An Interview With Anime Director Shinichiro Watanabe
Date: 2014 November 2nd Sunday [12:22] | Posted By: Joe
The MCM London Comic Con is always a treat for top notch anime guests. The October 2014 weekend was no exception. Renowned anime director Shinichiro Watanabe returned to London as a guest of the event to promote the up and coming home video release of Space Dandy as well as the newly launched show Terror In Resonance.
He attended the Anime Limited stand on Saturday and Sunday of the show as well as appearing on stage to answer questions for fans.
We've been lucky enough to interview Shinichiro Watanabe in May 2013 at his previous appearance at the MCM London Comic Con. It's was then he first revealed Space Dandy.
We caught up with the Mr Watanabe to talk about music from a cold country, Terror In Resonance and a bit of Space Dandy. As we knew a lot of people would be asking about Space Dandy, we were keen to focus more on Terror In Resonance, as it had just finished it's run.
Spoiler Alert: This article discusses plot points in Terror In Resonance.
When anime was made in the mid-nineties it could take years before it gets translated into English and released on home video. Now with the mainstream use of broadband internet it's possible for western fans to legally see a series days or even hours after its Japanese broadcast. Do you feel this has changed the anime industry both domestically and internationally?
One thing that was different with Space Dandy was that it was always the intention to broadcast it in other countries. From the start Cartoon Network provided some funding towards it. So we had US audiences and audiences in other countries in mind from the start.
That's not to say that the content is geared toward foreigners, we just made what we wanted to make. But if you have this half awareness of foreign audiences you end up making this half baked kind of anime. So I wanted to stick with what I thought was interesting and not compromise on the content.
For example we wouldn't be able to write American type jokes for the characters, so we stuck to our own style.
Word puns don't really translated from Japanese to English really do they?
I think the English translated had worked really hard to get it as close as possible to the original.
For example they came up with an English version of BBP - Baka Bonkura Ponkotsu. - Blockhead, Bonehead, Pinhead.
Space Dandy opens with the line "Boobs, boobs..." while Dandy explains his preference for preferring a lady's ass, saying that guys don't realise the charm of the hind end. The characters also frequent a restaurant (or breastaurant) chain called BooBies. So what's your preference, what type of girls do you like?
(Laughs) I like slim ladies. That's a bit different to Dandy. I'll do a really nice autograph for any fans that fit that category!
Your latest title Terror in Resonance has a darker tone compared to your previous titles. What made you want to create a title like this?
I never want to create a copy of something I've done in the past. I always want to make something new and this was something new I wanted to make.
There are people who keep on making remakes or something similar to their past works, but I always want to come up with something new.
With other anime you've created, there are often clear music themes. Samurai Champloo is infused with hip-hop. Cowboy Bebop has all sorts of music in it especially jazz and blues, while Kids on the Slope is all about Jazz. There isn't a striking musical theme with Terror in Resonance, or is there and it's just more subtle?
There isn't a specific genre, but I discussed with Yoko Kanno what kind of flavour we wanted to have. The image that I had for the music, was that it's cold music, it's low temperature music, but not a specific genre. That was the flavour I wanted it to have.
Carrying on with the theme of cold music at the end of the show, it's revealed that Nine is listening to Icelandic music. Did you have any bands in mind in particular? Such as Sigur Růs. The reason I ask Is that it's also revealed that the boys group VON is named after the Icelandic word for hope. Sigur Ros has a song on their debut album called Von. Also the bands fake language is called Vonlenska or in English Hopelandic.
Spot on! When I came up with it, I was listening to Sigur Ros and that's where the idea of listening to Icelandic music came from.
Where there any Sigur Ros albums in particular you were listening to?
Hvarf-Heim is my most favourite.
During the show, Five sings London Bridge is falling down / My Fair Lady. Is there any particular reason you picked this nursery rhyme?
Well I've heard that as well as being a cute little song for children it's also got a scary side to it. Like for example I've heard that there are human sacrifices buried under London Bridge. I always find that Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes have a darker edge to them. Five as a character is both sweet and cruel, so we thought it suited her.
The character design for Detective Shibazaki seems slightly similar to Vincent from the Cowboy Bebop Movie, as both have similar builds, beards and longish hair. Where you drawn to that character design?
They're based on different people. I think it's a coincidence. Maybe subconsciously I'm drawn to that type of character.
When I'm working on a project my beard grows and my hair gets long and straggly and people tell me I look like those characters! So maybe they look like me.
At the end of the show we discover that a nuclear bomb was developed by the Japanese government surreptitiously. It hints that they hope to change Japan's pacifist stance. Is this a nod to the current Abe government? Or is it something else?
It's very much linked to the Abe administration. There's a minister who's said that he believes Japan should have nuclear weapons. So it's a possibility.
So there's that influence of reality on the work. And also I wanted to give an opportunity to make young Japanese people a lot of whom lack interest in politics to think and to be interested.
I think Japanese young people are a lot less interested in politics that British young people.
I think it's frightening to think that wars could happen just because people aren't interested and I think people need to take an interest.
Whether you're pro or anti, I just think you need to take an interest.
Otaku News would like to thank Shinichiro Watanabe, Anime Limited and the London MCM Comic Con for making this interview possible.
Space Dandy is out at the end of November on as a Collectors Blu-ray set, Standard Edition Blu-ray as as well as on DVD.
Terror In Resonance is available to watch on-line or download to own on anime site Wakanim.