K-On! Movie interview: B-part Director Hiroko Utsumi

HTT Airlines, Flight JL401:

Boarding seat 4:

B part Director Hiroko Utsumi

Utsumi-san’s B-part has a very high number of events from the airplane leaving Japan until the conveyer belt sushi restaurant. We talked with her regarding how she directed this highly informative part.

The highlight was the scene in London’s Underground waiting for the train

– Please tell us your impressions of the original manga.

I thought Mio was very cute (though now I’m a Ritsu fan….). I was in the light music club when I was a high school student, so I felt I would be reliving those days, but it was something else entirely. (laughs)

– You participated in the series since the second season. Would you mind telling us your direction plans and way of thinking? Also, what did you talk to director Yamada about at that time?

The “life-sized girls” was a very important theme for her, so I focused on the detailed portions such as girlish motions, gestures, tenderness, etc. Whenever I would meet with her, like during our preparation meetings, we would talk on and on about constructing it from the girls’ point of view, the atmosphere of real high school girl life, how to display them in pictures, and so forth. I gratefully accepted the image she had in mind for that atmosphere as it resembled some movie.

– What were your thoughts when you heard it was being made into a movie?

I honestly never imagined the girls’ silver screen debut would ever happen….

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– While working on the movie, what did you talk about with director Yamada?

Basically the usual atmosphere of K-On! She told me “even though it’s a movie, the girls aren’t going to change. They’re going to feel the same as they head to London, so enjoy the many events in the B-part!” So I enjoyed working on it along with the key animators and AD.

– What part were you chosen to direct?

The B-part.  It’s a long chain of events starting from the scene where Yui and Nodoka have tea, encompassing the back and forth in the airplane, and finally the happening concert at the conveyer belt sushi restaurant.

– Were there any parts of your direction that you changed between the movie and TV series or any parts that you put in more effort into?

While it’s important to maintain the mood of the TV series, a movie has to have that special feeling.  I made sure that the important portions of the movie (Azusa’s gift) would look impressive by making them longer than usual and adding more frames.

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– When you were working as a director on the film, what steps did you take to be cautious for your work?

I did my best to scoop out the intentions, thoughts, and aims from the storyboards the director drew since she was a unit director herself. I moved to be in the same studio as her so that we could always chat back and forth and so that if I was lost over something, she would be right there.

– Please tell us about your favorite scenes or any scene that you were particular over in the part you worked on.

My favorite scene is with the staff at the conveyer belt sushi restaurant with Mugi getting upset that there wasn’t a keyboard and Ritsu kept trying her best to speak English ……but she was mostly speaking Japanese! For a scene that I was particular over, that would be one I gave my all so that it would be the most important in the part and one of the highlights, but one I couldn’t let slip away. That would be the scene where everyone is eating snacks while waiting for the train in London. That might seem like a nonchalant scene, but it’s the scene that most symbolizes the girls. I was very particular about the direction, of course the animation, shading, and focus so that everything matched.

– Would you tell us your favorite scenes that were not in the part you worked on?

I love the girls pretending to be Death Devil in the A-part. Mugi’s disheveled hair and Ritsu’s red light slippage was just too much! The concert in the C-part was too cool and I cried during Sawako’s flashback in the D-part…

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– You’ve worked with director Yamada for the second season and the movie. In your opinion, what kind of director is director Yamada?

She’s just her own Yamada World!! I can’t really classify her; she’s really got her own peculiar sense and expressions no one else can do. She’s able to scoop out things that I’m always awful at doing. (laughs)

– Please tell us your impressions of the K-On! series that you worked on.

This was the work I did the storyboards and directing as a set for the first time, so I have a lot of attachment to this series. Personally, I think I struggled greatly at it. (laughs) This has been a valuable work for me learning a lot of girlish characteristics such as ambiance, cuteness, sweetness from the director and at the same time I feel I’ve grown a lot too. And then after being around them so long, there’s this huge amount of love for the girls! Everyone’s so cute! If I can sum it up, it’s love!

– Please give a comment for the fans.

It was thanks to the reactions from everyone that these three years were possible. Of course I’d like to say production was easy, but honestly, it was tough to properly make something with instruments. You can’t use ordinary techniques for performance scenes. They were tough, but thanks to knowing everyone would be watching, we persevered.  Knowing so many people watched something we created makes us all very happy. It’s the source of our power! It really makes me happy knowing that everyone who watched the series had that same love for the girls sprout up that we did. Truly, thank you all very very much!!

Profile:

Hiroko Utsumi Director and animator at Animation Do. Notable works include directing Free! and episode director of Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! and K-On!!

 

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