K-On! Movie interview: Scriptwriter Reiko Yoshida

HTT Airlines, Flight JL401:

Boarding seat 2:

Scriptwriter Reiko Yoshida

Yoshida-san worried whether it was feasible for the girls in the light music room to head to London and still have the work be K-On! in nature. During the scenario writing stage, she worried that the London part wouldn’t come to her. We came to hear about these troubles and devices to get through the film.

The degree of difficulty connecting a London trip to K-On!

– Would you mind telling us how the idea for the girls to take a graduation trip came about?

Producer Nakayama (Nakayama P) made the suggestion “how about a foreign trip?” He also mentioned some other ideas such as “telling a story in the gap between their second and third years that hadn’t been animated.” In the end, Nakayama-san made a strong request, “I really want something with that special feeling that makes you feel like it’s a movie,” and so the scenario became what it is.

– Creating something with that special feeling of a movie and mixing it with the everyday feeling of K-On! sounds like it would be incredibly difficult.

Until we went location scouting, the girls weren’t going to be in the music room at all; they’d just be heading off in the airplane to start the film. I was very worried that it wouldn’t feel like a K-On! work, but once I saw London in person, it surprisingly fit the franchise’s feeling. After that I was able to work without any worries.

– What parts of the city seemed to fit the franchise?

The different districts’ appearances were rather cute and I felt that the girls would match if they were in them. There were other things that I was delighted upon seeing all the districts. Various conversations came to mind upon seeing the locations.

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– The secret tale behind the creation of “Tenshi ni Furetayo!” was inserted into the film. Whose idea was it to insert that?

Director Yamada’s. It was something to make the story beyond simply a graduation trip. We wanted the girls to accomplish something, so we stuck that tale inside the story of the graduation trip in order to give it meaning. It’s something we thought about when frantically trying to combine the producer’s special feeling, the world of K-On!, and the TV series into one work.

– What did you three talk about in your meetings that you later inserted into the scenario?

How we should depict Yui and how to tie together the creation of Azusa’s song with the London trip. We reaffirmed everything. At the beginning, I would present a scenario to be used as a chopping block and then we would talk about it. The most difficult part of all had to be how to construct the tale so that the trip and the school parts didn’t feel disjointed.

– Included on the 9th DVD/BD volume was the extra episode “Planning” where the girls went to retrieve their passports. Was that foreshadowing for the movie?

At the time I wrote that episode, they hadn’t decided to do a movie yet! (laughs) Perhaps this was fated so that it would somehow match, but I wonder if Nakayama-san didn’t have that story in mind when he proposed “how about a trip overseas?”

– The climax of the film isn’t the gradation trip; instead we’re brought back to the school parts. That really feels like K-On! Was that in one of the early versions of the scenario?

The organization itself didn’t change much until the final version. Conversely, we wanted to have performances. We had down from the “sketch” stage (a note listing the general events that would happen in order before the scenario is written) that we wanted to do a concert. Thus I can say we went on a trip searching for a good place for the girls to perform during the scenario hunting.

– And as a result of that, it was decided to have performances on the stage by the London Eye and at the revolving sushi restaurant.

The revolving sushi restaurant was created from a time when I went to London previously. On top of a department store there was this performance that really left an impression on me. So when the time came to make the scenario, there wasn’t any kitsch locations where that kind of a performance could be found. As a result, it moved there.

– There was a model Sushi Ranchu restaurant too, wasn’t there?

It’s not as decorated with goldfish, but the image is similar. You could see some sushi you’d never see before there. (laughs) There were a lot of mysterious sushi dishes like ones with blueberry sauce, so we decided to go there since it’d be entertaining to see the girls in such a weird place.

Things never changing regardless of locations was the movie’s theme

– It seems very difficult to have a movie depicted in just under two hours while not tarnishing the appearance of the TV series.

These girls talk so much, the scenario kept getting longer and longer as I kept writing. After I finished writing it, my first thought was “would all of this fit?” When I actually saw the completed film, I thought “It all fit perfectly.”

One could say pointless chatter is a symbol of K-On!. Since the girls continued to chatter around, the scenario was bigger than planned.

– Since the director is poor at cutting as well, the finished movie feels very dense and deep.

Even in portions where the scenario went overboard in pages, and since it could be condensed into visuals, I think the amount of information is so dense in the film. No matter how many times you see it, don’t you enjoy seeing new fine details and enjoying it all over again?

– Speaking of compressed, the English translating of “Gohan wa Okazu” was much longer in the scenario. Was that something you were very particular over?

That was the assistant producer Fujino-san’s incredibly hard work to create an English draft. It was very entertaining. It really feels like a high school gag.

– Were there any other gags that other people elongated?

The director was incredibly obstinate over the scene with Yui and Azusa changing rooms. So I inserted that scene where they go around and around for her.

– I was astonished at the amount of foreshadowing that was hidden in these impressive gags and nonsensical conversations.

I tried to keep in mind that even though these conversations may seem pointless, there has to be a point to them. Especially for the reason they head to London; I didn’t want people to forget about the episode with writing a song for Azusa. So I considered what everyone would say while keeping that in mind so the audience doesn’t forget about the song just during that portion.

– What portions and devices did you stick into the scenario so people wouldn’t forget?

The portion where for some reason Azusa would see Yui’s thoughts for lyrics and misunderstand their content. Though it was a trifling joke inserted in the film, it was my plan to have the movie move forward with Yui enjoying her graduation trip, but never forgetting that it’s more important to write the song for Azusa.

– The film itself is an original story; were there many difficulties in creating such an original story?

Since the film was after the TV series had come around, the characters had already been established, so there weren’t any difficulties for that part. The problems were with creating something that wouldn’t feel unnatural with the TV series. I made sure that the girls would look the same going to such a far far away place.

– Surely, even though they’re in London, they would act just like usual, right?

This movie’s theme, or rather core, is that there are things that don’t change regardless of where they are. No matter where, those girls will always be Afterschool Tea Time. Probably after this, after graduation, sometime in the future, that still won’t change. Somehow I wanted to put that kind of image in the film.

Creating the movie’s scenario to make Yui the main focus

– There’s many moments in the TV series where it feels it’s being told from Azusa’s point of view, but the movie really feels like it’s from the third years.

The TV series feels like each episode has someone else standing out, but for the movie, I created it wanting to make Yui the protagonist so that she would stand out. The director also wanted her to be the protagonist so the story wouldn’t be spread out. Instead of “there were a lot of jokes, but I don’t understand what the story is” we wanted to make something with “there’s a lot of jokes, but it really touched me.”

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– Though it revolves around Yui, it feels like all of the characters appear in the movie nonchalantly. I would think that was quite a chore.

I worked hard at fitting them all in while watching the length. It really troubled me as to creating a good reason for Sawa-chan to somehow get to London. (laughs) Before that I thought about having the occult club appear as a joke. “Perhaps they could run into the occult club there.” I think everyone loves them.

– I wonder if there weren’t a lot of people surprised at the opening with the girls pretending to be Death Devil.

That idea was born with the desire to make them want to be cool, but the girls wouldn’t really seem that cool at all.  It was meant to be a character introduction as soon as you catch onto what was happening. This section introducing them as the girls who aren’t the kind that enter lots of contests or perform a lot of concerts, but the kind that enjoy themselves while playing music, was down in the sketch stage.

– What other stories do you have about the director?

She was incredibly particular when we went to London on making it feel like the girls. Though there’s a lot of places to visit in London, she had no interest in visiting anything that was different from their world. There was a scene when we were buying snacks at the supermarket where she went “Look at how cute these snacks are! And the packaging!” that was probably born from her interest in what the girls would think.

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–  Who was the person to suggest the concept of changing the lyrics of “Tenshi ni Furetayo!” to exclude “kitten” and change it to “angel”?

That was me. Originally I had it at the end of the C-part where the girls see snow falling outside their taxi on the way to the airport, but the director said why not hold off a little while and make it at the climax of the film? So while they would watch snow fall in London, Yui would say “like our angel” and there the part would end. Not wanting to leave that out, I moved it a bit after that and inserted it in the point after the classroom concert.

– What is your personal favorite scene?

I really love the scene in the beginning where Yui is taking out the trash. The school is starting to feel like graduation and feeling a bit prickly. AlsoI really love the K-On! feeling in scenes like the concert in the revolving sushi restaurant. That slightly stupid, pitiful feeling. (laughs)

– The story from the graduation trip until graduation not only feels oriented towards the hardcore fans, but it feels aware of people watching that haven’t seen anything K-On! until the movie.

I always wanted to spread the gates as much as possible. Though it is an extension of the TV series, it’s also a movie in its own right. For the fans who saw the TV series, it’s the graduation of the third years that created the light music club. For the people seeing the series for the first time, it’s a graduation film.

– Was it your intention to make the final scene, and the climax before that as well, feel as though they were the ending?

Right. The director also wanted it to feel like it was a promise with the TV series, where the tears wouldn’t end.

– Finally, please give a few words to the fans.

With the final part being the movie attached to it, K-On! feels amazingly finished to completion. It’s thanks to everyone who saw the series that we were able to make the movie. I feel incredibly grateful for all the fans. Thank you for all your support.

Profile:

Reiko Yoshida
Scriptwriter. Notable series composed include Saint Seiya Omega, Maria-sama ga Miteru, Kimi to Boku, Girls und Panzer, and Tamako Market.

 

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