Sakura-Con 2014: Magi Press Interview

At Sakura-Con 2014, Japan-A-Radio was granted a press interview with some of the creative staff behind the Magi TV anime series, including Director Koji Masunari, Character Designer Toshifumi Akai, and Aniplex Producer Shunsuke Saito.

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Q: In Read or Die, you said that you would not have worked on the show if the main character was a male, could you expand on that?

Koji Masunari (KM): Originally in Read or Die the protagonist was supposed to be a male but during pre-production it was changed to a female so I was happy about that, basically I made a joke about that in an interview and played it out.

Q: What challenges were there in producing Magi season 2 after a successful first season?

KM: Since the staff got acclimated to the production in season 1 we can carry on that comfort that we developed in season 2. We started off in a very good way... perhaps Mr. Akai can comment on how the art style changed for season 2.

Toshifumi Akai (TA): The art style in the manga changed over time so the art in the anime had to change as well, I followed up with that and changed the character style and added my own style as well.

Q: Magi is a series with a lot of characters, many of them prominent. What particular challenges did you have in bringing those characters to life as opposed to shows with very few characters.

KM: There are times where there are 6-7 principal characters on scene at one time, I can only tell the animation staff to keep up the good work as its very difficult.

TA: I had to make sure that the characters who don't have a lot of screen time looked good as well.

Q: Do anime studios make niche titles with America in mind?

KM: It depends on the nature of the title. Read or Die was made with an American audience in mind, while a show like Kamichu was made with a Japanese audience in mind, with Japanese consumption in mind and Magi was based off a pre-existing work and depends on what the producer had in mind so maybe the producer can elaborate.

Shunsuke Saito (SS): We thought that Magi had the potential to be like a popular Shonen Jump title, like the next Bleach, Naruto, One Piece or Full Metal Alchemist. Aniplex of America also pushed really hard for Magi and was really looking forward to it, so it was a title with an American audience in mind.

Q: What are your thoughts on Sakura-Con?

KM: The biggest surprise for me, having been to American conventions before is that the cosplay has become very refined. It makes me glad to see that everyone is having a good time.

TA: This is my first time in the U.S. It makes me feel like a country bumpkin, so everything feels new to me.

SS: Compared to 4-5 years ago fans are much more “real-time” compared to their Japanese peers, possibly due to more shows being simulcast and you can see that in what cosplayers do in their costumes reflecting recent shows and shows that are currently on air.

Q: With season 2 of Magi having just wrapped up, I believe the Adventures of Sinbad is next, but what's next for Magi?

SS: The Adventures of Sinbad will be released as a OAD (Original Animation DVD) and will not be broadcast. The main story of Magi is still TBD.

Q: What are your personal impressions of American fans at Sakura-con and of Seattle?

KM: Good meat.

SS: Local brews are also good, I'd like to take some back if you have any recommendations. I would also add that the diversity in American cosplayers is something that Japanese cosplayers would have a hard time competing against.

TA: The hospitality is better here than in Japan. Also, in Japan the fans generally like voice actors except for the animation Otaku, while in America the fans show much more interest in the creative staff.

Have you been sightseeing in Seattle?

KM: I need to go to a video game store to pick up the latest copy of Madden NFL.

TA: I want to go shopping downtown.

SS: I want to see the ocean.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you wanted Magi to become the next Naruto, Bleach, One Piece. What steps do you need to take to reach that level of popularity?

SS: It's not so much specific steps we need to take. We need to appeal to the anime fans if there is no comic being released. There is potential for the show so we need to encourage the staff to make a good show. One challenge is the time slot we chose on Japanese TV. Sunday at 5pm is a favorable broadcast spot in Japan. The late night hours tend to be for older audiences, but we wanted Magi to be seen by a broader audience.

Q: When working with different staff members, does what they worked on previously matter? What's the most important thing to you during the course of a production.

TA: Titles are important, but respect with colleagues with something to note.

KM: I need to like the principal characters, cute is good, action is also good too. I'm a fan of mellow, slice of life anime.

SS: Sales is important so I need to choose titles that make a profit. I love any genre of anime.

Q: Is this what you envisioned doing for work, and what titles influenced you?

KM: I recently found a 4th grade essay that said I wanted to be a carpenter, so I guess I would be doing that if I wasn't in anime. The anime Space Runaway Ideon was the reason why I got into anime.

TA: My childhood dream was to make a living doing nothing. Macross 7 and Evangelion were the titles that got me into anime.

SS: I always wanted to be in the entertainment industry so if I wasn't doing this I'd be doing something else in entertainment.

We like to thank Sakura-Con and Aniplex of America for allowing us the opportunity to interview the creative staff behind the Magi TV Anime Series.