INTERVIEW: Magical Destroyers Opening Director Kenichi Kutsuna

Image Source: King Records

The Spring 2023 original anime Magical Destroyers featured one of the most memorable opening animation sequences of the season, treating viewers to a feast of eye-catching images and animation, a nostalgic aesthetic, and sensory overload. We had the opportunity to talk to the opening director and storyboard artist Kenichi Kutsuna (The Fire Hunter opening, Vlad Love “Mitsugu” Version opening) as well as the series’ animation producer Hidehisa Taniguchi


Thank you for your time! Could you talk about how you were approached to work on the storyboard and episode direction for the Magical Destroyers OP? 

Kenichi Kutsuna: I just got an offer about it, so I just accepted it. The details are probably more for Producer Taniguchi-san.

Hidehisa Taniguchi: For this case, I spoke with Director Hiroshi Ikehata about how we should do the opening. That was when Kutsuna-san’s name popped up. We thought about the unique atmosphere Kutsuna-san’s works convey and its surrealism. His works are surreal in a good way. So, we thought it would be great if we could make good use of that in Magical Destroyers

I have to talk about other studios here a bit, but the series itself tends to lean toward titles that GAINAX or TRIGGER might create. But if our studio (Bibury Animation) was going to create something, it’d be meaningless if we made something they could make as well. Thus, we wanted to branch out into a direction that, for instance, TRIGGER would not be making. 

And at that point, we were thinking about what to do when Director Ikehata and I mentioned, “Oh! Wouldn’t Kutsuna-san be a good fit?” and that’s why we decided to send him our offer. 

Kenichi Kutsuna: When the request came in, I heard that Ikehata-san was the director. Ikehata-san is quite an old acquaintance of mine. That’s why he knows my tastes and preferences quite well. Thus, I could understand that he was specifically targeting me with this offer, and that made me happy.

Image Source: Kings Record

Since Magical Destroyers was an original anime series, did that pose any challenges to working on the OP storyboard? 

KK: For me, it’s easier to create an opening for an original series. When there is a long-standing series with its already written story, sometimes it’s very difficult to get a grasp of everything about the story. 

But for an original title, you can create it simply by understanding what is encompassed by just that show.  So, personally, I find it very easy to create an opening for an original animation. I also received many images from the original creator JUN INAGAWA-san as well, and I just needed to expand my imagination from there, so I didn’t have that hard a time.

 

What kind of images were you given?

Kutsuna: Rough illustrations…whether it be something drawn for the animation series itself, or titles that he had created and stocked up in the past… I got a full set of art. So that’s where I expanded my imagery from.

The anime opening sequence drew a lot of attention overseas for being nostalgic and different compared to anime OPs today. What information were you given beforehand as you started working on the OP storyboard and direction?

Kutsuna: I actually didn’t create it to be nostalgic. When I was a child, I enjoyed anime from the 90s and early 2000s. And I simply found the sense of color back then to be beautiful, and I wanted to use that as much as possible. It was like I wanted to show what I felt was beautiful as-is. And then the general public evaluated that as nostalgia, I guess? At least, that’s how I see it.

The art style and color reminded fans of anime from the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Was that the intention?

Kutsuna: If it was to recreate that style, it would be a bit close, but slightly different. The coloring in 90s anime that I find to be great isn’t created with the workflow of current digital filming — by that, I mean compositing with [Adobe] After Effects. It was a color from an era created with cells, filmed onto physical film. And that’s what I love. I really love it.

It wasn’t a desire to recreate that in modern day, but more like taking the present and comparing it to the past — comparing it to that of the 90s. And it just was that I simply loved the past — the things from the 90s — more than the present, and I also simply feel that the past images are more beautiful. 

Since I’m creating this myself, I thought that I should make something that I simply find to be wonderful! And that’s the thought process behind the creation.

The OP song “MAGICAL DESTROYER” was sung by Aimi. How did the song get incorporated into the OP storyboard and sequence?

Kutsuna: The style for this song was pretty uncommon for an anime opening theme, so I decided to be a bit creative. Especially in the latter half — should I call it hardcore, or should I call it noisy — for that latter half, I thought that an ordinary style of animation wouldn’t be a good match to the sound, so I made a request to an art animation creator acquaintance of mine, Yoko Yuki.

With her help, I was able to be more creative so that the image pairing up with the aggressive sound would be as aggressive as possible. I guess you could say “aggressive” instead of “offensive.”

Did you receive the song beforehand?

Kutsuna: At the time when I first received the offer, I was given a demo version of the song before the vocal tracks by Aimi-san were recorded. And I recall that the demo version was sung by a vocaloid. So at first I didn’t think it would be Aimi-san’s normal human voice at all, and I was under the impression that the final product would be a vocaloid as well. 

But in the middle of production, the song got swapped out and I thought, “Oh, so it’s going to be a human voice!” but it caught me by surprise. But it wasn’t the case that the sound no longer meshed well with the animation I was creating, so there was a part of me that felt relieved in the middle of the process.

 

Image Source: Kings Record

What were your thoughts when you saw the reaction online to the OP sequence? 

Kutsuna: A simple example would be my surprise that the opening video on YouTube was gaining so many views. As the visual creator, I was going for quite a simple, austere style, unlike a pop style that would go mainstream. So it was beyond what I expected when it went viral as much as it did. That was definitely my first surprise.

As someone working in the anime industry, how do you feel about the Magical Destroyers premise of banning all otakus?

Kutsuna: Let’s see…this is quite a difficult question. But if there was a ban, I would be in quite a bit of trouble. After all, I myself have grown up in otaku culture. But if it was banned, I think in the end, everyone has their desires and would end up in illegal operations. So, I think I would also be continuing otaku activities illegally, just like the characters in the series. At least, that’s the vague idea inside my head.

Could you share some final comments to overseas fans? 

Kutsuna: First of all, thank you very much for watching my work. I will continue to create many different titles going forward. So, if this title and opening sequence caught your attention, my future titles that I publish in the future should catch your attention as well. I hope you will take a look at them. I appreciate your kind support.


Magical Destroyers is now streaming on Crunchyroll. The official opening sequence is available on KING AMUSEMENT CREATIVE YouTube channel

Translation by Rika Takahashi

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