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Interview: Akitaro Daichi

by Bamboo Dong, transcription: Sean Broestl,
Who he is: Anime director/creator

What he's done: Director: Animation Runner Kuromi, ATASHIn'CHI, Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran, Elf Princess Rane, Fruits Basket, Grrl Power, Jubei-chan, Kodocha, Legendz: Tomigaeru Ryūō Densetsu, Now and Then, Here and There, Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, Ojarumaru, Sekushi Commando Gaiden: Sugoiyo! Masaru-san, Toire no Hanako-san, Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku

Quotable: "It's about putting your entire body and soul into it. That brings out good elements of a show."

The humorous and talented Akitarō Daichi is one of modern-day anime's most revered and loved directors. Time and time again, he's proven his versatility by directing a wide spectrum of shows, from the hyperactive and insane Kodocha, to the heartfelt Fruits Basket, to the action-packed adventure comedy, Jubei-chan. He's also shown a serious side with the harsh and depressing Now and Then, Here and There. If that wasn't enough, he also creates anime. He's responsible not only for the title just mentioned, and the short, but wildly enjoyable Grrl Power. ANN had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Daichi earlier in the year at Anime Next and talk with the acclaimed director about his approach to anime and life.

How do you go from directing something as depressing as Now and Then, Here and There to something as happy as Jubei-chan? Is there some kind of mindset you have to change?

My basic themes are usually comedy, crying and action. Now and Then, Here and There was a different type of idea that I had. I wanted to make an anime about war.

The shortened translation is “Ima Boku”, and the literal translation of that is “Me That's There Right Now”. It's like a totally different realm that I put it into. It was an anime where I really wanted to show how it would feel if you were put into a country of war when you do not know what it is like to be in a war. How life would be if you were put in that situation.

Are there any types of shows you prefer directing over others?

I prefer to do comedies, if I can.

One of the things that will be released here soon is Jubei-Chan 2. What do you normally think about when you have to direct a sequel?

Since I made it already, it would be more about if I had a mindset when I made it. One thing that was in my heart is that in Jubei-chan 1, the action scenes did not come out the way I really wanted them. I worked a lot on the action scenes in Jubei-Chan 2. I worked on them really hard to make them what I wanted.

What is your favorite comedy?

There is a Japanese manga by Fujio Akatsuka called Osomatsu-kun. Studio Pierrot actually made an anime of it, but it's not as funny as the manga. I don't think a lot of people in America know about it, but it's really funny manga.

To say a little more about Akatsuka, he is the man who put all the Japanese jokes into that manga, but he was influenced a lot by American comedians like the Three Stooges, the Little Rascals and Charlie Chaplin. About 40 years ago he introduced this to the world and he was really influenced by those things to create a really funny manga that integrates Japanese jokes and laughter into it.

How do you feel when one of your series is released in America and all the jokes have been changed to American jokes?

I don't understand that much English, so I don't know how much they have changed. I get a little worried about it sometimes. My jokes are special, they are different. I don't know how they've been changed over here, so I get a little worried.

A lot of the series you direct, ones that have a happy exterior, a lot of them have a serious side or inspirational message. Is that something you generally strive for?

I started out doing something like that with Kodomo no Omocha, bringing up not just Japanese jokes, but bringing in your position in society and how everyone reacts if that kind of thing happened to them. It's something I always integrate into my work. I'm more comfortable working with those kinds of situations.

One of my favorite OVAs of all time is Grrl Power. Do you have any plans to ever revisit it and make it longer?

I'm really, really happy to hear that! Grrl Power is one of my favorites right now other than Jubei-Chan 2 and my most recent work in Japan, Gaguman Biyori. It would translate into Joke Manga – Perfect Weather for a Field Trip. I really want to make Grrl Power into a series. I've been trying to get that to happen for a year now; hopefully it can.

What elements do you think make a good show?

I believe one of the main things is the staff. It's about putting your entire body and soul into it. That brings out good elements of a show.

What is the most personal lesson you've learned from a series?

I have a lot of things I integrate into my anime that I put in to bring a message to the world. The main thing it makes me feel is that you need to live your life the fullest and the happiest that you can and have fun with it a the same time.

Right now Fruits Basket is one of the best selling titles in the US. Do you ever try to keep the American audience in mind when you start directing a show?

When I'm making all my projects, I don't actually think about a big audience. I actually test it in a small area. It use myself or my daughter or wife. I test it on my family members or somewhere else small. I'm actually surprised at the outcome of Fruits Basket. But I start from more of a small perspective than looking at the whole world.

All of your shows always find a way to bring so much happiness to the viewers. What makes you happy? Where do you get that happiness from that you can then give it to the viewers?

A lot of the time when I look back, I'm not 100% happy. If there's one unhappy thing, that would make me hit a rock on the road, because in life, it's not that easy to bring happiness to yourself. In film, I'm able to make that happiness at the end. In a way, it is my dream that life will come out like that. Life isn't easy, and it doesn't always come out that way, but in anime I am able to create that. It is my hope that I send out to the viewers that things turn out for them.

I think that's all the time we have. Thank you very much!

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