The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya Interviews – Author-General Manager-Scriptwriter Discussion

This is the last 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 long interview is the final piece, and one that was previously translated. Credit goes to Yumeka for translating parts of the middle of this piece along with comments on the rest Please enjoy hearing about the first impressions from the three people who played the most important roles in the movie’s creative process!

Original Author – General Manager – Scriptwriter Roundtable discussion

Nagaru Tanigawa (Original Author) x

Tatsuya Ishihara (General Manager) x

Fumihiko Shimo (Scriptwriter)

 Nagaru Tanigawa. Born on December 19th. Author. His Haruhi Suzumiya series (Kadokawa Shoten) won the 8th annual Sneaker Awards’ Grand Prize. His other works include the Let’s Leave the School series and The Guardian of my World series.

Fumihiko Shimo. Born on April 28th. Animation Scriptwriter. He has served as the series composer for the Full Metal Panic! series, the Gravion series, and the Idaten Jump series. He wrote the scripts for the AIR, Kanon, and Clannad series as well.

Tatsuya Ishihara’s biography appears in the Directors’ Roundtable.

A 162 minute ultra-epic is formed from the famous lines and scenes of the original novel. This work began three years ago, but now at 21:00 on January 26th, 2010, having just finished watching the freshly made preview showing of the movie, these three people talk about their excitement for the film.

Since they have such confidence in this work, watching the preview screening was tense for them.

-While the excitement from seeing the film still fresh in your minds, first please tell us your impressions.

Tanigawa: Before watching it, my heart was beating rapidly. Even after watching it, my heart’s still beating rapidly.

Ishihara: How was it you ask? I think it’s the perfect time to ask that to Tanigawa-san, though it’s still a bit nerve-wracking for me.

Tanigawa: You’ve made such a thorough anime adaptation; I’m so lucky to be the author. Thank you so much.

Shimo: I was in charge of writing the screenplay, as in deciding whether or not to change the expressions or increase the word count. At the beginning, I was reconsidering some decisions I made, but as I watched the film, it rapidly won me over. I thought of how happy I was to simply see Haruhi and the others once again. Near the end, I was seeing it from a fan’s point of view.

Tanigawa: Since I wasn’t considering the intonations of the dialogue and each character’s emotions while writing the novel, the voice actors’ emotions flavored the performance, making it feel fresh as I watched it. It felt like the novel was being recited in my ear. (laughs)

Shimo: In the original novel, Kyon’s monologue had a unique taste to it, so we couldn’t make any careless changes when writing the script. Every time we met, Tanigawa-san’s presence would help us along.

Tanigawa: When it comes to things I can do, the text is my job. I certainly can’t draw pictures like that.

Ishihara: This time we weren’t able to do post dubbing.

Tanigawa: Every time there was dubbing, we were only able to take a quick peek. But I’m not saying that it’s necessarily a bad thing. This time Tomokazu Sugita-san, Kyon’s seijyu, gave an earth-shattering performance. I thank him very much for doing so (laugh).

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-General Manager Ishihara, what were your thoughts about the film?

Ishihara: The words, music, the dubbing of the audio… really, all of the film together created such a calming display. The whole feature couldn’t be pictured until these credits had finished rolling. Therefore, we had to free our minds and watch it without any preconceptions during our checks. I was really worried about how I wouldn’t be able to go to the bathroom or how I would feel the length of the film. But despite that, I watched it uninterrupted until the end and thought with confidence, “This is good, isn’t it?”

-It’s a work of self-confidence.

Ishihara: For that reason, I was more nervous before than I am now. I find it amusing, but others may think it’s shocking rather than amusing, because my nervousness was due to watching it with Tanigawa-san.

Tanigawa: I am grateful to you for what you have done with my inexperienced work, as usual. It may be awkward to say now but I haven’t yet said it this time.

Ishihara: Thank you very for your compliments!

Disappearance was first conceived as a TV series

-We want to hear about the scenario planning for the movie. When did it take place?

Shimo: That’s already a tale from long ago. (laughs) June 2007 was when we first started. At that time we had plans to make Disappearance part of a TV season.

Ishihara: During the planning for the “re-airing”, we had discussions about making a new season. At that time we had thought of making the new episodes go up to Disappearance.

Tanigawa: We talked about whether we should make it a TV series or a movie. For me, I wanted to see it both ways. In terms of our actual work, we let Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody, Endless Eight, Sigh, and Disappearance all progress at the same time.

Shimo: I was in charge of the screenplay for Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody. At that point I wrote it so it would link with Disappearance.

Tanigawa: At first we thought, why not split Disappearance into seven episodes?

Shimo: I wrote a script for Disappearance in several parts so that each part could be the script for one episode.

Ishihara: We decided on doing the whole plot from the beginning. After that, while the manuscripts for Part A piled up, we would check the proofs for Part B. They progressed forward together.

Shimo: And with that, Part A (after the world changed) had already piled up to seven manuscripts.

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About how long of a running time did you intend for the movie?

Shimo: We divided it up and progressed without deciding on the full running time. We felt like giving ample time to all the necessary scenes.

Ishihara: As the storyboards of the script advanced, we were able to get an idea of a running time. We had many discussions about making it shorter, but eventually it became the size that it is. As one would expect, the running time is a problem when turning a work into animation. It’s painful cutting down our favorite scenes, so with Disappearance, I’m glad we were able to leave in so many scenes.

Shimo: That’s why the length is about eight episodes, right?

Ishihara: And while we’re speaking of wants, I actually wanted it to be a bit longer. There were more scenes I wanted to include in this work. We made Melancholy six episodes but we still had to cut down the original work considerably.

Shimo: Melancholy was five episodes at first, but we were dissatisfied with that and that’s how it became six episodes (laughs). But even for Disappearance, it’s not like we could include everything from the original work.

Tanigawa: It’s a long story (laughs).

Disappearance – the story that must be written

Did you have discussions about each of the characters?

Ishihara: Yes, especially when we were doing work on the storyboards. I spoke with directors Yasuhiro Takemoto and Noriko Takao about things like “Does the dialogue sound like the true feelings of Haruhi and the other characters?” As we discussed what they thought about the production, we would be able to depict the expressions of the characters.

Tanigawa: That’s because not every expression from every character is described in the novel. For novels, only the parts that have meaning are written.

Ishihara: Several parts of Tanigawa-san’s original work have an impressive writing style. For example, your line “With eyes that looked like they were drawn up from the waters of a deep sea.”

Tanigawa: And also, “she silently titled her head about 2 millimeters.” It’s not a writing style made for images.

Even for the storyboards, instructions like “It’s written that ‘she titled her head about 2 millimeters'” were put in.

Ishihara: They certainly were. We made the anime while being conscious of the feelings in the original work.

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Did you pay attention to that while writing the script, Shimo-san?

Shimo: Since the original work is a story that’s elaborately drawn out, we had no choice but to break it down. By changing some scenes, the meaning would be totally different. In order to bring out the maximum charm of the characters, we had to increase scenes of Haruhi and everyone doing activities. I wrote the script while trying to pay attention to that aspect of the story. For me, it wasn’t just that I liked the Haruhi Suzumiya series. Disappearance itself is also a story I love, so I was really lucky to have been able to write the screenplay. I feel like I wrote it with very festive feelings.

Tanigawa: Thank you very much.

Shimo: No need to thank me. I noticed something while I was writing. In Disappearance, Kyon is interposed between Nagato’s world and Haruhi’s world, making it seem like there’s some form of mutual resentment. You might call it a love triangle… The scenes that Haruhi appears in are from morning until after school while the scenes that Nagato appears in are from after school until night. The scenes where Haruhi and Nagato appear together are only in the SOS Brigade clubroom. I think it’s a beautiful composition, but were you aware of it, Tanigawa-san?

Tanigawa: I didn’t really notice that… (laughs)

Shimo: Haruhi is in the bright time periods and Nagato is in the dark ones. Kyon goes back and forth between them. I think that makes it a very reflective world. When you were writing the original novel, you said you wrote it with quite a lot of vigor, didn’t you?

Tanigawa: I had to write Disappearance even though it was a novel that stole any will to work that I already don’t usually have. (laughs) In a way, I felt like I had a duty to write it. First I thought of the goals I had and how everything would flow, then I took my pen and said “Okay, let’s write this!,” and then I finished it in about three weeks.

Ishihara: That was fast.

Tanigawa: For me, I felt that I thought up a very honest story. Until this story, Kyon’s identity was always wavering, but now there’s a story that fortifies it. I felt it was a story the Haruhi Suzumiya series needed but I didn’t know if it would be interesting or not. Even now I don’t know for sure.

Ishihara: And now it’s a popular work and one you finished in just one spurt. Although I have a lot of experience, whenever quality storyboards come in my head, I also try to sketch it right away. Even when I look at storyboards that I wracked my brains over and confirmed as good, I get anxious that I might find one more thing to add to the final result.

Shimo: It’s a way of saying something bad is going to come falling down on you, right?

Tanigawa: Even if that’s the case, writing without worry is better than writing while worrying.

Ishihara: On the surface Disappearance seems like a story for Nagato to stand out, but it’s actually tightly focused on Kyon and Haruhi. When I was writing the storyboards I thought to myself that this time Kyon is going to actively move about.

Tanigawa: I made the decision for Kyon to finally become the protagonist in Disappearance.

Did you have any questions for Tanigawa-san concerning the script?

Shimo: I received his opinions while we read the script together so I don’t have any question in particular to ask him. Since things like the books Nagato read and the lineup of books in the Literary Club bookshelves are part of the visuals, we should ask Tanigawa-san about them.

Ishihara: At the last moment I asked Tanigawa-san about the addresses in Kyon’s cell phone. It was good that we put the name of a girl he was friendly with in middle school among the numbers listed.

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Kyon checks his phone’s listings two times; once before the world changes and once after the world changes.

Ishihara: We don’t know how long Kyon has had a cell phone but we figured he’d at least have the name of the girl he was friends with in middle school listed.

Tanigawa: Haruhi Suzumiya would be listed in the “Sa” column, right? No one knows the true identity of the name of the girl shown on the phone’s screen…it could be someone else with that same name (laughs).

Did the work from script to storyboards progress smoothly?

Ishihara: Actually, there were scenes that were cut at the script stage.

Shimo: Yes there were indeed. We imagined a scene before Kyon wakes up in the hospital where he has a vision-like dream. It’s a scene at the cafe by the train station in the changed world where Kyon is laughing with long-haired Haruhi, Koizumi, Mikuru, and Nagato. It means that even after Kyon corrects the world, in a parallel world Haruhi and the other SOS Brigade members from the changed world are doing club activities.

Ishihara: Then when Kyon wakes up he would have said “I feel like I had an interesting dream,” but the meaning of that line changed.

Shimo: When I saw the completed movie without that scene, I was also sort of relieved. In terms of the story, it’s not a parallel world but a single world that had changed.

Classmates not written in the original work or scenario

Shimo: There were quite a lot of scenes that were drew, wasn’t there?

Ishihara: Actually, I was shocked at the amount of key frames completed. One day I was at my desk when I picked up a cardboard box and said “What’s this?” It was some more scenes.

All: Laughs.

Ishihara: For example, let’s talk about the day following Haruhi’s disappearance. Before Kyon arrives in the classroom and Asakura asks him “Have you woken up?” the camera pans up from the floor and over to behind her head. While the classroom is animated in 3D, the classmates in the room are all hand-drawn. I wanted the audience to focus on both the scenery and the classmates at the same time; it took about 6-7 original images to achieve this. Even while animating the classroom in 3D, we had it move around to add another dimension to the area. As a result, we were able to detail the classmates nicely.

Shimo: The classmates are interesting, aren’t they?

Ishihara: It might be hard to tell, but each classmate has their own story. For example, glasses-kun is a boy with an unrequited love…

Shimo: We also had to prepare the background chatter in the script as well.

Ishihara: Normally for background chatter, we have a lot of seijyu talk in a suitable role, but this time we asked Sound Director Yota Tsuruoka-san to write the lines.

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-But didn’t Shimo-san write those lines?

Shimo: I just wrote the direction for those parts.

Ishihara: The background chatter isn’t included in the storyboards, so each part’s direction had to be settled afterwards.

Shimo: Each classmate was dressed properly too.

Ishihara: I didn’t think they’d allow individuals to break the dress code by wearing sport pants under the skirt though! (laughs) But each classmate had a different coat, didn’t they? Since its winter, they’d hang it on their seat, obviously. We put a lot of effort into things like that to raise the atmosphere. Isn’t KyoAni airheaded sometimes?

– Kyoto Animation’s somewhat airheaded?

Ishihara: Probably. We do things like that when creating the characters after all. (laughs)

Shimo: If you were a beautiful girl, you’d be called Ditzy-chan.

Ishihara: Don’t you think there’s points where KyoAni is a bit clumsy? I think we could do things a bit more stylishly…

Tanigawa: But there’s no way that I could write all of the lines for the classmates. I surrender! (laughs)

An original conclusion not present in the novel

-When was it decided to move the climax to the rooftop and to have an epilogue in the library?

Shimo: The rooftop was my suggestion. I threw it out to General Manager Ishihara and Tanigawa-san.

Ishihara: I felt having the climax in the hospital room was a bit suffocating.

Shimo: Plus you have Yuki in a sentimental spot as snow falls down.

Ishihara: Snow falling down was an original design.

Tanigawa: There’s no way that snow would fall down at that exact time! (laughs)

-Maybe it was someone who was using Haruhi’s power to change the weather for that miracle.

Ishihara: We wanted to put the individual motif into that scene from Nagato’s story in the novels’ short Editor in Chief Straight Ahead! We imagined that Nagato would be thinking about that time when she was writing her story. Once that came to mind, Tanigawa-san gave us his approval and permission to do this.

Tanigawa: Well, it’s really good, isn’t it? I would certainly think Nagato would be reminded of this scene when she was writing her story.

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This image was inspired by an illustration included in the story Editor in Chief ★Straight Ahead! (found in the novel The Indignation of Haruhi Suzumiya). The same image was also used in the opening for the 2006 broadcast of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

-On the rooftop Kyon states “Why would the Information Data Thought Entity make her some lonely, melancholic girl?” Was that Tanigawa-san himself pondering that?

Tanigawa: Criticizing myself, huh? (laughs) Thinking about it now, perhaps her template was the antithesis of a character. She’s kind of the antithesis of Kyon in a sense. I put the “straight man” personality into a beautiful girl character template.

-After the credits, there’s an epilogue of Nagato’s memories in the library.

Shimo: The epilogue was all Tanigawa-san’s idea.

Tanigawa: The idea for the epilogue came from the changed Nagato’s “Memories of the Library.” Unfortunately, there weren’t any moments that we could show Nagato in the library again during an scene, so now you’re able to see a new scene of Nagato in the library.

Ishihara: Would you say that the epilogue takes place after the events of Disappearance?

Tanigawa: It’s a scene that Nagato just happened to see.

Shimo: Tanigawa-san wished for us to “hide her mouth with a book.” Was she smiling? Was she emotionless? Nobody knows.

-Tanigawa-san, you also wrote the original draft for the lyrics to the theme song Yasashii Bokuyaku, right?

Tanigawa: I wanted to write lyrics that felt Nagato-ish. Something like an “eclectic poem” that Nagato had written. To what extent my own writing is left in there, I cannot say.

Shimo: Who chose to use the A cappella version?

Ishihara: I too would like to know that.

Staff: From the beginning, Producer Atsushi Itou had said “make it A cappella.”

-Now that you’ve seen the first viewing, do you feel that today you’ve finished the first stage of this work?

Ishihara: I don’t have the feeling that we’re done. We can’t be finished until we’ve heard the opinions of the fans and customers. Perhaps those who have read the original novel will have different interpretations of scenes, but they may still approve of this edition.

Shimo: I sense that at last the end has come. Disappearance is structured like a classic adventure story; going around various world, but, coming home in the end. That describes the trip Kyon went on, doesn’t it?

Tanigawa: I believe those who’ve read the novel as well as seen the movie will accept this work. If they feel the movie’s no good, then I’m sure they’ll say the original novel was horrible as well. (laughs)

Ishihara: Well, the novel is quite popular. If the movie’s seen as bad, then it’s the general manger’s responsibility.

Shimo: No no, the animation is produced by KyoAni. Since they’ve given it their all, then the script itself would be the bad part.

All together : No no! (laughing)

Ishihara: ….Well, please go to the theatre many times and enjoy yourselves.

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