Sakura-Con 2019 - The Promised Neverland Interview

Sakuracon 2019 – The Promised Neverland Interview

By Sean Cruz, Matthew Fu, Jun Hong Pua & Lisa Su

Japan-A-Radio was part of a group interview with the creative team behind The Promised Neverland, including Mamoru Kanbe (Director), Sumire Morohoshi (Voice Actress, Emma), Shinobu Ono (Cloverworks Producer), & Kenta Suzuki (Aniplex Producer), during Sakura-Con 2019 this past weekend.


Q1: What are your thoughts regarding the western reception for The Promised Neverland?

Morohoshi: I’m very happy, this is my first time attending a US event and because it's my first time, I haven't had the opportunity to experience how much American fans enjoy the show. Coming here and seeing it for the first time allows me to realize what a wide world it is and I'm very happy to come here and see it and experience it directly.

Kanbe: I’m honestly surprised. The show is made for the Japanese audience in mind, I'm surprised that it carried over so well to the overseas audience. Ono: I was very happy when I first heard. We had created a story that we believed would be pretty popular in Japan, when we were working on it we aimed for a very high animation quality and we achieved that, but hearing that it’s well-received in the US as well, I'm very pleased.

Suzuki: I’m also quite happy. (laughs) In Japan, most fans had the opportunity to read the manga first, so the series is a manga to anime adaptation and we were thinking of it in that way; however, a lot of the viewers, especially overseas, may have seen it as an anime first and then realized that it was based off a manga, so I wonder if watching the anime first was a more shocking way for them to enter the story, and I'm enjoying imagining that.

Q2: The animation quality is very high in the show, was it difficult to blend the 3DCG and the 2D, were there any new techniques you used or has it been evolving over time?

Ono: The entire Grace Field House, including the interior, was modeled in 3D. Also all of the backgrounds were modeled in 3D as well. It allowed us to make all kinds of shots.

Kanbe: Regarding the difference between 2D and 3D there are always going to be slightly differences and there's no way around that, but in order to decrease the visual effect of it as much as possible, we applied specific filters to the 2D animation during filming to blend it as seamlessly as possible.

Q3: What was the single biggest challenge in creating the show?

Morohoshi: A big challenge of playing the role of Emma, was that she is from a popular manga series and I’m sure everyone has their own mental image of her already. So I had to embody and voice Emma in a way that people were already thinking of. I felt great pressure to meet those expectations. In terms of my actual performance of Emma, I tried to be as straightforward as possible. She's a very straightforward character and that's a big mark of her personality.

As opposed to having one fixed way for portraying the character I tried to be flexible and change how she is portrayed as the series progresses as there are a lot of twists and turns in the story. I wanted to be able to act out those developments in my portrayal of Emma and to give a performance that would be fun and interesting to the viewers.

Kanbe: The setting was made in 3D which allowed for things that couldn’t have been done normally, but then I had to plan and make use of all those shots during production which made it challenging. For example, in 2D you can't pan and zoom at the same time, but in 3D you can, so we had to plan around that. We used a lot of those kinds of shots and camera motion without making it look too unnatural.

The 2nd biggest challenge for me is that the manga is very good and very popular. This might sound a little weird, but because the manga was so popular I tried not to insert myself too much into the work. I pulled myself back and tried to get as many opinions as possible and looking at the entirety of the animation and so it no longer feels like my work in a sense.

Ono: Around 70% of the story happens in the house, it was my first time creating a 3D model like that and also having the story take place extensively in the house. From my point of view, it was extremely difficult to judge how much time the 3D modeling was going to take at the start of the schedule and I wanted to make sure that we stayed on schedule, but it was hard to stay on schedule with the large unknown of how long the 3D modeling was going to take at the start of production.

Suzuki: My biggest challenge was the promotional side of things. How do I promote this world and make it interesting without mentioning the monsters in the story because we wanted to keep it a secret? There is a large contrast between the first part of the first episode and the end of the first episode, so that influenced how we created the trailers. As the show progressed, that dictated how we released information about the show as it was airing and it was important to control what info was released and when.

Q4: Did you ever feel limited by the scale of the world? Outside of Grace Field House the world that we've seen so far is rather small.

Ono: Because we were working on the production and because we knew how the story would progress, we actually felt that the narrowness of the world served the story very well, in that the kids are trying to escape from this small, narrow world. I would say that the size of the world so far is just about right, we didn't particularly feel restricted by the fact that the world the kids inhabit is small.

The House was the perfect size for the story, to have a small world. It’s more interesting that way and it didn’t feel restricted at all.

Q5: A 2nd season was recently announced for release in 2020. Do you have plans to be adapting the entire story through to the end?

Suzuki: So right now we are working on the 2nd season of The Promised Neverland, and the original manga is still ongoing. For the first season we stayed true to the story of the manga, we left the story more or less unchanged, but in the 2nd season I think we're going to have more flexibility in how we portray the story that's in the manga. Of course we can't say for sure how that is going to work because we're still working on it, none of it is quite fixed for the moment so there is a chance we will deviate from the manga but we can't say for sure yet.

We would like to create an anime that is interesting because of it's different approaches than the manga, for example the art style is a bit different and the way the story develops and is revealed is a bit different than from the manga. I cannot say at this point that we are going to adapt the story to the very end, so I'm sorry I can't fully answer your question, but we are making an anime that will be interesting, enjoyable, and fun to watch for both its similarities and differences to the manga, so please look forward to that.

Q6: There is a large cast of characters on the show, with even the minor characters being very integral to the plot of the show. How do you balance giving all the characters the requisite amount of screen time?

Kanbe: First of all, Emma, Ray and Norman, the three main characters are geniuses and the show revolves around them, but two of the minor characters, Don and Gilda, actually have the most character development in the show, and they are partly representative of the rest of the supporting cast over the first twelve episodes. After that you have Phil and the little kids, and with them what I tried to do as Director is include them in as many scenes as possible. Even if they don't have central roles in that scene, I wanted to show them so that Emma's resolution of wanting to save all the kids is reinforced and makes sense; and that the viewers are on her side, so I made an effort to show them as much as possible.

We'd like to thank Aniplex of America for the opportunity to interview The Promised Neverland team. The show is streaming on Crunchyroll, FunimationNow, HIDIVE and Hulu and the dubbed version is airing Saturday evenings on Toonami.