INTERVIEW: SLOW LOOP Director Noriaki Akitaya

© Maiko Uchino・Houbunsha/SLOWLOOP PARTNERS

SLOW LOOP is a comfy show about cute girls going fishing with a tale about a reforming family under the surface. Hiyori, who enjoys fly fishing, happens to meet her new stepsister, Koharu, during one of her trips. Their new family life and fishing adventure begins from there. 

Anime Trending had the opportunity to talk to SLOW LOOP anime director Noriaki Akitaya who shared his insights into the anime adaptation, his creative process, and thoughts behind the character development between Hiyori and Koharu. 

© Maiko Uchino・Houbunsha/SLOWLOOP PARTNERS

How did you come onboard SLOW LOOP’s production? Were you familiar with the source material prior to directing the show?

The offer came from anime studio CONNECT. I was unfamiliar with the source material at first, but after reading the manga, I felt this was a perfect series for me so I took up the offer. 

SLOW LOOP features different family dynamics, whether it’s Hiyori and Koharu’s step-sibling relationship or Koi’s complicated feelings towards her father. How important was it for you to portray these different types of family relationships in the anime? 

The main characters Hiyori and Koharu have both lost a family member, so I tried to make that a clear and conscious theme without weighing the story down too much. 

I felt that depicting Hiyori’s fresh start in a new family as something that arises after she processes the loss of her father would suit the theme of the series. Koi’s interactions with her father were made as comical as possible to show a clear difference from the Minagi family. I hope viewers also notice yet another sort of family style through the sisters Ichika and Futaba.

Hiyori and Koharu’s first interactions together were unfamiliar and distant, but over time, they seem to form a close sisterly bond. What are your thoughts on each character’s development and how their relationship gradually evolves?

As I mentioned previously, I think of episode 3 as the first major turning point for the series. That’s where Hiyori finally faces her past and finds it in herself to accept Koharu as part of her family. At the start she thinks of Koharu simply as an odd girl who seems to have an interest in fly fishing. This then shifts to viewing her as someone who may become family, and finally as someone Hiyori feels comfortable calling her sister.

I don’t have any particular thoughts on how this relationship developed since I took part in writing them this way, but I hope that everyone who watches takes note of how their relationships evolve.

© Maiko Uchino・Houbunsha/SLOWLOOP PARTNERS

There’s a rather satisfying sashimi scene in Episode 1 that’s more elaborately depicted than its manga counterpart, and the credits for that episode notably feature Kyouta Washikita-san (Food Wars food animation director) as the food and effects animation director. Can you share with us the making of that scene and how Washikita-san came to be involved? 

I’ve known Washikita-san for two decades now, since back when I was just starting as an assistant director. He used to work on mecha animation and has a true knack for handling finer details in his drawing. He has also worked as cooking director on other projects, so I reached out to him for this series. He’s done more than just cooking though, and has helped with the fish and water effects as well.

© Maiko Uchino・Houbunsha/SLOWLOOP PARTNERS

Were any other notable changes made from the source material to better bring it to animation, and if so, what were the changes? If not, what from the manga did you find most important to preserve when directing this series? 

The original work creates a truly great world, so I tried not to do anything that might take away from it, but I did swap out certain pieces of the story. This might not necessarily count as a change, but I did draw ideas from Yamada, who handled series composition, and Uchino, the original creator, for parts I wanted to expand on.

Another interesting credit in Episode 1 was the fishing scene director credit, which Takumi Shibata-san held. Can you tell us more about Shibata-san’s duties and how he was chosen for the role?

A producer at CONNECT introduced me to Shibata. We didn’t have anyone on our production staff who was familiar with fly fishing, so having him was a great help. He was essentially made to handle anything that had to do with fishing! He helped with everything from layout checks to audio dubbing for each episode. In fact, he may have been more a part of this series than myself, as he also handled three episode storyboards as well as the ending storyboard in between all that. (laughs)

© Maiko Uchino・Houbunsha/SLOWLOOP PARTNERS

In addition to the fishing techniques shown, there’s also many fish inspired cuisine highlighted in the anime. Which dish was your favorite to spotlight and do you have a personal favorite you enjoy eating in your spare time? 

I wasn’t much help with the fishing aspect, but I did my best to really hone in on all the cooking parts. Deep fried horse mackerel is a personal favorite dish of mine, and one I made recently because my kids asked for it. I even made tartar sauce from scratch!

We’ve seen eight episodes with some more to come as the season wraps up. Is there a particular episode you liked the most?

There isn’t any singular episode in particular, but I do enjoy the story beats that include the fathers (Issei / Ryouta). As a father, I find myself empathizing with them. 

Did anyone from the production go out fishing in real life or conduct any in-person research? If so, how did it go?

We used a sort of get-together for the series as a chance to try out some fly fishing.

From the studio it was myself, assistant director [Geisei] Morita, character designers [Shouko] Takimoto, [Takumi] Shibata, and [Kyouta] Washikita, 3D director [Toshirou] Hamamura, animation producer [Akira] Katou, and production desk [Manami] Oono who joined. I was the only one who didn’t catch anything.

© Maiko Uchino・Houbunsha/SLOWLOOP PARTNERS

Which is your favorite character from SLOW LOOP and why?

Ryouta Yoshinaga. Why? Because I’m jealous of the way he lives his life.

Any final comments to international fans as they watch SLOW LOOP?

I know this is coming after I just talked about the themes and other aspects of this series, but my true hope is that everyone simply watches this for the fun daily lives and interactions of Hiyori, Koharu, Koi and the other characters.

SLOW LOOP is currently streaming on Funimation.

Translation by Deven Neel

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