Amagi Brilliant Park Staff Interviews: Author Shouji Gatou

This is the last of the three staff interviews featured in the guidebook for Amagi Brilliant Park. Let’s finish with the author of the light novels: Shouji Gatou!

Amaburi Staff Interviews

Creator/Series Supervisor: Shoji Gatou
Well-known author who has published various titles such as Full Metal Panic! (from the Fantasy Bunko label) He has also served as an anime scriptwriter for various shows and was the series composer for Hyouka alongside director Yasuhiro Takemoto.

The creator of Amagi Brilliant Park influenced the anime production from the role of “series supervisor.” Here we speak with Shoji Gatou about the birth of the franchise, the secret tales of how the characters were born, and shed light on the backstage events of the anime production!

Adding some slack spices up a work!

– Please tell us how you set out to write the original Amaburi novels.
For a long time, my Full Metal Panic! shorts were serialized in Dragon Magazine (published by Kadokawa Fujimi Shobo). While it was full of gags instead of the seriousness the main series had, it was quite popular with the readers and I also enjoyed writing them. That’s why I wanted to write something light with gags and comedy in it. I’m in my forties now. I think it would be difficult to write something light when you’re in your fifties, so I felt that if I didn’t write something like that now, I’d never get a chance to write it. (laughs)

– What was the reason behind choosing an amusement park?
It started when I went to an amusement park with a friend and we saw a mascot energetically playing around with the kids. I thought “wouldn’t it be funny if that mascot actually hated kids?” If I could depict the real world worries and problems that an amusement park mascot had in a light manner, then wouldn’t that be something new for me? Also, if it was at an amusement park, then I thought that the reader would be able to enjoy the scenery and the spectacle of the setting.

– How did you construct the story as a whole?
My first inclination was to make a straightforward rags-to-riches story so that it’d be easier for the readers to emphasize with the characters. I felt they could easily sympathize with the re-building of an amusement park that was near ruin. And then, because this wouldn’t be a type of story where you have that “person inside” a mascot, there’d inevitably have to be a detail  where ‘the mascots came from a magical land.” Now you have the general setting completed. However, despite that I usually think about the setting for my works to be incredibly detailed, I never settled  on how the magical world “Maple Land” would exist in Amaburi. There would be points that I’d decide upon as I was writing too. I’d write the directions to Maple Land being “head on the JR Nambu Line until you get to Yokohama. From there, just take the limited express.” (laughs) Sometimes the readers get upset at you if you’re too lax, but that slack is the flavor of Amaburi to me.

– Next, please tell us how the characters were created. First, what was the reason behind the protagonist, Seiya, being a high school student who acts as the general manager?
I wrote Seiya as a high school student so that more people would accept him as a character. In Japan, almost everyone has lived that high school lifestyle, so it’s easy for anyone to sympathize with a someone going through that. But Seiya becomes the key man in restoring the failing amusement park, so he’s not just an ordinary high school student; his character needed an element to know about the adult world as well. That’s why I added the part where he was a former child actor. It fit him to look on from up high and say various things to improve the park’s entertainment due to knowing about the entertainment industry.

– And with that, Seiya became a very talented character.
There was one more reason: I’m not great at moving around a character without any weak spots, so I took it upon myself to make him this super incredible person as my own challenge. But it was hard to continue writing like that, so when he spoke to Isuzu about his past traumas, he became a character who showed some weaknesses as well. In the end, you could say “he became a character with a weak spot like all of Gatou-san’s works.”

– Seiya is a high school student, yet this story takes place in the amusement park and doesn’t really depict school life at all. What was the reason for that?
Because I don’t think that everyone in the world lives a fully satisfying high school life. I think that if there’s people who have fun during high school, then there has to be others who continually spend it by themselves. Possibly those people would find entertaining things outside of school. For Seiya, Amaburi is that place and I wanted to portray that “school isn’t everything” sense. Although, episode 8 in the anime, the school one, was very popular, so perhaps I might insert some stories like that at times.

– Next, please tell us how you created the heroine, Isuzu.
Isuzu came into my head when I was talking with my editor about “what if Sousuke (Full Metal Panic!’s protagonist Sousuke Sagara) was a girl?” Fundamentally, she’s quite talented, but she has that inflexible and constant fruitless effort part in common with Sousuke. Also, since she’s the type of character who’s very capable as a secretary, but poor as a leader, I attached “low self-esteem” to her personality. With her being a girl with a fair amount of issues, she’s suitable to be a heroine.

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-Then how about the other heroine, Latifa?
I straightforwardly tried to keep her as my image of a “princess.” Since I wanted to create a story where everyone tries their best for this young girl, I endeavored to keep her as a pure, pitiful heroine without a hint of that “actually, I’m bad to the bone” personality. I created that “reset of a year’s memories” aspect so that she’d be that “heroine who needs saving.” I kept thinking about how to add more and more to her to the point where I looked back at my past self and said “Who would think about creating such a horrible situation for her?!” (laughs)

– We’d like to hear about the mascot characters next. Moffle looks like Bonta-kun from Full Metal Panic!. It’s quite impactful.
Bonta-kun was one of my favorite characters, so I asked the illustrator for Full Metal Panic!, Shiki Douji-sensei, if I could use her design. Personality-wise, he’s been through many different roles, so he’s the kind of person who takes a long-term view on things. My editor said “Hey, Gatou-san, this can pretty much stay as it is.” (laughs) He may be the character I’m most attached to in the series.

– What about Macaron and Tirami?
Macaron came to me when I was thinking “it’d be entertaining if there was a mascot who was separated from his wife and children and talked with his lawyer about paying child-raising expenses.” After that, I added various danger elements like being a former delinquent. For Tirami, when I referenced all the violent girls around them, Tirami became a woman lover. Since there’s no real depth for Tirami, I talked with (Yasuhiro) Takemoto-san about “what if Tirami loves women, but has no experience with them?” The truth is that it’s unknown. (laughs) I like Moffle the best of those three, but if the chance comes, I’d like to write an episode of those three at the bar.

– How about the four Elementario girls?
I created them with the thought about including more pretty girls besides Isuzu and Latifia in the series. But, as there wasn’t any background on them at the time they appeared in the novel, I had to think about a detailed backstory for them for the anime. For example, Sylphy is a bit of an airhead now, but at first she was the older-sister type character. How Salama likes Muse also came from the anime. Thanks to the charming depiction of their images, all four of them were able to stand out.

While the other three girls were doing something, Sylphy would be frolicking by herself saying meaningless things. In episode 13, she was the only one throwing paper airplanes.

While the other three girls were doing something, Sylphy would be frolicking by herself saying meaningless things. In episode 13, she was the only one throwing paper airplanes.

– There are a lot of other characters who appear. Did you think of all of them by yourself?
I didn’t come up with everyone by myself; some were jokes the editor threw out while we were drinking. Anyways, the stock increases every time we drink, so there’s still a lot of characters who haven’t appeared yet. Although I don’t know if there’s a chance I could show a useless character like someone who’s only trait is “a mascot who went to jail on false molestation charges.” (laughs)

My favorite characters are the three kindergartners!

– This time you were credited with “series supervisor” for the anime. In what way did you influence production?
When I first heard that it was going to be animated, I thought I could compose the series entirely by myself, but as I was also writing the novels at the same time, I was caught without enough time to do both. Due to that, I put my faith in the veteran scriptwriter (Fumihiko) Shimo-san to do the main work and I would work as a supervisor. Also as the person in charge of saying dumb things. Takemoto-san is relatively serious and wouldn’t include things like pointless sexy scenes. Me on the other hand would encourage everyone to “include more sexy!” I worked together with Takemoto-san on Hyouka before this, and he flat out rejected me while I was fighting as the sole soldier of erotic justice. (laughs)

– You were in charge of the scripts for episodes 4, 9, and 12. What was the reason you chose those four episodes?
These were episodes that had parts that weren’t in the novels, so I thought “I’ll do these for them myself.” Especially episode 9. I was finalizing the background for the Elementario while writing the script, so I had to write that one. Episode 12 was the real finale, and I felt the novel’s “we made our goal with the attendance for the soccer match” was a bit too weak of a punch line for the anime, so I wanted to insert some original elements. When talking with Takemoto-san and Shimo-san, we agreed that mobilizing all the characters surrounding our staff members would be a suitable conclusion.

-I laughed at the fact that the three kindergarteners were the final three guests.
I wrote that punch line thinking “if those three were the last guests, it’d be quite the surprise.” They first appear in episode 4, which I wrote the script for, so as I wrote them eagerly saying strange lines like “give us food and water!” they became weird characters. Because of that, I became instantly attracted to them and wanted them to appear whenever was a good point for them to show up.

Every scene with the three kindergartners had quite an impact. Their ferociousness and the impressive sight of their attacks on Isuzu was quite an attraction.

Every scene with the three kindergartners had quite an impact. Their ferociousness and the impressive sight of their attacks on Isuzu was quite an attraction.

-What impressions of the visuals still remain with you?
The scene near the end of episode 12 when Latifa and Seiya are talking in Maple Castle; I thought “Yep, this is a KyoAni work” when I saw the beautiful images. The way the flowers on the trees were sparkling still remains with me. Takemoto-san’s thoughts on that scene was that we should “dig deeper into Latifia’s feelings about her memory resetting,” so I thought more about it as I wrote its script. As a result, it became a very touching scene when we included her being saved. Some people may think it’s “too easy” for that to have happened, so even though I thought it felt perfect to end the anime with, it wasn’t the final shot.

– You also wrote the script for episode 14, which is included on the BD/DVDs. It’s completely a gag episode.
Seriousness is important, but you have to have gag episodes too. I wanted to include an incredibly slapstick episode, but with only 12 episodes, there wasn’t enough space to fit one in. Thankfully, I could do whatever I wanted in the remaining 2 episodes, so episode 14 got the brunt of me doing everything I wanted to do. My favorite three kindergarteners appear as well and they are both in and around gags too.

A surprising development in the relationships between Seiya, Isuzu, and Latifa?!

– What event remains with you regarding the anime?
Since I was fundamentally at every recording session, I thought about adlibbing Sylphy’s meaningless one-liners there. Though the basic script had been completed at that point, while we were recording, sound director (Youta) Tsuruoka-san would come to me and ask “This adlib’s a bit too long, I’d like one a bit shorter,” and so I’d quickly think of a new one. When I’m working on a manuscript at my desk, I don’t give a damn about what anyone thinks, but I felt like I’d die of embarrassment trying to think of one in front of everyone else. (laughs) This was the most embarrassed I’d felt since I was asked “please come up with some magic incantation” while we were recording “The Tower of Druga,” which I wrote the scripts for. I was stuck reading aloud how to pronounce each spell in front of everyone.

– After the anime, were there any characters you wanted to delve into more?
Actually, I’m writing a story for the novels that delves into the four Elementarios. I want to write more and more about those girls and the three part-timers, but since sentences aren’t as flashy as visuals, perhaps they’d look better in the anime. I wouldn’t mind writing about Tricen or the sober and present Jaws, but I don’t know if there’s any demand for that. (laughs)

– Having watched the anime, I’m curious about the relationship between Seiya, Isuzu, and Latifia. What will happen later for those three?
Though it doesn’t appear I deliberately wrote it as such in the novel, it does seem like they’ve eventually become a love triangle. By the way, at this point it may feel better to go with Latifia more or less in the novel. But will Isuzu make a comeback victory? Please stay tuned to find out what’s coming next! (laughs)

– Finally please give a message to all those who watched the anime.
Thank you very much to everyone who stayed and watched the Amaburi anime until the very end. It would make me very happy if you all enjoyed it. Afterwards, I think you’d like reading the various publications as well. If you desire something where “I want to see this kind of episode!” please contact the Kadokawa Fantasy Bunko editing department in your spare time. If it’s a good idea, I might consider writing about it if I feel like it. (laughs)

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