Date: 2019 August 23 17:13
Posted by Joe
Anime Limited and MCM Comic Con London always team up and bring great anime guests to the event. May 2019 was no different with anime director Yuichiro Hayashi appearing as Anime Guest of Honour. Best known for his recent work as the director of gambling school anime Kakegurui he has also the director of GARO the Animation. He's also be involved in 2012 CGI anime production of 009 Re:Cyborg.
We caught up with Yuichiro Hayashi at MCM Comic Con London May 2019 to hear what he had to say about Kakegurui and the anime industry.
How did you get into the anime industry?
Initially I had no plans to be an animator, but I was invited to join a vocational school for animators by one of my friends. Before that I didn't think I wanted to be an in the anime industry, but my friend suggest that I come along and see what it's like. That was the initial start for me getting into the industry. But it wasn't something I had pre-planned.
What did you start doing during this course then?
I studied everything surrounding the creation of animation, from storyboards to design, pretty much everything involved in anime production.
Let's talk about Kakegurui! Are you are gambling man?
Not at all!
Did you have to do much research for Kakegurui into gambling?
We don't have any casinos or anything like that in Japan. So I had to watch a lot of films that had gambling as their theme and use that has reference material.
Which is your favourite gambling game in Kakegurui?
For me it's probably the Indian Poker Game in the fourth and fifth episodes.
If you had your own Fido or Mittens what would you get them to do for you?
(Laughs) That's a very difficult question!
So for me it would be very difficult to actually use another human being in that kind of subservient position. It would be very difficult for me. So I don't think I'd have them do anything too cruel.
Do you think a school like that would be a fun place to go in real life? Or d you think it would be a bad idea?!
I feel if were to go to one of those schools I would immediately become a fido! So I don't know if it would be very fun for me to attend. I'm not very strong when it comes to competition, especially gambling. So I would probably be demoted almost immediately upon entering!
Who's your favourite member of the student council?
As you know the characters are so varied and have so many individual traits I'm very attached to all of them. So it's quite difficult to choose between them but if I had to, perhaps Midari or the Student Council President Kirari. They were maybe my favourite two characters.
In the show when the characters have more emotional moments their faces get more detailed and eccentric, is there any reason for this stylistic choice?
The initial reason is that in the original manga, when they get to the climax of an emotion or scene, their expressions change to be more realistic, more eccentric expressions, so I really wanted to be faithful to that and try and replicate that. I wanted to go even further in the anime because it is moving. There's a lot more energy behind it than the still images in manga. That was something I really wanted to focus on and really worked hard to replicate.
Were there any challenges adapting the manga?
One of the major difficulties with manga is that it can skip between one plot development to the next, and when creating an animation, you need to find a way to link these developments together. Then there is the issue with location. In the original manga if you're looking just at the backgrounds it isn't always clear where they are in the school, or it could be that the backgrounds aren't perhaps as developed as they need to be when you're creating a three-dimensional animated space. So deciding and locking down where everybody is while the action is taking place, we felt we had the ability to be a little free and have a little fun and add some original elements in there that weren't in the original manga. But it was something we felt was necessary to bring it across as a fully realised animation.
One of the things I did was I really put myself in the viewers shoes when I was creating this series. Obviously, the manga is black and white, there's not really any difference between the lighting of a certain scene, and most of the scenes take place in a single room. So really putting in a lot of effort into how you differentiate those rooms or the parts of the school where the action is taking place? How do you make that interesting for the viewer? One of the ways I found to do that was by utilising the natural light, perhaps from the windows. As I said in the manga it's black and white, so you don't really see that change, but one of the things we did a lot was using evening light or perhaps moonlight. Using that to create mood and to add some kind of ambiance to the scene. That I think is one of the big bonuses of doing colour animation as opposed to working solely in black and white, because you can really impart a mood onto a scene through the use of light and through the use of colour. That was of the things that we really paid attention to while creating the series.
Was it tricky getting the level of fan service right?
It wasn't very difficult, no. In reading the manga and thinking about how we're going to adapt it the most important thing for me was not just think about fan service, but think about creating an anime that the fans would enjoy watching. That was really the biggest thing that I concentrated on when creating the anime. There's quite a bit of fan service throughout the entire series, especially for fans of the original manga, but that being said we didn't want to do anything to conspicuous. We wanted to avoid anything that would scream clearly we're just putting this in for the fans. So in that sense I did find a balance between what fans wanted to see and what I wanted to show them and what I wanted to create as a series.
Compared to your earlier work GARO, the use of CGI in Kakegurui is more subtle, is there a reason for this?
The main difference was what we were trying to accomplish with the series. In terms of GARO you have the armour which is very specialised and something that's quite difficult to do in 2D animation. So that was one of the reasons we decided to create that in CG. Then also if you do that in CG it gives you much more leeway to do really cool things that you can't perhaps do in 2D animation.
With Kakegurui on the other hand, we didn't have anything equivalent to that specialized kind of armour. If you use too much CG in a series like Kakegurui it has the reverse effect of really standing out and taking away from the overall atmosphere of the show. So we wanted to make sure anything that we were doing was there to really help the 2D animators. For example, turning over a card is something that's actually quite difficult to depict in 2D animation, with pencil and paper. So that was one area where we'd bring in CG, just to make the animator's life a bit easier. That's the main difference, is the CG there to stand out as a part of the overall artistic vision, in other words are we really showing it off, or is it there as a tool to help the animators in their depiction of the various gambling games?
Is it different directing more action-based shows like GARO than more tense shows likes Kakegurui?
Not in particular, well there are some differences, but at the basic level I find they're quite similar. Personally for me as director and as a creator who has only done action up until that point, I found it very challenging. The most challenging aspect was how to create drama without action. How do you excite and draw in the fans without these big intricate action scenes? At their core, the way you go about bringing these two different genres to life is quite similar. You have your basic story and you develop that to the climax. The way you do that is by putting yourself in the fans shoes. How do you draw them in? Then you use that as a basis to develop the story and the way you show and tell that story on screen.
One of the big differences I found is that when you're doing action you have very clear cut movement. When you're doing something like Kakegurui there's not as much movement and in fact the characters are still a lot of the time. The most action you're really going to have is maybe the characters turning over the cards or something like that where they're using their hands. A lot of it came down to how do we pace it? How do we adjust the tempo and the pacing, how do we put it all together in editing so that it creates this excitement behind the movement. There are no big action scenes, so our task then became how do we create action, and how do we create drama with such limited movements?
How do you think the anime industry has changed with streaming services like Netflix funding shows?
For the past 20 years the number of anime titles and the number of series overall has been increasing steadily. Because of this increase in title production we're constantly faced with the challenge of finding people to work on a given project, not just animators but production staff as well. That's a challenge that we constantly face.
With the advent of streaming services one of the benefits is that we now have a different avenue to explore animation and they give us great opportunities to create works that we were perhaps not able to within the traditional pantheon of animation for TV or the big screen. But on the flip side of that, it also increases the number of productions almost infinitely! So that also in many ways compounds the issue of staffing shortages. We're constantly trying to find a balance between the number of projects that we're taking on and the number of projects in the industry and the people to actually create those projects. I feel it's both been a blessing and something very difficult, something that we've had to work around with regards to streaming services.