This is one of the staff interviews from the “Heroine Archive” fanbook released in mid-February by Ichijinsha.
Director/Series Composer:Shingo Adachi
Born in Osaka. Known as animator, character designer, and animation director.
Notable titles include serving as character designer, chief animation director, animation director assistant, and OP/ED animation director for the WORKING!! and Sword Art Online series.
This was Shingo Adachi’s first directoral work. As a famous animator, he had supported several titles from the animation/visual side. Here we ask him about “being an outsider” and using his common sense in order to defeat issues in production.
“Outside the box thinking” was a hit
– This was supposed to be a long interview where we asked you about secrets behind the production of Lycoris Recoil (hereafter “LycoReco”), but…..
Adachi: Since I answered so much in the previous “Febri” interviews, you feel like you won’t be able to get much from me if I’m speaking honestly. As I’ve just finished my first work as a director, I don’t think I’d be able to talk much about directorial theories or supervision theories any better than someone off the street. (laughs)
– That being said, that doesn’t mean we won’t ask you for stories in this fanbook….
Adachi: That is true. It’s hopeless (to escape). (laughs) Well, when I say I have my own style of thinking, please don’t lose your faith in me. (laughs) Regardless, I was able to do a lot of irrational things for “LycoReco”. Some kind of a so-called “outside the box thinking” so people shouldn’t use it as a reference for what to do.
– For your “outside the box” viewpoint, was that something that just happened along the way or did you plan to do that at the beginning?
Adachi: There were a lot of things that I wanted to do from the very beginning. I was able to survey the animation industry for over 25 years from the animator’s standpoint, so during that time there were times where I felt “couldn’t we try to do more of this type of thing?” However, I was just an animator who couldn’t cross over to that domain, so I just accumulated a lot of various ideas. This was my long awaited chance to be a director so I thought “this is my chance to use common sense in order to break the mold.”
– I see now. The thought to create a title that hadn’t been felt before now was you wanting to break the mold of what had been created up to this point.
Adachi: There was that point to it as well. I feel that scriptwriters and directors can create something that’s very different from their perspective, but I feel like there were things that I could do for the scripts/scenario and direction because I was an outsider.
– What would be one example of that?
Adachi: Usually for TV anime series, the scenario is purely the realm of the scriptwriter. When you want to change something, the director or producers will convey their requests and then the scriptwriter will revise it themselves. But for “LycoReco”, I personally inserted my own revisions to the script. I would listen to everyone’s thoughts at our meetings and then repeat that until we reached the final draft. And I would examine the dialogue during the storyboard phase and during recording times and blend in my own flavor into the plot that Asaura-san wrote and the dialogue from the scriptwriters to the point where it might not have been any one person’s anymore. (laughs)
“Innovation from the story” was challenging
– Did you have anything in mind while working on the scenario and dialogue?
Adachi: The original story that was created lacked the intensity and entertainment of a story that I would aim for. There’s been so many different genres and stories produced of “cute girls and gun action” before us, so it was challenging to think of any “innovation from the story” perspective when I was working on the plot with Asaura-san. I thought about how those titles were mostly original titles, however I felt that there was still room for ways to make the story appear charming even if it wasn’t something strong. I’m not someone who has created a lot of huge hits, so I’m well aware of where I stand in that realm, but I thought there should be something I can fight back with as a have-not, right? So from the very beginning I set in place our main thought of “how can we get the viewers to follow us to the final episode?”
– It seems like you were focused on “how can we make people watch this?” instead of focusing on creating a rich world and detailed scenario.
Adachi: I was. After all, haven’t the younger people now gradually shifted how they watch titles? There’s a lot of mainstream YouTube videos that aren’t even 10 minutes long, and even then they watch those videos at double-speed. There’s no way that generation would do what we did when we were that age and watch a 30 minute long episode. So that’s why I thought that using an older way of creating anime would be difficult.
– And so you were thinking about that when you used realistic acting and exchanges that didn’t appear to have any meaning at a glance, right?
Adachi: That’s right. “LycoReco” wasn’t going to win overall based on its animation, so I thought it would be good if I probed into a direction that other anime wouldn’t go into and be able to have people experience a different type of title. One aspect of that was to have light and easy conversations. I aimed for “realistic” but if we could get something along that feeling I would be happy. Isn’t it tough to put “realistic” into words? But it’s something that you know what it feels like when you sense it.
– We can feel it. So how did you go about explaining this to the cast?
Adachi: I conveyed the thought of “this should have the feeling of a family talking together” as I felt that this is something that wouldn’t be able to be created from the cast’s acting alone. There’s a certain knowledge that comes from having gone through this title, but as for whether it’s possible to put it into words? That’s a secret. (laughs)
Enjoyable process all the way to the guns firing
– In particular, there was a large amount of charm to the truly unique acting that Chika Anzai used while playing as Chisato.
Adachi: That we were able to obtain Anzai-san was immensely lucky for this title. The moment I heard her demo tape I felt it. “That’s it!” I told Anzai-san “Don’t dig into Chisato’s character until we start recording,” but I felt she already possessed the “cheerful, saucy, senpai mentality, and discreet” feeling that Chisato had from the very first draft. I don’t know if I can truly say that this is because of her capabilities as an actress, but I was able to feel her technique somehow.
– It feels like in short contrast to Chisato, you wanted Takina to be a character who changed violently throughout the series.
Adachi: It’s just as you said, Takina changes in contrast to Chisato who wouldn’t bend. I wanted something a little different in Takina where she was “serious, pure, relentless.” I felt the reverse in my beliefs when I heard Shion Wakayama audition. That’s because I had the image of a low voice for Takina in my head at first. But I thought differently because it would be difficult for Takina’s change to be expressed in the scenes near the end where her emotions explode….
– You mean like in episode 12 where she yells “The heart is getting away!”
Adachi: Like that. But during the studio audition, I found the conversation dialog that Wakayama-san performed charming and felt that she could certainly show how Takina changed. She blew away my first image of how Takina should sound. (laughs)
– The way they conversed and their relationship charmed an immense amount of viewers.
Adachi: For some reason I imagined them like in Quinton Tarantino’s movie “Pulp Fiction.” Aren’t they like the hitman combo who appear in the film?
– You mean Vincent and Jules, played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson?
Adachi: Yes. Up until the moment where they knock on the door of the young men who betrayed the group, those two are always talking about things the audience doesn’t understand but conveys who they are. I thought about “LycoReco” being the same; it’s not just entertainment for the gun action, but it’s something you enjoy all the way through to until the guns are firing. Instead of having dialog that just drove the story, I wanted it to be a show that thoroughly used dialogue that would come out by reflect so I used the mood between those two characters as reference.
– And so coupled with the performance by the actresses, you created a wonderful atmosphere.
Adachi: I’m really pleased that you felt that way. But there were some questions that came up during the script meetings.
– That’s really surprising.
Adachi: For example, in the scene in episode 1 where Saori shows Chisato and Takina her selfie picture, there was a cut where Chisato says “The arms deal is in the picture!” And in response to that, Takina immediately says “I know nothing about this!” but the staff asked me “What is the meaning of this line?” I had no idea what it was about, so I responded to them with “I don’t know myself.”
– Now that you mention it, it doesn’t make sense. After all, she had been looking together with Chisato on the smartphone where the guns transaction was taking place in the picture.
Adachi: For me, there wasn’t any deeper meaning in the line that Takina said then. It’s not about what she knew or what she didn’t know, she had just been whumped in the shoulder by Chisato, so that line was meant to be said when she returned the favor to Chisato. It’s like when you say something like “I ain’t know nothing” in Kansaiben. I think there’s things we say in everyday conversation that doesn’t have to have any meaning behind them or were just give and take. If every single line in a story has some meaning to it, then you’d get overloaded just by watching and taking it all in. (laughs) So I think you need to have some fun conversations that don’t mean anything between characters.
Controlling the “gap” between dialogue
– I understand now. “LycoReco” itself does a really good job with the comedy temp and spaces between the give and take. I feel like that’s in large part to your sense Director Adachi, so would you say you like comedy?
Adachi: I’m from Osaka, so of course I love to laugh. I like slapstick like you’d see at newer comedy shows, but I’d say that I prefer the slightly absurd atmosphere in sketches like you’d see in “Downtown no Gottsu Ee Kanji.” However, animation itself is primarily based on Tokyo culture, so there’s not an inclination to get that type of Kansai comedy.
– Is that true?
Adachi: That’s something I heard from Director Atsushi Otsuki when we were on WORKING’!! together. He didn’t have any clear data showing it, but I kept it in mind. “That might actually be the case.” He was taking over for the second season, but he worried about how the comedy would be received compared to season 1 because he was from Kyoto and would be putting the comedy tempo and timing more aligned with Kansai inclinations, so that’s what he himself was concerned over. I’m from Osaka originally, so naturally I liked his type of work.
– Ah, I see what you mean now. Well, it might be because the comedy of “LycoReco” has a sort of Kansai feeling to it, but I was able to get hooked on that.
Adachi: Thank you very much. I feel like there’s also a generation shift at work too. Not that there’s a lot of things that are slightly violent, but that there might be more of a breeding ground for people to accept that different atmosphere.
– Were there any points you focused on for the comedy scenes?
Adachi: Maybe the timing and gaps between dialogue? The rhythm too….. We had filmed the storyboards for the dubbing process, but I would be adjusting the editing length afterwards.
– In short, you mean to say that following the cast’s recording, you would once more edit the lengths of the dialogue to match the timing?
Adachi: Just like you said. After all, the timing for either the jokes or stupid sayings wouldn’t be in the gap between the cast’s normal performance, so I fundamentally had to go this route. Even though it might not feel the best or be the way the cast wanted to do it. (laughs) But it was something I wanted to try on this show.
– And so by accumulating lots of these delightful tempo scenes, you were able to arrive at the comedy that was unique to “LycoReco”.
Adachi: I’m pleased that you felt that way. But I think there might be people who feel like going through this sound overlays and re-editing to create something entertaining might be going a bit overboard. However, it was a valuable experience for me.
Putting several meanings into each cut
– I feel like you had some points that you focused on not just with the dialogue, but with how the characters move and the amount of cuts allotted too.
Adachi: I wasn’t involved at all once it went to the animation itself, so I can’t say anything about that, but I was conscious of that at the storyboards and direction points. For example, in episode 1, Chisato mentions “let’s head out to work, Takina!” from behind the counter and Takina says “Okay!” and stands up immediately. But Chisato mentions “oh, you can drink Teach’s coffee first,” and Takina sits back down and once more stands up with “Yes!” when Chisato calls out for her. It’s a casual scene, but I think something like this isn’t depicted in anime much. But by just restricting the movement to standing up and sitting down, we conveyed how Takina has respect for Chisato as her senior at this point in time and how serious she is as a person too.
– It distinctively has all that action flow while staying in front of one “camera”’s perspective. It feels like you didn’t want to change the angle at all.
Adachi: I thought that if we depicted that all from a set point, then we might be able to display the comedy element a bit better. As long as we can make it entertaining without consuming resources, that would be the best outcome. I felt that it would be a waste if we didn’t put in at least two meanings into each cut when animating, so I did my best to have each cut hold several goals as much as possible.
– That way of balancing costs and resources feels like something you’d think about having worked as an animator on so many titles.
Adachi: That might be where I got it from yes. There would be times when I was working as an animator where a cut would come along and I’d draw while thinking “Is this cut even needed?” (laughs) A character sitting on a chair is a really nonchalant cut, but if the main character is a beautiful girl, then drawing the cut from her bottom would be sexy, cute, and have an appeal to it. However, if you put the old man side character in that same spot, then there’s pretty much no reason to have that type of cut. After all there’s hardly any animators in this industry that would want to draw it. (laughs) If there’s no motivation from the person who’s drawing the cut, then wouldn’t the people watching it feel it’s boring? So I thought that this time if we had any cuts that were included for weak reasons like “I wanted it there,” then wouldn’t it be better to remove them? Of course there’s situations where that isn’t possible, but I thought about removing pointless cuts as much as I could.
– There were some planned dramatic sequences obviously, but you removed a lot of pieces that detailed the setting and world as it related to “LycoReco” too, right?
Adachi: You’re limited by length after all. For a single cour title, from the moment it was decided that the main axis of the show would be “depicting Chisato and Takina as buddies,” I thought about how not to shift that impression. Everyone has points that they’re interested in yes, but we’re all interested in that main story. (laughs) For example, we didn’t depict anything to do with how everyone at LycoReco handles their mission requests.
– I didn’t notice that before, but now that you mention it, there weren’t any shown.
Adachi: Even though we had included them at the beginning. (laughs) We had some stories like where Chisato went to a shrine and found a wooden tablet hanging down seeing out an SOS or a mysterious website where a “demon girl” would send “messages from Hell.” Each time they would receive the summons by an appropriate way for the request. However, if we had depicted those times, then we wouldn’t have the amount of time with Chisato and Takina that I wanted to spend. These were included a little in the cut where they got a request from Walnuts in the open for the second episode, but it was made to give the impression that “this is how they receive them.”
– But I feel that bold selections and editing was what made this considerably better.
Adachi: Even now I don’t know if it was the right choice or not, but I do feel that it was the right decision that we should have done for this title. It felt like I was always struggling as for what to choose up until the last moment.
Liking the tea between battles
– The one thing that we have to talk about with “LycoReco” is the rare character known as Chisato. I thought it would be nice if you could give us some explanation of her here.
Adachi: Thank you very much for your comments. I felt that the absolute most important element was that if we ever didn’t depict Chisato as charming, then it would be “the end” for us. She may be an idealized version of “if a woman like this existed, it would be wonderful” for me. (laughs) Exceptionally positive, doesn’t shut others down, intelligent, cool, treats everyone equally, relaxed, naturally feeling around her, always wants to get up close with you…. She’s the perfect ideal. (laughs) However, if I was even slightly wrong, there’d be others saying she was “annoying” so I felt like I was always adjusting her seasoning.
– We heard a rumor from the staff that the visuals and atmosphere were generally speaking along the lines that you think and act.
Adachi: They mentioned that often. (laughs) Don’t you think putting something like “ideal female image = yourself” would be saying that you’re a “narcissist”? (laughs) But I do think that there has to be some realism in your protagonist’s ideal behavior and motives, so I think there may be no other choice but to put some of yourself in them. If you think about “what would I do?” then the utmost real actions and dialogue are born.
– As you mention that, one of the big highlights of the show was the relationship between Chisato and the opposing “rival” character Majima.
Adachi: Majima is the so called “activist” type of person, so he’s someone who is always acting to change the world to suit his own ideals. The way he’s actively doing things is a crime as a terrorist, but in reality, they’re more like politicians and lobbyists. From my own standpoint, those types of people are far away from myself, so it’s tough to understand them. How far will politicians and activists go in order to accomplish their goals? Even if they died halfway towards their goals, if their dream comes true after they die, then are we sure they’re not still here in this world? And also if lawsuits continue to go forward, will their motivation change? That’s something that I can’t do myself, so while I hold some respect for them, I also have to think they’re strange.
– And on the other side, Chisato since her life is short isn’t really interested in that moral cause.
Adachi: That’s right. Chisato, like myself as lower middle class people, feels like spending the remaining amount of time we have in life on something like that is pointless.
– Chisato and Majima, even though they hold different thoughts, have things in common like movies, which is also shown in the show. I don’t think that I’ve seen another show have a scene where the protagonist and adversary have enjoyed tea together like we saw here.
Adachi: That scene with them having tea wasn’t created from necessity in the scenario, but more from an impetus within me that kept growing “I want to see this scene.” I absolutely love it. I love the situation where two people who have tried to kill each other put down their weapons and talk naturally…… Doesn’t that get you excited? There’s a lot of times where the protagonist and adversary fire at each other and stake their claims, but for me, I would rather want a different scene where they let battles be battles and find another way to stake their viewpoints. I want to hear a conversation where people have put their weapons aside. I don’t know if it was good or if it was bad, but since I like that type of development, that’s why we set up an off-battle moment for the two.
– I get it now. Even though Majima was a very important character in the story, he wasn’t depicted as the backbone like Chisato was.
Adachi: Majima and Yoshimatsu were both designed to be backbone characters, but if we touched into their side too much, then it would turn into their stories too. I mentioned this a while ago, but I wanted to focus on Chisato’s story so I shaved away anything as much as possible to depict Chisato and Takina. That being said, there’s been some who have told me they felt Majima was admirable, so I’m happy that could happen too. I’ve learned a lot from this.
From the beginning, it was decided to end happily.
– You mentioned someone else who is key in the final stages, Yoshimatsu. I was truly surprised that he would go so far as to implant the artificial heart in himself in order to get Chisato to kill someone.
Adachi: To blow him up entirely. (laughs) When I first read this plot from Asaura-san, I was immensely shocked myself. I thought, “wow, this is an idea that never occurred to me, that’s why he’s an author.” However, even if someone killed Yoshimatsu to keep Chisato alive, she herself wouldn’t be happy she was kept alive. This was the biggest challenge. Since I thought that “LycoReco” should be a happy ending as much as possible, we made it so that Mika would kill Yoshimatsu without Chisato knowing and take on all the burden himself.
– So as far as Chisato’s concerned, he’s still living?
Adachi: She makes it seem that way. However, Chisato is pretty smart, so she might have already noticed that this may have happened. Since she doesn’t know for sure, she may not feel like it’s okay for her to accept it as true.
– There’s actually a possibility that Yoshimatsu is still alive…..
Adachi: We didn’t show the moment that he died, so there’s still some possibility of that….. Even thinking about it normally may be tough. (laughs)
Happy to deliver the show to younger fans
– Listening to all you’ve said, your preference to have everything pointed towards depicting Chisato and Takina in the end was well conveyed.
Adachi: When I went onto the “LycoReco Radio” show earlier, I heard something from the structure writer for the show. So many of the letters they received from fans were from people in their teens and twenties. There also people there who had never watched a late night anime before LycoReco. I started to wonder if “LycoReco” could also work for new fans. Core anime fans will be upset at small things and they might get upset when an explanation isn’t satisfactory, so I’m glad that I was able to get the bravery to create a LINE account. I could avoid the nitpicking from core fans and be able to steadily work and solidify the series. In the end, we were able to match what we intended on several accounts.
– If this had been a serious gun action show like it was at the beginning, I don’t think you’d see a lot of minor girls as active in the fandom as there are now.
Adachi: I don’t know myself. Is it alright that I chose to go down the path of “doing what I preferred” compared to what was right? (laughs) While working on this, there were elements like Majima living at the end that you’d constantly think “this is like a manga,” so I don’t know if it was okay or not. The modern late night anime industry hasn’t been able to capture a lot of younger viewers, so to have a lot of people become active around this type of light, poppy, late night series makes me truly happy as someone who’s put himself into the anime industry.