Sonny Boy Final Episodes Interview With Shingo Natsume

Sonny Boy's Last Episodes Explained By Director Shingo Natsume

Did you know that by not consuming good fiction, my blog becomes half-inaccessible to you because a good chunk of it is interview translations for media you haven’t engaged with? Now that is shocking and needs to be rectified on your end!

Hello there, my fellow sonny boys and sonny girls. It looks like you just got washed ashore straight into this blog post! Remember when I translated two pieces of commentary by Shingo Natsume on Sonny Boy? Well, here’s yet another translation!

This time, we’re dealing with some lingering questions after the end of the show and the general philosophy behind it.


“It’s A Work That I Was Genuinely Beating Myself Up Over While Making It” – An Interview With Director Shingo Natsume On The Many Mysteries Of This Summer 2021 Anime That Elicits Fresh Feelings

Sonny Boy, which ran in Summer of 2021, was impactful in its visuals, music, story and everything in general and all around a work that did the opposite of the trend of “being easy to understand” in modern anime.

Despite not understanding quantum theory and the theory of relativity, which both pop up relatively frequently in sci-fi anime, and even ending up including the superstring theory, almost leading to resignation from the writer’s perspective, it was still an interesting watch. That is what makes the essence of Sonny Boy, an anime that is not straightforward by any means.

Among a group of students that one day suddenly find themselves stranded in a parallel world, the majority of them decide to stay and live there, however, only Nagara and Mizuno choose to return to their own world and at the end actually succeed. After witnessing this last episode, with our minds still set on it, we ambush director Natsume! Faced with our countless of mysteries and questions, he politely answers them one by one.

Sonny Boy's Nagara Standing In The Rain In Episode 12

“I Don’t Understand It Quite Right But It Still Pulls My Heartstrings” – The Reaction The Director Wants To Elicit

Interviewer: The last episode was truly wonderful. However, did you, as the director, anticipate people’s impressions being along the lines of wondering whether they truly understood it all or maybe didn’t understand anything at all yet would come to say “I didn’t get it but it was fun!”?

Shingo Natsume: I believed that if I could make an anime that, depending on your angle, you could form many different ways of looking at it, that sure would be a nice thing. In a way, Sonny Boy is actually an incredibly simple work. If I had to put it bluntly, the point would be “Nagara’s growth”, however, if you slip from there by two or three steps, you end up with an incredibly twisted shape, that’s what I think. As for myself, I wonder if I managed to balance myself out properly, preserving my twisted shape without destroying it.

Interviewer: “Nagara’s growth”, that’s quite the major angle to look at it.

Shingo Natsume: It’s just that, I am wondering if it’s okay to have something that you can’t understand be simply not understood. That might go for something inside a work of fiction or even this world we inhabit in general, take gravity for instance, in a certain way, we don’t understand it, how it functions, in what way it comes to be and yet we still live on with our lives. Speaking from my own perspective, researching on these things, investigating them, and putting my imagination to good use, that is something I like very much and I wonder if maybe it’s fine if we just think of these things as components or rules that exist in this world.

Be it something you might call a “bird” or “war” or something you can’t quite understand, Kodama’s power, if we were to put it into one word, would be the “M theory” that is known as the “unified field theory”, something that governs even the 11 dimensions of physics. If something exists in this world, then it even exists in the work, except how deep you would have to dig down for it is something that one couldn’t possibly understand, so at the end of the day, that, too, becomes “something that exists as something that can’t be understood” in its own right.

As we live and experience the absurdities in society, I thought of the absurdities even in the world of the teachings of physics and, having a lot of those things overlap as I was in the process of making this anime, that’s about the feeling I had, so it’s very accurate that the train of thought of “Something that you don’t really understand” was dominating my thinking, and I, myself, being in the midst of not understanding, put this information and these emotions into the work, so if it was received as “I don’t quite understand it but it pulls my heartstrings”, that would be good I think.

Interviewer: And that is exactly what the reception was like.

Shingo Natsume: Still, whenever I think of it, I really do like these kinds of films or short stories. I remember reading Salinger’s stories and thinking “What is it with this messed up young man?”, however, as time would pass and I would come to reread them, the parts that would pull my heartstrings would become distinct. And I think that is something that happens a lot.

That is, finding your own answers to a certrain degree, moments that are hard to put into words but move your heart, the outer face and inner workings of something, these are the atmospheric parts that I came to like or rather love even. That is why I thought of giving it a try to put these things to the forefront as they became part of the work I was making.

And since that was my process of thinking, I was brooding over the things that were incomprehensible emerging and I think that was really troubling and I was really beating myself up over it while creating the work in question. (laughs)

When all was said and then, I was also checking out the impressions on twitter frequently, however, occasionally there were people making comments that would hit me right in the gut. Be they good comments or bad comments, comments that made me realize “Ah, I conveyed what I had to say” would frequently appear here or there, and that in itself made me glad. The parts that I was so worried about while writing, or the ones that I was wondering if they would be particularly exciting, the mere fact that there were people pointing these out was fantastic and I remember thinking that this sure is a blessed world we live in.

Sonny Boy: What Happened To Rajdhani?

“Lightship” Has Put In The Loneliness Both Nagara And Mizuho Feel As Well As Their Determination

Interviewer: Even if you don’t understand everything, there certainly was something that grabbed your heart and wouldn’t let it go. I watched every episode thinking how interesting it was. Powers interlap and a drifting occurs, there were people matching their powers in an attempt to return to their former world as well as those trying to remain in their world, becoming unable to return to their former one as time would pass. Understanding this vaguely, through Nozomi’s presence, Nagara is able to achieve growth, and that is something that moved me and at the end of the day, is something that I would call “interesting”.

Shingo Natsume: This isn’t something that’s considered grand to say but I don’t think there’s a necessity in feeling shame over not understanding something. “I didn’t get it but it was interesting” is, I believe, good enough on its own. Conversely, if you put all your might into trying to figure something out and allocating your very own puzzle pieces, a rather enjoyable experience can be derived from that.

Interviewer: If we were to put together the puzzle of everyone’s abilities, it would make things even more enjoyable, we understand that much, but contrary to the world of your work, it’s the factor of time that we lack. (laughs) Still, if one were to revisit the first episode after finishing the last one, surely you would make new discoveries. There’s also the viewpoint of “The music sure is incredible!” to discover, isn’t there?

Shingo Natsume: That’s right! With episode 11, suddenly we had a flow of music, even though we claimed to not use background music and then, out of the blue, there’s suddenly 3 pieces of music and songs in the last episode.

Interviewer: As for the soundtrack, too, the level is quite high for a single album-work.

Shingo Natsume: The timing was great for letting many artists contribute their own pieces, I was also quite ecstatic. There were also a lot of people saying “I bought the analogue recording!” So these are the people watching anime. Much like vinyls themselves, these are people with an interest in once abandoned craft. I, too, with the release of the analogue discs this time, bought a record player.

Interviewer: How was the audio quality?

Shingo Natsume: It was amazing!! I also bought the records available for every band that participated in this and am listening to them. That, too, is quite nice.

Interviewer: So you’ve had your eyes opened to the appeal of records then. (laughs) Getting to know bands I was unfamiliar with was stimulating too.

Shingo Natsume: Kuuchuu Dorobou also participated.

Staff: We digress but we received a lot of good news as well, such as Sunset Rollercoaster winning at the Golden Melody Awards, which is said to be Taiwan’s equivalent to the Grammy Prize.

Interviewer: Sunset Rollercoaster’s “Let There Be Light Again” (insert song for episode 06) also turned out to be a masterpiece. From episode 11 onwards, the amount of songs has increased, however, did you also specifically demand songs and had them written for your needs?

Shingo Natsume: There have been business meetings but they were really rough. (laughs) I was explaining the different kinds of scenes and emotions the characters were going through and had them read the scenarios and put in their creations and when all was said and done, the pieces we got out of them were pitch-perfect, so I let them work things out without uttering another word. I’ve mentioned this before but even though we had business meetings, they completely ended up derailing, and so I was thinking that the meetings just weren’t proceeding well yet in the midst of all of that, the compositions kept coming, so I figured that as one would expect, artists really are strong on the emotional side. It truly was a marvelous experience.

Interviewer: For instance, in episode 11, after the death of Nozomi, The Natsuyasumi Band’s “Lightship” was used as a composition for the background music during the funeral with Nagara and Mizuho and I thought it was an amazing piece to go along with the scene in question, how did these talks essentially progress?

Shingo Natsume: “Well, this is essentially the sendoff of a friend of two middle schoolers. However, the two of them have a strong desire to return to their former world.” That’s about the kind of conversation we had during the meeting. Around that time, we received a rough draft and there was nothing but the song included, yet in the future band’s performance a drum roll akin to a drum and fife band was included and the song turned into something that gave off the feeling of “And now these two are truly returning!” While there was a feeling of loneliness to it, the determination of these two came across and that moved me greatly. Funerals are prone to generate compositions that are lonely and mellow in nature, however, while these two middle schoolers were clearly sad, their determination to move forward was expressed splendidly by “Lightship” and the song lyrics also turned out to be truly wonderful and fitting.

Sonny Boy: Nozomi's death explained

I Wanted For There To Be A Solo Guitar Rendition Of “Shounen Shoujo” That Would Awaken A Slight Feeling Of Grief

Interviewer: I’ve already asked this but in episode 10, when Nozomi is turned into a magical item, I believed that it was Asakaze’s fault but why was it that Asakaze let things turn out that way? Even though we got to understand him better from Kossetsu-chan’s letter.

Shingo Natsume: Right… what kind of feelings he had back then, I wonder. This is putting it in simple terms but maybe it would be accurate to say he was possessed by an evil spirit or found himself cornered… I think it’s akin to making a mistake in baseball. There was the possibility that he could have saved her but then things simply didn’t go that way. It’s something that occurs to you frequently in life after all, a situation that makes you ask yourself why you didn’t act a certain way. It’s not so much about regret and moreso that now that the milk has been spilled, there’s no way back. Since this is Asakaze we’re talking about, he’ll probably regret it for the rest of his life. That’s why it’s not possible to understand the reason behind it. But I also believe that that in itself can lead to change.

Interviewer: In that world, is Asakaze an existence that can grant others death?

Shingo Natsume: That’s not really it, I feel like it’s more like time itself rules over death in that world. The body itself freezes and doesn’t age, the soul however does age.

Interviewer: Which brings us to the story that Rajdhani told us in episode 11.

Shingo Natsume: One way to think about is that it’s rather like Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse 5” and “The Sirens of Titan”, works that I myself like. Also maybe the SF novel “Childhood’s End” (Arthur C. Clarke). These are where looking down on people from a higher plane of existence is something that happens a lot. When looking at the third dimension from the fourth dimension, it’s not about a point of information but a perspective of thinking wherein the entire axis of time is smashed, that’s the kind of mental image I had. This is neither about a beginning nor an end but that moments that no doubt existed were interwoven with each other. However, only for a sparse moment, so if you look at these from afar, they are trapped in something perceivable only as light. That’s the philosophy behind how ability relics come to be.

But when you come to look at the aforementioned from the third dimension, that process is essentially equal to death. That is something that can’t be put into words, all you can do is affirm that someone existed. That is why these cutting points in the third dimension have this sadness to them.

Originally, “Sonny Boy” was supposed to be titled “LIGHTYEAR”, as in, an absurdly long span of time and, in that sense, a state that something has happened, leading to a state filled with sadness. In episode 11, Rajdhani explains that kind of death. Death comes in many forms, or, as humans would say, “the end of one’s will” or “the end of one’s growth”, these concepts have the definition of death attributed to them. Still, I can’t really put it all that well into words like this. (laughs)

Sonny Boy Episode 11 - Rajdhani Returns

Interviewer: As for what Rajdhani said, I also somehow understood it. With both that and about Nozomi, who had died in her original world but still was bent on returning to it. There might have been an influence by what Nagara said in episode 06, “The results might already have been fixed but I won’t run away.” and still, the strength to make that kind of judgment! I was wondering if that part is what enabled Nagara to grow.

Shingo Natsume: After all, it’s Nozomi’s very own kind of determination to accept whatever comes her way. That was neither a drive for suicide nor anything else, it wasn’t about Nozomi intending to return so she could die but rather her expressing her wish to make it back for just the slightest chance to be able to.

As for Nagara being an observer, until then, he had opened the box of possibilities and just wandered around. In the last episode, Mizuho closes off the light but that was not Nagara’s power but Mizuho’s that enabled them to return. What I had in my mind was for a state of “superposition” to once again return.

To return would once again entail an act of closing the box anew, so as far as Nozomi is concerned, there was still the possibility for her to go either way. She might have died or she might have not died. And yet I believe that Nozomi’s determination to accept either outcome is what was passed on to Nagara.

Interviewer: Mizuho’s power was the power of stasis then, right?

Shingo Natsume: Something related to stasis at any rate. And the gist was that by having her use that power to once again reach a state of superposition, they would return to a pre-observer state.

Interviewer: And yet that is what Nagara was aimig at, intending to return to a world where Nozomi was still alive, right?

Shingo Natsume: Right. In episode 11, Nagara told Rajdhani “There is something I want to add to the Robinson plan” and that was the direction he was going for. That is to say, the direction that Nozomi’s compass was pointing at. Returning to his original world would be easy, all he would have to do is to close the box and make it back but because Nagara wanted to head for the light that Nozomi saw, that is the direction he changed towards at last. In episode 12, as he was holding the compass, he was running by Nozomi’s will, always heading towards the direction of the light and that is where he ended up.

Interviewer: So that’s what Nagara was aiming for, the direction in which Nozomi was alive?

Shingo Natsume: It feels a bit like he was slightly cheating there but yes, that’s it.

Interviewer: Rajdhani, too, understood that then.

Shingo Natsume: Exactly. But that wasn’t interesting for Mizuho. She said she herself had even lost it all. That’s why, when they had returned to their former world at last, she pretended not to know him. (laughs)

Interviewer: So that was the reason for it! I thought she was rather mean there. But still, she did have to part with her cats and all…

Shingo Natsume: She was quite sour. Mizuho went with Nagara, so I believe that Mizuho has some motherly affections for him. Which is why I also believe that her reason for returning was most likely something akin to wanting to have children on her own.

Sonny Boy Last Episode Mizuho And Nagara Running

Interviewer: By the way, why was it that they created a rocket to return? I can assume that was quite challenging on the animation front as well.

Shingo Natsume: The animators really did their best there (laughs). But that sure was a Rajdhani-like choice, wasn’t it? With the Apollo 11, I tried to use the “The cat’s copies are reproduced accurately.” part and also attempt to overlap that with mankind’s challenge. After all, as a young lad, you gotta want to have at least one rocket scene! At least that’s what I thought so I put it in there. (laughs) Oono Nichika-kun, who directed episode 11, is a man who is rather fond of airplanes, so he researched on making the individual elements of the rocket look Apollo-esque, settled on replicating various parts and colors and also thought of getting the timing down. It looks like doing research from a complete baseline of creation was quite troublesome. (laughs) Still, forgetting about the original purpose of what you’re doing can be quite nice. There’s something romantic about it.

Interviewer: That’s indeed quite romantic. (laughs) Also, while Nozomi lives on in the world that they returned to, even though it’s understandable that she didn’t remember Nagara, that must have hurt quite a bit. And yet, when Nagara expresses a smile on his face, I can’t help but think that it was a really great happy ending.

Shingo Natsume: Not minding the puddles you step on as you are returning, that sure is a forward-looking outlook after all.

Interviewer: While it’s not a happy ending in the sense of a romcom, seeing Nagara’s growth to his end made me feel really refreshed. Nagara is happy based on seeing that Nozomi was still alive so I’m thinking that maybe it’s not of much importance who she’s with.

Shingo Natsume: That’s it, after all, there is still a long life ahead of him so you never know what might happen. We’re going to make sure that she definitely gets separated from Asakaze or anyone else! (laughs) They might be dating in high school but such relationships don’t last for an eternity of time. Still, there might be people deeming that lonely or people who are very positive about it, I think that largely depends on your individual set of values. I myself thought of it as an incredibly happy ending but the sound director Hata Shouji-san commented “Isn’t this too sad?”

Interviewer: I think Nagara, at some point, will say “Let’s become friends.” I personally believe that be it in the real world or the world ashore, Nozomi being dead came as a shock to him so he is glad by her just being alive.

Shingo Natsume: Still, she also turned out to have become a bit cuter. When becoming a high schooler, she turned from a girl to someone more woman-like.

Interviewer: The animation was also rapidly becoming prettier, when seeing Rajdhani’s smile in episode 11, I thought that it was such a great expression.

Shingo Natsume: It was similar to “Only Yesterday”. (laughs) At first I intended for the same to happen with Nagara but as you’d expect, we let that be and I decided to have Nagara be submerged in a shadow a bit.

Interviewer: Such traces sure remained.

Shingo Natsume: Episode 11 was storyboarded by Kugai Norifumi-kun and he was also in charge of the animation direction, so Rajdhani had become really cool-looking on his return and I was glad for his call with that.

Interviewer: Well, he transcended 2000 years of time. Mizuho, too, had scenes where upon seeing Rajdhani, her face turned red.

Shingo Natsume: That’s something that would draw your attention after all. This part of the storyboard didn’t make it in but in episode 12, when Nozomi has a girls meeting at the local kissaten, we integrated stippled depictions of Cap, Pony, Rajdhani and so forth turned into high schoolers. We are currently arranging that part of the storyboard to be included with the Blu-ray, so please look forward to it.

Interviewer: There seem to be quite a lot of extas bundled with the Blu-ray box.

Shingo Natsume: There sure are. There’s commentary of every episode in the booklet and a long interview concerning the various characters and world views. As for the episodic commentary, take episode 09 for instance, Nagara goes to welcome the cowering Nozomi but he actually wants to confess to her there but only manages to tell her to give it her all. I figured we might want to explain those parts a little bit better. We’re also putting in the making of Mineta-san’s solo guitar singing!

Interviewer: I was betting on “Shounen Shoujo” to make it in at the end, I was preparing myself to hear the intro and yet I was completely caught offguard when that solo guitar performance of “Shounen Shoujo” played in.

Shingo Natsume: I know, right…? (laughs) It was about around the middle of production when I begged for there to be a solo guitar performance. It’s true that with that kind of ending, “Shounen Shoujo” would have been the right fit but since these characters have turned from middle to high schoolers, I deemed a bit of sorrow to be appropriate and let Mineta-san perform the arrangement with nothing but an acoustic guitar, and was asking for him if it wouldn’t be best to convey in particular Nagara’s mental state and where he finds himself placed into this world but truth to be told, mostly I just wanted to hear him perform live. (laughs)

But I was really grateful. It was truly marvelous. There was tension, too, and when we aligned the visuals with the song, Nagara’s lines came to an end with a bang and the song played in, I was stunned. I believe I can consider myself lucky I got to be a director. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime memory.

Sonny Boy Last Episode Nagara Smiling


Well, that was a lot of text. You better appreciate that. Or else I will isekai you myself. But it’s not gonna be the pretty kind of isekai story! And you will also turn into a dog!

3 thoughts on “Sonny Boy Final Episodes Interview With Shingo Natsume

  1. This is by far the most in-depth Sonny Boy interview I’ve read yet, so thank you very much for translating it! I’m sure people will be discovering it via Google for many years, as I just did.

    If you don’t mind, could you provide a link to the original interview? The thoroughness of the interviewer’s questions has me intrigued about the publication for which it was conducted.

    Like

  2. What an immense amount of work to translate, thank you very much Natsume did confirm things we the viewers wondered about, such as Mizuho’s motivations for returning and why she was initially so cold to her friend she went through so much with, and if Nagara would now have any romantic chance with Nozomi or if that was off the table in their returned world (yes, he has a chance! And yes our feelings about Nozomi and Asakaze being together are the ones Natsume has, Nagara needs to interfere, hahaha)

    One thing I wish was in the work, was for our blushing Mizuho to look up, or mention wanting to look up, the Rajdhani in the real world. Or maybe she knows it’s impossible, Raj loves pursuit of knowledge and scientific inquiry too much to have time for anything but friendships and helping people with the fruits of his work, he would never settle down.

    Like

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