Science SARU caught the attention of anime fans across the globe last year with the release of Devilman crybaby (based on Go Nagai’s manga Devilman) on Netflix. Since then, the studio has been working on the TV anime adaptation of Sumito Oowara’s manga Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!. Eunyoung Choi, co-founder and producer at Science SARU, presented a sneak peek of the show and Anime Trending had the opportunity to interview her.
Anime Trending (AT): What led to the creation of the studio, Science SARU, with Masaaki Yuasa and how did you come up with the name?
Eunyoung Choi: When we established the studio in 2013, we launched a Kickstarter for Kick Heart. At the time, we were moving around to different studios. I found it might be optimal to establish a studio in one place and make a series. Of course, it was only the two of us and we needed a team. It’s good to think about it, but it’s also the question of ‘would that be possible?’ Once I worked on the planning and the output process, I thought it was possible and told Yuasa-san, let’s do it. Then he said, “do you think you can do it?” and I replied, “Yeah, I think I can. If you can do it, let’s do it!”
Two animators from Europe joined from a French studio I used to work with. They’re both strong at animation. Both loved Science SARU from the beginning.
We thought about a lot of possible names for the studio. When I was working as an animator for a long time, I worked with business partners but couldn’t manage the business side well because I wanted creativity first. But after we started the studio, we saw it from the other side, that it doesn’t work like how I used to think. I needed to balance business and creativity. We couldn’t demand creativity without the partners, marketing and how we sell it. It’s not just anime; we have to work together. That’s the key idea.
Science is like logic, business, numbers, plans, technology, and new tools. On the other hand, ‘SARU’ means monkey in Japanese. As animators, we put in creativity, intuition, art, enjoying moments and being playful… a kind of ‘monkeying around.’ We want to keep these personalities in Science SARU.
Thus, we wanted to create a balance. ‘Science’ is in English, which highlights being international, and ‘SARU’ in Japanese maintains traditional anime.
MANGA.TOKYO (MT): At AnimeNYC, you premiered the first episode of Eizouken. Could you talk about how this adaptation came to your team at Science SARU?
Whenever we finish a project, we normally talk about new possible stories with our partners, and we are open to consider everything: manga, novels, and original stories. One of the ideas was the manga Eizouken!. Normally, we don’t have time to read all the manga in the market. We’re just the creators!
During the brainstorming, Yuasa said, “Oh! I know Eizouken!.” I went “How do you know Eizouken!? You don’t have time to read manga.” Apparently, he read about the manga and said, “I did ego-search”, as in searching his for name (vanity search) online. When he searched “Masaaki Yuasa” on the internet, someone said, “Yuasa should animate Eizouken!” Thus, he knew about the manga.
We decided to check the material out.
AT: We saw the first glimpse of Eizouken! at AnimeNYC. Since the manga hasn’t been widely distributed in English, how would you describe the show to fans?
Three high school girls try to make animation, and the whole process is very enjoyable. They’re not professionals, but amateurs who are having fun and struggling. There are many enjoyable moments in the show.
CBR: How much does the story of Eizouken! resemble your experience getting into anime?
Quite a lot! Yuasa-san and everyone on our team shared a lot of their ideas based on their experiences. There are three characters in the show and each embodies each role: director, producer, and animator. It’s fun to watch the three characters interact in an enjoyable way but not in a stressful environment.
AT: Since Eizouken! is a manga adaptation, there’s already a lot of concept art available. The details are breathtaking. Could you dive into the creative process? What is it like as a producer with an animator background, and how did you decide what to include?
There are a lot of ideas coming from Masaaki Yuasa and everyone in the team. He has certain ideas, but the designers and animators would also share their thoughts. We want to create a feeling that these girls are in high school. It’s not a fantasy anime, but their ideas in animation are a fantasy. For example, if they think “what if we made that?” then you get to see a video of them making it. Fundamentally, it has to be realistic and allow us to show both reality and fantasy.
MT: You were involved with the production of episode 9 of Space Dandy. What was your creative process like in setting the theme in the episode?
I talked to Shinichiro Watanabe. He called me and said, “You can make one episode and do whatever you want.” I said, “Are you sure?”
I later met him and had some very interesting ideas on what kind of concept for the planet my episode takes place on. I kind of wanted to do something about plants. I also thought plants are very easy to draw. With so many characters present in the series, I didn’t think I would be able to follow the style in my episode. Thus, I thought about plants!
Of course, thank you to the team for the opportunity. Watanabe-san creates a lot of fun projects and allows artists to express what they want.
CBR: Between Lu Over the Wall and Inu-Oh, Science SARU is making a name for itself with anime movie musicals. What are your inspirations for these musicals?
I don’t think we’re making musicals but Yuasa loves music and even beatboxing. There’s always a music component in our projects. For example, in Lu Over the Wall, Kai, the main character, plays the guitar. The Night is Short, Walk on Girl has some music elements too.
In Devilman crybaby, we had the beatboxing and rap! During the screenwriting meeting, Yuasa said: “I want to do beatboxing.” I thought “What is he talking about? Beatbox??” Sometimes he gets some crazy ideas and then they become a part of the project and that makes it unique. Yuasa-san really loves the music part of the projects.
CBR: There’s been a lot of water and weather-based anime lately. What is the reason behind that?
I think Yuasa-san likes water and he wants to express these kinds of effects on screen. During the meeting for Ride Your Wave, he wanted to use water. To be honest, I was against the idea because I thought ‘water again!’ but he highlighted that it’s good to show similar elements again to the audience so that viewers can recognize Science SARU or Yuasa-san’s work. That’s why we had Ride Your Wave focused on water.
I think he likes to focus on water. You can only do it in animation and you can’t express the same feeling in live-action.
AT/CBR: How did you incorporate Hayao Miyazaki’s Future Boy Conan in Eizouken? Did you get permission from Miyazaki-san?
Ah, we didn’t get permission (laughter throughout the room). It’s owned by Nihon Animation, and the situation was complicated. They supported us to get permission, but eventually, we couldn’t. Instead, we had to follow and copy every single frame from Future Boy Conan. We wanted to make it precisely like how it originally was. I’m a big fan of the show, and even though there’s no creativity from us copying it, being able to see the exact same shots in our project was very exciting.
We were happy we could put the scene from Conan into the episode.
AT: To clarify, you received permission to copy the scene?
Exactly. We received permission to draw the scenes and even to recreate the sound! We had to voice record everything including the music, sound effects and what not! We wanted to capture that moment in Eizouken!.
AT: Devilman crybaby helped bring Science SARU to the global audience. As the producer for the show, could you talk about working with Netflix and any challenges having all the episodes released at once?
Yuasa-san is a big fan of the series and read the manga when he was young, but wasn’t sure if he could translate the impact he got from the manga and put that into the anime.
It had to be more than just adapting the manga. Otherwise, everyone is familiar with the manga, so we had to put in extra creativity. It’s been challenging, but also a wild adventure. We had to adapt it to a more modern way.
At that time, we hadn’t made an anime series at Science SARU, as we’d focused on feature films which were about 100 minutes. Anime series are usually about 22 minutes an episode, so for a show with 10 episodes, that equates to 220 minutes. And when we started Devilman Crybaby, we had the same team of only 20-25 people that had made the films. However, to gain new talent, we felt it was necessary to work on a series. We’d only need one director and one vision for a film. When making a series, we need episode directors and thus more creative talent. We engaged with the audience and created dialogue for talent and ideas. It’s important for the studio so we can be open-minded to new ideas.
In the beginning, the studio was uncertain. But I said to the team members, if you want to be a storyboard artist or director, we need to try! Otherwise, we would never practice. It is hard, but I believed the artists were ready for the next step.
It was also a Netflix project. In Japan at the time, not many people watched or knew about Netflix. I knew that Netflix is huge in the United States and was readily available. It was more of a matter of when and not a matter of whether it would work in Japan. I had a feeling it was going to happen.
At the very beginning, we worked very closely with Netflix. At the time, Netflix was trying to get projects but many studios weren’t sure. We wanted to make something very intense as we watched shows like Game of Thrones. We wanted to make something as intense.
Netflix allowed us to do something we couldn’t on TV. We put all these crazy ideas and decided to go for it. In episode 5 when Devilman has a sex scene, I had to do the editing since we could see too much. So, I said to make the camera a little higher to avoid showing too much.
Special thanks to Warner Bros. Japan, Eunyoung Choi and AnimeNYC for the amazing opportunity. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is scheduled to broadcast in Japan on January 5, 2020 with international simulcast details coming soon.