An Interview with Space Dandy writer Kimiko Ueno
Date: 2015 August 4th Tuesday [2:31] | Posted By: Eeeper
As fans of anime, we often wonder how some of our favourite shows get put together by the staff. While it's true that directors, actors and character designers shape the look of the show, it's anime writers who tell the characters what to say.
One writer who is getting more exposure these days is Kimiko Ueno. Having written for long running shows such as Shin Chan, she's currently writing episodes for Space Dandy, the hit show from Cowboy Bebop creator Shinichiro Watanabe (released by Anime Limited) While in the UK for MCM Manchester Comic Con 2015, Miss Ueno was kind enough to sit down and have a chat with us about Space Dandy, Shin Chan and what she looks forward to when travelling abroad.
Hi Miss Ueno! Thanks for the taking the time to talk with us today. We don't often get a chance to interview anime writers so we've got a few questions here in the Otaku News office that we're dying to know!
I'd say that every anime fan worth their salt would love to create stories for the industry. How did you personally get started writing for anime TV and movies? Is that a typical way to start writing anime?
I loved these sorts of things as a child and I wanted to be involved in some way with my work. I wanted to be a scriptwriter and so I entered a competition for scriptwriting. I didn't win but the producer got in touch with me after that and it went from there.
When you were growing up, was there an anime or live action TV show that you liked for its writing or story? Did you have a creator or writer that you admired who worked in anime or TV?
As a child, I wasn't aware of scriptwriters so there weren't any that I was familiar with. There is one name that stood out for me that I remember and that was Tsutomu Shibayama, the director of Doraemon.
Writing for American or British TV shows has been well documented over the years in terms of tone, TV network restrictions and audiences expectations. What, if any, are the major differences when writing an anime for TV in Japan?
I don't think there are any huge differences particularly, not really.
When writing an anime TV show where there's a creative team who have a scenario already in place, how much room is there for you to craft scripts and take the characters to places you want to go? Is it easier or harder than creating a story by yourself?
It's harder to create my own story but I prefer doing it that way.
What made you take the job writing for Space Dandy? Were you asked to or did you request the task?
In the middle of the night, I got an email from Watanabe-san: "Do you want to do this?" (laughs)
Do you have a favourite episode of Space Dandy so far that you didn't write? What episode that you wrote is your favourite?
Author's note: this question triggered a massive four way laughing, rolling discussion between Miss Ueno, the translator, the Anime Limited person asking the questions and an unnamed Japanese man as they tracked down the episode.
It's episode 24, the ones I didn't write, it's Toh Enjoe's episode. It's where there's the box girlfriend and three dimensional and four dimensional characters. Toh Enjoe won a really big American Science Fiction prize. It's a prize for writers, it's a really big one, the (2014) Philip K. Dick Award. I love all of them but the silliest one [that she wrote] is the Rock ‘n' Roll Dandy episode.
Space Dandy has only had two seasons so far. Is there a difference writing for Space Dandy as opposed to Shin Chan which has been running for several years?
They are different. Shin Chan has been going for so long that you have to be careful not to mess around with the character. But with Dandy, there's a lot more freedom.
Speaking of Shin Chan, are there, what I would describe as threads, running through both it and Space Dandy in terms of its tone? A lot of the humour in Space Dandy verges on absurd but has little moments of drama here and there whereas Shin Chan is all about gross and absurdist humour.
The thing they have in common is that the protagonist in both is an innocent idiot.
While anime directors are quite rightly praised for their creative input into making anime, I sometimes feel that writers are not well known outside of Japan as I see a lot of Japanese adverts where the writer is specifically mentioned. Do you think with things like crowdfunded anime projects and social media getting more writers exposure, that things will start to change for anime writers?
That's a difficult one! I don't know, I don't think our position will change but who knows?
How is the interaction between yourself and Western fans in comparison to Japanese fans? When you're attending events, is there a difference in the level of interaction between the two groups with you? Do you have a preference?
I don't really know much about the reaction of Japanese fans but when you go to events, I think, I get the impression that in Japan you get fans of the voice actors coming to the event whereas overseas, you get fans of the work itself.
What advice or pointers would you give to a new writer, regardless of whether they were from Japan or not, who wanted to write for anime?
Just write and that's all you can do.
When you travel abroad either as a guest at a convention or by yourself what do you look forward to seeing or experiencing when you get there? Is there something in your current trip that you're looking forward to doing or seeing?
When I go abroad I always visit supermarkets. I love seeing how local people live.
Without giving away any details, are you working on anything right now? Does writing anime stop completely for you when you're attending events either at home or abroad?
I write, I send it off and then I go to the event! (laughs)
Lastly, what is your favourite thing about being an anime writer?
Meeting people who think that what I thought would be cool is cool!
Again, thank you Miss Ueno for taking the time to talk with us today. Myself and everyone at Otaku News would like to express our thanks and we hope you enjoy your trip to the UK.
We want to thank Anime Limited, its staff and the interpreters for helping with setting up this interview. We also want to again thank Miss Ueno for answering all our questions.