Director Iino Shinya talks about the research his creative team did to create the world of the smash hit anime.
NOTE: This article was originally published September 20, 2019 by Cayla Coats and can be found here. In anticipation for the season finale of Dr. STONE, we are publishing exclusive pieces all about our favorite exhilarating science show! Tune in this week for interviews, deep-dives, quizzes, and more!
From the stunning background art, to the inventive music, to the detailed and lovingly crafted character designs, every aspect of Dr. STONE is shining with the amount of love and care put into it. Our production team had the amazing opportunity to film a documentary going behind the scenes of the show's production (which you can watch here!). We're proud to present an interview with Iino Shinya, the series director, used in the documentary completely uncut below!
Could you please introduce yourself?
Iino: Hello, I'm Iino Shinya. I am the director of Dr. Stone.
What does an anime director do? What kind of job is it?
Iino: Well, let me think for a second. What does the job entail... Well, there are various sections that work on an anime, like the people who draw... There's the recording of the voices and the sound effects. All of the sound production. Then there are all the drawings that the animators have drawn, then there's also other art such as the background art. We have various sections working on different parts of the anime, and saying that I check everything might sound a bit impudent, but that is basically what I do.
If we go back a bit further, there's also the script... Basically, there are a lot of different things involved in making an anime and I basically check on everything and make sure everything is being put together correctly.
Have you directed any other shows before?
Iino: No, this is my first time directing a series.
Can you tell me what it's like being a first-time director especially on such a big property?
Iino: Well, setting aside the fact that this is my first time directing or not, I'm very happy for this opportunity. Dr. STONE is a very popular title in one of the biggest shonen magazines in Japan, Weekly Shonen Jump. Dr. STONE is a very fun and interesting series, so to be able to be involved in something like that makes me very happy.
Now, as for the part where I'm a first-time director and this is a huge title, I definitely feel some pressure.
The original series is really fun and interesting so I need to make sure the anime is just as fun and interesting. I can't go below that. I have to make it even more interesting. But this also causes some pressure for me. No pressure.
What were you doing before Dr. Stone?
Iino: Before that... Well, in terms of big titles, I was the assistant director for Made in Abyss. That was about two years ago.
Was that also a first time experience for you? How long have you been working in anime?
Iino: That was my first time as assistant director. Well... Let's see... How long have I been in anime now... There's a job called production assistant, which is a separate job from the directing side... That was my first job in this industry. So it's been about nine years since that? It's been about eight or nine years since I joined the anime industry. I was the assistant director for Made in Abyss about six years into my career. It's been about five or six years since I started working as an episode director.
Did you always want to be involved in anime?
Iino: Yes. I liked animation ever since I was a student, and I wanted to become a director, so after I graduated from college, I joined the anime industry and that's how I got to where I am today.
What made you want to get into it?
Iino: The reason... I'm not exactly sure. Well, I've always been fascinated about the behind the scenes aspect of, say like, movies. I always liked watching how they were made. I always admired the people making these things. I had an interest in that since I was in grade school or middle school. And the reason that eventually led me to animation... Well, there isn't any particular series, but I became interested in animators. So in a 30 minute anime episode, there are several animators that worked on it. There's one person working on a specific scene. When I started seeing what everyone excels in as animators and their uniqueness, I found that really interesting. When you're watching an anime, all the designs and animations should look uniform. But when you look at it more carefully, you start noticing each animator's uniqueness. I really like that part of this job.
How did you get involved with Dr. STONE?
Iino: The way that I got involved with Dr. Stone is one of the producers from TMS Entertainment approached me about it, so I got involved. I started reading the manga after the project was offered to me. But one of my friends happened to be reading Dr. STONE and they told me it was really interesting.
You probably enjoy the manga now, though.
Iino: Yes, I enjoy it. With Dr. STONE it's true that I started reading it because of work, but it's really, really good. That was my first thought.
Is there a certain aspect of the manga you really enjoy?
Iino: I think the thing that caught my interest most about Dr. STONE was the theme. The theme heavily deals with science
and that's not something you see often in shonen manga. Usually, shonen manga is more flashy. There's usually a lot of action or like ninjas, samurai, or like pirates like in One Piece... There haven't been too many series that have science as the theme, especially in Jump. It was depicted in a way that's really appealing to me. Like if this wasn't Dr. STONE and was something more typical, I may not have been as interested in it. At first glance, it sort of looks dull, but something about it makes so many people enjoy it. That was the biggest appeal to me.
What were some of the challenges of adapting the manga into anime?
Iino: I think this goes for any series dealing with fantasy but Dr. STONE is set in Japan 3,700 years in the future. In that case, what does the background look like? What about the townscape? I think that was the first thing I thought about.
How did you overcome that challenge?
Iino: Well, first off, the manga artist, Boichi-sensei draws extremely detailed drawings. You can tell that he cares a lot about drawing these beautiful naturescapes. There are various locations that you see but then there are also portions that you don't see, so we had to help expand those parts and fill them in.
Do you work closely with the manga artist?
Iino: Well, actually... I have never actually met him in person. Mostly because he's a very busy person who has a weekly manga deadline. So I haven't met him. But instead, Boichi-sensei has given me various documents he used when he was drawing the manga. And in those documents, there are rough sketches, nature scenes, and the villagers. There are basically people who are like primitive people that show up. So he has photos that he used as reference for drawing them. And Boichi-sensei makes sure he draws things by checking various references before drawing the manga.
When looking at Boichi-sensei's drawings, I could always find the reference or the source of the drawings. So that was extremely helpful. I haven't met him, but because of these documents we were able to communicate and share ideas together.
What about working with the manga writer? How has that been?
Iino: Oh, as for Inagaki-sensei... I see him quite often. Quite a lot. Not like every week, but say with the scenario or script, he's checking the scripts for every single episode. He does come to readings, at times, as well as some of the dubbing sessions. So we communicate quite a bit.
I hear that the manga writer won't tell you what happens later on in the story. Is that true, and, if so, what is that like for you, as a director?
Iino: That's absolutely true. It's actually quite amazing. It could be because it's a weekly serial, or it might just be with Dr. STONE but we never know what's going to happen next. It actually seems that Inagaki-sensei may not even know yet, or hasn't thought about it. Even now, I basically read Weekly Shonen Jump that comes out every week and am surprised every week like, "Oh, so that's what happens!"
You don't even get a sneak preview? You have to go to the store and find it?
Iino: Yes, exactly. So basically, I'm just like every other reader. If I have any advantage, it's that I might be able to find out what happens one chapter ahead of the most current manuscript.
Bless you for all the hard work you're putting in then.
Iino: Well, right now, there are a lot more chapters out. But in the first stages of us making this anime there weren't enough manga chapters to make a 24-episode anime. There weren't a lot at all. Maybe 18 or 19 chapters out at the time. So we had to wait for the story to get further ahead to see where we could end. So basically, after we started making the anime we had to decide where it would end.
What makes Dr. Stone different from other anime that's out?
Iino: This isn't with just the anime, it's also with the original story... But the difference with this from other anime and again, this goes for the original story, too, but the story progresses very fast. I think that's pretty unique to this series. As I mentioned earlier, when the chapter for where we plan to end the anime wasn't out yet, and we were trying to figure out how to shape the episodes... When you're reading the original manga every week there's something that surprises you every single week. I wanted our viewers to also feel that. So I wanted to see how much of the original story we could pack into every episode to satisfy the viewers. I discussed that with our staff and that's how the anime took shape. At first, I couldn't see the end, so it was scary, but I concentrated to make every single episode entertaining. I think I was able to make this anime because I was confident about that.
Why is it important for you to have those kinds of details?
Iino: That might just be something I'm picky about. So, with the art... This story is a fantasy story that takes place 3,700 years in the future. But even then, Japan is where the story is set. It's set on the planet Earth, so I wanted the things that the characters touched and interacted with in their daily lives to feel realistic; I didn't want those things to seem fake. I wanted the viewers to be able to recognize these things. There's that aspect. But also... I thought that the characters living 3,700 years in the future would also seem more realistic that way.
Did you also do the glass blowing?
Iino: That's the only event that I go to. I'm pretty sure when they went to that I was behind on getting the storyboards for episode 1 done so I was told that I couldn't go.
Were there any other experiments that you had to do?
Iino: Was there...? Was there? I really haven't. But there is the foxtail ramen that comes up in the story. They make ramen from foxtails. The original author had made some, so he sent me instructions and pictures on how to make that.
Do you plan to make the ramen together?
Iino: I think there was mention of that.
Looking at pictures of the International Space Station. Could you tell us what that meeting was about?
Iino: So the meeting we had earlier was for the art setting. We were drawing line art of the source that was going to be used as the background art. As for the Space Station... Senku's father appears in the middle of the story and we needed it for that. The Space Station exists in real life, so we were looking at how to draw it and to observe how, exactly, it's constructed. We had been researching that for a while now. We then decided what parts would used in what scenes and sent off that information to the people who would draw those scenes, and I was running checks on those.
Who were the other people in that meeting?
Iino: The person that was next to me was the assistant director, Kawajiri-san. Otherwise, they were production staff like the producer, Katagiri-san, as well as the main producer, Horino-san, as well as Tsutsui-kun, who's in charge of the planning for the backgrounds and characters. So that's one, two, three, four, five... six. And then Aoki-san who's in charge of the backgrounds. We basically have meetings with the six of us all the time.
Can you tell us about your day to day work schedule?
Iino: Well, as for the work I do specifically as a director, I check the layouts that the animators drew... Then we have drawings that the various episode directors have checked and I will check those again myself. I make sure there aren't any problems. And then I check all the layouts.
So today, first, I was checking the layouts that some animators brought me... They're already checked by the episode directors but I then I take a look at and check over those myself. To make sure there aren't any issues. I do that for the episodes we're working on... And then, after that, we have a script meeting after this, where we'll read the script. And then... Other than that, I did some checks on the storyboards.
Are you excited for that script meeting?
Iino: Am I excited for the script meeting? Yes. Well, at first, I was really nervous about these meetings. I'm a first-time director so I felt that I had to work even harder. So every time I would take notes on what I wanted to say. But now, it's been about a year, and I'm pretty close with the staff that attends these meetings so now I'm able to relax when I go to them.
You wrote a script for your script meeting?
Iino: Basically, yes. I wrote scripts for what I was going to say at these script meetings.
Is there anything you'd like to share with fans of Dr. STONE or like anything you're excited for people to see?
Iino: Well, let's see... What should I say? Oh, for the fans of the original manga for Dr. STONE... First and foremost, the staff that's involved with making Dr. STONE are all fans of the original manga. We're making the anime, but we're fans ourselves. So we want to help relay how amazing the series is to everyone, and I hope people will check it out to see if we are. Also, I don't think Dr. STONE is super popular yet. It revolves around the theme of science and I think it can popularize that theme quite well. I think that Dr. STONE's popularity is just beginning and will grow. So I'm hoping that the anime will help the Dr. STONE series as a whole continue to grow in popularity.
Is there anything you'd like to share with the English voice cast?
Iino: Well, I'm assuming that they're going to match the Japanese voice actors. One of the most appealing things about Dr. STONE... I'd say at least 50% or more is the character Senku, who's a very unique character. And the person playing him in the Japanese version is Kobayashi Yusuke-san, who's quite amazing. He was personally picked by the original author and is able to portray Senku in such an entertaining way. I get to sit in on the weekly dub sessions and I love hearing Senku say his lines. So I'm hoping that the English voice actor will match his intonations and be able to take the emotions that Kobayashii-san puts into the Japanese version of Senku.
Me, too. That sounds cool. How would you pitch Dr. STONE to someone who's never heard of it?
Iino: Well, let's see... I think... If it's someone who's never heard of the series I think it might be hard to get into. I think that people might think the series looks a bit serious. But... the setting is a science fiction fantasy story... And science is involved. When you hear science, you might have an adverse reaction, like when you were in school. I think the theme might be hard to get into at first but once the viewers see what's inside, they should realize they don't need to know about science to enjoy the show.
Also they'll realize... that it's not a super serious story. There are a lot of jokes and great character interactions. So I hope that the viewers will try to get into it more when they're watching the series.
What does Dr. STONE mean to you on an emotional level.
Iino: What I personally feel about it? Well, let's see... Oh, I know. For me, personally, I'm not super emotional. You can probably tell as I'm talking that I'm pretty mellow. But when were in talks to animate Dr. STONE, I started doodling Senku's face, thinking about his various expressions. And going through the usual expressions I would go through but there were about two to three times more expressions in Dr. STONE. So to keep up with that kind of passion, I thought I had to get pretty worked up, too. So... I don't think it's that visible on the outside but to match how emotional and expressive Senku and the others get... Like when their faces completely fall apart... In order to keep up with that myself I tried to expand my own limits and I have a lot of fun when I'm drawing these expressions.
Do you prefer to do things digitally?
Iino: I do prefer to do some things digitally for Dr. STONE. My interests are definitely involved.
Why do you prefer digital?
Iino: Let's see... When you're a director working on a series there are so many documents for settings, research and other things... If they were on paper, I'd lose track of them. But with this, I can somewhat keep everything organized.
Can you tell us about working with Katagiri-san?
Iino: Dr. STONE is our first project together. I wonder how I felt about him in the beginning, though... But we've been working together on Dr. STONE together for over a year now and we've even done certain events together. So I'm not really nervous around him anymore. But at first I was pretty nervous around him. Not anymore, though. I forgot about that.
What's your favorite part about him? Is he a great of a boss as he seems?
Iino: What's my favorite part about him? Let's see... Katagiri-san... There was a time I was sort of stuck on some storyboards. I was trying to figure out how I wanted the story to play out in episode 1. So I asked Katagiri-san what he thought, and he just lightly said, "Sure, why don't you give it a try?" He was really lax about it. I wanted to talk about this on a deeper level, but... But I felt like there was a load off my shoulders and I felt better about just giving it a shot. I think that's great about him.
Wow, that's wonderful! There are 24 episodes in the season, right?
Iino: Yes, 24.
You've worked on it for over a year, it's going to be on for a while. How do you plan to celebrate once you're done with season one?
Iino: Celebrate? Well, I do want to go on a trip somewhere. There's a hot springs resort area called Hakone that comes up in Dr. STONE. I was actually supposed to go to Hakone before Dr. STONE got so busy so I could get another look at the location, but I couldn't. So after the 24 episodes are over, it's going to be winter, so I'd like to sit in an outdoor bath while in that cold weather.
With the team that works with you outside of the office, can you tell me more about your relationship with the character designer?
Iino: Well, the character designer doesn't come to the office to work. We do have some meetings when she finishes some designs. And that's about all we do in person. But we did talk quite a bit before she started doing character designs on this project. We would share ideas and basically... how would I put this in simple terms? Well, for me... At first, I wondered if I should give her more direction, but the character designer, Iwasa-san, is really knowledgeable about the series so whatever she brings me is usually right on the mark. I can tell she was very mindful about the series with what she would turn in. I think Iwasa-san's always been like that with whatever project she's worked on. She's very serious and diligent when it comes to work which I respect very much. I guess that's basically how I feel our relationship is.
I feel like there are a lot of people online who are very vocal about anime.
Is there anything you want people to know about how it is to be an anime director? People seem to easily forget that humans make these shows, so...
Iino: Well... this is my own personal policy, but it goes for all the projects I've been involved with so far. First, I think it's important to love the series you're working on. I want to make sure that I'm able to bring out what's best about that series. This series already has its own original story. I'm not the one who wrote this story. It's the original creator's. My job is to get as close to that possible. That's what it means to be an anime director of an already existing story. How close am I able to get to what the original creator was thinking? I try to get as close as possible. So first, I need to fall in love with the original story first. Inagaki-sensei's personality definitely shows.
Inagaki-sensei is a lot like Senku, as well as like Ginro... You can definitely tell he made this series. So I really look up to him. And I sort of fell in love with Dr. STONE without really trying. I think it's important to see how much you can fall in love with a series. Oh, also with Boichi-sensei... Again, I've never met him in person... but the amount of passion he puts into his drawings makes it easy to keep reading the manga forever. And the more you read the manga, you see like, "Oh! They're using this part here!" or "They're using those materials here." He's really amazing with that. The characters' clothes even change ever so slightly. I think those details are easy to miss if you don't love the series. So that's why I try to make sure to fall in love with the series.
As a director, how do you take a 2D series and make it 3D and build a world out of that?
Iino: I think one of the hardest things about making Dr. STONE, which is also one of the things I'm most proud of now... Is that because the series is so face-paced, there are parts that seem abridged. In the series, there are times where locations suddenly change or there are time jumps. But despite that, in the manga, it flows really well and is easy to read. When we're making the anime, we're adding in sounds like dialogue and music. So I wanted to see how close we can get it to how it feels when you're reading the manga. But you can't simply just add these things to make that happen. You have to keep adjusting and figure out where you want to add the music and where you want the dialogue. That happens a lot when they're working on crafting. I think that was the part that I thought was the most challenging when adapting this manga into anime.
So you're pretty ahead on production, right?
Iino: Yes. No, not at all. Compared to other shows. Compared to others...? I'm trying my best not to compare this series with others.
Where are you in production right now?
Iino: Well, episode 3 is going to finish this week. But we're already in the process of making the first half of the show. Right now, three episodes are basically completely done. And then about half of the episodes are already in the animation stage.
How far from now does the first episode air?
Iino: The first episode will air in Japan on July 5th. So about two weeks for now? Right. So in Japan, it'll start airing on July 5th. So roughly, in two weeks, episode one will air.
How does it feel with it being so close finally?
Iino: We just recently completed episode one. We had spent the last year working on episode 1, so when it was finally done I will say that I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment. But now that it's done, I want everyone to hurry up and see it.
In anticipation for the season finale of Dr. STONE, we are publishing exclusive pieces all about our favorite exhilarating science show! Tune in this week for interviews, deep-dives, quizzes, and more!