FEATURE - Ohji Hiroi, the "Karen Senki" Interview (Part Two)

New series premieres exclusively on Crunchyroll on 9/27

Creator, stage director, lyricist, and media personality Ohji Hiroi is the creator of Karen Senki, the new science fiction action series from Next Media Animation. Known to legions of fans as the creator of the popular Sakura Wars game and anime franchise, Karen Senki reteams Hiroi with character designer Kosuke Fujishima, this time in a post-apocalyptic setting where humans and machines are at war with each other. In PART TWO of our exclusive interview (PART ONE IS HERE), Ohji Hiori gives us his perspective on the Japanese anime industry, the future of entertainment, and the themes that run through his work. Read on and enjoy!

Karen Senki is being produced outside of the traditional Japanese animation system. How does that affect your approach to storytelling?


Because this title was produced in in Taipei, outside of the Japanese animation industry, I was probably a little frustrated for the first 6 months because it wasn’t easy for me to communicate with the staff. Everything had to go through translators and interpreters. When I’m working in with a Japanese anime staff, everyone is on the same page. But when you go outside the system, things I had come to think of as easy were not always easily understood by the Karen Senki staff. So yes, that affected the storyline too. Something that robots might thing is easy may be hard for humans to understand.

What aspects of your own personality can the viewer find in Karen Senki?


I think in every project I have worked on, there’s always the feeling of being an outsider or an alien; the feeling of being alone in a group. In the case of Sakura Wars, there are many different people from different countries and they initially relate to each other as beings from some other place; as outsiders. But eventually, they learn to communicate and relate to each other. In the case of Karen Senki, Karen is all alone seeking revenge with the spirit of her dead sister inside of her. But also, over the course of the story, Karen gets help from other people to face her battles against the robots. But it turns out that even these robots love Karen in their own way. So Karen’s journey is to find where the love for her is.


This might be a big question, but as a creator, I think you might have a unique perspective…What is it that people want out of entertainment? Why do people spend so much time and money on entertainment?


Probably, for modern people, the path that civilization has taken from point A until now is the path of abundance…having more. With this comes relief from hard labor, and that probably leads to a lot of free time. That’s where art and entertainment – like stage shows, books, games, anime – comes in: to fill up spare time. If it gets too extreme, if there’s too much entertainment, some people might want to unplug, switch off, and take a break on a tropical island. They might say that’s more entertaining than using their smart phones. Maybe the final stage of entertainment will be to have a chip inside your brain; you lay down and do nothing and the chip gives you all the entertainment you need as a simulation. I think that’s the direction we are moving towards.


Another analogue I want to make…probably a few years ago in Japan, a hamburger or a steak was considered something that only rich people could enjoy. Now, rich people are likely to say, “Hamburgers? No, no, no…” and prefer to eat all natural or organic food. But if you think back to those earlier days, it was poor people who ate organic foods and were so jealous of people who ate hamburgers, so things keep flipping around (laughs).

One question I often ask top creators in this field is… why is anime so popular around the world? There is so much competition now from multi-million dollar Hollywood movies, video games, TV shows, and yet, anime is still something that feels vital and has a global following. Why is that, you think?


The thing about anime and games in Japan is that they have more freedom than other kinds of entertainment like movies and TV. Traditional mass media is controlled by the existing powers, so probably this feeling of freedom isn’t something that people from the establishment enjoy.  They probably view anime like, “Oh, you guys are small and new, so do whatever you want as long as you don’t bother us”.  So that’s where interesting creators can come in and become very creative. Probably now in the USA, TV has this kind of freedom now, so it is becoming a more interesting medium compared to movies. But maybe from now on, anime might no longer be free… because the Japanese government has decided it is part of “Cool Japan”, so maybe the establishment side will start to say, things like “you can’t do that in animation anymore”. The establishment found out that anime sells well to outsiders, so bigger money comes in, and that means more influence from people on top. The freedom of the creators might get smaller and smaller because the big guys will say, “Do this, don’t do this”. The real treasure is in the creator’s heart, not something that the establishment gives them. So maybe the creators will start to go someplace else.


Do you have a final message for our readers?


Please watch Karen Senki. It is my first time telling a story with CG animation. Also, I welcome any feedback, any comments…anything you guys want me to do, and I’ll listen. I welcome not only criticism, but nice comments too! (laughs) Please watch and enjoy!


Ohji Hiroi, 9/5/2014







Ohji Hiroi Interview Part One




Patrick Macias is editor in chief of Crunchyroll News and editor of Otaku USA magazine. He is also the author of the new Paranoia Girls webcomic.

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