Interview: Michio Fukuda, Director of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan ~Demon Capital~

by Zac Bertschy, Jul 27th 2011
Michio Fukuda is a longtime veteran of the anime industry, having worn many hats during his tenure: character designer, key animator, and storyboard artist. He first cut his teeth as a director working on episode 5 of Mayoi Neko Overrun!, and now he's been tapped to direct the currently-airing sequel series, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan: Demon Capital. The show is presently available streaming at VizAnime.com, Hulu and in France at KZPlay.
ANN: How do you feel about taking over direction of a long-running series like Nurarihyon no Mago , after its first season has concluded? Also, what sort of challenges are there for a director when taking over a series like this?

Fukuda:  This second season was originally quite different from the first one in terms of the way the story “feels”. The order I received was to deepen the direction of the second season, focusing on cool battles and a hard-boiled atmosphere that might appeal more to adults, rather than strictly maintaining the beauty of the first season's “wabi-sabi” atmosphere (“wabi-sabi” means “austere refinement and quiet simplicity”). So, that was an interesting offer. I happily accepted it. What are the challenges? It's just to keep the characters lovable while shifting over to this new story “feel”. They have to maintain their basic flesh-and-blood characteristics while still transitioning into this new atmosphere.

Do you plan on maintaining the show's visual structure, or will you add your own personal artistic touches? How much creative input to the direction of the show do you feel you have (or should wield)?

As I previously mentioned, re-arranging the visual structure along the expected new direction is also my job.  I focused more on the expected direction than my own personal artistic touches. That has resulted in what the show is. But, I don't deny it; if you ask whether the show has some of my own personal artistic touches in it, because I exist between the orders I received and what I actually produced, I'm like a filter. It is not whether my artistic sense should be wielded or not, rather, it naturally oozed through.

According to your resume, you've worked on a lot of anime series based on Shonen Jump manga in various capacities (not limited to directing position); normally, these shows run much longer than your average 12-episode series. What are the biggest differences, creatively and in the craftsmanship of the show, between a short series and a big, long-running action show like this one?

The way you understand the audience's mindset over time is different between a 12-episode series and a much longer series. For a shorter series, sending out your message is important. For a longer series, interpretation is necessary. Also, in both a creative and physical sense, a shorter series needs an explosive “power”, and a longer ones need stamina. As a director, this is my first experience on a long series, so, I am feeling it day by day.

You've worked in the anime industry in a wide variety of jobs; storyboard artist, key animator, and now director. Is there a particular job you enjoy doing the most? Is there more pressure on you as the director as opposed to key animator?

Each position is fun in a different way. I've enjoyed doing each of them. But, being a director is especially high pressure.

How has your experience in a wide variety of jobs in the anime industry helped you make the decision to direct a show by yourself?

It really matters whether or not you have experience that you can depend on. I make decisions based on a collage of experiences that I have confidence in.

The first season of Nurarihyon no Mago ends at the conclusion of the Shikoku arc, with Tamazuki defeated. Will the second season immediately begin with the “Past” arc, which details the background of Rikuo's grandparents? Where will the series pick up?

It starts with the first episode of the original manga (a recap). Then, the second episode of the second season recaps how Rikuo is situated after the “Shikoku” battle, then enters into the “Onmyoji” battle.
 
Do you have the entire season planned out at this time? How much more of the manga do you plan on adapting for this second season, and are there a set number of episodes? Is the goal to eventually adapt the entire manga series?

The second series will cover up to the end of the Kyoto arc.

Is there any particular segment of the manga you're personally looking forward to adapting? Were you a fan of the story before being chosen as director for the second season? What elements of the story do you find the most fascinating or inspirational as director of this season?

I look forward to the “Past” arc. I have been interested in the structure of this world since before I was chosen to direct. The attractive thing about this season is the concept of “fear”. It talks about “fear” in various senses, such as visually, in the setting, and story wise.

Do you feel that you're a natural when it comes to working on action anime series like Nurarihyon? Otherwise, what is the genre that you feel most at home working in? Also, do you want to direct an original series in the future?

It's more that I'm feeling personally fulfilled by my daily duties as a director than I am a “natural” at it. I am originally fond of the “hard-boiled” genre. I enjoy that one. As for an original series, of course I want to do that. 

Finally, looking back at your very long resume, was there one particular project that comes to mind that you'd consider your favorite?

“Shinken Densetsu Tight Road” in terms of character design.  “Onmyo Taisen” for the “Shikigami” design.  “Hyakko” as a director. “Mayoi Neko Overrun!”as a director of its episode 5. Those instantly come to mind as the titles which marked the stages of my career.

 


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