Interview: Daisuke Ishiwatari and Toshimichi Mori

by Gia Manry,

ANN: This isn't your first time to America-- you were both at Anime Expo in 2009 --have you had time to do any tourist stuff?

Daisuke Ishiwatari: This is my second time in the States, and I've never really had time to do tourist things, but if I could go to In'n'Out every day then that would make me happy.

Toshimichi Mori: We didn't really have time to do any sight-seeing but as long as I'm able to see all the cool cosplayers, I have fun.

How do you feel about cosplayers in the US compared to cosplayers in Japan?

TM: How they put effort into cosplay is completely different from how Japan does it. To be honest, sometimes I think the cosplay in America is much higher than in Japan.

How do you compare FanimeCon to Anime Expo?

DI: How blunt can we be about it?

As blunt as you want.

DI: I would like to compare both of them to conventions in Japan; the scheduling is really lax and spontaneous here. It's kind of laid-back at both of them.

Would you like to attend American gaming shows like E3 as well?

TM: Yes, I would.

DI: I've been to E3.

Speaking of comparisons between Japan and the US: here in the States, there are a segment of gamers who really dislike anime fans. Is this something that happens in Japan as well?

DI: I think in Japan, I can't say there's no one that's prejudiced like that, but I think it mostly overlaps with anime fans in Japan.

Are there major differences between American and Japanese gamers?

DI: I think there's a huge difference. Even the games that sell better are very different between the two countries. In the United States and maybe other places, first person shooters are huge, but in Japan they're not huge at all.

TM: I feel the same way.

You guys are most famous for these fighting games, but there has been a lot of talk of late about the Japanese RPGs versus western RPGs, sort of the Final Fantasy versus Fallout debate. Do you have any thoughts on that front?

DI: This is my personal opinion, but when it comes to RPGs, I think that the western games have the concept down, compared to the Japanese games.

TM: To be honest, the RPGs I really liked to play in Japan were like 15-20 years ago.

Which games?

TM: I liked Final Fantasy III and V. This one's not Final Fantasy, but I really liked a game called Tactics Ogre. And Arc the Lad.

What kinds of things inspire the games that you guys work on? Do you watch movies, television, etc?

DI: The gaming experience overall is an entertainment system-- music, visuals, characters. So I try to have a wide range of interests in these three, so I can be inspired by as much as possible.

TM: The manga and movies I'm into at the moment always inspire me, especially the ones that surprise me and keep me entertained.

Like what?

TM: If I tell you straight-on it'll probably be pretty obvious how certain items inspired me...but I really like Blade Runner. With manga, Trigun really inspired me.

Music is a big part of BlazBlue's style; at what point in the production does music come into the project?

TM: What happens in the creation process is first, I make the character designs, and then I decide their background stories. Once those are together I ask Ishiwatari to make music that matches the impression of the characters and their stories.

The characters are very lively and colorful; where do you get inspiration for the characters?

TM: To be honest, I can't really think about anything that really inspired or influenced me, but I have a strange feeling that Star Wars was a big part of it. Pretty much, the image of BlazBlue was a combination of Japanese mythology and science fiction. One of the big movies that succeeded in that combo was Star Wars, so I watched it a couple of times to get that world down.

How did you feel about the Star Wars prequels?

TM: Personally, I really liked them.

What does Tao look like under her hood?

TM: I couldn't tell you right now, I can only leave it to your imagination.

DI: Because you don't know what's under the hood, that's what makes Tao so special.

Whose idea was it to refer to the levels as, for example, "Rebel One" instead of "Level One"?

TM: Pretty much in the work, the fate for all the characters is already decided, and the characters are fighting against their fate, to beat the time loop. Pretty much every battle is a fight against their destiny, so that's why "The Wheel of Fate is Turning, Rebel One."

What are you two working on these days, after you get home?

TM: BlazBlue got much bigger than I expected. If I could, I'd like to do a bunch of spinoffs and work with BlazBlue more, but the problem is that if BlazBlue: Continuum Shift doesn't sell, I can't do anything before that. So if the fans would like to see more, please support the BlazBlue franchise. I'll be really grateful.

DI: I'm still working on several projects I can't talk about at the moment, but I can say that I plan on eventually concluding the Guilty Gear series, so please look forward to that.

Are there projects you'd really like to do someday, without any worry about budget or anything?

DI: If you tell me I have an unlimited budget, I'd probably go into stuff that's really unlikely to happen, like call in Hollywood actors and Metallica. But the fun thing about making games is that you have a budget limit, and within that limit you have to find out what kind of game you can make. Because I have that limit, I can enjoy being able to make stuff.

Are there particular Hollywood actors you'd like to work with?

DI: Hmm...Nicole Kidman. Natalie Portman. Harrison Ford. Jim Carrey. Wesley Snipes-- I love his stunts.

Over the time that video games have existed, fighting games have always been popular while other trends have come and gone. Why do you think that is?

DI: For fighting games, it's one of those things-- you make the games so people will want to keep playing. That fanbase make the genre a success. That's what keeps the genre alive.

TM: We're trying our best to make our fighting games last forever, so I hope we can continue to keep the genre alive.

Obviously there are a lot of different components to making a game a success, but if you had to commit to just one as the most important, what would it be?

DI: Being able to fight with anime and manga-like characters is what really caught fans' attention.

TM: Our efforts. Our efforts to create and sell the product.

Mr. Mori, in Continuum Shift one of the characters-- Hazama, formerly an NPC but now a playable character --wears a teal coat and a yellow tie in one of his color palettes. Was the outfit inspired by Lupin?

TM: Yes. I didn't mean to rip off Lupin, but I did kind of. It was inspired by him.

If there was a BlazBlue anime, what kind of story would you want it to have?

TM: It's possible, I suppose, but I can't say at the moment. There's so many things I want to do with that possibility, I can't think of just one.

Do you have favorite characters, or are they all kind of your "babies"?

TM: They're all like my kids. But if I had to name one it would be Hakumen.

DI: Yeah, I love all of them.

Has the fan response to BlazBlue surprised you in terms of what American fans particularly liked or characters they gravitated towards?

TM: I don't get that much information about what kind of characters are popular here. But I've seen a lot of Hazama cosplayers.

The story in BlazBlue is fairly complex. Some fans theorize that this is an evolution from Guilty Gear, whose plot became more complex as the series continued-- do you think that's true?

TM: I made it complex on purpose!

Do you have any particular messages you'd like to get out to American fans?

DI: I've noticed that the direction of video games in the US is mostly towards FPS, but we plan on continuing to produce games with anime-style gameplay, and we'd like our fans to continue supporting us. Please look forward to it!

...Would you make an anime-style FPS?

DI: I can't tell you!

TM: This is my personal opinion, but I don't really think there's a boundary between fans of BlazBlue in America or Japan, I love all of them equally, so I will continue to do my best to release the best games possible.

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