‘plot holes’ — I decided to look into it a little more deeply. And what I found has backed up the impression I got from all those interviews and commentaries I looked at for Macross Frontier: a fairly large number of ‘key staff’ can contribute to what we call the ‘writing’ of a series.

And here, from a Column from the Anime Style website, are the comments of a writer that goes into this a bit further.

Edit (April, 2016): Anime Style is one of the most informative anime magazines that I have ever read, and Oguro Yūichirō is the writer behind it. Each issue has 15-30+ page specials on two of three series that he has taken interest in, and the interviews he conducts with key staff like directors and writers go into a lot of depth about materials like scripts, storyboards, settings, key animations etc etc that he is given the opportunity to look at. The two issues I have bought have specials on SHIROBAKO and Sound! Euphonium, and the latter includes the most informative interview I have ever read on ‘anime writing’.

Anime Style column: The agony and pain of Anime
Author: Oguro Yūichirō, Writer
Column #25: The problems of data collection for screenwriters

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