Sakura-Con 2014: Attack on Titan Press Interview

Japan-A-Radio was invited to take part in a press conference with some of the creative staff behind the smash hit anime series Attack on Titan. Clockwise from top left: Tetsuya Kinoshita (Producer), Yui Ishikawa (Mikasa), Tetsuya Nakatake (Co-Founder, WIT Studio/Animation Producer). Kyoji Asano (Art Director/Designer)

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Q: What difficulties did you have as a new studio in adapting Attack on Titan?

Kyoji Asano (KA) & Tetsuya Nakatake (TN): We worked together on Sengoku Basara at production I.G., then we pitched this new title, we went to Mainichi Broadcasting Systems, Production I.G, Pony Canyon, then we further pitched the project as Production I.G. Before changing to WIT Studio.

Q: Did you expect it to be such a worldwide hit?

TN: We didn't expect the popularity of the show to be so big, but the manga was already well known.

KA: Lots of people were watching, we thought that if there was somewhere that people could buy our products we could maintain the quality of the show.

Q: What challenges were there in bringing the show to life?

TN: Araki-San (Director) had a big say in how to bring it to life. We used the manga as a base and inspiration. In terms of the music the manga writer (Isayaka-San) wrote the lyrics and Araki-San had input as well.

Q: How long did the voiceover for each episode take?

Yui Ishikawa (YI): We start voicing each episode about 2 months prior to the airdate, it takes about 3-4 hours per episode, the full cast comes in, and we get to see how the previous episdoes have done, the reaction to it, we're all kind of nervous when we see the reaction to previous episodes.

Tetsuya Kinoshita (TK): In the first episode we already knew people were going to die so it was very tense in the studio!

Q: What challenges did you face with such a big project?

TN: We didn't think the show would be that big. One of the challenges that we faced was that the images in the manga were quite strong, so how do we convert that? In the end we used more colors, used bigger, fatter lines to make it more vibrant. The animators suffered through a lot of work. In the end we overcame the challenges that made the production stronger and made us better.

Q: How did you plan on revealing the clues to the titan's identites when planning the anime?

TN: We drew the titans from the perspective of Isayama-san and Araki-san. We didn't change the expression of the titans. Araki-san expressed the fact that the titans are unpredictable, they have no set goal. There is also fear... the titans are (mostly) old naked men!

TK: Lots of thought went into the story, we had Acts 1, 2, 3... we had to plan it out like a western project, like a stage play. With 25 episoes we had to add some original content as well, and that was intentionally played out.

Q: Mikasa as seen as a strong female figure, is girl power something you were going for with the project?

TK: Not really, the simple answer is that in the adaptation process it turned into that, girl power, strong female characters became one of the themes. Isayama-san actually tried to remove the sexual tension that ended up in the anime.

Q: How do you like Seattle? What have you tried to eat, have you seen the sights?

TN: It's my first time in Seattle, the ocean is close, there's lots of hills... its very photogenic, I'd love to come back. Also, the deliciousness of the meat and shrimp is important to note as well.

KA: It's my first time as well, I want to eat crab. We went to the space needle, the view was great. I'd like to go to a Seattle Mariners game as well.

YI: There seems to be a higher level of intimacy among the anime fans in America, its something I noticed. It was surreal to eat a california roll, something Japanese that's been westernized. I haven't tried any yet, but my friends tell me the seafood here is to die for!

TK: I think they covered all the bases.

Q: What other career path would you choose if you weren't in animation?

(There was a long period of silence as they all comtemplated the question.)

TN: I love animation and games, if I weren't in animation I would have joined Nintendo.

KA: When I was younger I wanted to be a soccer player, but in reality I would be working in a factory.

YI: Since I was very young I was always in theatre, I couldn't see myself as an office lady. I will always want to return to actiong.

TK: Before this job I had an assembly line job which was recommended by my counsellor.

Q: Some of the promos for Attack on Titan are a bit unusual, can you elaborate on that process?

TK: A usual marketing collaboration is with a local convienence store, but that didn't work out, other brands started to contact us for collaboration opportunites when the series got popular.

Q: What are your thoughts on streaming and other changes in the industry?

TK: Fansubs produce good content, we have to beat it and make it better. The question then becomes how can we sell merchandise and figures in an official manner and how can we use the internet as a tool for promoting that. Since we're on an island, everything produced in Japan has a lag, so how do we reduce the lag?

Q: Is there any more Attack on Titan animation being planned?

TK: There are two films coming up, "Guren no Yumiya" in the winter of 2014 and "Jiyuu no Tsubasa" in 2015. They are essentially re-tellings, abridged versions of the TV series on film. A continuation of the story in anime form might come after. The first season of Attack on Titan took three years of preparation, so to the fans we can only say hang tight and wait a little longer.

Q: For the new projects will there be original content or will you re-use clips from the show?

TK: Lots of re-touching has been done for the Blu-Ray release, I would be surprised if there was brand new animation for the movies.

Q: What final words do you have for us and for your fans in Seattle?

TN: Thank you very much for spending your time with us. Thanks to Attack on Titan we've been able to travel to Seattle. We have lots of thoughts and ideas from your questions, we hope to come back after our next project.

KA: I've been meeting with fans and am very thankful of US support after coming to Sakura-Con.

YI: I'd like to give thanks to Attack on Titan and fans around the world. I'm happy to engage fans around the world, the anime viewers take in the energy from Attack on Titan. I spoke to Levi's voice actor before I came (Hiroshi Kamiya), and he said that this is not a phenomenon that's unique to Japan. I hope that the new English dub version will engage new fans of the show.

TK: There were a lot of unexpected problems that came up during the production of the show, but our fans took it almost as a positive. I'm greatful for their support.