K-On!! Staff Interviews pt2: Producer Yoshihisa Nakayama

Producer
Yoshihisa Nakayama

TBS Television Contents Business/Video Business Center Section Chief. Produced works include AIR, Clannad, and Clannad After Story among others.

As a producer, Nakayama-san creates productions from a different position than the production staff. This time we ask him about creating a favorable environment around the show and secret tales about how the second season was created, reserving the broadcast slots, tie-ins, and merchandise creation.

One trouble was the announcement of the 2nd season with just a brief guarantee of broadcast time

– When did you decide to produce a second season?

I believe it was around August 2009. The first season ended in June, so it was almost right after that. We announced it at the live events in December and January wanting to begin broadcasting it in April 2010, but we were still adjusting the broadcast slots.

– The second season is 2-cour long and it was coming quickly, so wasn’t it quite troublesome to be adjusting the broadcast slots?

Generally, it’s TBS policy to determine the broadcast slots ahead of time so that there is a guarantee that programs will continue to run in those slots after one finishes. It’s quite difficult to open up a new slot after they’re filled. Therefore when we announced the second season, we didn’t know if we had a definite slot for broadcasting it. We wouldn’t know until February of this year. If it wasn’t decided then, we may not have been able to begin broadcasting it in April or perhaps we wouldn’t be able to broadcast it over-the-air and only have to broadcast it via satellite. When production started, we immediately went into writing the scripts, so we decided the first episode of season 2 would begin in April prior to that slot being decided.

– The second season was announced extremely quickly. It was thought that perhaps it was determined during production of the first season.

No, we never assumed we would make a second season while making the first. We started thinking about it after receiving a lot of letters from fans after the broadcast finished. We made this season in response to their desires. If we had decided to make a second season from the start, then Azusa would have been introduced in that second season. But we only planned for one season, and a one-cour season at that. But if Azusa didn’t appear, then Afterschool Tea Time wouldn’t be made, so she appeared mid-way through the first season.

– The number of over-the-air stations increased for season 2. Was this in response to the big reaction for the first season?

That’s part of it, but the first season ran in a lot of TBS late night slots as well. It ran on 8 over-the-air TBS stations at first, and for us, those 8 stations cover nearly all of Japan. For the areas they don’t cover, it was broadcast on the satellite BS-TBS station. In summary, from when we planned the slots for S1, we at TBS were pinning our hopes on the show. With a lot of people watching the first season, and the amount of support we received, we enlargened our broadcast stations wanting it to be easier for the fans who watched the first season to be able to access it.

Creating the second season’s music wanting to surpass the songs from the first season

– Since the first season was immensely popular, what preparations did you make for the second season as a producer?

I previously talked about coordinating timeslots, but other than that, I entered into selections for a game company to make the PSP K-On! After School Live! Game. It takes about a year to make a game, which is a long time, so I proceeded with that prior to setting the broadcast slot.

– Can you tell us how the game came to be created?

We received a lot of requests from fans saying “I’d love for a game to come out.” When we first started the first season, I never considered that K-On! could be made into a game. However, since each of the characters was able to differentiate herself and we had received many requests for a game, I decided to make one. However, I strongly wanted it to be entertaining or else it wouldn’t be made. As I was thinking about the various ways it could become a game, it hit me that K-On!’s game would have to be a rhythm game. I then thought that I’d like for Sega, who had created a lot of the vocaloid rhythm games lately, to make our game. On their part, Sega was very willing to consent and thought making a game would be good for them. By the way, I think the difficulty of the game should be slightly difficult. If it’s too easy to clear, then the player won’t be satisfied with finishing it, but if it’s difficult, then that’s okay. When I played it myself, I thought “this is definitely difficult.” (laughs)

– How did you go about producing the music for this season?

That was the biggest pressure for me. Each person has a certain type of music they like, so it’s difficult to find a common tune for everyone to enjoy. On top of that, the music from the first season was such a hit that the fans would be eagerly anticipating to see what would come in the second season. Thus we thought about ways to make some songs that would surpass what we did in the first season so people who heard it wouldn’t reject it saying “the first season’s was better.” Everyone had a lot of discussion over the ideas coming from the music production team.

– What kind of concrete thoughts did you have during the discussions?

For example, Yui sang the opening and Mio sang the ending for season 1. There was an idea to reverse that in season two for Mio to sing the opening and Yui to sing the ending. Yui is the protagonist in my mind, so I wanted her to sing the opening. That’s why the Yui concept for the opening would absolutely not change. Even if we temporarily had Mio sing the opening, there would probably be fans who would say “the first season’s opening was better.” However, if we made it an internal rule that Yui sings the openings, it would be hard to top the first season. I thought to make it a challenge, so I requested to Pony Canyon’s producer Isoyama-san “please ignore all the connections from the first season and pick the best song from a competition.” Isoyama-san was thinking the same thing, “The first season’s music was such a success, I can’t request the same composer to work on the next song.” This season’s opening songs were both by Tom-H@ck. Out of the numerous songs in our competition, we chose his songs. In short, they were marvelous songs.

K-On!’s music had a reputation starting with its opening and ending themes. In order to live up to the expectations of the fans, there was a lot of power put into the second season’s music.

K-On!’s music had a reputation starting with its opening and ending themes. In order to live up to the expectations of the fans, there was a lot of power put into the second season’s music.

– What were your impressions when you heard the finished song?

Honestly, when I first heard “Go! Go! Maniac,” my personal opinion was “is this okay?” I thought it’d be a song people would like more as they heard it more. I think the fans were also surprised, but once they heard it more and understood the composition and not just the fast tempo, they began to like it. The CD sales surpassed the first season’s, so I think a lot of people grew to like that song. If they didn’t see the opening broadcast and didn’t grow to like the song, then they wouldn’t have bought the CD.

The number 1 argument in scenario meetings was Yui’s lines.

– Which episode in season 2 was most responsive from the fans?

Episode 4’s school trip, episode 12’s Natsu Fest, the school festival from episode 18-20, and the final episode’s graduation. Episode 12’s production was a lot of work. I thought K-On! fans would not be satisfied with seeing simplistic music scenes. While the realistic atmosphere of the event and the music scenes were there, what they’d want to see most would be what the girls did. Natsu Fest is a location far from their school’s music room, so they’re not limited to how they’d act in the clubroom. We also needed to set up what types of music would play, how the weather would be and the location of Natsu Fest. Though we put a lot of explanation in there, this was a turning point for how to depict the girls and so we put a lot of effort into it.

While the staff detailed a lot about Natsu Fest to bring out the realism of the event, episode 12 was a turning point in how to depict the girls’ actions.

While the staff detailed a lot about Natsu Fest to bring out the realism of the event, episode 12 was a turning point in how to depict the girls’ actions.

– The obstinate episode 3 and the school festival episodes were turning points too.

That’s right. Usually, I try to avoid abruptly inserting big events like that due to the timing, but since we had already begin inserting depictions of Yui’s classmates, then having the class perform “Romeo and Juliet” at the school festival together wouldn’t feel so abrupt. Also, the girls are now third years, so they’ve been through two school festival concerts already. How they would perform while carrying those memories of successes and failures was a point people wanted to see.

– The second extra episode where the story about how the photographs for the first season’s Blu-ray/DVD cover arts was also quite popular.

I’m happy that people were able to feel that way about it. Honestly, I was skeptical about doing that kind of episode at first. I mean, fundamentally, it’s just a joke for people who bought the Blu-ray/DVDs, right? If everyone who watched the episode had bought the discs, then it would be fine, but would people who didn’t buy them understand that joke that didn’t apply to them? Also I thought people may not like having the story behind those cover arts told. But if the audience enjoyed those portions, then it appears I worried far too much. Similarly, I too laughed during the scene when Mio failed to jump on time. (laughs)

– What is your favorite scene in K-On!!?

I really like the scene in episode 17 when the girls are in their rented studio and the light starts blinking to tell them their time is up and Yui, not knowing what it means, asks “do we dance?” No matter how many times I see it, I laugh since that line is just so unexpected. Another one is in episode 20 when Yui says “Afterschool Tea Time will always be, always be, afterschool!” At first glance, it seems meaningless, but it’s got depth to it. Yui’s saying that they’ll always be the same and won’t ever change.

Nakayama-san’s beloved Yui’s “do we dance?” scene from episode 17. Her unforeseen line was very entertaining.

Nakayama-san’s beloved Yui’s “do we dance?” scene from episode 17. Her unforeseen line was very entertaining.

– It seems Yui’s lines have left an impression on you.

Tsumugi also had a lot of entertaining lines too. At the scenario meeting, everyone kept arguing over their own impression of what Yui, as the protagonist, would say. We talked a lot over what lines seemed “Yui-ish” as everyone had their own image of her. The lines she would say tended to be cool, not very feminine, something that sounded like a high schooler would say, and foremost represented Yui herself. All of those were stressed.

The staff are eagerly accepting the challenge and making it into a movie!

– Though it’s already after the TV broadcast has ended, the tie-in goods still remain popular.

We had tie-in merchandise during the first season as well, but we increased the variations for the second season. When other anime stop broadcasting, the plans for tie-ins also stop coming. But we continued to receive a lot of various plans for merchandising once the first season stopped airing. There’s also some from the second season that haven’t been announced yet too. (laughs) I’m truly thankful for all of their help. Incidentally, my most memorable has been “Mugi-chan’s eyebrows.” The joke with her eyebrows in the manga was so entertaining, Hokkaido Tsukemono sent a request to us for merchandising. Usually, their customers tend to be older, but they thought they could spread their customer base by making that so younger people would buy tsukemonos. I thought it was a good plan. However, it’s a bit depressing since the stores couldn’t stock them. Also, speaking of not enough stock, I still haven’t been able to buy any of Lawson’s K-On! Yakisoba Sandwiches. They’re always sold out! (laughs)

– With the movie on everyone’s minds, please tell us why you decided to make a movie?

There wasn’t an assumption we’d make a movie once the second season started. Personally, I thought that the cost of making a TV anime into a movie wouldn’t be that simple, so it wouldn’t get approved. But the production side said “we want to make one” and I thought the fans would enjoy seeing one since both the manga and TV series have ended, so we decided to have a movie with everyone wanting the challenge.

– Finally please give a message to all the fans.

The world of K-On! still continues! The movie will open next year, so please bring a friend with you to see it. Also, the Blu-ray and DVDs are still coming out until March, so I think you’ll enjoy watching those too.

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