Animate Times article comes through with plenty of insight
What follows is a translated article from Animate Times, covering an all-night Re:ZERO screening event that was held in Shinjuku on June 18. We've got BlackDragonHunt to thank for the translation, so go ahead and dig in for some fantastic insight from the show's creators!
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An all-night Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- event was held at the Kadokawa Cinema in Shinjuku, Tokyo on the night of June 18th (Sat).
After a lengthy discussion between Natsuki Subaru's voice actor, Kobayashi Yuusuke; Kadokawa producer, Tanaka Shou; White Fox animation producer, Yoshikawa Tsunaki; and the series' editor at Kadokawa's MF Bunko J, Ikemoto Masahito, the first eleven episodes were screened for the audience, followed by an early screening of the yet-to-be-aired twelfth episode. Taking advantage of the plentiful time available for such a late-night event, the staff dug deep into what goes on behind the scenes, and this article will cover the different topics the four of them spoke about.
The long road to Rem's and Ram's designs.
Despite the event beginning at midnight, the theater was packed with Re:ZERO fans excited to discuss the series and get an early look at the twelfth episode and the beginning of the anime's third arc: the gathering of all five royal selection candidates. And the audience consisted of more than just fans of the anime—there were many fans of the source material as well. Someone even flew out all the way from Singapore to be there.
Discussion was led by Kadokawa's Re:ZERO marketing producer, Yoshitake Shintarou, who invited Tanaka Shou (Kadokawa), Yoshikawa Tsunaki (White Fox), and Ikemoto Masahito (MF Bunko J) onto the stage.
The first topic of the night was how Re:ZERO made the transition from web novel to print. Ikemoto, the series' editor and the one who made it happen, remarked: "Sometime around April, 2013, my Twitter timeline was suddenly filled with people talking about this series called Re:ZERO and how much they all liked it. So I decided to give it a try, and I found myself hooked. I was especially impressed with how it made use of the loop-by-death mechanic, and how the text very clearly spoke to me as a reader. The problem was, being a web novel, there was a lot of text. Take the second arc, for example—there's about two volumes' worth of content there, but as-is, it would have been more than a thousand pages on paper. Editing it down to fit into two volumes was extremely difficult."
Next, we were presented with some character design drafts by series illustrator Ootsuka Shinichirou, based on his impressions of the web novel. "Subaru looked a bit like a delinquent in the first draft," Ikemoto commented. "Probably because he has somewhat of a short fuse." He also mentioned that, as they were revising the design, he told Ootsuka, "We can't have Subaru looking like too much of a badass either."
For Emilia's design, Ikemoto said, "I was very particular about everything down to the color coordination in her design, because it was important she fit the 'archetypal heroine' image and Subaru's description of her as 'EMA (Emilia-tan, major angel)'."
Rem and Ram started off as simple, cute maids, transitioned to having more realistic maid uniforms, followed by demon-themed Japanese-style maid uniforms, then reached their final designs. After showing us the different drafts, Yoshikawa remarked, "The lineart in the initial designs was simpler and would have been much easier to animate, but the final designs are much nicer to look at (laughs)."
Lots of cooperation between the source and adaptation staff!
When asked about why Re:ZERO was chosen to be adapted into anime, Tanaka said, "I asked Ikemoto if he had any ideas for good series that would be suitable to make into an anime, and he suggested Re:ZERO. So I read the web novel, and I thought Subaru was an awesome character. I love cool protagonists, and I think audiences can really feel for characters like him who are losers and screw up but keep on fighting to the very end."
And as for why White Fox was chosen to do the adaptation, he said, "They're a studio that's very attentive to detail and cares about their work, and they know how to make adaptations that are faithful and respect the source material. I knew I wanted them to do it, so I went in and made the offer."
White Fox's president then went to Yoshikawa, who had already read the novels, to ask for his opinion. "It's more entertaining to watch a character who grows over the course of the series, and Re:ZERO has a lot of that. It also has a wide range of content, so as long as it doesn't violate any broadcasting regulations, I think it would be a good choice," he said.
Yoshikawa then said, regarding how the other staff were selected, "I brought Sakai Kyuuta on board because I felt she was the perfect fit for the series' style, and I believed she would do justice to Ootsuka's delicate art while maintaining the animation quality over two cours. Watanabe Masaharu had done key animation on another project at the studio, for which he drew some very impressive layouts, so my gut told me he would make a good director."
Upon hearing White Fox would be handling the adaptation, Ikemoto said, "I was very pleased by the news. I had seen some of White Fox's other adaptations, and my impression of them was that they did very good work bringing every aspect of the material—from mundanity to madness—to the screen."
Furthermore, they revealed that Re:ZERO's author, Nagatsuki Tappei, participates in much of the process, from script meetings to recording to dubbing. There's a great deal of cooperation behind the scenes between the animation staff and the author.
Ikemoto also mentioned that one of the biggest obstacles the staff faced was the twenty-fifth and final episode. He said they spent a great deal of time deliberating over where exactly the best place to end the anime would be.
Here comes Subaru, Kobayashi Yuusuke!
At this point, Natsuki Subaru's voice actor, Kobayashi Yuusuke was invited onto the stage. He came out in the same sweatshirt and sweatpants Subaru wears in the series and shouted, "Look at all you people out here in the middle of the night! You're all fanatical like demons!" He then unzipped his sweatshirt to reveal a t-shirt with Rem and Ram on it and said, "The other staff gave this to me before we started, just as I was thinking, 'Man, it's kinda lonely being the only cast member here.'"
With Kobayashi onstage, the discussion turned to the casting and audition process. Yoshikawa said that Kobayashi was chosen to play Subaru because "he had by far the most 'jackass'-y voice of all the tapes we received. It was a no-brainer."
"When we were putting together the first PV and I met the director, Watanabe, he told me exactly that—that I was selected because I had the 'jackass' voice down pat. No one's ever said that to me before. I felt like I was breaking new ground in my career with this role," Kobayashi said with a laugh.
"Compared to other auditions I've done, the script was huge," Kobayashi said. "For my audition tape, I had to record the entire scene from episode eight where Subaru breaks down and cries." To which Yoshikawa added, "The sound director was really upset with me about that. He kept telling me, 'this script is way too long' (laughs)."
When Kobayashi saw the character art, "This guy's got his hand shoved in his pocket, and he looks kinda angry, and my first impression is like, 'He's the hero?' I knew there was no way my voice for the kind of characters I usually played would work for him, so I just went all-out with how I imagined a real jerk would sound. But at the same time, reading his dialogue, I got the impression he was also kind of a decent guy, true to himself, so I make a point of trying to be equally forward and open with his emotions in my performance."
Asked about how his performance changes with the character, Kobayashi said, "I knew from the audition script, which already had me jumping all over the spectrum, that it was going to be rough, but it's easily ten times more difficult than I imagined (laughs). He gets pissed. He cries. Every episode there's at least one scene where I have to crank the emotion up to 150%, and it always requires me to do something new and different. It's tough, but it's very rewarding."
The staff frequently find themselves glued to the monitor during Kobayashi's impassioned performances at recording, they added.
Next, they were asked what they thought about Takahashi Rie's performance as Emilia. "When I heard Rie would be playing Emilia," Kobayashi said, "I thought it was the perfect choice. She's got this really pleasant voice that I thought would go well with a pure-hearted, pretty character like her. And she definitely didn't disappoint."
Ikemoto added, "It's absolutely adorable. Takahashi really focuses on bringing out the 'ordinary girl' in Emilia's character, and her straight, unadorned performance is just wonderful."
Kobayashi then happily began talking about what it's like at the recording studio. "It's great," he said. "We'll get people coming in partway through the show, and they might not know what's happened or how the loop mechanic works or whatever, so they'll come ask me about it. Everyone's getting friendly, we're all having fun, chatting away. And then recording starts and Subaru shows up and ruins it all. At the end of the day, there's just awkward silence (laughs). For one episode in the second arc, after we finished recording the first part, not a single person in the room wanted to talk to me—except for Puck's actress, Uchiyama Yumi, who came up and offered me some hard candy, trying to lighten the mood (laughs)," he recalled, which got a big laugh from the whole audience.
What do we have to look forward to as the story begins heating up?
Discussion began to wind down, attention turning toward the upcoming marathon screening. In preparation, the staff shared a few things they wanted the audience to look out for as they watched the series again:
Ikemoto: "Re:ZERO has a great deal of foreshadowing and hints scattered throughout that you probably won't notice your first time around. It's an anime that will continue to surprise and amaze on repeat viewings."
Yoshikawa: "The director is very particular about making sure the character acting is always just right. That their body language, no matter how subtle—even down to the slight pauses—accurately reflects how they're feeling at any given time. I hope you'll pay close attention to this as you review the show."
Tanaka: "During the scene where Subaru has his head in Emilia's lap, I couldn't focus on her face. My eyes kept going to her boobs, so I ask you all to stare as much as I did (laughs)."
Kobayashi: "Every time Subaru dies and goes back in time, everyone's performance except for mine has to jump back in time with it. The contrast in how the characters act toward Subaru before and after each reset is much more apparent when watching the episodes back-to-back. I hope you'll keep an eye out for that and how Subaru's dissonant knowledge causes him to fumble."
Next, Ikemoto talked a little bit about the unaired twelfth episode they would be screening. "So far, Re:ZERO has mostly revolved around Subaru and the various people he's just so happened to run into, both upon arriving in this world and after moving into the Roswaal mansion. It's been more a story of happenstance and chance encounters up to now, but moving forward, we'll be seeing significantly more of the people who have a greater role in the world at large. People who actively propel the story forward. And they're all very unique, idiosyncratic characters, so I expect you'll be able to recognize them and put names to faces after only seeing them a couple times."
He then went on to introduce the new characters that would be appearing in the twelfth episode: "Priscilla is a very haughty, 'the world revolves around me' character. Her knight, Aldebaran, is a kind of shady, untrustworthy-looking man. Wilhelm is an older man with a much more significant role in the story than you might expect. Anastasia speaks in an unusual dialect from her home country of Kararagi, which I think Ueda Kana has done a fantastic job with."
To close off the discussion, they held a theater-wide rock-paper-scissors competition, with four posters autographed by Kobayashi Yuusuke at stake. The audience played against the staff members on stage (one poster awarded to who won against each of Kobayashi, Tanaka, Yoshikawa, and Ikemoto). It was a very intense, if somewhat surreal scene to witness.
And at long last, the series' ending theme, "STYX HELIX," played, signaling the end of the discussion part of the event. "See, we do play the ED sometimes," Yoshikawa said, and the audience roared in laughter.
The staff gave everyone their thanks, and then Kobayashi concluded with, "This is where the real fun begins. If any of you dozes off during the screening, you'll die and have to do it all over again like Subaru (laughs). Please enjoy the show."
After an enlightening look behind the scenes of Re:ZERO's production, the numerous staff anecdotes, and the many laughs we shared along the way, we all sat down to rewatch the first eleven episodes. With our newfound insight, there were lots of little "aha!" moments as we realized what certain things meant, why different characters acted and reacted the way they did, and caught many subtle little details we had missed first watching the show on TV.
On a whole, the event was a wonderful opportunity to look back on Re:ZERO as a series and gain a renewed appreciation for it.
This article originally appeared in Japanese on Animate Times.