Interview: Pop Team Epic Producer Kotaro Sudo

by Kalai Chik,

If you haven't seen Pop Team Epic yet, you're in for something truly special; the surreal, captivating and wildly creative comedy hit earlier this year, propelling the show's two heroines, Popuko and Pipimi, into the international spotlight. Producer Kotaro Sudo, whose resume includes a variety of anime such as Seitokai Yakuindomo, Ajin, and Fafner EXODUS, sat down with ANN to discuss the show and how the phenomenon came to be.

You've mentioned in interviews that you had played Undertale, and the scene where Pipimi pets Popuko and her head gets long is a reference to the game. Whose idea was it to include that in the anime?

Kotaro Sudo: That scene was from the original manga, and Okawa loves Undertale. And like I mentioned, I love the series as well.

Who's your favorite character in Undertale?

Sudo: Definitely Sans. It's quite popular in Japan, and I hope in the future it can be animated.

There are many challenges to adapting a manga like Pop Team Epic to an anime. How did ideas like BOBUNEMIMIMMI and the adaptation of Hoshiiro Girldrop come about?

Sudo: I told them (AC Department) they could do anything they wanted and they wanted to create BOBNEMIMIMMI.

Did you know from the start you would have two different sets of voice actors for Part A and Part B of Pop Team Epic?

Sudo: Originally, I was thinking of making this anime 15 minutes long, but because the TV broadcast is about 30 minutes long so I decided to do a Part A and Part B. I made the decision to repeat the same scenes and the same phrases. I thought it was best to use different voice actors for those segments.

Hellshake Yanno was the craziest feat of teamwork and practice. How many takes before the whole thing came together and who's idea was it to do it like that?

Sudo: Actually, I think they practiced a lot before they came into the studio, and even when they came to the studio they tried over ten times to get it all right. In order to fit it all into three minutes, they tried even harder to make it perfect. Hellshake Yano is from the original manga, but the paper flipping and skit came from AC Department.

Some of the lines in the anime are ad-libbed, such as Tomokazu Sugita singing his own ending song instead of the usual ED: POPPY PAPPY DAY. How do you integrate voice actor ad-libs into the show?

Sudo: That idea came from Sugita. He began singing “Itsumo no ramen," which is the mondegreen version of “Born to Be Wild.” During the ending song, there's a song that sounds like Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" that plays in the background. We looked for the best way to integrate it into the show, and it worked out really well.

What's your favorite scene in the anime?

Sudo: First would be the last episode where Shouta Aoi saves the day. Second would be the, “Did you get it? (Owari itadake darou ka?),” scenes where I was on camera and got yelled at.

When you proposed the idea to the voice actors, how did they react?

Sudo: When I talked to them about doing that scene, their reactions were, “I've never done a scene like that before.” Actually, many of them didn't want to do it.

During the inbetweens, the voice actors will have variations of saying “Pop Team Epic.” Do you instruct them to sound a certain way, perhaps more roughly or more cutely, for certain voice actors?

Sudo: After recording the main part, I ask the voice actors to say “Pop Team Epic” in eight different ways. I don't direct them to say it in a specific way, but I use the ones that I feel are the best takes.

In your opinion, what would Popuko and Pipimi do if they came to America?

Sudo: In both the manga and anime in episode 9, they went to New York. Similar to that, they would go about their own business and have fun. Maybe even get Pink's Hot Dogs in Los Angeles.

Do you have any messages for Pop Team Epic's international fans?

Sudo: We don't know if there'll be a new series yet, but if people want to see it I would like to work on it. Please continue supporting the series.

Our thanks to Kotaro Sudo, Sentai Filmworks, King Records and Kenta Tsuchida for providing this opportunity.

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