Saturday, October 31, 2020

Part 2/2: Shenmue the Animation: Famitsu Interview with Yu Suzuki & Yu Kiyozono [ENG Translation]

This is the second and final part of Famitsu's interview with two of the key people behind the project: producer Yu Kiyozono and executive producer Yu Suzuki.

This translation continues from Part One.

Famitsu: It really is a creation with many passionate fans; did you feel any trepidation about your decision to make it into an anime?

Kiyozono: Yes, of course - a lot!

Famitsu: [laughs]

Kiyozono: First of all, there was the hurdle of whether I would be able to get an OK from Yu-san, and since I was wanting to make Shenmue, I would also have to obtain permission from the publisher, Sega.

Even though we belong to the same company group, I still felt pressure. Among the high-ups who were in a position to give permission for the proposal for the anime project, were many who once worked alongside Yu-san when they were younger, you see. They said to me, "Will you really be able to pull this off?"...

Famitsu: Immense pressure! [laughs]

Kiyozono: They told me I mustn't let Yu-san down. While feeling a bit of pressure at the way they asked "Can you make something that's respectable?", they responded to my desire to make it by allowing the project through.

Famitsu: I'm glad.

Kiyozono: Projects to turn something like Shenmue into an anime aren't that common in today's anime industry. Even so, with our team, I'm confident that we can make something worthy. It will be challenging and substantial, but I'm grateful to be able to take it on.

Famitsu: At what stage are you currently in the process?

Kiyozono: We've just shown Yu-san the work-in-progress Episodes 1 and 2 the other day. They don't yet have voices.

Famitsu: Is that so! How were they?

Suzuki: They were good.

Kiyozono: I'm a bit relieved to hear you say so. [laughs]

Suzuki: While I was aware of the overall structure to some extent, the in-progress work showed off various anime-specific techniques, with CG used expertly for efficiency and a clever method to give the feeling of crowded streets.

Unlike with a game, there is no player intervention, so the story schedule can be properly planned out. Various ideas have been devised to keep things interesting - such as something happening around one part, or a flashback at another part and so on - and seeing made me feel that it really brings out the advantages that anime has to offer.

Famitsu: That has really whet my appetite! Can you explain more concretely what your role as executive producer entails?

Suzuki: Broadly speaking, I supervise the world-building.

As a really simple example, which is one the staff naturally already knows: "Ryo mustn't carry a knife." I advise on things like that.

Famitsu: Ah, I see.

Suzuki: Or: "This character wouldn't say something like this". I keep an eye on things like the character profiles, and the atmosphere of the world. With Shenmue, the scripts made for the game aren't all-defining in the first place; the game was derived from a larger set of original scripts.

And there is quite a large part of them that hasn't made it into the games. From time to time I share ideas based on them, or suggest certain parts that weren't depicted in the game that might be interesting to include, and so on.

Besides that, since the anime is a 13-episode series, the thing that I pay the most attention to is whether it has a good change of pace when the series is watched through, and with respect to that I join in on discussions and so on.

Famitsu: Would those be what are called "scenario meetings"?

Suzuki: It's one step before that. The scenario writers really pour everything into what they do, and time is forgotten as they get into deep conversations with the staff who are themselves caught up in it. It has really been a truly "Shenmue" way of making it.

With all this serious thought, I'm asked things like, "I wonder if you thought things out to this level of detail, back at the time?"... [laughs]

Famitsu: What sort of things, for example?

Suzuki: I've forgotten [laughs]. But the sort of things that, from my point of view, are fine either way.

Famitsu: So those are the sort of detailed questions you get asked.

Suzuki: I'm asked with such seriousness and earnestness, that I can't bring myself to say "Either's fine". 

Famitsu: Ha ha!

Suzuki: As a product in a form that's different from the game, the anime is looking to be one that everyone involved with making it has put their heart into, so I'm sure it will turn out well.

Famitsu: You mentioned earlier that you have supplied various reference information. Have you also provided the anime staff with the scripts you keep a locked box - the original scripts that have Shenmue's ending?

Suzuki: I've conveyed as much as I may - such as by summarizing, or just conveying verbally when getting to the parts right at the heart,

Famitsu: Hm, hm... By the way, to ask you now about the game, what is the state of development on Shenmue IV...?

Suzuki: I'm ready to do it whenever there's the chance. I'm ready to move anytime...That's the situation [laughs]

Famitsu: Please do! Finally, for both of you, is there anything you would you like to say to each other, or to give a message about the creation of the anime?

Kiyozono: Yu-san is a legend in the game industry, so at first the anime team approached him timidly with questions, but now they've spent a lot of time with him talking and learning about the character profiles and so on, and a deep trust has been formed. Yu-san has been very kind towards them.

We too have gradually come to speak openly to each other, and my conversations with Yu-san have provided hints when wondering about which parts to show as an anime, or clues for moving forward when getting a bit stuck with the production, for which I am grateful.

We are the ones who put forward the request to turn it into an anime, so above all my wish is to make something that all the players and Shenmue fans will be happy with.

These days, animations are more accessible than in the past, and are watched by both young and old, so I hope that this anime will create more Shenmue fans.

And so, if there's something I would like to say to Yu-san now, I suppose it would be: "There is still far to go until it is complete; please continue to give us your support."

Famitsu: Yes, you'll be moving on to full production.

Kiyozono: Truly, thank you very much for helping us with everything.

Suzuki: Thank you, also.

Working together with you now on the anime, from speaking with various members of the staff such as animation scriptwriters and directors, I'm also learning about things like direction techniques for anime. 

Seeing these makes me realize that, unlike in the past, common points are now emerging between game development and anime production, such as the way CG is used.

Around the time when the first Shenmue came out, and when we made the Virtua Fighter anime, the fields of games and video had completely different cultures, completely different words. The first thing you'd want to do is drink all night long, before making a start! [laughs] Nowadays, common points have emerged, so although we're currently working together on turning Shenmue into an anime, in the future I'd also like to work together on the game side of things, to introduce various anime techniques there.

Next, let's... make a game together! [laughs]

Famitsu: Wow! [laughs] That would make a great collaboration.

It's hard to get used to online interviews like this, but thank you very much for your time.

Kiyozono, Suzuki: Thank you very much.

Source: (Japanese)

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  1. Replies
    1. It's exciting to see that the anime is in the hands of a team that understands the series, working closely with Yu Suzuki!

  2. Lovely interview, thank you!! Can't wait for the Shenmue anime!

    1. Thanks, glad you enjoyed reading it! It sounds like the anime is shaping up well, even at these early stages.