The following is an exclusive interview with the original creator and director, Ryosuke Takahashi, along with his assistant director, Goro Taniguchi, providing a brief insight into the changes that Gasaraki underwent during the production process.
It seemed as though things proceeded according to the original plan up to around when they return from Belgistan, and then it felt like the story became more influenced by the momentum of the production.
Takahashi: I think that's pointing to right around when Nishida shows up, but the truth is, our plans for how the story develops changed drastically during that period. Which is to say, while I didn't have anything concrete, I did have in my mind what the final scene would be. But that ended up changing.
Taniguchi: I remember the scene that you initially described...
Takahashi: You know how there are documentaries where they use aerial photography to shoot a scene along some Tibetan mountain range at four to five thousand meter elevation, and then the camera suddenly zooms out to show you this vast, pure space? I wanted a scene like that and to have Yushiro and Miharu standing there naked after they'd been sent down from the moon... An image to evoke the idea of a fresh start from nothing. But it started looking like I wouldn't be able to use it.
Taniguchi: We figured out partway through that it didn't seem like the story would allow us to get to the moon. Plus, the nuance of the ending for those two seemed like it would be changing a little.
Takahashi: With me, I don't always craft stories with their final scenes fixed in my mind, but when I do, the process becomes about how to manipulate the story and characters to get to that final scene.
Taniguchi: Most writers are like that, too. And when that's the case, the challenge lies in how to structure the story and flesh things out.
Takahashi: But when the major premise of your story, the thing that you'd been aiming towards as a goal, becomes unusable, you have no choice but to reorganize everything. And that restructuring took place around where they return from Belgistan.
Does this sort of change in direction happen a lot?
Takahashi: Things didn't really change enough to call it a "change in direction" though.
Taniguchi: It's one thing if you're dealing with a single-season series of just 13 episodes total, but when you get to two- season series like Gasaraki or something even longer, you're almost always coming up with the details of your future episodes while producing your current episodes. So, you do get the occasional show where the story veers off course from the initial plan. The important thing is not to prevent this from happening, but rather, about how smoothly you incorporate those changes.
Takahashi: Nishida was a character we introduced in order to make the transition smooth. But once he came into the mix, he brought his own unexpected complications. The character I had in mind was a younger, good-looking, composed, Zhuge Liang sort of man. But then Mr. Murase, the character designer, came up with a design of an older man. When I saw that, it got me waffling, "Oh, we could go in this direction, too," and that was how it got started (laugh). The popularity and directionality of the show changed because of Nishida, after all.
When the show was airing, some comments were made about how the studio was an unstoppable force when it came to Nishida.
Taniguchi: It's true, that character changed quite a bit from what Ryosuke initially expected. Whenever directorial and animation staff insistently pressed Ryosuke with suggestions about how Nishida should be, he would yield to them in the belief that those ideas would be good for the show...Truly, what you might call "pressure" (laugh). There was also that time when Ryosuke wanted to change Nishida's outfit halfway through and got rejected as an impossibility by the production desk (laugh).
Takahashi: Well, it wasn't that I wanted to change his outfit. I just wanted it to match the situation. I remember this well. He's blinded himself, so fundamentally, he doesn't go out. Because of that, he normally wears a casual men's kimono. But a man who embodies the spirit of Japanese virtue and refinement would never go to the Diet Building dressed like that. He's not a Yakuza gangster, after all (laugh). When I stated this, the production desk said it was too late for that... I should have noticed it at a much earlier stage, but it had slipped through the cracks during the checking process. But the final spirit of the show is something I do check on, and if there was anything that contradicted that spirit, I wanted to do everything in my power to do something about it. So I said I wanted him wearing ceremonial hakama pants, even if we had to do it as a still shot.
Taniguchi: From the production desk's perspective, in coordinating the schedule, you want to minimize any work that wasn't planned for and save your studio as many headaches as possible. The thing is, they happened to have this conversation within earshot of the studio's staff. And instead of being glad of the production desk's concern for them, everyone on the floor ended up siding with Ryosuke...
Takahashi: Well, it's these unexpected, or perhaps, unplanned events that can sometimes change the direction of the story (laugh).
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