Finally the broadcasting almost starts. How are you feeling right now?
Frankly, I’m nervous whether people who watch it would think it’s interesting. On the other hand, as a creator, I also feel proud of making a work that people could find interesting, so I’m kind of swinging between those feelings. (laughs) It’s always like that when I’m working on a new work.
Although it’s a work that’s based on a manga, I’d like to ask about the strengths of the animation. First of all, can you tell us about animating the pictures of the manga, which is said to be the greatest pleasure of it?
I try hard to present the content from the manga as much as possible. At this point in time, the one word to describe me would be ‘exhausted’. Because a director wholly oversees a work in its entirety, I work with the realization that there’s a demand for a high degree of perfection of the animation. Because the original work has a lot of content, and a great number of characters also appear, it was surely going to be a dense film. Since I cannot get away by avoiding intense battle scenes, I pour strength into it. What I’m aiming at is not merely pursuing realism, but moving pictures with impressiveness enhanced by anime-styled flashy movements.
Next, how about building the world with the colours included?
Our art director Morikawa (Atsushi)-san is very good in drawing nature; he presented us with works of quality beyond our imagination. As I checked his works as a director, I couldn’t help admiring them, “Whoa, cool!” As for the colours, our colour designer Mogi Takahiro-san used colours familiar for the world. The colours used for military uniforms, Ainu clothes, small objects and other things in the world of this work are based on the real things.
I heard that before production began in earnest, you went to Hokkaido for location observation.
Yes. Several staff members went to do general research to places appearing as the main stages in the work, such as Otaru, Sapporo, Asahikawa, and Abashiri. We went to Otaru City General Museum to do some research, and many photographs of the era still remain. The financial district of Otaru used to flourish, and the herring trade brought in profits as can be seen by the “herring mansions” built there, and camera seemed to be a common thing among ordinary people.
Otaru is the main setting of the first half of the story, so I’d expect the background to look just like the real thing with the many photographs of the era available.
We’re really helped by the photographs. As depicted in the manga, Otaru at that time already had electricity, and there were telephone poles standing everywhere in the town. I thought that towns with electricity were still a rarity, but I was glad I could confirm it for Otaru through photographs. We also visited various places such as the Hokuchin Memorial Museum in Asahikawa where materials about the 7th Division of the Japanese Army are preserved, the Abashiri Prison Museum in Abashiri, and others. What’s impressive was that wherever we went, the people whom we interacted with for research were cooperative. Everyone was like, You guys know Golden Kamuy and making an anime out of it! Then please take a look at this! (laughs) I saw for myself how this work is loved by the people of Hokkaido, and the research turned out to be fulfilling our expectations well.
Is there any place the impression of which changed after you saw it yourself?
Maybe the Abashiri Prison Museum. The structure is different from ordinary prisons, so there were many things I noticed for the first time when I actually entered the facility.
Did you do research about Ainu-related places?
Of course. We went to places, from Niputani where there are many Ainu are still living now to the kotan (Ainu village) in Shiraoi, and we were told about the life of the Ainu and were shown their everyday traditional articles. Although Ainu culture is drawn in details in the manga, there are things that I couldn’t understand without seeing the real stuff myself. Based on the results we gathered, we proceeded with the production while getting supervision and double, triple checks by, naturally, the original mangaka, Noda (Satoru)-sensei. That part was quite hard, but I think our depiction of the Ainu was very convincing.
Sounds are also a strength of anime. What kind of talk did you have about the direction of the music?
Music director Suehiro (Kenichirou)-san was given recommendations by sound director Aketagawa (Jin)-san. The thing asked of him was, although he should incorporate indigenous taste and ethnic atmosphere, he should not stick to it only, but he must include various tastes from music that matches the flashy actions to Western taste. After all, the catchphrase of the work is “mystery hotpot* Western”. (laughs) Suehiro-san was able to provide us with the music that determines the colour of the work based on that high demand. He also took the challenge to write theme songs for the Ainu made using Ainu music instrument for this work. There are more than 50 songs prepared, so please look forward to what kind of songs that can be enjoyed in the finished film. We’ve also proceeded with the dubbing (the process of combining recorded voice acting, background music, and sound effects with the pictures) of several episodes, and it all could be finished well.
In terms of music, it seems like you planned not to show Ainu elements too strongly.
That’s right. If the Ainu elements are too heavy, the anime will be imbalanced in terms of music, and the music won’t be able to support the various elements of the work. Because of that, I wanted to have songs with Ainu elements as part of a group of songs of various types.
And how was the voice recording?
The chosen cast truly throw themselves into the roles. Faced with everyone’s acting that surpasses expectations, I thought admiringly, “Yes, this is the voice of the character!” Because of that, I enjoyed the recording sessions every time (laughs).
What’s your stance in the direction of the acting?
Of course they must act according to the content of the film as necessary, but we leave the basics to each actor. It’s because we’ve chosen the people with the voice that fits the image of the characters during the role deciding stage. Among them there are also people who are big fans of the original manga since the beginning and they wanted to appear in this work. Enthusiasm is high at the recording studio, making me think whether this work would be worth watching just for the acting of the actors.
The leading characters of this work, Sugimoto and Asirpa, are played by, respectively, Kobayashi (Chikahiro)-san and Shiraishi (Haruka)-san. What do you think about their acting?
Before the recording, I told them both that “You were selected for this role because of who you are, so it’s alright to have confidence in it”, but at the beginning I was kind of lost about what kind of acting they should do. Shiraishi-san also has lines in Ainu language, and that aspect also needed preparations. However, as long as they can act in a natural manner, they can surely be Sugimoto and Asirpa. Right now they can act really splendidly, and everyone around is proud of them both.
What kind of talks you have with the original mangaka, Noda-sensei?
I showed him everything including scenario, designs, and storyboard; however, I didn’t ask for only simple supervision, but I requested things to him also. I appreciate how he would give comments to my questions such as, Because I want to shape this as close as possible to what sensei imagined, then I’d like to add more emotional scenes this way.
Please tell us the highlights of the first parts as possible.
Because the first episode is just the beginning, it has not fully leashed Golden Kamuy’s charm. However, it’s kind of difficult to talk about the highlights. Usually, works are specialized in one element such as battles or gags, but here all elements make up everything. In short, just watch it all. (laughs) The change that’s easy to spot is the number of the characters gradually grow. Although in general the characters are divided into the competing factions of Sugimoto’s party, Tsurumi’s party, and Hijikata’s party, there are characters whose affiliation can’t be discerned easily. Tsurumi is a very strong-willed man with a loose screw in his head, (Ootsuka) Houchuu-san’s fitting voice just strengthens his personality. I wonder if viewers can be pleased and think “This is Tsurumi!”. On the other hand, Hijikata is a character with overflowing charm of a dazzling old man, and Nakata (Jouji)-san’s voice also really fits him. By the way, when Nakata-san announced his role as Hijikata in his own Twitter account, the number of retweets was really amazing. Looking at the response, I became more confident that we didn’t choose the wrong people. Since the first episode, there are depictions of hints of what will happen next, so I think you should watch with your attention given to even the small talk or the corners of the screen.
Lately, please give a message to the fans.
If we staff are chefs, then everyone who watches is a customer that eats our cooking. Since the goodness of the ingredients is guaranteed, please taste a bite of the ‘mystery hotpot’ that we serve you. It’s very delicious.
Original interview here.
For more information about the anime, go here.
* The real term used was ‘yaminabe’