New title: Violet Evergarden Preview Interview

This is another translation that I originally translated in 2017 to run on another site, but due to various circumstances, it was never run. With the recent arson incident, I’m posting these so that they’re out in the public for people to read. This is a preview interview from the “This is Who We Are Now! 2017” book from Kyoto Animation released in 2017 to coincide with the event that year.

Violet Evergarden New Title Interview

Director Taichi Ishidate x Character Designer Akiko Takase

Challenging a New World

– The first two episodes of Violet Evergarden will be premiered at “Sound! From Kyoto to the World” prior to broadcasting in January, so what kind of work is Violet Evergarden?
Ishidate: I’ll reply a bit broadly , but it’s fundamentally a “child-raising anime” depicting the woman Violet Evergarden growing up. Perhaps it’s because I’m a guy myself, but I feel like this work is more strongly paternally instead of maternally.
Takase: This was a challenging title for our company. Since we created a high fantasy world using older Europe as a reference, it was quite different from the titles we’ve worked on up until now here. We had to be incredibly through creating the details of the world in order to depict a fictional country set in a different time. When we began to draw anything…for example one tiny prop, we had to continually check whether or not it could exist in that history.

– Takase-san, you were in charge of the illustrations of the original novels. What did you concentrate on when beginning to create the anime designs?
Takase: When I drew the illustrations for the novels, this title hadn’t been decided to be animated, so I was free to draw what I felt from the novel’s text and the atmosphere of the story. When I re-designed the characters again for the anime, of course I focused on making them able to move through animation, but beyond that I was fixated on matching their clothing and garments to each character’s image in order to not destroy the title’s atmosphere or world setting. I would draw my fundamental ideas as I thought of them and then Ishidate-san and I would talk about them and decide what to do afterwards. From seeing those designs countless times, the characters began to solidify. Of all the characters, I of course spent the most time designing Violet’s designs. Her clothing is of course complex, but I had to try over and over again to create an expression design sheet. She’s not a girl that expresses much emotion, so it was a lot of work to pack detailed expressions when her heart would move a bit. Her “eyes” and “eyebrows” would change ever slightly, so I took great care when drawing those. This show is the first time I’ve been trusted as a chief animation director, so when I saw the episode 1 key animation reach my desk, I felt a nervousness I had never felt before. I had served as animation director for episodes before, but as my drawings would serve as the base of the work as chief….I had to give it my all feeling like “I’m the last stronghold to improve the drawings!”

– There are some original elements not included in the original novels, right?
Takase: The original novels were organized as a complete omnibus tale for each chapter, but we wanted to structure the anime in terms of Violet’s growth from episode 1 until the final episodes. Some original characters for the anime were also created.
Ishidate: The degree of completion for the original novels was incredibly high; many of the judges of the 5th Kyoto Animation Awards felt that it should win the grand prize. But as there’s a big difference between expression in text and in visual form, it was necessary for us to review how to create the story when animating it. When the story is read as a book, each reader finds ways to enjoy it while coming up with their own images in their head to supplement the text. However, when it comes times to visualize it into video form, it becomes one specific image in response. Although there is a certain fanatical world arising from the novel, we had to reconstruct it creating a historical background and society to step foot into the world of Violet. For example, in Violet’s time a great war has occurred over the continent. How will that war have affected the lives of people living there? Also, how is the company structured in CH Mail Services, the company where Violet goes to work at? I had to think about those and so many other elements. After all, it would be unnatural if there weren’t any other Auto Memories Dolls present at CH besides Violet. So from that perspective, we had to add characters in order to create the anime world.

– What kind of show did you aim for?
Takase: Let’s see…….. Since this is a show that depicts the growth of Violet, I gave it my all to express the subtle emotions and her changing expressions in the animation as she grows up.
Ishidate: It sounds completely natural when you’re creating something, but of course the first thing I thought of simply was to aim for a show where the viewers thought “that was great!” when they see it. So for that, it’s important to get objective feedback.  I would scope out every possibility and never become complacent with the story while I sought out opinions from the other staff members. While the core of the work was easily apparent, I took various opinions on how to proceed with that theme and how to express it, lay those thoughts out all together, pick the best one, and refine it. I think that’s the role of a director to do so. I think there are some rare directors in this world that have the charisma to come along and take command, but animation itself is something you can’t make by yourself; that’s why I personally don’t think you can’t have one person’s way of doing things during the process.  KyoAni’s (Naoko) Yamada-san said previously “the director is a navigator.” I also think along those lines. When making something, it’s the director’s responsibility to surround themselves with ferrymen-like people to guide them through the path of extremely good options. Each animation section is filled with creators, so I wanted to create a team that would allow them to display their maximum amount of creativity. I think a director’s temperament is very important when creating good titles, so I also wanted to give it my all when working as a director.

Diligently, Straightforward, Naively

– Please tell us about some struggles, enjoyable moments, and challenges you faced during production.
Takase: Something I struggled with……looking back it would have to be expressions, wouldn’t it? There were some times when I struggled to draw something well, there were times when I enjoyed drawing something while imagining what the characters’ emotions would be, and there were also points that were difficult. I would completely turn into the characters. “Since it’s them, why would they feel this way? Is this something that’s building up to something?” I would thoroughly dig down into their emotions to understand them. And then when I would reach the end of my rope, I’d instantly go and talk to Ishidate-san and series director (Haruka) Fujita-san about it. But in general, it was always fun to draw. I especially had fun when I was drawing Violet’s face. Drawing her hair is a bit difficult though. (laughs) Once again I learned that things I like drawing and things that are easy to draw are two different things. (laughs)
Ishidate: Everything when producing a title is painful AND fun! (laughs) Since I wanted to create an anime series that felt like a movie, I didn’t want to attach template-like stories or expressions. Violet is a protagonist that doesn’t fit into a template either, so when it came time to work on something, I couldn’t proceed without thinking “how would Violet respond at this point?” As I didn’t want to make these characters modern anime-ish in story, I couldn’t proceed using my past experiences. This made it worthwhile to work on and also difficult too. I’m not saying that template stories themselves are bad; I wanted to challenge myself in a new way when working on this title. I wanted to make this into a serious drama so…..the concept when working was “diligently, straightforward, naively”!
Takase: I really endeavored to make this title fully realistic in portrayals and movements, so I was constantly aware of the technical aspects of the image, especially the depiction of light. One characteristic of Violet is that the characters aren’t just shaded with a highlight, there’s a gradient of “reflected light” inserted. When drawing, there may be two images with a similar situation, but due to how light enters the picture, they aren’t the same at all. Due to that, I wanted to ensure that the drawings weren’t the same when handling similar cuts.

– What highlights are present in Violet Evergarden?
Ishidate: Violet, similar to a baby who doesn’t know anything, learns something new each episode.  The way she tries to instantly use what she learns in the next episode is very much like a young child. The highlight of the series is how she grows. It gradually becomes denser and the enjoyment of the show increases because she changes. I’m only talking a bit about the onset, but if everyone could watch Violet’s tale like they would watch over their child’s growth, it’d please me.
Takase: I too wanted to watch over her growth. I wanted to create this story where you follow along with how she grows up. As I was fixated on carefully depicting the characters who appear in different episodes, I’d be pleased if you paid attention to them as well.

– Finally, please give a message to all the fans.
Ishidate: As this is a tale that gets more interesting as the episodes continue, it’d please me if you watch until the very end! Please give it a shot!
Takase: I’m the same as Ishidate-san! We’re giving it our all, so please give it a watch!

– Thank you for speaking with us today.

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