I’m thrilled to tell you that we recently interviewed Shunsuke Tada, the director of Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These.
He revealed to us how the anime came to exist, the difference between directing sci-fi anime and sports anime such as Kuroko’s Basketball or Prince of Tennis. Also, he talked about why they decided to use 3D/CG instead of hand-drawn animation, and more.
Also, if you want to win a novel signed by him, keep reading until the end.
What is the “essence” of LoGH (what makes LoGH special)?
Tada: I would say it’s probably how even though the story is set in the distant future, it’s influenced by Tanaka-sensei’s [the author of the novels] extensive understanding of history.
Tada: Humans do not act strictly according to logic or principles; we also act on our emotions, and sometimes just do things for money.
Tada: In a sense, although the era is different, that’s more or less how civilization works.
Tada: Tanaka-sensei set out to write a story viewed through a historical lens, capturing the idea that however, peoples’ lifestyles differ or what legacies they leave behind, the same ideas and events repeat, even in the future.
Tada: Therefore, I’ve been very careful not to omit that aspect and reduce LoGH to mindless entertainment.
LoGH is a very popular work, and the scope of the story is also quite expansive. When you began work on the animation process for DNT, what kind of story did you plan to create?
Tada: We want to express that even in the future, humanity is essentially the same as ever, and that’s what we have to show in DNT.
Tada: In order to properly convey that, however, we have to adapt the entire original story! (laughs)
Tada: So from the beginning, the staff all said “We’re gonna have to cover the entire story, aren’t we?” (laughs)
How did DNT come to exist in the first place? Who’s idea was it to create a new anime?
Tada: To be perfectly honest, I don’t really know much about how the project was conceived (laughs).
Tada: I was chosen as director after Production I.G, the company producing the anime, gave it the green light.
Tada: There’s several different ways an anime might be greenlit. Take for example, Kuroko’s Basketball, which I directed.
Tada: The producer told me before the decision was made: “Tada-kun, we’re pitching this project with you as director, so I look forward to working with you if it gets approved!” (laughs)
Tada: Sometimes I become involved like that before it’s approved.
Tada: In that case, I was offered the job before the series got greenlit, and once it did, they said “We got approval, so can you do it?” But as for LoGH, the order was reversed, so I don’t really know how the project came to be.
What’s the main difference between directing sports series like Prince of Tennis or Kuroko’s Basketball, or mecha series and sci-fi series like DNT?
Tada: I’d say the main difference is having visual material to reference. In the case of Prince of Tennis or Kuroko’s Basketball, you’ve got the original comics to work with. That’s not to say the work is “easier,” however, but it helps.
Tada: For DNT, we deliberately did not reference the Ishiguro OVAs.
Tada: What we’re doing is going back to the original novels that were published 40 years ago and re-interpreting them.
Note: In Japan, the original LoGH anime adaptation is often referred to as the “Ishiguro version,” after the name of its director, Noboru Ishiguro.
Tada: There aren’t any visuals to work with, so we’re re-imagining all the visuals, setting and worldview, which takes an incredible amount of effort.
Tada: So that’s the biggest difference between DNT and my previous projects. We have source material to work with, but no visuals; we’re creating all that from scratch, which is quite difficult.
What is the brainstorming process like when you’re starting from scratch?
Tada: So there’s already the Ishiguro version—the complete animated adaptation.
Tada:With that in mind, one thing we have to be careful about is not to make “being different” the entire point of our work.
Tada:No good will come of just changing things for the sake of being different.
Tada: So it becomes a question of how we pay homage to the Ishiguro version while also saying “This is DNT, and this is what makes it unique.”
DNT has an entirely new voice cast. How were you involved in the casting/audition process?
Tada: For the main characters, I was present at the auditions. I can’t tell you the names of the people who we didn’t choose, but what we often did was have them audition in pairs.
Tada:For example, Reinhard and Kircheis are dear friends, so we’d try different pairings of voice actors auditioning together in order to see who could best express that.
Tada:For example, we’d try Mr. A + Mr. B, then Mr. A + Mr. D, and if we really liked Mr. D, we’d try him with Mr. C, and so on, trying different combinations when we held auditions for the main characters.
Mipon: Is that a common practice when holding auditions?
Tada: No, we rarely go to such lengths.
Tada:I think the reason we did so was because of the responsibility we felt towards LoGH. There have been people who, while we were deciding whether to cast them, received offers to voice lead characters on other shows.
Tada: Yet, despite that, for them to accept our offer to voice characters like Reinhard or Yang really demonstrates how the prestige of working with LoGH is on an entirely different level.
How long does the audition process normally take?
Tada: Usually about two to three weeks.
Tada: We’re not usually holding auditions every single day, but we can’t do everything in one day either, so we’ll follow up on a later day and try different pairings with people who made it through the last round of auditions.
Tada: After a day of auditions, we’d have a meeting with myself, Gunji-san the [series] Producer and producers from Shochiku, the film company.
Tada:We’d decide which voice actors to keep and maybe schedule them to audition again with different pairings, and so on.
How about other design-related aspects of the series?
Tada: For the character designs, we had planned from the beginning to aim for a traditional animation look, as opposed to a 3D/CG design like you’d find in a Disney or Pixar film.
Tada: That’s something from the Ishiguro version that we didn’t want to change. However, we did decide to use 3D/CG instead of hand-drawing the battleships and action sequences.
Tada: So one of the first things we discussed was how the action and battleships should look in 3D/CG.
Tada: My request was for the staff to make something that fit squarely between a live-action, Star Wars type of look and a cel-animation look.
Tada: That process of deciding how things should be designed took over a year.
Tada: That happens a lot in the production process—when the staff doesn’t know exactly what to aim for, it becomes a lengthy, laborious process of trial-and-error, and I’d get a lot of complaints.
Tada: Some people even told me “Tada-san, this is too much work. Let’s just go with the cel-animation look instead.”
Tada: They wanted to stick with the cel-animation style, in which they could hand-draw the battleships and color them more easily.
Tada: But I was very stubborn about it and asked them to tough it out. Because of that, the process took more than a year.
Was there a particular reason why you wanted to use 3D/CG?
Tada: It’s actually a more efficient process than hand-drawing. The bar that’s set for quality, and the standards we have to meet, are just so high nowadays that hand-drawing isn’t feasible in terms of time or budget.
Tada: While 3D/CG takes a lot of time in the pre-production stage, the process is ultimately faster.
Tada: A 3D/CG cut will cost quite a bit of money. But here’s the thing—you can reuse them.
Tada: Like I said before, we’re planning to cover all of the main story, like the 110-episode Ishiguro version.
Tada:The upfront costs are enormous, but being able to reuse the cuts ultimately works out cheaper than having to pay X-amount of yen every time.
Tada:Still, there’s no denying that the initial pre-production process of DNT is very time and resource-intensive.
The fourth season of DNT (“Intrigue”) is now showing in theaters in Japan as well as overseas streaming services. What would you like viewers to pay special attention to?
Note: Watch Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These here:
Crunchyroll: North America, Latin America, UK, Ireland, Nordics, Oceania, South Africa
AnimeDigitalNetwork: France and French-Speaking Europe
Tada: I touched on this earlier, but while this is a story about “Heroes,” we’re also focusing on the characters more closely, on a more personal level.
Tada: So I’d like viewers to appreciate the individual characters, including their motivations and actions.
Tada: Also, I hope they appreciate the 3D/CG battleships because we spent so much money on them! (laughs)
Tada: Seeing them on a massive theater screen is really the best way to enjoy it, in my opinion, but we’re also trying to create a genuinely entertaining experience for streaming the series at home too.
Note: In Japan, each season of DNT is first released as 3 separate movies before being available for streaming.
What it is that you’re trying to achieve or express through the creation of DNT?
Tada: In terms of the finished product, DNT might be similar to the Ishiguro version, in that it’s a story that’s mostly viewed by people who are almost entirely removed from actual war, as it was 40 years ago.
Tada: But they’re also similar in terms of the message the story expresses—that if we want to have better relationships with our friends and families, or realize a better society, we can’t simply be spectators.
Tada: Each of us has to take action. I think the point of the story is ultimately to encourage self-reflection.
Tada: It’s not just a story about brave heroes rising to the challenge.
Tada: It’s also meant to make you wonder what you would do if you were in a similar position, or if you could have persevered in similar situations.
Tada: I don’t consider the characters to be purely “fictional.” I think of them as real people, and that’s why I’m not just placing a camera in between them.
Tada: They’re like real people living real lives. But I don’t necessarily want viewers to feel like they’d have to act a certain way in the same position, or think “Oh man, I’ve been wrong about ___ my whole life!” (laughs)
Tada: I’m not trying to force people to reach a specific conclusion like that, or accomplish a specific goal through the series.
Tada: My take on the original story is that, by showing how history is made and what the people making that history do, it’s simply intended to make you think.
Tada: I suppose that, in this respect, the Ishiguro version and DNT have the same objective.
Tada: The reason why LoGH is receiving a new adaptation 40 years after the novels were published is that such themes are universal.
Tada: I said this in our very first production meeting—that in a Sci-Fi story, so long as humans are still “human” and haven’t abandoned their physical bodies and entered the Matrix, or just become disembodied souls or whatever, they’ll always be the same.
Tada: Even a thousand years from now, people will still be more or less the same. They’ll want to eat good food, they’ll need sleep, and so on.
Tada: That central theme of LoGH will always be the same, so even if in another 20 or 30 years, someone may decide to make another adaptation based on modern society, because that central theme will still remain relevant.
I definitely recommend you watch Legend Of The Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These. LoGH is one of my favorite sci-fi stories of all time.
The story and characters are incredibly well written, and Tada-san has done a fantastic job with his new interpretation of a beloved classic.
Finally, do you want to win a copy of the novel by Tada-san himself?
He was kind enough to sign a copy of the original LoGH novels, which we’ll be giving away to our readers!
Subscribe to our Youtube channel because we’ll be making a big announcement soon!
If you’re already subscribed, then just keep an eye out for the news. As always, if you’ve got any questions, feel free to get in touch through Twitter or Instagram.
Thanks to Production I.G , Tada-san, Katsufumi Hashimitsu from RRJ, and everyone that made this interview possible.
Interview and Translation: Karl Bruder.
© YOSHIKI TANAKA/Legend of the Galactic Heroes Die Neue These Production Committee
When did you first discover “Legend of the Galactic Heroes?” (LoGH)?
Shunsuke Tada: My first encounter [with LoGH] was when I saw a teaser visual for the film release of My Conquest is the Sea of Stars, which came out after [Yoshiki] Tanaka-sensei’s novels were published, in an anime magazine.
At that point, I wasn’t familiar with the original work, but I thought the visual looked really cool, so I decided to go see the movie.
That’s when I became fascinated with LoGH. The film only adapted a tiny portion of the original story, and I wanted to know what happened next. So I went out and bought the whole novel series.
What were your first impressions of LoGH when you first saw the teaser visual and when you read the novels?
Tada: I of course knew what some characters looked like, since they appeared in the film, but as for the ones that didn’t, there was no canon design yet. So while I was reading the novels, I enjoyed imagining how they looked in my mind.
Tada: To be honest though, my impressions of the novels and anime are somewhat different.
Tada: When I read the novels, I was still just a student and hadn’t yet become a professional [in the anime industry].
Tada: Anyhow, for a long time, I could only imagine the story in my head as I read the novels. So by the time the [OVA] anime came out, there was a surprisingly big difference between what I had imagined things looked like and how they appeared in the anime.
How did your feelings toward LoGH change between when you first experienced the story and when you became the director of Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These (DNT)?
Tada: Like the title suggests, the main characters, Yang Wen-Li and Reinhard von Lohengramm are meant to be “heroic” in a certain sense. I think that’s very important, and I’ve always felt that way, back when I read the novels in my youth as well as today.
Tada: My stance, in terms of portraying them like heroic figures from Japan’s “Warring States” period (the Sengoku era, 15th-16th centuries), for example, hasn’t changed at all. But while my view of the characters as heroes hasn’t changed, my vision of the overall story has somewhat evolved. The world has changed significantly since I first read the novels, and today, I can’t simply view this story as akin to a cool historical drama about samurai warriors.
How did you react when they asked you to direct DNT?
Tada: I was asked this not long after DNT was announced, but I’ve always been a fan of science fiction. I became a director after spending time working on the production side—not animation, but scheduling and project management—and at the time, I was working on a robot/mecha anime.
Tada: Anyhow, I’d always loved Sci-Fi and mecha series, and anytime I had the chance to talk with [Production I.G] President Ishikawa, I’d mention “Gosh, I’d sure love to direct something set in space or with lots of robots fighting…” (laughs)
Earlier, you told us a little bit about how you became the director for DNT. Could you please elaborate on that?
Tada: Well, like I said earlier, I tried to drop hints like “It’d be fun to work on something besides a sports series…” while talking to President Ishikawa. I don’t know whether he remembered that or if it was just coincidence, but he did eventually offer me the position.
He asked me “Hey Tada-san, have you ever heard of LoGH?” and I said “Yes, I’m a huge fan.” Then he asked “How would you like to work on a Sci-Fi story like that?”
Inside my head, I was saying “Were you listening the first thousand times I said I’ve always wanted to do a space anime!?” (laughs) Anyway, I immediately told him “Yes, of course. If Production I.G decides to do it, please consider me.”