Director talk: Takamatsu Shinji x Fujita Youichi The birth place of the 'Gintama' anime "Making parodies of other work's will get you scolded at!" Q: Gintama changed directors at the 100th episode, why is that? Takamatsu: Gintama had already been on air for two years, it would be difficult for the same director to continue on. People would start getting bored, so I passed the baton to a younger director and became a consultant role. Of course one reason was because I was too tired (laughs). So Fujita became the director and I took the role of producer. Since Gintama causes all sorts of problems all the time, someone with enough influence had to make sure everything went fine, so I took that position. Fuijta: I'm still feeling like I'm crossing a river on rocks. How should I say, Gintama isn't a normal production, other than the contents of the work, there are also a lot of things that need to be done. In a normal production, it's fine to just get the contents done, but in Gintama it's different. You need to put in a lot of original things and write captions on the side of the sponsor's screens. Also, if we parody too many works, we get into trouble with the bosses. Q: The characters in the show also talk about this a lot. When you parody other works, so you really get scolded? Takamatsu: Some times we will tell the other party beforehand, so the problem isn't big. But it depends on the situation. But being scolded at isn't a lie, it's true! Q: Is the reason for making so many parodies of the Gundam series because Takamatsu worked in the production of Gundam? Takamatsu: No, Gundam is SUNRISE's own production, so we though making a parody of our own company's work would be safer. But we made it too ridiculous, so we got scolded anyway (laughs) Fujita: The original didn't have that many Gundam parody scenes (laugh). But as long as we can broadcast it, it doesn't matter if we get scolded. Takamatsu: I think it will go back on us one day (bitter laugh). So we've done some cushioning carefully outside of the production (laughs). We decide to do this because it's interesting to let the audience have a nervous feeling while watching Gintama. "From the beginning Gintama has always been 'a TV show'" Q: Why do you still do something that is interesting to you, even if it will cause trouble? Takamatsu: We make entertainment shows as our competition. This is the position we've given Gintama. Directors who think strongly of their work think "Anime is the work of the director", but I think "Anime is a show broadcasted on TV". When I was working on golden-time anime before, the producer from the TV station said to me, "Our opponent isn't other anime, but the entertainment shows showing at the same time, and NHK news", this was quite a shock for me. After that I started to place myself in the position of potential audience, those people who would find this program interesting when they change channels, and become loyal audience. I hope more people will become audiences of Gintama, so from the beginning, the position I gave Gintama was 'a TV show'. The part where the sponsors are introduced and the next episode previews are also part of the show, so we need to make it interesting. As long as there is some extra time, we make some extra original stories to attract the audience. We tried a lot of things from the beginning, so I think the next director will have a lot to do (laughs). Q: To make the story interesting, you can't ignore the original work yeah? Takamatsu: We also paid attention to this. If you don't make a good foundation, you can't sell it. The animation staff have really worked hard to ensure the production's quality. Fujita: A lot of work has been put into the places that look mediocre secretly. Takamatsu: We actually put our best into the parts which seem uncompleted (Note: The line art animation part in episode 94), even if it looks simple it was a lot of hard work (laughs). If people notice we put a lot of work into it, then it doesn't feel like an entertainment show, so we need to pretend it's easy and act carefree (laughs). "Although it looks as if we don't give a shit about the production, in reality we're working our asses off (laughs)" Q: How will Gintama progress on in the future? Fujita: I want to know as well (laughs). It should follow it's usual style, going forward with no plan, becoming a show where old men like me can pick their nose while watching and making introducing it a hard job for magazines (laughs). Nevertheless we will work hard. Q: Finally, please say a few words to our readers who want to become animators. Takamatsu: To people who like animation, this is indeed an interesting job, but making your interest into work is a hard thing to do (laughs). The animation studio is really cruel, so if you're prepared, come knock on the door of the animation industry. Fujita: To a person like me, who randomly entered the animation industry, it's really been like picking your nose while becoming a director (laughs). Of course that was a joke; there's a lot of animation productions nowadays, as long as you want to do it, you can try even if you're not well known, this is the current production environment. So if you want to create something, don't think twice and enter this world. Extra: "'Everyday feels like August 31st', the power released when you're at the end" The interesting part of Gintama lies in unique contents like the substantial original content, parodies of popular works from before and talking about production backstage in the anime. So, how is the script for Gintama made? According to the first director Takamatsu Shinji, "Before we draw the storyboard we have a secret script writing meeting". Once every week, everyone related to the script writing will come together, use the meeting as an excuse to have a meal together, where some ideas from the meal will appear in the final storyboard. "Things like that happen a lot, topics talked about while we were eating and drinking the day before would appear in the storyboard the next day (laughs). There has always been things appear in the storyboard that were never there in the script. Although we will be rushed until we're exhausted by the production time... But the power that explodes when there's no where else to go has helped in work." Not by carefully planning the future episodes, but by the spirit during production, that is the production aim for the anime Gintama. On the topic of Gintama's charm, something we must mention is their courage to break rules. Switching the opening and ending times, original content filling over half of the episodes... it's countless. When asked about the changing style, Takamatsu stated "I don't want to be tied by lines and frames". "Opening theme, part A, part B, ending theme: this is the flow of a typical anime episode, people easily follow this flow and you must follow this method to do things, but it actually isn't. As long as you plan the timing well, you can absolutely add in a C part. The presentation method is also the same: if the television station said something cannot be broadcasted, and someone was cut off when they did, then people start thinking you can't do that too, but it isn't the case. If it is necessary, then you should talk with the opposite side and fight for it. As the director and producer, we are prepared to take any blame, so no matter if it's dirty humour, parodies of other works, or violent scenes, as long as it is necessary, we will not have any draw backs. Of course, we do have a lower limit, we won't do anything we definitely can't do. But if there is the chance to persuade the other side, then we will do our best until we are satisfied." 若锅龙太 [Can't find his name...] has suffered from stomach pains ever since he took over the job as Gintama's producer, and visibly thinning down, but he continued to work in Gintama with the resolution of "committing seppuku to repay my crimes any time", and maybe it is his determination that spread to the other staff that there is such a powerful and positive working environment. Takamatsu once said, "From a lot of ways, to us every day is August 31st"; it must be this environment where everything is near the edge that brings us Gintama's unique and happy tempo.