By the Nozomi Entertainment Production Team, 2007
After Shawne returned from his whirlwind trip to New York Comic Con 2007 where he announced our license of The Third: The Girl With the Blue Eye, the rest of the department and I eagerly took home copies to find out what it was we’d be working with for the next year. My personal conclusion? Damn, I want a tank like that. I’ve seen girls-with-guns/mechs/tanks/etc anime before, but this is the first time since the Patlabor movie where I really felt like the concept really worked on a level above fanservice. Plus, Honoka is just the kind of heroine I’d like to see more of in anime today. And…
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. For those who aren’t already familiar with The Third, the story revolves around 17-year-old Honoka, your typical jack-of-all-trades girl who’ll take on any job short of killing someone. Honoka travels the desert doing odd jobs with Bogie, the coolest AI-controlled tank this side of Antarctica. It’s as she’s out traveling one night that she first meets Iks, a tall young blond man about to get himself killed by a pack of extremely territorial giant bugs.
That meeting triggers a series of events that eventually build up from simple adventures to an intense epic where the fate of the entire world is at stake. All the while, Honoka is kept under surveillance by a mysterious group called “The Third,” which seems especially interested in her journeys… Okay, so maybe Honoka’s not so typical after all. But work with me here.
The Third has been a special release for Right Stuf / Nozomi Entertainment in more ways than one. Most notably, The Third is our first collaboration with Japanese distributor Kadokawa Pictures USA. While we’re handling the production, promotion and distribution side of things, Kadokawa works with original production studio Xebec to get us the materials that we need. In addition, everything we produce is double-checked by Kadokawa’s team to ensure accuracy and make sure we’re bringing US fans the best possible release we can.
Another result of this partnership is that The Third has had one of our fastest production turnarounds ever. The decision was made to release the first volume of the series in July, as quickly after the Japanese R2 release as possible without actually being a simultaneous release.
One of the interesting consequences has been a major departure from our usual casting process. Typically, the process goes something like this: list out all of the characters you need voices for, send the list off to your director, get back auditions, perhaps ask for a few follow-up auditions to see if a promising new actor can handle some particularly intense scenes, and then make your selections. Instead, our production team and directors skipped directly to: “You know who would be totally awesome for this part? So-and-so! Let’s see if they’re available!” Putting together the voice cast was a lot like casting the latest Hollywood blockbuster. We needed voice acting veterans, and we needed them fast. Two of the first voices we cast that way were Angora Deb as Millie, the mechanic’s young daughter; and Carol Jacobanis as Paife, a woman with a cool demeanor and deadly aim.
Of course, it’s never quite that easy, and there are always roles which prove tricky to fill. For characters where our staff didn’t have anyone immediately in mind, our directors on both the east coast and west coast were consulted for suggestions, often taking us outside of our usual pool of actors. Sometimes, we were directed to actors’ online web portfolios showcasing their work. James Lyon’s impressed us so much he was immediately cast as Bogie.One of the biggest challenges turned out to be casting Iks when the actor we initially wanted to play his role turned out to be unavailable due to scheduling. Now, in Japanese, Iks has sort of a light, androgynous tone, typical of anime bishounen. But while that’s a common enough vocal trope in Japan, finding an American equivalent often feels nigh on impossible – auditions tend to turn up voices that are either too masculinely gruff or too femininely high pitched. Fortunately, after listening to numerous possibilities, one of our directors pointed us to Steve Cannon, and we had our Iks.
Of course, there was one character the production staff felt it important to hold auditions for regardless: Honoka. With a majority of the spoken lines and the main focus of the plot on her shoulders, Honoka carries the show. Her voice actress would have to have a playful side, a serious side, and be able to pull off all of the yelling and grunting of the action sequences. Anna Morrow, who just made her voice acting debut as Rio Hinayama in To Heart earlier this year, nailed the part.
Casting wasn’t the only part of The Third proving a challenge. The show represents our first return to 5.1 surround sound since Boogiepop Phantom, and our first anamorphic widescreen release ever. The production department worked overtime to make sure the sound and video would be as absolutely pristine as possible. On top of that, we piled on as many extras as we could, including interviews with the Japanese staff, music videos, and art galleries. The design team, just as committed as everyone else to the quality of the release, put together beautiful double-sided covers that emulated the sci-fi feel of the show, and in-depth printed booklets.
Our efforts paid off just five months after that February announcement, when we were able to showcase the first episode in all its audio and visual glory at Anime Expo, and the first DVD reached store shelves just a few weeks later. It was our first disc released under the new Nozomi Entertainment label, and we could hardly have asked for a better first release.
With so much work to do and so little time, producing The Third has been both a long and a short journey, much like Honoka’s own adventures. By the time you’re reading this, the series artbox will have just arrived at our warehouse - available with the third volume, naturally enough - and you’ll see the sixth and final DVD next spring. Make sure you stick around for the grand finale - like I mentioned, it’s pretty epic. And that goes for both the show and the making of.