Anime Diet is proud to present the transcript of questions our staff (Jeremy and myself) asked the director and character designer of the Claymore anime, Hiroyuki Tanaka and Takahiro Umehara! The interview took place at PMX on Sunday, November 11, 2007, at 5 PM. It was attended only by ourselves and one other reporter, so we were able to ask most of the questions that you, the readers, requested (others were answered in the fan panel). We even have a little endorsement of sorts from them! Just like Mike Huckabee with Chuck Norris, we are now Claymore-approved.
The Youtube link above does not constitute an endorsement of Mike Huckabee. Despite the fact that he shares my first name.
This transcript is edited for clarity and conciseness. The translator for both of them translated in both first and third persons, but mostly in the latter. To preserve the character of the interview, all answers have been written in third person (e.g., “he says…”) Only questions that Anime Diet staff asked were transcribed.
Thanks to Jinnie at the PMX press office for arranging this conference!
Coming in a few days: a transcript and pictures of our private interview with Yukana.
(Mike) One of our co-bloggers, Ray, wanted to ask about the influence of Lord of the Rings on Claymore, particularly after episode 20. He saw a lot of similarities to The Two Towers, and I remember you mentioned in the panel that you have a lot of live action influences, and so I was wondering whether the live-action Lord of the Rings movies were an influence on the way you directed some of the later episodes of Claymore.
Tanaka: He loves Lord of the Rings, so he can’t deny the fact that he got influenced by it, but there’s no direct connection. He never intentionally had a scene [in mind] from LotR.
(Mike) What about some of the themes? In The Two Towers, you have characters who are betrayed by people they’re supposed to be loyal to, like how the Claymores are betrayed by the Organization, and also that they have to fight Awakened Ones with almost impossible odds and even though they think they’re going to lose.
Tanaka: It could be that because the anime was based on the original manga and that the original author could have been influenced by it.
(Mike) Were there any things about the total production of Claymore that you wish you could have completed or changed in the anime version but couldn’t, because there was not enough time or other limitations? Did you feel that you really accomplished all that you really wanted to out of the production?
Tanaka: He can’t be too specific here, but there are several points that he wanted to spend more time on, but since the production is a limited time production, he could not. Recently, there were some ideas that were popping [in his head] occasionally, but it’s really something he can’t go back and fix so, he [was left] wondering “why didn’t I think of this before?”
(Mike) Do you have any similar thoughts, Umehara-san?
Umehara: Since they’re really running on a tight schedule, they don’t really have the time to keep in mind that they should have gone back and fixed things. What he wanted to do…it’s more of, because there’s 47 total Claymores…and not even half were able to appear in the show. With so many characters it’s difficult to focus on that one, so he wished that he were able to spend more time on characters he was fond of.
(Mike) Do you have any favorite characters?
Umehara: Of course he loves the main character, Clare, and Teresa. But he really likes a particular character called Ophelia, because she has some aspects that are more human-like than other Claymores, and also because her character has depth.
Tanaka: Director Tanaka’s favorite character is also Ophelia, and simply because she’s a very emotional character, and he’s always enjoyed episodes that she appears.
(Mike) Those are some of my favorite episodes as well.
Tanaka: What was really unexpected was, first off, to be honest, he didn’t really care for the character. (Laughter) But what was amazing was that when the voice actor did the voice, he saw what kind of character she was. So with the help of the voice actor he was able to come up with a characterization.
Umehara: On episode 8, Priscilla turns into an Awakened One, and she has this really great monstrous scream. So, it was really shocking to hear that, because you don’t hear that kind of quality from a normal voice. Everyone that sees that voice actor asks her, “Did you do that with filters, or a machine, or did you put in some kind of effects?” But no, it was actually her screaming. And they enjoyed the fact that she was able to do that.
(Jeremy) Which Awakened Being gave [Umehara] the most trouble to design for?
Umehara: What he had difficulty with was, within the written work, he couldn’t feel that there was a certain law or a certain style that was common to all Awakened Ones. So he was struggling to find a certain style that would be able to be used for other Awakened Ones too. In finding that style, it’s particularly in how many lines, how many drawings that’s going into each character because drawing for animation is more complex. But after he designed Priscilla, designing the Awakened Ones wasn’t that difficult.
(Mike) I wanted to ask a question about the storytelling decisions that were made with regard to the ending. Since the manga is still ongoing, it was felt that you had to find a place to end the story with the first season. So what kind of decisions were involved in making some of the narrative changes and how that was decided—what kind of committee meetings or consultation?
Tanaka: What they first discussed before beginning the production was: where would the ending take place? [Given the manga is still continuing, they talked about] how far the length of the show and how many seasons it could go for, and they said it could go as far as till the point where it was at that day—which was around the middle of volume 11. But since they’re creating a TV show, which means it’s for a TV audience—of course people who’ve read the manga will watch it too, but this TV show is made for that audience. Which means there’s also people who knows the TV show only. Now, in this case, it’s really unfair for the people who are watching the TV show if you end it on the “To Be Continued”—[of course] they could have ended it somewhere in the storyline in the original work and said, “please buy the book”—but it’s really unfair. As a staff creating anime, they didn’t want to do that. They discussed how to create an ending where the fans of the TV show could be satisfied…of course, he’s not saying that it was supposed to be an ending the followers of the manga wouldn’t accept. But they had both groups of people in mind.
(Jeremy) I’ve been following a series I’ve been rather fond now and I’ve found very interesting: Kaiji. So I was curious about Tanaka-san’s role in that, because I had not heard anything about that and if he could elaborate a bit on that, and his feelings on that particular show.
Tanaka: He is actually involved with Kaiji, and he was involved in the previous show by the same original creator with a similar style. In Kaiji he took the role of the assistant director…but it turns out [productionwise] Claymore ended and Kaiji began on the same exact time, so he came in later in the production [of Kaiji]. So right now what he is doing is helping out as episode director.
(Jeremy) Is this difficult for you, not being able to work on that? Were you looking forward to working on Kaiji?
Tanaka: He does miss the fact that he couldn’t participate in Kaiji, but he did have his plate full, so it couldn’t be helped.
(Jeremy ) You can’t have your cake and eat it too, as we say here.
Tanaka (laughs): That amount of dessert might be a bit too heavy.
(Miscellaneous thoughts on how they got into the industry)
Tanaka: When he first entered the animation industry, it wasn’t like he had this burning passion to create anime, because when he first graduated from high school, he didn’t know what to do, and he noticed that “hey, I like anime,” so that is how he entered the industry. Somehow, it’s been continuing, and even the President [of Madhouse] says that, “I thought he’d had quit by now.”
Umehara: When he first entered the industry, he first wanted to become a manga artist. But in order to become a manga artist, there was not only the fact that he had to draw, but that he had to be a storyteller. And this was something difficult for him. So the next step he was looking for was becoming an animator, in which you can describe the world by drawing. He loves creating the settings, particularly in Claymore…the past self that wanted to become a manga artist is still living on within him, and he believes that creating the settings is part of storytelling. He thought it was a perfect match for his inner self. Everyone wants to know in the middle part of the story about how the story will continue and for him, it’s the same, because when he’s doing the animation, he wonders how these characters lived and it’s really…marvelous.
(Advice for those seeking entry into the industry)
Tanaka: Even in Japan, all these new people are interested in joining up the industry. These are all really passionate people…but sometimes dreams go too ahead of the reality, and reality has to catch up. So when you’re trying to do something, you should be aware of that. It’s going to be really tough to balance out if you can’t really take one step back and look at yourself, if [all you’re doing is just ] leaning forward; it’s going to be really tough. It’s very important that you’re passionate about it, but if you’re too passionate, you might burn yourself.
Umehara: You really have to wonder what your next step is. To be really passionate means that you have a certain goal that you seek, but you really have to think beyond that. To reach that goal, you have to think of what steps you need to take. Every day you have to pick up a new skill, one by one, and try to achieve that goal. Basically this means, don’t be shirkers.
Tanaka: But before you enter that path, you should widen your range of activities and experience as many things as you can, because these experiences somehow will help you out in the future. He promises that. You should play around with a lot of things.
(Jeremy) As I said before…Anime Diet are big fans of yours. It would be so wonderful if you could say ‘Anime Diet is the greatest.’
Umehara and Tanaka (in unison): Anime Diet is the best!