Sakuracon 2012 - Gen Urobuchi, Katsushi Ota, Atsuhiro Iwakami Fan Q & A Panel

Fate/Zero and Madoka writer Gen Urobuchi, producer Atsuhiro Iwakami and light novel publisher Katsushi Ota led a packed panel Friday at Sakuracon. A life-size Charlotte cosplayer drew gasps from the crowd and had to stop for pictures. Aniplex staff asked the crowd if they could take a picture of them before getting the panel underway.

A short demo reel of Aniplex's titles played before introductions of the main guests.

Gen Urobuchi: Hello Sakura-con! My name is Gen Urobuchi. I originally used to be a game script writer but Katsushi Ota told me to start writing other stuff and then Iwakami saw my work and before I knew it I was doing anime screenplays.

Katsushi Ota: Hello! I am Katushi Ota, I've been Urobuchi's editor for eight years now. I never thought we'd be travelling to the States this way, talking to everyone. It's a pleasant surprise, thank you.

Atsuhiro Iwakami: Hello, I am the anime producer Iwakami. I'm glad to be here in Seattle and talking to everyone. I see some Kyubey's and Charlottes. I'm happy to be here with everyone.

A short demo reel of Aniplex's titles which the guests were involved in then played after their introductions. Many of the questions ended up being for Mr. Urobuchi.

A warm-up question started the Q&A session.

Q: What are your first impressions of America and Sakura-con?

Urobuchi: This is my first time in the states and Seattle is my first experience here. I am very impressed on how pretty and clean the city is. I am having a wonderful time here. Everyone is having a great time and the cosplayers are having a lot of fun. I will allow myself to enjoy the cosplay and festivities here for the next three days.

Ota: I love everyone's energy. It's the energy Japanese anime and manga fans are shy to show.

Iwakami: I just got here this morning so I haven't been able to look around as much as the others. But I see that everyone here enjoys Japanese anime, video games and comics. It's very encouraging. It really encourages me as a producer.The panel opened for questions creating a line wrapping back around the room.

Q: In Fate/Zero, there are so many characters that stand out so much more than the main characters. I wonder, are you surprised by how characters like Waver or Rider might resonate more than Saber would? Do you find it surprising characters can take on a life of their own and be more popular?

Urobuchi: I am very happy to hear your comment. The more supporting role a character has, the less important they are to the main character, and they have more freedom to be themselves. That's how I enjoy letting them reign.

Q: Mr. Urobuchi – can you elaborate more on the Exiled from Paradise Toei film project that was announced at TAF?

Urobuchi: There are a lot of gag orders coming from Toei, but I can say it will be science-fiction.

Q: I played your game Saya no Uta. It was very disturbing. What was the inspiration?

Urobuchi: I always loved to read H.P. Lovecraft but before I started on Saya no Uta my company got a new writer who created Demonbane. Saya no Uta was the first Clthulu-based game. It got so popular that it became a gateway to the Clthulu mythos for new fans. It was based on the August Derleth representation of Clthulu instead of Lovecraft so I didn't care for it as much. So I wanted the Clthulu mythos of Lovecraft to be the basis of Saya no Uta.

Q: Regarding Fate/Zero, is it difficult to create an interesting story for fans when we already know the ending of the story?

Urobuchi: I've been a big fan of Fate/stay night myself. When I create a story I always have the ending in mind so it isn't difficult but it was important to create surprising moments for fans. The story in Fate/stay night is fragmented so there is room for expansion.

Q: Have you been to the Good Smile Cafe and have you met Kinoko Nasu at the Good Smile Cafe?

Urobuchi: I went there with Kinoko Nasu.

Ota: It's a wonderful place, I hope you can visit.

Iwabuchi: The Akihabara one is far so I didn't go to that one, but they're doing a Fate/Zero exhibit so that's when I went there.

Q: Where did you get the inspiration to create the witch barriers?

Iwakami: This was made by Inucurry and was not even in Urobuchi's script. It was something Inucurry came up with on his own. It was a collaboration of all the artists and it came together in one explosion that was the success of Madoka Magica.

Q: Light novels aren't translated in America like manga is, have you looked into avenues for light novels to be translated like manga, digitally or physically?

Urobuchi: Right before this panel we went to Barnes and Noble and were surprised at the breadth of selection. We thought the print selection was dying in America but the book store showed otherwise. I told Ota we need to rethink our strategy.

Ota: This is exactly what we were talking about just minutes ago. Urobuchi used to be against the idea because Fate/stay night hasn't been translated yet so he didn't like the idea of a prequel being translated first but perhaps with the popularity of Fate/Zero and the novels getting popular that could be the gateway to the original being translated. Bringing the novels then might be a good idea.

Q: You've said the character of Kyubey doesn't understand human emotions, so is he evil or amorphous in terms of his thought processes?

Urobuchi: In H.P. Lovecraft the creatures are the same as Kyubey in that they are uninterested in humans. He isn't evil, it is his lack of feelings that makes him scary.

Q: In the scene between Saber, Rider (Alexander the Great) and Gilgamesh where they discuss what a king really is, were any of your views represented in that scene?

Urobuchi: Rider is the third kind of king that is not seen in Fate/stay night, which only has Saber and Gilgamesh so that was the type of king he represented. So Rider says things that Saber would never consider. As for me, I've never been in the position of king.

Q: Madoka is considered a deconstruction of magic girl shows. Are there any other genres you'd be interested in doing a deconstruction of?

Iwakami: Deconstruction wasn't necessarily the intent rather it was a way to surprise the audience, and the combination of Urobuchi san and Aoki Ume's character design was certainly one way. Keeping the audience puzzled about how the story will develop is something we certainly intended. Now if we look at other genres Evangelion was certainly a deconstruction of the giant robot genre, I think going this way is a good thing.

Urobuchi: It was not my intent to go about Madoka Magica with the deconstruction of the magical girl genre, but if that it the result in my involvement then perhaps all the scripts I write will be deconstructions.After the last question the panel raffled off Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero merchandise before giving a last message to the fans.

Urobuchi: I'm impressed by the turnout for the panel as well as the question line. Fans expect so much from my work and I'd like to live up to your expectations and keep on writing good scripts.

Ota: I hope you don't just write scripts but write novels for me too (laughs). Sometimes I'm credited as a supervisor or a producer but I consider myself an editor. Sometimes a super producer like Iwakami collaborates with us and that lets us come here to Seattle. Thank you all for your support.

Iwakami: Sometimes Urobuchi works with Ota, Urobuchi works with me, or Ota works with me but Fate/Zero is the first show that all three of us collaborated on. Tomorrow there will be a screening of Fate/Zero with episodes 14 and 15 that have not aired yet. Sakura-Con will be first in the world to see this. They will be subbed in English, the Aniplex team went without sleep to bring them to you. Please enjoy.