[English translation] Hiroko Utsumi and Akemi Hayashi Comic Natalie Interview about BANANA FISH anime

Over two weeks later, I finally finished translating the full interview that is proofread-ed. That tacky translation thread I made on twitter is a nightmare. This interview is conducted mid-February and got the first part published on that month. But, the whole transcript of the interview is released at Comic Natalie’s website around last week of April.

As usual, there might be inaccuracies on some parts for my Japanese proficiency level is only at Elementary level (but I hope the content is still understandable.) Feel free to correct me if you see glaring mistakes.


The Director x Character design interview!

Now living in the modern age, Ash & Eiji.

“BANANA FISH”  is a critically acclaimed manga made by Akimi Yoshida-sensei which is announced to have its own anime adaption this upcoming summer. The 1985 setting has been revised to be set on the present day but the charm that’s loved by many regardless of age or gender remains intact. The production team of the anime adaptation had garnered a lot SNS attention. Director—Hiroko Utsumi (Free!), Series composition—Hiroshi Seko (Inuyashiki), Character design—Akemi Hayashi (Doukyuusei), and the animation studio MAPPA who is well-known for producing the original hit anime series Yuri!!! On ICE.

The story is still based on the original material, only given a modern spin

— When BANANA FISH anime is announced and listed Hirokan (Hiroko Utsumi) as the director, Comic Natalie website exploded as fans search for articles to confirm if it’s really true. When all of these is happening, have you checked your SNS to see reactions?

Utsumi: Yeah. My reaction isIt’s really popular…I mean, I already knew BANANA FISH is a very popular work but seeing the various reaction from fans made me realize it again.

BANANA FISH anime visual

Hayashi: That’s right. I actually saw real-time reaction from people around me when this was announced, they’re about the same age as me. It gave me a lot of pressure thinking about it so I try not think about it too much (laughs) Should I give it much more thought?

— I saw many fans expecting a lot from the staff who’ll produce the anime for it’s a beloved work and I would like to ask about the story behind the production but I guess that could be save for later so I’m just going ask if have you read BANANA FISH manga instead.

Utsumi: I received a request from Aniplex’s producer Uryu (Kyoko) to read the manga and that’s the first time I read it but before all that, she asked me excitedly “Utsumi-san, do you know about BANANA FISH?” and then I replied “If it’s anything related to sweets, I’ll do it!” I thought that she’ll give me sweets so I answered with enthusiasm…I still have a clear memory of that incident until this day because of it…(laughs)

Hayashi:  I had read it when I was a kid but because I was a kid that time, I only have childish thoughts about it and it didn’t really leave much of an impression to me…

— It might be a little bit difficult story for children to read. 


Hayashi: Yes. That’s why I don’t have much memories about it anymore but I re-read it again after I received the request to be part of the staff. I looked for the manga at the bookstore which is located on the shoujo manga section and as soon as I saw the yellow book spine of the tankonbon which is very eye-catching together with the bold title text, it gave me a sudden rush of memory that made me mutter on the middle of the store “Oh. It’s that book!”

Utsumi: Although I was requested to read the manga and I know doing this series is such a huge opportunity for me, as I read through it, I couldn’t really get myself into the premise of gangs, mafia, guns, etc. For I was born in Japan, I was not very familiar with the hard-boiled worldview but eventually, I got addicted to the hard-boiled -ness of the story and I found myself not being bored by the premise anymore. I was completely captivated. Every character is fleshed-out and has their very own unique personality but personally, I became attached to Ash and Eiji which are the integral characters in the story. I’m so attracted with their relationship that I begged with conviction “Please let me do this story!”  when I got questioned about my interest with the series.

Hayashi: Re-reading it made me realize that it was a very interesting series. As the story progress, the faster I read through. It recently gave an impression that there isn’t really that much manga that puts soul into drama like this series does. It’s so human. I’m so happy to be part of this project.

— Unlike the original that is set in 1985 New York, the anime is set on the modern era. I think that the alteration made the fans of the original series very worried but could you tell us the reason why you decided this?

From “BANANA FISH” anime PV

Utsumi: When I read the original work, there’s this certain part that caught my attention and made me think that what if it has the liberties we have in the modern era. It’s natural that people want a faithful adaptation for it is set in the golden 1980s after all but, I want to shed light on how animation has evolved as medium when it comes to storytelling so rather than doing a copy-paste animation,  I am going to let the animation define itself as a general medium and doing a modern era twist accommodates that. That being said, I don’t want to lose the catch this series have which is the reason why it is a hit so it’s no question that pleasing the fans of the original work is still one of the determining factors, but I also want the younger generation who haven’t heard of “BANANA FISH” before to be interested enough in this work to watch it. I thought that by making the setting modern, it’ll be a lot easier to attract new audience.  I consulted the producer regarding my decision to change the era. The direction I took caught Otsuka (Manabu)’s [CEO of MAPPA] attention and asked me if MAPPA could be part of the production to animate it. Although the modification of the era basically made it an original anime work, it’s still the exact adaptation of the original manga, only with an updated era.

— The script scenarios are under construction but so far, it really gives an impression that it’s going to be faithful with the source material.

Utsumi: Of course I’m not going to randomly change the story without any reason, so you don’t need to worry about having important parts of the story being removed. When it comes to the modern take of the story, I want to focus first on developing the characters’ design through the way they dress because throughout the years, it drastically changed. Fashion is a huge part of the original work and I want to carry that on with me. On the original work, most of the time you see them wear a t-shirt with denim jacket and denim pants, I love it but I would like to see it evolve in contemporary fashion. Although the blocking of the scenes in the anime is exactly panned like the original work, it’s almost like I’m starting from scratch due to the era change and I need to go back to basics like focusing on their clothing details. By also changing the era, our series composition Seko (Hiroshi) struggled to get the atmosphere right though it’s no question that Hayashi is the one who struggled and worked hard the most when it comes to this part.

Hayashi: Utsumi-san is the type of person who gets really committed on their work. It’s so difficult to get her approval when it comes anything related to ikemen design (laughs) When I was doing a concept of Ash’s character design, there are a lot of notes that he’s the main character but the rest is all vague like there’s one that says “Anyway, he’s super stylish!” and with that note in mind, all throughout the whole concept-making I keep replaying in my thoughts I’m the trendiest fashionista of all time” to channel Ash. In the original work, even if it’s the 80s, Ash has a very progressive taste to clothing which was definitely ahead of his time. But with the anime’s era change, I need to keep in mind on what kind of forward taste he’ll have on the current time and update his fashion completely.

Ash Lynx from “BANANA FISH” manga

Utsumi: In terms of realism, fashion is something that we don’t mind doing for it’s part of our daily lives but at the same time, what you choose to wear could end you up in a life or death situation so if we stick on having Ash wearing rough clothes most of the time like T-shirt with denim jacket it looks really plain….It’s an animation series so we might as well go all out, I want to see him in various clothing! (laughs)

Hayashi: You even went all the way to mark every animation frame like when a character move, the movement of the clothing also needs to be animated.

Utsumi: That’s right. The season where the anime will be aired doesn’t really match up well to the overall atmosphere, so I’ll go all out on the animation quality instead. Through it, I hope you’ll able to enjoy different sides of Ash.

Hayashi: Eiji has a lot of interesting clothing so I really had fun~

Utsumi: He really does (laughs) I hope the viewers will enjoy them as well.

Shorter is the “2.5 piece”

— The original work’s style had a great change from volume 1 until the last volume, which volume have you used for character design reference that you’d been using in the anime?

Hayashi: I think the readers could agree that the art style of Yoshida-sensei throughout is like oil in water but I think it got stable in a way the oil disappeared is around omnibus vol. 5 & 6 (Flower comics ver. vol. 9 & 10) I consulted Utsumi-san about it and she agreed. Currently, we’re also using that volumes as reference for story design based on the conversation we had about art styles.

— Ash’s hairstyle is quite different between the first half and second half of the manga. The anime’s character design, it really gave a slightly different vibe compared from the original work’s Ash.

“BANANA FISH” anime’s character design for Ash Lynx

Hayashi: Ash’s hairstyle, he has bangs even on the original work and it really come across as if it has its own feelings due to how it flows. It’s no doubt part of his trademark regardless of the era. Still regarding about his hair, I used Yoshida-sensei‘s drawing of Ash as a base then rearranged it to have an image of Ash who is completely contemporary, and at the same time used other image reference where he has this charismatic impression in his overall style, I arranged a lot of contemporary hairstyles for Ash until I drop.

Utsumi: The asymmetrical parting on his hair really gave a contemporary feel.

Hayashi: I’m trying to give his hair a natural impression using the asymmetrical -ness so that the strands won’t look as if it’s set by a hair gel.

— The hairstyle definitely gives a borderline awkward yet cool feeling. On the rough draft it says “Please do not draw the tips of his hair sharp for it’s not a knife” and is written boldly that it makes me quite concerned about this draft.

Hayashi: It’s just my own preference but, at the same time it is also due to the fact that I don’t like unnecessary pointed tips on my drawing……..I think in order to achieve a natural look, it’s important to reduce the scruffiness and with that out of the way, only the natural softness remains which is kind of a turn on to me.

— I could indeed feel the attention to detail which results on the fineness of his hair that looks impression-ably soft. On the other hand Eiji, while he did retain the similar impression of the original work, it looks like his appearance has been updated more than Ash.

“BANANA FISH” anime’s character design for Eiji Okumura

Utsumi: Back when the original work is serialized, it seemed like the slightly hanging bangs style of Eiji is really popular so we decided to make it the base setting for his contemporary era look. As soon as the decision is finalized, I asked Hayashi-san to create modern Eiji with care. While the amount of time spent on creating character designs for Ash and Eiji is equal, the decision-making on what style to use for Ash is almost instant, while for Eiji we got stuck on four designs. Because of that I gave a helping hand to Hayashi by drawing more Eiji which is a lot of fun (laughs)

Hayashi: There is this one instance where I just drew an almost direct copy of the design from the original work for I’m starting to get tired designing but after I did that, Utsumi-san started to nitpick like “The appearance of the hair should have wax hair feel” and “He is a sportsman so the hairline should be short in order not to cover his neckline” She delivered those statements as if she’s giving a tall order.

Utsumi: I didn’t remember saying anything about “wax hair feel” (laughs) What I probably meant by that statement is that a man around his age is more or less aware of his hairstyle so his hair must give a impression that he somewhat styled it (laughs) The first complete design draft I got is referenced from the original work, while the 2nd complete design draft I got had a really adult-like feel. However, there’s a scene from the original work where Eiji “resembled a child” so we took that description in mind in order to get the exact atmosphere from Eiji and that’s where slowly but surely form his final design.

Hayashi: I wonder which panel of Eiji from the manga that embodied that description the most, because his mature expressions left the most impression to me, even if we’re going to take account the earlier volumes he wasn’t really that child-like. But certainly, when he’s interacting with foreigners they always assume and see him as an Elementary school student, so the tweak I’d done with the final design was only making his eyes big so that he’ll look really cute but I remember making it too big that I got scolded.

Utsumi: When I got the final draft, I excitedly said “This is it!” and then I stared the art for an unhealthy amount of time and shouted “He’s SUPER CUTEEEE!” when I saw that he looks exactly like I visioned with the wax hair feel. That’s why the first parts where Eiji was written and animated on the story, I’m like really noisy that I even annoy me but I couldn’t stop doting him (laughs)

Hayashi: It was so noisy! (laughs) You could indeed notice the nuance changes every time you draw a single line of Eiji’s hair but when you’re about to draw his face you unconsciously hold your breath and do a perfect copy of his expressions.

— Aside from Eiji and Ash, which character/s Utsumi-san specified to finely tune?

Hayashi: There’s Shorter. As a character, he gave an impression like he’s the third piece but initially, I was planning to give him a background character-esque design, then I remembered that he played a very vital role on the first half of the story….

Utsumi: I specifically asked you to give me a Shorter design that fits to be a “2.5 piece

Hayashi: Stop giving me vague and difficult tasks! (laughs)

Utsumi: Because you mindlessly drew him after finalizing the design draft for Ash and Eiji. It got me really excited to the point I screamed “I couldn’t wait!” (laugh)

Hayashi: From that point, I began to draft his design in mind that he couldn’t look like a 2nd piece character, but he needs to look more the middle of a 2nd piece and 3rd piece character (laughs) He usually wears sunglasses but, since his face will be shown on an important scene, I made a middle ground by making a design where he shows one of his eyes when he got serious, kinda like those smiley badass guys that you see on Oriental movies.

Utsumi: It’s almost impossible to get that kind of cut expressions on the original work but since this trick is pretty common in animation, we’re going to utilize it as we could so I hope you’ll be able to check and spot those scenes in the anime, it’ll make us happy if you appreciate it the same way as we do.

Hayashi: Since the middle of the development of the anime, the author of the original work oversees the production and even helped us on highlighting battle scenes, I learned a lot of techniques especially about carefully blocking characters on an action scene and artillery. There’s also a rival character for Ash that sticks out badly just like him and I’m looking forward making him into life.

I would love to draw Ash and Eiji as W(double) hero

— Please talk about the screenplay more. This anime is set for 2-cour broadcast right.

Eiji Okumura from “BANANA FISH” anime PV

Hayashi: Because we got a 2-cour, we don’t really have the need to cut scenes from the original work in order to fit in 24 episodes. So we are like—there’s no problem at all but, Seko-san told me that in order for our director to smooth out the pacing easily, we need to be particular on what scenes that needs to be highlighted then, cut parts that doesn’t really add up much on the flow. I feel like this time around we need to focus on developing Ash and Eiji to act as axis to the story.

Utsumi: Right. At first we are so concerned about how little is the screen time of our main character on the beginning of the story, Ash has this aura of a main character and we could easily utilize that to make a linear story-line, Seko-san has even written parts where Ash acts as vital axis on the story, but that caused a single scene of Ash with Eiji completely scrapped out. I myself personally is very drawn by the relationship between these two characters so I felt something different to their character dynamic when I read that composed story. Ash and Eiji, I want to draw these two character, to draw them as a W(double) hero of the story, I understand that this scale is huge and it might unknowingly affect some parts of the story but I think doing minor adjustments will fix that gap. I was told that I have a pretty selfish vision for the story. But since the original work is very rich and story-driven, there’s a lot of parts that we really couldn’t cut. Seko-san is such a tough cookie.

— There are several climaxes for the story isn’t. 

Utsumi: That’s right. Because there’s so many important conversations going on, people who are working to animate this had a hard time drawing like everyone is screaming at me “(Lines) It goes on and on!” as they work on making the scenes, I just respond every time with “It’s doable so deal with it!” (laughs)

— This anime looks like it is going to have a great tempo.

Utsumi: Well, there are a lot of things in the anime that doesn’t really fit well unless the tempo is improved……..

Hayashi: I think it’s because of the fact that we made the material condensed, we strive to make the tempo of the scenes better so that it’ll be a lot easier to watch and digest.

Guns and action scenes are supervised by “Hard-boiled Man”

— “BANANA FISH” is your (Utsumi-san) second work as a director, does doing an anime adaptation of a complete work made you self-conscious about the way you usually work.

Utsumi: I myself, done a completely original work for the first time on my director debut so trying or experiencing new things isn’t a problem for me. Of course I know for the fact that I need to take a good care for the original material, but using video as a medium, it could take off and level-up as something you can say as charming, To say at least, animation is the most charming medium to use for its “moving” features is the best and flexible one, This time around for the first time I’m attempting to draw out the uniqueness of Ash and Eiji by their movement plus lifestyle, Both manga and live-action are different mediums on the spectrum however, I believe that anime has the most unique expression for representation through and through.

— “BANANA FISH” has a lot of action scenes, so it seems like you will have a lot of opportunity to show the uniqueness of animation as a medium.

Ash Lynx from “BANANA FISH” anime PV

Utsumi: I don’t really have much knowledge or experience when it comes to anything hard-boiled action, and I was honestly a bit uneasy about making action scenes. However, there’s a hard-boiled man from our team of staff……..

— Hard-boiled Man?

Hayashi: I’m very knowledgeable with guns and weaponry so I was assigned as the “hard-boiled man” which is basically who monitors the accuracy of weapon usage in an action scene.

Utsumi: That’s right. For example, in a very serious scene, when you made them use a wrong gun, that scene itself will spoil the character’s coolness and grandeur. There’s no doubt that I want to prevent that from happening. I often do not notice my mistakes for I don’t know much but, having someone who are very knowledgeable about this topic and is much involved in the making is really reassuring.

— Indeed. Anime and manga fans are very keen about details like how you properly hold a gun so those details must be carefully taken good care of.

Hayashi: There’s no doubt that we’re going to have a handful of viewers who love guns.

Utsumi: When Hayashi goes into her hard-boiled man mode and starts talking about guns, different male staffs joins in the conversation every time asking “Say, does this scene will look much better if we add a gun?”

Hayashi: There are some things you love that you would like to talk about from time to time and for me, that is guns and artillery.

I would like to successfully transfer the likeness of the characters from the original work in the anime

— In addition to Ash, there are lot of beautiful characters who’ll make their appearance. You had designed a number popular female characters in anime, but is there anything you’re very particular about when drawing male characters Hayashi-san.

Hayashi: Rather than being too conscious about a character’s appearance, the original work serves as a model in order to transfer that likeness in animation as much as possible. Even if it’s just a single expression, I want to extract and see humanity in their face. Yuè-lóng (Yut-lung) has a really beautiful appearance but he’s a man, I think the most difficult part is not to draw a male character too pretty to the point that they look like women.

Utsumi: I agree. In terms of voices we need to take consideration of the maleness a beautiful man character have, feminine or masculine, I wonder which suits best…….Please make sure to tune in on the anime to find out☆

— I’m looking forward to see the people’s reaction when it’s finally played on the show. On the manga, there’s often cuts of Ash describing his existence like he’s “Lucifer” or “Asura” I became quite obsessed imagining how these illustrations will play out on the anime.

Hayashi: When it’s time to work on that scene, are you planning to keep it as it is?

Utsumi: I really want to see it! The Ash Asura.

Hayashi: (laughs) But wearing flowers, holding a sword, there’s this certain atmosphere on that illustration that makes you feel like you’re slashed from within and nowadays, it’s even rare to see those kind of drawing in shoujo manga. It’s a lot of pressure but I’ll do my best.

— Yeah. I feel like that kind of expression is almost non-existent on recent manga these days. 

Hayashi: I don’t really know how to show that kind of expression in animation, because I haven’t done something like this on my previous works, Regarding the first episode, Well, Ash is not going to laugh, I have always drawn characters who always smiles which is basically same faces. Even if it’s a little cynical smile, it doesn’t look like right on Ash for you can feel there’s something off. Only when he got along with Eiji is the time where he showed deep emotions so that illustration could be interpreted in various ways.

From “BANANA FISH” anime PV

— So Ash’s expressions will continue to change through the course of 24 episodes.

Hayashi: Right. I think the variations of his expression will be vast the moment we reached halfway of the story.

— Looking at the rough draft, seems like you slightly used Yoshida-sensei’s style on expressing comical scenes.

Hayashi: When we get out of focus on the drama happening with our main characters, there’s quite a number of comical scenes and it’s really easy to gloss it over, but if such comical scene is happening, I want to make them do comical faces as much as possible.

Utsumi: Because there’s so many characters, aside from the main characters, are done by the assistant character designers, Hayashi-san really loves the original manga style’s comical faces, so Hayashi-san usually make corrections on their designs, isn’t.

Hayashi: That’s right. Since I was aiming to make a proper balance of modern and the original manga’s design, I also want that to reflect on minor characters that are done by our assistant character designers.

Pilgrimage in the holy land of New York, you can do it!

— With the era set on the modern age, will smartphones and similar contemporary tools going to play out as something vital.

Hayashi: It will be a part of the series. But the fact that the original series is a relatively old work, I think there’ll be some parts where we’re going to have some mysteries that could be solved easily by simply using your phone to be still quite difficult to crack.

From “BANANA FISH” anime PV

Utsumi: However, when this anime is seen by people who are born in the modern age, there will be a lot of awkwardness if you don’t see characters having their own PC or smartphone, I tried to think of ideas on the best of my ability to make these characters have it without disrupting the story somehow……..I mean, Ash playing around with his smartphone made him somewhat uncool!? [imitates cool tinkering of phone] (When he’s messing around with his phone) as he looks down with seriousness then addresses everyone looking up going “……What is it?” like what the hell! Seriously. It’s so awkward. For the people who haven’t read the original work it is a natural sight, However if you are a fan of the manga “The heck? Ash is using a smartphone!” would be the common reaction and I don’t find that shocking for it’s really a traumatizing sight, I want to think that this iffiness would be a part of the new Ash who lives in the modern era which will double his charms.

— I think that kind of stuff make sense when it comes to animating characters set on a modern era. Is there any merit to the characters being born in the current era somewhere or another?

Utsumi: This time around, I went to New York to interview various people and research about making stages of the contemporary setting. If we’re going to draw the setting like the original work, The scenery of the sites has changed a long time ago so visiting it directly won’t be much of a help, but because it’s modern, I could simply draw the places that existed in the past for it’s an anime! Like Shorter’s shop, I could simply use the restaurant where I was able to eat a lot of rice as an inspiration so there’s some merit!

— You are able to have pilgrimage in the holy land. Hearing that makes me happy.

Utsumi: You can do it too! Of course there are parts that isn’t there so you couldn’t recreate it exactly like the picture but, I did my best trying to make things the same as much as possible. “Ah, that’s where Ash was usually seen walking!”  I was able to enjoy having those kind of thoughts while strolling in New York.

The voice Uchida Yuuma gave to Ash, I somehow felt kindness.

— At the current production stage, Ash, Eiji, Max, and Golzine were the four characters with voice actors announced. How do you decide who to cast on the characters.

Utsumi: There are voice actors that are picked through auditions, as for roles with definite image on our head, we get to request on who’ll be voicing that specific character.

— Did you assign Uchida Yuuma to voice Ash?

Utsumi: He got Ash’s role through auditions that is overlooked by me and Yoshida-sensei. We couldn’t think of any voice actor that fits Ash. I wonder where could we find such a superstar……? it is such a difficult task, I think he’s the last character that got a voice assigned.

— Uchida-san got a really gentle personality so having him voice a cool character, like there’s this impression that he’s a youthful guy, and I think he made a mark voicing innocent young boys so that might be helpful for Ash is a minor, but I still couldn’t imagine what kind of tone he’ll use for Ash.

Eiji Okumura from “BANANA FISH” anime PV

Utsumi: Ash look and act like an adult but, despite that mature appearance he’s only 17 years old. When Uchida-san voice-acted, the voice that he used got that maturity and the young boy -ness intact so it sounds satisfying. But what became the deciding factor is the scenes where he acted as the boss of the street gang and the striking difference when he was talking to Eiji, it sounds very great. Ash as a street gang boss is cool, however I somewhat felt kindness as he converse with Eiji, it was really a different tone compared to the initial scenes, and it looked like a pretty tough voice transition too so I feel very moved witnessing it.

— After all, Ash and Eiji are two important core characters, so it’s really important to have a voice actor that can naturally play the ‘cherishes Eiji a lot’ to Eiji every time they converse.

Utsumi: Of course but it’s also important that you can hear the sound of dignity and that atmospheric charisma as a gang boss in his voice, Ash’s holding up an image so the voice of kindness towards Eiji will not fully kick in until they mutually approve each other and become friends.

— Did Nojima Kenji (the voice for Eiji) got his role through auditions?

Utsumi: Yes. God, the way Nojima-san‘s voice kindly wrapped my whole being is too Eiji-like that it feels……THE HEALING! I was tasked to give cue for the auditions and so I said “Take it away, Nojima-san” to him. In an instant, his voice filled the studio and I was healed. The ability to adjust the ooze on his voice is amazing!

— The voice recording of the episodes haven’t started yet. But…how is the chemistry between Uchida and Nojima so far?

Utsumi: Because the subject for the auditions is this certain conversation scene between Eiji and Ash, there’s a direct dialogue exchange between the two characters, so I listened alternately to the sound recording and self-synchronized the whole scene in my head. (Wearing earphones where the left bud is Ash while the right one is Eiji) “This [duo] is a GO!” (laughs).

— Hahaha! (laughs) The voice actors are in sync doing the screenplay you constructed, for the actual recording there are a handful of people from the staff who’s anxiously telling that the outcome could be different depending on the atmosphere the casts have with each other, despite all that, I am looking forward to see what kind of Ash and Eiji we are going to have when the recording starts.

Utsumi: That’s the spirit…….I believe in them!

“BANANA FISH” anime’s character design for Max Lobo

— How did you decide that Hirata Hiroaki is the one who’ll voice Max?

Utsumi: Max’s character is a combination of comical and exquisite seriousness, because it’s such an important role, I was looking at my work script carefully to assess which actor who’ll suit this character best, and it’s not easy to pinpoint who exactly fits the bill. In this case, I consulted Hayashi-san which is the one who brought up Hirata.

Hayashi: I simply said “How about Hirata-san?”

Utsumi: So I hurriedly watched Hirata-san‘s voice acting works, when I get to listen to some of his roles when he’s comical my thoughts instantly went “It’s Max!” and then quickly went on the table to write a role offer. All the staff went ‘we get it!’ when I chose him so I was convinced that I made the right decision.

“BANANA FISH” anime’s character design for Dino Golzine

— Speaking of roles that you’re convinced of casting,  I can really feel that Ishizuka Unshou is the perfect actor to voice Golzine.

Utsumi: Regarding the casting of Ishizuka-san, the suggestion came from our sound director Yamada (You)san. Golzine is a mafia boss, which is a role that is full of importance and regality, Ishizuka-san‘s voice sounds really heavy and you could really feel the authoritative pressure of his regality very much, it was so perfect to the extent that he nailed the image of how I visualize Golzine so I didn’t ask any more from him.

Utsumi-san‘s body type check is tough

— The production is progressing really well so, what are the things you are looking forward with Utsumi-san?

Utsumi: I can’t really choose for I think that kind of stuff is way too broad……but what I’m looking forward the most at the moment is Eiji’s past, his pole-vaulting uniform look, those tight shorts.

— I actually saw Hayashi-san drawing and I glanced on what she’s working (laughs)  Eiji is running on the track field.

Eiji Okumura from “BANANA FISH” anime PV

Hayashi: Since those scenes are flashbacks, the cuts aren’t that many but I really want it to pop out so I drew everything neatly well and with great care (laughs)

— Based from other works and interviews, there’s this really extraordinary collation of Utsumi-san with muscles, so speaking to that, Utsumi-san do you specify on what of the muscle to define on a character…….how about the amount of legs to show on a character that is wearing shorts? 

Utsumi: (laughs) Legs……Haha…what is a leg…Yeah, that’s right. I’m particular about legs. There’s no person doing track and field that has slender legs for they work on their muscles like antelopes. Eiji definitely has antelope-like legs, so I want his uniform to define that figure. It’s not only legs that come in play but the upper body muscles too……And, if you define muscles way too much you’ll end up having an Eiji that’s out of proportion, the original manga drew Eiji having exquisite muscles so I don’t want to lose that feeling by holding myself or being too carefree expressing that figure (laughs).

Hayashi: When I’m drafting character designs, Utsumi-san‘s body type check is tough every time. She’s really particular about having muscles to have a feel on every type of clothing, Even if it’s just a single plain white T-shirt, you can feel the silhouette of the body figure and that kind of details exists is all thanks to Utsumi-san’s commitment.

From “BANANA FISH” anime PV

Utsumi: If it’s a real gang, they’ll be wearing loose hoodies with a hood to cover up their face……But, Ash got a lot more style than that so I’m drawn on making him look daring. Ash is also pretty neutral despite being different, he’s obviously a man, however he got this dangerous vibe of sexuality which is very attractive. Hayashi-san‘s designs definitely show that and I was very satisfied.

Hayashi: The male staffs said that “Ash is so cool!” and his erotic vibe made him great, so it’s good to know that men can find Ash’s type cool and despite being men themselves didn’t make fun of it so that’s a nice feeling. I’m really happy.

— Hayashi-san, did you find a certain scene really fun to draw?

Hayashi: I personally love every scene where Ash is suffering like a poor little cat. I also had fun drawing Ash as a kid. The part where Ash dressed as a nurse is a real treat too.

— Ah, he indeed evolves, in “BANANA FISH” Ash has various appearance which is enjoyable to witness. It will be a lot more noticeable now that it’s in color and animated.

Ash Lynx from “BANANA FISH” anime PV

Utsumi: There are scenes that they’ll wear a formal attire but, I am more looking forward on how much impact would be the gap moe when they are back on wearing their usual attire.

— Such scenes will definitely showcase how firearms are well-drawn as well.

Hayashi: Well, in that case it would probably be the most severe scene check for Utsumi-san (laughs)

— (laughs) . So finally, can you give us a message for everyone who is looking forward to this anime?

Hayashi: It has been a long while since I was in charge of a TV anime series, and not to mention it’s a 2-cour series so to be honest I am really frightened (laughs),  I would like to make things interesting by being part of the staff that’s focusing on animation but I was given a different task so I decided to work all out on that instead. This time around, I’m more on the drawing side of things, but because I’m particular about movements you could see it on my designs and I hope you’ll be able to feel that, please look forward for my designs that is full of dramatic flair.

Utsumi: To everyone who is a fan of the original work, as well as the fresh blood who followed through the development, I’m working real hard everyday together with my hardworking staff non-stop 24/7 in order to bring you that hard boiled -ness that you’ll able to dive through in first look! It’s really a tough work everyday…….. (bitter laugh-smile) . The rebirth of Ash and Eiji on the modern age……..Please look forward to it!

— Thank you so much for the passionate message (laughs)

Utsumi: It’s pretty cool if you just take the words to your heart and not imagine what kind of hell we’re in……(laughs). We’re going to do our best!

5 thoughts on “[English translation] Hiroko Utsumi and Akemi Hayashi Comic Natalie Interview about BANANA FISH anime

  1. I’ve just started following this series, and the difference of era between the manga and the anime is pretty intriguing. Thanks for this translation, by the way!

  2. I really hope the ending is changed I’m completely heartbroken I watched episodes 1 to 23 as I’m a fan of BL I decided to look up if they kiss or he goes to Japan and was a season 2 expected to see what happens is just I can’t even explain my mind has been thinking about it none stop I’m dreading Thursdays release of 24 and wish I’d never seen it I can’t explain it but its truly touched a nerve

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