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Interview

Interview With Yuri!!! on ICE Creator Sayo Yamamoto: Part 1

June 30, 2017 12:00am
by Lachlan Johnston

Sayo Yamamoto is, without a doubt, one of the most diversely talented individuals in the Japanese animation industry. She's a woman shrouded in a veil of mystery, cast simply to ensure attention is set on her work, rather than herself as an creator. Set aside a few convention appearances, Sayo Yamamoto has always been one to ensure that her own hard work does all the talking she could ever need to do herself. That's why when the unique opportunity to conduct the first ever English-language interview with Ms. Yamamoto presented itself, there was no way we would turn it down.

Even if you're not familiar with Sayo Yamamoto as a person, it's almost certain that you will be familiar with her works. From "Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine" to "Michiko and Hatchin", all the way to her more recent "Yuri!!! on ICE", it would appear that everything Sayo Yamamoto touches is destined to turn to gold. She started off at the bottom and worked her way to the top, one step at a time. Unafraid to move forward without ever looking back, Ms. Yamamoto is more than just a role model for women, she's a role model for society as a whole. Her signature style would go on to portray women as more than just side characters, but as powerful leaders that could do everything their male counterparts could and so much more.

Conducting the interview was Dai Sato -- an individual who is equal parts a collaborator and friend of Sayo Yamamoto's. In the past, the pair worked together on animated treasures such as "Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine", "Samurai Champloo", and "Space Dandy", amongst a diverse list of other titles. The interview had a distinct air to it, feeling more like a discussion between old friends than the nitty-gritty talks between publication and director. Split up into multiple-parts, you can find the first part of our interview with Sayo Yamamoto below:

Let’s talk about your latest animated series, “Yuri!!! on ICE”, and jump right into the deep-end of it. First off, in the credits there’s a section under the title of “Name (Rough Sketch)”, but what exactly entailed for this position? Both your name, as well as the established mangaka Misturo Kubo are both listed under this “Name” title, rather than the more traditional “screenplay”. Could you tell us why it is that you chose to work under this title?

Well, I originally sat down and thought about the structure and plot of the series; following this myself and Ms. Kubo worked out the details for episodes 1 - 5. From episode 6 onwards however, it was a totally different dimension (laughs). In the Grand Prix, we wanted to have at least six skaters go up against each other. The actual episode of the series ran for about 20 minutes and 10 seconds, with the actual short programs running for about 2 minutes and 50 seconds, while the free programs would run for 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

When we ordered the music, we reduced the length of it to about 2 minutes. In a bid to keep all of the elements from the skating program, we had our choreographer Kenji Miyamoto make adjustments to transitions and spins so it would all fit the cut. Even then, we still had to make it shorter; this is where we decided how many minutes each character would skate, we pretty much calculated absolutely everything. Then both Ms. Kubo and I decided on the key elements we wanted to incorporate into each episode, and would write them into the plot. After all these discussions, this was the point in which Ms. Kubo would start writing the names.

When comparing a “name” to a “script”, the sketches are kind of like stage directions. It’s as if each drawing or sketch represented a different movement or scene. As a matter of fact, these “names” were the script. Try not to overthink it though, it’s essentially just the same thing as a regular script… (laughs). Given the nature of “names” however, they actually helped a whole lot when we began drawing details such as facial expressions for the characters.

Generally when an anime is created, it’s based on a pre-existing manga series or light novel, making it a little easier to work with. With “Yuri!!! on ICE” however, there was no source manga to be used as a basis. So the thought of you bringing on board a manga artist to work with you on an original anime was quite revolutionary. Where was it this idea came from?

When I first thought of the project, I was considering working together with a screenwriter, thus taking the traditional route. I quickly realized however that screenwriters are typically working on multiple projects simultaneously, so I felt as though it would be difficult to find someone who could dedicate all their time and think about figure skating as seriously as myself (laughs). Right around that time, I was avidly listening to a radio show called “All Night Nippon”, which featured both Ms. Kubo and Mineko Noumachi. Even though I was just a listener, I always thought I could probably become good friends with Ms. Kubo (laughs).

Eventually I heard her talk about figure skating on the radio, and I thought her perspective was extremely interesting. I knew she had contributed to the 2011 film “Moteki” as a screenwriter in the same “name” format we utilized. However, after doing some further research, I found out she had been writing for “Shonen Magazine” here in Japan for quite some time. It was after this discovery that I started to picture her writing scripts for a TV series. Admittedly, it was also a huge bonus to know that she was experienced in making manga based on novels as well. I had this idea that she must be accustomed to collaborating and creating various projects with others.

Were you acquainted with Ms. Kubo from the beginning?

No, not at all. I had previously made a PV for Japanese singer/songwriter Yasuyuki Okamura, and at the time Ms. Kubo was writing creating special manga boards as a bonus with Okamura’s releases. At a later point, I was invited for drinks with Mr. Okamura, and I mentioned me listening to Ms. Kubo on the radio, where he then mentioned him having her contact information (laughs). I guess you could say that my first real contact with Ms. Kubo was through this discussion with Mr. Okamura.  

“Yuri!!! on ICE” has been met with much praise internationally, and not just because of it’s figure skating theme. It features a diverse cast of foreign characters throughout the anime, and whilst that isn’t exactly very special in and of itself, it’s believed that they were drawn and animated extremely naturally. It isn’t exactly something that is done often in Japan, so was this done with a certain demographic in mind?

Actually, we weren’t thinking about a market demographic at all (laughs). It’s impossible to write about figure skating without depicting foreign characters, which is how that happened. What I always wanted to do was recreate and depict the stories of the top class skaters in each seasons final competitions. So it was kind of inevitable that the setting would take place on a global scale.

I went to the Figure Skating Championships which was held in the Czech Republic this past January and happened to see a spectator in cosplay. They were minding their own business, but I saw them in the hallways dressed like Victor. I accidentally yelled out “Wow! It’s Victor!” and they ended up hearing me, so they asked if I wanted to take a photo with them. I answered yes, and we ended up taking a picture together. I asked if they knew “Yuri!!! on ICE” and they said they knew about the show (laughs). Later on I saw the same person at the station, but this time they were dressed as Otabek… waiting and sitting there, just like Otabek would. It was really cute honestly.

It’s almost like there’s a totally different feeling when interacting with foreign fans, right?

Exactly! It wasn’t like they were jokingly going to the tournament wearing an outfit that just happened to look like cosplay either. I was completely overwhelmed with joy when I realized that people were starting to take interest in the sport of figure skating because they watched “Yuri!!! on ICE”. I’m sure you’re aware, but I’m not necessarily promoting the wearing of cosplay at figure skating tournaments. We wouldn’t want to distract the competitors, would we? (Laughs)

Since this was the first ever anime to revolve around the world of figure skating, there must have been quite a few challenges. After all, animating figure skating would appear to be an incredibly difficult process. Did MAPPA know what they were getting themselves into right from the early proposal stages of the project?

You know, there’s no real guarantee that any original anime will be a success. I realize how difficult it can be just to get a proposal through, but I thought that if I ever made something, I would just throw it out there regardless of how reckless it may seem (laughs). I believe it’s important that when proposing such an idea, you take a moment to think and verbalize as many interesting ideas as you possibly can.

As for whether or not the production staff were aware of the difficulty of the figure skating scenes, we had already given the work orders for the songs and the choreography during the series construction stage, so I’m sure they were aware. There were moments however where I was asked to reduce some aspects during production when the team were struggling to get the work done.  

How was the planning originally decided?

It was around the year 2012 when I started having these desires to make an anime about figure skating. I was previously the director for a project called “Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine’, and it was during that process that I decided my next animated project would be about something I truly care about, which was of course figure skating. There were often times when people would approach me and ask if I had any original ideas, and when I would suggest a figure skating anime, they would typically reject the thought (laughs). Usually they’d simply shake their head due to the sheer difficulty of such a project. I’d also get a lot of questions regarding whether it would be a “student figure skating club”.

When talking about modern anime that share similar themes, such as “Yowamushi Pedal” and “Haikyuu!!”, it’s not often that you’ll see professionals of the sport being drawn, but I think that’s just the style of anime. With this work however, you flipped that convention on its head, and I think we all found that extremely interesting.

Thank you very much! When you’re in the process of planning an anime, you get a large amount of pressure to make the main characters young, and if the story is set in a modern time, they inevitably leads to the character being a student. I think that’s why a lot of the people who aren’t interested in figure skating thought this would be about a school club. On top of that, I feel as though people thought it would be easier to simply jump on the bandwagon of previous anime that have found success with amateur sports clubs. I also had a lot of people telling me that the series wouldn’t find success if it wasn’t based in Japan, and that nobody would follow it if the characters didn’t have Japanese names. But my usual reply was “Huh? What’s makes you think that?” (laughs).

Looking back now, I think that “Yuri!!! on Ice” was the result of me ignoring all this “advice”, and simply making an anime that I myself would enjoy watching -- the story of a character who has already matured and is taking on their final skating season, not some story about a character who is just getting started. I feel as though that would make conveying my ideal image so much more difficult. So when I shared the idea of “Yuri!!! on ICE” with everyone, people said “If you have more matches, we’d have to draw more skaters and that’d make things even more complicated!” (laughs). I couldn’t even get a nod or a “That sounds interesting.”, but I was absolutely determined to create something incredible. If I tried creating something that people would simply “like”, it’d end up being nothing but commonplace and mundane.

What kept me motivated through the whole process was the inspiration I received from actual figure skaters while watching their matches. Even when their retirement could be just around the corner, they’d continue to keep fighting and challenging themselves -- that compassion for what they loved really stuck with me. That’s why I first came up with the idea of Yuri and Victor; a skater on the edge of retirement and a world champion who becomes his coach, all while remaining both his hero and rival.

It almost seems like you were on some sort of lifelong mission to turn your passion for figure skating into an anime. Was there any particular moment that triggered this?

During the production process for “Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine”, Japan was devastated by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, and then immediately after that, one of my relatives passed away. My mental state was a total disaster. Usually as a director, there’s a certain element that drives you to create something interesting based on what you’re given, but I’d lost any emotional capacity to do that. I started to think to myself that it would be impossible to pull anything great out of someone else’s idea. It was at this point I realized I needed to create something from the heart, and for me that was figure skating.

I’ve heard there’s a lot of writers and creators in the industry who are afraid to apply the things they truly like into their works.​

I hear that quite often too, the belief that you shouldn’t bring the things you like into your work. I had actually forgotten all about this, but the reason it was important for me to turn my figure skating passion into an anime was that doing anything else would have been impossible. The process of creating anime has become a really tough operation for me as of late. It was like I was creating, yet at the same time I was beating myself to death over it. My hands moved slow, and I would force myself to stay awake just in order to finish a project on time. So I thought to myself that I needed to work on a topic that I would never grow tired of, something that would keep me awake all day. Otherwise, I don’t think I could have ever made another anime, all while thinking “Someday I’m going to make something I like” (laughs).

A woman talented well beyond her years, Sayo Yamamoto is a model example of just what the Japanese animation industry needs. We continue to expand upon this in the second part of the interview which will be made available in the near future. A preview of the second part is featured in our 'Yuri!!! on ICE' film announcement piece, which was made available here.

Continue to part 2 of our interview with Sayo Yamamoto.

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Tanuki Drops New Single 'Radiant Memories', Remakes and Mashes 'Plastic Love' & 'Sparkle'

June 19, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Whilst Scottish trackmaker TANUKI may be best known for his eclectic range of J-Core production values, it'd arguably be the field of future funk that he found the most success. Creating two of the most iconic tracks of the genre, including "BABY BABYの夢", there's been a demand for more ever since, and we've finally almost got it. But a traditional future funk edit simply wouldn't be enough for TANUKI, instead opting to completely remake the tracks he's working with, and the end result is nothing short of gorgeous. 
 


In TANUKI's latest release, "Radiant Memories," stemming from his upcoming Kanji Title EP, the artist sees himself recreating both Mariya Takeuchi's "Plastic Love" and Tatsuro Yamashita's "Sparkle" before mixing them all together into something beautiful. The end result is nothing short of incredible, bringing new life to two of the most iconic songs of the decade. Set to be released in the coming weeks, we most definitely can't wait to see what TANUKI puts together this time with the rest of the EP. 

Further works from TANUKI can be found via his official SoundCloud and Twitter.

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Shigeru Miyamoto Shares a Few Choice Words for Australian Fans

June 19, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Shigeru Miyamoto is known for a lot of different things, from being a representative director at Nintendo, all the way to being the creator of legendary series such as Mario and The Legend of Zelda,  but now you can add him being a true blue legend to the list. In a recent video shared with Nintendo of Australia and New Zealand, Miyamoto was seen on the show floor at E3 2018 giving a special message to the fans down under in regards to the latest Super Mario Odyssey, and it absolutely rules.
 


Being an Australian living in Japan, it's pretty cool to see a shoutout including such "choice, bro" words to my home country, even if it is this ridiculously goofy. The grin on his face during the entire video says it all, even he knows how ridiculously funny this all is. This one definitely deserves to go in the history books as one of Nintendo's greatest moments and is probably one of the best things to come out of this year's E3 event. It's also worth noting that as a true blue gamer myself, I've already managed to collect all the moons, and can't wait to see what additional content finds its way into the game, as Miyamoto stated.

Keep at it Miyamoto, ya ripper legend. 

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'Pop Team Epic' is Coming to Adult Swim on June 30th

June 19, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Adult Swim's Toonami took to their social media over the weekend to announce their all-new programming schedule, as well as the addition of the surreal comedy series Pop Team Epic. Taking over the highly-contested midnight slot just after FLCL: Progressive, the series finds itself replacing Dragon Ball Z: Kai in the Toonami lineup of anime series. Let's take a look at the updated programming schedule below, as well as the announcement from Toonami themselves:
 

10:30p – Dragon Ball Super
11:00p – My Hero Academia
11:30p – FLCL: Progressive
12:00a – Pop Team Epic
12:30a – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
1:00a – Hunter x Hunter
1:30a – Black Clover
2:00a – Naruto: Shippuden
2:30a – Space Dandy
3:00a – Cowboy Bebop
3:30a – Lupin the 3rd

Kicking off from June 30 on Adult Swim's Toonami, Pop Team Epic originally aired in Japan at the begin of 2018 and ran for a total of 12 episodes. The series was praised globally for its heavily satirical nature, offering unique and humorous takes on a number of different topics ranging from anime to idol culture. Unafraid of throwing punches, series creator Bkub Okawa has long been lauded for their hot takes. Never been on the internet before and somehow missed the series entirely? Pop Team Epic is described below:

Pop Team Epic turns absurdist comedy up to eleven with its pop culture references and surreal hilarity. With two bonafide high school girl protagonists—the short and exceptionally quick to anger Popuko, and the tall and unshakably calm Pipimi—they throw genres against the wall and don't wait to see what sticks. Parody is interlaced with drama, action, crudeness, and the show's overarching goal—to become a real anime.

Those interested in checking out further information on the series should head on over to Toonami's official website. Additionally, further information can be found via our archives, including exclusive interviews with series staff, here.

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VIZ Media to Release Demon Slayer Manga & One Piece Art Book

June 19, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

VIZ Media today announced the North American releases of both Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba and One Piece Color Walk Compendium: East Blue to Skypiea as slated for early-July. Following the announcement just a few short weeks ago of an anime adaptation of the Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba from ufotable, it couldn't be a better time for VIZ Media to pick up the Weekly Shonen Jump series for English release. Both releases are expected to hit stores across North America from July 3rd.

Published via Weekly Shonen Jump since 2016, the VIZ Media release will see publication both digitally and physically via the Shonen Jump imprint. Written and illustrated by author Koyoharu Gotouge, the manga has constantly been a high-performer in Japan. The series was previously given a test-run in VIZ Media's "Jump Start" imprint, but it was not renewed for serialization at the time. Given the recent announcement of an anime adaptation, however, it makes sense that they'd bring this one back. 

VIZ Media describes the series below:

In Taisho-era Japan, Tanjiro Kamado is a kindhearted boy who makes a living selling charcoal. But his peaceful life is shattered when a demon slaughters his entire family. His little sister Nezuko is the only survivor, but she has been transformed into a demon herself! Tanjiro sets out on a dangerous journey to find a way to return his sister to normal and destroy the demon who ruined his life.

Following on, the upcoming July 3 release of One Piece Color Walk Compendium: East Blue to Skypiea is a deluxe hardcover book containing a collection of artwork from the One Piece manga series. Long renowned as the worlds most popular manga series, it comes as little surprise that we're seeing even more of Eiichiro Oda's ongoing pirate adventure. 

VIZ Media describes the release below:

Enjoy this gorgeous collection of color artwork from Eiichiro Oda’s ONE PIECE! Filled with color images and special illustrations from the world’s most popular manga series, the compendium features over 300 pages of beautiful color art, several large pull-out posters, and interviews between Eiichiro Oda and other famous manga artists, including Akira Toriyama, the creator of DRAGON BALL. This collection contains both volumes of previously released and now out-of-print COLOR WALK art books as well as COLOR WALK 3, which was never released in English, and covers the early parts of ONE PIECE—from the East Blue arc, where the main characters of the Straw Hat pirates first meet, to the Skypiea arc where Luffy and friends face high-flying adventures!

Those interested in checking out further information on the upcoming releases can head over to VIZ Media's official website.

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Moodoïd Teams Up With Wednesday Campanella on 'Langage'

June 18, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Definitely not something I saw coming anytime soon, yet something that makes sense nonetheless, Wednesday Campanella's latest collaborative track with French psychedelic rock band Moodoïd is absolutely incredible. Straight off of Moodoïd's latest album, "Cité Champagne," the track and its accompanying music video prominently feature Wednesday Campanella member KOM_I as both her and band frontman Pablo Padovani dance around Nakano with their new reptile friend.
 


Released just a week apart from another collaborative track between Moodoïd and Wednesday Campanella, "Matryoshka," you'll find that "Langage" is very much more of a Moodoïd song, whilst the former is very much your traditional Wednesday Campanella song. Both songs feature the same powerful intertwining of both Japanese and French lyrical stylings, however, making for something unlike anything else I've ever heard. 

It's no secret that Japanese musical group Wednesday Campanella has had their eyes set on a global audience from a while now, something particularly showcased by their numerous international gigs and appearances. What this marks, however, these releases mark the group's first collaborative effort with anybody from outside of their home turf. If this is just the beginning, we can't wait to see where Wednesday Campanella can go from here.

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Friends, Gifting, Trading Are Finally Coming to Pokémon GO

June 18, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Almost two years since the launch of Pokémon GO on both iOS and Android devices, some of the most highly requested features are being added to the game -- friends, gifting, and trading. Announced via Pokémon GO's official website earlier today, the news comes just weeks after the announcement of both Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon Let's Go, Eevee! on Nintendo Switch, the upcoming companion RPG titles for the smartphone game.

Expected to begin rolling out as early as next week, the full package of in-game improvements is expected to come as part of Pokémon GO's Summer update. There's a lot to know about the features and how they work, but perhaps most importantly is the implementation of the friends feature. Once the update goes live, players will find themselves assigned with a new Trainer Code, which can be distributed to up to 200 people as you continue growing as a trainer. From there, players will find themselves able to trade and gift Pokémon to those on their list.

There's a catch to all this, however, and that comes in the form of an original trick to trading Pokémon; trainers will need to be within a certain proximity of each other for the trade to go through. In other words, you probably won't be sending Pokémon to your friends overseas anytime soon. 

Slated to go live during the Summer, trainers have a lot to look forward to in the way of new improvements and long-needed features for the smartphone game. Until the update goes live, however, you can find further information via the game's official website.

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Rhythm Game 'Groove Coaster' Invades PC via Steam in July

June 18, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

These recent years have been some of the most promising for the global rhythm game community; a trend that can easily be tracked back to Round 1's continued expansion across North America. While that expansion has certainly been ongoing, however, it'd be a stretch to say that it's anywhere near accessible to the general public. That's where Taito's latest bit of news comes in with so much excitement -- the announcement that the PC release of Groove Coaster is just around the corner, with a July 17, 2018, release date on Steam.
 


Originally released as an iOS exclusive rhythm game, Groove Coaster burst onto the scene in 2011 as a spin-off title to Taito's massively-popular Space Invaders series. It would only take two years after the release of the iOS version of the game, however, for its full potential to be realized with the release of the arcade variant of the game. Five years later and we're finally seeing things go full circle with another home release of the game, this time for PC via Steam. Taito describes the game below:

Riding the rhythmic rails of success from smart phone, into the arcades, now GROOVE COASTER arrives at full Steam! Staying true to its core concept of simplicity of play + exhilarating experience, the Steam version is better than ever, with 36 original tracks included from various game music composers and more on the way. Get ready to ride a roller coaster of sound and light through a universe of music!

The game is currently set to be compatible with both keyboards and controllers, as well as allowing players to utilize three different aspect ratios and layouts that will include a more arcade-traditional vertical monitor layout. Additionally, while the game has been noted to include a total of 36 original tracks, its unknown if any tie-in tracks will become available, such as those with idol group Dempagumi.inc. 

Set to release July 17 on Steam, further information on the upcoming home release can be found via the game's official website.

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