The Staff of The Rising of the Shield Heroby Kim Morrissy,
Aneko Yusagi's popular isekai fantasy novel series The Rising of The Shield Hero has been published in English since 2015, through which it has gained an ardent fanbase. Crunchyroll showcased the first episode of the new anime adaptation at Crunchyroll Expo last year, and released the episode to their subscribers a week before the Japanese broadcast.
To find out more about the making of The Rising of The Shield Hero, ANN was invited to Kinema Citrus, the studio that produces the anime. We talked with the anime's director (Takao Abo), screenwriter (Keigo Koyanagi), and producer (Junichiro Tamura) about what exactly makes the story and its protagonist so unique, as well as the difficulties of adapting the novels into anime.
ANN: Mr. Abo, you have said that The Rising of The Shield Hero is your first time doing an isekai anime. What was your first impression reading the original work?
TAKAO ABO: Well, it's an isekai, so there's magic and stuff. I found myself getting immersed in the task of how best to adapt the setting and the role of the protagonist into an anime.
Mr. Tamura, is this also your first time doing an isekai work?
JUNICHIRO TAMURA: I've handled a lot of isekai work, but Narou (“Shōsetsuka ni Narō,” the popular web novel site)… hmm… I wonder if this is the first Narou novel I've worked on.
Do you read Narou novels?
TAMURA: Yeah, pretty regularly. Our company (KADOKAWA) releases a lot of them, after all.
KEIGO KOYANAGI: I've worked on isekai works here and there, but this is my first time with a Narou work. It's different from other Narou novels. The people of the isekai didn't wish for the protagonist to come to their world. They may have summoned him, but they told him that he wasn't needed. That aspect felt fresh.
TAMURA: The fact that he doesn't start off very strong compared to heroes of other Narou stories is also interesting.
This series is said to be a darker than usual isekai story. How do you try to convey Naofumi's hardships?
ABO: As a hero, he has a lot of skills. He's been told to fight against the Waves, but he has the shield and doesn't have as many skills as the other heroes. As for how the anime specifically conveys his trouble, the animation shows him struggling to defeat monsters and generally subverting expectations about how the hero is supposed to fight. His difficulties are contrasted with the other three heroes, who have an easier time.
KOYANAGI: All the hardships which are happening in the story might be common in the isekai stories. However, depending on how Naofumi perceives the situation, he may find it difficult to deal with, while the other heroes don't have difficulty. Because he's a different kind of protagonist, there's a different climax. There are problems that Naofumi faces that are unique to him as a protagonist. I hope that his uniqueness as a protagonist could differentiate this from the other isekai stories.
TAMURA: Right. From the beginning, Naofumi is strong-willed. No matter what awful things happen to him, he'll face them. In a more standard isekai story, the hero is strong from the start, so they don't have to face such terrible things. Through hard work, Naofumi overcomes his problems. The dark aspect is certainly part of the series, like how he threatens shopkeepers, but Naofumi's not a bad guy at heart. He's dark, but also a hero, I think.
Like an anti-hero?
TAMURA: Hmm, he's not quite like an anti-hero either. The way he values things in terms of money makes him different from other characters. He's a realist.
Do you feel like you were personally able to relate to Naofumi's struggles and growth?
ABO: Well, if the awful things that happened to Naofumi happened to me, I think I'd just curl into a ball. The way he looks forward after terrible things happen to him, the way he treats his friends, and the way he's able to rise and gain strength after being falsely accused... Rather than “relate,” I would say that I “admire” him.
KOYANAGI: As the director mentioned, I'm envious of how instead of wilting in the face of adversity, he'll rise to the challenge. At that point, he's already hated by everyone, so he doesn't care about what happens anymore. That's something I admire about him.
While reading the novel, I've often thought: “What would I do if everyone hated me?” What do you think, Mr. Tamura?
TAMURA: Right. Mentally, he's very strong. If I were in a situation where everyone in the country called me a bad person and I couldn't buy anything, I'd probably state hating humanity. Seeing him grow stronger and hold firm to his beliefs reminds me of the protagonist of an old movie.
Admiring instead of relating, huh?
ABO: Hmm… yeah. Even if there are aspects that I relate to, I wouldn't go far enough to say that I relate. But I want to show people that kind of protagonist. I want people to think that a person like Naofumi isn't so bad.
What do you think is the most unique aspect of The Rising of The Shield Hero?
ABO: I suppose the most unique aspect is how it has a protagonist who doesn't wield an offensive weapon.
KOYANAGI: There are fewer love interests. (laughs)
TAMURA: Hmm… When you think of heroes with shields, there aren't many that come to mind besides Captain America. With a defensive weapon like that, the hero has to use his head to get things done. I think that's what makes this series unique.
So what sort of things do you focus on to make the action scenes more exciting, especially when the protagonist can only use a shield?
ABO: He has to team up with others. The heroine Raphtalia is an important partner to him, and that can be shown visually as well. For example, with the sword and shield combination. I can focus on composition of each shot to make things exciting.
In the PV, there's a shot where the camera spins around.
ABO: Yeah, things like that. That's one of the representative aspects of the anime.
KOYANAGI: Speaking of things that make the action exciting, the location of the battles is important. They don't always fight on perfectly level ground. The terrain is a factor as well. Also, when you wield a shield, it's easy to wait for the enemy to come at you first and then counterattack.
TAMURA: Besides what the other two have mentioned, the shield has various skills attached to it. Normally, all the hero can do is defend, but by using the skills, he can support others. He can do things like set traps. The fact that the shield can transform and use all kinds of skills makes the battles interesting.
Were there any difficulties with incorporating the game-like elements of the story into the anime?
ABO: On the contrary, the game-like elements were an opportunity to make the anime stand out, both visually and through the story. The staff around me is used to games, so we developed it together. As for what specific troubles we had…
When you make a visual adaptation out of a book, there are various troubles, right?
ABO: Right, there are always difficulties turning something that's just written in words into something visual.
KOYANAGI: When people defeat enemies, they gain EXP and levels. We wondered whether we should show the numbers appearing on the screen. Who should be able to see those numbers? How much should we show?
TAMURA: We didn't know how best to convey the status magic, like when the hero gains new skills. But I'm glad we did make it visible. A game interface is different from anime, but there are things that can work in both mediums, and that's what the staff focused on when it came to the question of what to include.
KOYANAGI: We also wanted to emphasize that Naofumi was inserting anything he could into his shield. If you look closely at the screen, you can see the components he puts in.
TAMURA: He puts the parts of the monsters he's defeated into the shield.
KOYANAGI: When the status menu appears, sometimes there are new skills. If you're wondering, “When did that ability get there?” you should look closely at the visuals from earlier scenes and you'll find it.
Whenever Naofumi gains a new skill, there's an explanation for how it works. How do you adapt that visually?
ABO: We give it an appearance as described by the novel, and make it manifest at least once. You should be able to work out what kind of skill it is from the appearance, even if that part isn't written in the novel. Well, that's also a lot of work to incorporate the skills like that, and we have to be careful not to make mistakes, in case there might be times when you look closely and it's different from what the novel describes. (laughs) The idea is that you're able to see the fruits of Naofumi's hard work.
Why do you think Kevin Penkin's soundtrack was a good fit for the series?
ABO: First of all, I'm glad that you think that his soundtrack was a good fit. I was also very satisfied with his work. I think that Kevin has a wonderful musical sense. As for how we got the music to fit, the music producer and I read the original work carefully and took detailed notes.
TAMURA: Kevin's an Australian, but he's really good at Japanese. We've been able to have meetings with him in Japanese. He's been communicating with us through Skype, so the director has been able to relay orders to him about how he wants the music to sound. Even though we're from different countries and his native language is English, we've been able to get our ideas across to each other.
Does he often come to Japan?
ABO: He comes over sometimes.
What do you think of his music?
KOYANAGI: He's great. Even outside of the battle scenes, his music for the everyday life scenes leave a strong impression. It makes you think, “Wow, I'm really in another world!”
ABO: Yeah, that's definitely something I wanted the music to represent.
TAMURA: It's another world, so you don't know which country it's supposed to be. His music is really good at conveying that atmosphere. It's a really good fit for Melromarc, the country that Naofumi is summoned to.
The Rising of The Shield Hero is set in a European kind of world, right?
TAMURA: That's the base.
ABO: Yes, although each area of the world has its own regional differences. That's something we put a lot of care into depicting.
If you could choose to be one of the four heroes, which weapon would you wield?
TAMURA: Which one should I pick? Which one's the strongest? This is hard! Well, between the sword and shield, the shield would lose out.
KOYANAGI: I prefer a bow because I like long distance attacks.
ABO: I would pick a spear. It can work both in close and from a slight distance.
KOYANAGI: Nobody would pick the shield. (laughs)
TAMURA: Then I would pick a shield (laughs)
But when you watch the anime, don't you think, “Wow, the shield is so cool!” (laughs)
KOYANAGI: We're making this anime so that people will say, “I'll pick the shield!” (laughs)
Do you have a message for overseas fans?
ABO: Personally, I haven't been making this anime with a particular audience in mind. Not Japanese, not overseas, not men, not women, and not any particular age group. I just hope that whoever watches it finds something interesting in it.
KOYANAGI: Please watch Naofumi's way of life. (laughs)
TAMURA: I think Isekai stories can be enjoyed by people in different countries because they're set in another world. Each part of the other world looks like a different country in our world. The novel has been very popular in North America. We're trying not to disappoint any novel readers, so I hope everyone can look forward to it.
Thank you very much.
Thanks to KADOKAWA for the opportunity.
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