Last weekend, at the BFI Anime Weekend, Tiger & Bunny was one of the headline titles being shown, in it’s European premiere exclusive to this event. Following the film, the Director or Tiger & Bunny: The Rising, Yoshitomo Yonetani, had a Q & A panel to answer some questions from fans about the film and the series.
Since some of the questions are about the new film, there may be a few slight spoilers, which have been marked as [Potential Spoiler] above the question.
“In this film we talked about these new characters who had to be cast, I’m not sure how it works in Japan from an anime point of view, whether there’s a lot of actors who are foremost voice actors or whether actually they are just actors… Is there a tradition of voice actors for anime or do you just bring in the best actors you can find?”
With films, you often get actors playing the parts .. but because Tiger & Bunny came from a TV series and we wanted to respect that, we used a lot of voice actors who do voiceovers and dubbing.
“One I wanted to ask was about the character of Fire Emblem, for example. Sometimes when sexuality comes into film… sometimes there’s a very delicate balance between being sensitive and portraying characters with respect and moving over into a stereotype. I wondered how aware and concerned you were with portraying that character honestly? ”
I was very, very careful with that.
“In terms of the Tiger & Bunny journey… Do you envisage there being another film? How does the journey continue?”
That’s very direct. There were so many plans and ideas that we had. there was an idea to set part of it in London, there was an idea to use the Minack theatre as a setting. There’s lots and lots of big ideas but they had to be whittled down to what you’ve just seen. So we’ll leave it up to the producers to get lots of opinions and figure out what we want to do.
“What superpower would you have?”
Well, I’m getting on a bit, a bit like Kotetsu. I find I can’t concentrate, my eyes get tired, so I’d like a body that can keep working.
“How did you go about not breaking them up [Kotestu & Barnaby], but breaking them up [for the new film]”
I guess I feel the same as you, I love the Tiger & Bunny combination and I wouldn’t want to split them up. I think having Ryan there was something to pull in the punters really, it was to throw people off-guard, to make them wonder what was going to happen and it was kind of a promotional thing to get “The Rising” noticed.
“How did you create the series, Tiger & Bunny, did you get a comic book inspiration from Marvel or DC?”
There wasn’t an original manga the TV series was based on and I wasn’t the director right at the beginning of the TV series, but I was involved, I was working for the company and I was involved from the planning stage, so I saw it grow up and I was involved in the storyboarding from the first episode. We wanted something that wasn’t run-of-the-mill. It was going to be about superheroes but it wasn’t going to what you were expecting. It had to be something different and there was opposition to that because we wanted to show the flip-side to the heroes, the non-heroic side. So, there was opposition but everyone was really keen to do it this way and as a result we’re here.
“Is there any scene that you wish you could have expanded upon, after seeing the fans’ reactions to it?”
No. (laughs from audience)
We went over and over it so many times and made so many changes that it’s striking a very careful balance and one step either way I think that balance would be broken. So, I think there’s no way to better it.
“There are a couple of pivotal moments where some of the adult male characters refer to themselves as ‘boku’ instead of ‘ore’ or ‘watashi’… I was wondering if that had a meaning that maybe western audiences wouldn’t have picked up on.”
The way you refer to yourself in Japanese shows something about your personality. So, the same character may refer to themselves differently at different times which shows the way that they’ve changed psychologically.
“In the battle sequences, the cuts are very fast. So, I’m wondering how do you think about the choices you make of how fast you cut in the battle sequences between trying to show action and maybe what’s difficult for the audience to even understand. And, has the speed of cuts increased over time over the last ten years or so?”
They are getting faster, because the way that people watch films as a medium is changing. People tend more and more to go and see the same film several times, so things that they might not notice the first time, they might discover on subsequent viewings. it’s what we call the ‘Aha moment’ , and people find that more enjoyable.
“You’ve probably been asked this a lot, but with Kotetsu especially, he’s a very human character, what was the inspiration to go for an older superhero because that’s not very often seen in anime? “
From the planning stage, I wasn’t involved in that, but the producers and the scenario writers really wanted something different. In Sunrise and other animation studios, there hasn’t been an example of a successful anime that an ‘old guy’ as the main character, so there was an awful lot of opposition. But, times are changing and the staff were adamant that this was what they wanted.
“Nathan, Fire Emblem, was the only character in the series that didn’t have an episode about him … With such a character with a very sensitive aspect to him, was there ever a plan to give him an episode in the original series and did you feel a lot of pressure to get his story right this time?”
There’s a sense that you have a limited number of episodes in a TV series, so there are characters that you would like to go into more depth, but there’s just no time within the series to do that. In fact, Rock Bison was the other one that we would have liked to go deeper with, but we realised that actually that’s a character that the less you actually say about him, the more you know about him.
“I wanted to ask about the evil executive Schneider, is he based on a real life figure? “
Actually, the character of Mark Schneider, he was originally, when I had a rough design of him, was going to be this little, weak-looking guy. But the character designer, Masakazu Katsura, said that if we made him look too weak, then people would feel sorry for him when the heroes were going after him and attacking him. So, I think this [the final design] is better.
“I was wondering which hero is your favourite and why?”
In ‘The Beginning’, my favourite hero was Lunatic, I suppose he’s a dark hero rather than a hero but, the fact that he’s intent on his own form of justice even if it wasn’t right. But, with ‘The Rising’ it was more about getting inside yourself and finding your own true self and accepting everything about yourself, even your weaknesses and that even without any actual strength or heroic powers, you could be a hero. So, in this one, I like Kaede who has that NEXT power but doesn’t use it until the very, very end when her hand gets bigger. Other people had different opinions what we should do with that but I liked it.
“Since the voice actors for Tiger & Bunny have been with the show since the anime, the live show, The Beginning, hero radio, drama CDs and now The Rising. Would you say that the voice actors have become very attached to their characters now, maybe they have their own ideas about the characters and their behaviours? “
I think so. I think they have their ideas, they say “if I were Kotetsu, this is what I would say” for their own characters, but it sort of changed because as far up to The Beginning, they would change their lines around but for The Rising, we’d worked so hard on the script that they took that and just worked with the way that they spoke the lines and the way they acted.
Thanks to Anime Limited & BFI for hosting the Anime Weekend at BFI Southbank, along with Bethan Jones for translating during the Q & A panel.