CygamesPictures Company Director Nobuhiro Takenaka

by Callum May,

While you may not have heard of CygamesPictures, you've certainly heard of Cygames, the mobile game developer that has expanded into anime, manga, music, and so much more. The anime branch of the company, CygamesPictures, was established as a way of creating both adaptations of Cygames mobage, as well as their own original projects. To find out more about the studio, and their latest show Princess Connect! Re:Dive, we spoke to company director and anime producer Nobuhiro Takenaka.

ANN: As a director at Cygames Pictures and an anime producer, could you describe what a typical day at work looks like for you?

Nobuhiro Takenaka: My job at CygamesPictures is to select projects to produce, as well as deciding on the content of the works, how they're generally supposed to be. When it comes to hands-on work, I generally leave that to other people. I also think about building up talent and getting a return on our investments. More specifically, the job of an anime producer is to think about the content of the anime they're making. They think about how to make the anime appealing. The business side divides the labor and entrusts tasks to people according to their specialities.

Could you talk a bit about your responsibilities on projects created outside the company like Made in Abyss?

I was only involved as an investor to help make the plans come to fruition. I wasn't involved in the creative side of it at all. All I did was decide to put money into this investment that was proposed to us.


©2017 ALCON ENTERTAINMENT

One of the first times fans became aware of CygamesPictures was on Blade Runner: Black Out 2022. What prompted the studio's involvement in this short film?

The director Shinichiro Watanabe had heard about our studio, which had just been established, and came to us to talk about Blade Runner: Black Out 2022. He'd been having difficulties regarding the production length and budget, so the studio hadn't been decided on yet. I've always wanted the chance to be involved with Blade Runner, even if it's only a small part, so I decided to accept the job at CygamesPictures. The studio had only just been established so we were still lacking in manpower, but I hoped to create something that could put CygamesPictures on the map.

In 2016, Manaria Friends was first announced to be produced at Studio Hibari, but it missed its airdate. But it returned last year at CygamesPictures (now Mysteria Friends). Is there anything you can say about how this situation happened?

You've sure done your homework. I can't really talk about the details, but ultimately it was my self-indulgent decision to produce the anime at CygamesPictures.


© Princess Connect! Re:Dive Production Committee

Princess Connect! Re:Dive is CygamesPictures' first full anime series. How do you think this series will change people's perception of the studio?

I have quite a lot of confidence in it. So far, CygamesPictures has made Blade Runner: Black Out 2022 and Mysteria Friends, but Princess Connect! Re:Dive is different from anything we've made before. I hope that people can see us as a versatile studio that can tackle any genre.

Granblue Fantasy, Shadowverse, and Rage of Bahamut have all also received anime adaptations, but they were not produced at CygamesPictures. Why is Princess Connect! Re:Dive in particular being produced at CygamesPictures?

I wanted to try something that hadn't been done in this kind of form in the games industry until now. I've always thought that if we could make both games and anime in-house at Cygames, it could signal winds of change for the anime industry. The reason we chose Princess Connect! Re:Dive to make at CygamesPictures is because the production system we were developing suited it. We still don't have the resources within the studio to produce multiple works at the same time.


© Princess Connect! Re:Dive Production Committee

The show is being directed by Takaomi Kanasaki, who's become known for his work on the KONOSUBA anime. Was his work on KONOSUBA one of the reasons he was asked to direct Princess Connect?

When I watched KonoSuba – God’s blessing on this wonderful world!!, I thought that it fit the vibe of Princess Connect! Re:Dive. The setting and the roles of the characters also have similarities, so I could imagine them having common ground. That was the biggest reason. The producer who is handling the anime of Princess Connect was also acquainted with the director, so that was another big deciding factor.

Both the anime PV and the game's cutscenes feature impressive animation. Do you feel like it's a competition between CygamesPictures and Wit Studio to increase the quality?

This could just be me projecting my own feelings, but I feel like we have a good rivalry and camaraderie. On a fundamental level, people who make anime are like athletes. Raising up each individual production company will help the anime industry as a whole experience healthy growth. We still can't hold a candle to Wit Studio's talents and results, so I want us to be inspired to reach their level.

Regarding the current situation, there are studios other than Wit Studio that handle the animation in the game these days. CygamesPictures is one of those studios.

Cygames has an image of making games with incredible artwork, thanks to the team at CyDesignation. Do you believe this puts pressure on CygamesPictures to create anime with impressive art?

I always feel pressure to create something entertaining because I know that the viewers are watching. If I didn't have that pressure, I don't think I'd be able to create things that are good, so it's a good kind of pressure to have. Games and anime are different things. “Incredible artwork” is a vague expression; I think that what's important is the form that the anime takes, and understanding thoroughly how to use it so that it gets across to the audience. Will it be broadcast on television? Will it be an in-game cutscene? Or will it be used for promotional purposes? I think the most important thing is to be aware of the form of media and to craft the visuals in a way that best suits the medium.

How much do you plan on collaborating with other creative staff at Cygames? Could we see Akihiko Yoshida design for an original anime?

I can't say it's impossible, but I do get the feeling that the probability is low. Yoshida-san is very popular inside the company, so I feel like he's too busy for me to ask him to work on an anime.

In 2016, you spoke about wanting to create a studio with a good environment and train 2D animators. Do you think you've met those goals?

I haven't reached that goal at all. We're still at the starting line. It looks like it'll take another 10 years until it'll become that kind of environment. Just training animators is a very difficult task.


© Mysteria Friends Production Committee

You spoke about wanting to create original films in 5 or 10 years. Is this still a goal of yours?

Of course, it's one of my goals. Personally, I'm having a lot of fun writing the story for a series right now. If a plan for something interesting with a film format could get underway, then there's a possibility that we could immediately start making a film.

I also want to talk about recruitment. Right now there's a lot of issues in the industry in regards to overwork. What is CygamesPictures doing to improve this?

Generally, we're around the same as a regular company. We've been trying to work within the standard hours for a business, but it's not been going well. From the perspective of a regular workplace, we're overworking a lot. One of our challenges is to break the rigid concepts that have overtaken the anime industry. We won't be able to solve the problem of extreme overwork unless we create an environment at our company where everyone can work from morning till night and complete the production in that timeframe. We're currently working towards that ideal and tweaking the organization bit by bit.


© Princess Connect! Re:Dive Production Committee

How much does the studio plan on doing in-house compared to outsourcing? Do you plan on having CygamesPictures staff direct anime?

Right now, about 60% of our work is outsourced. We're currently trying to gradually increase the amount of work done in-house. It would be really nice if our studio could raise a staff member who becomes a director. We don't have plans to do that at our current stage, but it's something to think about for the future. Bringing a person capable of directing to our company and having them teach the art of directing is something to do in the future.

What is one thing you'd like overseas fans to know about Princess Connect! Re:Dive and CygamesPictures?

I think that Princess Connect! Re:Dive is an anime that's interesting because it betrays the viewers' expectations. We're making it so that even those who haven't played the original game will be able to enjoy it, so please do give it a watch. I hope that the anime becomes a gateway for people to learn about the game.


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