Sakura-con 2019: Code Geass Interview

Sakuracon 2019 – Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection Creative Staff Interview

By Sean Cruz & Jun Hong Pua

Japan-A-Radio was part of a group interview with the creative team behind the Code Geass – Lelouch of the Re;surrection movie, including Goro Taniguchi (Director), Yuriko Chiba (Main Animator & Character Designer), Eiji Nakada (Main Animator & Mechanical Designer) & Kojiro Taniguchi (Sunrise Producer) during Sakuracon this past weekend. After starting off with some comments about their thoughts on Seattle, including the weather, scenery, food and beer amongst other things, we got down to business regarding Code Geass:

Q: Why continue the story of Code Geass? How much more of the story is there to tell?

K. Taniguchi (KT): Ever since the TV series was created, we planned with Director Taniguchi to create a 'media mix', that is, creating a variety of different works. Although we wanted it to be uncertain whether or not Lelouch, the main character, died at the end of the TV series, somehow the fans in Japan believed that he died. So in order to continue for the next 10 years we thought we needed to resurrect Lelouch.

G. Taniguchi (GT): We had wanted the viewer to decide if he was dead or not, we wanted to leave it vague, but there's a huge risk in him being dead, and that wasn't what we wanted, so we tried to correct it.

KT: Our dream is for Code Geass to keep going, and as for how long it continues that really is up to the fans. Is this movie a new starting point?

KT: Yes, exactly.

What was the most difficult part in getting this film ready?

GT: It's been 10 years since we made the first series. The image of all the various characters, including Lelouch have changed and diverged, not only to the fans, but also to the staff. We needed time to unify the images again.
What about for the characters?

Y. Chiba (YC): It was hard. As Taniguchi-san stated, the image of Lelouch changed, the fans began taking Lelouch into a more manga like direction, so we needed to make his image more realistic without breaking the image of the viewers.

E. Nakata (EN): During the TV series, all the mecha were drawn by hand. This time, for the movie, we decided to mix 3D CG and hand drawn art. It was a challenge to make the blending of the two styles look good, so that it didn't look odd when the styles co existed in the same frame.

KT: There's about 100 anime series airing in Japan right now, that's a large volume, and tastes keep changing. It was extremely hard keeping Code Geass as a series popular over the last 10 years, it was a real challenge. This time, being a sequel to something from 10 years ago, promotion & marketing was a difficult challenge. The most challenging aspect was that the main character was “dead”, so not being able to use the protagonist, who was the most popular character, in the promotional material, was the biggest challenge.

With such a large volume, how can the anime industry evolve to alleviate the issues like overwork? Has that changed over the 10 years since the original Code Geass?

KT: In Sunrise, we are also concerned with maintaining work-life balance. Another problem is that, in the end, to pay the creators, a system has to be created for fans to be able to pay, and that's what we need to think about too. In Japan alone, free content is freely available, and we at Sunrise have to think about how we can create content fans will pay for. Sorry I became too serious. (laughs)

GT: I think the staff have an ordinary workload, in fact, production by Japanese anime production companies have gone down. For example, companies like Toei and Production IG their are few productions coming from those companies. Having a better work-life balance is something that is still in progress and changing in Japan right now.

Why did you decide to keep Shirley alive in the recap movies? Without her death, isn't a large part of Lelouch's motivation for revenge against the Geass organization removed?

GT: There are 2 reasons. One, there is still the motivation from Euphemia's death. Two, we decided that alone was sufficient for the movies. For Shirley, the more air time we give her, the more it becomes a story about Lelouch and Shirley, which is not direction we want. This time, Shirley represents the peaceful everyday life in the story.

Is there a reason the new format is a movie instead of a TV series? Is that related to the comment about creating content fans will pay for?

KT: Yes, that was a factor.

GT: Compared to 10 years ago, the anime fans in Japan now prefer this format of production. That's why they don't watch TV as much. There are plenty of Anime fans from the rest of the world who prefer the TV series format, and in that case, we have to consider a platform like Netflix. This time, we wanted to make sure Japanese anime fans watched it, so it became a movie.

Sunrise has had success making movie series, like Gundam Unicorn. Is Code Geass going to become a movie series, or is move a one-off?

KT: That's still a secret (laughs). There's are differences between Gundam content and Code Geass content. Code Geass is designed to be accessible to viewers of the present era. We will continue to strive to make it accessible for the current generation.

There was an increase in the amount of fan service from R1 to R2. Does that continue in the movie, and why?

KT: How do you define fan service?

G: In terms of the fan service increasing from R1 to R2, yes, you ar right. The thing is that the broadcast time slot changed in Japan between seasons. We did that to make it more accessible to viewers in the new timeslot. For movies, we had the same mindset. It's not so much about fanservice as it is a different kind of enjoyment. I don't think the level of enjoyment has been reduced, if anything, we upped the level of enjoyment.

Are the recap movies more of a side story or alternate canon, rather than a retelling or recap of the original series?

GT: It's been 10 years since the anime originally aired. We would love to have new fans, but making people have to watch the original series would be sad, so that's why we made a 3-part movie series recapping the story. So the TV series is it's own thing and the movies are their own thing so in a sense those are thought of as different works. A similar thing was done with the Gundam movies, the series was already out so when it came time to make the movies it was made into a 3-part series with some changes, so that's what we did with Code Geass as well.

Is there any chance of a life-action Code Geass movie?

KT: Not really (laughs).

GT: There has been a stage production of Code Geass. so, if there's a proposal for that, it is a possibility.

KT: And if, like for Gundam, if Legendary comes knocking, we'd do it.

Are there other projects that you all work together, other than Code Geass and Maria the Virgin Witch?

GT: Other that those, Planetes... In the end we kind of choose who we feel will do the best work for the given production, and so I know them very well and can trust them so that's why we end up together a lot. So for the Code Geass movie production I combined staff members from my previous works including Gun X Sword and Eureka Seven and put those two teams together to work on Code Geass. As for Maria the Virgin Witch, that show had a different kind of philosophy so in addition to my fellow staff members here, I recruited some different members for that production.

GT: I actually have a question. In Maria the Virgin Witch, we did our best to recreate combat from the middle ages. How did it turn out?

They succeeded, very much so.

EN: I studied western swordplay.

Wow. It shows, it shows.

EN: Thank you very much.

When you make something related to martial arts, would you investigate it yourself or get others to do that?

GT: Probably, within the members here, Nakata-san would go to the dojo and learn the arts, and Chiba-san would draw while watching him do martial arts.

EN: For Code Geass, when the characters fight, I would play out both of the fighters, and Chiba-san would draw how it looks like.

Why is there a semicolon in the title?

All: (laughs)

GT: The last episode of the R2 TV series had a semicolon in the subtitle (Re;). This semicolon is just serving as a continuation of that. Although the movie doesn't directly continue from R2. We wanted to include a message for fans who enjoyed the original series that they can continue to enjoy this movie.

There is a general trend of anime studios remaking or continuing older properties. What are your thoughts on that?

GT: I'll talk only about the Japanese market. There are two reasons. One, in Japanese culture, there's an element where we like to go back to a certain era and go back and put it into or organize it into a tight format. Two, people who watched the shows when they were young are now working. They have more financial freedom, so it's easier to create related productions for them to support. However, there are also many productions for new properties being created. Although there are old properties that are more well-known, they are not the only productions.

Which do you prefer to work on? More bombastic productions like Code Geass, or more subdued ones like Planetes or Maria?

GT: It's probably better for each of us to give their own opinions. As for myself, I like working on anything that's enjoyable. Whether it's flashy action or intimate drama, both are enjoyable. That's why I like working on both.

YC: For me, whether it's Code Geass, Planetes or Maria, there's not much of a difference. What I mean is that the character conflicts present in Taniguchi's works are very deep. Drawing them is very enjoyable. That doesn't really change no matter the production, so they'll are all very enjoyable.

EN: For me, most of the scenes I'm responsible for have lots of action. There are scenes with flashy action, and there are scenes like in Maria that are not as flashy, but are more realistic. Both kinds are interesting. Shows like Planetes, although there's little action, there are strong themes you can work with. If you can immerse yourself in the work, it will be interesting to me.

When you knew that you will be continuing the story of Code Geass, returning to the old characters, how did you feel?

GT: (laughs)

EN: Why are you laughing?

GT: About 50/50, I'm very happy, but also worried, like 'What should I do?'. What worries me is that, unlike making the last series, in the 10 years since, I need to figure out how the fans feel and understand the setting now, that's why it's difficult. Fans might not want this, and it's ok, but if fans are cheering on for this production, we cannot ignore them.

YC: When I knew I would be participating in the production of this movie, I felt honoured and blessed and I enjoyed making it.

NT: I had the same feelings as the director. I needed to create new designs for new knightmare frames. I love Code Geass, and not just about creating it I'm also a fan of the world and the story. There are good things, things that I want to see, but are they also what fans want to see? Where can I fit them? Will fans appreciate them? I can't stop thinking about those things, that's why it's so difficult. As a fan of code geass it was tough but getting a chance to work on Code Geass was a fond experience.

From Left to Right: Eiji Nakada, Yuriko Chiba, Goro Taniguchi, & Kojiro Taniguchi
From Left to Right: Eiji Nakada, Yuriko Chiba, Goro Taniguchi, & Kojiro Taniguchi

Final Statements

KT: The movie is showing in America on May 5th (Sub), May 7th and May 8th (Dub). I hope American fans who watch Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection will also watch Lelouch of the Rebellion one more time and enjoy it, and also think on what you want to see in the Code Geass world from hereon in.

All: Thank You!