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Interview With Yuri!!! on ICE Creator Sayo Yamamoto: Part 2

July 28, 2017 10:30pm
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 for greatness. 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 second and final part of our interview with Sayo Yamamoto below:

-- Sayo Yamamoto, it’s an honor to have you here with us. Before anything else, I’d like to ask what experiences lead to you becoming an anime director?​

When I first entered the industry, I worked as a production manager at Studio Madhouse. That was around the turn of the century. From my very first day working there, I was driven to eventually become a producer. To do that however, I had to start as a production manager. Though, I didn’t really think that the job of production manager suited me very well. Managing schedules and wrangling people was not suited for me at all (laughs). I was thinking that if I had any breaks, I could try out some of the duties of a producer. I kept telling myself  “You can do this!” While performing production manager duties, I was also drawing storyboards - I was assisting in producing.

-- So what project did you first do storyboarding for?

At the request of my art director, Hideyuki Tanaka, I started working on some animations which were used as live visuals at a SMAP concert. The character designer and producer was animator Takeshi Koike. I was put in charge putting the storyboards into clean copy using Tanaka’s directorial notes and memos. Prior to this, I’d never actually storyboarded, yet I somehow manage to learn simply by watching others. 

Because I went to an art college, I was familiar with programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator. It seemed like everyone at the Studio wanted me to make use of these skills, so I began studying key animation illustration so I could assist in those areas. I worked on Koike’s "TRAVA," "World Record" from "The Animatrix," and "Redline."

-- After that, what was your first project as an independent producer?

The first story I produced was an OVA called ‘Trava: Fist Planet, episode 1’ for a DVD magazine known as "Grasshoppa!". I was doing storyboarding and producing, but Takeshi Koike was director on top of doing all of the series key animation, there wasn’t much I could actually “produce” (laughs). Koike made most layout timing decisions when he reviewed them, and even when it came time for editing, most of those decisions were left intact. There wasn’t much left for me to do because the degree of completion on those layouts was already very high. 

-- You continued to have a good relationship with Takeshi Koike after this, and even did some more projects with him, right?

That’s right; I took up more jobs at Takeshi Koike’s side. During that first project, I felt like I had seen something quite amazing. Koike truly is a genius.

-- Following this, you moved from Studio Madhouse to Studio Manglobe, if I remember correctly? 

I wanted to continue honing my production ability by getting used to handling television series, but there weren’t many opportunities for me to do so at Madhouse, especially since I was asked to serve as an assistant director on one of their new film projects. If I were to continue being employed at Madhouse, I wouldn’t have much control over my workflow, so I started to consider my options. It was around this time that I first met Watanabe Shinichiro.

-- It would seem that you meeting with Watanabe Shinichiro would go on to shape a large portion of your career. What was it that lead to you two first meeting?

A fellow animator and acquaintance of mine was working at Madhouse at the time doing key animation for "Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door," who was invited to work on "Samurai Champloo." Around the same time Watanabe was looking for someone to fill a production role, where I was introduced shortly after. I believe that was sometime around the Autumn of 2003. I quit Madhouse and switched over to freelancing. As a freelancer, I joined with Studio Manglobe, and participated in "Samurai Champloo" as an episode director.

-- After this you would take on many more episode directorial roles, with your first full directorial work being the animated series Michiko and Hatchin. Before that however, I’d like to take a step back and ask about some other things. What anime influenced you, and was there any series in particular that prompted you to begin working towards a job in the industry?

There really wasn’t any series in particular that prompted me to work towards the industry. However while I was an art student, there was this Mac program called "Director." It was basically this presentation software that allowed you to animate things in 24 frames per second, which is the same as anime. Around this time I came across some still-shots of "Yojimbo" at school. (laughs)

-- Akira Kurosawa’s "Yojimbo"?

That’s the one. Especially the scenes in which Toshiro Mifune drew his sword and slashed people. I watched all those scenes and thought they were really cool. I tried drawing and animating the scenes myself in ‘Director’, and that was probably my first real inspiration for working in the anime industry. 

-- It was quite the coincidence that you would get to work on ‘Samurai Champloo’ then, wasn’t it?

Of course, at the time I had no idea that I would ever be doing that. (laughs) Looking back on it, I think that if I had seen pictures from Akira Kurosawa’s other work, "Ikiru," instead of "Yojimbo," I may have never even thought about trying out animation. 

-- So it was around the time you were in art school that you started to think about working in the anime industry? 

That’s right. At the time, Japan was undergoing some sort of employment recession, which made things quite difficult. Art school students already didn’t seek employment in traditional ways. If you were a graphic design student, then it would be common for you to join a design company, but for people like illustrators and painters, it’s not common to go job hunting. I was into environmental design, so I was in a similar situation. Many others lost the motivation to continue job hunting and decided to simply start their own businesses. I didn’t have that kind of confidence though. 

I was under the belief that having no job would be the equivalent to being homeless, and this led me to think that if I didn’t do something with momentum, I’d be stuck in a rut after graduation. However, I also didn’t have any distinct qualities as part of my artistic nature, so I figured I needed to hurry up and join some kind of organization or else I’d be in trouble. 

-- Since you mentioned your “artistic nature,” I’d like to discuss that briefly. In your directorial works "Michiko and Hatchin" and "LUPIN the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine," the protagonists were women who can, in many ways, be seen as both cool and strong in nature. However in your latest work, "Yuri!!! on ICE," this seems to change completely with the introduction of a mostly-male cast; and while there are some strong-willed women involved in the anime, the show still largely revolves around their male counterparts. To me, this seems to be your biggest artistic change. Would you mind explaining the reason behind that? 

For me, my artistic nature and the gender of my protagonists have no relation. In the case of Michiko, it was more the president (of Manglobe) saying that he wanted to do an action-battle show with a female protagonist. Since I had worked with Koike in the past, I suspect that I was seen as having a knack for a more “American Comics” style... Of course, in terms of my work, I can more or less tackle drawing (the depiction of) women, but really I had no strong interest to do so (laughs).

I think I was sometimes also seen as being skilled at drawing woman because I was a woman myself. But if you do watch my works, you’ll realize that I haven’t drawn women all that much! Requests for specific character traits like “lovers” or “family” are just that -- requests. Sometimes, I feel that to be a bit stifling. I like to depict whomever I please, regardless of age, race, and gender. With “Yuri!!!”, I was able to depict relationships and bonds without creative influence from others. This time, I wanted to create an impactful depiction of Men’s singles in figure skating in anime form! It wasn’t so much a matter of “I’m definitely going to draw men this time.” I had a love for figure skating that could not be suppressed, and since I did not have any orders from above, I planned the project with an attitude rather of “I’m definitely going to draw figure skating this time!”

-- The Japanese anime industry is often considered to be a place where women don’t really have the opportunity to flourish. Do you think that bias exists, even now?​

It was true that there were few women on production staff in the industry. When I was first looking for work, it was like that as well. And because there were few women on production staff, it was the men who moved up from those roles to become general producers and directors. But even in the past, I don’t think there was any huge split in the number of male and female animators.

-- Do you think this is changing?

I think so. I’m currently working at MAPPA, and most of the people who come on to projects are women. 

-- What do you think changed?

Although I’m not really interested in defining people in rigid terms of two genders… I feel like girls are more likely to get the job these days. That’s really all there is to it. (laughs) There’s a lot of diligent women, and there’s a lot of men who drift around a little too much. Perhaps men have gotten used to an easygoing lifestyle -- but that’s just life. 

I think it’s just because they can continue doing what they love at work their whole lives. Women on the other hand; they get married, have kids --these are critical junctures that place a limit on what they can do throughout their lives, and they realize that they don’t have time to rest on their laurels as much. As soon as you realize that, it’s difficult to live that easygoing lifestyle. Before I originally began looking for a job, I knew an assistant stylist who was in her 50’s. She once told me that “idiocy is only forgiven until age 26.” And “If you only do as well as a man, you’ll never be recognized.” She probably lived quite a tough life to have said that. She originally started working in the 70’s, and I felt a really persuasive tone from her. It really got me thinking about a lot of things.

-- She must have lived through a much crueler time, right?

I agree. That’s why I ended up leaving Studio Madhouse when I was 26 years old. I believed that I had to become a producer on my own, and it was at this time I became involved in the aforementioned "Samurai Champloo."

-- Not only women, but now more and more foreigners are getting involved in Japanese animation. Do you think the industry will accept such changes in the future?

I think that it’s best that we embrace this. I don’t think there is any difference between Japanese and non, besides our nationality. If one has a vision of what they want to create, then as an industry, it’s best for us to work together. If you are motivated, then I urge anyone to get involved in the industry regardless of race.

-- Going back to your first directorial work, "Michiko and Hatchin," what aspects of your workflow and planning have changed significantly leading up to your more recent works? ​

The director creates while imagining what they want to make. The director can embody the image of the project while sharing what they can say "is the most interesting" with their staff... as I had imagined. It is completely different.

-- As you mentioned earlier, you were a young lady working to manage on your own in the animation industry, which meant your first work was a turning point.

Yes, and even though I don’t like to place a whole lot of focus on my being a woman, of course being tasked with directing was a huge turning point.

-- Are there ever times that you look back on your previous works?

I don’t do that at all, actually. (laughs) When you start to look back on previous works, doesn’t it all become a bit scary? I start to think “Aren’t I going to die soon?” thinking about the years passed since. I feel like when I’m working on something, I’ve already checked it to death in the process. I always work to the absolute best of my ability on everything, so I really don’t need to look back on it anymore. (laughs) 

This became especially apparent when I became a director and began creating plots myself. When those plots became screenplays, I checked them. Even when someone else created the storyboards, I was always checking them. I’ve seen it all so much (laughs). So I always give priority to making new things. And now, even though I am working on the theatrical version of "Yuri!!!", my head is pretty occupied with the current figure skating season too. The Olympics only come once every 4 years!!!

An exemplatory talent well beyond her years, Sayo Yamamoto is without a doubt an individual who was born to make history. Through her progressive mindset, we're offered a peak into the innerworkings of the anime industry, that only she could offer. It was shared yesterday that her animated series "Michiko & Hatchin" is also now available on Crunchyrollwhich is excellent news. With the anticipation leading into the Yuri!!! on ICE film reaching it's peak, we couldn't be more excited to share the second and final part of our interview with Sayo Yamamoto with everyone. If you're interested in checking out the first part of our interview, you can find it here


Special Fate/Grand Order Water-Mapping Show Coming to Tokyo

February 20, 2018 8:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

Without a doubt, my absolute favorite thing to spring out of the advent of worlds like Fate and Kantai Collection is that you can Google any given historical figure or vessel, and there's a very high chance that your search results will be littered with dozens of cute anime girl versions of your query. 

In the case of Fate/Grand Order's take on legendary Japanese printmaker Hokusai, we're not quite at that level yet. However, the game's cute girl take on the painter does include some nifty shoutouts, such as the weapon she wields being a giant paintbrush, and her alternate outfit being very fishy -- in reference to Hokusai's "The Fisherman's Wife," perhaps the first piece of eroticism of a human being involved with an octopus ever conceived.

Of course, perhaps the best-known Hokusai ukuiyo-e style woodblock painting is "The Great Wave off Kanagawa," which is given a tasteful shoutout with the Fate character's Noble Phantasm, as seen in this article's header image.

All this newness surrounding the painter is finally coming to a head next month in Odaiba in Tokyo, where NAKED, an artistic technology company, plan to put on a unique water projection mapping display show for one night only atop the waters of Tokyo Bay. 

Fate/Grand Order's own Hokusai will gracefully paint the waves of Tokyo Bay with the actual master's own works.

Hokusai will be joined by characters Shuten Douji, Kiyohime, Musashi Miyamoto, and even Mash. A brand-new piece of collaboration artwork was released with the announcement.

Visitors are especially urged to board one of the event's special yakatabune, a traditional Japanese rowboat. Tickets are available through Lawson Ticket, for cruises leaving at 4:15, 5:00 and 5:45 pm on March 17. The tickets will set you back 16,000 yen (around $150 USD) a seat. 

As a one-day and likely one-time opportunity, I can't really think of any better way for both history buffs and Fate/Grand Order superfans to spend an evening in Odaiba. Be sure to check out their official website here.

Images: Aniplex, NAKED inc.


Taku Takahashi and DÉ DÉ MOUSE Talk Eureka Seven

February 20, 2018 6:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

For a franchise as legendary and beloved by many as Eureka Seven, nothing less than all-out would be acceptable to commemorate the release of both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1. It's the first part of a new trilogy of films, the three of which aim to retell the classic story of the original anime series, with both updated cuts and a number of extra scenes. On top of all that is a promised brand-new ending, something we'll just have to wait until 2019 to witness. 

In commemoration of the upcoming release, Bandai Visual has called in two special guests to create a promotional discussion video, where both parties discuss the Eureka Seven series and the influence it's had.

The first round of interviews has already been made public, featuring both Taku Takahashi of m-flo and DÉ DÉ MOUSE. Taku is a self-described "Eureka Seven freak" who has been following the series from the very early days of the original anime. On the other hand,  DÉ DÉ MOUSE is a relative newcomer to the franchise, having only been immersed in Renton's world wholeheartedly with this latest movie release. This creates an interesting catalyst for discussion as the two share both of their experiences with the series.

While the videos are yet to be subtitled in English, the back and forth between the two musical contemporaries makes for quite the discussion. For many clued in on the series, Eureka Seven is a story filled to the brim with both musical and pop culture references. This is especially prevalent in areas such as Adroc Thurston's name being a play on "Ad-rock" from The Beastie Boys, or Renton's name being a homage to Mark Renton of the Trainspotting film. It was definitely clear that the two got a kick out of being able to discuss these neat little easter eggs throughout the series.

Within their discussions, there's also talk about the qualities they feel they share with main character Renton. They especially compare the overlap in musicians pursuing dreams of success, while Renton slowly but surely realizes his abilities, matures, and earns the respect of his peers. While the  Hi-Evolution films aren't remakes per se, the duo do agree that they fall more under the category of a "remix," something quite true to their musical roots. This method was compared to how J.J. Abrams chose to revive the  Star Wars universe in a new trilogy of films. By combining familiar story elements and tropes from the past, then fusing them with modern filmmaking and animation elements, the creators have achieved what can be considered a "remix" of Eureka Seven for both new audiences and diehard fans alike.

It's a fascinating discussion for sure, so here's hoping that the videos receive some official English translation.

The train doesn't stop there, however, as the next set of video interviews is slated for February 22, 2018. Just a day before the home video release, director Tomoki Kyouda, scriptwriter Dai Sato, sociologist and Wako University professor Toshiya Ueno, and anime critic Ryouta Fujitsu will all gather at Tokyo's Dommune nightclub to discuss all manner of topics surrounding Eureka Seven, its cultural impact around the world, and the new films. The individuals present for the talk, which will run from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm JST, make for a panel of guests from backgrounds you don't often see at these kinds of release events. Again, I'm hoping that this series gets some kind of official release in English too!

After the talk, there will be a special DJ set by Hiroshi Watanabe titled "Hi-Evolution 1 Special DJ Set!" As for the contents of his performance, the title certainly leaves little to the imagination. After all of this bombast for the release, I'm happy to give you all the juicy details on the various editions and formats you'll be able to get your hands on beginning February 23:

Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1 - Blu-ray Limited Edition
Price: 10,000yen + Tax
Duration: Main Disc - 98 Minutes // Bonus Disc - 178 Minutes
Main Disc Specifications: DTS-HD Master Audio(5.1ch)・Linear PCM(Stereo)/AVC/BD50G/16:9<1080p High Definition>/Japanese Subtitles(ON/OFF)
Bonus Disc Specifications: DTS-HD Master Audio(5.1ch)・Linear PCM(Stereo)/AVC/BD50G/16:9<1080p High Definition> ・Partial 16:9<1080i High Definition>/Japanese Subtitles(ON/OFF)
Main Disc Contents: Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1 Film, Film Commercial Collection
Bonus Disc Contents: Non-credit Contents (DTS-HD Master Audio5.1ch/Linear PCM2ch), Stage Greetings, Film Staff Cross Talk Movie, "Glory Days" Music Video (Anime Version), "Acperience 7" Music Video, "Get it by your hands HI-EVO MIX" Music Video, RaveSeane DJ MIX 1, RaveSean DJ MIX 2, 2 Soundtrack CDs, Booklet, Storyboard Booklet (Summer of Love part)

Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1 - Blu-ray Standard Edition
 7,000yen + Tax
Duration: 98 Minutes
Disc Specifications: DTS-HD Master Audio(5.1ch)・Linear PCM(Stereo)/AVC/BD50G/16:9<1080p High Definition>/Japanese Subtitles(ON/OFF)
Disc Contents: Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1 Film, Film Commercial Collection

Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1 - DVD Standard Edition
Price: 6,000yen + Tax
Duration: 98 Minutes
Disc Specifications: DTS(5.1ch)・Dolby Digital(Stereo)/Dual-layer Disc/16:9/ Japanese Subtitles(ON/OFF)
Disc Contents: Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1 Film, Film Commercial Collection

Those of you who are yet to check out the first entry into the trilogy, this is your best chance. Visually the film is an adventure from start to finish, especially with the incredible animation quality of the newer scenes. Alongside this announcement, we're happy to share that we'll be conducting an AMA session with Eureka Seven director Tomoki Kyoda in collaboration with Reddit's own /r/anime. The announcement for this can be found here.

Images: Bandai Visual


2x Gold Medalist Yuzuru Hanyu Gets 'Tokyo Ghoul' Treatment

February 20, 2018 4:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

For two-times Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu, it'd be a complete and total understatement that this has been a big week. Not only did the legendary figure skater manage to secure his second gold medal during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics on Saturday, but he also received notable recognition from a creator he's expressed great appreciation for in the past. Uploaded to the Twitter account of Tokyo Ghoul manga creator Sui Ishida, Yuzuru Hanyu's likeness was captured in gorgeous style as he fearlessly dominated the ice.

It's undeniably been an incredible week for the 23-year-old figure skating icon, with just about every newspaper and magazine in Japan covered with his likeness. That being said, if I was in his position, I'd have to say this is a little cooler. It originally became apparent to the world that Yuzuru Hanyu was a fan of the series when he was spotted holding a Tokyo Ghoul tumbler in a joint photo with the Sailor Moon of the ice, Evgenia Medvedeva. It was also noted that in the photograph he was doing a pose similar to series protagonist Kaneki, making it all the more incredible. 

Perhaps more than ever this year, both in Japan and internationally, it felt as though more individuals had a keen eye for the ice skating performances. I'm not going to state it as a fact, but I'd dare suggest that the late-2016 animated series Yuri!!! on ICE might have just had a little to do with that. But hey, if that's the case, I'm sure it would make series creator Sayo Yamamoto happy, which is something she explicitly stated in our interview with her last year.

We wish the best of luck to the rest of the Olympians taking place in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, and congratulate Yuzuru Hanyu on his much-deserved success. 


Sanrio Puroland Theme Park Introduces 'Kawaii Kabuki' Live

February 20, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Sanrio Puroland, the official home of Hello Kitty and all her fellow Sanrio friends, is getting a traditional Japanese makeover next month with the theme park starting their new 'Kawaii Kabuki' live musical show. Set to begin March 10, 2018, the live show will bring a piece of Japan's stage history to the Tama Center location in Tokyo with a special side of cute. The show will feature special costumes for all the characters and will utilize projection mapping technology to really impress attendees at the park's Meruhen Theatre. 

The stage show is set to incorporate traditional kabuki and acrobatic dance to create a memorable experience that will last about 40 minutes a session. It'll also feature characters such as Hello Kitty, Cinnamoroll, Dear Daniel, and Bad Batz Maru, with some of them pictured above. As someone who just so happens to live walking distance from Sanrio Puroland, this is definitely welcome news to me. The whole area surrounding the theme park is certainly unlike anything else in Tokyo, and I'd absolutely have to recommend checking it out.

Famed kabuki director Kensuke Yokouchi, best known for his work on Super Kabuki, is handling the script work and staging for the live show. Much like the stage works of creatives such as Shakespeare, many in Japan fall short in understanding the complexities of many kabuki performances. It's for this reason that Sanrio Puroland has opted to use the popular folk legend of Momotaro, a brave peach boy who defeats a band of marauding demons on a distant island so that audiences of all ages can follow along. 

If you're interested in checking out the show, you'll definitely want to head over to the official website for the theme park. While the show does begin March 10, it's undecided as of right now how long it will last, meaning you'll definitely want to get in while you still can. 


Cup Noodle Releases New 'Fries & Chicken Nugget' Flavor

February 20, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Since the very conception of Cup Noodles almost 60 years ago in 1958, manufacturer Nissin has constantly been looking for new ways to innovate. For some, innovation comes in the form of redesign and creation; for others, it comes in the form of 'Fried Potato & Chicken Nugget' flavored instant ramen. Today I was given the opportunity to partake in innovation, and honestly, it tastes pretty incredible. If given the chance, I'd probably go as far as to recommend you try this weird and wonderful flavor -- if you dare. 

For a Cup Noodle brand as easily identifiable as Nissin, you eventually reach the point where you have to do some pretty weird things to stay on top. Between their ridiculous 'Milk Seafood' flavor they released in 2017, the announcement that they would henceforward refer to their topping as 'Mystery Meat,' and the gorgeous animated ads the company produces, there's definitely a growing library of strange. Frequent OTAQUEST collaborator The Canipa Effect was even so wowed by some of the things the company had done in the anime department that he made a whole video about it:

Back to the topic at hand, however, Nissin Cup Noodle's latest 'Fried Potato & Chicken Nugget' flavor combination is an absolute fever dream. I'm a lazy boy, meaning there are basically three major food groups for me: instant noodles, fries, and chicken nuggets. This combines the three of those in an oddly coherent method, and I'm all for it.

The noodles use a black pepper soy sauce seasoning packet, with both small potato pieces and chicken nugget 'mystery meat' rests atop. Cook it up and you're given what's essentially boiled potato and chicken nuggets -- if you'd really call it that. Apart from that, however, it's basically your standard Cup Noodle affair, something else I'm totally cool with. If you're in the Japan area anytime soon and are dying to try these, I managed to find mine at a local Family Mart, making the restock process easy once I realized how much they ruled.

If Cup Noodle is your thing, you'll probably want to check out the official website. Following that, the Cup Noodle Twitter account absolutely slaps and is definitely worth checking out too.


Legendary Ghibli Composer Joe Hisaishi Talks 'Ni No Kuni II'

February 19, 2018 9:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

It seems we've been waiting an eternity for the release of Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. The sequel to one of my favorite RPGs of all time, the game has already been delayed multiple times having finally settled on the current simultaneous release date of March 23. No worry -- the extra time for polish will certainly only make it a much more worthy follow-up. With the first title, in addition to the action-RPG, monster-collection-focused gameplay, the audio and visual experience that the game offered was enough to practically move me to tears. The artistic direction for the title came from the creative minds at Studio Ghibli, who have said that they approached this game just like they would have approached one of their films. 

One of my absolute favorite aspects of the first title was the musical score by Joe Hisaishi, famed composer known for his personal and artistic bond with legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki. And while Studio Ghibli in its previous form is not associated with this sequel, many of the creative minds from the original have returned.

Similar to the previous behind-the-scenes video featuring character designer Yoshiyuki Momose, composer Joe Hisaishi gives us a rather personal inside look at the creation process for the game's score. Check it out below.

Joe Hisaishi creates music that goes beyond what is expected in gaming. The music used in the battle scenes is unlike anything you've seen in other RPGs. - Akihiro Hino, General Director

The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra has done an incredible job of bringing this world to life it seems, and I am super happy that Joe Hisaishi has been able to transcend any and all medium to deliver a superb and emotionally charged score every time. 

Images: ​Level-5 Games, Bandai Namco Entertainment


Signal.MD Remarks on Recovery of an MMO Junkie's Director

February 19, 2018 8:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

At the beginning of the month, it came to light that a freelance anime director who handled directorial duties for studio Signal.MD's adaptation of Rin Kokuyo's Recovery of an MMO Junkie manga has been both posting and "liking" anti-Semitic content on his public Twitter account. Kazuyoshi Yaginuma, who posts under the handle @yaginuma_san on the platform, has consistently harbored the content on his account since joining in 2011.


A few things are clear after this event. Namely, that there is clearly no language barrier preventing Yaginuma's full understanding of the things he's sharing. He's gone on to discuss his views with other users who have taken to tweeting directly at him and often does so in both English and Japanese. In addition, he's shown no signs of backing down or apologizing for his remarks since this all came to light, and it almost appears as if he's doubling down on it.

This is all very troubling, and I can't imagine that the freelance director will be scoring any big jobs anytime soon, especially if the language in a recent news release from the studio that produced and animated  Recovery of an MMO Junkie is to be taken to heart:

Statement by SIGNAL MD concerning Tweets under the name of whom the director of “Recovery of an MMO Junkie”

It has come to our attention that a series of Tweets under the handle, @yaginuma_san, apparently made by Mr. Kazuyoshi Yaginuma have included anti-Semitic comments. SIGNAL MD wishes to make it clear that it is strongly opposed to and deprecates anti-Semitism and all forms of racism or discrimination.

Mr. Yaginuma was director of the anime “Recovery of an MMO Junkie” produced by SIGNAL MD, has never been our company member and is no longer employed by us.

Assuming the comments which appear under the Twitter handle @yaginuma_san, were indeed made by Mr. Yaginuma, they are not linked to his role as director of “Recovery of an MMO Junkie” and are not supported by SIGNAL MD.

We will continue to create works that are moving and enjoyable, with the philosophy of giving excitement to many viewers and working to create works that satisfy our clients.

Thank you for your support and understanding.


Additionally, it's also worth mentioning that Crunchyroll parent company Elation has also shared a statement regarding the actions of Kazuyoshi Yaginuma. This is particularly noteworthy as not only were Crunchyroll responsible for streaming the anime internationally, but they were also a member of the anime's production committee. Their statement can be found below:
Again, I think that it's worth mentioning that Kazuyoshi Yaginuma is a freelance director, and Recovery of an MMO Junkie originated as a manga by Rin Kokuyo. This news has certainly been the catalyst for much debate in the department of "separating the art from the artist," as the anime was generally seen as a good-hearted and wholesome attempt to characterize video game addiction, without even a hint of the ugliness we've since learned about. For those who are able to love the show and the original property without letting this taint it -- great, I think it stands on many, many of its other merits. For those who cannot bear to do so any longer, I think that is perfectly understandable.

Images: Signal.MD, Rin Kokuyo, Media Factory