This interview is released on FujiTV Muscat’s website on June 30, 2018.
My Japanese isn’t that polished (like a grade schooler) so please feel free to correct me if you spot any mistakes on my translation. With that being said, I hope you enjoy reading!
Timeless manga masterpiece “BANANA FISH” 24 years from its completion……the reason why this long-time wish of anime adaptation is finally realized
“BANANA FISH” Producer Kyōko Uryū interview!
The original series was serialized in 1985 and has gained a legendary masterpiece status on the realm of Japanese comics
On July 5, 2018 (Thursday), the anime adaptation of “BANANA FISH” will start its broadcast at FujiTV’s noitaminA block. It’s a manga series that’s serialized from 1985 to 1994 by Akimi Yoshida-sensei, which is critically-acclaimed and has a huge following of fans. Even though the manga ended over 20 years ago, it still boast a soaring popularity for it hasn’t stopped gaining new fans.
The name of the protagonist is Ash Lynx who lives on the streets of New York. As a bad boy gang leader, he’ll follow the mysteries surrounding “BANANA FISH” while fighting on the conflict against this certain mafia boss. Together with the person who supports Ash the most, Eiji Okumura, the photographer assistant who came from Japan to cover an interview. While they’re walking in two different worlds, these two found each other on an encounter, and though their feelings resonate with each other, they’re bound to face challenges prepared by this harsh thing called fate.
Yoshida-sensei celebrated her 40th anniversary as manga artist back in 2017, which is also the year when the legendary comic got its anime adaptation announced. ‘I was a big fan of the original work myself’ as told by the Aniplex’s producer Kyōko Uryū which is why she made her long-time wish of an anime adaptation for “BANANA FISH” come true.
‘I want many people to know more about my favorite work’ the producer’s greatest desire
―― What do you do as an animation producer?
“From the planning of project launching, knowing deeply what kind of work it was and how to develop it based on the the data gathered, the transition of planning to production, and advertisement planning, I was assigned as the responsible person on this entire project but my focus mainly is to make the anime marketable.”
―― The story behind “BANANA FISH” having an anime adaptation, please tell us about how you got the opportunity
“I was a big fan of the original work in the first place. When I joined Aniplex, I keep on telling that I want to produce “BANANA FISH” if ever it gets an anime adaptation. So when I got transferred to the main production department, I didn’t waste any time and immediately wrote a story proposal fit to be read by Shogakukan. Now that I think about that proposal, it’s almost like I wrote a love letter, a writing on how I envisioned the adaptation will turn out, and then conveyed my sincerest thoughts. It was a tough break for I didn’t really get specific on the visualizations, I really thought it’s impossible for it to be approved, but somehow I got an OK mark to them and so it was approved……To be honest, I was so surprised that they approved that proposal.”
―― Now, why do think your anime proposal got a pass?
“Probably because of my timing……I’d been planning to submit proposals for 5 years now despite not being at the main department yet but then, I realized that by 2017, it will be Yoshida-sensei‘s 40th anniversary as a manga artist, and so I held back submitting anything until it’s time for I find the idea of having an anime by 2018 really cool. I’m so happy that I was able to pull it off. At least for me, this work is something that inspired me deeply back when I was a student, I’m making this anime happen because I want the young people of today to experience what I felt. I think it would be so amazing if people who come across the anime will have the same struck of feelings which will trigger them to create something, I would like to express the beauty of this work to as many people as possible.”
―― The original work is super popular, did you feel any pressure or anxiety?
“I always feel pressured. It’s a work that I love very much, and so I can understand the feelings of the fans on a spiritual level, specifically when they’re doubting and fearing on how the anime will look like. As soon as the serialization of the manga ended, the fans steadily grew and grew in huge numbers. I know it will be difficult to have the anime be recognized by every fan because we interpret this series in various ways, but I think the charms of the new “BANANA FISH” is something that’s very carefully crafted not only for the current youth to enjoy, but also the fans of the original manga as well.”
―― Please tell us what are your plans in mind about the anime adaptation.
“I really love the original work, I have a huge respect for it and so I would still like to see those scenes come alive in animation no matter what. Of course, there are some things that needs to be changed in composition so that it will fit on the current animation, but we’re only changing how it’s delivered, not the actual essence of the scene itself. I find it really important to have the scenes conveyed like the original work. I would like it to be a wonderful work as possible, so the animation team is working very hard to find the perfect bar when it comes on doing interpretative animation. I hope that when you watch the anime, you’ll be able to feel that it is something fresh yet at the same time see the original work come through.”
Ash & Eiji, I want to visualize the realness of their chemical reaction together
―― How did you decide about the casting of the voice actors?
“Ash & Eiji plus some other characters are picked through auditions that’s supervised by the anime director, sound director, and by Yoshida-sensei. Actually, it was Eiji’s VA that is first added on the cast. The result of the auditions, slated Nojima-san to be Eiji, the deciding factor is the fact that his gentle voice captivated everyone on the room and how that gentleness can support Ash’s fragile heart. Uchida-san, the one who is able to get the role of Ash, the thing that became a deciding factor is the compatibility of his voice to Nojima, he also acted very in character, almost like as if Ash exist in real life, he sounds really cool but the moment he talks with Eiji, there’s a hint of childishness and kindness.”
―― The original work is serialized on the 80s until 90s, have you changed things accordingly in order for everything to be compatible on the current era?
“The fundamental changes are obviously the technology, buildings, clothing, etc. Although the development of the modern era story is different, the essence that we want to convey, remains unchanged, however some parts are changed accordingly in order to fit on the current era, which is the addition of smartphones and PCs. In order for new audiences to get into “BANANA FISH”, we opt for a modern setting which made the fans of the original work worried but rest assured that there’s no inconsistencies at all. There are also changes on the art museum, library, and other public buildings and so our screenwriter Hiroshi Seko is the one who’s assigned to reassess those locations by vising it personally in NY together with all the staff. Our interpreter and guide keeps on scolding us for Director Utsumi just goes straight at dangerous areas and gets angry when we don’t follow her (laughs) Her reasoning for all that trouble is that she wants to capture the realness of the chemical reaction of Ash and Eiji when they’re in dangerous situations, she said that by experiencing the place both by our eyes and feelings, we would be able to produce a better animation and script.”
The world of “BANANA FISH” that is created by Ms. Akimi Yoshida, the total plus α charm
―― Producer Uryū, what do you think is the main charm of “BANANA FISH”
“It is a work that has variety of charms. The suspense on uncovering the mystery of “BANANA FISH” is paced as if it’s from a Hollywood movie, filled with tension and drama……But I think the most charming part of this work is the protagonist, Ash Lynx. His life is filled with challenges and difficulties, but he still holds on with no intention of breaking apart. Also, his relationship with Eiji is something that is really special for it acts as his mental support and so, when Eiji got harmed, he’ll bring endless pits of hell to everyone which is really entertaining (laughs)”
――The original work is up until volume 19, so to what until point of the manga will be on the anime?
“We will adapt everything on the span of 24 episodes. Because there are a lot of important scenes, it’s really difficult to choose what scenes we’ll leave as it is or scrap. However, it seems like Seko-san has already decided to work on Director Utsumi’s visions which was ambitious yet clear according to him, so I guess they have at least formed a shape on what results they want to have, which is better than having vague and blurry direction. When I watch them work, sometimes my inner fan of the original work spills out and shout at these two “You can’t change that line! It doesn’t sound good at all” and then later on realize that it’s just a concise form of the script and instantly go I’m kidding! They know what they’re doing, alright.”
――Finally, as this anime gets a lot of attention despite not airing yet, please give us a message to the the fans
“The animation studio MAPPA, together with the director of the anime are working on this adaptation with utmost care, also since the first episode is really dense and very dark, we’d put a number of detailed descriptions so that you can easily follow through. Please look forward on seeing Eiji & Ash that is created by Yoshida-sensei to come alive on this anime. We put our best effort on putting this together and so are confident that you’ll like it. Thank you.”
Interviewer / Questions = Chiemi Matsumura
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