Interview: The Directors of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slimeby Kim Morrissy,
Based on Taiki Kawakami's manga adaptation of Fuse's original novel of the same name, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime has been a pleasant surprise for many anime fans recently, thanks to its endearing characters and unique take on the isekai fantasy genre.
To find out more about this charming series, we talked to director Yasuhito Kikuchi and assistant director Atsushi Nakayama at Studio 8-Bit. We asked about their working relationship, Studio 8-Bit, and the funny stories they had from working on That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime.
What was your first impression of the original work?
KIKUCHI: It seemed soft and fluffy to me. There was no big hook at the beginning. The story continues for a while in such a soft and fluffy manner. It's relaxing and comforting for a geezer to read.
NAKAYAMA: Yeah, the beginning is a relaxing read.
But Rimuru gets very strong over time.
KIKUCHI: That geezers love that kind of storyline. (laughs)
You worked together before as directors on Comet Lucifer. How does your experience working together on That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime compare to Comet Lucifer?
NAKAYAMA: It's almost no different. Generally speaking, when the director is too busy to do things, I step in to handle it, like going to the voice recording sessions and so on. Lately, we've been doing things together, though, because we have a longer schedule for Tensura compared to Comet Lucifer.
NAKAYAMA: With an original anime, you need to look over the series as a whole, but this time there is source material, so we've been dividing the workload a little differently. This time, I've been taking on a bit more personal responsibility.
KIKUCHI: Right, I've barely looked over what you've been doing.
When did you first meet Ryoma Ebata and why was he a good fit for this project?
KIKUCHI: It was a long time ago. 15 years ago, when we worked on Genesis of Aquarion together.
NAKAYAMA: Ebata knows Tensura better than anyone. He'd been reading it for a long while, and he really wanted to do this project.
KIKUCHI: He said, “Let me do the opening for this anime!”
NAKAYAMA: I was the director of Absolute Duo, and Ebata also did the opening for that series all by himself. I knew how good he was from then, so I knew he'd be fine handling it this time too.
How is 8-Bit different from other anime studios?
KIKUCHI: I've been at 8-Bit for so long that I have no idea what it's like elsewhere! (laughs)
NAKAYAMA: Well, 8-Bit does give off the impression that it's strong when it comes to 3D and digital animation. We're good at making 2D and 3D animation blend together. That's the first impression you get.
How many animators at 8-Bit still draw on paper?
NAKAYAMA: I think there are more people who draw on paper. The number of digital animators is 10-20%. Around 80% of animators are still drawing on paper.
Has the number of animators who draw on paper changed since you first working with this studio?
KIKUCHI: In the last 1-2 years, the number of digital animators has increased a lot.
NAKAYAMA: There's been a change in the habits of animators. People who used to only draw on paper have been getting more into digital.
KIKUCHI: Like me. I've been drawing my storyboards on a tablet. I'm still learning about digital animation.
NAKAYAMA: There are a lot of people who use a tablet to draw their rough sketches, but when they're sitting down to draw the animation proper, they use paper. Ebata's one of those types too.
The second part of the first episode had a lot of digital effects. What made you want to use these kinds of effects in this anime?
NAKAYAMA: The graphics designer Yuji Haibara would tell us his ideas for visuals, and we both tried to accommodate his suggestions.
KIKUCHI: Most of the visual ideas in episode 1 come from him. When everything is happening inside the brain, it's not like you can see anything.
NAKAYAMA: The Great Sage was particularly tricky. It's a bodiless entity that communicates with Rimuru. It would be a waste if their interactions were just conveyed through dialog, so we made an icon for it.
What's something you found challenging about working on That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime?
KIKUCHI: Nothing, really.
Well, the slime isn't hard to animate.
KIKUCHI: Everyone has a lot of fun drawing it.
NAKAYAMA: It's fun to draw the slime and the story is good, too. Compared to other projects, this one hasn't posed much trouble.
KIKUCHI: If there was something challenging, it was fulfilling a request from the creator Fuse-san: “Please make him pretty!”
NAKAYAMA: We're talking about his form as Satoru Mikami, before he reincarnated.
KIKUCHI: We were told to make him a pretty boy even before he reincarnated.
NAKAYAMA: Just that. That was the one thing we were told to do.
KIKUCHI: That was the hardest thing. (laughs)
NAKAYAMA: And even when we thought we'd done everything, we were told, “Could you make him just a bit cooler?”
How did that become such an important part of the setting?
KIKUCHI: I have no clue. (laughs)
NAKAYAMA: You'd think that a guy who reaches 37 without ever having a girlfriend would be really lame, so we didn't want to make him too pretty, you know, because then it'd be like, “Why did this guy never have a girlfriend?”
When I read the novel, I thought that his personality was a bit… you know…
NAKAYAMA: Even if he had personality issues, he's still good-looking, so he might be the kind of guy with whom, even if he had a girlfriend, she would immediately break up with him. He might not be a 37 year old guy who has never had a girlfriend.
Are there any troubles with managing a 2-cour schedule?
KIKUCHI: Sometimes there are difficulties meeting all the different deadlines, yeah.
NAKAYAMA: It's not harder than doing a 1-cour anime with no schedule! (laughs)
This is a question for Nakayama. How does your background in 3D animation and photography affect your creative decisions as a director?
NAKAYAMA: It's definitely influenced how I go about things. The experiences I've had working on 3D and being a photography director have come in handy as a director when I'm doing checks.
KIKUCHI: You can spot mistakes easily with the 3D.
NAKAYAMA: Right. When it comes to 3D, it's easier for me to make specific instructions about how to improve things when I'm doing the checks. I can go into the finer details, which comes in handy.
What do you do to relax when you're not working on anime?
KIKUCHI: Hmm… what do I do…?
You do have time to relax, right?
NAKAYAMA: Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. When I have the time, I like to go cycling in the mountains. There are lots of people in the anime industry who have road bikes.
KIKUCHI: I suppose I'm the same as Nakayama. I like to go motorcycling.
What aspect of the anime would you like viewers to focus on?
KIKUCHI: The uniqueness of the atmoshphere of the setting, I suppose.
NAKAYAMA: The most interesting part of the story is the civilization-building and seeing Rimuru make all kinds of new friends. We want to stay true to the characters from the original work while also depicting their expressions and movements in a way that can only be achieved through animation. We put a lot of thought into how to express Rimuru's skills and the magic.
Thanks to Bandai Namco Arts for this opportunity.
Disclosure: Bandai Namco Arts Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bandai Namco Holdings Inc. Bandai Namco Rights Marketing Inc., another wholly owned subsidiary of Bandai Namco Holdings Inc., is a non-controlling, minority shareholder in Anime News Network Inc.
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