Hello Reddit! I am Sunao Katabuchi, director & writer of Black Lagoon & Mai Mai Miracle! AMA!
EDIT: Thank you Reddit for all your questions! It's been great but I have to get to work now - it's after 9am here in Tokyo. Thanks for coming along.
Hello everyone! This is Sunao Katabuchi, assistant director on Kiki's Delivery Service, writer and director of Black Lagoon and Mai Mai Miracle.
This is my first AMA and I'll be here answering your questions for an hour (it's 8am in Tokyo!). The answers will be posted by an interpreter but all answers will come from me. It may take a bit longer than you're used to so bear with us!
My film Mai Mai Miracle is currently crowdfunding an English language version for release in the UK, US, ROI and Canada. Please check out the link below.
Proof it's me (links from the people at Anime Limited)! https://twitter.com/AllTheAnime/status/439167241775767552
Link to Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/alltheanime/mai-mai-miracle
I would love to make the choice but Im waiting for the manga to end. But my wish for Hiroe-sensei is for him to take time to draw what he wants to instead of trying to finish it quickly
Black Lagoon is quite violent at times, have you ever run into problems with the censors?
I actually didn't really consider any censorship because the violence in it was something necessary to complete the work and we have worked to convince the television station with that reason.
Thank you Reddit for all your questions! It's been great but I have to get to work now - it's 9am here in Tokyo. Thanks for coming along.
What advice would you give to a first-time screenwriter?
I think it is most important to understand people. Try to have imagination that can expand to what others are.
As a Director, what do you think is the most difficult part of taking a pre-existing work, such as Black Lagoon, and adapting it to TV?
I dont think its difficult but what I want to do with existing work is that the existing work has its uniqueness and I wand to fully express his uniqueness. This is same thing with Mai Mai Shinko.
When involved in Black Lagoon, I tried to understand Hiroe-san first by asking questions such as what types of music he listens to working.
As for Mai Mai Shinko, I tried to go to the exact place the author lived her childhood and see the view the suthor saw as a child.
Hey Sunao!! like everyone else here, I thought Black lagoon was a great sho. Whilst directing the show, did you have the western audience in mind? Also, whilst creating mai mai miracle, were you thinking of getting this released internationally from the start?
When I was involved in Black Lagoon, Japanese animation earned its place in the world so I was certain that it was going to get international viewers.
As for Mai Mai Miracle, we did a world premier at the Locarno film festival. So the Japanese people were not the first to see the film. When we screened the film in Otawa film festival, one of the viewer came up to me and told me (possibly Canadian) that this film reminded him of his childhood. That is when I felt that the theme of this film is universal.
Do you think the theme of Princess Arete is also universal and would you like to see it made available on DVD and Blu Ray outside Japan?
As for theme, I believe humans aren't really that different. I don't think You and I aren't that different.
However saying that, how movie is made and viewed is different between countries so there maybe there is that.
As for the release of Princess Arete outside of Japan, I am still believeing that someday it will be released.
what did you enjoy most about directing Black Lagoon ?
When me and the animation director, Shino-san was working on Black Lagoon, we tried to not eat much because it makes us sleepy. When the series was over, we were telling each other that we can finally enjoy eating again. It just means that we were that focus and enjoyed working on the show.
Any fond memories of working on Kiki's Delivery Service? Its one of my favorite childhood movies
I was originally supposed to direct the whole feature and initially I lead the staff I gathered to Sweden. The trip was very memorable.
Also when Miyazaki-san and I first watched the final cut of the film, with out the sounds, but I played the ending theme on casset tape. At that moment, both of us felt that we had created something that we are both pleased to present.
What inspired you to get into directing anime?
I have a memory from when I was 2 years old, watching certain animation called "Wanpaku Ouji No Orochi Taiji". When I was deciding what to do with my career, that memory came to mind, which made me go for director.
Thank you for coming here to answer questions!
Did you ever consider a career outside the anime industry? Once you decided to work in animation, what steps did you take before you were able to start working in studios like Telecom, 4°C, and Ghibli?
Also, would you like to say anything about your vision for Mai Mai Miracle? I loved Princess Arete and I am excited to see your new film.
If I did not become an animation director, I wanted to become a camera man for a nature documentary. I want to observe owels for long time.
As for how I become involved with various studios is all because of people-to-people connection. My work is not my reputation, it's my relationship with people what has lead to my career.
Princess Arete was about one girl, but in Mai Mai Miracle, I wanted to describe a friendship of a two. This could have lead from train of thought from Princess Arete of how I wished she could have had a close friend.
What do you think is the most definitive work of anime? To keep it simple how about say the show that you think has done the most for the medium.
It is hard o choose from them because all the work I have been involved in is like my own child.
Have there been any animated films or television series you have encountered since you made Mai Mai Miracle that you think are particularly outstanding? What about live action?
There is a TV show from Japan called "Chiritotechiin" about the Japanese rakugo performers that struggle to make place in the world.
Are these Kiki cakes as tasty as they look? http://i.imgur.com/5E4scVM.jpg
Where is it sold? I'll go give it a try.
Looks like it's from here: http://www.littlemermaid.jp/
Ill go check it out!
Would you be able to tell us a little bit about directing the side story in Ace Combat 4 shattered skies, particularly the decision to use drawn stills, sound effects and narration to tell a story in parallel to the gameplay.
It certainly made a big impression on me at the time and greatly enriched the gameplay, especially when the player finally confronts Yellow Squadron in battle.
Are you able to discuss your overall involvement in the Ace Combat series looking back and whether you'd be interested in returning to it in future.
When I first begin talking to the game developers, none of us had the idea of how to work together but when I came up with the idea with the Yellow Squadron the developers came up with Moebius 1. It was a good environment where we were able to inspired each other.
As for my future involvement in Ace Combat series, it depends on the Bandai-Namco guys. The game lead to a continuing friendship.
When Im done with a project and then ready to choose for next project, there are always several choices waiting for me. So I just become selfish and choose the one I want to do among them.
Before working on Black Lagoon, I had five choices to choose from. Among the five I chose Black Lagoon but one of the remaining four was Mai Mai Miracle.
That was the first time reading Black Lagoon.
After Princess Arete, I wanted to work on title that describes the dark side of human and Black Lagoon fit into what I wanted at the time.
What's the best thing about living in Japan and what one thing makes it better than the West?
I love soy sauce
Did you make deliberate changes to the storyline and backstory of Black Lagoon, or did you just try to summarize Hiroe's work?
Things like changing Rock's plan and Roberta's fate in Blood Trail, or making Revy's past as an S&M dancer more ambiguous.
As for Rock's plan, it was my idea.
Hiroe-sensei had created a long scenario before creating his manga and when he drew his manga, there were some that did not make it to paper. So when making the anime, we wanted to take these episodes and make them come back to life.
Revy's past and Roberta's past was included in this script.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the scene?
It depends on what you want to do in animation. There are many ways to be involved in animation.
How about getting involved in the technical or administrative side of things (like handling websites or infrastructure)?
Sorry that side is not my expertise so I can't answer that...
What are your thoughts on how successful the Mai Mai Shinko Kickstarter has been so far?
Have you ever taken on any other jobs besides screenwriting and directing?
It's great that many fans have supported this project and with everyone's help it's going to get an English version and with it, it can even seen by many people.
My job is to make a film so that is all I can do. Having it passed on to everyone is someone else's job but because of their effort, wider distribution was made possible.
There are many works I am involved other than directing or screenwriting. For example, in Sherlock Hound there is one scene I worked on as key animator and inbetween animator.
Please can you tell us how Anime Limited got into contact with you, how you have been involved with the kickstarter and any input that you have added.
Also do you know why the Japanese audio commentary is restricted from use on international versions?
Andrew first approached me with a clear vision and plan for Mai Mai Miracle Kickstarter. He told me that there are many non-Hollywood like titles in Japan and he wants to open up the market for such titles. I felt the same way so I wanted to work with him.
As for commentary, I can only speak with my imagination but I think they are still negotiating with people who participated in it.
What is your guiding vision that you think is present in all of your works?
You cannot construct a world with just one's imagination. So then what I try to do is reinterpret the real world and reflect to my works.
Did it ever feel strange going from a work as lighthearted as Princess Arete to something as dark as Black Lagoon?
Both human and society has light and dark side. Dark side is tough to look at but by facing it, the light side will stand out.
Are there composers, writers, mangaka, singers,... you really look up to and want to work together with in the future?
I want to work with Fumiyo Kono...
She's a mangaka ;)
What's your favorite anime out of the currently airing lineup?
If it's Space Dandy, you should totally check out /r/SpaceDandy :)
Im actually working on my next feature so I dont really have time to watch other anime right now.
I was introduced by my college professor
One final question:
What have you been working on recently? The last thing I heard you were making an adaptation of 'To All The Corners Of The World' , but that was nearly 2 years ago.
I'm still working on "To All The Corners Of The World"
Though my intention for the series is more close tot he title of '"At The Every Corners Of This World"
Have you ever considered doing a final season of Black Lagoon?
I've always wondered how Rock and Revy ended up...
Thank you for the question! Hiroe-sensei is working to draw more comic of Black Lagoon so Im just waiting for that right now.
I have two question!
What was your inspiration for Mai Mai Miracle? I imported the DVD and my niece loves the movie even though she can't understand Japanese (well, she can't understand much she's only a year and half old). You really captured something magical for her fussy-self to sit down and watch the entire thing quietly.
How was it like to work with Studio 4°C in the production of Princess Arete? I know the studio was an off-shoot of Studio Ghibli but it's generally a more avant-garde studio so I was surprised a gentler adventure movie was made.
As for Mai Mai Miracle, after the producer read the original novel, he brought it to me saying that this book reminds him of his youth. The funny thing is that he is much younger than I and the book was about the childhood of people older than me. That is when I felt that there must be something universal that fore goes age difference.
As for Studio 4C, they started out by making Wolf and seven lambs, and Jack and the bean stock so it's not that unusual. They initially had many possibilities.
Hello Mr Katabuchi! I like many others enjoyed Black Lagoon, I hope to see more one day!
Are you a fan of CLAMP? I see you've worked on some of their adaptations in the past such as Cardcaptor Sakura & Chobits.
Seeing as you've worked on some Ace Combat, what are the differences in writing and directing a game's storyline compared to a TV anime?
1) Yes I am aware of them and I have been involved with both of the titles. At one time, we had to change dialogue in middle of voice track recording and CLAMP's Ookawa-san and I worked together to come up with a line.
2)The storyboard for Ace Combat wasn't as tough as TV animation because it didn't move... However since there are no movement, I tried to make it have a more live-action feel. When creating the storyboard, the perspective in it is much different from how animation is created.
Hello Mr. Katabuchi! Thank you for taking the time to host an AMA. I have many fond memories surrounding Black Lagoon...
Anyway, my question: I don't know if you watch much anime being so busy, but a lot of people compare the recent series Jormungand to Black Lagoon. There is a similar aesthetic with gunfights and teamwork. It's by White Fox with dir. Keitaro Motonaga. Have you seen this show or heard that? What are your thoughts?
Jormungand is actually based on manga that is in the same magazine as Black Lagoon and the anime is produced by the same company, and the same producer so the two titles must be siblings.
Given your many different roles in helping to create anime over the years, are there any other aspects that you've considered wanting to dabble in, like music production as an example?
I don't have much knowledge in music to become a music producer but I am always having good discussions with music producers I work with.
Have you seen any of the Black Lagoon English dub from Geneon/Funimation? If so, what did you think of the cast? I thought they were mostly spot-on but that nobody can beat Megumi Toyoguchi as Revy.
We had difficult time finding the right person for Revy. We had high expectation and was hard to find someone like Toyoguchi. Toyoguchi tried hard to meet our expectations and I believe she met more than our expectation.
It was unfortunate that Toyoguchi coudn't speak too much English...
If your enjoying it, that is what really matters. If your not enjoying it, then that another thing.
What do you think of this Oyaji gag(親父ギャグ)、「野口英世の口ひでぇよ」
Sorry for non anime related question.
I can't come up with a good oyaji gag...
Are you fed up about foreigners only knowing Miyazaki works?
I wish that there are more people who can enjoy the various Japanese directors and their wide range of unique works.
If the Black Lagoon manga ends up having a conclusion will you animate it? I think I speak for most of us at /r/anime in saying that we all loved it. Roberta's Blood Trail was an amazing OVA and I only hope that if the manga were to have an ending that it would get animated.
View HistoryShare Link