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Setting the Stage: A Deep Dive Into the【OSHI NO KO】Anime

Feb 19, 6:00 PM

Nov 2013

From left to right: Shimpei Yamashita, Daisuke Hiramaki, and Ciao Nekotomi

The 【OSHI NO KO】 anime took the MAL community by storm during the Spring 2023 season, kicking off with an unconventional 90-minute-long episode that would launch the anime towards the top of the MAL charts. At Anime NYC 2023, we had the opportunity to sit down with producer Shimpei Yamashita, director Daisuke Hiramaki, and assistant director Ciao Nekotomi for a special interview. During the interview, we discussed the creative process and technical aspects behind the 【OSHI NO KO】 anime adaptation, as well as the upcoming second season.

── How did you discover the 【OSHI NO KO】 manga and what drew you into it?

Yamashita-san: I was not really aware of the manga in the beginning, but one of my colleagues, producer Takuya Yoshioka-san, said that he would like to make an adaptation. At the same time, we asked studio Doga Kobo what stories they would like to adapt into anime and they said 【OSHI NO KO】. Since two of my acquaintances mentioned the title, I began to read it.

Hiramaki-san: I worked with Kanna Hirayama-san, the character designer, before. We were talking with Ryo Kobayashi-san from Doga Kobo about how we would like to adapt 【OSHI NO KO】 into an anime, and that's how I became familiar with the manga.

── When you received news that you would be working on the 【OSHI NO KO】 anime adaptation, what was your first reaction?

Hiramaki-san: My first impression was that 【OSHI NO KO】 has a lot of different elements, so I felt like I could do a variety of things with the story. At the same time, I thought that it might be interesting if I could adapt the first volume of the manga into a single anime episode. I talked with my team about this idea, and they were all thinking the same thing. I also like movies in general, so I thought it might be interesting to adapt part of this anime as if it were a movie.

── The first episode of 【OSHI NO KO】 took the anime community by the storm. What did the unconventional ninety minute-long format allow for in terms of creative freedom?

Hiramaki-san: If it were to be a conventional thirty-minute-long anime, the actual content would only be twenty-one to twenty-two minutes long due to the opening and ending credits. The only thing that we would be able to do would be to efficiently deliver the content. By making the first episode an hour and thirty minutes long, we were able to elaborate and dig deeper into the story.

── Speaking of creative freedom, throughout the manga, a few of the chapters begin with a flash forward to future interviews that allude to a special project. Was there a reason for the omission of these parts from the anime?

Hiramaki-san: That's something that you can look forward to in the future.

Yamashita-san: We would like to continue on with 【OSHI NO KO】 as long as we can. The second season has been announced already, but we hope that we can keep it going beyond that.

── There were also a few scenes which you instead chose to expand upon in the anime. For example, the music video of Kana during the karaoke contest was entirely original. What led you to expand on these specific scenes?

Hiramaki-san: Since parts of this title are about creating music, we wanted to be explicit and show the characters actually creating music. Kana, in particular, is said to be a performer who has been declining in popularity. However, the message of the karaoke scene is that Kana is not finished as a performer. We just wanted to express this a bit more creatively through this scene.

Yamashita-san: In the original manga, there are only one or two panels to express a scene about music. However in anime, you can express this more clearly. So even if there are two panels, you can expand this to three minutes of animation. We want to take advantage of the anime medium to express these scenes more clearly. Anime can be used to depict scenes that can not be as clearly depicted in manga.

── How did you approach adapting the manga into anime while maintaining the essence of the source material?

Hiramaki-san: The manga doesn't have any sound or color, so that's something that we have to watch out for. Also the characters' lines may not sound awkward when you read them in a manga, but they may sound awkward once you say them out loud.

Nekotomi-san: To avoid disappointing the audience, we express a lot more in the anime and allow them to feel the same emotions they felt when they first read the manga, that exciting feeling. Those who have already read the manga have memories of surprise and amazement, as well as other positive impressions of the manga. To overcome those impressions, we need to do a lot more in the anime to give the audience the best impression of the work. It's also a sign of respect to the mangaka and their work.

── Speaking of the mangaka and their work, what was your impression of Aka Akasaka and Mengo Yokoyari during your collaboration?

Hiramaki-san: When talking with the original author Akasaka-sensei, I got the impression that they work in an efficient manner. Once they reach a certain level of productivity or workload, they ensure that they balance it out by engaging in leisure activities or "play." Overall, they come across as highly active individuals.

── Were there any specific scenes from the manga that you found particularly challenging or rewarding to animate?

Hiramaki-san: The first thing we tackled was figuring out how to draw the eyes and decide on their colors. This was one of the most challenging parts of the animation. We also had to consider the overall color scheme for the whole anime. We discussed what direction we wanted to take with the colors compared to other anime. It was something we refined through trial and error.

Nekotomi-san: When I read the first manga volume, it felt fast-paced and packed with content. Both in the original story and the anime, Ai appears to be the main character. However, she sadly passes away and the challenge was to make the audience care about her even after she's gone. Although she's no longer alive, her impact still lingers throughout the series. To foster attachment to Ai, I added extra scenes in the anime featuring young Aqua and Ruby. This way, viewers wouldn't want Ai to leave. Balancing everything was challenging, trying to ensure the audience cheers Aqua on for revenge.

──【OSHI NO KO】 covers many heavy topics related to the entertainment industry in a straightforward manner. What were some of the challenges when it came to balancing these dark undercurrents with the brighter surface of the show?

Hiramaki-san: In the original manga, the balance between serious and comedic scenes is already well-established. The author has expertly woven serious moments with humor. Following this existing balance in the manga made the adaptation process smoother; it wasn't particularly challenging.

──【OSHI NO KO】 explores a variety of complex characters. What were some of the techniques you used to portray their psychological development and conflicts through character animation and cinematography?

Hiramaki-san: The character designer, Hirayama-san, and the team working on manual drawings are quite skilled. Even when I didn't give them detailed instructions, they independently engaged in a lot of trial and error. For example, I might convey one message, but they interpret it in various ways, experimenting to achieve the best result. It truly reflects the capability and dedication of the staff.

Nekotomi-san: Regarding the characters' psychological development, there actually isn't much progression at all. However, I'd like to highlight a unique method used in the creation of this anime known as the color script. While it is slightly more expensive, it is a unique approach not taken by most anime production teams. Nonetheless, in the case of 【OSHI NO KO】, we embrace the color script to shape the anime. Here's how it works: for each episode, the team in charge of handling colors in specific scenes gathers, with one person in charge of organizing the color scheme. If viewers find it easy to connect with the emotions and situations in 【OSHI NO KO】, the use of color script could be one factor.

Hiramaki-san: There aren't many people who can carry the color script style forward, but Nekotomi-san can. That was one of the reasons I wanted her on the team.

── In a previous interview with Febri, Hiramaki-san stated that Kana was the most challenging character to animate, in terms of expressing her emotional transitions. Were there any other challenges you faced in translating the other character's emotions and growth from the manga to the screen?

Hiramaki-san: When it comes to Kana, the term "difficult" was mentioned in a previous interview. However, it's important to note that the difficulty doesn't lie in the expressions within the animation but rather in the performance of the voice actress. Kana's emotional dynamics are significant and active, requiring a delicate balance in adjusting the volume of the voice, making it a challenging aspect to control. Additionally, in terms of acting, Aqua's voice actor also takes on the role of Pieyon, adding another layer of complexity. The team faced uncertainties about whether they could successfully navigate these challenges. We were wondering whether the overseas audience would notice Aqua's voice actor playing the role of Pieyon in advance.

── So was Aqua's voice actor playing Pieyon's voice actor throughout all the episodes?

Hiramaki-san: No, just in episode 10. In the scenes where Aqua teaches the three girls pretending to be Pieyon, Aqua's voice actor also acts as if he were Pieyon. It was a bit challenging, and the team wasn't sure if Aqua's voice actor could handle it. They were also curious if the overseas audience would notice this detail.

── Oh, I didn't notice that at all! Speaking of Pieyon, have you watched the real life workout videos by Pieyon? Have you personally tried these workouts?

Hiramaki-san: I watched the workout videos, and it appears that they perform a variety of well-known exercises. Some, but not all, of these popular and famous moves are a part of my own gym routine. [laughs]

── Going back to the creation of the anime, Doga Kobo has an in-house compositing team. Could you tell us more about how having direct access to the compositing team helped with the process of making the anime?

Hiramaki-san: The best thing about having an in-house compositing team is the incredibly quick response time. It's also located nearby, allowing us to look at the same screen and discuss the content together. This quick access to materials and immediate discussions improves efficiency. Moreover, increased communication fosters better mutual understanding, contributing to the overall speed of response.

── Both Hiramaki-san and Nekotomi-san previously worked together on SELECTION PROJECT, an idol anime. Were you able to use your experience from there with the idol performances in 【OSHI NO KO】?

Hiramaki-san: Yes, it did. What do you think, Nekotomi-san?

Nekotomi-san: When it comes to technical experience, you can gain it from any project. The director plays a crucial role in anime production, taking cues from the manga, leading a production team, and turning ideas into animations. Understanding the director's approach is key. Having previously collaborated with Hiramaki-san, I understand his way of thinking and his passion for anime. This understanding shaped how I approached 【OSHI NO KO】. I already knew what Hiramaki-san aimed to convey in the work. It's not so much about learning technical aspects from SELECTION PROJECT; it's about sharing a mindset and passion.

── What aspects of 【OSHI NO KO】 do you think resonate with the fans of the manga as well as the anime viewers?

Hiramaki-san: There are two aspects to consider. Firstly, the impact of reading the manga should be such that the readers are unable to put it down after finishing the first volume. The 90-minute episode has a similar effect on anime viewers. This similarity may appeal to both manga and anime fans, as it provides a consistent experience after reading the first volume of the manga and watching the first episode of the anime. Secondly, the manga's content directly reflects contemporary trends.

── Do you have a final message that you would like to share with our community?

Hiramaki-san: I'm delighted that 【OSHI NO KO】 has been warmly received by fans overseas. I encourage fans to continue following the series. The second season incorporates many new and accumulated elements, so please look forward to it.

Nekotomi-san: Thanks for watching season one! If you haven't seen it yet, please give it a watch. Now, we're gearing up for season two. In the upcoming season, we're bringing in more elements from Japanese culture, like katana and oni (demons). These additions might catch the interest of those unfamiliar with Japan, and I believe non-Japanese viewers will find them enjoyable. I'm excited for many people overseas to tune in!

Thank you so much for the interview!

Interview was conducted through an interpreter and has been edited for clarity.

Feb 19, 8:25 PM

Mar 2023
Oshi no Ko was a truly good show whose sequel I'm looking forward to. I'm not particularly familiar with the source material to avoid spoilers, but I hope that at least there the plot will focus on Aqua's investigation, which is what interested many viewers and me in the first place.

Some say that the show is overrated and some say it deserves more praise, but one thing is for sure, Akasaka did a reasonable job on the story and Doga Kobo did a reasonable job on the level of adaptation.

P.s. Ruby played by Yurie Igoma is a real charmer, who is your favorite idol?
Feb 19, 11:51 PM

Jul 2008
Thanks a lot of this insight, great interview!
Feb 20, 12:47 AM

Jun 2017
It was expected but it is still reassuring and nice to see that the Staff working behind the scenes are fans of the original source material and put so much thought behind the many elements of the anime adaptation that got many viewers and I totally captivated.
#Anime4Life be my Life Motto! #PrayForKyoAni

Feb 20, 2:08 AM

Jan 2020
That's a lot of useful information regarding the anime from this interview, wonderful. I hope the fanbase of Oshi no Ko will grow even more as time goes on!

Feb 20, 2:15 AM

Apr 2012
Oshi no Ko is a good example of staff carefully and respectfully strengthen a original manga using animation tools. You can really see their respect and love for the material in the interviews.
Feb 20, 8:32 AM
Feb 2024
I am NOT readin allat 😂😂😂😂🗣️🗣️🗣️🗣️🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
Feb 20, 8:33 AM

Dec 2012
anime pretty much died for me after this thing started airing, nice eulogy.

I don't watch as much anime as before...

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It’s time to ditch the text file.
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