Gothicmade Hana no Utame is a movie you will probably never be able to watch. The movie is Mamoru Nagano’s directorial debut and was released in Japanese theaters in 2012. Mamoru Nagano is a well-known mecha and character designer who has worked at Studio Sunrise on classic shows such as Z Gundam and Heavy Metal L-Gaim. Since being pushed out of the anime industry, he has been publishing the Five Star Stories manga in Newtype Magazine since 1986.

In 2006 the production of Gothicmade Hana no Utame was announced. The movie took six years to produce and was made by a team of only three key animators, Yôko Kadokami, Atsushi Yamagata, and Mamoru Nagano himself. A lot of attention went into the movie’s production, over 160’000 layers of cel were used. – The movie only gets a few screenings in Japan, hence why you will most probably never see it, and it has given the movie a particular aura in the West.

At Niigata International Animation Film Festival, which happened last March, a special screening of Gothicmade took place. On this particular occasion, director Mamoru Nagano, lead voice actress Maria Kawamura, and the movie’s producer, as well as former Kadokawa Shoten director Shinichirô Inoue made it all the way to Niigata to hold a talk about the movie, which we are presenting to you. A rare occasion to learn more about Gothicmade.

 

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Maria Kawamura: To advertise this movie, you two talked about many things on the podcast.

Shinichirô Inoue:  True, we did that a lot.

Maria Kawamura: Right, the title was “Mamo☆Shin.” It felt kind of dodgy.

Shinichirô Inoue: How is that dodgy? (laugh)

Maria Kawamura: The women in the editorial department were giggling, saying, “Huh, that sounds kind of dodgy.”

Mamoru Nagano: I mean, the place we did it… It was Kadokawa Shoten’s president’s office.

Maria Kawamura: It was the president’s office.

Shinichirô Inoue: It sure was, yeah. I once was the president of Kadokawa Shoten, so that’s why we used that office. Brings back memories. Anyway, I’m just happy some people remember that. Today we’re talking about Hana no Utame Gothicmade. It’s showing here at the Niigata International Animation Film Festival. Really, getting to do a talk show with director Nagano and with Ms. Maria Kawamura, it’s been a while. About how long has it been?

Maria Kawamura: Yes, let’s see. It might be… since we held an event for the release of a theme song at Tokyo’s Tower Records Shibuya. Wait, am I wrong?

Mamoru Nagano: Probably.

Maria Kawamura: Probably?

Mamoru Nagano: Over in Shinjuku, with the Godzilla thing… The former… Shinjuku Plaza [now Shinjuku Toho Hall] held that theater opening.

Maria Kawamura: Ah, was that it? I guess we had one then, too.

Mamoru Nagano: That one was… I kind of forgot, too. There are so many screenings. (laugh)

Maria Kawamura: Yes, that’s right at the theater with Godzilla on the top of the hotel. That was Dolby Atmos’s theater opening.

Shinichirô Inoue: Oh. Right, I see. That one I didn’t go to.

Maria Kawamura: Yes, that’s when Gothicmade‘s really powerful acoustics…

Mamoru Nagano: I just remembered. It was that time when we stepped out holding Kaiserin.

Maria Kawamura: Oh, the three of us with Nozomu?

Mamoru Nagano: Yeah.

Shinichirô Inoue: Ah, you mean the figure.

Maria Kawamura: Right, right. With Nozomu, who played Toriharon, the three of us.

Shinichirô Inoue: Right, with Mr. Nozomu Sasaki.

Maria Kawamura: From the people at Volks, the one that was this big. Carrying it out like a giant isopod.

(laughter)

Maria Kawamura: Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, it’s a very rare opportunity getting to do a talk show with these two. I really feel it’s because we’re all here at the Niigata International Animation Film Festival. So thank you all very much for coming.

Mamoru Nagano: It’s my first time in Niigata. But the ride really captured what they call cutting through the Japanese archipelago. On the way over, seeing the incredibly pristine white snow piled on those mountains, I was going, like, “Whoa!” as I got here today.

I’m the Five Star Stories creator, manga artist, former Sunrise Animation company’s designer… character, and mecha designer. And sometimes I dabble in movie directing, Mamoru Nagano. Nice to meet all of you.

Shinichirô Inoue: Ms. Maria Kawamura, please introduce yourself.

Maria Kawamura: Right. Excuse us; we just started chatting without even introducing ourselves.

(laughter)

Shinichirô Inoue: Yeah, I guess we did. Sorry, sorry. This presentation’s so barebones.

Maria Kawamura: Don’t worry about it. We really aren’t nervous about any of this, are we?

Shinichirô Inoue: Well, this is our usual mood.

Maria Kawamura: It is usual for the three of us. A bit late, but I play Bellin in Hana no Utame, Maria Kawamura. Pleased to meet everyone.

Shinichirô Inoue: So this time, you’re the leading voice actress.

Maria Kawamura: Okay, now I’m a little self-conscious (laugh)

Shinichirô Inoue: So now that we have you both here, I’d really enjoy getting to hear about some valuable insight. To start with, the director’s right here, but when I first heard about the title Gothicmade, when you first told me, “Let’s make something like this,” the film length, was it about 30 minutes? I got the impression what started as a short story became 70 minutes. Did it just keep expanding from the original plans until it went public?

Mamoru Nagano: You know, I’m just gonna say it.

Shinichirô Inoue: Yeah?

Mamoru Nagano: It’s been ten years since it was released.

Shinichirô Inoue: Yeah, we’re in the 11th year.

Mamoru Nagano: And it’s been some 15 years since production began. You look at me, and you think, “This guy would remember?”

(laughter)

Maria Kawamura: Huh?

Shinichirô Inoue: Oh, I see (laugh)

Maria Kawamura: I’ve got no memory of any of it.

Shinichirô Inoue: Seriously? Uh, do you happen to remember anything while watching your husband from the side?

Maria Kawamura: Um, I did hear about talks about a short story at first.

Shinichirô Inoue: I thought so. I also heard it was a short story.

Mamoru Nagano: Uh, a little earlier, when leaving for the meeting, I had a very nostalgic run-in with Yuichiro Saito, formerly from Madhouse…

Shinichirô Inoue: The president currently running Studio Chizu?

Mamoru Nagano: Mr. Hosoda is his partner, working together. So I met him, this producer, for the first time in forever. When starting the studio for Gothicmade, Madhouse, Yuichiro Saito, and more helped me put it together. Telling me stuff like, “You’re going to need this.” “Mr. Nagano, you’ve been out of the industry for a long time. Do you know how things work now?” I just went, “Nope.”

(laughter)

And then they prepared all these tools and stuff for me, introduced people to me. Also, when I said, “I don’t understand storyboarding these days,” Mr. Hosoda told me, “I’ll bring you some.” They went out of their way to display and share all of the storyboards from their project then, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. All of that just came rushing back to me. Just now. I remember, God, I remember now, for real!

Shinichirô Inoue: Mr. Saito happened to be next to you just a little bit ago, so I guess that gave you a lot to remember. But when you started, what was it? It was really just you, the director, Ms. Yôko Kadokami, and Mr. Nakura… about the three of you, right? Who were drawing pictures.

Mamoru Nagano: Yeah. In the beginning, we really were… well, all the way to the end, too. Mostly the three of us deciding parts and making them, drawing pictures. But the mecha parts, and with or without mecha, the world-building was technically all me. Then the key animation, then making the whole movie.

Shinichirô Inoue: You made the in-betweens as well, huh? (laugh)

Mamoru Nagano: They told me not to do the in-betweens (laugh)

So, things along those lines happened. Everyone divided up the workload. Each did their part, Nakura drawing his parts and Ms. Kadokami drawing hers in ways that brought out a distinct flavor in their scenes.

With comics, I’m scrawling and scrawling, drawing everything except the screentones by myself. But compared to one person’s work, characters drawn by someone else have more – even under my instructions on where to put things. But these characters are drawn by other people, their expressions, and their movements. It’s like it feels richer the more people are involved, even if the personalities and stories are built to have this glowing, unified experience for the people watching.

But it’s those kinds of works, especially Gothicmade Hana no Utame, being all about Bellin and Tori. It’s made to have different kinds of people see it, evoke all kinds of feelings, and think of it as neat for having seen it. It’s like the banter between a man and a woman. It’s those things that I think make it fuller.

Shinichirô Inoue: I agree. Though, what really personally moved me watching Gothicmade was seeing Mr. Mamoru Nagano’s pictures moving through animation. That’s what sincerely got me.

Mamoru Nagano: Yeah, like for Heavy Metal L-Gaim and Zeta Gundam, there have been works I was involved with. But those only worked because Kitazume, Ômori, and the top animators of the day took characters I wasn’t used to and raised them up as high as they did. After that, there was also Yûki, who made the movie version of Five Star Stories.

Well, some of this was me wondering, “Maybe I can finally do this myself?” What led to me picking Nakura was that he could fit this art style and choices like that.

Shinichirô Inoue: So, from the start, you were imagining, “Mr. Nakura could make Mamoru Nagano characters move well?”

Mamoru Nagano: Yeah. Rather, when you get down to it, GTMs are not really a regular mecha thing.

Shinichirô Inoue: Yes. That’s true, yes.

Mamoru Nagano: And there really aren’t that many people who can clearly draw human acting and motions, not as patterns, but actually draw them. So I needed people who could handle those tiny, tiny details and left it all up to them. That’s how things took shape.

Shinichirô Inoue: I see. This is just a personal impression, but live-action movie directors often have actors and actresses that embody an image they’re aiming for in their movies. With actresses, they’ll call them their muse and such. And you do strike me as something of a muse. Bellin’s image, along with her personality, comes off pretty close to Ms. Kawamura. (laugh)

Maria Kawamura: You think so?

Shinichirô Inoue: It’s an impression I got, but how did her image strike you? When you got the drawing, her character design.

Maria Kawamura: Basically, since I was watching things get set up from the side, I went from “How is this going to turn out?” to suddenly, “Oh, you’ll let me play her?”

Shinichirô Inoue: Oh, Mr. Nagano wasn’t going, “You’ve gotta do this” from the start?

Maria Kawamura: It was more like we really didn’t know when the whole thing would come together. So at first, they were talking about making a short using narration.

Shinichirô Inoue: Ah, was that the plan?

Mamoru Nagano: There were all kinds of steps. Before Yuichiro Saito, who I mentioned earlier, there was this person called Kunihiko Ikuhara, who directed Sailor Moon and such. He’d be mumbling with me, asking, “About how much does it take to make a movie on your own?” And if we weren’t discussing that, I’d be thinking over the cost, thinking, “I should make it a narration.”

Shinichirô Inoue: Then early on, the plan was to make a narrated play…

Mamoru Nagano: Oh, yeah. At first, I really did make the test film myself.

Shinichirô Inoue: And I take it the cast kept expanding?

Mamoru Nagano: More like, once the production structure was set, I figured, “Let’s just make a movie.” Just keeping the scenario and everything as it was.

Shinichirô Inoue: As far as the acting, did you ever go, “I want you to deliver this like so.” Some images or instructions. Anything like that?

Maria Kawamura: Did you have any instructions?

Mamoru Nagano: None at all.

(laughter)

Maria Kawamura: Is that so?

Shinichirô Inoue: Her character is kind of like how Ms. Maria Kawamura usually is, right? Bellin.

Maria Kawamura: Oh. Like how she’s kind of mean (laugh)

Shinichirô Inoue: Is she mean? (laugh)

Maria Kawamura: No, no, no.

Mamoru Nagano: More like, basically, at the scenario-writing stage, who I was aiming for to do the voices was already decided. I’d just say, “Do it in that image I know.” And after the first voicing by Nozomu and Ms. Kawamura… I heard the first voicing and, after recording, said, “It’s good. I’ve got nothing else to say.”

Shinichirô Inoue: So it all went according to that image. In the first place, Mr. Nozomu Sasaki and Ms. Kawamura knew each other from – not Hathaway’s Flash, the one before that, Char’s Counterattack. Mr. Sasaki played Hathaway, and you played Quess Paraya. I guess you were already on good terms (laugh). Did you already trust each other before that?

Maria Kawamura: Well, we used to work in the same office.

Shinichirô Inoue: Oh, were you? I see.

Maria Kawamura: So I’d been watching him since he joined, thinking, “Wow, that is one promising newcomer.”

Shinichirô Inoue: That’s right, Mr. Nozomu was your junior.

Maria Kawamura: Exactly. And, afterward, how do I put it… We did a lot of small jobs, but the one we were long-time regulars on was a show called Obocchama-kun.

Shinichirô Inoue: Ah, I see.

Maria Kawamura: He played a comparatively common sense character named Kakino-kun, and my role was this somewhat rich girl grade-schooler. It lasted some four years…

Shinichirô Inoue: Pretty long.

Maria Kawamura: It lasted a while. After that… well, everybody in the show got along, yes. To this day, the members behind Obocchama-kun still get together to drink tea and eat.

Shinichirô Inoue: It’s just that, between Toriharon and Bellin, that sense you get of their relationship deepening. So is that from you two being well-acquainted with each other’s approach to acting?

Maria Kawamura: We did have a complete understanding of “If they go like this, do this.” So it made it very easy to perform. Thinking, “That’s exactly how I thought they’d react,” or “That reaction was more extra than I expected.” That feeling where it keeps becoming more fun, and you can’t help but laugh. Especially the part where we quarrel, there were almost no retakes.

Shinichirô Inoue: Oh, really? Huh.

Mamoru Nagano: Almost no retakes, and most of them we got in one.

Shinichirô Inoue: I guess you always had a skill for quarreling. That style of performance (laugh)

Maria Kawamura: Well, I do play a lot of eccentric characters, yes (laugh)

Shinichirô Inoue: There have been a lot, yeah.

Maria Kawamura: But I’ve played frail girls, too.

Shinichirô Inoue: Have you? (laugh)

Maria Kawamura: I did, I did.

Shinichirô Inoue: Oh, right. Your usual roles are the domineering types.

Maria Kawamura: Well, when it comes to domineering characters, I am quite unchallenged in my work, yes.

Shinichirô Inoue: I get it. Thank you for that.

Maria Kawamura: Let’s leave that aside for now.

Shinichirô Inoue: Leaving that aside, let’s get back to the main topic. This is jumping right into the final scene, but the finale tells you this was Five Star Stories all along. It’s fairly hidden up to that point. During production, was it hidden, too? And as the director, since when did you decide this was Five Star Stories?

Mamoru Nagano: For that, it was really… well, if you said I came from the anime industry, you wouldn’t be wrong. And basically, all the Japanese anime studios and production companies you may have heard of helped me out by getting involved. I am so thankful for that in so many ways I could never repay. All the companies you can think of joined in and lent a hand. And the wonderful part is none of them let it leak.

Shinichirô Inoue: Ah, right. That is true.

Mamoru Nagano: For example, I only showed a few of them the storyboards. But once those had to be turned over to finish up the videos, the coloring, the backgrounds, then it’s all exposed. Things like the scene I was making in secret. But the way it just never reached the outside. Being at peace the whole time I was making it made a huge difference.

Shinichirô Inoue: Then everybody flipped when they saw it in theaters.

Mamoru Nagano: Right, right, right.

Shinichirô Inoue: Just going “Huh?!” (laugh)

Mamoru Nagano: Well, at this point, I think everybody already knows that about GTM.

Shinichirô Inoue: Ah, just in case… sorry. Asking one last time… There’s nobody here who hasn’t read or watched Gothicmade or Five Star Stories… right?

Maria Kawamura: Oh, there’s someone!

Shinichirô Inoue: You’re here! You were here!

Mamoru Nagano: Um, it’s fine, it’s fine. Even if you don’t know either, it’s fine.

Shinichirô Inoue: It’s fine? All right.

Mamoru Nagano: Basically, I figured I was done around the time I completed the hardcover volume 12, like with the robots. Especially once I put out the Kan and the Gastness Temple, I was thinking, “This design’s so over.” Ah, sorry, people who like Mortar Headds! I’m really sorry about that. Um, um, it’s cool. If you’re like, “I like the L.E.D. Mirage” or “I like the Knight of Gold,” there’s nothing wrong with always liking them, yeah! Even people who think, “I’ll never accept Daccas” or “I don’t give a crap about Kaiserin,” that’s fine, too. If you’re all, “I’m more into the Empress,” that’s also great. I’m not mad, and I think that’s only natural.

(laughter)

But in my mind, I mean, a robot manga is built around its robots, right? When the creator is drawing them while carrying this staggering doubt and, what’s the word… this stress, the work itself starts falling apart. It just keeps losing power. To deal with that, what kind of robot would appear next was just about sorted out by that point.

Shinichirô Inoue: Ah, I see. So you put it together while drawing the…

Mamoru Nagano: Right. I’d already talked to people like Mr. Ikushima [Takehiko Ikushima], who’s a modeler. Just restlessly talking. We talked, and… There should be this Mortar Headd called the Gastness Temple that showed up in volume 12. Its silhouette was just so troublesome, just getting closer and closer to a GTM. And I’d be desperately fixing it as I drew it going, “No, Mortar Headd, Mortar Headd.” That was the Gastness Temple. And that’s why the limit was pretty much around the Gastness Temple.

Shinichirô Inoue: And you couldn’t do that anymore…

Mamoru Nagano: I couldn’t keep changing them bit by bit.

Shinichirô Inoue: Ah, so you went for changing them all at once.

Mamoru Nagano: Right, right, right. “So anyway, hide all that.”

(laughter)

Shinichirô Inoue: That’s what would follow, yeah.

Maria Kawamura: The part you were talking about…

Shinichirô Inoue: Yes?

Maria Kawamura: On the back of the script… The part from the ending. That did not exist in any shape or form before, right?

Shinichirô Inoue: No, it wasn’t there before. I saw it, too…

Mamoru Nagano: Of course not. Because I was making that by myself.

Shinichirô Inoue: I figured. That’s why you made it in secret.

Maria Kawamura: Because I flipped at the private showing, too.

Shinichirô Inoue: Is that right?! Huh.

Maria Kawamura: Yes, I didn’t know about it.

Shinichirô Inoue: In other words, you managed to hide it from your family, too?

Mamoru Nagano: Well, pretty much. Of course, everybody in the studio knew. We call it the D part and the E part, that ending. The ending– back when I was working on Z Gundam and L-Gaim, those were works where I’d spend consecutive days in the studio by Mr. Tomino’s side. I basically learned everything about anime production from over at Sunrise through that. But when I saw the first episodes of L-Gaim and Z Gundam, I thought, “When did you make this opening?” I didn’t know despite all the time I spent in there. I pretty much didn’t even know who, when, or where the production orders came from.

Shinichirô Inoue: Really?

Mamoru Nagano: That’s just how it sometimes goes, people wondering, “You were making this?” Whether or not you’re trying to hide it, I think it just happens.

Shinichirô Inoue: That’s true. Those opening shots… they were by outside animators like Mr. Umetsu [Yasuomi Umetsu].

Mamoru Nagano: That’s right, for Z, yeah. For L-Gaim, it was Kitazume, the opening.

Shinichirô Inoue: Right. I guess that’s how it works.

Maria Kawamura: Well, everybody who saw the private showing was knocked over. Especially Ikue Ohtani-chan, who was asking, “What does this mean?! What has my Rabu become?! The screen can’t even fit her!”

(laughter)

Mamoru Nagano: You saw me tell her then, “Iku-chan, I’m sorry.”

Maria Kawamura: “Sorry” for that (laugh)

Mamoru Nagano: Nothing else to say but “Sorry!”

Maria Kawamura: Nope, nope, nope, nope. She really didn’t fit on the screen, did she?

Shinichirô Inoue: Yeah, in the middle of it, I was thinking, “Oh, that’s what she is.” I had some sneaking suspicions, but it definitely confirmed it.

Maria Kawamura: Those of us on the cast were like, “It can’t be!”

Shinichirô Inoue: Yeah, I was a producer, and I still had an “It can’t be” moment (laugh)

Maria Kawamura: Okay, so it got Mr. Inoue, too (laugh)

Shinichirô Inoue: Of course, in my case, it was before it was complete; I had to know before that. My feelings were along the lines of “Wait, you’re really going to do this?!” So I think everybody being surprised was pretty natural.

Maria Kawamura: No, I felt my acting plans loudly crumble apart (laugh). I thought, “What? If you were going to do this, say so from the start.”

Mamoru Nagano: It’s the kind of thing where explaining wouldn’t help.

Maria Kawamura: Okay, you may have a point.

Shinichirô Inoue: Like it’s more reliable not to say it.

Maria Kawamura: I see.

Mamoru Nagano: Because even if I said it, it was still a mess afterward when the serialization resumed.

Maria Kawamura: Hmmm.

(laughter)

Mamoru Nagano: Yeah. So, since we’re here, I’ll just lay it open. While making Gothicmade, a Gundam modeler named Mr. Oda suddenly came over for the first time in a long while.

Maria Kawamura: You mean Mr. Masahiro Oda.

Mamoru Nagano: I mean Mr. Masahiro Oda. So, he asked me, “What’s this Gothicmade you’re making?” That’s when I told him, “Oh, these are the true colors of Gothicmade,” I showed him the Zarathustra-looking Rabu and got told, “You’re a terrible person.”

(laughter)

Mamoru Nagano: Well, by that point, Mr. Oda already knew. But that’s how the conversation went. I felt explaining it would never help in understanding it.

Shinichirô Inoue: In any case, in Gothicmade, or rather through Hana no Utame Gothicmade… Well, Five Star Stories is being serialized by you as a manga, but… Its plot is also, you know, the elements that began from… were derived from? No, “began from” is right. This flow of history that began from them and its influences show up in the main plot of Five Star. Even now, all the way up to the Nakakara battle, there’s a fair amount of…

Mamoru Nagano: Basically, all the episodes that began from volume 9 were drawn with Gothicmade as the goal, or more like, I drew them thinking, “This is how it’ll go.” Things like volume 12 having that big Mortar Headd fight like just now, I drew it as is. Its scenario was already put together by that point. And Hana no Utame‘s episode was one of those that was on standby. There were cases like that. So until these six chapters are complete, I’ll naturally be carrying on Hana no Utame.

Shinichirô Inoue: Right. Especially recently, when the Nakakara battle had this incredible climax, which I think the people keeping up with the serial know about. Since last autumn, I’ve been reading it while crying every month.

Meanwhile, this is going to involve some feedback from reality, but in February of last year, Russia invaded Ukraine. So reading the publication, the characters have a little, how do you say, the characters and the talk of flowers. I’m wondering if it influenced those parts. Of course, I’m pretty sure the outline of the story existed from the start. It’s a feeling I get, but how is it affecting you?

Mamoru Nagano: It’s really troublesome on a physical level. What I want to draw was already decided, but I can’t avoid acknowledging something like that happening in our world. Still, because I’m acknowledging it, I don’t want to directly… the war protests, for example. I absolutely don’t want to put things like conflicts happening around the world raw.

Let’s say people give it a read 20 or 30 years from now when the conflict has calmed down. Things like dialogue and flow are made so they can just read it as it is. And it is really tiring.

Shinichirô Inoue: So naturally, there are complications in that?

Mamoru Nagano: Of course there is. There’s so much of that. Making me ask, “How is this causing so much damage?” For the direction, I’m making things. The scenario’s already decided, so I can’t write around it.

Shinichirô Inoue: I agree.

Mamoru Nagano: And even the location is similar.

Shinichirô Inoue: Yeah, there’s that (laugh). It has to be by coincidence, but it’s pretty much a region made of plains.

Mamoru Nagano: Well, I can’t exactly not know what’s been happening over there. They did call that place the Southern Front some 70 years ago. Now it’s become Kyiv. Just continually thinking about how there’s nothing I can do about it, trying not to be pulled around, was the most I could muster.

Shinichirô Inoue: That’s incredible. Okay, pardon me, but moving on to the next question. This is one I’ve personally really wanted to ask. Where do you learn your staggering material? It feels like every time I’m reading, there’s a new science topic or talk about culture. I take it there’s feedback from everything in a wide range of topics inside Five Star Stories.

Mamoru Nagano: I’ve just always kind of loved gathering info I need since way back when. You know, those things everybody knows, aren’t so sure of, or are fairly well versed in. Let’s say, for example, keeping it blunt, stuff about tanks and battle uniforms. We all look them up on the internet and read a wiki. Recently on things like YouTube, there have been a lot of people expositing about them. But ultimately, all that information’s stuff you read on the wiki or picked up from the internet, and you haven’t really made it your own. We’ve all had that, right? And then there’s brand new information that’s completely different from what was known a decade ago.

To avoid that, for things I run into, I try to spend at least two to three years just kneading them over in my head to reach something of an interpretation and develop some perspective before putting it out there.

Shinichirô Inoue: No kidding. As a recent example, the Stant Comet showed up. Compared to my initial mental image, I didn’t think it was so huge, closer to a galaxy. That surprised me.

Mamoru Nagano: The robots called Mortar Headds, things like L-Gaim and Z Gundam… well, mobile suits. And other suits. And Heavy Metals. The biggest difference between Mortar Headds and GTMs is… L-Gaim and Mortar Headds are, well, old, basically 20th Century mecha. And what that means is, this… the way I’m describing this is making me sound like Mr. Tomino.

(laughter)

I can’t tell if I’m making fun of him. I’m sorry. Uh, 20th-century mecha use things like nuclear power or Photonic Energy… Basically, I feel like they’re built around horsepower and energy sources, including Gundam.

Shinichirô Inoue: Basically, the energy we dreamed of in the day.

Mamoru Nagano: Right. And what’s fundamentally different about GTMs is they don’t move using that. They move using subatomic particles. Science fiction was about using, say, nuclear fusion. We weren’t sure if it would become possible, but we were about these huge energy sources like that. Since we entered the 21st century, that has changed to subatomic particles. And following these particles through to their logical conclusion, the GTM’s Twin Swing joints were born. That’s what I mean, even if I can’t explain it well.

Shinichirô Inoue: Ah, so to put it simply, “That’s why it moves.” Right. So, watching a person like this right next to you, what’s your impression, Ms. Kawamura?

Maria Kawamura: Ah, yes. I agree his quantity of knowledge is incredible. Since I also like things like museums and history, sometimes I’ll carelessly mention something, and it’s like a landmine. If I unthinkingly ask, “Uh, when was this event?” he goes into a loooong explanation and won’t stop. You know those museums where you can push a button, and a voice-over plays for the exhibit? He just plays one forever, and I gradually start saying, “I got it, I got it, I got it.” Thanks to that, I know an awful lot compared to other women my age…

Shinichirô Inoue: So it made you erudite.

Maria Kawamura: I’d say I became erudite.

Shinichirô Inoue: But you were always pretty knowledgeable on cultural and art-related topics.

Maria Kawamura: Oh. Well, I did always like those.

Shinichirô Inoue: In a sense, I felt there was some feedback from you going on into the characters and their costumes in Five Star.

Maria Kawamura: Maybe. Has there been?

Mamoru Nagano: (long pause) Yeah.

(laughter)

Maria Kawamura: Oh. ‘Kay.

Mamoru Nagano: Sorry to anyone who doesn’t know. We’ve been married.

Shinichirô Inoue: Whoa, what a shocker.

(laughter)

Maria Kawamura: Now that you mention it, did we cover it in our introductions?

Mamoru Nagano: It’s actually really embarrassing. We’ve been going out since we were 17 and 19. That’s so embarrassing.

Maria Kawamura: When you spell it out like that…

(laughter)

Mamoru Nagano: People are probably wondering, “Why?”

Shinichirô Inoue: I apologize; I wasn’t sure where to bring it up. Sorry about that.

Mamoru Nagano: Yeah, anybody surprised by hearing this?

Shinichirô Inoue: Oh, there’s one.

Maria Kawamura: Someone was. Thank you, thank you. It was worth coming here for that.

Mamoru Nagano: Yeah.

Maria Kawamura: So, anyway, I’m the less knowledgeable one, but I do feel we’re both supplying what we know.

Mamoru Nagano: Ah, yes, yes, yes. I think so, yes.

Maria Kawamura: You sound like you’re just going along with this one.

Mamoru Nagano: (laughing) No, no, I really believe it.

Maria Kawamura: Things like the national aspects, the dances…

Mamoru Nagano: The dances, national aspects, fashion; there’s a bunch. We’ve got different fields of interest. Different interests. So over time, we picked up on what the other was into. And since we both have strong egos, neither of us can concede our sensibilities or thoughts, honestly.

Shinichirô Inoue: Ah, I see. But because you’re exchanging those, I think there’s some truth to it, fleshing out Five Star‘s story.

Maria Kawamura: I sure hope so.

Maria Kawamura: Yeah.

Shinichirô Inoue: Yeah. Oh, right, we still have a lot to do. On this occasion, have you already bought this? Ta-dah. [Shows volume 17 of Five Star Srtories]

(applause)

It’s out now, Five Star Stories Volume 17. I’m sure everybody already knows about it, but I think it came out just ten days ago.

Mamoru Nagano: I believe so. Five Star has this thing where the cover ends up being based on the next volume. It happened for volumes 5 and 8. Same this time, where it’s an image of volume 18.

Shinichirô Inoue: That’s true. So for everyone who went out and bought it, thank you all very much. Also, also, this book is out. Mr. Nozomu Sasaki put out Seiyu, Todai ni Iku (A Voice Actor Goes to Tokyo U). The other main character of Gothicmade, Toriharon. And this cover; the illustration.

Mamoru Nagano: Yes, yes. That one depended on when I could complete volume 17’s cover, but I got a window of time open and managed to draw it.

Shinichirô Inoue: Glad that it worked out. I believe towards the beginning, the editor placed an order like, “Please draw someone who’s like Mr. Sasaki.”

Mamoru Nagano: I’m really bad with that kind of order.

Shinichirô Inoue: (Laugh) So I’ve heard. When you aimed for Sasaki-ness, you ended up with Toriharon. Is that the story?

Mamoru Nagano: I’d been talking with Nozomu, too. “Well, Toriharon’s fine, right?” There was a conversation like that.

Shinichirô Inoue: Ah, I see. Well, Toriharon still comes off like Mr. Nozomu. He’s like his character.

Mamoru Nagano: Hmm. The man has a surprising number of aspects I could never pin down, as much as I feel like I know him.

Maria Kawamura: He always really liked studying.

Mamoru Nagano: I wouldn’t call that liking. Studying is his hobby.

Maria Kawamura: Huh?

Mamoru Nagano: Studying’s his hobby.

Maria Kawamura: Hobby… Ah! So anyway, he likes English. By the time we were doing Gothicmade, I think he’d already gotten first-class English proficiency. So I’m guessing he gained the qualifications for a National Licensed Guide Interpreter around that time. Still, post-recording, he was a regular…

Shinichirô Inoue: Talking in a mix of English and Japanese?

Maria Kawamura: Not really that; I mean, he was still a regular co-worker in the voice acting business. But, um… two years later? Was it about two years later? Since the release. Or was it the year after?

Mamoru Nagano: It was during the opening. I think I talked to him about it.

Maria Kawamura: So, the year after?

Mamoru Nagano: No, he said he’d pursue it when we met before that.

Shinichirô Inoue: So that would mean…

Maria Kawamura: Ah. He entered out of the blue.

Shinichirô Inoue: Out of the blue, right. He suddenly entered Tokyo U. It’s pretty incredible, just deciding to go to Tokyo U at 44 years old. Then actually getting in, qualifying, graduating once on top of that, and I hear he re-entered.

Maria Kawamura: Apparently, there was something he wanted to study more.

Shinichirô Inoue: That’s just how the studious Mr. Sasaki operates. It’s really, how do you say it? At age 44, that is very definitely middle age. The kind of know-how that got him into Tokyo U despite that is neat…

Mamoru Nagano: About that book. It’s nowhere in the anime corner or the manga corner because they put it with the test-taking books.

(laughter)

And it is the right season for that.

Shinichirô Inoue: True. Though I think it might fit in with the anime corner. Anyway, if any of you are interested, Mr. Sasaki wrote a book on his experiences, and it would be great if you checked it out. And now, we’re almost out of time. We definitely can’t do a Q&A today, so maybe we should leave off on something like a parting message. We have a screening coming up today. If you have any parts you want people to pay attention to. Or parts you’re especially confident about that might stand out.

Maria Kawamura: Huh?

Shinichirô Inoue: I mean something like the dance scene… you know, with Bellin.

Maria Kawamura: Oh, right?

Shinichirô Inoue: Well, that’s just one example. If there’s any place you’d like the audience to watch closely, Ms. Kawamura.

Maria Kawamura: Ah, yes. Well, there is that scene where Bellin is planting seeds. The song ended up being completed first, and Ms. Kadokami primarily did the… key animation, right? She primarily drew the key animation for that part…

Mamoru Nagano: Not just primarily, all of it.

Maria Kawamura: Oh, all of it. Pardon me. So we were talking about how to make it look. And she ended up asking, “Would you mind doing a dance?”

Shinichirô Inoue: At the Kadokawa 2nd Headquarter Building.

Mamoru Nagano: Just someone dancing on the 2nd Headquarter’s roof while an animator sketched them.

Maria Kawamura: On a sunny day, we played the song, and I held a basket, dancing while Ms. Kadokami sketched away, determined.

Shinichirô Inoue: It’s great how instead of taking a video, she just drew it (laugh)

Maria Kawamura: (laugh) It’s how we capture that analog feeling, yes.

Mamoru Nagano: It would have been one shot with a smartphone.

Maria Kawamura: Did we have smartphones then?

Mamoru Nagano: You had one.

Maria Kawamura: Oh, I guess I did. Pardon, pardon. I couldn’t handle it yet.

Shinichirô Inoue: I feel that’s what makes it good. The 2nd Headquarter roof also had a fair amount of flowers.

Maria Kawamura: Right, right. That is true.

Shinichirô Inoue: The Kadokawa 2nd Headquarter building has this – it’s like a garden with flowers. It happened to work visually as a location.

Maria Kawamura: It’s arranged like a courtyard. And so, I danced there, not sure, and asked, “Is this good?” Really, what blew me away was… I have this habit of bending my wrists like this when I dance. All of that was captured, leaving me thinking, “Animators are great. Animators are scary.”

Shinichirô Inoue: Their observation skills are incredible.

Mamoru Nagano: Well, there aren’t many like that, even among animators. The results were pretty engrossing. Like rotoscoping. Not really rotoscoping, but like rotoscoping.

Maria Kawamura: Her brain has an internal rotoscoping and touch-up process, you mean. That’s an area Ms. Kadokami excels in; it left me in awe that she could recreate so much.

Shinichirô Inoue: Right. So in the upcoming screening, please watch for and give attention to those super animator skills. As for you, Director Nagano?

Mamoru Nagano: If I so much as see one scene, I go, “Yup, retake. Yup, retake. Yup, retake.” I’ll start talking about redoing every cut, seriously. When it comes to parts I’d recommend… it is tough to choose outside business talks. This one’s just a little over 60 minutes, a 70-minute or so film. There are people who tell me they like my complicated and mysterious Five Star Stories. But unlike that, this one cleanly wraps up a four-part story structure in 60 minutes. As far as I’m concerned, you don’t need to know anything else. There’s just footage of a guy and a girl and this robot that shows up for a short time. Other than that, when it comes to Japanese movies and Japanese animation, whether it was because they couldn’t focus their strengths on it, or we didn’t have someone pointing this part out, or there just wasn’t anybody who wanted to do it… as much as I hate to word it like that. The sound, which had been phoned in up until now. Even though there’s such a gigantic thing moving, it just goes, “Clang, clunk, clang, clunk.” Once in a while, an enthusiast type will talk about, for example, if something properly distinguishes the sound between a blowback and a gas blowback gun… There are some works that give handguns, rifles, and cannons their own different sounds. Instead of those details, we focused on the overall sound and realism since, to be frank, this movie was blessed with a budget for that, so we wanted to push it as far as it could go. As a result, we’ve gotten excited reactions from everybody on how the acoustics are great, including sounds they’d never heard before. And I feel very proud hearing that we delivered an entertaining sound experience, yeah.

Shinichirô Inoue: In that case– thank you for all that. In that case, I hope you’ll all give it a thorough listen. And now we’re about out of time, so I’d like to do a photo session with the three of us and wrap up here. Leaving the microphones on the chairs is fine. Shall we stand?

All right, we’d like to move on to the photo session. Just leave the mics there.

Maria Kawamura: Oh, I’ll put it down. It’s fine, it’s fine. I didn’t get the chance to ask this, but… what was it like producing this project?

Shinichirô Inoue: (laugh) That’s a big one.

Maria Kawamura: Being the one forced to shoulder this ordeal.

Shinichirô Inoue: (laugh) I didn’t think it would take so long.

(laughter)

But it was fun doing it, watching it happen.

Mamoru Nagano: Were you aiming for this answer?

Maria Kawamura: No, I wasn’t. Everyone on the staff was united as one to make this, while the rest of us were just [something loudly hits the mic] in many ways. So I wanted to know how our biggest shareholder felt.

Mamoru Nagano: Thank you very much.

Maria Kawamura: Thank you very much.

Shinichirô Inoue: To you as well for making it. I forgot to mention this the whole time, but the serialization under Newtype, I’d been working for a long time next to the editorial department that serializes Five Star Stories. What was fun about that was every year, we’d have things like birthday parties, and I’d get to eat cake there with Mr. Nagano. Or, in this case, director Nagano. I always looked forward to having cake every year in that place, personally.

Mamoru Nagano: While this movie, even though it was made in the 2000s, I think the mood in the studio really managed to maintain the mood of the 1980s. Hope you enjoy it.

Shinichirô Inoue: So with that…

Maria Kawamura: Thank you very much.

Translation by Kent Salvatore

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