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Interview: Shinji Takamatsu

by Bamboo Dong,

To celebrate the release of the Daily Lives of High School Boys anime boxset, NIS America and Anime News Network asked readers to help come up with questions to ask director Shinji Takamatsu. Here, he talks about what it was like adapting a comedy manga, pacing the series, working with voice actors, and his own high school experience.

The Daily Lives of High School Boys premium edition boxset is currently available from NIS America.

Having to work from the manga of the same name by Yasunobu Yamauchi, what creative freedoms were you allowed?

When we began working on the anime, I met with Mr. Yamauchi and he told me, “I'm leaving this up to you, so work on it however you see fit.” However, I really like the lazy atmosphere and all those easygoing gags, so I answered, “I'll do it how it's written.” Basically, the series is the same as the original, with incidental bonus-type segments being done the way I wanted them done.

The original High School Boys manga contains far more chapters than the anime. How did you decide which chapters to include or omit?

When we first began, I looked at it as a 30 minute anime and then selected and arranged vignettes from the manga in order to create a feeling of completeness. However, as we started catching up to what was being printed in the manga, we effectively just ended up turning the comics directly into the anime. After the anime was done, the comic continued, so there were some chapters that I would have liked to have included in the anime, as well.

Finding the right pace for the multiple individual stories in each episode seems logistically challenging, given the half-hour time limit. How did you approach the task?

Normally, the length of the scenes are basically decided during the scenario and storyboards phase, but for this work, we laid things out very loosely and during the editing phase. If we had extra time, we would add extra vignettes, or take the images that were like the humorous frontispieces of the manga and use them as the intermission stills, or like when the three boys were chatting idly, batting the volleyball around, we would adjust the time. The episodes' rhythms were created in this manner. Actually, we have several vignettes that didn't make it into the episodes for time reasons.

In the past, you were the director of far more serious mecha shows. Do you handle directing comedy and action differently?

Basically, since I am the one directing in either case, I don't think it's too different. However, the type of work being dealt with is different, so naturally the performances and expressions will seem different.

Coming into "Daily Lives of Highschool Boys," you already had some experience directing comedy, for example: School Rumble and Gintama. How was directing Daily Lives similar or different to the other comedies that you took part?

The funniest parts of this series are the ones that feel like “this could totally happen,” the boys' laziness, and when they just throw things out there, so I had to be careful not to take things as far as I would in School Rumble or Gintama. However, I did use the knowhow that I picked up from my previous directing experiences. Taking the lines and singing them and adding commentary to the sponsor breaks are something of a trademark in my work.

How do you think comedic timing compares with dramatic timing---that is, if you're storyboarding a humorous sequence, do you follow a significantly different rhythm than when you're storyboarding an action sequence?

Of course, if the genre and work in question are different, the way you deal with timing will be different. There are many instinctual parts, but since I am the one doing it, there will be some overlap, and that could change depending on how I am feeling. For this work, rather than during the storyboards, we worked to create the rhythm during the editing in many cases.

You were involved with the script for all 12 episodes of "Daily Lives of High School Boys", but was only involved with the story board for episode 12. Why did you choose to only work on the story board for episode 12 and not for any prior episodes?

Anime is a collaborative process, so I think you have to bring out several different strong points from the unit directors. I feel the lead director is there to bring all of those strong points together, and that is how they add their personal color to it. This time my assistant director was Ai Yoshimura, and I left the checking of the storyboards up to her. As for the storyboards, I'm only listed for the 12th episode, but the pre-credits sequence for the first episode, as well as all of the original parts, was almost all me.

The boys in Daily Lives of High School Boys all have really outrageous and funny experiences over the course of the series. Did anything silly ever happen to you when you were in high school?

I, too, was in an all boys high school, so there were many sequences where I thought, “Yeah, this would totally happen.” When I was in high school, I made films on an 8mm camera, but since I went to an all-boys school, I had to put on a skirt and play a girl's role, just like Tadakuni.

In the series, girls remain that mysterious "other" for most of the boys. As an adult now, do you feel like this concept still holds true for you?

I think so. (laughs) However, it might be because men and women don't understand each other that makes things so interesting.

Daily Lives of High School Boys has a pretty eclectic voice cast - Tomokazu Sugita, Aoi Yūki, Akira Ishida, the list goes on. What was it like working with this cast? Any notable memories?

Every day of recording was fun and lively, so it felt like we were in a real high school. For this work, I had the actors act things according to how they felt about the part, without giving them direction. However, after their takes, they would look at me as if to say, “Was that really OK?” (laughs) So, I feel that that the characters and actors were all made together.

I have one final thing that I would like to say. When I heard that “Daily Lives of High School Boys” would be brought to North America, I was surprised. I wondered if such a domestic work would be able to be enjoyed by foreign people. However, I learned that there were many fans, so I was relieved, thinking “Ah, no matter what country they're from, high school boys are idiots.” These loveable high school kids may have been caricaturized, but they are the real high school boys of Japan. Please enjoy this anime. Thank you very much.

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