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Interview: Natsuko Takahashi

by Kim Morrissy,

Natsuko Takahashi is a veteran writer in the anime industry, having worked on the screenplay for projects like Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, Moyashimon, and Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. Although she wasn't officially announced as a guest for Crunchyroll Expo, she was happy to talk to us about her involvement in URAHARA, a Crunchyroll-produced TV anime. Here, she offers insights about how anime fandom has changed over the years and how Crunchyroll is perceived within the industry.

Left to right: Amica Kubo (director), Mugi Tanaka (original character designer), Natsuko Takahashi.

ANN: How did you become a writer?

NATSUKO TAKAHASHI: Back when I was in middle school -- no, perhaps a little earlier than that -- I learned about the existence of scriptwriting. I'm a lot older than everyone here, but back in my day, there was a massive drama boom. There was not much anime at all when I was a child. I watched a lot of dramas and anime. I watched all of them. Through them I learned of scriptwriting as a separate form of writing instead of novels.

When I was in middle school, I discovered a book written by one of my favorite scriptwriters in the bookstore. Reading it made me really want to be a scriptwriter. When I was in university, I submitted a scenario I wrote to a competition. I didn't win -- the scenario I wrote didn't even match the theme of the contest -- but the examiners called me in to write scenarios for TV. So my career began in university.

You wrote scripts for dramas?

Yes, I started with dramas. But I was very otaku-ish, so I wanted to do anime as well.

Did you write otaku-ish dramas?

(laughs) No, they were serious dramas. But I really wanted a job in the anime industry. Back then, if you were in the TV industry, there wasn't much segregation between anime and drama, so I got into the anime industry through an acquaintance. This was in my twenties.

Incidentally, I started going to Comiket when I was in high school. That was thirty years ago now. There were way fewer foreigners going back then; it was a more low-key thing. Pretty much everyone knew each other. It gradually got bigger after I entered university, and now it's so big that even people who know each other won't bump into each other at Comiket. There are so many foreigners now. It's great. Things have really changed.

Are there any differences between Patrick's story and your script?

There are. But, you know, even though Patrick is a man, he's able to portray the girls' feelings so poignantly. It's like a poem. It's gorgeous. I wanted to capture the soul of Patrick's writing in the anime.

So the main theme of URAHARA is “girls' feelings”?

Yes. It's a story about girls who want to create things. These girls discover the meaning of creating things and why do they want to do it. By doing that, they learn more about themselves. The original story and anime share that same theme of friendship and self-discovery.

As a creator yourself, can you relate?

Absolutely. I hope that others can relate too.

When did you learn about Crunchyroll?

Online streaming started around ten years ago, I suppose. I learned of Crunchyroll's name around five years ago. However, this is the first time I've ever been directly involved with them. Just like Amica, I was introduced to the project through Naomi Tanaka-san from Shirogumi. I worked on an earlier series called Moyashimon, and through that connection I was asked to work on URAHARA. This was in 2015.

Is Crunchyroll known widely within Japan?

Crunchyroll is totally immersed in the Japanese anime industry. Everyone inside the industry knows about them. But most people wouldn't know them unless they're really into anime. People know about Netflix and Hulu, though.

But everyone in the industry knows them.

KUBO (director of URAHARA): In this past year, they've really strived to reach out. They've been holding huge parties. So many people are involved with them now. Whenever I see someone, I'm like, “Oh, you're involved with them too now?”

TAKAHASHI: In just a year, huh?

KUBO: This past year has been like an explosion. Everyone's aware of them now.

They've really increased their activities, and now they're getting into anime production.

TAKAHASHI: And that's why we were asked to do URAHARA.

KUBO: I'm really happy about it.

TAKAHASHI: It's an honor.

Do you think Crunchyroll is good for the industry?

TAKAHASHI: I think so. I'm grateful to them for spreading anime around the world, and especially in the United States.

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