Interview: The Cast and Crew of A Lull in the Sea
Producer Mitsuhito Tsuji
by Zac Bertschy & Viewers Like You,
Producer Mitsuhito Tsuji has worked behind the scenes in the anime industry as a line producer, an animation producer and a whole closet full of other hats over the years. His credits include GLASSLIP, CANAAN, and classic OVAs like Dead Leaves and FLCL.
The character designs, backgrounds, and overall animation of Nagi no Asukara are all beautifully animated. How did you manage to keep the consistency throughout the series?
The most important factor was that the staff that was all involved with the series loved the story, characters, and world setting of A Lull in the Sea. Because of the staff's love for the series, we were able to complete it without the quality diminishing. Actually, our enthusiasm increased, which can be seen in our work. I think this is the main reason that we were able to maintain the consistency.
Have you seen Shirobako? How accurate is it in your professional experience?
Shirobako is definitely a work that depicts the world of Japanese animation. However, there aren't that many women in the industry, more serious problems occur, and the work is much harder. Depicting the details might destroy everyone's dreams about the industry. [laughs]
You've helped to produce several anime classics, but where would you rank A Lull in the Sea on your list?
A Lull in the Sea is an original project that I have been involved with since its inception. Usually, I have Mr. Kenji Horikawa [ed. note: P.A.WORKS President] there to provide me with a sense of security, but this time, in order to gain more experience, I did almost everything on my own. Because of this, there was more pressure put on me when compared with other titles that I worked on in the past. And because I was involved with so many aspects of it, I have a great love for this title. So, you could say it's definitely my number one favorite. [laughs]
Were there any special techniques you used for animating all the underwater scenes? Is there certain logic to how things move or work in the undersea town?
To start from the technical side of things, in order to create the effect of light fluctuations induced by the movement of the waves in the ocean, we put almost all the cuts in. Also, unless there were fish, it wouldn't seem like the ocean at all, so we used 3D modeling.
As for logic, if I started writing, it would never end. [laughs] First of all, we thought about how we wanted to depict the characters. I guess you could say there was no logic to why the characters weren't made to exhibit “buoyancy.” Of course, one reason is it would take much more work to create the images, but also having the characters constantly float around would create a feeling of restlessness, becoming a distraction when depicting a scene, so we removed that. By doing this, key scenes that did display buoyancy were able to stand out.
Will there be more of Nagi no Asukara (i.e. anime film, OVA, etc.)? I would love to see those characters in the future.
I can't really say anything about that… [laughs] Of course, personally, I really want to see what happens in their future, too!
For an anime show that has some of the best animation in recent years, was this the most challenging project you've worked on?
Thank you! That makes me very happy. I think all of it was a challenge. At the planning stages, I can still remember those long hours in the basement room of the studio with the director, wracking our brains about the logic of being in the ocean, as well as the setting. My basic stance for original works is to leave things up to the director, but in the case of A Lull in the Sea, I really wanted to do as much as possible. Consequently, this may have added more of a burden on the team. This has nothing to do with the actual series, but when it came to making the promotional Twitter icons, I made about 118 of them by myself. Also, as a commemorative item, we created T-shirts, and I came up with the design for it.
In my opinion, P.A. Works is one of the highest-quality animation studios that makes anime. Can you please describe what it takes to produce such high-quality work, and what makes P.A. Works so special?
I don't think that. [laughs] The quality of the work is due to the hard work of the staff. Without that, it is impossible to make anything good. Another thing is that we put a lot of effort into animator training, and I think that is an important element that supports the overall quality.
Where did the design team research to make the beautiful ocean world? Were any trips taken outside of Tokyo?
Santorini Island in Greece. Well, half of that is a lie as we didn't actually go there, but we did reference the white houses that line the slanted hills of Santorini. The reason for this is that the Art Director, Mr. Kazuki Higashiji, drew a scene of it in his middle school days and the director, Mr. Shinohara, decided to use it. Actually, after we completed production, I went to Santorini. It was an amazing place, the houses were actually white, and they were built on hills with many stairs. I ended up so sore. [laughs] The experience inspired me to depict a new seaside village.
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