Pretty Rhythm All Star Selection Anime Official Guide Book: Watanabe Akio interview

prad5 Pretty Rhythm All Star Selection Anime Official Guide Book Watanabe Akio interview 01

Previous posts and translations.

Remainder this book was released 31st of July 2014.
I finished translating this around 5 days ago, but some IRL things happened. I was also engrossed into Persona 5 things and translating people’s impressions from the demo events.
This is a design related interview, so I scanned all 4 pages of it so you can see the designs. Instead of directly uploading the pages here, I uploaded them on my puush to save space on this blog. Except for the 1st page.
My own comments or explanations are under parenthesis.

Top left: “Rizumu”, Rizumu’s 1st draft. Top right: “Mii”, Aira’s 1st draft.

Bottom left: “Mai”, Mion’s 1st draft. Watanabe’s Comment: I thought it would be good if Mion was a boyish looking girl, but in the end she changed a lot compared to this.  I think she changed because the staff asked me to change her, but I don’t remember much so I’m not sure lol.

I would like to ask to hear stories of when you did design for Pretty Rhythm. Will it make you feel a bit nostalgic talking about it?

Watanabe: Well I don’t remember how long ago was it when I did these designs, but inside myself they don’t feel old.

It will soon be a bit more than 3 years since the broadcast started.

Watanabe: But it started later than « Bakemonogatari ». So inside myself Pretty Rhythm feels like my newest work lol.

That’s true. Then, please tell us how you first got involved in Pretty Rhythm.

Watanabe: In October 2010, Yoshida Shoichi san(吉田昇一)talked to me about making a new Tatsunoko show. He asked me “Are you interested in little girl aimed anime?” and I said yes. I was already working on other shows though, so I was told to just do as much as I could. So then the planning stage started, and I did drawings for a presentation.

(Yoshida Shoichi is a producer at Tatsunoko who worked on all three Pretty Rhythm seasons, and also stuff like Tekkaman Blade and Karas, excellent shows you should watch if you haven’t already)

Was any of the characters’ setting already decided back then?

Watanabe: There wasn’t anything that could be called a scenario, I think it was just short instructions that said “there’s 3 heroines in the beginning”. So I started by drawing a sporty girl, and a fashionable looking girl. (he only drew 2 as Rizumu already existed) After that came the characters settings written by Akao Deko san, and we decided the main heroine would be the fashionable girl. Aira was born from the concept of a girl who would admire fashion.

Because Pretty Rhythm is aimed at little girls, did it feel different working on it compared to designs you did before?

Watanabe: In the end I don’t think my way of drawing changed, but I did keep that in mind when drawing. Little girls will watch it so I kept thinking it won’t be good unless I draw characters they’ll be able to admire. That’s why I tried to make them look stylish, and try to make it so their clothes don’t look lame. I tried making them fashionable.

Right: “Mii”, Aira’s 2nd draft. Watanabe’s Comment: Aira’s hair is like that because before drawing this version, I got feedback from Tatsunoko san to make it slightly curly like that. I tried giving it an elegant atmosphere.

Middle: “Rizumu”, Rizumu’s 2nd draft. Left: “Rion”, Mion’s 2nd draft. Watanabe’s Comment:  I was instructed by Takaratomy san to give the same eyelashes to all three girls. At first I drew them without eyelashes, but they told me to add eyelashes to make them more girly.
(You can see that with the small windows above. 2nd draft versions doesn’t have eyelashes. 3rd draft versions have eyelashes.)

Bottom: “Kurisu Kaname”, Kaname’s 1st version. Watanabe’s Comment: With her black twintails, I tried to design Kaname in a way that would make her popular with the big friends (adults). She has a gothic like cute style, but also the image of a little devil. I thought black hair and black monotone clothes would look cool. But it ended up giving her a bigger loli feel lol.
(The show got a little more male otaku adults fans in Japan after Kaname was introduced so he did a good job)

The final design drawings are dated “January 2011”. How long did it take you to finish the final designs for Aurora Dream ?

Watanabe: I think I remember dating one of them January 14 lol. I really didn’t have much time.

That was 2 months before the start of the broadcasting.

Watanabe: I drew most designs the same day they’re dated, so the time I actually worked on the designs is probably 2-3 days.

You did all the characters in that time !?

Watanabe: I just tried to do it as fast as possible, so in 2-3 days. If I didn’t finish fast then the whole planning would have broken down.

Well it was January, and the broadcast would start in April.

Watanabe: I think the 3D people did a good job getting their work done in time as well. The 3D’s quality was high right from the start,  I thought it was splendid. I thought it’s impressive they managed to make 2D character into solid bodies like that.

That’s true. The 3D models are also very close to Watanabe san’s drawings.

Watanabe: The 3D models were made when the drawings that redesign the characters for animation purpose weren’t done yet, so they mostly used my drawings as reference. Because of that I get the strange feeling that the 3D models are closer to what I drew than the final designs in the anime lol.

What kind of image did you have in mind when designing Kurisu Kaname ?

Watanabe: I got told she was the last boss so I designer her with that in mind.

Is that so ? I think she’s really too cute for a last boss.

Watanabe: That’s right. But how she turned out was exactly what I was aiming for lol. Also, they told me beforehand that Itou Kanae san would voice her, so I was like “If Kanae san is going to voice her, she should be more like this or like that!”. Then when I actually saw Kaname appear in the anime, she gave me an impression a bit different than what I imagined, but that also had many cute sides. Like how she always hugs Aira right away when seeing her.

(I think I get what he means, he probably thought Kaname would be the sport anime character archetype who looks down on others because she’s a genius, and act like a bitch. That’s what I imagined after seeing her in the new OP in AD30. She appears one episode after the OP changes though so we were proved wrong fast. Also,  like I always say, I think it’s bad that seiyuus are typecasted, and that people are being unoriginal and designing characters based on what popular things the seiyuu did before, if the seiyuu is decided beforehand. And telling the seiyuus to voice the character just like previous popular characters they did. For Kaname it’s ok though. Kaname is a very impressive character, just like every else in Pretty Rhythm. Just wanted to rant and repeat myself.)

She would also lick people’s nose.

Watanabe: Yes yes. That way she licks people noses and stuff, I couldn’t get enough of it lol. I think that was good directing(演出).

Design wise, she’s at the image of Itou Kanae san

Watanabe: Yes. In the first place, Kanae san used to be Rizumu in the game. When she actually appeared in the anime (as Kaname) I was really happy. Before that she was only voicing Akaii Meganee lol. And did the narration.

Itou san appears in all the series.

Watanabe: It won’t be Pretty Rhythm anymore if Kanae san isn’t in.

Top, From right to left: “Ageha Mia”, “Miyama Reina”, “Shijimi Karin”, “Ooruri Ayami”.

Bottom: “Asechi Kyouko”, Asechi Kyouko’s 1st draft, “Takigawa Jun”, Takigawa Jun’s 1st draft. Watanabe’s Comment:  I think I drew Jun like that because I was told “just draw Tuxedo Kamen” lol. He actually dresses like it in Dear My Future too. When designing Kyouko the only thing I was told is that she’s the female president of an entertainment company. I was surprised later when I learned that she’s also a previous Prism Queen. There’s a lot of times during Pretty Rhythm when I went “I didn’t hear about that before!” lol.
(Official confirmation that Jun is based on Tuxedo Kamen. Just like I always thought. He’s the best Tuxedo Kamen clone character ever.)

For Dear My Future, did you also do the original character designs while the story wasn’t done yet ?

Watanabe: For Dear My Future, Akao san wrote something like a prototype of the story, so I could understand the characters I drew.

Did you design all nine characters in one go ?

Watanabe: No. How did I do it again? I remember I started by doing Prizmmy☆, then I waited a bit and I did PURETTY.

Was there anything difficult when doing the original character design for Dear My Future ?

Watanabe: The girls in Dear My Future are originally based on real life girls, and each girl’s anime version needed to have a feature that makes them easy to recognize. I could have made the anime girls have the same hairstyles as the real life girls, but that wouldn’t work as the real life ones changes hairstyles regularly in photos. Because of all that, it was very difficult, especially for PURETTY.

After all, it’s not like you could just change their hairstyle in the anime if their hairstyle changed in real life.

Watanabe: That’s right. So in the end I tried giving them hairstyles that would fit their personalities. And it was hard because I also had to make it so kids can recognize the characters just by seeing their silhouettes. I was really conscious of that.

It feels like there’s a big age difference between the members of Prizmmy☆ and PURETTY.

Watanabe: In fact, the members of Prizmmy☆ are grade schoolers. PURETTY girls have a lot of style,  when I drew these we were planning for them to be in middle or high school. There’s also how they all have long legs and look adult like. Also, PURETTY used to only have 4 members; it was decided to add one more character later.

(I think he meant middle schoolers instead. It’s not that he meant the real life versions either, as the real Prizmmy☆ were 12 when DMF aired and out of grade school. And PURETTY and Prizmmy☆ both have different ages compared to their IRL versions.
According to this book, in DMF:
Mia and Reina are in 2nd year of middle school.
Karin and Ayami are in 1st year of middle school.
But it doesn’t list their age. PURETTY don’t have their class or age listed either.
However in the Pretty Rhythm Prism Star Visual Book, it lists their age:
Mia and Reina are 14
Karin is 13
Ayami is 12
Hye in is 15
So min is 14
Shi yoon and Chae Kyoung are 16
Jae Eun is 13.
Anyway, in the actual anime there is indeed an age gap between the members of Prizmmy☆ and PURETTY. It’s very impressive and unusual for 16 years old girls to get along with younger girls like that. I haven’t read&translated the director’s interview in this book yet, but maybe they did that to further show how Japanese and Koreans can get along etc.)

Your own drawings went through the hands of various people, their forms changing, in order to be animated, do you have something like a parental love towards your drawings ?

Watanabe: Parental love… I wonder about that. Truth is, I can’t watch a show if there’s parts where I was the animation director (作画監督). I can’t watch parts I supervised.  At worst, only after a few years passed. If I can watch it then find there’s something wrong, and I’m still able to fix it then yes I’d watch it, but if I can’t do that I’d rather not watch… But for Pretty Rhythm, someone else did the character design, so I could be at ease and watch the show. I could wake up every Saturday and watch the show in real time lol.

(This means he didn’t watch Bakemonogatari or the sequel seasons while they aired. Maybe he didn’t even see the first Kizumonogatari movie yet.
I still never watched any sequel after Bakemonogatari. Kizu took so long to get out I completely lost interest in it, just like I wouldn’t care if they announced Haruhi s3 now. I’ll never forgive them for Endless Eight anyway, and the Disappearance movie wasn’t that good. People who say” but we needed Endless Eight to understand Nagato’s despair in the movie” are super stupid.
Bakemonogatari should have stopped after Bakemonogatari anyway. Or the sequels should have just been cute stories about Hitagi and Koyomi hanging out doing dates and solving cases.)

That must have been a healthy lifestyle lol.

Watanabe: Right. That’s why if there’s a swimsuit episode, I’d be like ” Yatta ! a swimsuit episode !” and rejoice honestly. While if it’s something I was animation director on, I’d look at it from a work viewpoint and wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.

By the way, between Aira, Rizumu and Mion, which one do you like the most ?

Watanabe: Sou desu nee… At first there was a time when I thought Rizumu would be the main character, and I liked Rizumu, but then after actually watching the show and seeing Aira’s personality, Mion’s personality, and seeing the charm of all of them, I ended up liking everyone.

Now then, please tell us about your impressions as you’ve been watching the series so long.

Watanabe: I liked it. But as I said, I first I thought Rizumu would be the main character, so there’s times when I thought it would have been better if she had an even more active role. And also how Uru and Eru appear less after a while. I was sad about that. I liked those twins a bit. Also, I wish Mion was a bit colder to Aira and Rizumu at the start. If she warms up to them to much… it’s like that, you know, lol. But I thought the story in Pretty Rhythm has a high degree of freedom, and I think it was fun to watch.

(Original JP: あと、みおんは最初のうちはあいらたちにもっと冷たくしてほしかったですね。わりと早めに仲良くなっちゃうと。。。ちょっとあれじやないですか(笑)。)
(Including it because I’m not sure of the nuance: whether he wanted Mion to stay colder longer because he thinks it was unnatural how she warmed up quickly, or simply because he thinks it didn’t fit the sport genius bitch archetype. I think it’s the later. I really like how it seems Mion is a bitch with how she upstage Aira in episode 13. But the episode right after shows she’s actually a nice person. She does point out bluntly how she’s much better than Aira and Rizumu, but it’s for their own good. If Mion was a bitch, then warmed up to them, it would be too stereotypical. Like how Bell is actually relatively nice at the start of RL, and only gets jealous and hateful of Naru after some time. She could have hated Naru right away in episode 1 for stealing the manager position from her, and yet they didn’t do that. Even though it would have been “easier” to write and more stereotypical.)

Top, from right to left: Hye In, Shi Yoon, So Min, Chae Kyoung, Jae Eun.
(Jae Eun looks older while she ended up being the youngest. Hye In looks younger while she turned out older in the actual show. The Prizmmy girls too look a bit older in the actual show compared to these designs. I haven’t read it yet but in the director interview, they probably talk about how they weren’t sure what to do with the characters’ ages at first)

Middle right: Shou, Hibiki, Wataru. Watanabe’s Comment:  For Callings, Hibiki and Wataru were already in the 1st version of the game and they had one picture each. But Shou didn’t have a picture. So, I met with the director and he told me “draw someone that looks like Matsumoto Jun during his role as Doumyouji Tsukasa in Hana Yori Dango” lol. So that’s why he turned out like that lol. Then we adjusted the design again.
(I didn’t know Hibiki and Wataru were also in the first version of the arcade game. Though it seems to have just been 1 picture, not 3D models. Watanabe san specifically says “Shou didn’t have a picture”, so maybe he was mentioned in text only.
That Hana Yori Dango live action with Matsumoto Jun is one of the few live actions I saw. I remember it was quite fun. I didn’t watch it till the end though.)

Bottom middle: Harune Omi, Harune Hiroshi, Harune Itsuki. Watanabe’s Comment:For Aira’s mom, I was told to draw someone like Osono san, the woman of the bakery in Kiki’s Delivery Service lol. For Hiroshi too I think I got an instruction, but I don’t remember…
(I don’t think I actually ever watched Kiki’s Delivery Service, I should do it.)

Bottom left: Harune Uru&Eru. Watanabe’s Comment: Uru and Eru’s hairstyles are a bit different in the anime compared to what I drew here, in the anime they have side ponytails. If I remember correctly, it was changed because the director said that this way, for some scenes, they’ll just draw one of them, then reverse it to get the other lol. If we kept the hairstyles I designed, you wouldn’t be able to do it.

prad 14 uru eru

(Wow it’s true.)

Did you ever actually play the arcade game ?

Watanabe: I did, but for obvious reason it’s hard to fit in the surroundings when playing lol. I bought a lot of toys though. I bought the karuta and puzzles, I also bought the MP3 player.

prad2 official karuta game

(Official Dear My Future Karuta game)

You just normally went to the shop and bought them ?

Watanabe: Yes. It’s rare that pictures I drew get used for karutas or puzzles. I bought them in memory of it.

A lot of goods were released.

Watanabe: That’s right. They even did panties for little girls, they’re hard to come around though. They have a key visual I drew printed on them. They were first released in Taiwan and then sold in Japan as well. I didn’t even know they existed, in the first place I wouldn’t go to the panties part of shops lol. However I’m very impressed of the fact they exist.

prad pretty rhythm aurora dream little girls panties

(I didn’t know there was Pretty Rhythm panties for little girls. After googling I found this, I think that’s it. I managed to find a pic of it someone uploaded when they were selling some on yahoo auction.)

What did you do after you learned about them?

Watanabe: I bought them! Lol.

Working on an anime aimed at girls means you also get to enjoy this kind of thing.

Watanabe: It’s not like I thought that far about it at the start lol.

To conclude, please tell us your feelings as the original character designer of the first two seasons.

Watanabe: At the same time I got the proposition to do this interview in this book,  I got the proposition to draw one of the illustrations for the poster in this same book. I answered I’d gladly do it. In truth, I wish I could have drawn more for Pretty Rhythm, but I was also very busy with work for another company(Bakemonogatari and Grisaia stuff I guess), so I mostly only worked on the show at the beginning. And this book is probably the last time I’ll get the chance to draw Pretty Rhythm so I asked them to please let me do the poster illustration. I drew the 4 characters who left the biggest impression on me in swimsuits. Did you like it? Also, I was allowed to do a little work on PriPara too, so please also support PriPara.
(I didn’t know he worked on PriPara. I googled it and it seems he worked on the animation of almost all of the openings: OPs 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Source)
(The poster he drew that’s included in this book is an illustration of Aira, Rizumu, Mion and Kaname together in swimsuit. Dunno if you can find it on the net. Not gonna scan it. The reverse side is the same Okama illustration as the cover of the Rainbow Live Guidebook)

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