Tag Archives: Madhouse

Madhouse/Team Chihayafuru Press Conference

Takuya Tsunoki (producer), Kunihiko Hamada (animation director), and Asaka Morio (director).

This is the full transcript/translation of Madhouse’s Chihayafuru production team at their press conference during Anime Expo 2012. The team consists of Asaka Morio (director), Kunihiko Hamada (animation director), and Takuya Tsunoki (producer). Morio did most of the speaking, and is known for directing other shoujo works such as Card Captor Sakura and Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl and others.

Translation help provided by KylaranAeldin of The Nihon Review. Our questions are bolded and underlined. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Was there anything about Chihayafuru that made you want to take on this project?
: The idea was just to make the original manga into an anime.  Since the manga was about karuta, we simply had to do it. In so far as we had to do an anime about karuta, even if it was difficult, it was necessary.

Has the anime spread knowledge of karuta and made the game more popular?
(translator paraphrase): well, basically there aren’t a lot of people who play karuta in Japan, but because of the anime, there were more people playing karuta than before.

Do you play karuta yourselves? How good are you?
: I don’t play at all. I’m terrible.
: Same.
Sorry, but I also don’t really play karuta… At first, when we started making the anime, we were all talking about making our own team and joining a competition, but that never ended up happening. We instead put all of our passion into making the anime. All three of us are basically newbies.

Chihayafuru is billed as a shoujo anime, but it has appeals to boys as well. Why do you think that is?
: Well, the original manga is serialized in a publication for girls, but what is being told is a story about high schoolers deeply passionate about their afterschool activities. I think that part reaches out to both guys and girls.

What is special about the character of Chihaya and what draws you to her?*
: I see… This may be different from what the original author is thinking, but in terms of Chihayafuru, the main character Chihaya is incredibly straightforward, which is an incredibly important axis for the entire series. I think that might be why it’s her.

Do American action movies have an influence on your scenes?
: Well… Er, I do like movies, so I might be influenced by them unconsciously. We don’t make an anime with the intent to draw from some other work, but I do think that there are influences from what we normally watch. What I mostly watch— in Japan, there’s a lot of American films shown, so there’s probably some influence there.

Last year Madhouse lost director Osamu Dezaki. How has the studio taken his passing and what influence, if any, did you take from his work?
: Dezaki-san is someone that everyone in the industry respects, so there’s a lot of people who’ve been influenced by him in addition to us.

Did you ever expect Chihayafuru to get such a warm international reception?
: Nope, we didn’t expect it at all. See, we didn’t even know the best way to get Japanese to like it, so difficult a theme it was. To come to America and talk to people about it something was far from what we were thinking.

The anime was incredibly well done in terms of moving the plot and developing characters while explaining karuta. How did you balance all these elements?
: Oh, so people see it as being executed smoothly. That’s pretty… *laugh* “Honestly, did people here see it as smoothly done?” I wonder.

What is the most important element to make a good anime series?
: It might depend on the type of work involved, but for producers and directors, we think the most important thing is… probably, how well people can be drawn into the anime’s world. I think our job is to create a believable imaginary world. For example, with Chihaya, we want people to feel like they can see the characters and look all over the place, along with telling that to our staff. So, getting people sucked into the world is very important.

You created different works with a female characters as leads, but it seems that men seem to get into your shows more than others. Why do you think that is?
: Well, as me mentioned earlier there’s that part about the character’s passions, but… Even though I’m a guy, I like girl’s manga. How do I put this? I don’t really think it matters that the main character is a girl.

(Card Captor) Sakura was the first winner of SaiMoe competition, and the show was one of the very first series to popularize moe culture. What’s your reaction to being one of the formative influences on the current moe trend?
: Um, I don’t really know that much about moe culture, but Cardcaptor Sakura was a show for little girls and their mothers. So, um… I wasn’t aiming to make a “moe” product or anything, so I don’t really understand moe.

How would each of you define your own artistic styles?
: I’ve never thought of trying to put a piece of myself into a piece of work before. Depending on the show, the style is going to change, so each one is unique. We emphasize that when we work, so… Personally, I haven’t tried to put a part of my personality in my work. I think it’s something that’s within the work already. However, from other people’s point of view, there might be a semblance of something, but I don’t try to do it myself.

What are your feelings about the late Satoshi Kon’s unfinished film? (Dreaming Machine)
: We knew about his condition from even before he passed away. I think his passing was really unfortunate because he had a lot of talent. Um, it’s really a shame [a waste]. He should’ve been someone to continue living and making interesting anime….We do know that was in the middle of a project before his death, but unfortunately, nothing’s been done to it due to his passing.

How did you come up with the musical motifs in the show, and how much was the composer’s input vs yours?
: Well, the one who made the music was our composer, but what I ordered to be done was… Since the show is about the youthful times of high schoolers, I ordered lively music to be made.

While Chihaya is the main character, Kana Oe is very popular among fans, the one they want to be their girlfriend. Which one of the girls do each of you prefer?
: You’re asking me about my favorite girl character? [Translator: Yes.] The only two choices are Kana-chan or Chihaya. Not a lot of options are there? From those two choices, maybe Chihaya. Kana-chan sounds like she would be annoying. She has big boobs though.
: I– If I had to choose, Kana-chan I think. If it was Chihaya, it’d be a bit hard to get on the same page with her. So, I definitely if I had to pick it’d be Kana-chan.
: I like Kana-chan too. My wife is short, but… well, her breast size is a secret. But I do think some of her traits resemble those of Kana-chan’s, she’s my pick.

When did you decide to use certain directorial techniques in each scene, particularly motion scenes?
: It differs from scene to scene, but for that first scene, there first poem that’s read in the Hyakunin Isshu (100 Poets)—Naniwazu ni. There’s a poem that starts with that, and the poem talks about a flower. That flower is the Sakura, so we decided to animate Sakura.

Did you deliberately try to correlate the flowers in the poems to the visuals on screen?
: At first, we did try to match the flowers in the poems with the scenes. Other than that, the characters. Like flowers blossoming behind Kana-chan or something. We didn’t do it for male characters though. That part was based on the atmosphere as a girl’s manga plus the character themselves.

Did you get any help or cooperation from the official karuta league or organization in Japan?
: Um, there’s a group called the All Japan Karuta Organization. Even in Japan karuta isn’t that big, but there are groups that want to make it popular and we did get some help from them. We learned things like the order to place the cards, so they helped us in those areas.

Are you thinking of any co-branded marketing, like, say, branded card decks?
: We haven’t thought of something like that at all. What’s used in competitions already has a set design, so they can’t create their own.

Madhouse is known for darker works like Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s Wicked City, Ninja Scroll, etc. You tend to do lighter works. Which one is closer to Madhouse’s identity?
: None in particular. Some of the stuff I’ve worked on before is dark, like one where the characters may be bright and happy but the story itself isn’t. It’s not like I’m always picking light-hearted shoujo manga to adapt.

*This was not the original question asked, which was: “What draws you to making stories about strong female protagonists?” It was lost in translation.

Exposition: Anime Expo 2012, Day 3 [FINAL]

Silver Tier—now that’s more like it.

Day 3 was, unfortunately, my last day, since I had to go back to work on Monday.

I did the same as the day before—arrive early in the morning to the press lounge, to pick up LiSA concert tickets. This time, they were available, but Masquerade tickets were not. I had no intention of going to the Masquerade, but apparently they too were the victim of printing problems. The conspiracy theory that a bunch of us press folks floated the night before—that our FictionJunction tickets were deliberately printed late to give us worse seats—was probably groundless if even Masquerade tickets were late. Shinmaru, newly minted Cart Driver writer, arrived later to the press lounge, along with zzeroparticle, Kylaran, and of course Benu.

I should mention that the press lounge was distinctly lacking in power strips, but I usually arrived early enough to claim one of the wall plugs near the window overlooking the exhibit hall. Free water was only available early in the morning. These are minor, minor complaints, especially since the all-important wifi and AC was still available, but it’s still a step back from the previous year. But I digress.

The first panel I attended with Shinmaru was the Madhouse/Chihayafuru panel. As we followed toastcrust and others on Twitter at Fate/Zero voice actor Rikiya Koyama’s panel, it was increasingly clear we went to the less funny and interesting one…nevertheless, there were many good questions asked at this panel for a change. We received some clarification about Chihayafuru S2—apparently it’s not certain if Madhouse will animate it. (We had been bizarrely asked not to talk about S2 during the press conference because it hadn’t been confirmed, though ANN had reported on the news earlier.) One Kana cosplayer caught the eye of the producer, who asked for a picture. A huge Keroro-chan sat in the back and waved. They all opined, diplomatically, that the moe trend didn’t necessarily pose a threat to quality anime. This was, despite the lack of Jack Bauer singing, a quality panel and we got some good tidbits out of it. And ATT 3G did not FAIL this time.

During the downtime between the Madhouse panel and the LiSA concert, I interviewed more press and industry folks about the troubles they had this year with registration, access, and other issues. It was around this time that I resolved to make a report about our frustrations this year. It felt like a duty as a press badge holder to make these things known in a truthful and accurate manner. You’ll be seeing that soon. I also had lunch with my friend Phoebe, who with her friend was cosplaying as Kurumi and Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke. I hadn’t seen Phoebe in a few years and it was good to catchup again.

When we took our seats for the LiSA concert, much to our relief, we learned that photography and video were both allowed at all times. And it was clear to me why, as LiSA began her cheerful, upbeat show. If Kajiura was reserved, powerful, and dignified in her music, LiSA was outgoing, inviting, and joyous. She interacted in solid English with the fans all the time, doing a great job getting everyone on their feet, to follow her motions, to sing along. This young, relatively new singer had a command of stagecraft that is enviable for her age and experience, and the open policy on shooting footage is a reflection of her relative openness. When she invited everyone to come up near her for a last photo at the end, I enthusiastically joined the stage rush. It’s been a while since I felt so happy after a concert.

Perhaps in an attempt to placate some of our dissatisfaction, there was a press-only reception at the 21+ open bar Lounge 21 not long after the concert. While the free drinks and hors d’oeuvres were appreciated, we heard nothing but similar complaints and stories from our fellow press colleagues. I managed to get several statements on video regarding our troubles. It was nice to hang out with our compatriots and see that we were not especially spoiled or alone, something I have no wish to be. There will be more than one press outlet that puts out a report about these issues, I now know. You don’t mess with press. :)

From the Red Carpet: Minami Kuribayashi, Kouki Yoshimune, and Ayami.

After dinner, there was just one more event I could attend, the Total Eclipse premiere with Minami Kuribayashi and Ayami singing their songs. Photo and video of any kind were not allowed, but given the low battery level of our equipment, we wouldn’t have been able to catch much anyway. In either case, I arrived just as Ayami was about to begin her song, and got into the spirit with Rome, Benu, and the rest of press in front row as we pumped our fists and cheered. The focus, of course, was on the anime itself, which was a surprisingly brutal war/militaristic mecha piece that featured only some fan-service in the first episode and no more. It’s basically the prologue/origin story of the main character, and so the main plot will begin with episode 3, but despite some clumsy directing it was actually fairly solid.

I had to rush out of the convention center and back to the hotel to pack up and leave for Union Station after that, saying a hasty goodbye to everyone, though I was able to get in a few wisecracks about Total Eclipse to the guys remaining in the hotel. I barely made it, with only 10 minutes to spare when I got on the train.

And that was my Anime Expo 2012. It was, on the whole, a successful convention, though not without its special frustrations for press this year. I had tremendous fun hanging out and being with my fellow aniblogging colleagues as well as of course the faithful and hardworking staff of Anime Diet. Thanks to @_eternal especially for providing a room for a bunch of us smelly scum of the earth, even if I went to bed and left earlier than all of y’all.

Let’s all meet again next year!

Blade – a good action anime for a Japanese Sunday morning

I’m not a comic book guy and never read the comic, nor did I watch the movie, so I can only comment from an anime watcher’s point of view:

First of all, this is a good anime. It’s good not because of powerful emotions or particularly smart plots. As for the drama, it’s competently done without anything dragged out or overtly lacking. The overall feeling of the show is clean. There’s action, and there’s character interaction. It’s not nearly non-stop fights (like Wolverine), and it doesn’t talk too much without doing what’s at the core of this show. After all, this is a vampire action anime, and that’s what it delivers.

For people who read the American comic, you know more than I do. For people who are like me, you can simply find the background on wiki or ANN or MAL. So I won’t bother with that. I’m just going to give an honest opinion on this stuff.

I’m not a big fan of any anime with a male lead unless it’s harem. An anime about a muscle dude that kicks ass appeals to me even less. However, Blade is not just any other muscle guy that kicks ass. He is the definition of the line “always bet on black”. No, not the cheesiness and exploitation of color, but the fact that he always manages to find a way to win. However, compared with wolverine, I feel the show makes it so that Blade tend to just overpower his opponents at the last second. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the fluid animation (when it’s not still shots) shows that this man can battle, but I don’t see the finesse of a swordsman. I’m probably the minority here, but what I’m trying to say is that, because it’s mostly he goes out and cut down the monster group of the week, there is a  sense of lacking in substance in the fighting department. I dunno, maybe I’m just picky (that’s what I do). After all, Madhouse animation equals top-notch quality, nearly flawless fights, right?

This show is certainly no Claymore. And it lags far behind Ninja Scroll. It probably doesn’t even hold up to the much-less known but awesome Kurozuka…or many other Madhouse fighting shows. It’s competent and good, but it doesn’t quite get there.

The reason I’m harping on the action because it’s an action anime.

But see, for what it is, it does a great job doing what it promises. It does give us the fight, the drama of Eric (Blade) having to deal with the evil within. The stuff about how he had to kill the most important person in his life, how he remains unconvinced of any possible salvation or saving graces, and all that. I get the feeling comic book fans would like this anime just fine. It’s another good Sunday morning cartoon except for the Japanese audience.

With Akio Ozuka, a good veteran male seiyuu with years of experience, as Blade, adding a likable female lead, played by the pure-voiced songstress Maaya Sakamoto (unfortunately she doesn’t sing in this show), an easily identifiable villain, some encounters with people affected by vampire events in different ways, and a cheesy but understandable cameo (I mean, Clamp does cameos and cross-overs all the time), you have a winsome formula. And that’s what the show is trying to do, really.

It’s just I want more from Madhouse.

Bottom line: it’s a summer blockbuster without real solid substance and it’s obvious that Madhouse is fulfilling its contract with Marvel and doing a great job at it. And sometimes, that’s all we ask for.

It’s just that this is a little bland.


Masao Maruyama/Sunao Katabuchi (Madhouse) Interview – AM2 Press Junket

This is one of the richest and most detailed interviews from this summer! We interviewed the president of Madhouse Studio, Masao Maruyama, together with writer/director Sunao Katabuchi, who is perhaps best known as the director of Black Lagoon and Mai Mai Miracle. We get into real depth about who they liked to work with, what their process is for deciding on a project, and especially what it’s like working on foreign co-productions vs working on a Japanese production. (Madhouse has collaborated several times with Marvel in recent years with anime versions of Iron Man and Wolverine, among others.)

This interview also represents something of a first for us, as it was conducted without any translator or mediator—it was done 100% in Japanese, which allowed us the time to get detailed replies. Transcript follows the break.


Continue reading Masao Maruyama/Sunao Katabuchi (Madhouse) Interview – AM2 Press Junket

Wolverine 03 04 continues the action

You know there is a point where there is too much action? Well, this show comes dangerously close to it. But anyhow, here’s how I feel about it so far.

A. it’s American.

Nothing wrong with that. I feel that you could put this on Saturday morning cartoons if you want. The drawing is Japanese-style American. Yukio, the ninja woman played by the awesome Romi Park, looks just like an American comic character. Then again, thanks to one of our readers, I learned that the story arc in this show probably comes from an old story from Wolverine (circa 1979). It’s a good plot, don’t get me wrong.

B. it’s action packed.

Hello, Omega Red! For people like me who didn’t know much about Wolverine and Omega Red, the back story/memory segments weaved into episode four was a welcome addition. For other people who know about Omega Red, it was probably unnecessary. In any event, the show never really stops. Wolverine is constantly fighting. There isn’t a moment for real conversation or character exploration. I don’t know, I feel it probably works for people who already know about Wolverine but for me, it’s starting to overload my senses. The shitty thing about being a veteran anime watcher and a critic is that you lose that sense of freshness. If I were 18 again and watching this, I’d give it all 10’s. But now I wish there’s some character exploration and plot progression. The show screams: “I’m cool.” And it is. It’s just not saying anything else.

C. I want to see Mariko does more/I wish Romi gets better lines.

I really wish she is given more personality. Or does more. Or whatever. So far, she’s not had any opportunity to do anything. That’s kind of disappointing. But what gets to me is that Romi, who is an awesome voice actress, hasn’t had many good lines, if any. I get it, it’s all about Wolverine, that’s where Marvel’s funding is. But I honestly wish there’s a little more. For that matter, Wolverine has been fighting nearly every minute for the four episodes that he hardly has anything to say. I get that, too. That’s Wolverine for ya. But even Wolverine has something to say from time to time. In an anime, I expect him to say more. He’s rough and tough but he’s smart and resourceful. Or I think he’s supposed to be.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s great action and great animation. And if you’re not a critic, then forget about what I said and just enjoy the fights. But I’m a hard motherfucker to please and that’s why I’m looking for a little more.

Still recommended.

P.S. I don’t know…is Omega Red ALWAYS CONSTIPATED???

Iron Man Anime Episode 1 Review

We were at the panel that premiereed the Iron Man Anime, the colloration effort between Marvel and Madhouse. Having not seen the Iron Man movie nor having not read the comic, I have limited interest in the franchise. That said, I’ll begin with the plot and the review. Those who want to be surprised, don’t read the plot part. Also see Anime News Network’s review, written by Todd Ciolek.

Continue reading Iron Man Anime Episode 1 Review

Claymore Petition – An Open Letter to Madhouse

Update: Madhouse doesn’t seem to give a damn and caved in for Marvel’s (MY GOD, Marvel?) junk hollywood property, Iron Man! Blasphermous! Let’s email bomb Madhouse at info@madhouse.co.jp ! Show them that we, the fans around the world, actually matters!

Madhouse Home Page

A few weeks ago, I sent an email to Madhouse, asking them to check out the petition and thanking them for their efforts. I will disclose the email here (forgive my terrible Japanese, please). The email is to Director Mr. Tanaka and Character Designer Mr. Umehara:

拝啓:田中洋之殿と梅原隆弘殿 Dear Mr. Tanaka and Mr. Umehara – クラモア



Dear Mr. Tanaka and Mr. Umehara
My Japanese is really bad but I think this is important. I hope you
will have some time to see it. Maybe there isn’t anything you can do,
but please appreciate our feelings. Thank you very much!

Claymore Season 2 petition

(I’m sorry I used Babel fish translation softo)

Thank you very much for all your hard work,
Ray of Anime Diet

Everyone, I encourage you to write something in your own language to Madhouse, to Jump Magazine (I couldn’t find their email address) and whoever else you think is important in this matter. No matter what happens, let’s show them our devotion! Post your email in “Leave Your Reply” section below for the world to see and remember!

Petition for Claymore Season 2!

I got this petition link from thiago_pagogna on MAL. He found my Claymore review (the second one on the page) and told me about the petition. From what I can understand, this is a non-profit Japanese site that offers people to sign petitions for something and to donate to causes if one so wish.

Anyway, it’s a peition for making a second season of Claymore. KURORO, a dedicated fan, is asking for our help. From what I can understand of Japanese language, it says that the goal is 10,000 votes by 03/31/2010 (March 31 2010). The final resuit is 12,707 signatures.


Thank you, thiago and everyone who signed it. You are all true winners and your names will be remembered

Anime Diet’s PMX interview of Director and Character Designer of Claymore

Claymore Anime Reviews, more reviews, series review, Reviews on Crunchyroll

Miz recapping the Decade from 2000 to 2009

Claymore 26 – How to die properly and how to live properly as a warrior.

Jeane dies honorably, repaying her debt and dying while helping Clare to change back. Farewell, Jeane, we shall truly miss you this time (manly tears).

Clare learns to move on, realizing that she must, because she can’t just go to the dark side and to hell just because she wants to – there are people who want her to live on.

Raki steps up to the challenge and helps to save Clare in the process. He knows that killing and taking personal revenge is actually the worst solution – it will drive a person over to the demon side. This is something Christians have know for centuries, that hating someone for the rest of your life, plotting or at least fantasizing about revenge will only destroy you.

In Japanese tales, when someone hates another person too much, that someone literally turns into a demon with horns and can never come back. The anime version Claymore seems to use that legend for the its story.

Clare finally gets over herself on her hate for Priscilla, and move on from her vengeful ways. She travels on with Raki and lives on, fully appreciates the meaning of living on. Jeane’s death teaches her that.

Miria, Helene, and Devene part ways. All of them including Clare, will not serve the organization any more.

The story ends fully concluding and closing the Northern Arc and yet it’s not so closed that a possible second season cannot happen. I commend Madhouse for pulling this one off. Congratulations!

The warriors journey on, each grows a lot, learning a lot, and knowing that one day, they shall meet again. Knowing that “Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.” (Samwise Gangee, while trying to encourage Frodo)

Isley and Priscilla goes away like classic anime villains, except they haven’t utterly lost the battle, it’s just that Isley simply decides to leave with Priscilla. This keeps in line with the eccentric characters of the Abyssal Ones.

I screamed like Aragorn when Jeane died. Man that sucked. But once again thanks to Mitsuishi Kotono-sama, the show is lifted up to another level of greatness.

I really have nothing much to say about this episode (I was so touch that I can’t even write anything now) except I’m completely satisfied with the how the TV series ends – it can end here, but it also leaves the possibility of a second season. Without talking too much more about it –

98% recommended for your daily anime diet.

Black Lagoon 23-24 (END)


Impressions (SPOILERS)

And so the most intelligent and exciting action anime to come along in a while closes its most extensive arc yet, with plenty of room for more seasons to come. (Though my hopes that Yukio, the schoolgirl Yakuza boss, might become a recurring character were, alas, not to be.) The reflective dialogue in this and the previous episodes lifts Black Lagoon into the ranks of the more intelligent action genre films like Michael Mann’s Heat or Collateral. This is also a show that isn’t afraid to develop characters very well, only to kill them off –arguably, Yukio is better sketched than mainstays Rock and Revy, though here we get to see a very, very vulnerable (for her) side of Revy. She’s back in character by the very last scene but we get the impression that when she says “If it were anyone but you, I’d have put two or three holes in you” it is as close to a love confession as she will ever come to.

Some of the broader issues Black Lagoon brings up are very interesting. Rock throughout the show, though more at the beginning, represents “civilian” values or perhaps more precisely the point of view of someone accustomed to comfort and unused to the brutally utilitarian underworld. The show, usually through the voices of Revy and Balalaika, works hard to undermine that viewpoint as being naive and arbitrary (though I wonder: Revy, ostensibly a nonbeliever, blurts out in episode 23 that the only thing that saved Rock’s skin was “God’s grace” and Balalaika’s surprising mercy). Eventually Rock adopts many of the values of the underworld, though never without completely losing any sense of compassion. It’s as if he has come to some sort of balance, of a sort, able to act decisively and coldly when necessary, but without becoming a war addict like Balalaika.

If one wants to push it a bit one can see a little of the realization that the pacifistic attitude among many modern Japanese is based less on principle and more on denial. I certainly agree, if the naive pacifism of many an anime is any indicator of general attitudes in Japan. Now I’m not sure the violent cynicism that passes for cool in this show–a very American attitude, I might add, and one which will make this show very easy to swallow for fans of films like Pulp Fiction and The Boondock Saints–is any better, but it certainly has a better claim on reality, I think. (The characters, Yakuza schoolgirl and Revy included, are also self-aware enough to admit that part of them longs for the flabby tranquility that Rock’s Japan stands for.) I also find it interesting that the prevailing attitude of most of the characters in the show is that they are beyond help, beyond any point where they can change their paths. This fatalistic attitude, laden with notions of “destiny,” is what seems more “Japanese” about it; Americans are more inclined to think that “it’s never too late to start again!” But everyone in this show already considers themselves as living in the twilight, as living dead. The Sartre quotations are oddly appropriate; the existentialist despair that pervades this show demands nothing less. There’s nothing left except to make one’s own meaning and go all the way, guns blazing.

More excellent analysis of this final episode is here.

So: Black Lagoon ends fittingly, with a gun shot, with the characters returning to their posts and ready for more adventures. May they go on many more than we otaku fanboys can see. Preferably with her:

Continue reading Black Lagoon 23-24 (END)