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Drawing A Delicate Heart with Skip and Loafer Anime Director/Series Composition Writer Kotomi Deai

by Hitomi Wada,

In a recent interview with Japan's Newtype magazine, director and scriptwriter Kotomi Deai talked at length about the creation of the Skip and Loafer anime—especially the challenges that came with adapting the manga's pacing and art style to the small screen.

How did you start planning the Skip and Loafer anime?

Kotomi Deai: P.A.WORKS producer Hikaru Yamamoto planned the project, and after they started working with DMM.com, I was offered the chance to be involved in the project. I was delighted because I had always liked the original story. While it is a comedy, it is also a narrative that strikes at the essence of human nature in several key points, and it really stuck with me. It follows the subtleties of the characters' feelings. Each character has both positive and a bit negative aspects, depicting the inherent emotional fluctuation of human nature.

What was important to you when creating the animation?

DEAI: I wanted to make sure that the fun and subtlety of the original manga would be felt when it was animated. Manga is something that readers can read at their own tempo and pace. However, in the case of the anime, we had to set the tempo and pace, so we were careful not to lose anything from the original manga in the creation process.

You wanted the audience to feel the same after watching the anime as they would feel after reading the manga, even after visual effects were added.

DEAI: That's right. I added music and adjusted the length of the anime, trying to supplement what was between frames to create the unique atmosphere of the work.


What was the first scene that came to your mind?

DEAI: The scene in the first episode when Mitsumi starts running was very impressive in the original story, so I thought how to depict the scene was the first important point. It is also the scene where Shima's heart flutters for the first time after meeting Mitsumi, and I thought it would also look great in anime to have her start running from there.

You were also in charge of the series composition.

DEAI: The original story is very detailed and layered, like the characters' relationships change as the story continues, so I tried to keep the story flow as it was without breaking it. In terms of how much to depict it in 12 episodes, we started from the point where Shima's fluttered, so we decided that the climax would be a break in the story to see how Shima's feelings would land. The manga's original creator, Misaki Takamatsu, and the manga editor were present at the script meeting, so we could discuss even the smallest details, which was very helpful.

By the way, who in the story did you sympathize with?

DEAI: Personally, I think I felt a lot of sympathy for Shima. Or rather, I felt for Shima, who is enamored with Mitsumi. After all, I am attracted to a person like Mitsumi. She is an honor student, but she is also a very human-like person who is worried and feeling down but still manages to come up with her own answers. If something bothers her, she asks directly. Each action is simple, but I think it is challenging to do it openly. It is easier just to pretend to show that you understand and let things slide, and in general, everyone tends to run in that way, but Mitsumi doesn't play games like that. I think that is her strong point.

What did you pay attention to when directing?

DEAI: Takamatsu, the original creator, said, "The basis of the story is a comedy," so I used an imaginary background for the joke cuts and used a joke-like touch on screen. However, if we went too far, we would lose the sense of reality, so we rarely reduced the character's height in any way. Deformation is also limited to facial expressions. I was conscious of keeping the level of humor in the range of human relationships.

Mitsumi has a lot of freedom. She is a character who tolerates any kind of direction, or rather, she can be shown as highly excited, and that becomes Mitsumi. On the other hand, Shima was difficult to portray. I had to be careful not to make him move in a symbolic, anime-like manner, as it would make him look out of place. The animators did a wonderful job creating facial expressions and their gradual changes. The character designer and chief animation director, Manami Umeshita, and chief animation director, Reina Igawa, did great. The cast's performances also were of very high quality. They were very sensitive to the changes in relationships between the characters.

How did you decide on the “look” of the series on screen?

DEAI: There was quite a bit of back and forth before we reached the slightly breezy “look” we have now, and we went through a lot of trial and error to find the right balance between softness and reality. I discussed again and again with the art director, color designer, and photographer to find the best way to fit the direction I wanted to take. This time, I personally requested Kazuto Izumita, the cinematographer, and Yuko Kobari, the color designer. In the end, the other members of P.A.WORKS gathered together to form a very enjoyable group of people.


In episode 6, the scene with Mitsumi and Shima on the stairs, you expressed their feelings by changing the light.

DEAI: It was a turning point because it was one of the crucial scenes in the middle of the whole season. At that point, Mitsumi became aware of her feelings, so I expressed her emotions rather than using ordinary scenery. As the light got stronger, I hoped the viewer would empathize with Mitsumi's growing feelings. At the beginning of the production, I had a lot of discussions with Izumita about how to put in the light, and in this scene, he showed me what we had decided to use as the maximum amount.

In episode 9, when they take a nap on the tatami mats of their parents' house, the flow of time peculiar to summer vacation is shown.

DEAI: Syu Honma, the episode director, did a lot of work on this cut. There is no music in the opening of this episode. We tried a version with music, but we decided it would be better to show the scene with only the sound effects. I wanted the audience to experience the feeling of returning to the countryside and being a little nervous and fidgety when returning to a familiar place.

Did you do location scouting for the Ishikawa scene?

DEAI: Takamatsu, the manga's creator, told us about the location where the film was modeled, near Noto, which is her mother's hometown, so we went there. When I actually arrived there, I found it peaceful, the sky was wide open, and the flow of time was relaxing... I was convinced that Mitsumi was born and raised in such a place. The background was drawn based on a lot of photos I took for reference, so I think it looks rather realistic when seen by the locals.

Then, the story turns to the preparation for the culture festival.

DEAI: A culture festival is a standard event, but from the anime production site's point of view, it is a devil's task (laughs). Many minor characters and crowds are drawn, and we have to decorate the school. We decided to make this the climax of the series, so we asked the background designers to add a lot of decorations and focused on how to make it look fun. Also, since a play was to be performed, I borrowed materials from an actual high school festival that the author had covered for the stage art setting, and with her advice, I worked on it.

I believe that this work will be close to the hearts of those who have started a new school life in April. Do you have a message for readers?

DEAI: I think the difficulties of human relationships are the same for students and adults, so I hope this anime will lighten your heart or give you some hints. I would be happy if you could witness the characters' daily life and the growth of their hearts.

This interview was first published in Newtype's July 2023 Issue.

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