For our next interview featuring 【OSHI NO KO】, we talked to Ciao Nekotomi, the assistant director for the TV anime series. She has previously worked on other series at Doga Kobo and talked to us about her creative approach to the anime adaptation and working with the creative staff. Make sure you watch episode 1 before reading, as there are some spoilers.
How did you first get involved with the 【OSHI NO KO】 anime project?
Ciao Nekotomi: Before 【OSHI NO KO】 was decided, I was able to work on several projects with Doga Kobo. Producer Kobayashi told me that “Doga Kobo has been decided to adapt 【OSHI NO KO】 into the TV series animation, how about working on it together?” I said, “I look forward to working with you.”
What aspects of the manga caught your attention that got you to accept the role as the assistant director?
In the first place, I personally think this manga has various elements packed into it. As one of its elements, I think it also includes the element of the work narrative. I really like manga about work narratives. If you do this kind of work, effort is really necessary.
So, when I feel like my heart is about to break, reading manga like this where there are characters who engage in work with that kind of strong determination really encourages me. When I was really debating about stuff – and this is before the 【OSHI NO KO】 offer came, I had been reading 【OSHI NO KO】 for a long time and had been really encouraged by it.
Since I had always liked it, I felt like I wanted to work on it.
So, you had read the original work before joining the animation project?
That’s right. I had been reading it for a long time when Kobayashi-san had asked, “Do you know this manga?” He had handed out these documents that came from a manila envelope, and I was like, “Oh!” It was like, “For real? A job offer came for this work?”
Before this project, you and the others had been fans to begin with?
Yes. For most of us, we had known about it. Since the sales for it had been amazing, there weren’t a lot of people who didn’t know about it, or it seemed like that to me.
As the Assistant Director, you also work closely with Hiramaki-san, the Director. What was the working relationship like, between the two of you?
Let’s see, there’s a bit of an age difference between Hiramaki-san and I, and of course, his career experience is totally different too. But Hiramaki-san is like a person who has an incredibly tolerant and open-minded nature as a director. Even towards someone like me, who really doesn’t have much career experience at all, he shows respect towards me and my creativity, listens to what I have to say, and tries to make the most out of my good points.
I, on the other hand, really respect that part of him in addition to his technical skills. Since I’m able to feel that “I want to follow this person,” I think that’s why we have been able to mutually build a good relationship.
Because there’s so much to do and both of you had to work together, were there any things that you worked on and that you focused on, and anything that Hiramaki-san worked on? What did the two of you focus on in terms of the production?
For any project, I think there are a wide variety of ways the work is shared and split between a director and assistant director, and it really depends on the project. But for this time, in regard to 【OSHI NO KO】, undeniably there were a lot of things to do. There was dancing, things like work and filming location scenes, and also, live event scenes.
There really was a lot of things to do, so we were like, “Let’s divide the work precisely.” If the two of us had been doing the same work, we would’ve ended up not finishing the project.
For example, there are assistant directors that go with the director to all post-production voice recordings. But I didn’t participate at all in any of that stuff, like post-production voice recordings, audio post-production, deciding cuts, and spotting for sound elements. I didn’t participate at all in that kind of stuff.
On the flip side, there is something called a director’s check that happens often on-site, and that is something the director didn’t do at all, and everything was done via the assistant director’s check. So, after the Episode Director had seen the important utilized cuts and scenes of all episodes, it was all passed on to me and I checked them. Also, regarding meetings for the impressions of the imagery, color, shooting highlights, 2D motion effects, etc., it was set-up so that I attended all of those meetings instead of the director.
【OSHI NO KO】 touches on a lot of intense topics and challenges working in the entertainment industry, and you also touched a little bit on how you were motivated when you worked on the anime. How did you help balance the comedy side with the intense side of the anime?
I don’t know what the director would say, I personally think there is one way to maintain balance: keep the characters’ personalities to stay consistent. It is about what each character says or doesn’t say, what they like or don’t like, and what they believe in or don’t believe in.
In the end, as long as that stays consistent, no matter if the characters do fun things, sad things, or even cruel things, I think all of that properly becomes part of this work. So, I went on to work on the production of episode 1, after having properly deepened my understanding of the characters. And that goes the same for all the staff.
It’s about the characters’ personalities staying consistent, right? So, upon understanding that, you were able to tackle each scene and the story?
That’s right. But for things like that, Hirayama-san was extremely detailed when she was making corrections for her Executive Director of Animation work. The three of us, the Director, Hirayama-san, and I have a group chat together. Usually, we’re just totally chitchatting.
But then Hirayama-san quickly sent a cut, and she said, “If Miyako makes this kind of expression here, I think she’ll look like a nasty, unpleasant woman towards Aqua and Ruby. So, if we don’t make her expression be more like she’s feeling troubled, then doesn’t that end up conveying a sense that Miyako is an unpleasant woman? She goes so far as to take the two of them in and raise them. She’s a compassionate person. So, I feel it’s not good that she gets conveyed otherwise.” (This refers to a scene in Episode 1 when Miyako considers blackmailing Ai Hoshino).
Hirayama-san had rather strong preferences about things like that. And sort of in the way of emulating that, the two of us were also like, “We can’t make characters have expressions that they absolutely wouldn’t make.” It was like, “We can’t have Hirayama-san think something like, ‘These guys don’t get it.'”
Since you read the manga and then you got involved in the anime, was there a scene where you were like, “Oh! This scene had this meaning” in the anime?
In terms of scenes, for sure, even from the phase when I was drawing the storyboards, the scene that I totally gave it my all, was when Ai dies. I handled it all the way through the directing and this part was something that I really coordinated closely with Hirayama-san in order to do it. Hirayama-san was able to provide very detailed animation specifications like, “For this part here, I want this person to draw it.” So, in order to do this scene or that, we’d even persuade and go get certain people.
Also, although this is about Hirayama-san, but given her position as an Executive Director of Animation, she had to put in a lot for the overall picture. And even though it’s a really busy job, and when you look at anime images and the work of in-between animation, it is something that the in-between animators are supposed to do.
She did the in-between work herself and drew all the in-between animation. So, the lines that Hirayama-san drew are what you see on TV. Things like the in-between drawings for the mouth were all done by Hirayama-san.
The last thing that got done was this scene and the in-between animation was also done by Hirayama-san. So, at the end, around a few days before the final video editing, Hirayama-san quickly uploads this to our three-person chat group and she says, “I’m finally finished.”
So, this was hand-drawn with really delicate lines. She had drawn this in-between animation material and she pulled some all-nighters and really hadn’t slept in days. And within all that, she was able to perfectly finish drawing this. She is a truly amazing creator.
Any final comments to fans as they continue watching the series?
Although this is a work that has obviously been popularized by many people through manga, we’re trying to draw out the details that even the fans who’re reading the manga may not have noticed. We’re hoping that we can expand on that by using our professional expertise.
We’d like to convey the feeling “So, this part had that kind of meaning to it.” as much as possible, by utilizing expressions or things like sound, visuals, and colors, every time you watch the anime.
I think this has been done so that even people who’ve read the original manga to their heart’s content will be able to totally enjoy this, so that is something I want people to watch and have fun with.
Special thanks to Ciao Nekotomi and KADOKAWA for the opportunity. 【OSHI NO KO】 is now streaming on HiDive and other platforms. Yen Press is publishing the manga in English. The latest video contents are on the official 【OSHI NO KO】 YouTube channel. For additional information on 【OSHI NO KO】, check out the official EN Twitter account @oshinoko_global.
Interpreter: Adele San
Translator/Transcription: Ryoko Saito