The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya Interviews – Chief Animation Director Dialogue

This is the second in a batch of interviews from The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya guidebook that I’ll be posting. Some of these were previously posted in 2011/2012 and I’ve gone back and edited them. This dialogue is the second of two newly translated pieces to provide more behind the scenes information regarding the animation process. Please enjoy hearing from the two major chief animation directors of the film, Shoko Ikeda and Futoshi Nishiya!

Animation Director Dialogue
Super Chief Animation Director x Chief Animation Director
Shoko Ikeda x Futoshi Nishiya

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Shoko Ikeda. Born on June 18. Served as character designer and chief animation director for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Drew key frames and served as animation director for many Kyoto Animation works like Lucky Star, Clannad, and K-On!.

Futoshi Nishiya. Born on October 26. Served as character designer for the spinoff The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya/Nyoron Churuya-san shorts. Served as chief animation director for the new episodes in the 2009 “re-airing” of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

Smiles, sorrow, Joy. A character’s “movements depict their wealth of emotions. We press these two animation directors on how they drew 9,773 seconds of animation.

Conveying the characters’ emotions through expressions and gestures

-For this film, Ikeda-san was listed as “super chief animation director” and Nishiya-san was listed as “chief animation director.” How did your workflow go?

Nishiya: All in all, we had 6 parts. Each part had its own animation director that would check the work, then the director would check after them and then all the cuts would come to me before finally arriving in a form for Ikeda-san to see.

Ikeda: Though we both fundamentally checked over the layouts, I was only in charge of part of the key animation.

– What part did you take the utmost care with while working as animation directors?

Nishiya: The posing and gestures, but definitely the facial expressions.

Ikeda: My work was after Nishiya-san, so I focused only on ensuring the characters matched with their appearances. At the beginning, I gathered the animation directors and explained once again the details of the characters. It would be there that I would say how, though we should bring out that gallant atmosphere of Haruhi, we shouldn’t over-do it on the cuteness overall.

Nishiya: With Ikeda-san giving us an explanation of the character designs, we were able to response and create good expressions for each character in their respective scenes.

Ikeda: Also, in order to not make the characters too realistic, we would do things like not attach shadows or make their face muscles limper. I advised everyone to insert a bit of flexibility in expressions or body postures in order to show focus on the emotional drama foremost.

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– How did you progress with your work?

Nishiya: At first we began from the A-part and worked continually from that point. Of course there were points that needed more energy put into them, so they turned out well due to the storyboards our three directors drew (Ishihara, Takemoto, Takao). Takao-san’s storyboards were especially keen in how she drew the characters. There was a ton of fighting spirit put in to respond to her storyboards.

Ikeda: There were some scenes that were lively to vary and build up a large amount of emotion like Kyon’s running scene.

Firmly depicting the range of flickering emotions

– What points were you conscious of while creating the image layouts for a movie?

Ikeda: While there is a certain state for how to draw an image that’s unique to movies, the layout image itself also changes. To say it simply, the screen itself spreads out where you cannot do a close-up. In order to make our layouts dense, we used many real techniques like 3DCG and photography when constructing them.

– Which characters were tough to work on as animation director?

Ikeda: For me it was Nagato after the world changed. I was tremblingly nervous while working, but I wouldn’t say my face was sheer white though.

Nishiya: For me it was Kyon. He’s drawn to appear in nearly every single cut this time around. (laughs) I especially paid attention to reliably pull out his inside. Kyon’s in charge of this story; his emotions change as he goes through various things. Tasting despair, surprised by Asakura….. and then above all, that elation when he finds Nagato’s message she left for him. I wanted to depict all of that range of emotion without leaving anything behind.
– How would you say Kyon’s appearance feels like?

Nishiya: Maybe like someone garnishing a sword….. or perhaps just trying to show off. (laughs)

Ikeda: Like he’s rolling up his sleeves. (laughs) From a while ago, Kyon never had that unfashionable feeling to him. It was like he would check two fashion magazines for his clothes. He may just be trying to show off, but I don’t think he’s showing off the new looks; he’s just like that. I don’t think it has any appeal to him at all. When I was creating his clothing for the TV series, I supposed Kyon would be the kind of person to wear good clothing. He’s not the kind to have some weird opposition to looking nice.

– What expression points did you have for the changed Nagato?

Nishiya: It felt like we were bringing out a lot of gestures for her. We worked while trying to keep a lot more delicacy in her emotions than the usual Nagato.

Ikeda: Her movements showed her being unreliable. There were a lot of frightened expressions as well. Besides her face, she would ball up more too. I think it was important to show her returning to normal in that last scene. Inside the girl that Kyon gave the cold shoulder to is a girl who wants to change.

– You put that inside the Nagato we’ve always seen before. It must have been hard to put something in an image that you could so easily say.

Ikeda: At the point where Kyon gives her his coat, I thought the screen setting itself was a fantastic use of the accessory items by general manager Ishihara.

Nishiya: I paid a lot of attention to her expressing emotion in the scene where Kyon restrains her since she fundamentally keeps her emotions restrained.

Ikeda: It made me nervous to put some feeling in a girl who doesn’t have a large breadth of emotions and reflect that. Depicting that desiring feeling. Perhaps it may have been easier for the audience to see that birth of expression because it’s easier to see more details on a movie’s larger screen and so they were able to empathize with her more.

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Wanting to relish Kyon’s growth

– What is this film’s biggest moment?

Nishiya: The sheer elation that Kyon has when he finds the bookmark that Nagato left behind after not having any trail to the original world. It’s a moment where a light shines in his constant wariness. I also thought about how we would depict the scene where Kyon asks and answers his own questions while I was reading the novel. In that way, director Takemoto brought two Kyons to the scene and amazingly showed that inner conflict of his to showcase his growth after making his decision.

Ikeda: I’d say the same. It was the most entertaining to relish in that excitement of Kyon with him after being so worried about his situation.

– Lastly, please give a message to the fans.

Nishiya: This became a work with a lot of volume behind it. It’s a work that thoroughly stuffs in all the charm of the original Disappearance novel. Please enjoy it thoroughly to the deepest corners to see the numerous highlights and the actions of the characters.

Ikeda: The TV series was entertaining as well, but I think the fans will be able to enjoy relishing in the violent changes of emotion in this story depicted through the large screen.

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