Today, we are going to be interviewing Yuzuru Tachikawa, the writer, and director of Deca-Dence!
In addition to Deca-Dence, he has also worked on many other anime productions like:
- Death Parade (Director and writer)
- Mob Psycho 100 Season 1 and Season 2 (Director)
- Detective Conan: Zero the Enforcer (Director)
And here is the interview; we hope you enjoy it:
Note: It doesn’t matter if you haven’t watched Deca-Dence yet, you’ll still like the interview. We asked him questions like: “how much control do you have over the process of selecting voice actors for each character?”
Click in the image below or in this link to watch the interview.
Or, if you prefer to read the interview, here is the transcript of it:
What made you want to direct anime?
Tachikawa-sensei: For me, it was Terminator 2. It was full of amazing, cutting-edge visual effects. And I was really curious about how they made the film, so I read lots of magazine articles and watched behind-the-scenes specials about it. Like, that part where Arnold [Schwa-chan] jumps off that cliff on his motorcycle.
Of course, he’s suspended by cables, but…how should I put it? It’s not like I just said “Oh, they used cables. Cool. “The cables weren’t visible in the actual film and learning exactly how they shot it so that you didn’t see the cables was fascinating. That’s how I developed an interest in how films are made and the overall production process.
You directed Mob Psycho 100 which is based on a manga. Death Parade and now Deca-dence are anime originals. What are the main differences between directing an original anime and one that has a source material?
T: When working on an existing title, the director’s most important job is capturing and reproducing what makes the source material great. That’s always the top priority. Whether you’re taking the lead in guiding the story is a huge factor, of course.
But with an original work, there’s no pre-set direction or anything, in which case, you’re responsible for making every single decision about what happens.
How do you decide when to keep something faithful to the source material or alter it for the anime?
T: Making those decisions is a large part of it. I think that as long as you don’t mess with the core elements, then it’s fine if you make a fair bit of changes when adapting a work into animated content.
When you read manga, for example, you can go at your own pace, or even go back a page if you want to check something. You’re able to skip around and control the speed of the narrative. But with video, there’s only one predetermined viewing pace.
T: That influences how you experience the story. Introducing music to a scene also has a major effect.
Tachikawa: So, with animation, my personal style is to be more hands-on and willing to make changes.
What was your creative process like in Deca-Dence?
T: Since Deca-Dence is an original series, me and a handful of people like the producers from Kadokawa and the production team get together and work out the general plot from start to finish.
From there, we bring in the writers and start on the actual script. With Deca-Dence though, after we finished the script for the final episode, we went back to the beginning and rearranged some things, which is rather unique.
How do you organize your ideas? Do you draw concept art in a sketchbook or keep notes on your computer?
T: I carry around a small notepad for jotting down ideas. Just a little one where I write little memos in. Most recently, I’ve been writing stuff about interesting people I meet. Like when I went to the electronics store, I was there to buy kitchen appliances, but the old lady working there kept recommending light bulbs…
She was in charge of the lighting department, but she went all the way over to the home section, for kitchen appliances, She was hell-bent on selling me lighting going on and on about “lumens,” how strong the lights were, and such. Even though I never said anything about lights.
So later I made a note of that. I nicknamed her the “Lumen Lady,” and made notes about how she looked, how she talked. That was the most recent example, I think.
How did you become the director of Deca-Dence?
T: Around the time I finished work on Death Parade, a producer from KADOKAWA reached out to me and suggested we work together.
T: That was when it all started. The producer for Dece-Dence, Mr. Tsunoki, also worked on Death Parade. So, we sort of casually decided to team up again. That was the starting point, but it was quite a while ago.
What is the greatest challenge/worry so far working on this project?
T: Until now, I’ve never worked on a series that incorporates two completely different worldviews switching between scenes with these comical-looking cyborgs and this cruel, unforgiving world of conflict. Alternating scenes like that was a new approach.
As a director, do you make decisions about things like casting? Do you choose the voice actors yourself? How is it done, exactly?
T: We typically hold auditions and choose lines for people to read. Then we have a meeting and share our opinions. We’ll write “Yes / No / Maybe” for this person…
Maybe not that precise, but we give them a general idea of what we’re looking for, then we choose a few lines for them to read aloud, and see if they really get what this character is all about.
We have them form their own image of the character based on limited information and express that.
T: It’s a very time-consuming process. If their image is totally different than ours. Then, unfortunately, we have to turn them down. But if they really “get” the character from such basic details, it really leaves an impression on us.
For us, we don’t explain every single detail in-depth to each person who auditions. That’s mainly on purpose, to see how close they come to what we consider the right answer. I think that’s an essential skill for a voice actor.
Where does the inspiration for this story and characters come from?
T: The story itself is more or less a classic sci-fi kind of scenario at least at its core. Personally, I’m also a big fan of western-style animation like Pixar. I watch quite a bit of it. I wanted to include something like that.
For example, in production meetings, the movie Wreck-it Ralph came up a lot. From the beginning, I wanted to merge western-style and Japanese-style animation into one series.
Where does the inspiration for the cyborgs come from?
T: The base design is more or less from scratch but as a vague starting point. Do you know the Minions? The little yellow guys from Despicable Me?
In our meetings, we had a really vague idea that the cyborgs should give off a similar vibe.
T: The thing is if you suggest something too specific the result will be too specific as well. We want to see what the designers can come up with so we make a point to not be too exact.
How do you or your team decide a character’s name?
T: For the main characters, we decided when there was just the three of us working at the start. Anyway, I suggested names for the main characters around that point. We had the writers think of names for the secondary characters.
Who is your favorite character?
Tachikawa: For me, the most memorable would be Kaburagi.
T: Since he’s the protagonist a lot of myself is subconsciously projected onto him and forms part of his character.
Do you relate yourself to any of the characters?
T: I guess it would be Kaburagi. A lot of people say tell me I’m a bit like Reigen from Mob Psycho 100. When it comes to main characters, I have a strong attachment to them and that sort of rubs off on the characters themselves. I’d say that does happen sometimes.
Is there a part of Kaburagi’s personality or a certain scene where part of you shows through?
T: I guess…
People sometimes tell me it’s hard to read my expression. Or that I seem a bit indifferent at times. Maybe that at first glance I seem a bit cold. I’m pretty cheerful like that on the inside but maybe it doesn’t show as much outwardly.
Are there any characters (cyborgs) who don’t play Deca-Dence?
T: It’s not really discussed much in the series itself there’s a brief mention of a place called Chimney Town. It’s this town that’s shaped like a chimney or smokestack.
T: There are some cyborgs in that town that don’t play the game. The main story doesn’t go into their everyday lives and such though.
Do you have any ideas in mind as to what those cyborgs might be doing instead then?
T: Cyborgs are all created by these separate corporations. For example, if there was a corporation like Amazon that did deliveries all the cyborgs would be doing that.
And if there was another one like Google their cyborgs might do something else. So, the basic setting is that cyborgs are doing the work of the corporation that created them.
How the Deca-Dence fortress was built? Can you tell us how the humans in this story ended up relocating and transitioning to life inside of Deca-Dence and how these classes of “Gears” and “Tankers” became established?
T: Well, when the series begins Deca-Dence has already existed for hundreds of years. If we compare that to our world that’s the equivalent of the Bakumatsu period in Japan for example. Maybe even earlier.
If we go that far back in time, we see a vastly different culture different kinds of people living there. It’s an entirely different world I would say. So, the transition didn’t happen all at once. It’s more like how in the Edo period there weren’t many foreign people in Japan but nowadays it’s completely normal, right?
There aren’t really any problems with accepting or assimilating but back then it would have been quite a shock for people. In the same sort of way people gradually got used to the idea of classes like “Gears.” It eventually became obvious.
T: Over generations, concepts like people fighting monsters outside the fortress gradually took root and became a natural thing. If humans were suddenly thrown into that situation they couldn’t acclimate to it, right?
So instead there’s a transition that take place over a long period of time.
In Deca-Dence, we constantly listen to the phrase “The world needs to get rid of the errors”, is there a deeper meaning to that which applies to our society??
T: I think “bugs” are simply defined by rules someone else made.
T: They’re considered problematic from someone else’s viewpoint. So, this series is somewhat about rejecting that idea and living by what you think is right. And also, that change is a natural part of life. That’s a theme of the story but I think you can also apply that to the real world.
The cliffhangers in Deca-Dence are fantastic, what’s the formula of creating a good cliffhanger?
T: Like I said earlier the writers complete the full story and then we go back and reorganize it from the episode. During that process, we’re very focused on where to stop and create suspense.
We definitely try to find what we think is the best stopping point, but we also have to consider the overall balance. Like if we don’t make it to this point by this episode, we won’t have time to cover the rest of the story.
Finding that balance is challenging and if our decisions create excitement for the viewers that’s the best outcome.
What’s your favorite scene?
T: In episode 7, Natsume hadn’t really shown much of her weaker side to anyone. But with Kaburagi or rather while he’s in a different body there’s this back-and-forth scene at dusk where Natsume really opens up to someone.
Tachikawa: That’s the moment when Kaburagi resolves to take action.
The point when he knows what he has to do and really commits. This is the turning point of the series. So, I really like this part.
Are there any images or “hints” you want fans to notice in the OP/ED or episode 5.5 on YouTube?
T: The OP in particular which fans have seen every episode gives you a lot of material to imagine or speculate about. In making the OP we carefully planned it so that you could anticipate the overall story arc. In meetings, we’d say “Well this happens in the story so let’s work it into the visuals somehow.”
We gathered all sorts of ideas along those lines in a way that regardless of whether fan’s predictions were correct they’d still enjoy analyzing it.
After each episode do you read the fans’ comments and get a feel for how they reacted to the new developments?
T: Well, the series isn’t finished just yet but it’s very important to me that I understand how viewers respond versus how I thought they might. I want to know how those two differ as well. Like “Oh I had this in mind, but it can also be interpreted that way…” and such.
I want to make sure that viewers really enjoyed this part or whether that part resonated with them. You can get an idea of how well your vision came across.
But what we can’t overlook is that after writing so many scripts over such a long span of time what’s become obvious or unmistakable to you isn’t necessarily such to people seeing it for the first time.
So, it’s always refreshing to learn how the audience reacts. It’s always a valuable experience for future writing to know how or why our intentions may have differed from expectations.
As an anime director do you have any suggestions or advice for aspiring anime directors?
T: I think what you should do is really pinpoint what you’re passionate about. Now more than ever there are more ways to express yourself. In the past, you couldn’t share your own works through Twitter or other platforms.
T: It just wasn’t possible to reach that many people that easily. But nowadays it’s actually quite common for people who upload their work online and happen to catch the attention of industry insiders and be directly contacted. So, you shouldn’t just imitate existing stuff or pay too much attention to what’s popular at the moment but rather take something you really love and add your own original touch to it.
Picking something to really focus on is in the end the fastest route to achieving your goals. So, say you like insects for example. Like you’re really fascinated by them. Creating an insect anime focusing on that and actually creating something is how you become a director.
Tachikawa: Do something you really like instead of cobbling together popular ideas.
You’ve done comedy (Mob Psycho), psychological thrillers (Death Parade), and now science fiction with Deca-Dence. What’s the next genre that you would like to work on?
T: Maybe horror. Something more violent. I’d like to do something along those lines.
How about a love story?
T: Sure, why not? I might blend the two genres though. Oh, like a “horror love story?” As for a standard romance, I’m not so sure. But it could be fun now that I think about it. I guess what I find difficult are the genre’s requirements. I’d prefer something where there are fewer limitations.
Besides watching Deca-Dence on legal streaming platforms like Funimation, what’s the best way to support this Deca-Dence?
T: In its current form, the industry isn’t really designed to support that. But fans overseas are very eager to express their support online. For example, on social media lots of fans post derivative works like fanfiction or fanart. That’s a great way to show support even if might not seem to have a direct influence.
T: From that, we can clearly see that we’re gaining fans. Fans taking the time to create that kind of content is definitely a source of support for us.
Is Deca-Dence having a second season?
T: Until you’ve seen episode it might be difficult to imagine how exactly but you’ll see that everyone’s story still continues from there.
Tachikawa: So maybe if there’s a way to express something new in a different format then I’d definitely like to pursue that idea.
Is there anything you would like to say to your overseas fans?
T: Yes. Episode 11 ended on a really big development, so I’m sure lots of fans are very eager to find out what happens. Rest assured that in true storytelling fashion the final episode will be full of excitement, and I hope everyone enjoys it.
End of interview.
Did you watch Deca-Dence? Who is your favorite character? Let me know in the comments below.
Here is the link to the video interview:
Editor: Chelsea McWillis
DISCLAIMER: All the images above were used with the permission of KADOKAWA. Thank you for being always cool KADOKAWA.