Otakon 2010
Rainbow with Hiroshi Koujina Q&A

by Crystalyn Hodgkins,

Rainbow - Nisha Rokubo no Shichinin director Hiroshi Koujina and Line Producer Atsushi Mita hosted a sparsely-populated screening of the first episode and a Q&A panel on Saturday afternoon. Madhouse foreign relations and production staff member Yoshihiro Watanabe translated for Koujina and Mita. Madhouse founder Masao Maruyama was also in attendance, although he fell asleep halfway through the Q&A, to the amusement of both the panelists and the audience.

First the panelists presented a screening of the first episode of Rainbow. Rainbow follows six young men who are on a bus on their way to prison. From the very first scene, where one of the prisoners on the bus picks up a doll a young girl has dropped and she cries and eventually throws the doll at him in disgrace, the dramatic tone of the show is clearly evident. The six boys arrive at the prison, only to be given a horrible welcoming treatment by the resident perverted doctor. The six boys then are thrown into a cell with Anchan, a man who has obviously been incarcerated for a while. As the story of the first episode progresses, it's clear the only moments of happiness in this series will be on the focus of the seven prisoners as they try to survive the harsh treatment ahead of them. The first episode had good animation quality and the color palette fit the dark, dramatic tone, but the background music felt like it was trying too hard at times to be dramatic. The series shows definite promise, if it can continue to keep a good balance between the dramatic storyline and the silver lining of the budding friendships of the characters.

Koujina and the rest of the cast and staff of the series were introduced via Powerpoint presentation before Koujina spoke about the manga upon which the anime series was based, which he was particularly impressed by. He noted that the manga was heavily violent but that the television station gave them a lot of leeway to adapt the manga properly.

The panel was then opened up to Q&A. The first question was about the inspiration for such a sad story. Koujina said he wanted to peel down the idea of being human and get at the core of what it is to be a human, and how humans communicate with one another. He's not sure when Funimation will release the series on DVD, but it's still airing in Japan and in the U.S. so he hopes U.S. fans will watch the show.

Another fan asked why the show is called "Rainbow" when it's such a sad story. Koujina laughed, and then responded that he got asked that a lot from Japanese fans as well; that they don't want to watch such a harsh and sad series, but Koujina believes that when you're happy you may forget things. In harsh times, there is something that comes to the surface and he wanted to show what that was. Koujina acknowledged that the series isn't for everyone, but promised that there are scenes that you would not be able to turn your eyes away from.

At this point Madhouse's Masao Maruyama joined the panel and noted that George Abe, the original creator of the manga, called the series that, and that the effect of an actual rainbow is something that you only see after the rain, so the story is not about the harshness of life but about what you see ahead of it: hope.

Another fan mentioned that Koujina comes from an animation background, and asked if he still gets involved in the animation for shows he directs. Koujina first explained that his goal wasn't just to be a director, but to just be involved in animation in general, so if there is a demand for him to be an animator, he will take on the job, but right now the demand for directors is high. But as a director, Koujina said doesn't have time to do any animation work on the shows he directs, and said he has a great team, so he entrusts the animation work to them.

The next question asked if the impressive voice cast was a reflection of how confident Koujina is in Rainbow. Koujina replied that he acknowledges that the talented cast has contributed to the success of Rainbow, and he believes the cast and the quality of the animation are in balance.

Another fan asked about the original graphic content in the manga and adapting it to animation, and Koujina replied that there did have to be some scenes that had to be adapted to fit the broadcast code, but Koujina took on the project knowing that what he wanted to convey could be conveyed while obeying those rules.

When asked about the personalities of the characters, Koujina said that when he took the original manga and adapted it to animation, he read the original manga, thought about how each of the characters were constructed, and re-adapted them to animation. In this way he was able to keep the essence of the characters, while also being able to make them unique in animation.

Another fan asked if it was hard to pitch the plot to TV companies, considering the show has minors who smoke and drink. Koujina replied that the TV station and the production staff believed as a team that by taking out blood, violence, drinking or smoking, they wouldn't be able to convey the story properly. Koujina said he was very lucky the TV station understood that.

The next attendee asked how Koujina feels he has developed as a director since he directed Grenadier. Koujina replied that finally, with Rainbow, he was able to get a hold of what being a director means to him, and that it is a very difficult job. He says he still has a lot to learn as a director, and a lot to learn specifically from Maruyama.

When asked if they were surprised by how fast Rainbow got licensed in the U.S., Mita said he was surprised because the series takes place in Japan in the 1960s, but he is happy people are able to feel the friendship theme in the anime. Koujina added that making something that sells a lot, and making something that is interesting, are two different things. He said he wants to make something that grabs hold of people's minds, and he directed Rainbow in that way.

The last question from the audience was why Koujina decided to use coldrain's "We're Not Alone" as the opening theme song and Galneryus' "A Far-Off Distance" as the ending theme song. Koujina answered that George Abe is a huge fan of heavy metal and wanted to use heavy metal music. Also, Koujina said because the show takes place in 1960s Japan, he didn't want to block out younger audiences, and so he used music that would appeal to that audience.

In spite of the low turnout, both Mita and Koujina expressed their genuine appreciation for all who attended the panel, and asked if they could get a picture with everyone. Watanabe took cameras from various members of the audience as well, and everyone gathered together to take a commemorative photo.

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