Epitanime is one of the oldest con in France. They often invite prestigious guests. Last year it was Ryukishi07, and I wrote about it in detail here and here. This year, it was Urobuchi Gen and Kosaka Takaki, members and creators of the company Nitroplus. Just like with Ryukishi07 last year, the guests gave two conferences. Sadly, I only managed to attend the second conference on the 19th, so I will only write about this one. I’d rather not write about something I didn’t see and hear myself. Speaking of that, I apologize in advance if I made any mistake, or remembered something wrongly. The conference was also streamed live on Niconico, and some of the questions Urobuchi san and Kosaka san answered were picked from there.
The conference began with Urobuchi san and Kosaka san introducing themselves. Urobuchi san jokingly said that while a lot of people call him Urobutcher, he never worked at a butchery. Kosaka san said that the room is probably filled with anime fans, and that we’ve seen shows with a relation to Nitroplus, but he asked us if we also know about their Visual Novels or played them. A good portion of the audience raised their hands, which made him happy. “We’re going to have a good discussion.” He said.
Note: There’s going to be massive spoilers on Fate/Zero, Psycho-Pass and Saya No Uta.
After the introductions, we got a presentation of Nitroplus as a whole. Instead of reciting us a boring list, Urobuchi san and Kosaka san showed us a video they brought with them. An exclusive video, forbidden to be screened in Japan. Needless to say it was forbidden to film it so I can only describe it. It had footage from everything a member of Nitroplus ever worked on. This means it featured Phantom, Fate/Zero, Madoka Magica, Demonbane, but also things like Kakumeiki Valvrave, as one of the mechanical designers of the show, Ishiwata Makoto, is part of Nitroplus, or Steins;Gate (both anime and VN version) as it was co-produced by Nitroplus. We saw a glimpse of every VN Nitroplus made, some of which I haven’t heard of before. The video’s montage was simply amazing. I think the song used in the video was a song of Itou Kanako, I can’t say which though.
After the video ended, the conference roughly went like this: with authorization of the convention’s staff, members of French online communities took turns to introduce to the audience some of Nitroplus’ works, and then asked a question about the work to Urobuchi san and Kosaka san. (I don’t really get why the con’s staff decided to do this. Epitanime is a much smaller con than others, but the people who go there have a much more vast knowledge of otaku culture. I’m pretty sure 99% of the audience already knew about Nitroplus’ works, maybe even better than the guys who presented them)
About Phantom – Requiem For The Phantom:
It’s the first visual novel of Nitroplus. Urobuchi san and Tanaka san went with Visual Novels to tell their stories because they wanted a format easy to work with. It’s easier to program compared to a regular game and easier than making an anime. At the time they were making Phantom, Urobuchi san was an employee at a company making educational game software for kids. He used to work on Phantom late at night after work. He told us they didn’t have many resources to work with, and they sometimes had to be quite creative. As an example, the gunshot sound effect used in the VN is actually the recorded sound of a Japanese sliding door getting slammed.
At first, Fate/Zero was supposed to be a small project. The original plan was to make it a very short story only containing the duel between Kiritsugu and Kirei. Urobuchi san said he started to imagine the events which led to this fateful duel, and started writing the context around it. He kept writing and writing and as there was more and more material, they decided to turn it into a full prequel. He told us he wrote the novel imagining Kiritsugu being the typical hero of a Spaghetti Western movie, and he jokingly said he might have went a bit overboard with Gilgamesh’s narcissism. As for how Nitroplus and TYPE-MOON, how Urobuchi san and Nasu san got in contact, they simply already knew each other. In fact it’s someone from Nitroplus who designed the logo for Fate/Stay Night.
About Jouka no Monshou:
Urobuchi san and Kosaka san told us they love Equilibirum, and Spaghetti Westerns movies. Urobuchi san liked Equilibrium so much, he wrote Jouka no Monshou, which is a fanfic light novel of it. Kosaka san asked us if we also like マカロニ ウェスタン/Macaroni Westerns, (that’s how they call them in Japanese). I immediately raised my hand along some others.
About Black Lagoon’s light novel:
Hiroe Rei, Black Lagoon’s author, once asked Urobuchi san to write a side story for it. Urobuchi san told us that when he showed his first drafts to Hiroe sensei, he told him that it wasn’t enough, that he could go all out with the craziness. Hiroe sensei told him to imagine a sports festival where the goal is to kill each other, with pirates of the Caribbeans, ninjas, and bloggers participating.
This is the first original anime project Urobuchi san worked on. Before then he always thought the world of anime was very business like and strict. His expectations were shattered when he met during production Itano Ichiro, the director of the show. Urobuchi san told us that Itano san is a person burning with passion for anime, which was very different from the image he had in mind of a person working in the anime industry. He added that if not for their meeting, he probably wouldn’t have continued to work on anime projects. It had a very big impact on him.
Psycho-Pass came to existence when Urobuchi san was contacted by Shiotani Naoyoshi, the future director of the show. Urobuchi san told us that Shiotani san contacted him shortly after Madoka Magica ended, which left a great impression on him. It made him realize that Urobuchi san has a great potential as a writer. Urobuchi san told us the first thing he did when writing Psycho-Pass was searching for ways to differentiate it from other science-fictions, most notably Ghost In The Shell which is a reference in the domain.
After that part we moved on to the Q&A session. Urobuchi san and Kosaka san were very friendly and comical so it really felt like a good chat. The discussion often went back and forth between them and the audience.
1/ Why most of your works have an unhappy ending, with the main characters either dying or getting separated from their loved ones?
Kosaka san answered the question. He explained that both he and Urobuchi san are fans of Devilman. He asked us if we knew about it. I raised my hand before the translator even repeated it in French. In any case, he explained to us that when they were younger, Devilman is the story that made them both realize that best endings are the bittersweet ones. There should always be a catch to a happy ending. They don’t like 100% happy endings and it’s not what they want to do either. It’s bittersweet endings that are the most memorable.
2/ Do the Enforcers in Psycho-Pass get paid? And about Kagari, how did he manage to get all these videogames and figures on his desk? I thought you were supposed to fill in a form whenever you wanted an item if you’re a Latent Criminal. Surely he didn’t fill forms for every single toy?
Urobuchi san explained that while Latent Criminals are restricted in their actions, Enforcers have much more freedom than civilian Latent Criminals, so Kagari didn’t went through too much trouble to get his handheld games and such. I don’t remember what he said about the pay…
3/ You said before that you love Spaghetti Westerns. Which one is your favorite?
Urobuchi san answered his favorite マカロニ ウェスタン is Hard Boiled. He especially loves the hospital scene.
4/ At around what time did you start working on Suisei no Gargantia?
He was on the project right from the start. As for how it began: One day, at a random reunion with other employees of Nitroplus and people from Bandai, they decided almost on a whim to make an original anime. They also discussed at this same reunion about what the theme of the show would be, and they settled with the goal of helping younger people get into society. The people of Bandai present at the reunion insisted on the fact that the show should feature mechas. And that’s how the project was born.
5/ Around the time when Psycho-Pass started, there were interview reports saying the staff working on the show decided to not include any “moe” elements in the production, and that “moe” was banned.
Urobuchi san told us that this is actually a misunderstanding. They don’t have anything against anime with a lot of “moe” elements. It was only a remark the chief director of the show, Motohiro Katsuyuki, told him during a meeting about one of his early propositions for the show. He told him there was too much “moe” in his proposition, that he should tone it down.
6/ Not too long ago, there was a VN called Supipara which was released by the company Minori. The game didn’t sell well. One of the producers of the game said in an interview that the game did badly sales-wise because there was no pornographic content in it. Do you think H content is a necessity for VNs? Or can they survive without it?
Urobuchi san said that he doesn’t think the VN didn’t sell well because it didn’t have H content. He thinks luck plays a big role on whether a VN sells or not. Sometimes you think a VN will definitely sell and it doesn’t.
Kosaka san said that “if not for H content, Nitroplus wouldn’t exist the way it does right now.”
7/ Urobuchi’s twitter account avatar is the scary-looking rabbit Frank, from the movie Donnie Darko. Are you a fan of the movie ? Would you like to make a VN or something on Frank?
He does love the movie. And about making a VN on it, he probably won’t, because the character of Frank is already so well developed, he can’t think of anything significant enough he could add to the character.
Note: In Japanese, when someone asks a question to someone else, the one answering will often start his answer with “sou desu nee”. It’s a manner of showing that you correctly grasped the question and are currently thinking about the answer. When Urobuchi san heard this question, he said the longest and loudest “sou desu nee” of the whole conference.
8/ Why did you choose to portray Saya in Saya No Uta as a little girl?
Even though Saya is a monster, she’s still immature, she’s not an adult monster yet. There’s also the fact that he believes the player wouldn’t trust a grown up woman, so he decided to make her into a little girl wearing pure white. Urobuchi san added that when he was a kid, he used to watch Lupin The Third on TV, and whenever he saw Fujiko and all the times she double-crossed Lupin, he would tell himself “When I grow up and become an adult, I will never ever trust women like her.” He elaborated on that, saying that well-endowed females like Fujiko are scary, and even called them “monsters”, asking us if we feel that way too. Note: He said “Monster” in English, not the Japanese “Bakemono/化け物 or other Japanese variants.”
No sane man would readily trust a woman with such generous proportions, he added. Continuing on, he said: “If I ever had to seduce or deal with a woman like that in real life, I’d feel more like a hunter than anything else. Speaking of which, I love playing Monster Hunter”. Everyone in the audience laughed.
9/ What do you think about today’s anime shows? Is there any recent show you particularly liked?
Kosaka san answered by telling us more about him. He always loved animation. He used to watch Devilman and Grendizer as a kid. He told us about the Japanese urban legend which says that Grendizer had 100% audience rates in France back when it was airing, and he asked us who also loves it. Thinking back on it maybe I should have screamed DABURU HARKEN or something when I raised my hand.
When he got in Middle School, Gundam was airing and he loved it, and when he got in High School, it was Macross. Now back to current anime, he said it’s not like he wants to advertise his own products, but he personally loves the shows Urobuchi worked on. After that, as a producer, he must admit that shows like Keion and Suzumiya Haruhi brought a new audience to anime.
Urobuchi san said his recent favorite anime shows are Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Mawaru Penguindrum. They both pierced his heart like a drill.
10/ Why did you decide to make Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica a magical girl anime?
He said that he doesn’t know himself. He doesn’t really know what went through his head when he decided that. (I think he said something about the director of the show unconsciously giving him the idea or something but I didn’t hear his answer clearly, so that’s not confirmed.)
11/ Why in both Psycho-Pass and Fate/Zero, the character voiced by Ishida Akira ends up dying? Do you like killing the characters he’s voicing?
He said that it’s coincidences, it’s not favoritism or anything. Ishida san passed the auditions brilliantly in both cases and was chosen to voice the characters. That said, if Ishida san voices a character in the next anime he’s writing, he hopes the character in question doesn’t end up dead or he’ll get cursed.
12/ Did you write Psycho-Pass’ ending objectively or were you on emphasis with the characters?
Urobuchi san said that when he writes a dialogue between characters, he simply tries to imagine what the character would say in the current situation. He doesn’t have anything against it or against the writers who uses this method, but he never uses his characters to convey a particular message. The ending of Psycho-Pass is an exception though. You can find a lot of values which are dear to him in what Akane says in the last episodes. He said that in the end though, anime is still entertainment so you shouldn’t let your own ideals spill over it.
13/ Sonico sells a lot right. She’s currently the most lucrative product of Nitroplus.
Kosaka san: “Yeah, she’s a monster”. Everyone in the audience burst out laughing when he said that. He himself kept laughing. Note: He said “monster” in English just like Urobuchi san earlier. Also, The translator said something about Sonico always having a sore back, but I didn’t hear Kosaka san say it, so I’m not sure whether that was the translator’s personal comment or if Kosaka san himself said that.
13.5/ Then, how about writing a Light Novel with Sonico as the main character?
Kosaka san: “Eeeh?? Are you guys sure about that? Would you really want to see Sonico chan as a bitch??” Note: Again, he said “bitch” in English. I couldn’t stop laughing, and I wasn’t alone.
Urobuchi san: “She is our biggest source of income right now so I’d rather not touch her. I don’t think I would be able to restrain myself if I did.”
14/ How did you feel while writing Fate/Zero?
Urobuchi san had a lot of fun writing it, because he had to be careful not to write something that would conflict with already established plot points of Fate/Stay Night. It was like an obstacle race, with the already set in stone plot elements being the obstacles. He had to find a way to bypass them while staying faithful to the original. It was a lot of fun.
15/ Why are you wearing sunglasses? (Yeah, I don’t have pics, sorry)
Urobuchi san said someone gave them to him the first time he went abroad to a con so now he wears them whenever he goes at cons overseas. He said it does make him look like a Yakuza but it’s to express his gratitude.
16/ How come works like Madoka Magica, Psycho-Pass and Togainu No Chi all have different target audiences?
Urobuchi san said that the scenarist of a work only chooses the best ingredients, he doesn’t think about the client, but the chef. He takes great care to choose the ingredients and then he gives them to the chef: the director, or producer, or other members of the staff. They’re the ones who’ll decide how it’ll turn out in the end. That’s how the target audience can end up different even if the writer is the same.
17/ Recently Nitroplus has worked on more and more anime while you used to do Visual Novels only. Are you still trying to make the company evolve, are you going to try something new again?
Kosaka san said he likes renewing himself. For example, the Nitroplus studio gets relocated a lot. Sometimes some employees complain to Kosaka san about it. He doesn’t like it when things stay the same way for too long. That’s also why Nitroplus’ logo changes often.
After that point the Nico Nico stream was terminated and the Q&A session ended. However, before ending the conference, the staff of Epitanime told us they had Nitroplus related gifts for the audience. We played a little quiz in order to win them. The staff asked Kosaka san and Urobuchi san to make up the questions.
The first question Kosaka san came up with was “How old is Sonico?” Someone answered she’s 19 years old. Kosaka san said he’s correct. After a few seconds, someone else asked if she isn’t actually 18. Kosaka san verified it with his smartphone and the second person was correct, Sonico is actually 18. He deeply apologized for giving the wrong answer. The 2nd person got the gift.
Reward: Something Sonico related. I totally forgot what.
Urobuchi san came up with the second question: “The seiyuu voicing Chambers in Gargantia also voices the hero of a popular comedy anime. What is this anime?”
Reward: I think it was a Sonico bed sheet. Along with other things. (Oh and needless to say the answer is Gintama)
Now that’s when things started getting even funnier: The staff members asked Kosaka san to make a really hard question for the last gift. The first question he came up with was: “What is the food Kyouko gave to Sayaka in Madoka Magica?” Everyone knew the answer, apples, so the staff member asked him to change the question. Kosaka san then asked us: “What is the food Kyouko gave to Homura in Madoka Magica?. Everyone also knew it… but we still went with that one anyway.
Reward : The Suisei no Gargantia prequel Light Novel (The guy who won it got it before the Japanese release date, which was the day after the con, jet lag included)
We gave Urobuchi san and Kosaka san one last round of applause and then the conference ended.