BRIGHT: SAMURAI SOUL Interview with Director Kyohei Ishiguro

Coming to Netflix on October 12, the BRIGHT: SAMURAI SOUL anime film dives into the world of the live-action film Bright but set in Japan between the end of the shogunate and Meiji era. The spin-off series follows a rōnin, an orc, and a young elf girl who carries a special wand. 

Director Kyōhei Ishiguro (Your Lie in April director, Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop director) had to balance expectations from both anime fans and Bright fans while tackling the unique difficulties behind CGI production. Ishiguro spoke with Anime Trending via video chat through an interpreter. We have edited both the questions and answers for clarity.

How did you get involved with this project? 

ISHIGURO: It all started with a phone call from Mr. Narita, who is the producer at AReCT, which is a 3D studio, at the end of 2018. He told me very limited information at that time, [like] the fact that the new film will be based on the original film, Bright, but the setting will be totally different. It will be in Japan, between the end of the Edo period and the beginning of the Meiji period, and it will be a spin-off, and the scenario writer would be Michiko Yokote. 

 

Were you familiar with the original live-action right before you were asked to direct the anime?

To be honest, I didn’t know about the film. But I saw it after Mr. Narita, the producer, told me about the opportunity, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a great film..

 

Since you have both anime fans, but also fans of the live action show, how did you balance both viewers’ expectations when you were working on the film?

Well, it’s a great question. The balance between the two different sets of audiences — that was something [that] constantly came up in the discussions with the production staff during the production period. We discussed how to attract the fans of the live-action film while also introducing it, the film, to the animation fans. And as a director, I tried to stick to my philosophy that I should respect the original film.

By doing so, I tried to attract the live-action film fans, and I can say that I paid a little bit more attention to the live-action fans rather than to the animation fans, more or less. But [I] made sure that animation fans will also enjoy the film with the new features as well. Therefore, I tried to take a balance between those two, but I made sure that the live-action film fans can also enjoy the film. 

Image: Netflix

I think this is one of your first fully CGI productions. How did that kind of approach help you when you went into the project? 

Yes, my past works were produced all in 2D animation, whereas this time it was 3D. [That the project will be in 3D], that was what I was told by the producer, Mr. Narita. So, the fact that the work will be 3D was one of the things that motivated me to accept this offer because I was always interested in making work in 3D. Although I was a 2D animation director, I had certain knowledge and expertise in 3DCG as well. Specifically, what I did consciously was to eliminate all the shadows from the characters and only use the silhouette of the characters. There was a famous woodblock print artist in the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa era of Japan, Hiroshi Yoshida, who came up with a new woodblock print art style, and so, that means eliminating all the details and the shadows from the characters and the backgrounds. I emulated his style.

That was the beginning. So, I did all that so I could eliminate all the unnecessary information, but still capture the lively actions and movements of the characters, only with the lines. That was most challenging, but I enjoyed the challenge and, in the end, it worked out very well in the final product. 

Image: Netflix

The camera action, as I was watching, definitely felt more live-action style with the camera panning that we don’t normally see in 2D anime. How did you balance the CGI animation and the camera work?

Well, my answer may not be what you had expected, but I just did it with intuition. I was not very conscious about the balance between those two but the product, if you felt that way, that is very pleasing to me. 

So usually, even for 2D or 3D scenarios, the normal productions would produce storyboards. We didn’t have that process in this film. When I put the scenario [together], I directly put those into animation and then used the camera cut with the 3D software to depict the animations. And then, as a result, it came out more like a live-action film rather than animation.

It became a very unique taste [of] visuals but it was actually, to be honest, all coincidence, or almost serendipity. I liked the product, but I didn’t consciously do that, and this motion capture style, it came out of coincidence. But it turned out to be very well, it depicted the motions of the characters very well, just like a live-action film.Halfway through this production process, I realized that effect and told the staff members that that is exactly what I was going to do, in the middle of the production, and I was very happy with the result. 

Image: Netflix

Any final comments to fans as they watch this anime film? 

To the international audience, not only to Japanese [viewers], I want to say that although this film is based on the original live-action film Bright, it is a spin-off film. However, it has its own unique aspects, that is the focus on Japanese culture, especially the samurai culture, as well as the unique art styles. I hope the fans will enjoy these unique aspects, because those are something that I tried to depict throughout the story.

When I say “samurai culture,” it is mainly the loyalty to one’s masters, and samurai in those days even devoted their own life to the master, for the sake of the master. But, in this case, I also depicted not only the devotion and loyalty to the master but also to himself. He’s got to believe in himself and try to have self-confidence throughout the movie, and so, that is something that I want the audience to enjoy and get the power out of it for his or her own life. 

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