INTERVIEW: Sengoku Youko Director Kagetsu Aizawa and Producer Ailian Cai Share Details Ahead of Anime Premiere

©水上悟志/マッグガーデン・戦国妖狐アニメ化事業部

Anime Trending sat down to talk about the new Sengoku Youko anime with Director Kagetsu Aizawa and Series Producer Ailian Cai during AnimeNYC 2023. Sengoku Youko premiered on January 11, 2024, and is animated by White Fox. Sengoku Youko is an adaptation of the manga created by Satoshi Mizukami, and this adaptation is expected to be three cours. In our one-on-one interview, Aizawa and Cai discussed their favorite parts of adapting Sengoku Youko, how the project came to be, and what it takes to put a successful creative team together.


Thank you both again for your time here at Anime NYC. How did the Sengoku Youko project originate?

Ailian Cai: Originally towards the end of 2020, this project came to us, and we’re of course familiar with Mizukami-sensei’s works. Looking at the original manga, we were surprised that it wasn’t an anime yet, so we looked over it, and then we talked to one of the producers and the president of White Fox. It was really exciting to go about this project really gung ho, and so that’s how it originally started.

 

And for the director, Kagetsu Aizawa, what was your reaction when you were asked to work on this project?

Kagetsu Aizawa: I was really happy when they offered me to be the director for this project, and as we mentioned, the president of White Fox really loved the idea of making Sengoku Youko into an anime. So just being able to have that kind of support from the president, I felt assured that I could put all my love and all my energy into this project.

 

What were your first impressions of the Sengoku Youko manga?

Kagetsu Aizawa: When I looked at the manga, the characters were very attractive to me, all of the characters, the main character, even the sub-characters, they all had really deep traits, strengths, and weaknesses. All the characters being developed like that was something I’ve never seen before.

Ailian Cai: I agree with the director, I think not only the main character, but also the sub-characters are really, really fantastic. Besides that, I think the unique thing about this manga is that the manga is 17 volumes, and in the middle, it will change the main character from the seventh volume, and then we change the main character, and the second main character rescues the first main character in the end, and that is a really unique thing when comparing to other manga.

 

To expand on this, what do you find most appealing about the manga?

Kagetsu Aizawa: When I approached the manga, I liked how in the story you can see how even the weak characters approach the world as themselves, and the character development for those characters was really admirable to me, and it was like they become an adult you aspire to be.

And when making the anime, of course you aim the show for the main anime crowd, but I just didn’t want to make something that you just watch once and it’s over, but [rather] has something you could take away from it, like how these characters develop in the story.

 

Could you talk about the process behind gathering the creative staff and the team for Sengoku Youko? How was White Fox involved with production?

Kagetsu Aizawa: I think for the main staff production, White Fox chose that for us. In terms of other stuff, we want to make sure that even if they’re veterans in the industry, they’re really passionate and we can pull from their expertise, and they really understood and were passionate about this project.

Ailian Cai: From the production side, you know, I really feel that the scenarios are very important, and this manga is very long as we mentioned–17 volumes–so we wanted to make sure that there’s someone that could put it all together, and there was [Jukki] Hanada, the series composer, who really helped us with that.

For the music side, we reached out to Evan Call who produces really amazing music, and the director was really happy with his work.


Director Aizawa, you debuted as series director on 2018’s Hakyuu Houshin Engi. What were the most valuable lessons that you learned from that experience?

KagetsuAizawa: For my debut, at that time I was kind of new and nervous, and I was just making sure everybody there was gonna be happy. I guess I didn’t want to really trouble too many people, and so the lesson I learned was that even if there’s a lot of challenges, and there’s risks or hurdles, we have to not avoid them but go through with it, and don’t give up because that means the final animation or the final product that we release is gonna be good, and that means the fans will be happy with what we produce. So I think that was kind of one of the big lessons we all learned, everybody, all the staff, myself included. We just have to do our best, no matter the circumstances, and create excellent products. That is what we did for Sengoku Youko, so I hope that you can see the results!

 

Sengoku Youko will have three cours. What are the main challenges of directing an anime series of such length?

Kagetsu Aizawa: One of the challenges for longer, three-cour anime is having the staff and being able to get the staff that you need because nowadays there is a lot of anime being produced and a lot of staff working on different projects. So I think that was one of the challenges for us staff-wise.

 

Of course, even in spite of those challenges, we want to do our best and make something good. In this anime in particular, there are a lot of battle scenes, and we always thought, “How can we make it better? How can we make it more entertaining to people?” So that was something we really emphasized here.

 

For viewers both familiar and unfamiliar with the manga, what can they look forward to with Sengoku Youko?

Kagetsu Aizawa: I think the action scenes we mentioned earlier are something viewers can look forward to, please check that out. We wanted to make sure when we created this anime that we keep in line with the main story of the manga. We also wanted to put more details that weren’t there in the original manga and make sure that was really being shown on screen.

For those who are unfamiliar, we want to make sure they watch Sengoku Youko and think, “Oh, this is really great, I want to read the original works of this author!” That’s how we think of it.

 

For fans not familiar with Sengoku Youko, how would you describe the show’s premise?

Kagetsu Aizawa: We also touched on this earlier, of course, there are strong characters, and you can see how they live and go through the story, but the weak characters are also something you should pay attention to how they approach life in this world and how they live. For entertainment value, anybody can easily get into Sengoku Youko and enjoy it for what it is.

Ailian Cai: This story is based on the human and the yokai living together in this world, and for myself, Shinsuke is just a regular guy, and I think looking at the world through his lens, a lot of people can relate to that as a viewer. Also the scenes where humans and yokai get fused together, those are scenes that are pretty cool, but even all the character development is really something to look out for in this series.


Sengoku Youko is now streaming on Crunchyroll, and is scheduled for three consecutive cours.

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