This is a newly translated roundtable featuring the staff involved with the hand-drawn animation portion of Myriad Colors Phantom World (key animation and in-betweens). It was published in the “This is Who We Are Now!! 2017” book sold alongside tickets to the 2017 KyoAni & Do Event.
Looking Back on Our Works
Myriad Colors Phantom World
Roundtable 1: Hand-drawn Animation Staff
Director: Tatsuya Ishihara
Character Designer: Kazumi Ikeda
Prop Designer: Hiroshi Karata
Phantom Designer: Shinpei Sawa
Vagueness in Phantom World like the Real World
– You take on some very challenging themes in Myriad Colors Phantom World (hereafter “Phantom World”).
Ishihara: The series itself mentions in it that “this world has phantoms in it,” but how we should depict that theme was challenging. When preparing for this title, I researched that topic from various perspectives, but despite researching as much as I could for something definitive, I came to realize just how much ambiguity there is in this world. I had the opportunity to speak with a professor at a university who studies how our eyes see optical illusions and was told then how much of what our eyes see is truly ambiguous. Human eyes are truly miraculous. They show us what the world looks like to make it convenient for us, but that doesn’t mean that they show everything the world really consists of. If someone were around who saw things that don’t fit into a label we can think of or something that isn’t fully there like probably molecules and such, then people would probably think that person’s head isn’t on right. This is a show that makes you think about what if that could happen and what could people see that wouldn’t be present in what people comprehend in today’s world.
Characters who aren’t “normal”
– So how did you go about designing the characters?
Ishihara: In essence, we met to design them using the illustrations in the novel as a base. However, characters that were original like Kurumi and Ruru were a bit different. For example, we had the idea from the beginning that Kurumi would have “front-tails” and so we built her design from that aspect.
Karata: I was a bit shocked when I first saw her design. You were intentionally covering her face.
Ikeda: However, we talked about how wouldn’t it be nice instead when her face was covered when she looked down. Like how rabbit ears do.
Ishihara: There’s a type of rabbit with “loppy ears” so I thought having that kind of feeling of floppy ears would be cute.
Ikeda: Ishihara-san, who thought of that hair style, drew it quite detailed.
Ishihara: It just came to me. “We’ve not done this hair style yet!”
Sawa: Hair styles have an sense that everything’s been done before so I was surprised that there was still something new with them.
Ishihara: Even though Ruru is a gag character, I thought her design should be beautiful. Her original image was that of a fairy, but when we attached wings, she became too stereotypical of a fairy, so we went away from that idea. For some reason, an image of a fairy from “Arabian Nights” came to me, so she became what you see not. Actually, Ruru inserts things into her hair.
Ikeda: There’s a ten yen coin inserted in the round tuff of hair at the end of her knot. It’s there in place of a purse. Actually, at the beginning, we had talked about “shouldn’t we put something at the front of her hair,” so before the tuff was placed at the end, we had inserted shoji pieces or nuts, but in the end we didn’t put anything there (laughs).
Ishihara: Usually we’d put a ribbon or something, but since that wouldn’t be interesting, we thought about changing items and not having anything consistently there.
Ikeda: There was an idea where we could put in small things to match her size since she’s a small character.
Sawa: But in the end you settled on her current form?
Ikeda: We returned to the base design. (laughs)
– How were the other characters?
Ishihara: The other characters followed along with the novel. However, I did request that the female characters have firm pelvises. Speaking about worries, what worried me was how we would present Reina’s talent where she would open her mouth and eat phantoms. The novel described it like her entire face became a mouth, but I didn’t like how that would turn her into a monster, so I worried about how we could make it cuter. Also the characteristics like Mai’s dark moles.
Ikeda: She does have them on both cheeks and on her thigh.
Karata: I would forget to draw her moles, so I remember seeing that they were one of the “attentive points” during my re-takes.
Sawa: Well, usually she’s wearing a skirt so the mole on her thigh wouldn’t be visible.
Karata: During action scenes, her skirt would flip up and you could see it, but since the scene became so intense, I somehow forgot to include it. (laughs)
Ishihara: We designed Mai so that she would wear bloomers under her skirt like the type you’d see in tennis so if her skirt flew up it’d be okay. However, there weren’t many of those kinds of scenes.
Sawa: You could finally at last see her mole in the final episode.
– There were a lot of minor characters with their own personalities, weren’t there?
Ikeda: There were. For example, the trio of boys from another school that appeared in episode 12 were designed coolishly by the animation director for that episodes (Miku) Kadowaki-san.
Sawa: The movement in that scene they appear in was really fantastic.
Ikeda: Episode 8 was the onsen episode, so it probably has the biggest set of minor characters. (laughs)
Ishihara: Related to that, originally Haruhiko’s Team E was set as the “leftovers,” so naturally others would appear. Episode 8 was the debut of the Beach Angels and others.
Ikeda: Those three finally got to show up.
Not surprised phantoms were there too
– Next, please tell us a little bit about designing the phantoms.
Sawa: The phantoms were mostly unvisualized in the novel, so it was a lot of work on them.
Ishihara: I remember saying frequently “I don’t want them to be too frightening.”
Sawa: You did say that a lot. When I first started drawing, I had a lot of scary creatures. And every time I showed one to Ishihara-san, he’d say “this is scary Sawa-kun.” (laughs)
Ishihara: Of course scary phantoms exist, but I wanted them overall to have a comedic feeling to them so they became cuter. The three-headed phantom that appears in episode 5 was depicted much scarier in the novels.
Sawa: You said it nicely when you mentioned “it’s nice to look back and not be surprised that there was a phantom there too.”
Ishihara: But you were surprised though! (laughs)
Sawa: That you were. Things like local mascot characters that you would be familiar with in everyday life would be phantoms. Episode 8’s small monkey phantoms were incredibly tough.
Ishihara: That one had a lot of pains. At first I was wondering where you were going with the designs.
Sawa: There’s already numerous monkey characters around the world. No matter how I drew them, they resembled some other characters. And then when I squared them, I thought “Ah, there’s none of these out there.”
Ikeda: It was fun drawing them and having them in different colors in the promotional illustration.
Ishihara: They’re easy to draw aren’t they?
Ikeda: They are, but when I draw them now, surprisingly I can’t make them match, so it’s difficult. How did Cthulhu’s design come about?
Sawa: Ishihara-san showed me a picture of a flapjack octopus and from there the character was born.
Ishihara: I love octopuses, so it was quite the delight to get to draw an octopus character.
Sawa: Coloring it was also difficult. At the beginning it was emerald green or violet.
Ishihara: That it was. But now I can’t see it as anything other than pink.
Ikeda: Pink further increased its cuteness.
Sawa: Every time Cthulhu was summoned, it became cuter. In the novel, it’s placed as a monster and has a threatening image, but as it’d move around from the animators in the anime version, it eventually became a girlish character.
Ishihara: Cthulhu’s seiyuu (Omi) Minami-san was really spectacular. She perfectly matched the image.
Ikeda: By the way, the humanesque bunny phantoms that appear in episode 4 were my designs. However, phantoms were set to have this coil pattern, so I was troubled. Where could I put that?
Ishihara: There’s no real meaning behind the coil pattern, but I wanted to have a mark that signified that something was a phantom.
– Were there any memorable phantoms for you?
Sawa: The oni phantom that appears at the beginning of episode 1. Right when I started designing phantoms, that was the one I drew first.
Ishihara: That one was the one I was most concerned about. If it became too cute, it’d be a problem, but I didn’t want to make it too scary. Finding that balance was a challenge.
Sawa: The finished design for him has his face like a mask, but at first I wanted a grim expression like it was truly “an oni in some way.”
Ishihara: And the sunflower mysterious phantom in episode 12 is nice too.
Karata: That one was a design that I begged “please let me move it around!” (laughs)
Sawa: Because that episode’s director, (Takuya) Yamamura-san, moved it around so entertainingly, it became a cheerful character. It went beyond my expectations.
– Looking at rough drafts for phantoms, there’s a lot of them that don’t appear in the series proper.
Sawa: Actually they appear on the edge of the screen. They’re on the roads when walking or at the top of light poles and such.
Ishihara: There’s a scene in episode 1 where you can see lots of kinds of phantoms at once, so they’re nearly all introduced there.
Sawa: However, there are plenty that don’t appear at all. In order to grasp the image of phantoms I needed to design, I drew a lot of extras.
Designs started from eccentric motifs
– So then, how were the props designed?
Karata: Generally there were a lot of situations where Ishihara-san requested something like “I want this type of thing.”
Ishihara: Speaking of props, there were a lot of big ones this time too. Things like the monorail and such?
Karata: Yes. Originally that was going to be hand-drawn, so I began designing it for someone to draw by hand but in the end it became CG.
Ishihara: There was also that tank-like vehicle that the Salmon King rode in episode 6, right?
Sawa: That one was designed like a mecha that would appear in the 80s.
Karata: Since I was given a lot of materials to reference from that era, I designed it with them in mind.
Ikeda: Didn’t that robot use a salmon in its mouth like a boomerang?
Karata: Sadly, that wasn’t a feature. (laughs) Though I will mention that salmon itself can be flung like a boomerang. However, we only used the portion where it fired salmon roe from the body in the show itself.
Ishihara: I love the “bear hand” (rake) that Kurumi uses in episode 6 too. It feels like a waste to only use it once.
Sawa: The difference in your mind of a magical girl and then using a rake like that is quite hilarious.
Karata: No matter what, she’s always fixated on things that revolve around bears.
Ishihara: I believe that was an idea that series composer (Fumihiko) Shimo-san had when we were working on the scripts.
Karata: However, it was a struggle to find a way to make a rake cute.
Ikeda: Actually, I inserted some rake components when her skirt fluffs after she transforms.
Sawa: I didn’t notice that at all! (laughs)
Ikeda: We used the bear hand and other motifs a lot there. I had put something along the lines of a bamboo shaft along her chest.
Ishihara: Come to think of it, there were barricade robots meant to block people from travelling on roads in the final episode. Those were fun to make as well.
Karata: I made them too. They were designed to be self-propelled as well.
Sawa: Unfortunately they didn’t move in the actual show.
Karata: But they were designed to move. (laughs)
Ishihara: They were named “Centipede” so that they could come together to form a long barricade. I got fanatic about those types of details in “Phantom World.”
– Were there any memorable props?
Karata: For me, the Alayashiki device that appears in episode 2 and connects in the final episode. The setting is in the near future, but I used an older motif for it when designing it like an old car with how round it was and such.
Ishihara: Something I think was really well-designed was Haruhiko’s smartphone. I thought it was much cooler than the smartphones we have today.
Karata: Because it’s a bit slanted, it’s quite easy to use. And since it’s slanted as well when you sit it on a desk, you can see that people can’t look onto the screen easily. However, I do think it’s a bit unstable.
Ishihara: I think that once we moved from normal cell phones to smartphones, we lost a bit of individuality for the characters. The so called “Galapagos phones” had numerous types of designs to use.
Karata: That’s true. But we can plan to differentiate them with different cases for smartphones as well.
Bestowing them freedom without limitations
– Please tell us any stories that are unique to drawing “Phantom World.”
Ishihara: Since I considered “this work’s appeal is how it moves,” I don’t think there was anything troubling about drawing or designing.
Ishihara: For the phantoms, their bodies would be processed by the composition section.
Sawa: That’s right. Modern anime have so many lines drawn to detail the scenes. When I was designing the phantoms, I was familiar with those detailed scenes, but since they would make moving around difficult, I concentrated on decreasing the amount of lines on my phantom designs. However, when I did so, they appeared flat on the visuals, so we had to add more time with effects and compositing in order to decrease the amount of lines on phantoms. And related to that, one little twist we did was when drawing phantoms that would need to have effects processed on them and characters that wouldn’t be processed on the same sheet of paper would be to not draw any colored tracing lines for the phantoms.
Karata: For this series, the ways that the characters and phantoms moved around weren’t determined, so I feel its characteristic is the freedom for deciding that yourself. There would be many characters who’d only appear in one episode, so the staff in charge of that episode had the freedom to do what they wished. For the limbo dancing scene in the first episode, so how they moved and what rhythm was decided in a meeting with the drawing section. They would draw miniature figures and watch their movement on a computer and discuss “this is how they’ll move together.” It was that freeform.
Ishihara: That level of freedom was deliberately allowed here.
Sawa: There were a lot of components to choose, so occasionally I would draw things myself. Like the scene in episode 1 where Haruhiko fails the limbo dance and gets electrocuted. Also in episode 9 when Kitajima’s phantom appears, it wasn’t supposed to stand out from the compositing, but in the end, I reached the end of my limit and drew it all myself. I handed that scene over to the painting section saying “please scan this key animation without any tracing from in-betweens.” This was a title where we had the ability to play around like that.
A title filled with playfulness
– Finally, what are your thoughts looking back on this show?
Ishihara: “Phantom World” was a series where people weren’t earnestly drawing the same thing, so I feel it’s a title where people got to relatively relax while working.
Sawa: I truly had fun drawing it.
Ishihara: Though the sand phantom in episode 11’s key frames were tough, it was fun to see it move around.
Ikeda: While the designs were heartwarming, the action was amazing. Come to think of it, episode 9 suddenly changed into a period drama too.
Sawa: This title was my first time drawing shogunate police uniforms. I truly never thought that a day where I drew that would come around. Because we hadn’t drawn that before, the staff gathered some clothing references and circulated them around to everyone.
Ikeda: For me, I designed the sword that gets stuck in the back of the Kitajima phantom easily, but when it came time to design the sword portions for the shogunate police costumes the main characters wore, I drew them immensely detailed. (laughs) I was surprised. “Ah, I really drew them!”
Sawa: You even designed all the way to the sword’s guards! (laughs)
Ishihara: Actually, just like the real shogunate police, each sword was different.
Sawa: True. The animation director for that episode, (Yuuki) Tsunoda-san, is the type of person who pays attention to those details, so we created those types of designs.
Karata: This time I designed the props keeping in mind “it’s okay however they move around.” The surfboard for the Beach Angels has a shark’s mouth on the back of it, so I said “it’s alright if the mouth snaps closed” I imagined that kind of design could be drawn in the storyboards for that episode.
Sawa: This was truly a show with a lot of components you could play around with. I think some hero magazines appear somewhere in episode 11. On the back of those magazines are some entertaining images. I saw them and thought “ah, the staff must have been feeling playful when drawing these.” I think “Phantom World” is a series packed with that kind of playfulness.
Ishihara: Speaking of playfulness, Ruru is indeed in the logo, but if you look closer, for some reason further inside Ruru’s hair is a portrait-side image of Haruhiko. Be sure to search it out.
– Thank you for your time today.