Location: Anime Expo 2023
Interview Date: 7/3/2023
Anime Herald: Is there a story behind the name Studio Kafka?
Koichi Naruse: [Kazuaki] Terasawa-san, [Takahiko] Abiru-san, and myself had decided to establish a new studio. We were having a discussion of what to name the studio. We were at Mr. Abiru’s house having dinner together. We looked at the bookshelf and saw Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. We thought “Hey, Kafka sounds like a good name!” That’s why we choose the name Studio Kafka
Anime Herald: What is a normal workday like for you? What are your daily responsibilities?
Koichi Naruse: I’m a producer at Studio Kafka. I’m in charge of the staff members that work for the studio. I think of the background art, make staffing decisions, and decide what kind of color palette the works shall be in. Those are some of the small details I’m in charge of. In general, I manage the staff at the studio.
Kazuaki Terasawa: As a director, I’m in charge of the illustration and animation. The background art, the color, character design, scenario, composition. Everything that’s part of creating the animation. I choose the direction that the animation goes to.
Anime Herald: What was it like meeting each other in college? Any funny stories from that time?
Koichi Naruse: My first impression of Terasawa-san was that he was dressed a bit weird.
(Editor’s note: The translator specified that it sounded like Mr. Terasawa was dressed like Detective Conan.)
Koichi Naruse: He was wearing a red tie, with shorts, and a blazer. When I spoke with him, he spoke weirdly too! I thought “If I made a movie about what was going on in Terasawa-san’s head, it would be really interesting!”
Kazuaki Terasawa: Naruse-san and I often met at the smoking area. When we were casually chatting, I thought we had a similar sense of humor. I figured we would get along just fine.
Anime Herald: Now that Studio Kafka has been in business for a few years, what has surprised you about running an independent studio? Are there any stories you would like to share?
Koichi Naruse: What surprised me is that the quality demanded of animation has gotten higher and higher than when I was a staff member. The costs have gone up as well, because we want to produce better quality. It’s very challenging and takes more hours to produce. While the quality requested is quite high, but at the same time, I’ve also enjoyed this process and experience.
Anime Herald: Mr. Terasawa, You’ve talked about how foreign dramas diminish color grading and add ambiance. You mentioned how you wanted to try something like that for The Ancient Magus’ Bride. Were you able to do that for season two?
Kazuaki Terasawa: For animation, when we talk about color grading, there are two types. One is pop animation, which has popping colors, which everyone from kids to adults can enjoy. The other type has color grading similar to foreign dramas. The colors don’t pop out with large variations. Instead, we use a subtler palette that creates the same kind of ambiance we see in foreign dramas. For The Ancient Magus’ Bride I went for that kind of palette that is more likely to be comfortable for adults than young kids.
Anime Herald: Mr. Naruse In your interview with Crunchyroll, you said:
“We don’t have enough people right now so we need to find more talent. I would love to work with people with different backgrounds.”
Have you been able to find talented people with different backgrounds?
Koichi Naruse: There’s been an increase in the number of talented people at Studio Kafka, but it’s not enough. It’s never enough. However, we were able to get (Kohei) Tokuoka-san, the chief animation director and character designer for season two of The Ancient Magus’ Bride. So, someone like that, who is super talented, is actually joining our team these days?
Anime Herald: What challenges do you face in recruiting and training junior staff?
Koichi Naruse: A challenge we face when attempting to nurture young talent is that everyone, young animators, young producers, have different strengths and positive aspects. It’s a challenge to put them in the right direction, to nurture and inspire young talents.
An anime must bring the characters from a manga to life, giving them voices and movement. For The Ancient Magus’ Bride, what challenges did you face translating Kore Yamazaki’s work from page to screen?
Kazuaki Terasawa: The second season covers the Gakuin (college) arc. There are a lot of students we need to bring to life. It’s mostly interactions between the various students, various characters. There are a number of animators involved in this work. Everyone draws different facial features, different expressions, and work in different styles. It’s been quite a challenge for myself and Mr. Tokuoka to put everything together and make sure it all looks the same.
Anime Herald: What brought you into the animation industry? In other words, what is your “origin story?”
Koichi Naruse: After graduating college, I was a typical salaryman. I had been keeping in touch with my friend. One day, Terasawa-san said “Hey, animation is quite fun. Do you want to join the anime industry?”
I thought the idea was quite interesting. The next day I quit my job.
(Editor’s note: Both Mr. Naruse and Mr. Terasawa were cracking up at this point.)
Koichi Naruse: When Terasawa-san was talking with me, even back then, he had an idea of us starting an animation studio together one day.
Kazuaki Terasawa: We went to a music college, Nagoya University of The Arts. Growing up, I watched Ghibli films. In college, I saw the Ghibli film Ponyo again. I was shocked. I realized that I wanted to make animation. I quit the music program and joined an animation program.
Anime Herald: Who is your favorite character in The Ancient Magus’ Bride?
Koichi Naruse: Liza (Quillyn)
Kazuaki Terasawa: Ruth
Anime Herald: What are you most excited for, either here at Anime Expo, or in Los Angeles in general?
Koichi Naruse: AX is my chance to interact directly with anime fans. I want to enjoy it as much as I can.
Kazuaki Terasawa: Even in Japan, it’s rare to be invited to a The Ancient Magus’ Bride event. It’s my first time at an overseas event, so I’d love to interact with the local fans.
Anime Herald: How did they convince you to join the team for The Ancient Magus’ Bride?
Kohei Tokuoka: I had been working closely with Naruse-san on a number of titles. I was touched by how great it was to work with Naruse-san and his personality. When he invited me over, I thought “Why not?”