Anime Expo 2013 Guest of Honor: Nobuhiro Kikuchi
by Lynzee Loveridge, Jul 5th 2013
PA Works anime production company producer and coordinator Nobuhiro Kikuchi's panel opened to a large crowd on Saturday. Kikuchi worked as managing director for CANAAN and Angel Beats! and producer for Tari Tari, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, Another, and last season's Red Data Girl.
Kikuchi: [in English] Hi everyone, I am Nobuhiro Kikuchi from PA Works. I want to talk to everyone but I can't speak English. Please excuse me. [in Japanese] From now, I'll speak Japanese, please excuse me. I tried to memorize that speech in one night but it wasn't good enough.
Who's familiar with PA Works?
[cheers from the crowd]
Ehhh?! Thank you very much! Do you know what kind of work we've done? [more cheers] So I'd like to show a couple of trailer videos of our previous works. I'm sure some of you are familiar with them. But the videos we're using today are the Japanese original versions. They don't have subtitles but I hope you enjoy them.
[Trailer for Professor Layton game series is shown]
This is a game on Nintendo DS called The Professor Layton series. PA Works has been involved in all the animation from games 1-6.
[Trailer for true tears is shown]
This is the first full series done by PA Works. We also worked with Mari Okada-san on this, who's coming to to the panel after this one.
[Canaan and Angel Beats! trailers are shown]
Do you guys know that PA Works was involved in this [Angel Beats!]? [Many cheers] Thank you very much.
[Trailers for Another and Hanasaku Iroha are shown]
So we did the theatrical version [Hanasaku Iroha Home Sweet Home] this spring in Japan. I'm not sure if I"m supposed to say this but they're premiering it tomorrow at midnight.
So I'm sure you know that PA Works is in Japan, right? So you see the red circle [referring to slide]? That's Tokyo. However, PA Works is located in Toyama which is actually pretty far from Tokyo. The reason for that is the CEO's house is actually in Toyama. If he finds out I said this, he'll probably get mad at me, but our CEO is actually a farmer during the weekend [laughs]. I do some producing for shows, but mainly my job is coordinating the locations that the work will be based on. Who here knew that the places in our shows exist in real life?
I wanted to show you a couple of locations that are around in PA Works. So this is Toyama, the city that PA Works is located in it. The town only has about 50,000 people. There's a world landmark called Zuiryuji Temple nearby.
True Tears and Another are based in places very close to PA Works in Toyama. There's a prefecture next to Toyama called Ishikawa. That's where Hanasaku iroha and Angel Beats took place.
The reason for using these places is because they're so close by so it's easier to use them [back of the crowd laughs]. So who just laughed when I spoke in Japanese? Are those other guests? Other guests are not invited to this panel. I don't want them to tell on me! [everyone laughs]
So who is familiar with visiting "holy grounds" that anime fans visit? Who has gone on a pilgrimage? In truth, what we did is take actual festivals and combined them with events in anime to make made-up festivals, like in Hanasaku Iroha. It's been five years since the work aired in Japan but there are still many fans that celebrate on the day of the festival.
In Hanasaku Iroha we made up a festival to be used in the animation. So, people who have seen the first series might be familiar with the Bonbori Festival? I have a couple of images from the Bonbori Festival to show you from the series.
[Clip of Bonbori Festival in Hanasaku Iroha is shown]
Hanasaku Iroha is based on the small hot spring town of Yuwaku. We based the festival on a shrine located there and we made up the goddess too. The goddess is supposed to be a young girl and once a year she goes back to Izumo where the gods meet. She's a little girl so she gets lost on her way, so the locals around town light a lantern path to keep her from getting lost. They hang wish-notes on the lanterns for the girl to take to Izumo so the wishes can come true. That's the back story we made up for the festival.
So we aired this show three years ago but after the show there were locals who said they really wanted to do the festival in real life. So this is footage from the real festival that the locals did after the show aired.
[Clip of live Bonbori Festival shown]
Two weeks after the show, this festival took place at a hot spring. At this hot spring town, there's only nine places to stay. In the footage, you can see so many people came to see it. They started doing this festival annually and this will be our third festival, but so many come to this small-ass hot spring village that it's very crowded. The time of the festival changes each year but people get an estimate of when it might take place and book hotels a year in advance. Since we made up this festival in the anime, technically we just make it into a very bright festival like a carnival. There's only 9 places to stay, so the animation crew collaborated with the town to make the festival only as big as the hotels can hold. I've never looked it up, but I think this is the first ever festival based on an anime. At the end of the festival, they burn all the wish notes to send them to heaven.
Many people involved in the project, including animation staff, were so honored that they just cried. Mari Okada might of been among the weeping people. We actually had tons of people show up, so actually Okada-san and the original character design Mel Kishida-san helped us lead the large amount of people. We can't really share that with the Japanese public, though.
This year we're holding the festival on October 12. It's a far place, but if you're in Japan at that time and can come visit, it would be fun.
We're short on time but we want to show you one of our original shorts [Koitabi ~True Tours Nanto] designed by PA Works and Mari Okada. This is an exclusive animation that can only be shown in Toyama so this is the first time we've shown it outside of Japan. This animation is three stories, and each is animation is five minutes long. We can only show the promotion version because we're short on time. The true tears staff and Mari Okada got together to work on this.
[Koitabi True Tours Nanto promo shown]
It's only available in Japanese but maybe next year it might be localized to other areas like America and worldwide [jokingly]. There's actually six episodes. So if you come to Toyama, you'll be able to see all six! [laughs]. All these locations that you see actually exist in Toyama. This is only viewable on the smartphone app because it uses the GPS app. We could do the same thing for the U.S. and L.A., if anyone wants to watch those kinds of things [laughs]. I'll talk to the higher ups.
My purpose of this trip today was to introduce a way to enjoy anime by visiting the real places they are based on. We have a little more time so I'd like to introduce two more things from our studio. I'll show you a promotion video for our upcoming works. So, who is familiar with Kyoto? This is going to air in Japan in July and is based on Kyoto.
The second one I'll show is another project with Mari Okada called Nagi no Asukara. Let's show it.
[Trailer for Uchoten Kazoku shown]
You guys have a blank look in your eyes...
[Trailer for Nagi no Asukara]
I actually added that for the panel, but you can see a longer version on the official page.
I really wanted to do an interactive panel, but it's mostly talking today so I'm sorry about that. To make up for that, I'd like to open the mike for questions.
Q: Obviously you get to work in a lot of locations. Is that the best part of your job, traveling around and getting to drink alcohol and eat good food, stuff like that?
Kikuchi: That's a secret. I cannot answer that but I am having fun. It's tough work too, from the start of a project until the animation done. There's a couple years in between so it's really tough that I can't talk about my job too much to people. I go to like, fabulous places that have grand views and food, but I can't talk too much about it.
Q: Of all the locations you've been, which one is the most memorable?
Kikuchi: That's a hard question to answer. Thinking of all the projects we've worked, I should say all were fabulous...I'm thinking pretty hard about this. What came to my mind was Hanasaku Iroha, the Yuwaku Onsen during the winter is great. The part I regret though is that I've been there for location hunting but I've never gotten to enjoy the hot springs. I really want to do that.
To wrap up the panel, so was it interesting? [cheers] Thank you very much! I'm glad that everyone came, I can now go home proud to the team. [in English] Thank you!
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