Interview: Studio Bones CEO Masahiko Minami and Producer Chiaki Kurakane Discuss Bungo Stray Dogs Season 4!

At Crunchyroll Expo 2022, Anime Trending had the opportunity to interview both President Masahiko Minami from Studio BONES and Producer Chiaki Kurakane from Kadokawa. The two of them discussed some details about the upcoming Bungo Stray Dogs Season 4 and delved into their insight and decision-making choices for the other entries in the popular hit series. 


Studio BONES has worked on a huge variety of shows and sequels including the upcoming Bungo Stray Dogs: Season 4. What are some challenges in working with a series for an extended period of time?

Minami: Bungo Stray Dogs is in its fourth season, so first of all for a continuing series, for us, it means that we need to exceed what we’ve already done before. I feel like it is our duty to always think ahead and always consider how we can do better with the upcoming new seasons for the animation production in general.

For Bungo Stray Dogs first time watchers, if they are interested in watching season 4, they would also need to watch seasons 1-3. So the requirements for being able to get into Bungo Stray Dogs does get a little bit higher with each season, and so these are some of the challenges that we have to deal with.

Kurakane: So for a long series, it is very expanded in terms of the story, and the environment. The difficult part is, you know, how do we stay true to the source and the story? So for our core fans, who have been there from the very start, how do we retain them? How do we keep them around and not get bored? But then on the flip side, for new fans, we don’t want to create something that they might not like. But we also don’t want to betray our old fans who have stuck around, so trying to create something new and fresh that works for both of these different sides of the audience is a difficult challenge.

Image: Masahiko Minami at CRX Studio BONES panel

This next question will be for Minami-san: you play a very active role in the actual planning and production of many Studio BONES’ titles. What is it like to work at BONES from both a production and managerial perspective, especially with Bungo Stray Dogs?

Minami: For Bungo Stray Dogs, to be able to take on the anime adaptation is something that we are really proud of. And for a series that has continued for so long, that only means that we were able to do so thanks to so many fans and so many people appreciating and liking Bungo Stray Dogs. So the reach around the world, the number of fans as they grow — it really makes us happy. It allows us to create more pieces of media, and it really brings me a lot of motivation. As the company president, this gives me a lot of relief. I feel a sense that this means this [Studio BONES] is good company and we’re not in the red. 

For Bungo Stray Dogs, the original author Asagiri-sensei is just full of surprises — he’s always coming up with something new and exciting. Even though I’m a producer, from my point of view, I believe his creativity is incredibly amazing.

Bungo Stray Dogs is very unique in comparison to other series produced by Studio BONES, and it’s especially unique in the sense that it revolves around a lot of historical figures. What challenges did Studio BONES encounter while working with this setting with Bungo Stray Dogs? 

Minami: Yes, they use a lot of historical references for the characters’ names or their backgrounds, and it is unique. However, with Bungo Stray Dogs, they aren’t clones of the authors. They’re actually based more on the authors’ works. So not just copying the author, but more like using references from their different books or novels, etc. There are some fantasy aspects with these characters that give a fresh perspective, such as their superpowers and we really want to emphasize those creative areas [so] that we could differentiate the original literary authors versus the Bungo Stray Dogs characters. We really rely on the staff’s knowledge, even though this is part of their work and it’s their responsibility, but they take this on as a creative challenge to then try to figure out an interesting and new way to create these characters. 

Image: Masahiko Minami (Second from the left) and Chiaki Kurakane (right) at Bungo Stray Dogs panel at CRX 2022

This next question will be for Kurakane-san: so you’ve worked on both the original anime series as well as the movie Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple. What are the differences between producing a TV series, and then later the movie?

Kurakane: Minami-san helped me out a little bit with this answer, but with the anime, it follows the main storyline from the source material. However, with the movie Dead Apple, this was a completely original movie and we created it from scratch, so that was one of the larger differences. 

With the TV series, we’re limited to a specific time slot on TV, and people can just turn on their television and watch it. However, with movies, it takes more effort since our audience would have to actually pay money to watch this movie, [and] go to the movie theater. So this is a lot more effort on their [the audience’s] part. We want to ensure that we make it worth all that time, effort, and money. We want them to go home from the movie theaters happy. We want them to talk about it, create a buzz, [and] tweet about it, so we want to make sure that it’s something that will leave an impression.

Following up on that, the director Takuya Igarashi, screenplay writer Yoji Enokido, as well as the original creative Asagiri-sensei wanted to create a brand new story for Dead Apple. You’ve talked a lot during Crunchyroll Expo about how involved Asagiri-sensei is with both Dead Apple and the TV series. What was it like working with this creative involvement with everyone? Are there any interesting behind-the-scenes stories?

Kurakane: This is just kind of a fun story, kind of behind-the-scenes for Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple. While planning for Dead Apple, there were a lot of discussions around which character we should use, who should be their enemy, [and] where the setting should be [place and time]. There are a lot of things to consider since this was an original work. So with producers Mari Suzuki and Ikurou Satou, Asagiri-sensei, director Igarashi, and screenwriter Enokido, they all gathered together at a family restaurant and they were just talking, planning, and trying to hash things out, all the way until the morning. But they still didn’t even finish. They had to put that aside and say, “Okay, we have our season two celebration party. Let’s finish this up after that!” So this is kind of like a fun story of them trying to get this done. 

Another fun story is that with movies, we have to concentrate on only one aspect of the story. With the TV series, we have meetings that are concentrated around one episode, and for meetings like that, it’s pretty normal to meet once per week. But for a movie that’s around 90 minutes long, meeting only once a week is not a great cadence because we come back to the meeting and say, “Oh wait, what did we just discuss last time?” So instead, we took a little work trip where we stayed about like three or four nights between Enokido-san, director Igarashi-san, and Asagiri-sensei, where the three of them were on this trip together and they never stepped outside of this area where they were working. 

But myself, Satou-san, and producer Suzuki-san, we went back and forth between the office and then where Asagiri-san, Enokido-san, and Igarashi-san were held up [while] being isolated from work. And so that was kind of a very funny incident. 

 

Nico is part writer, part podcaster, and part Italian. When he is not working for Anime Trending, he is hard at work caring for his cats Solo and Doppio and making sure they grow up with only the most refined tastes in anime such as works directed by Masaaki Yuasa and Gen Urobuchi. When he's not watching anime, he is busy playing competitive card games and RPG's he never will have time to complete.
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