Can You See The Light Ahead~
So Far Away, So Far Away~
Hey, that was me while writing this translation because it’s absurdly long and there was no end to it. So you better check it out or else I will Swim Swim the guts out of you.
This is a translation of an interview from the TV Anime Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku Official Fanbook. It features Asari Endou, the original novel writer, Takao Yoshioka, the man in charge of series composition and the scripts and Hiroyuki Hashimoto, the director.
Without further ado, I present you these three power men talking about magical girls.
A Source Material That’s Not Just Interesting But Also Pierces The Heart
Interviewer: First of all, director Hashimoto, Yoshioka-san, please tell us about your experiences with the source material.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Yoshioka-san was the one who got contacted to work on the series first.
Takao Yoshioka: That’s right. I think I was approached about two years ago or so? I was working on a different anime and the producer approached me right then and there about the prospect of an upcoming work, with the source material being a novel. So I got myself to read it and that’s how I encountered it first. Back then, there still had no decision on an anime adaptation been made, but to be honest, if it did get an adaptation, I would have been set to work on it.
Interviewer: So, back then, did you keep your awareness of the work at a certain level?
Takao Yoshioka: That was my intention. Since I didn’t know what the future would bring, for the time being, I’d scan over the artwork and story introduction and keep my involvement at about that level. On that note, when I actually started reading it, I found it to be absurdly engaging and my hands simply couldn’t stop flipping through the pages. So at the end, I had read all of it. I might just simply state that it was engaging but there are different kinds of engaging, aren’t there? In the case of Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku, it’s the unpleasant kind of engaging. (laughs) Among mystery novels, there’s a term reserved called “iyamisu” (a mystery that will make you regret reading it and leave you with unpleasant feelings) and I feel like this is the kind of story that is equipped with a very similar kind of entertainment factor to it. The more you read, the greater the damage you inflict upon your heart. That kind of literary style is shunned by anime as a medium in its current state so while it might be an engaging story, I deemed it wouldn’t be possible for it to receive an anime adaptation. (laughs)
Interviewer: Director Hashimoto, your participation in the project was only decided after an anime adaptation had been confirmed then?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: I think that’s about right. Before this one, I had previously directed Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?, an anime featuring the daily lives of cute girls, so upon seeing the cute illustrations of the novels, “Maybe the decision was made that I should be in charge of the adaptation because of that?” was what I thought. Speaking of which, when I actually started reading the story, all the girls suddenly started dying. (laughs) What’s more, it all happened so suddenly I thought I had skipped a page for a moment. So that’s really what caught me offguard first. Also, like in most recent novels, there wasn’t a lot of dialogue, it was kept to a bare minimum. So when it comes to information that could be used in terms of building the characters, there was not a whole lot to work with and I figured an anime adaptation would be rather difficult to handle.
Interviewer: In your previous work, GochiUsa, there were a lot of scenes with mood changes, so was there a part of you that felt the difficulty of the gear change within yourself?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: I can’t say I really felt that. The literary style might be quite different, but to begin with, both the character portrayal and maruino’s artwork were quite cute. So drawing the characters in a cute manner wouldn’t really be much of a change. The engaging part about this work is that cute characters would get thrown into unforeseen events and, with no intention on their part, end up losing their lives, that’s what I think. To adapt this properly for an anime requires accurately portraying both the cute and the harsh parts right.
Interviewer: Endou-sensei, when the anime adaptation was confirmed, what were your feelings?
Asari Endou: As for the process up until the confirmation of the anime adaptation, the person in charge told me I shouldn’t get my hopes up too high, and then that things might work out, thereafter that it would most likely pass, followed by that there’s a 90% chance of getting green lit, that’s what I feel was the gradual state of receiving news until the final confirmation. And so, I was in a state of not really knowing when exactly I should be overcome with joy. (laughs)
Interviewer: When you were told about an anime adaptation, was there any kind of mental image that was swelling up in your mind?
Asari Endou: There really wasn’t anything of the sorts. For my work to be made into an anime, I just couldn’t imagine that, it was a huge deal and I was busy trying my hardest to realize the full extent of the situation. There was no way I could have had any kind of image in mind beforehand.
Interviewer: Well then, when you met the main staff, including director Hashimoto and Yoshioka-san for the first time, is that when you came to see a concrete vision for the project?
Asari Endou: No, even then, I had still not quite processed the situation, so I was still caught in this vague mood of “Wow, all of this sure is amazing!”. (laughs)
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Yoshioka-san and I had only met back then and the production of the anime wasn’t in a very advanced state yet, right?
Takao Yoshioka: The series composition had just been finished at that point. I thought it would be more reassuring that way, for Endou-sensei to make all sorts of calls based on it.
A Story Development Conscious Of The Way To End
Interviewer: How did you go about the process of series composition?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: As for the composition that Yoshioka-san had handed me over first, it was tightly put together. Each episode had already written down which events would unfold, so there wasn’t really anything from my side of things that I still desired. Something that required reworking multiple times was us figuring out on how we would end the last episode. Thereafter, at about 80 % finished, we still had to meddle with the finer details, and that’s what we showed Endou-sensei for review. We could call it a draft proposal.
Takao Yoshioka: I had received feedback from director Hashimoto, namely to not let Nemurin die in the first episode. In the initial composition, Nemurin was supposed to die at the end of episode 01. We tried to prolong her life a little bit.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: At the end though, we only granted her one more episode to live however. (laughs)
Takao Yoshioka: At first, I thought it would be better to display the source material’s true colors in the first episode but ultimately, I think the version we went with was the better option to take.
Interviewer: What feedback did you receive from Endou-sensei in regard to the draft proposal of the series composition you handed him?
Asari Endou: I think I gave them some sort of instruction but I just don’t know what it was anymore. (laughs) Well, since I forgot, it can’t have been too important.
Interviewer: The source material starts with Koyuki already transformed as Snow White, however, the anime goes back in time a bit and shows how she came to be a magical girl.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Had we handled the anime just like the portrayal of events in the source material, I doubt the audience would have been able to remember the characters’ names. In the novel, you can always flip back the pages for clarification, but with an anime, it’s a constantly forward-flowing audiovisual sequence. As a result, I wanted to avoid a scenario where viewers would be unable to tell who’s who by the end of the episode. That is why we used the first episode to welcome all the characters who appeared in it while also establishing Snow White as the protagonist. However, right thereafter, the series would develop in a way for Snow White to not appear that much anymore. That is why, in episode 02, we added scenes of Snow White rescuing people.
Takao Yoshioka: Since we had decided to let Snow White appear in every single episode.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Which in turn, as expected, led to La Pucelle, who had formed a pair with her, receiving more screentime. (laughs)
Interviewer: You also incorporated content from the short stories, was that planned from the start?
Takao Yoshioka: That’s right. Since the novel was only one volume long, turning it into one cour of anime would have been difficult otherwise. And since I figured it’d be best to adapt from the short stories, I showed no restraints! (laughs) What’s more, the short stories also allowed us to flesh out the characters so their existence was a benefit.
Interviewer: Once you had finished the series composition, how would you proceed with creating the scenario for each episode?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Basically, we’d create the scenarios for each episode and then would hand over the stash to Endou-sensei for approval. Whenever there were instructions from his side of things, we would revise the part and complete it.
Asari Endou: As for whenever I found inconsistencies with the setting, I took on the role of ruining the parade. (laughs) Still, the level the content that was handed to me was at was really solid so I didn’t have much to say.
Takao Yoshioka: I think it mostly concerned the characters’ manners of speaking.
Interviewer: What was the thing that you paid attention to when it came to the individual episodes’ scenarios?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: What concerned me the most was how we would end the episodes. As for the novel I went out of my way to buy for myself, there’s not really much of a point where I’d like to quit. However, this would turn into an anime airing one episode a week, and getting people to continue and watch all to the end is difficult. Not to mention that this is a work where characters die one after another, so people might feel devastated yet because I very much wanted them to continue watching, I deemed it important to put emphasis especially on the way to end things for an episode. I really obsessed over it. When I saw Yoshioka-san’s scenarios, I found them to be superb so there really weren’t any corrections for me to make.
Takao Yoshioka: That’s because the source material is already engaging to begin with. From my perspective, if I could revitalize the appeal for the anime, it would make for a really engaging experience, that’s what I believed. I’m not sure if that way of thinking was us coincidentally aligning, but without even meeting the director and hearing his point of view, we had achieved a result with no arguments between the two of us.
Interviewer: Yoshioka-san, what did you focus on in terms of scenario?
Takao Yoshioka: In multiprotagonist stories, there are a lot of characters and their actions are portrayed in parallel manner, so I was careful about how to balance all of that. What’s more, when it came to the depiction of these characters’ everyday lives, most of them were stories of the past. Inserting all of these right before characters were going to die would make the story predictable for the audience, so I worried a lot about where to place them. My way of thinking boiled down to this: in the first half of the series, I was trying not to make it obvious to identify who’s going to die whereas in the second half, I would almost declare it. Once you reach the middle, it becomes increasingly obvious that the characters are going to die one after another, so rather on focusing who will die, I thought it to be preferable to make the audience all nervous about how they would die.
Asari Endou: Preserving a lack of predictability on when characters would die and keeping the audience on edge is something I still put focus on in the source material. Having a character who would usually get to live longer unexpectedly die or messing with people’s predictions on when characters would die, I really scheme with these elements a lot while writing the series.
Interviewer: Before you write the story out, do you prepare a tightly set order for the magical girls to die in advance or do you make changes while still in the process of writing things out?
Asari Endou: These things might change while writing but for my first instalment of “Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku”, I stuck to the plot I had settled on.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Endou-san is someone who understands the benefits of novel writing, and crafts his stories expertedly around that. Parts that will become hints are scattered throughout the work, and the story is constructed in a way for you to read things prudently and, through foreshadowing, figure out who is going to end up dying. However, with an anime, all is portrayed through images and voice acting, so you can’t hide things the same way as in a novel. So even in Swim Swim’s case, when you hear Ayana’s voice in Nemurin’s dream in episode 02 in the right moment, people in the know will get it. There were also plans on having different voice actors for pre- and post-transformation but the cast would have gotten way too big then. (laughs)
Takao Yoshioka: After all, you can’t adapt a novel’s descriptive tricks in regard to the setup into film. As a result, you shouldn’t draw the appeal from that part but instead have to make things engaging through a different way of presentation. With the aforementioned flashbacks too, I tried to make the audience think that these were nice stories and incorporate their feelings, making them grow, only to strike for the kill right thereafter to leave a big wound, aiming for a big effect.
Interviewer: While writing the scenarios, didn’t you ever feel pity for the characters?
Takao Yoshioka: Of course not. Calculating the overall series structure for the composition is work, and developing any weird feelings during said work would throw things off and cause for gaps to appear, that’s a fear I would have. With that said, killing Top Speed did really bring me down. At the end of the day, killing a pregnant woman, thinking in terms of real life, is a bit harsh.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Having Ripple carry Top Speed’s body home did cause quite the differences in views back then. Such as having her not dropped off at the veranda but before the entry hall. However, taking Ripple’s feelings into consideration, there is no way she would have left her there and her husband not being the first to discover her would be too cruel, so that’s how we settled on that.
Interviewer: In the anime, I was under the impression that the cruel scenes were expressed in full vigor.
Takao Yoshioka: When I read the novel, I felt that, in terms of presentation, I wouldn’t have to tone things down. And so, when writing the scenario, I didn’t tone anything down at all. If there was anything in the portrayal that would have been found to be objectionable, we could have easily dismissed it at the process of visualization, however, even there, nothing was toned down. (laughs) Something that stuck with me during the scriptwriting meetup was episode 07, wherein Calamity Mary turned Hardgore Alice into mincemeat. When I was noncholantly presented the director’s rough draft, I wrote in “can you actually visualize this?” (laughs)
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: At first, we had discussions such as using certain camera angles and not showing the distasteful parts. However, when reflecting upon what to do and not to do, I couldn’t help but think if it wasn’t actually better to just not tone things down. (laughs) From the perspective of a fan who has read the source material, of course you would be overjoyed just having the novel animated in the first place, but I think you would also properly want to see how these magical girls fight and are killed. I thought that leaving that point of view out would be wrong, and wanted to accurately reflect the imagination of those who have read the original work through the visuals.
Takao Yoshioka: With director Hashimoto, I was positive that he would do his absolute best in portraying cute girls, so if I took the audience’s point of view in with the scenario and went for the best I could do, and if I matched his work, I could increase the shock effect all the more. Following these intentions, when I saw the finished footage, there was a part of me that thought “We did it!” At the same time, seeing the work that was actually detached from the scenario, as a mere spectator, I also felt the pain for the first time. What a job we had done, it was kinda like that. (laughs)
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Even in the novel, I could feel the contrast in the portrayal of pretty girls enacting ghastly death battles, however, I think the anime undoubtedly ramped up the brutality a lot more. For instance, in the last episode, there’s a scene where Ripple stabs Swim Swim with her blade, however, in the source material, the blade thrown at her immediately stabs and kills her. When it comes to the anime, Swim Swim was lying on the ground and Ripple unscrupulously pierced her with the blade a second and even a third time. (laughs)
About The Relationship Between The Novel And Illustations In The Source Material
Interviewer: Was depicting 16 magical girls limited to only a one cour anime a big challenge?
Takao Yoshioka: Matching names and faces proved to be quite the ordeal at first. When I wrote the scenario, I made sure to have the material I had assembled for the characters, their names and their information placed nearby.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: At the beginning, in Yoshioka-san’s scenarios, I noticed that “Tama” had turned into “Pochi”. (laughs)
Takao Yoshioka: She may be called “Tama” but she was still a dog so I got it all mixed up in my head.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Still, even while it might seem that with so many magical girls, there will be some that serve no purposes, that was not the case at all.
Takao Yoshioka: That’s true, there is not even a single one one could call a throwaway character. That is why, while writing the scenarios and making sure that all the characters would receive proper screentime, I never got particularly stressed.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Speaking in terms of visuals, in maruino-san’s illustrations, there are many parts with quite some fine details so I got the impression that animating these would turn into a major endeavor. What’s more, even though these are magical girls, they have very direct combat that involves a lot of body contact, so there was a major hurdle of having a lot of excessive movement to depict. “How would a battle in this kind of attire go down in practice?” is something I imagined a lot while creating the show.
Interviewer: Was there a character design from the source material that left a particularly strong impression with you?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: I was impressed by all of the characters but what did worry me a little in terms of adapting it into the anime was the broom that belongs to Top Speed. In the source material, in maruino-san’s illustrations, it’s just a regular broom, however, as it was portrayed in the novel, it had a cowl attached to it. I was wondering how to portray that accurately but when I checked out the manga adaptation for clarification, it had suddenly turned into a bike. (laughs)
Asari Endou: Top Speed’s broom is the only thing that didn’t match maruino-san’s illustrations. That’s the way it’s in the source material but I think it’s good for different media to differ in regards to that.
Takao Yoshioka: At the end of the day, we stuck with the generic broom design and only at the very end, had it transform to the source material’s broom with a cowl attached to it.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: The broom just made me think of this but isn’t the ability to fly in this world an entirely different thing from a magical girl’s magic? Magicaloid 44 uses her magic to spawn items from the future but isn’t that essentially entirely different from her flying through the air?
Asari Endou: I take some form of balancing into account for that which is why magical girls that are equipped with the gift of flight, compared to those that don’t have the ability to be airborne, are estimated to be a little bit weaker.
Takao Yoshioka: So that’s why Magicaloid 44 got insta-killed.
Asari Endou: That’s it.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: While writing the novel, just how much had you conceptualized the magical girls’ appearances in your mind?
Asari Endou: That depends on the character. While there are cases where I have a rough concept in mind, there are also those where that’s not the case at all. Strictly speaking in terms of the first arc, there was not a single character I had a certain image in my mind for. (laughs) I entrusted maruino-san with the designing process and in return, when I received the designs, these changed my mental image for the characters.
Interviewer: How did the cooperation in work with maruino-san go?
Asari Endou: It’s like handing over my first draft and based on how I’d describe the characters’ portrayal, I let her handle the characters. However, with the first arc, the visual concepts I gave out were really vague, so apparently whoever was responsible just said to not pay too much attention to what the first draft had to say. (laughs)
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: So with that said, when you saw the designs that maruino-san handed over, you must mostly have had several cases of being like ‘so that’s what this magical girl looked like!’
Asari Endou: That’s right. La Pucelle’s tail stems from the illustrations. (laughs) As for the others, Yunael and Minael having a wing on either the left or the right side also came from the illustrations.
Interviewer: So did you, after taking in the additional information from maruino-san’s illustrations, also revise the script to reflect upon them?
Asari Endou: Yes. Generally speaking, my stance is to follow maruino-san’s illustrations. There have been cases where the original storyline would be contradicted by the illustrations and we have asked to correct that but whenever that is not the case, I change the content of the manuscript according to the illustrations. Besides, it looks like there was originally no plan to draw all 16 characters anyway. When the person who was in charge and maruino-san had met for a meeting, the original idea was to draw about the main four or five characters, however, as the conversation went on, it just so turned out that every character would receive a design. (laughs) And since that happened, there was an abundance of characters with no concrete design concepts, entrusting all the work to maruino-san instead.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: What’s more, maruino-san even designed the pre-transformation characters for the anime. (laughs) In the manga adaptation, several of them had already received designs, but since the anime featured all of them untransformed, we asked her for the big favor to design them all.
Interviewer: Among the first arc’s characters, which was the one that surprised you the most once you saw maruino-san’s design?
Asari Endou: It’s got to be La Pucelle after all. The original baseline was that of a knight but for it to turn into a dragon knight was maruino-san’s idea. It wasn’t just the tail, she also had horns, I really couldn’t have imagined that. In a good way, it was a design that really betrayed my expectations. What also surprised me was Nemurin’s. Aaaaah, she turned out to be such a cute girl. I just couldn’t help but think that killing her off first was such a waste. (laughs)
An Anime Crafts The World Of The Work
Interviewer: With an anime adaptation, it is not only necessary to visualize the characters but also their surroundings. Since there are so many characters, did that also prove to be troublesome?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: While transformed as magical girls, these characters would mostly act outside of the city, however, it’s not like they don’t lead regular lives when untransformed, right? In an anime, these are also things you need to draw so from that perspective, there was also a challenge to face. After all, in a novel, there are no detailed depictions of what rooms these characters live in and how they go about their lives.
Takao Yoshioka: Speaking of their rooms, I also had a question for director Hashimoto for that. In this anime, aren’t there a lot of rooms with tatami mats? In anime nowdays it is rare for this many tatami mats to be present.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: The nature of the locality there sure is quite big, isn’t it? The source material’s N City became Nabuka City for the anime, the model for it was Joetsu City in Niigata. When we went there for location scouting, what left an impression with me was that a lot of private houses were more large-sized than mansions. Koyuki lives in a house like that and tries to have her room cutely decorated for a girl appropriate her age but she can’t escape from her house’s tatami mats, that’s what I think. (laughs) I thought that if I somehow linked her wanting to change but being unable to do so with her desire to become a magical girl, that’d be really interesting. What’s more, the magical girls inhabiting this world have their roots in this city, giving it a somewhat realistic feeling. In that sense, too, I felt that tamami mats, infused with a lived-in-feel, would be a good fit.
Takao Yoshioka: It’s true that in this work, despite telling the big lie of a magical girl as a concept, tatami mats, which are infused with a very realistic odor of life, might be a good fit. For magical girls that sparkle and are removed from this fleeting world, a tower mansion would have been a way better fit though.
Asari Endou: Truth to be told, Koyuki’s house looks exactly my own. (laughs) I had handed over no such material to the anime staff so I was really surprised.
Interviewer: You used Joetsu City as a reference model because it’s the birthplace of Endou-sensei, right?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: That’s right. Going beyond the qualities of just a fictional work, it was necessary to portray a realistic city, which is why by setting up a reference model, I didn’t want for the portrayal to be blurred. So I spoke with who was in charge and had the source material’s suburban town’s concept as fitting places integrated.
Asari Endou: The original work’s N City is an entirely fictive city, so it’s not like it was based on Joetsu City. However, no matter what, there are still places that are incredibly important to me so I can’t deny the possibility that I subconsciously integrated some that were like them. For instance, the height of the buildings might be one such manifestation. From my perspective, living on the 7th floor might be incredibly high, so when I was writing the novel, I was under the impression that someone talking on the rooftop couldn’t be seen. However, I came to notice thereafter that a person on the ground would actually be able to see you. (laughs) So even in that sense it feels like, N City, which was no more than a product of my fantasy, had received a more realistic apperance in the anime.
Takao Yoshioka: When magical girls are on the move, they hop from a citizen’s rooftop to the next one, but had it been a town consisting of nothing but office buildings, that would have been incredibly unengaging, right?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Still, when it comes to anime, compared to office buildings that have comparatively few details, having to draw private houses with roof tiles is a huge effort. That’s why, on the art board, we had increased the number of office buildings. Had I asked for the number of office buildings to be reduced even more, it would have turned into a forest. “No, not a forest, I want private houses~”, it was kinda like that. (laughs)
Interviewer: Was there a character whose room you found hard to come up with?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: That was the case with Swim Swim/Ayana. What kind of life does a grade schooler lead to become like this, it was just hard to imagine. At the end, I just couldn’t figure it out so I sent Endou-sensei the material to check, to which I got a simple OK back with no major issues so I really wondered whether that was okay. (laughs)
Asari Endou: Oh no, it was fine. When I first saw the material for Ayana’s room, I was all like “oh, so that’s how it is!” The way her parents treat her, the level of education, even the family atmosphere is what ended up being conveyed. With that said, it’s the same with maruino-san’s illustrations, I’m quick to take in other people’s impressions so it’s possible for even a setup to have such an impact. Still, there is no doubt that even I as the author myself would find the house to be very convincing.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: With Ayana, I’ve felt like it’s not like her parents aren’t affectionate towards her, it’s more so that the affection is poured a little differently from normal. This might just be me reading into things but she might just be the daughter of a long-established kimono store or such and therefore lives in a huge building. Her own room, too, is very large but she has no idea what to do with it.
An Audition That Was By No Means Half-Hearted In Terms Of Numbers
Interviewer: How did the casting proceed this time around?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: We gathered everyone who was part of the production meetings as well as those who would work on the auditory side of things and then held the audition. At the end, the casting came pretty close in terms of whom I had expected to be selected, but what impressions did you have, Endou-san?
Asari Endou: Since I’m a complete layman, my stance was to let professionals handle the process of picking the voice actors.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: While we’re at it, what impressions did you have on the voice acting from the anime?
Asari Endou: Just like with the illustrations, the mental image I head in mind was adjusting to them. Despite that, ever since first hearing them, I haven’t ever thought of any of them as strange.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Contrary to that, when you heard the voice, was there any character that had their image expanded or something like that?
Asari Endou: I suppose Magicaloid 44. She was already a character with a voice that was hard to imagine to begin with, so when I first head the voice, I understood what kind of voice she had.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: With Magicaloid 44’s voice, we were undecided until the last moment on how to handle it. Broadly speaking, she’s a magical girl, but, well, she’s also a robot. (laughs) We also had ideas such as digitally manufacturing her voice and as I was worried about quite a lot of issues, (Satomi) Arai-san came into my mind.
Takao Yoshioka: With Arai-san’s voice, it’s like it’s almost artificially created to begin with. (laughs)
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: That’s right. At her first performance, she emphasized on the characterization too strongly, so I asked her to restrain herself a bit and that’s how we achieved the present result. Speaking of characters that were difficult to deal with, there was also Fav. I felt like if you applied Fav properly, anyone could do it but also that no matter who did, the result would be strange. What’s more, as he is an existence that ties together these 16 magical girls, his voice must not be like any of the 16 magical girls, and additionally, his voice must be adequate for long discussions with Cranberry. So with that said, even though there so many voices could be heard in the audition, we ultimately settled for Kurumi-san.
Takao Yoshioka: This audition was really nothing to snub at, there were just so many people. Throughout my entire career, I can’t think of any other audition with this many people. For each role, we had about 50 people’s voice data, and we are talking 16 characters here. No matter how much I listened to performances, there was just no end to them. (laughs)
Asari Endou: From my side of things, I let the final decision rest with the anime production staff, and first and foremost as an anime fan let myself carelessly listen to the various performances. Hearing all these voices was just so much fun! I was all like “There are so many famous people here, I’ve heard of their names!” (laughs)
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: So that’s how much tension you were going through then, huh. Endou-san was very quite when he came to watch the dubbing of the first episode, I didn’t understand that. Had you drawn more attention to yourself, I think the cast would have been happier too.
Asari Endou: Oh no no, I was way too nervous, there was no way I would have had any composure for something like that. I thought that I shouldn’t disturb the recording, and was just that reluctant to make even a single sound. (laughs)
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Still, even though we had such an audition, out of 16 people, 14 would wind up being dead, right? If the anime got a sequel, almost all the characters would be replaced and the audition would have to start from scratch again.
Takao Yoshioka: It would be easier with a normal sequel, however, that’s so not going to happen. (laughs)
Interviewer: How did you settle for Touyama Nao-san for the role of Snow White?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: When I had first read Snow White’s lines, they shot through my head as Touyama-san’s voice. And so, during the audition, I also suggested Touyama-san and everyone else agreed with me so we settled for her. When it comes to Snow White, her voicework sparkles, yet also required someone to be able to express the highs and downs of her emotions, that’s what I figured. If we picked someone who especially couldn’t portray early Snow White’s joy over becoming a magical girl, that wouldn’t have worked at all and I assumed that Touyama-san was the one who could pull it off.
Interviewer: I thought that for Calamity Mary, Inoue Kikuko-san and for Cranberry, Ogata Megumi, the roles specifically were also considered.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Mary and Cranberry are characters who, even among a set of magical girls, have a very distinctive feeling to them, aren’t they? I wanted a kind of dreadfulness that was very different from the ordinarilly cute magical girls, so we had help from these two veterans. Narrowing it down to the voice actresses themselves, with Inoue-san, it was a magical girl who wasn’t even the slightest bit cute and with Ogata-san, a magical girl who had a very calm way of speaking that was also suspicious. That’s the resolution I was chasing with all my resolve.
A Realistic Story Approach Tried In The Script
Interviewer: Was there anything that the direction side of things had decided on with this work?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: What was decided on was to have characters act relatively realistically, like featuring no gag faces or manzai-like expressions. What did come very close to a gag-heavy production, however, was episode 05, part A, the flashback with Magicaloid 44 and Sister Nana. When Magicaloid brought out her devices from the future, I urged the director of photography to add in on screen text of the device names. That wasn’t part of my initial order but I figured that since it’s fun, we might as well run with it. (laughs)
Interviewer: Since this is a multi-protagonist story, was there any special need to pay attention to keep characters’ personalities consistent in terms of directing?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Of course that’s something I paid heed to, however, it really wasn’t that much of a big deal. I think that the characters in this work are especially pure. There aren’t any hidden sides to them or rather a lot of the times they’d act the way you expect them to do. For instance, even with Swim Swim, she really does love Ruler and wants to become Ruler, so she had no other choice than to kill Ruler, I thought that if I picked up each and every character’s personaly authentically, inconsistent character portrayals wouldn’t come ot exist.
Takao Yoshioka: Even with the scenario, I more or less felt the same. I took from the source material and in the same tone, would put things into the anime so that a proper adaptation would be accomplished. However, the present and flashbacks from the past would have completely different angles of drama, so I deliberately tried to change the mood of those in my writing style. Take Yamamoto Naoko abusing her daughter or Ako meeting her father in prison, with these scenes, I would purposely forget that they were written for an anime and instead intended to write them as realistic stories. In that sense, I got a taste of writing more than one work at the time and that was a lot of fun.
Interviewer: A realistic storytelling approach, what kind of style is that, concretely put?
Takao Yoshioka: Since it’s an anime and that is entirely expressed in pictures, I have to write in a lot of details but with this live-action style of writing, I don’t have to write a lot. With the aforementioned scenes, I wrote mostly the dialogue and made some adjustments to the flow of dialogue.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: But still, I wouldn’t have expected for an anime to depict parental abuse or a father peeping on his daughter. (laughs)
Asari Endou: Kano’s stepfather’s design caught me offguard at first.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: At first, I figured Kano’s mother would go for the cool-looking kind of guy, but go figure, it was her fifth one. I picked a calm man for her but once you’d get to know him better, you’d realize that he’s scum, I thought I might go for that. (laughs)
Takao Yoshioka: Kano’s stepfather is brought up only once or twice in the source material. However, since he is an important part in finding out how Kano’s personality came to be, I expanded his role in portraying that.
How The Reactions To The Deaths Of The Magical Girls Surpassed Expectations
Interviewer: Endou-sensei, when you got to see the finalized work, what were your feelings towards it?
Asari Endou: For instance, let’s say that characters A and B are having a conversation at a certain place, now, in the case of a novel, you can only describe that through your written content. However, with an anime, you have moving pictures, so when there are breaks in conversations, other forms of expressions are integrated, right? Something that moved me in particular was the wind blowing, making hair flutter. Watching something like that makes me realize how much the world of my work has come alive. If I were to try to do the same in the novels, these would just become components hindering the dialogue. Having these elements of presentation that benefit the audience integrated that naturally is something I think might be the strength of film.
Interviewer: Yoshioka-san, what about you?
Takao Yoshioka: Director Hashimoto’s portrayal of the girls was every bit as good as I had hoped for, so I was genuinely moved by that. Also, the fight in episode 06 between La Pucelle and Cranberry was anime original material, so seeing it portrayed so adequately in animation made me personally very overjoyed.
Asari Endou: In the source material, the end result of La Pucelle is that she is challenged by Cranberry, a character much stronger than her, unaware of it being a battle to death and taking it lightly, so the impression left is that she died a death she was supposed to die and it’s a strong one I think. In the anime, things go as far as victory being in La Pucelle’s reach for a moment and the feeling of having lost a regrettable character receives more emphasis. That’s one way to portray it but really, after all I do think it’s more brutal than in the source material. (laughs) Of course, in a good way!
Interviewer: La Pucelle was quite the popular character so when she died, that elicited quite the reactions.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: After all, there were a lot of people who didn’t want to accept La Pucelle’s death and stated that they would not continue watching. It’s just that, from the production side of things, we never had any intentions of creating an uproar. When Yoshioka-san and I had our scenario meetings, we never had any conversations on how La Pucelle was going to be particularly popular so we should channel concentrated effort into her. Of course, it was my intention to fully realize the potential that was within the characters to begin with, however, I developed her into a character for the audience to take in the nature of the relationship between her and Snow White, grabbing them right by their hearts. In that sense, that’s another way I got to find out about the high potential that lies within these characters after the episode had finished airing.
Takao Yoshioka: It’s a twist as it was to be found in the source material, so of course there’s no way we could have changed it.
Asari Endou: Of course, another moment that also aimed for a shock effect was the way everything was portrayed from the appearance of Hardgore Alice to the death of Magicaloid 44, showering the audience with questions. I even felt that Alice, moving while having lost her head, had a beauty to herself.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: I can understand why characters like Nemurin or Swim Swim, who have a cuteness appeal to them, become popular, however, with La Pucelle it’s, like, there’s a boy inside her! (laughs) Now, if I tried to dissect this, Sou-chan’s a boy who really loves magical girls but normally, was a boy really into soccer, right? So that’s why, even though he becomes a magical girl and can talk to girls, he still retains boyish parts. I think part of the reason why La Pucelle is so popular is that Ayana Sakura-san could act that contrast out so well.
Takao Yoshioka: From a scriptwriter’s point of view, I’d really like to create a series about just Snow White and La Pucelle.
Interviewer: With just Snow White and La Pucelle you say, but the other teams and combinations would also work well.
Takao Yoshioka: Oh yeah, they absolutely would.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: That’s because despite all of that, we had no qualms killing them. (laughs) I think that’s what makes this work so appealing.
Takao Yoshioka: I know, right? Speaking from my side of things, I hold the same feelings as the fans. I don’t want for the characters to die and if possible, I’d want for them to survive.
Asari Endou: Personally, I would have been totally fine with anime original twists as well.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: Oh no no. We certainly can’t have that. (laughs) If we somehow had let these characters survive, I think the fans would have gotten really angry.
Takao Yoshioka: It’s an anime, so by making a production that makes its viewers not want for its characters to die and then for it to actually kill them, the impression left on the audience sure is a strong one.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: With that said, to this work, it’s important to make the audience feel that way and that these feelings that, because this is an expressive work, can’t be avoided. While the feelings that result from these character deaths are those of sadness, they are also connected to being able to understand Snow White’s origin. However, that there would be this many people with such a deep love for the characters up until that point was way out of my expectations.
Asari Endou: I think that all the accumulation of things like the motions of the hair and gestures as I’ve mentioned before helped make the characters cute and might have added to the feeling of not wanting for these girls to die. Let’s just take Hardgore Alice, in the source material it’s just stated that she moves in creepy ways, yet seeing it in the anime made it cute. Of course there were creepy motions from her but they were also incredibly adorable. (laughs)
Interviewer: Was expressing magic through anime as a medium a challenge for you?
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: I worried a lot about the way we would portray it. Especially Snow White’s magic of being able to hear the thoughts of those in trouble, whether it’s to be portrayed more like a normal state or something magical, that’s not really easy to figure out. With all that said, having her state “Someone is calling out to me!” would make everyone find out about her identity, so instead we let her body glow, giving it a magic-like effect. Therefore, we can’t say for sure whether it actually looks like that in the eyes of a magical girl or not and at the end of the day is a symbolic directional device to make the audience understand that magic is taking place. The same can even be said for the chatroom.
Takao Yoshioka: After all, usually, you’d only be able to converse through letters in a chatroom.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: That’s right. If we just did it like that, characterization would be lost, so we did that by showing both the ordinary displays of the phones and the situation inside the screen with the camera focusing on the SD characters talking, featuring both of these patterns. Of course, when it’s the turn for the SD characters to talk, they don’t actually do that and that’s all just imagery.
Interviewer: Last but not least, your messages to the fans.
Asari Endou: I have nothing but gratitude towards all of those that were part of the anime production. To all of those of you who have watched the anime to the end, I also thank you very much. The anime has concluded with its last episode but the original Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku series is still going on. I think that comparing the differences between the anime and the novel is one more way of enjoying yourselves, so if you could pick up the novels as well, I would be overjoyed.
Takao Yoshioka: I think those of you who have seen the anime to its end understand this but this work is the origin story of the magical girl Snow White. That is why, if those of you who have seen it once, once again watch all the episodes, will emotionally resonate even more with Koyuki’s finer emotional disturbances and changes. Also, once you understand the ending, upon viewing, you might also understand the way the scenario is constructed and might make new discoveries, so I recommend it.
Hiroyuki Hashimoto: There is a lot in this work that drags your heart down so I am very grateful for seeing it through to the end. The original novel of Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku is still going on, so the anime is just the mere beginning to it. Just what exactly Snow White will do after having accepted this conclusion, I hope that, if possible, I can get to work on an anime adaptation of that. The possibility of that depends on everyone’s support, so I would be very glad if you could continue to support both the anime and the original material.
And that very much ends it. If, for some bizarre reason, you still feel like reading more after this huge word salad, I suggest you check out my translation of maruino and Yukiko Aikei on the MahoIku anime character designs, not to mention maruino’s and Asari Endou’s commentary on the MahoIku characters.
Still not enough? Well, I’ve also written essays on these:
- Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku Restart
- Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku Limited
- Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku Jokers
So feel free to knock yourselves out.