Anime Trending had the opportunity to interview some of the staff behind the T.V. anime series Revue Starlight. We sat down with Director Tomohiro Furukawa, Character Designer Hiroyuki Saita, Assistant Director Takushi Koide, and Animator and Prop Designer Shiori Tani at Anime Central 2019 to talk about the show.
James AT: Good morning, my name is James Mizutani from Anime Trending News.
Basel: Hi I’m Mike Basel. I’m from Digital Fox Media, a general entertainment website.
Johnson: My name is Jack Johnson. I run an anime channel on Youtube called Under the Scope.
Still: I’m Lachlan Still. I do some freelance anime reporting and also run the anime Youtube channel The Pedantic Romantic.
Brooks: And I’m Tynan Brooks. I’m also an Anime Youtuber and freelance writer who runs the channel Zeria.
AT: Oh! I have the first question, how intimidating. I’d like to start with a question about the story, particularly the ending. So Revue Starlight could have easily been portrayed as a tragedy at the ending, especially considering that that is the play within the show is a tragedy as well, but the show had a decidedly happy ending. What factors led to that particular ending?
Furukawa-san: So touching on what you were talking about, it is a tragedy in the theatrical side, or the butai, the stage performance part. However, I felt like I wanted to take it a step further than that. We felt the viewers would probably think, “Oh okay, so Karen and Hikari would forever be separated, and they wouldn’t be together anymore,” because of what was happening in the butai, on the stage. But we wanted to give Karen a different ending. We wanted to take that a step further. Compared to the book or play, I feel like it was just really important to give the show a different ending, something that’s unexpected for the viewer.
Also, I simply wanted to see a happy ending.
Basel: Revue has a fairly large cast of main characters, were there any particular challenges in trying to balance out the cast, like certain characters you wanted to focus more on but couldn’t, or vice versa, anything like that?
Furukawa-san: It was originally extremely difficult to come up with a balance because of the nine characters, and that was really hard for us to do.
When I first joined the project, even though it was original content, it had already been decided that there would be nine characters. So I was like, “Whaaaat?” I was a little bit worried about that. And then I learned the nine characters were somehow going to have fight scenes and they were going to fight each other. So I asked, “How is that even going to come into play?” And then I said, “Can I change it a little bit?” I asked if I could have the liberty to change things so that I could create those fight scenes amongst the characters.
The change that I made was: instead of having just the characters fight each other for no reason, there were certain characters that fought each other to music. I included all these factors in the fight scenes, so that people would be more invested in it and they would understand it more. That was something I wanted to change when I first came in and heard about the concept. The storyline when I came in wasn’t really clear. It just said, “These characters are going to fight.” But it didn’t really have meaning behind it. I really wanted to focus the direction on certain characters fighting, and then giving it more. And in that way the viewer would become more invested.
And then after, as an overall storyline, we came up with the whole Karen and Hikari and the frenemy relationship that they have. And that became the overall concept.
Johnson: This question is for Saita-san. When crafting the character designs for each of the girls, how did you decide their physique and stature, and in particular, what emphasis did you place on their differences in height?
Saita-san: So as far as height goes, I drew a rough drawing of the characters and showed it to Furukawa-san. Then I got his opinion and we did the back and forth with that. As far as the weight, the build, and everything else I did, for each character I had their name and the kind of personality they had. With that, I would be like, “Okay Karen. She’s like the girl-next-door… Healthy… Let’s give her a healthy build.”
With Hikari, she is Karen’s rival, and so I wanted to make her the opposite. That’s why she a lot more slim. I actually added blue hues to her skin to accentuate that contrast because she’s a much cooler, calmer, and more collected kind of character.
And then for practical reasons—because those two characters are always together and you see them together the most out of all the character combinations—if you can see two different builds, it makes it a lot easier to know “Okay, that’s Karen and that’s Hikari.” So there’s that aspect of it too, but I wanted to make sure that they were very different from each other.
But Nana is the one that we decided right away would be the tallest girl and that’s why she’s tall
Still: So, for Furukawa-san, how did working with Director Ikuhara influence your work?
Furukawa-san: To answer that question… So you have an anime character, and then you have the background design, the art, and then you also have the 3D. One of the things I really learned was how to most effectively use all those pieces cost-effectively. You have so many anime that keep coming out that you have to make high quality. Lots of people are involved in various projects, and it’s a very competitive market. So with that in mind, how do you make the best quality picture using those various pieces? For example, you can make Tokyo Tower 3D and you kind of patch all the pieces together in order to create an anime. That’s one of the things that I really learned from Ikuhara-san. As far as the storyline, I actually learned a lot from Anno Hideaki from Evangelion, and then of course Kitano Takeshi from Beat Takeshi. He (Takeshi) is a very famous comedian, but also an extremely well-known director. What I learned from those two was the visual pacing to the story. I get a lot of comments about that, about how visually it’s just very different. The pacing is very different from a lot of other anime. I’ve really been influenced by that.
Brooks: Furukawa-san, even outside of the duels, many scenes in the series have the music and the visuals working in tandem. Did your storyboarding process take the music into account?
Actually for the action scenes, we already had the storyboards, and then from there we went into creating the songs. Because what’s really quite different about Revue Starlight is the fact that a lot of times you’ll have background music and it’ll be a piece of the storyline. But with Revue Starlight, the characters are actually singing, so what you mentioned is extremely important. So we were very very lucky, and in fact, we were a little bit spoiled by the fact that the songwriters and the people that were coming up with the music and the songs had the storyboards, and from that we went on to create the music. So actually, the storyboards came first.
For the other scenes, the more normal scenes, I actually did take into account the music part. But it wasn’t the music per say, it was the space for the music. For instance, say there’s a scene where Karen’s really sad. I was like, “Okay, how many seconds of this music do I need in order to really draw the viewer in? If it’s thirty seconds without words it might not be enough, so maybe I need to have a minute and a half of music.” And so there was a lot of that kind of thought put into the storyboards for creating the other stories. That’s what we did. It feels like with anime and films, the two are frequently quite similar in that way where music plays such a big part in telling stories.
AT: The fan community that enjoys Revue Starlight discusses a lot of things, but one of the things that I’ve had the most discussions about is someone’s favorite Revue, whether it be because of the music or the visuals, so this a question for all the guests. Which Revue is your favorite and why?
Saita-san: Number 5. Because it’s just super interesting and super fun. I really enjoyed it.
Tani-san: For me, number 6. I like the fact that for the two characters that are featured in it, there are flashbacks to when they were kids. That’s what I like about that scene.
Koide-san: So for me it’d be 3, because first of all, I was the one that worked on the storyboards for that and so I was very involved with it. But also, there’s all these nonsensical things that happen; like when the character Maya comes out and there’s smoke. So there’s these absurd things that happen, which I really enjoy, but at the same time, it was super hard for me. It made my job a lot harder. But I feel like I’m really connected to that scene.
Furukawa-san: We worked so hard to create differences between the first scenes, so that we could create the opportunity for fans to connect to one more than the others. That was extremely important when we were creating it. But because I was involved in all of them, I feel that it’s super hard for me to come up with one that I like more than the others.
However, if I have to choose one, it would be the pilot, the first episode. One of the reasons being the scene before the Revue, where they actually change the costumes. That part. That was added later because the production schedule was really tight. It was like a 45-second part that we added later, but when I saw the finished product with the music and with everything that was in it… Nantoka naru is this phrase that we have in Japanese. It means, “We’ll figure it out. It’ll work out.” I was always thinking, “It’ll work out”. But, after 10 years of working in anime, when I finally saw that scene and saw that part where the characters changed into their other costumes, I was like, “Oh, okay, yeah. I think if they (the audience) watch this, then they’ll want to watch episode 2.” That was really satisfying for me.
Revue Starlight is now streaming on HIDIVE and VRV. The mobile app game, Revue Starlight Re LIVE, is also available on iOS and Android.