Director of Hetalia: The World Twinkle.
Took the helm directing Hetalia: The Beautiful World, taking over for Bob Shirohata.
Previous works include:
Fist of the North Star (1986): Key Animation
Video Girl Ai (1992): Director, Executive Producer
The Law of Ueki (2006): Director
Interviewer: First, please let us know how you felt when it was decided you would make a sixth season of Hetalia.
Watanabe: I had a lot of fun working on the previous season, so I thought that I’d like to do it if they started it up again. Thanks to this work, I’ve gained a lot of interest in foreign countries, and learned a lot of various things. So I was extremely happy to have been asked to direct the sixth season.
Interviewer: I heard that you went on a tour of Europe after the wrap-up of the fifth season. What did you think?
Watanabe: Europe has many streets lined with old buildings full of centuries of history, many of which resembled scenes we depicted in Hetalia. As I walked, I’d often imagine what the Hetalia characters would do if they were there in the same time and place I was.
Interviewer: After having been to the real place, was there anything that reflects your experiences in the new series?
Watanabe: You can’t understand the atmosphere of a country without going there to experience it yourself, so I don’t think I could reflect what I felt when I was there well in the anime. The character designer, Mariko Oka, had been to Europe many times, and so we used many of her photos of English scenery and such as reference photos. The scenes of Mont Saint Michel in the fifth season were also made using her pictures as reference.
Interviewer: Did you have any thoughts on the direction this season will take?
Watanabe: This time around there’s a lot of distinctive sound and graphic effects in the comic. We went through a lot of trial and error to test how we should depict them in the show. Some things don’t come across well with just SE (sound effects) or voices, and we couldn’t reproduce them. One idea a staff had was to show the sound effect by inserting the speech bubbles drawn in the original manga. So we then started trying to use the original drawings whenever possible during production. But it turns out that the written effects became too distracting, ｓo we decided that we couldn’t just add in sound effects speech bubbles without making sure they weren’t independent of each other. Conversely, it was difficult to connect them together. Because I had to think about and fix these issues, I started to like sound production. It was interesting to try and get the right sounds to be represented. If there was a sound effect that we didn’t think we could do, we’d generally ask the voice actor for that character how they would perform it. (laughs)
Interviewer: The scene where England drinks tea elegantly with the sound effect “sawayaigi-” is funny even though it’s just Noriyuki Sugiyama saying it.
Watanabe: I didn’t know how to portray that part, so I asked Noriyuki-san to take care of it. (laughs)
Interviewer: I see! You mentioned her name before, but as the director, what do you think is attractive about Oka-san’s drawings?
Watanabe: Oka-san is a huge Hetalia fan herself, so the love she feels for the characters really shows through her art. You can’t tell from a single glance, but if you compare the current art, where she’s taking care of all the designs, to the past works, there’s a kind of thickness to the current one. The anime fans are probably the most familiar with the show, but she finds ways to please the original manga’s fans as well, to keep everyone happy. Oka-san has saved me several times during production, so I’m very grateful.
Interviewer: Was there anything that stuck in your mind from your talks with Oka-san before starting production?
Watanabe: There were a lot of times where I had to ask Oka-san “What’s going on here” when I couldn’t follow the flow of the story. (laughs) At those times, Oka-san would pull up old blog posts by Hetalia’s manga author Hidemaruya-san, saying, “this because of this.” I feel I was only able to make this production with her helpful explanations.
This interview was translated from Japanese.
The original was published in volume 4 of spoon.2Di July 31, 2015
The second half of this interview is coming soon! Hetalia fans, keep an eye out!