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The Staff of Orient

by Kim Morrissy,

Orient is a bold new anime based on Magi creator Shinobu Ohtaka's manga. It tells the story of the warriors, who are the only people to fight the demon invaders. ANN spoke to manga creator Shinobu Ohtaka, director Tetsuya Yanagisawa, and series composition writer Mariko Kunisawa about the making of the series.

The story combines old-time Japanese warriors, the sudden appearance of demons , and motorcycle-like vehicles. What was the inspiration for these different elements?

Shinobu Ohtaka: It started when I found myself imagining what sort of alternate timeline would play out if invaders from another world came to the Japan of the middle ages. The motorcycles are fictional vehicles created with the scientific techniques of that what-if world. The Japanese warriors of long ago loved mounts that were speedy and strong, so I think they would gladly ride a motorcycle if something like that existed.

When creating a new manga, how much do you try to make it different from your previous work?

OHTAKA: I'm about 50 per cent conscious of writing something different from before. I search within myself to create something new within the best of my abilities.

Where do you get the inspiration for the manga's unique designs of demons and demon gods?

OHTAKA: I mainly got my inspiration from the mythical beasts and creatures of east Asian countries like Japan and China.

What was your first impression of the original work?

Tetsuya Yanagisawa: I assumed at first that it would be a battle manga about different powers clashing, but I thought it was interesting how it delves quite deep into the characters' conflicts and the dark parts of humanity.

There are not only adorable demons like Nekomata (mythical demon cat) and Kodama (tree spirit demon) but also horrifying ones like Kishin (demon god) . What did you keep in mind when depicting them in animate form?

YANAGISAWA: When it came to the demons that are cute like plush toys, such as the nekomata, I asked for designs that took into account their skeletal structures in order to make them move in the anime.

The opening of the first episode had an interesting visual style. What's the story behind its creation?

YANAGISAWA: I decided to use a peaceful introduction to emphasize that the sudden appearance of the demons altered everyday life. Chief animation director Fumio Matsumoto put a lot of care into it and created something with a completely different mood from the series proper.

What were you conscious of when adapting this manga to anime?

Mariko Kunisawa: The emotions of the characters. Orient is set in a “neo Sengoku” world, but the characters' problems and conflicts are relatable to us living in the modern day. That's what gives this story a feeling of reality, and I think it's one of the sources of Orient's appeal. So I wanted to do it justice.

The story has a theme of “living true to yourself” and “don't just follow the flow.” What does this theme mean to you?

KUNISAWA: It felt like we happened to be in a time where there's stronger peer pressure than usual. I remember that I had an impression that the theme of the story was synching to the atmosphere surrounding us in a timely manner.

There are several interesting dramatic elements in the story, such as the relationship through forming the Samurai corps, the friendships between the two Musashi and Kojiro, or else. How did you balance those drama elements in the story development?

KUNISAWA: The manga has gotten much longer than we originally expected it to, so we were trembling at the thought that we wouldn't be able to fit it all into 12 episodes (laughs). What I was particularly conscious of was giving each episode a memorable scene. I also wanted to maintain balance with the jokes. Ohtaka-sensei was quite thorough and scrupulous when it came to the gag scenes, and we got a lot of notes from the editor (laughs)

The anime is streaming on Crunchyroll.

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