Kyohei Ishiguro began the Your Lie in April panel with a statement.
“Anime is a take on reality, not pure fiction.” -Kyohei Ishiguro
The first question was about how they felt about Boston. Ishiguro pantomimed a “Brrr” and said Boston was a bit chilly. He explained that this was his first trip to a convention outside of Japan. He continued, noting that the reason they decided to come to Boston was to see if anime crosses borders. (Writer’s note: It better, or our website is doomed).
Ishiguro took a moment to ask the audience about their favorite characters from Your Lie in April. He then followed up with some of the younger audience members as to why they liked those particular characters. After they were finished, he noted that, no matter which character someone choose, their reasons were always unique to them. He was impressed with the passion of the American fanbase, and said he felt very gratified.
Yukiko Aikei told the audience that this was her first convention outside of Japan as well. She explained that she was dealing with a bit of culture shock, and that “You are all so warm!”
They were asked how they came to be attached to Your Lie in April. Ishiguro said he was approached with an offer to direct despite not having heard of it. He said he took one look at the cover and agreed to take the job.
It wasn’t until a bit later that he discussed bringing Aikei into the project with Aniplex producer Shunsuke Saito. He said that he felt that Yukiko would be a good fit for the project, and Saito agreed.
When Aikei was offered the job, she decided to read the manga. She felt that the art was perfectly symbiotic to the story, and that the characters were cute. The last bit is why she agreed to join the production.
Ishiguro pointed out that his job was to oversee the animators. He explained that one of his main concerns was making sure the animation was as fluid as the music. He spent significantly more time working with the storyboards here than he ever had previously. In fact, Your Lie in April was given five times as much pre-production time as any prior project. Much of that time was spent integrating the music into the animation.
Aikei added that she worked closely with author Naoshi Arakawa to make sure that the character designs fit his vision. In the manga, he was able to include significantly more detail than the anime would be able to provide. She had to simplify the characters without removing any of their essence. She noted that the animators would have to be able to produce twelve episodes in as many weeks.
Ishiguro went on to explain that directors must be able to see the final work from the audience’s perspective. He said that the cast and crew cried just as often as the viewers.
One interesting detail was that the voice work was done in advance of the art production, and that the animators would listen to the voice acting while working on their drawings. Kyohei said this was fairly common.
Many of the locations from Your Lie in April were taken from real life places in Japan. Ishiguro asked the audience if any of them had ever visited Japan. He wanted to know if any of them specifically wanted to go to a place that appeared in an anime, and if so, why. One audience member said she felt it brought her closer to the characters and it helped her understand their place in the world.
I should note that Ishiguro did most of the talking during the panel as Aikei was busy doing a live drawing demonstration.
After the session ended I took some time to review my notes and I realized that Ishiguro was quite focused on making sure that anime didn’t lose it’s connection to the real world. He was genuinely concerned that an American audience wouldn’t necessarily be able to identify with Japanese characters and stories. I had that in my mind before attending the Q & A session.
The first question of the Q & A session was about how Ishiguro and Aikei got their respective starts in the anime industry. Kyohei said that his first passion was music and that he was in a band. He eventually decided that he didn’t think they were going to make it. He actually intended to become a producer, not a director, but that wasn’t the way his career unfolded.
Yukiko said that she always loved drawing. She went to an art university and ended up at a design office after graduation. She worked in design for three years and decided she still had a passion for anime, which led to her decision to switch careers.
I had an opportunity to ask a question, and inquired about the adaptation process of Your Lie in April. Aikei said that her first goal was to capture the facial expressions and the touch of Arakawa’s pen. She went through many iterations of Kaori Miyazono before creating the final project. Miyazono’s smile and carefree movement were key elements for the anime.
Ishiguro said he was struck by how gender-neutral the manga was, and that it didn’t exaggerate the physical proportions of the characters. He added that he had two key jobs. The first was understand the core theme of the anime, as that would determine his directorial choices throughout the project. The second is that he had to work with Yukiko to form the silhouettes of the four main characters. He needed to understand their identities and be able to express them via their images.
If that sounds familiar to you, you may remember that Hiromi Kato made the same point about the silhouettes.
The next question was about the popularity of Your Lie in April. Ishiguro was quick to point out that anime has a much easier job than manga in that anime can be streamed anywhere, but that manga generally requires a physical copy. He went on to note that the anime was specifically more relatable in this case due to the music. The manga stated what was playing, while the anime allowed you to actually hear it.
Ishiguro then proceeded to go on a bit of a tangent. He talked about how he didn’t realize that international fans were fundamentally similar, despite showing their feelings quite differently. He said he never would have known without going to an international convention.
He continued, stating that his creative process is based on understanding how the character is feeling. He strove for realism on every level, from the emotional impacts, to the background locations.
“I want the audience to feel these places exist.” -Kyohei Ishiguro