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Behind the Scenes of Action-Comedy Anime Undead Unluck

by Bamboo Dong,

ANN's coverage of Anime Expo 2023 sponsored by Yen Press!

Fans who attended the Undead Unluck panel at Anime Expo last month were decidedly very lucky when animation studio TMS Entertainment brought out a slate of special guests—voice actress Moe Kahara, who plays Fuuko Izumo; actor Natsuki Hanae who plays Shen; Shonen Jump editor Takumi Hashimoto; and series producer Ryōta Hasegawa.

After showing the excited crowd a trailer for the upcoming series, which will premiere on Hulu in October, the guests talked about their experience working on the show. Kahara said she had a great time playing opposite Yūichi Nakamura, who plays the immortal Andy. “Andy looks scary, but inside, he's very kind!” Kahara said. She added that Fuuko and Andy were buddies and, as a result, grew to also enjoy her fun conversations with Nakamura. Hanae said that he enjoyed the dichotomy of Shen's buff physique but pretty face and added that his biggest challenge in voicing him was that the character speaks Chinese.

Speaking about his role as editor, Hashimoto talked about his daily meetings with author Yoshifumi Tozuka, joking, “Andy is naked all the time, so I have to make sure there's a censor in every scene that Andy's in. That's something I pour my heart and soul into.” Producer Hasegawa said that one of his jobs is to find manga he likes and negotiate with the publisher to bring the story to the world. Because some of his favorite series were JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and Fire Force, he was excited to work with david production, who did the animation for both. Regarding mangaka Tozuka's involvement in the series, Hasegawa said he checked the scripts and voice recordings. “He's like Andy in that he has a lot of immortal stamina. He's pleased with what the anime is turning out to be.”

We had the fortune to speak further with Moe Kahara, Takumi Hashimoto, and Ryōta Hasegawa to learn more about what it was like behind the scenes on Undead Unluck.

Shonen Jump editor Takumi Hashimoto, voice actor Moe Kahara, and series producer Ryota Hasegawa
Photo by Bamboo Dong

The humor in this story is very surreal and absurd but in a good way. Finding that balance between comedy and chaos takes a lot of finesse. Was there a certain mindset or intention that you set for yourself each day as you worked on this project? What were some of the biggest challenges?

Hasegawa: We first needed to find the right team who could balance chaos and comedy. We went with david production, the studio, for Undead Unluck, as they've also done series like JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and Fire Force. Knowing those two titles, they handle chaos and comedy very well, I thought they'd do the same for Undead Unluck.

Similar question for Ms. Kahara—how did you mentally prepare each morning before entering the booth?

Kahara: On the first episode, I was very, very nervous, so I did a lot of preparation. I read the script multiple times. I basically did everything I could for the first day! But I also wanted to sound natural without being too stiff. As the episodes progressed, I got more comfortable. I developed chemistry with Mr. Nakamura, who plays Andy, and Mr. Hanae, who plays Shen. I was getting a little more comfortable, slowly but surely, so I was changing in that sense by having a relationship with the other voice actors while maintaining Fuuko's personality.

Mr. Hashimoto, as an editor, you must have a unique perspective on this. How much of that chaotic comedy was purely born from Mr. Tozuka, and how much of that was a collaborative effort between you two to work on something that would resonate with readers?

Hashimoto: In terms of the comedy, most of it is from the author. Mr. Tozuka likes Tom and Jerry, so he wanted to have that same atmosphere, especially in the earlier chapters, with characters chasing each other and that kind of thing.

This is Mr. Tozuka's first series. What's it like working with those fresh to the industry as opposed to seasoned veterans?

Hashimoto: The more experienced mangaka can work closer with the editors, like they're two in one, essentially. We do have weekly meetings to review all the feedback we get from readers, like what our readers are looking for, what the response is like, and so on. So we are always having discussions. As it's been four years since Mr. Tozuka started his serialization, he's getting closer and closer to being like a veteran in terms of working closely with his editor.

It must feel liberating to work on a project where so many rules of reality can be discarded. Do you have any favorite scenes or moments where you thought, “Wow, this is so fun!”?

Kahara: I like Andy and Fuuko's chemistry, like the chaos they have together. It is almost like Tom and Jerry, especially in the beginning. I really enjoyed those parts. They have completely different backgrounds. They're both from different countries, and their ages are completely different, but they can still get along somehow, so that's fun too.

Hashimoto: Andy, when he fights, is destroying his body, essentially. He regenerates himself while he's fighting. I really enjoy the battle scenes where Andy can fight in his own unique way. You can see it in the manga too, but even more so with animation. You can literally see his body growing back as he's fighting. So yeah, that's very fun. It's very interesting, very new, very unique.

Hasegawa: As the story proceeds, Andy and Fuuko's relationship progresses, and how they view each other changes, too. That's really interesting. Seeing it all come together in the animation is very fun.

Speaking of Andy, he's a little rough around the edges at first and maybe not that likable initially. But he quickly grows on audiences. How do you make sure audiences grow to love a character like him?

Hasegawa: As the story goes on, you realize that Andy has a lot of different elements to him, and he has a lot of things in his history. By showing that, I think viewers really start falling in love with him. He's very multi-faceted.

The manga evolves pretty quickly at the beginning—initially, there is a lot of fanservice, with Fuuko seemingly being on the wrong end of it. But that dissipates over the course of a couple of volumes. With the anime, did you decide to make that change earlier on? Or did you stick with the tone of the manga?

Hasegawa: The way that Andy and Fuuko view each other also changes, so that's why it's just gone in later chapters. It was never really about fanservice.

Kahara: At the beginning, Andy was really touching Fuuko as much as possible so that he could get as much "unluck" as possible so that he could die. So the main motivation was really death. The way they view each other and also the way they interact with each other completely changes as well.

Hasegawa: In the beginning, Fuuko is a little less dressed. But as the story progresses, she starts caring more about her appearance, and she starts covering up more as well to try and prevent her powers from harming others.

Hashimoto: There's no real change made from the manga to the anime but in regards to the way that the relationship changes, the main thing is that Andy learns that Fuuko needs to love him more to grant a bigger misfortune upon him. So unless she likes him, he can't really get that, so he becomes gentler and kinder and tries to treat her well. That's another element of their relationship that develops.

Ms. Kahara, you have a unique perspective to bring onto this show because, in The Executioner and Her Way of Life, you actually played someone who's almost immortal! What did you think about this role reversal?

Kahara: The character is pretty different! The character I played doesn't know that she's immortal, so there's no real difference in how she acts, really. So the role reversal isn't too much.

Fuuko is a complex character with a lot of conflicting emotions. What were your first thoughts when you read for the part? Did your feelings about her change throughout the season?

Kahara: She has complex emotions at first because initially, she does want to die, but it's because, at the root, she's a kind person and doesn't want other people to die. And that aspect of her doesn't really change as the story progresses. So how she acts doesn't change too much because that root part of her is always there. While her personality doesn't change, her relationship with Andy develops. The way that Fuuko gets more comfortable and the way that she interacts with Andy changes quite a bit.

The penalty system is so unique. I've never seen anything like it. What thing do we take for granted that you would miss the most?

Kahara: I really enjoy eating and getting full from food! So I would be really sad if that was gone. As a human, you want to be able to eat and feel satisfied.

Hasegawa: Time with my daughter... Her name is phonetically very similar to the "Un" in Undead Unluck in Japanese. She was born at the same time the project started, so it feels like there's some sort of synchronicity! I wouldn't want to lose time with my daughter and miss out on that relationship and connection.

Hashimoto: As an editor, I see everyone enjoying manga. I would really be sad if manga was gone.

Mr. Hasegawa, you have a lot of experience working on projects that involve post-apocalyptic combat. Are you drawn to these particular stories, or has it just been happenstance?

Hasegawa: I love battles! And stories with battles. I think people enjoy watching scenes with battles; they're very popular. I like working with these properties, but I don't really like stories where things become very negative or end with no hope. I like stories where the characters move toward a positive light and have a ray of hope. Like in Undead Unluck, despite all the negating and the bad things that happen, people overcome those adversities and still move towards that hope. I like Undead Unluck for that reason.

People talk about how Undead Unluck is really a romance. What do you think?

Hasegawa: There are multiple ways to read and interpret the story, so you could say that! There are many elements.

Kahara: You can enjoy it as a romantic comedy and just enjoy seeing the two get closer together, but I think Undead Unluck can't just be seen as a romantic story because there are so many more elements. But yeah, that aspect of it is very interesting.

Hashimoto: To some degree, the story is "boy meets world." So seeing it as a romance... that's one way to enjoy it!

Do you consider yourself a lucky person?

Hasegawa: Super lucky!!

Kahara: I'm a lucky person!

Hashimoto: …Unlucky.

Kahara: I play an unlucky character, but getting to play Fuuko… I'm very lucky!

Knowing that everything has an equal and opposite reaction, what would you negate if you had to choose your blessing/curse?

Kahara: At a different event, I said that I wanted to negate being able to escape and run away. But with Undead Unluck, the way that negations work, it's more like... instead of not being able to run away, it would be like things around me no longer have an escape route.

If this was a canon event, I might make it so that everyone around me would be unable to run away even if there was a natural disaster, causing massive chaos in the vicinity. I remember saying, "I don't want to be able to run away," but if I had talked to the author, he might have said, "Oh, you might get into huge trouble. Be careful what you wish for."

Hashimoto: I want to negate boredom! I want to make manga that are only fun.

Hasegawa: There are some delays going on in production right now, so I want to negate the deadline! I wish I could give the anime production team as much time as possible to do their best on Undead Unluck and make an amazing show. Things are going well, but we could always use more time!

One last question. What do you hope audiences will gain from the anime series?

Hasegawa: I mentioned this briefly earlier, but I want people to see how the characters can overcome their challenges and see their negative abilities in a positive light so that they can still have hope in how they live, and how they can still attain their goals. I think that's one of the most attractive elements of the story.

Kahara: One of my favorite parts of the story is how the characters meet and how they interact and get to know each other. The way that the characters develop is very drastic. I think the story will be very touching to those with close friends or family because, through the ways the characters interact, even characters who don't know each other at first become very close and develop good relationships.

Hashimoto: Even in the first episode, there are moments when you can laugh, cry, be sad, and be happy. There are so many elements to the story, especially as it goes on. I think Undead Unluck is something that you can never get bored of. It's always going to be interesting. There will always be “wow” moments. There are more characters appearing later, who are all voiced by amazing actors. david production is giving it their all, and the show has amazing animation. Mr. Hasegawa, as a producer, is trying his best to keep everything together and promote the show as much as possible. You can expect the best quality.

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