As Sound! Euphonium is one of my favorite shows to watch, it became one of my favorite shows to translate about. I previously translated an interview with director Tatsuya Ishihara and series director Naoko Yamada in the periodical Animestyle, but there was another interview in that issue. This post is the second of two parts where Oguro interviews the series composer/scriptwriter for Sound! Euphonium, Jukki Hanada. Here is the first part of this interview.
When I finished writing, I thought “This is really good.”
Jukki Hanada (Series Composer/Scriptwriter) Interview
Reporters: Yuichirou Oguro, Itsuki Shouta; Text editing: Yuichirou Oguro; Interview date: September 3, 2015; Interview location: Kyoto Animation Tokyo Office
Born October 26, 1969 in Miyagi. Works at SATZ. First series composed was Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful. Presently he has worked on countless titles as series composer/scriptwriter. For Kyoto Animation works, he’s composed Nichijou, Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!, and Kyoukai no Kanata. He served as series composer and wrote all the scripts for Sound! Euphonium.
Instead of an “anime girl,” a different kind of “girlishness”
Oguro: Was it unexpectedly early that Kumiko’s character solidified (for you)?
Hanada: When I first read the novel, I thought that Kumiko is the type of character that anime fans don’t really like. However, when I wrote her, she was amazingly easy to write. It was so easy; I thought “woah, I really can’t believe she’s so easy to write. Ishihara-san may have also been worried that anime fans may not like her, but once I started writing, I truly believed “we can proceed with this character.” And so, if we were to go with this character, my first request was that I wanted to insert some monologues.
Oguro: If you had to put Kumiko’s character, her personality, into words…?
Hanada: Put it into words?
Oguro: She’s cheerful and frank isn’t she?
Hanada: She is cheerful and frank. In my head, she’s always an indecisive girl. And then she’s also a girl who says too much. She gets wrapped up in extraneous things. However she doesn’t get sour about things nor is she rebellious; I thought that’s one of her good points, something that makes her cute.
And I think she’s the kind of girl who’s one step back, looking at things objectively and soberly. I feel like Kumiko has a different kind of “girlishness” than what we’d expect of an “anime girl.” That might be the reason why she’s so easy to write. It’s something different than what I usually write. I feel like that freshness makes my hands move easier.
Oguro: It doesn’t mean she’s very lively; rather she moves how she wants to?
Hanada: I feel like she does move how she herself wants to. And since there’s no romantic entangling, I don’t have to worry about the differences in thought processes between boys and girls when writing. That is why I had no difficulty putting myself in her shoes. I suspect it was probably the same for viewers.
For Kumiko, I was quite frankly able to go: “in this situation, this is how she would think.” It was pleasant to have someone saying things that a usual anime character wouldn’t say or think—it’s like she’s pouring cold water on them.
Oguro: And you don’t have to worry about making her seem feminine either.
Hanada: Yes, there was no need to do that. Based on that foundation, I found Kumiko an easy character to use in moving the story forward from a protagonist’s point of view. As such, I had to be careful about the situation between her and Shuuichi, to make sure this romantic subplot didn’t become too prominent. (laughs) And when it was animated, it was even less romantic—a further one or two steps back from where the scenario was.
Oguro: I see. So that doesn’t mean that what was depicted in the scenario was removed; it’s just that they were thinned?
Hanada: That’s right. The conversation with Shuichi in episode 1 changed a lot.
Oguro: It was more of a lovers’ quarrel, wasn’t it?
Oguro: If I have to say, it felt like the animated Kumiko was not thinking of Shuichi in terms of romance. But in the scenario she was a bit more aware of him as a boy.
Hanada: Right. The animation gave the nuance that, rather than her heart beating a bit more rapidly when he invited her to the festival, she was surprised—her eyes went wide as if she couldn’t believe what had just happened.
Oguro: It feels as though it hadn’t occurred to Kumiko that Shuuichi might be looking at her as a girl.
Hanada: However, after he invited her to the festival, she objectively wrote out the love triangle in her notebook, right? “I’m here. Shuichi likes me. Hazuki likes Shuichi.” At that point where she calmly writes all that down, she is not conscious of the idea of ‘romantic love’.
Hanada: When I was writing that episode, I also got to see episode 1’s storyboards so I understood “ah, this show isn’t going that direction.” When I wrote out that scene in the scenario—the one where she’s drawing out the love triangle in her notebook—that’s when I felt that I really understood Kumiko. (laughs)
Oguro: Shuichi often appears at a good time, doesn’t he? The scene where Kumiko is practicing on the riverbank and he’s practicing on the other side and they’re holding a concert with the river separating them is quite a nice scene. It wouldn’t be strange to see some type of relationship develop from that kind of plot device, but it doesn’t.
Hanada: It doesn’t. There are a lot of little moments that make you think it’s not weird for that to happen, but in the end, that depiction of them as childhood friends/partners is too strong. Honestly, though I hadn’t initially planned for them to share the common musician interest of wanting to get better, when I saw that ‘fist pump’ scene in the final episode, I felt that it had come together well. I felt that a sense of “these two know each other better than lovers do” was conveyed through the series as a whole. In the novel, they actually held hands, didn’t they?
Oguro: Yes, they did.
Hanada: In the anime, the nuance that they’re musicians who share the same feelings about music—rather than lovers—is strengthened. That’s where their relationship ended up, and I believe it came together well precisely because I hadn’t been aiming for it.
Oguro: And in ‘coming together well’, Shuichi-kun’s feelings are placed aside. (laughs)
Hanada: Completely on hold. (laughs) There were various discussions about him, actually. Should we have drama with him and Kumiko or not? “If Shuichi were a normal boy, he wouldn’t reply to this line in this way” or “If she says something like that, his heart will be broken.” As a male point of view, I made it a point to be frank about how he would feel.
Oguro: So you put forward those kinds of opinions at the scenario meetings?
Hanada: Yes. We trimmed the points where he greedily went after things and changed his expressions. And we didn’t have him set an obvious “romance flag.”
Oguro: Since he set no flags, then his heart wouldn’t be broken either.
Hanada: We thought that he’d be really pitiful if we broke his heart too badly.
Oguro: The point of this work wasn’t to depict his love, after all.
Hanada: Right, it’s not. If we were to depict it, as has been done in many other shows where childhood friend doesn’t recognize his feelings, that would turn Kumiko into a thickheaded girl. While that may be good for a comedy, it’s not good for Euphonium. Also, if we were to do that, it would approach a shojo manga-type setting. We wanted both genders to be able to watch this show, so we decided not to push that much of a shojo manga romance setting.
Oguro: I thought that making (roasted) sweet potato the Madonna, Kaori Nakaseko’s, favorite food was a nice detail. Whose idea was that?
Hanada: It was my idea for her to have sweet potato and drink milk. But it was Yamada who said “She’s a Madonna, so she likes sweet potatoes.” It’s straight out of the 90s—“She’s a Madonna, so she likes sweet potatoes” sounds like something from a trendy (90s) drama, don’t you think? (laughs)
Hanada: So for the scene with those two in Haruka’s room, we went for a trendy drama. (laughs) And for all their subsequent scenes well.
Oguro: Their subsequent scenes too?
Hanada: I kept it in mind during their rooftop scene in episode 9. I thought “they’ll surely direct the scene according to that theme.” That’s what our scenario meetings were generally like. I would suggest things like “if we’re doing this, then let’s do it like this.” Then we’d exchange opinions and expand on it.
Oguro: Who decided the names of the concert band members?
Hanada: Yamada-san did. Any characters without a name had one attached by Yamada-san. She basically told me to “just concentrate on the scenarios.”
Oguro: There’s a Lala Hitomi in the club, but that doesn’t mean she’s a foreigner, does it?
Hanada: Definitely a trendy baby name. Her parents are probably similar to Sapphire’s.
Oguro: She appeared a lot as I read the scenario for some reason.
Hanada: When I decided that’s she’d use her name as her first person pronoun—as in “Lala will…” instead of “I will…”—I figured that she’d be a character that would stand out like an elementary school girl would do instead of growing out of that phase. And so, I gave her a lot of lines.
Oguro: So was it you that made her use her name instead of “I”?
Hanada: Yes, I made her speak like that. After all, it seems like something she’d do. When I looked at her character design, I thought “She’d definitely use “Lala” as her first person pronoun.” (laughs) I remembered writing a character who spoke like that in K-On!! named Ichigo, so I may just like characters like that. I also love Knuckle-senpai (Narai Tanabe).
Oguro: Every time I see it, Knuckle as a name always leaves an impression. Lines like “Knuckle isn’t here!” or “Knuckle-senpai blah blah blah.”
Hanada: I really like the way they called him “Knuckle-senpai.”
Oguro: Did you create/develop the personalities for all the characters?
Hanada: When Shoko Ikeda was designing the characters, she passed me the memos she wrote. She even wrote things like “These girls are a pair.” “These three are a trio.” I would use those for reference, like “so this girl has this personality.”
When Ikeda-san was designing the characters, I’d already written a few of the scenarios. And so, if I remember correctly, I had let her know that the horn players were slackers, for example. And she would go “If that’s the case, then this is what those two would look like.”
Oguro: All of the members are present in the eyecatches, aren’t they?
Hanada: They’re all there. That would have been quite a task. (laughs) Ishihara-san would have been the one who wanted to lay them all out. How many club members there are is background information, though.
Nearly half of the final episode’s scenario was basically reference material
Oguro: Going even further back in the production history, did you have any experience with band (before working on Euphonium)?
Hanada: I didn’t, but I was able to speak from the point of a layman at the scenario meetings because I had none. I could point out things like “that wouldn’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t know about music” or “Here’s something we could insert that people who are unfamiliar with music would find interesting.”
Oguro: I’ve heard that many of the staff who worked on Euphonium have experience with wind music. So you participated as a person who didn’t know a lot about the subject. However, there were a lot of details for wind music in the scenarios. Did you study what happens in band to be able to write those details?
Hanada: About half of those details came from the study I did, and then there were some that I learned at our scenario meetings. What helped me the most was going on our scouting trips. After hearing them in person, I understood so much more. “Ah, I see, so the mentor would say something like that.” “At times like this, students would talk about this kind of thing.” I would record every line and jot down notes.
Oguro: Where did you scout?
Hanada: I went to the reference school and to the concert performance. But I learned the most from the practice sessions to record “Crescent Moon Dance.”
Oguro: So you went to observe practice for the song written just for Euphonium?
Hanada: I was able to attend the practice for the first performance for this show. I was able to use things like when the mentor would say some piece of advice or what the conductor would say. They were a really good reference for me as I was writing—that’s what you see in the scenarios.
Oguro: In the scenarios, there are parts where you have a * at the start of a line. Did they represent places where you didn’t know exactly what to write?
Hanada: Yes. That was my “correct this” mark. (laughs)
Oguro: “If there’s something better to say here, please correct this in the storyboards.”
Hanada: “It’s fine if you change it, and also, I might have written something that’s illogical for wind music.”
Below is a selection from episode 6’s scenario. The * mark indicates “correct this.”
* Taki: “Please pay more attention to the crescendo here. The ’da da da da’ should be strong.”
* Taki: “Trombone, from the same point.”
Kumiko N: “The Agata Festival had ended and we had become accustomed to seeing the white pages in front of us. The nervousness in the air grew as the auditions came near.”
Taki: “Keeping in mind those points I mentioned, please head to your part practices.”
* Hirone: “Sensei, about the clarinet part here, (blank)?”
Taki: “Yes, please come see me afterwards.”
* Kotomi: “The flute too please.”
Oguro: The * marks increased a lot during the second half of the show.
Hanada: I could use lines from the novel in the first half, but the second half had an original piece that was made for the anime. So when that piece was featured, there were many points where I didn’t know if the instructions I wrote in the scenario were right or not.
Although the novel had quite a few lines I could use, I didn’t know if they fit this piece or if they would be applicable to each of the instrument parts. I had no way of knowing if they matched that piece for that scene, so I asked them to check it at a later stage in the production process. Most problematic of all were the scenes when they’re performing from some measure to some measure. Those were points that we couldn’t mess up what instructions would be given. Although I wasn’t involved in coordinating that, I could see how difficult it was.
Oguro: So the piece they perform at the concert had already been decided.
Hanada: It had. Both the set piece and the free piece were decided whilst I was working on the scenarios.
The set piece the Kita Uji Wind Music Ensemble performs at the concert in the final episode is “Wind of Provence” and the free piece is “Crescent Moon Dance.” Actually, “Wind of Provence” was the set piece the All Japan Wind Music Federation decided for 2015. As “Crescent Moon Dance” was a fictional piece introduced in the novel, it was composed for the anime. Furthermore, it was actually the set piece in the novel.
Hanada: By that time, I was quite far along with the scenarios. I heard “Crescent Moon Dance” last autumn, and recording took place around February or March of this year. I’d finished working on the scenarios by then.
Oguro: So by the time you were able to see the performance, there was nothing else you could write.
Hanada: Right. I wrote the scenario for episode 13 around the time the pieces that they would perform at the concert were chosen.
Oguro: It’s the final episode, but about half of the episode itself is a performance. All you could write were stage directions during the performance. How did you handle that?
Hanada: Well, I ended up telling them “I can only write the A-part and the last scene. I’m leaving the rest up to you!” at the scenario meetings. However, when I was writing it, I didn’t know how long the performance would last, so I wrote the A-part a bit longer, thinking that they could trim it down to match the length of the performance in the storyboards.
Oguro: Ah, I see.
Hanada: I was at the concert from morning to night. And then I applied the lines I heard, and the scenes I saw to the characters. So, rather than assembling a story, it felt more like I was compiling a series of sketches. Also I thought the storyboards would be drawn as it if were a documentary, so nearly half of the final scenario was basically reference material.
Oguro: Speaking of which, the other episodes’ scenarios were around 75 pages, but the final episode’s was around 50 pages.
Hanada: I might be exaggerating it, but I think there may not have been one line left over from the scenario in the storyboards. (laughs) But other than that, I was glad that the flow of the episode was pretty much as I wrote it in the scenario.
Oguro: In that episode, the B group made mascots and there was a scene where they presented them to the members performing at the concert. Is that something you often see at real concerts?
Hanada: I’d say so. When I attended the concert, I saw everyone wearing the same thing and thought those were probably made by someone. Since only 55 people can participate in the competition, you may well have too many kids. The top schools would definitely have these extra members, so I thought those kids would be doing various things like that.
Oguro: And they write things like “Do your best!” on the music sheets?
Hanada: They certainly do. When I scouted around, I saw so much of it that I thought “I’ve definitely got to use this!”
Oguro: Were they all written by the students who weren’t performing?
Hanada: They were also written by close friends, or other people who were performing.
When I finished writing, I thought “This is really good.”
Oguro: There are many portions of the finished show that play like a movie. At the scenario meetings, did someone express a desire to make scenes that feel like a movie, or perhaps even to make a particular kind of scene?
Hanada: Because this was an adaptation, I think there were many situations where we received inspiration from the novel and wanted to depict certain scenes or movie-equse portrayals. That’s why many of the orders I received were things like “Don’t cut anything from here to here,” or I definitely want to keep this line of dialogue.” I thought it’d work if I arranged those scenes such that they would leave a strong impression. That’s pretty much how it went.
Oguro: Arranging those scenes to leave a strong impression—do you mean in terms of putting them together?
Hanada: Assembling things so those scenes would stand out like “I want this to be the climax” or “I want to make this scene quite long if I can.”
Oguro: So people would notice those scenes much more?
Hanada: There were times when I didn’t think those scenes were all that impressive, and was thinking about doing something interesting in some other scene. But I would trust in their judgment and believe that they would become a lot better. So I would go back and rework them into something more climatic.
Oguro: Euphonium begins in spring, goes through the rainy season, and then goes through summer. It’s a series that seems to emphasize the changing seasons. Did someone ask you to make it like that?
Hanada: That idea came out at our scenario meetings. And then this is my own thoughts, but since Kyoto Animation’s finished visuals are so beautiful, or as their representation of the atmosphere’s sensation is so superb, I think they try to bring that out as much as possible on each and every series they work on.
Oguro: So, going along with situations where the atmospheric feeling would come out in the visuals, you thought about how the story would be structured.
Hanada: For example, the scene when Aoi quits the band, I figured that would be in the rainy season.
Oguro: Ah, I see what you mean.
Hanada: I feel like that was the base I could build on. If we begin in spring, then we’ll go through the rainy season into summer. Then “It’s summer, so I’ll insert a blue sky here.” Or “Autumn has pampas grass.”
Oguro: For a screenwriter, to be able to write stage directions like “looks at the sky” and see it become such a cool image; that’s really gratifying, isn’t it?
Hanada: It certainly is (laughs)
Hanada: I thought “It’s just like it read.” That’s one of the fun parts of being able to work with Kyoto Animation. Images come to mind when you’re location scouting. Thinking “It’s Kyoto Animation, so they’ll take this beautiful scenery and make it into a visual” while you’re walking around the streets and bridges of Uji, and talking with the director about it later…that’s a really fun part of the job.
Oguro: But if I recall, director Ishihara doesn’t says things like “I want to make this kind of image, so let’s make this scene.”
Hanada: He doesn’t.
Oguro: No kidding!
Hanada: The way we worked was that I would add to and change what was in the novel, and then they would use the scenario as their main ingredient for the storyboard. That’s the impression I have.
Oguro: Returning to the “director’s brain” conversation, it’s not that director Ishihara or Yamada-san depict the scenes/story they want to show, rather, from the materials they are provided with…..
Hanada: From those materials, they select and construct points they want to focus on instead. At least, that’s how I see it. And since it’s like that, I don’t have a problem with being asked to write the first draft as I see fit. Those portions are very flat and then it feels like they expand outwards.
Oguro: I see. Perhaps Yamada-san will inherit Ishihara-san’s stance. What scenes in Euphonium brought out a deep emotion for you when you saw them?
Hanada: I think episode 1 and episode 12 both went above and beyond my expectations. Episode 12 mostly went along the lines of the scenario, but there were some original points inserted and I felt that it ended up leaving a different impression on me. The very last line Taki-sensei says—“I haven’t forgotten that you said you could do it”—was written by the director, (Ichirou) Miyoshi-san. In the scenario, it was the same as the novel, “I truly believe this group will go to Nationals.” Just changing that one line alone enabled this episode to give off such a different impression. That kind of thing always leaves me in awe.
Oguro: And the points in episode 1 that impressed you?
Hanada: I also talked about this earlier; it was the conversation between Kumiko and Shuichi. When I saw it, I thought “Ah, this is definitely what Yamada-san would do. Color me impressed!” I also wrote a couple of scripts for her for Tamako Market, so the way that scene played out was very Tamakoish.
Oguro: The way the guy’s feelings couldn’t be conveyed was also very Tamakoish.
Hanada: Very much so. Therefore, Ishihara-san and Yamada-san take the scenarios that I’ve written without any of their “I want to do this” parts in it, and then put their stamps on it. I think they both have the confidence to take the motif or skeleton of a story—no matter what they are—and make it their own thing. I have fun writing for those kinds of people. I imagine that “if I write something like this, that’s what they’ll do,” it makes me happy when it works so well.
Oguro: In episode 12, were there any other impressionable moments besides that line of Taki’s?
Hanada: Definitely the passion invested in the scene of Kumiko running. When I wrote that scene in the scenario, I knew that there would have to be some passion inserted into that scene, but there was more in it than I ever expected.
Oguro: Now that you mention it, why did you write all of the scenarios by yourself?
Hanada: As I said before, if I have to choose a side, I’m the kind who writes from the beginning. There’s situations where I write a first draft but it doesn’t quite work for me, so I change it completely for the second draft. If I ask someone else to write a scenario for me, then I can’t do that. (laughs)
Oguro: If there are other scriptwriters, then as a series composer, you need to decide early on how the entire story will flow. If you don’t, then you can’t give them the directions they would need in order to write like “this series has this kind of taste.”
Hanada: When there are many writers, you’d have two or three episodes being written simultaneously. If I suddenly change something completely around, then the others have to change in order to match mine. As that would mean wasting the effort they’ve put in, I often say “I’m sorry, but could you let me write the entire series?” And not just for Kyoto Animation’s works, but also for elsewhere as well. Actually, I would like to bring others in to help me, but I try to refrain because I would just cause a lot of problems for them…
Oguro: The uniformity of the storytelling in Euphonium worked really well. It starts nice and easy, then the tension rises, giving breadth to the storytelling. But even then, it’s all told the same way. That was one of the major benefits of [KyoAni] having you write it all by yourself.
Hanada: As I wrote all the episodes, it was fun for me to tie together the taste and tension for each episode. That feeling of enjoyment is something that I cherished.
Oguro: In the end, Euphonium turned out to be a work about adolescence. Did you think that’s what it would become when you started?
Hanada: I thought it would. In the past, I’ve worked with Ishihara-san on shows like Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shirai! and it was pretty much the same. Since we already shared the opinions that “adolescent works are nice” or “I’d like to portray the naivety of adolescence,” I think all three of us had the same thoughts when reading the novel and nothing else needed to be said.
Oguro: And then it was your idea to end each episode with the narration of “And so the next piece begins.”
Hanada: I wanted to end each and every episode with the same line, but just couldn’t think of something good, so in the end it because something very orthodox. (laughs)
Oguro: Wasn’t that line based on the last line in chapter 4 of the first novel? “The music filled with the dreams of Kita Uji High School, had only now just begun.”
Hanada: Ah! Now that you’ve said it, it might be. I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular when I wrote that line, but perhaps I had kept that in the back of my mind somewhere. I usually come prepared with a few ideas, so when I used that as a temporary place marker, Ishihara-san went “This works, don’t you think?” and that’s why we went with it. (laughs)
Oguro: When I looked though the scenarios, it wasn’t just “and so the next piece begins”—you had some variation as well. “…the next piece begins” or “And yet again, the next piece begins.” But excluding the final episode, each episode’s broadcast ended with “and so the next piece begins.”
Hanada: Ishihara-san probably liked that it was the same each time. Only the final episode was different.
Oguro: It was “And so our piece continues.”
Hanada: That it was. The opening each time where we include flashbacks from the previous episode was something Ishihara-san said he wanted to do. I believe he thought that if we opened like that, then we could tie every episode together by ending with the same line.
Oguro: Opening with a flashback and ending with the same line is helps gives Euphonium its style. That opening was decided very early in production, wasn’t it?
Hanada: It was.
Oguro: How did you feel after the show finished broadcasting?
Hanada: When I finished writing, I thought “This is entertaining.” Out of all the works I’ve written in my career, this is a work that sits really near the top in terms of how I feel about it. I looked forward to the broadcast each week and always came away completely satisfied. Now, I really love it.
Oguro: Around the time this book gets release, the contents of the bonus episode included in the 7th BD/DVD volume, Start Running Monaka, should be announced. Did you also write that episode?
Hanada: I did. It depicts the B group starting with Natsuki-san. There are many Hazuki moments as well. If you’ve played in a band, I think the story will be something irresistible to you. To put it in normal words, I’d be very happy if you watch it.