Part 2 of the Interview with Fujino Oomori-sensei and Keiichi Sigsawa-sensei
The mobile game app, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? ~Memoria Freese~ recently hosted a special collaboration event between DanMachi and Kino’s Journey -the Beautiful World- the Animated Series, which led to discussions between their authors, Fujino Oomori-san and Keiichi Sigsawa-san. In the second part of this interview, we inquired about various key points of the scenario proposal by both authors.
In our discussion, we cover not only the appeal of this collaboration event, but also their approach to writing their own works, unknown stories about the creation of intriguing episodes, the differences between writing scripts for novels and games, and many other topics as well. This time, we’ll touch on their later writing plans as well, so please read to the end.
You can try the mobile game app, Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon? ~Memoria Freese~ here.
Kino’s Journey is like writing a four-panel comic strip. DanMachi is like writing a shounen manga.
—The two of you are both constantly announcing titles, but how do you usually come up with your stories?
Keiichi Sigsawa: Kino’s Journey is built off major punchlines, so I think it feels like a four-panel comic strip. If I can come up with the punch, it’s practically done, and all that remains is placing the right characters for that situation. But getting to that point is pretty hard.
Also, as the series has stretched into more volumes, it’s covered more episodes, so there are cases when a punchline is rejected because it would overlap with a past one.
—But on the other hand, you don’t really need to worry about the chronology of the episodes.
Sigsawa: That’s true. Kino’s Journey is a collection of a short stories, after all. The way I go about creating it is different from works with a continuous story like Oomori-san’s DanMachi or my own Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online.
Fujino Oomori: That’s true. Personally, I want to bring more passion and excitement to the story than the previous episode did, so I end up debating things or working through different things because of that. Sigsawa-sensei just compared his work to a four-panel comic strip, but I think DanMachi is built around its battles. I tend to write backwards, trying to figure out how to make the final battle exciting.
—You don’t mean like the Minotaur battle you depicted in the first arc?
Oomori: I’m constantly hoping I can outdo that one. I think the people who read my work are also looking for the exhilaration of orthodox shounen manga-style battles. So I’m constantly thinking about how I can add excitement, suspense, and passion.
In contrast, I challenge myself with rather serious stories and episodes featuring exchanges between those who aren’t the protagonist in my side stories. It’s kind of like learning while I write.
—Is there anything you’ve experimented with in Sword Oratoria that you’d bring into your main work?
Oomori: I think the side story’s setting in the Loki Familia is something I wouldn’t have been able to delve into as deeply in the main title. Plus, since it helped expand my world, I was able to provide GREE-san a lot of information for DanMemo. I think it’s been well worth the difficulty of continuing the side stories alongside the main one.
“When you give a character a name, you can empathize with them.” —Sigsawa
—There’s an extremely large number of characters appearing in DanMachi. Isn’t it difficult writing for such large cast?
Oomori: There’s a whole lot of characters, so honestly, it becomes a struggle for their chance to appear. I really should give Hestia and Ais more chances to shine, but now and then I also feel like, “I should let this character do this.”
Also, sometimes I get advice from my editor, like, “We should give the old dwarf some action.”
—How about you, Sigsawa-sensei? Though in Kino’s Journey, only the main characters have names.
Sigsawa: Kino, Shizu, Master, Photo... The story revolves around those four main characters and their groups, so it’s easy on the character front. But in other longer works, I’ve also had the cast of characters grow too large, and start debating over the fact that some characters have lost their chance to appear.
Oomori: I’ve been meaning to ask you this, Sigsawa-sensei, but there are times where some characters get names in your short stories, right? Like Laohua in “The Country Without Border Walls” (Volume 3) or Inertia in “Country of Illness” (Volume 5). I empathize really strongly with characters that get focused on like that, but is that something you’re aiming for?
Sigsawa: It is. When a character is important, only then will I give them a name. The rest I just identify by their roles, like “president,” or “national leader,” haha.
—Does that make it easy to control the reader’s emotions?
Sigsawa: Having a name makes the characters stand out. And you want readers to empathize with the character when they’re going to have a strong impact on the story.
Oomori: So I’ve totally been dancing in the palm of your hand. I liked Laohua-san way too much.
Sigsawa: Oh, this is a minor spoiler, but I think most of the time I give a brand new guest character a name, they die. Of course there are some characters that don’t die, but I think maybe 70% of them die.
On the other hand, when I make people think they’re going to die and they don’t, they sometimes rise up to join the regular cast, haha. Like Photo and Ti.
—Haha, you were going for that with Photo, too?
Sigsawa: In Photo’s case, I never intended that at all when I first wrote “In the Clouds” (Volume 3), but after several years passed, I thought, “You know, it would actually be interesting to retell that tale from another perspective,” so I had her reappear in “Before the Clouds” (Volume 12).
So then I thought, “Well, since she already has a motorrad (Note: two-wheeled vehicle. Refers only to those that can’t fly), maybe I’ll make this slave into a main character and expand on her,” and I gave her a name in the next volume.
I wanted to make her “someone who doesn’t travel,” to contrast with Kino, so I had her settle in one country and crafted dramas within that land. Their names also draw on that meaning with Photo (Photograph) contrasting with Kino (Kinematograph).
“I want to boast about collaborating with Sigsawa-sensei to other authors.” —Oomori
—I believe both of you are involved in supervising various mixed media projects like anime and manga in addition to your novels, but what are some points to keep in mind when writing a similar script for a game?
Oomori: There are differences due to the medium. When I’m reviewing DanMemo, my thoughts are deeply drawn to the fact that games always need expositional dialogue.
In novels, you have stage directions to explain the situation, and in manga or anime you have images to explain that, but in games you have to convey that through dialogue. Plus, when the game is fully voiced, you can’t read it at your own pace, so that always adds tedium.
I’m always paying attention from a user’s perspective, so I notice DanMemo cuts that out as much as possible to place greater emphasis on its tempo.
Sigsawa: That’s a phenomenon you only see in games, yeah. I learned about that back when I supervising the script for the game BLUE REFLECTION.
On top of that, the text window has fixed size, so you have fit every line within its confines and be careful of those constraints too when writing. Also, after everything is said and done, it’s not that difficult revising the lines for my own characters, but I had to be very careful whenever I had to change the lines of one of DanMachi’s characters during my revisions.
Oomori: That’s true. We needed to play catch every time we needed to fix the other’s lines, so we’d have to be careful while checking in with each other. I think we took our time and went back and forth on that about three or four times.
Sigsawa: We were checking it over word by word, so it took a lot of time and stamina, but it really helped a lot that our work was really just honing the details. I think the game’s scenario writers did an excellent job.
Oomori: This collaboration was practically stress free for me, too. I thought writing manuscripts was fundamentally done with one’s editor, but this time Sigsawa-sensei was catching the balls I threw and throwing some right back at me. The whole exchange was just so much fun.
I want to boast about it to other authors. I want to say, “I collaborated with Sigsawa-sensei. We came up with the story together!” Haha.
—Was there any aspect of this collaboration you paid particular attention to fine-tuning?
Oomori: I don’t think there was anything I particularly objected to. Just, DanMemo has special moves built in, so I remember thinking Kino wouldn’t really shout “Flute!”
Sigsawa: I remember we had to come up with special moves. It’s a pretty common pattern for me to be asked to come up with move names when Kino appears in a game, haha. Kino never has any named moves, so it’s something I always have to ponder, but in a sense it was okay, since I’m used to it.
Oomori: When reading the original novels, I felt that Kino and Shizu’s moves were cool, so I hope we captured that sensation well.
I really liked the fights in “Country of Heroes” (Volume 5) for Kino, and in “Tale of Extortion” (Volume 4) for Shizu. I hope we managed to capture a hint of that in the game, too, but it’s pretty difficult.
Sigsawa: The episodes you just brought up are ones where I rather meticulously planned out the battles, so it might be a little impossible to pull that off in a collaboration. But I think the action scenes and special move effects came out looking really cool this time.
Novels, Games, Anime. A collaboration project brought about through this trinity.
—What were some of the scenes you two liked in this collaboration?
Sigsawa: Personally, I really liked the section about Shizu’s group fitting right in with the Japanese-style members of Takemikazuchi Familia and becoming fast friends with them. Also the part where Photo and Hestia become close, too.
Also, I think we really did a good job constructing the story so we could actually touch on the hidden truth behind DanMachi’s story in this scenario. I was genuinely impressed when I read that.
Oomori: I was happiest about the scene at the end of the scenario where Kino and Bell shake hands. We managed to make that scene happen because Sigsawa-sensei said, “It would be nice if they shook hands.” That image of two protagonists from different works joining hands together was a dream collaboration of its own, and I was so happy I cried.
Oh, right, and Sigsawa-sensei came up with all the English titles that follow the chapter titles.
Sigsawa: That’s right, I did. I thought having those would help bring out the feel of Kino’s Journey.
Oomori: Thank you very much! I’m very grateful, Sigsawa-sensei!
Sigsawa: Also, those at EGG FIRM who worked with Kino’s Journey and DanMachi played a huge role on the visual end. Their producer, Nobuhiro Oosawa-san, cooperated with us and provided the 3DCG model of Hermes from the anime as-is. Same with the designs for Kino and others’ outfits. To be blunt, we could laugh without worrying about how to implement the characters, but everyone else was running around wildly for us.
Oomori: At the end, Oosawa-san started scheming a bit, too, didn’t he? He whispered something like, “We should get both illustrators to draw something, too.”
Sigsawa: Uh-huh, haha. Oosawa-san conspired with us on the idea of “Hermes riding Hermes.” It was the build up of one coincidence after another.
—The production behind Hermes fighting enemies on Hermes was entertaining, too.
Oomori: That was a part we discussed in detail with GREE-san as well. In DanMemo, the characters are split between Adventurer and Assist roles, but Hermes is a god, so really, he shouldn’t be fighting. That’s why I thought he’d be an Assist this time around. But then the Director said, “We’ll make him an Adventurer as a set pair with Hermes,” haha. It became the first debut of a god as an Adventurer.
—This is something that just crossed my mind, but did you ever plan on Master from Kino’s Journey making an appearance?
Sigsawa: We reached an agreement rather early on that Master wouldn’t appear. We could have the old Master, and it would’ve been pretty difficult to have the young Master cross time to appear. Not to mention, we already planned on Shizu and Photo’s groups making an appearance, so we felt that was enough.
“If we collaborate again, we could try using Orario 3,000 years from now.” —Oomori
—Is there anything you didn’t manage to do to this time, or something you wanted to include but couldn’t realize?
Oomori: This is wholly my own opinion, but part of me really wanted to bring the bitter outlook of Kino’s Journey into DanMemo, too. The world of DanMachi is fundamentally a kind one, where good is rewarded and evil punished, but this time I put a lot of debate into how we could express the great, bitter harshness of Kino’s Journey. When I met with Sigsawa-sensei to discuss the plot, I was so persistent in asking, “How can we bring out the atmosphere of Kino’s Journey?” that I thought I was being a nuisance during our talks.
Sigsawa: True. I wanted to try and include something of a bitter or mysterious punch, like Kino’s Journey does, after they left Orario. The scene after the leave the country came out promising.
—Oomori-sensei, what do you like about Kino’s Journey?
Oomori: Since we were going to be collaborating, I read through some of the novels and found myself drawn to its truly unique world, which I could never write.
Also, I really like the afterwords. I’m really surprised you can write afterwords like that.
Sigsawa: It’s hard work coming up with those, haha.
Oomori: I thought that had to be the case. But honestly, Kino’s Journey left me with feelings after reading that I hadn’t felt before, so I really admire it. So if we ever get the chance to collaborate again, I hope we can depict that bitter outlook.
Sigsawa: Thank you very much. I’d really like to see that, but fundamentally Kino never visits the same country twice, so I don’t know.
Oomori: Oh, that’s right. Then how about… in a different city after 3,000 years have passed and Orario is ruins?
—Are you okay with that as the original creator, haha?
Sigsawa: It could be possible if we go with the pattern where all the characters from DanMachi set off on a journey. That would mean drawing all new backgrounds and so on from scratch, but would that be okay?
Producer: I’ll draw as many as it takes!
Oomori: That’s really just my own ego talking, so please forget about it, haha. I think the scenario for this is one that both light users and those who’ve read both original works can enjoy. It really is a good collaboration that can serve as an entry point to both works.
Sigsawa: That’s right. Personally, I didn’t put much focus on the fact that this is for a game and approached this work with the idea of what we would do if we were creating an anime or movie together. Like it was one of the collaboration films in the old Toei Cartoon Festival.
But I think it would have been pretty rough if we were actually working on a movie. I think this project truly took advantage of the virtues of social games.
Oomori: I don’t think we could’ve done it with such light footwork.
Sigsawa: I’m sure GREE-san really had a hard time, so thank you very much.
Producer: Actually, when you put together all the data we recorded from the cast for this, it comes out to about an hour and ten minute voice drama. It really is about a whole movie’s worth.
Sigsawa: What? Then wouldn’t it be interesting if we did make a movie version? Or so I’ll say for the sake of saying it, haha. I’m the type to say what I think.
Oomori: The power of words is already at work here. So I think that’s important, too, haha.
“I hope readers come to learn more about the worlds of both works through this collaboration.” —Sigsawa
—I’d like to you ask you both to share a final message for the fans, but what are your aspirations for the future?
Sigsawa: Well, right now I’m using GGO for my twitter icon and tweeting notices about Kino’s Journey when I happen to remember to, but I’ve really been busy since last year. Kino’s Journey is my life’s work though, so I want to work hard at it.
Oomori: You’re too amazing, getting animes two years in a row. You really don’t get any rest, do you?
Sigsawa: That’s true. This time, with GGO, I’m participating in all of the script meetings from the beginning, and I attend the post-recordings.
I just hope all the fans enjoy this collaboration for now. I can only say good things, but if by chance you’re a fan of Kino’s Journey and haven’t heard of DanMachi, or you’re the opposite, then know that we’ve done some unusual things here, so if you didn’t know of one before, I hope you’ll find interest in it through this.
—Oomori-sensei, people are curious about the animated movie and second season announced in Volume 13 of DanMachi.
Oomori: Unfortunately, I can’t give any information on the anime, but here’s a little for the novels. Right now, Volume 13 cuts off at an incredible point, and those reading the original work are left feeling impatient, haha.
I might even be hearing some fans say, “Write your book instead of taking interviews!” But right now, I’ve finished writing about 350 pages of it, so you’ll only need to wait a little longer.
—Haha, using this space for advertising...
Oomori: I thought I was likely to get asked about that here today, so… haha. But honestly, I’ve already gotten that far, so you should be able to enjoy it very soon. Also, for the users of DanMemo, if you aren’t familiar with Kino’s Journey already, then I hope you get a taste of how wonderful the original work is. Once you read up to Volume 3, you’ll get hooked and won’t be able to escape it, just like me!
© 2017 KEIICHI SIGSAWA/KADOKAWA CORPORATION AMW/KINO'S JOURNEY PARTNERS
© Fujino Omori-SB Creative Corp./Danmachi Movie Project
© GREE, Inc.