I’m so excited to tell you that we interviewed Kei Sazane, the mastermind behind Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World (KimiSen).
Sazane-sensei gave us a lot of interesting facts about KimiSen. You’ll love the interview!
This is PART 1 of the interview, we’ll post PART2 in the upcoming weeks so make sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you will be notified when it is posted.
Here’s PART 1, hope you enjoy it:
Mipon: Could you explain what makes KimiSen special? How do you make it stand out from other magical fantasy stories?
Kei Sazane-sensei: Within the magical fantasy genre, KimiSen is what I would call a “Magic Battle” story.
When I started writing KimiSen, I really wanted to put more emphasis on interpersonal and romance story elements, not to the extent of a conventional love story, but so that there was equal focus on action and romance.
S: Honestly, I’d describe the relationship between Iska and Alice as “affection,” rather than passionate “love.”
They’re fighting against each other, but I also wanted them there to be an emotional side to the story as well.
M: Looking at the popularity rankings for fall 2020, when KimiSen aired, the series appears to have done very well. In your opinion, what is the reason for its success? Are there any particularly interesting scenes or aspects of the story that helped it become popular?
S: I really enjoyed the anime myself, and there are certain scenes in each episode that I particularly like.
As for KimiSen in general, I think the expressiveness of the characters really makes it special.
You’ve got illustrations in the light novel, and of course, lots of panels in the manga, but I think the anime is wonderful because you can see everyone’s facial expressions and body language change in real-time.
For example, in episode 2 or episode 7, when Alice gets embarrassed, you can see the transition as her face gradually becomes redder and redder. Or in episode 6, when Mismis finds out she now has an astral crest.
She’s distraught and sobbing until Iska manages to comfort her and get her to smile. The anime staff did a great job creating that fluid transition from crying to comfort.
On that same note, KimiSen’s anime had two directors: (Shin) Oonuma-san and (Mirai) Minato-san.
S: Both of them got really into the light novel and knew it really well, so they had a good idea of what kind of face each character would be making during a given scene.
They read the light novel very closely and thanks to that, they did a fantastic job interpreting the story and adapting it into an anime.
M: Two directors? What was that like?
S: Both had their own slightly different responsibilities.
Minato-san was in charge of planning and organizing the overall scenario, while Oonuma-san directed specific scenes and gave precise instructions for details like facial expressions and also acting direction during the voice recording process.
It’s thanks to their talent that the characters’ expressions are so rich.
M: If one of the directors wanted to make some changes to the story for the anime adaptation, would they discuss it with you first?
S: From the beginning, we wanted the anime to be as faithful to the light novel as possible. I was even there during the entire scriptwriting process.
Of course, there are some lines and very specific details that we had to cut out, but aside from the chronological order of some parts, we stayed true to the source material.
The only major exception was the climax fight in episode 12.
S: Since it was the final episode, we wanted to make it feel more like a proper climax, so I made the suggestion of creating an anime-original “last boss” that wasn’t from the source material.
The staff allowed me to write the script for that part, and they adapted it for me.
M: How did KimiSen become a light novel?
S: Volume 1 came out in 2017, but I had begun planning the story back in 2014, three years earlier. I finished the final draft in 2015, but it took two years to get the first volume published.
Typically, since volume 1 was completed in 2015, it would have been published that same year.
S: Unfortunately, it wasn’t published that quickly because we were still looking for the right illustrator. KimiSen is a fantasy story, and there aren’t really that many illustrators who can do fantasy.
The world in which KimiSen takes place is very vivid and colorful—for example, the astral spirits each have their unique colors—so my editor and I searched for an illustrator who specializes in fantasy. They were very patient and gave me lots of time to find someone.
M: You worked with Nekonabe-sensei for KimiSen, but looking at your previous works, it seems that they all have a different illustrator. Is it challenging to work with someone new every time?
S: There’s no particular reason why they’re different each time. With light novels, having a different illustrator for each separate series is actually quite normal.
Assistant Editor: That’s how it works about 98% of the time. It’s quite rare to have the same illustrator work with the author on a different series. Usually, it’s someone else each time.
I’d say it’s the industry norm to work with someone different each time. Of course, I still keep in touch with illustrators who’ve worked with me on the previous series, like Miho Takeoka, who illustrated my debut novel (Tasogareiro no Uta Tsukai), or Akira Kasukabe (Hyouketsu Kyoukai no Eden, Fukanzen Shinseiki Iris).
They’ve even sent me congratulatory illustrations before KimiSen’s anime aired. I’m very touched to know they still support my work, even after we finished working together.
And of course, thanks to Twitter and the like, it’s very easy to keep in touch or reach out to new illustrators with who you feel a connection.
M: On the topic of illustrators, how much of the character design do you typically leave up to the illustrator, and how much do you dictate? For KimiSen, how closely did you work with Nekonabe-sensei?
S: For Iska, I explained my basic image to Nekonabe-sensei: his height, build, personality, and such. After that, I let them decide the finer details.
S: Meanwhile, for Alice, I really didn’t request much aside from her having blonde hair and the color of her dress. Most things I’ll leave to the illustrator’s discretion.
Sometimes, like when discussing Alice’s dress color with Nekonabe-sensei, I asked them to prepare about four color variations from which I decided on one. After that, I mostly left the specifics up to them.
M: A lot of overseas fans were wondering about Alice’s bust size. Was that your decision or Nekonabe-sensei’s?
Suzane: It was mostly Nekonabe-sensei’s decision, but I explained to them that I originally imagined Alice as full-figured, in contrast to Rin’s proportions.
That’s how I remember it happening anyway [laughs], but Nekonabe-sensei does tend to draw characters with larger busts.
I think they prefer that well-proportioned body type in general. Nene’s design is similar in that respect as well.
S: Also, Nekonabe-sensei prefers very long hairstyles for female characters, which they’ve said on Twitter before.
So, with each illustrator, you really get to see their unique styles and preferences reflected in the character designs.
M: There are some occasional fanservice scenes in the anime as well. For example, the scene with Alice in episode 7. Did the directors add those?
S: That was in the light novel as well. But rather than fanservice, I’d say it’s intended to be cute. My editor and I discussed this a lot, but even if Nekonabe-sensei’s illustrations feature someone with a lot of exposed skin, they’re very artistic.
The way the color and shade of the skin really elevates it above “crude” artwork. We felt like that kind of illustration wouldn’t make KimiSen seem overly sexual, and so I think scenes like the one from episode 7 don’t fall into that category.
S: With the anime, the acting was mainly left up to the voice actors themselves.
The reactions from viewers were very positive, so as long as they enjoyed it, I think it was done well. KimiSen’s story largely revolves around war, and I felt that the mood might get too dark unless there were some changes to ease the tension, which is why I included scenes like this one.
M: I was a bit curious about that scene, actually. Did Alice step out of the bath like that knowing Iska was in the room? Or was it just an accident?
S: Alice is a princess, of course, so it’s natural for Rin to be there waiting to attend to her after she’s taken her bath. But she forgot that Iska was also there and walked right over to Rin while still naked.
S: The point of the scene was to show how Iska had also become an equally natural existence to Alice. She didn’t consider him an enemy—if she did, she probably wouldn’t have been caught off guard like that.
The confidence Alice feels in knowing Iska wouldn’t do anything bad is a sign that the “barrier” she’d constructed around her heart is gradually opening up.
Granted, it’s also a [fan] service scene [laughs], but it does have that significance in terms of story.
M: Let’s return to the topic of the light novel. How involved are you with the process of adapting the novel into manga?
S: I prepare various setting and story resources for the manga artist, Okama-sensei, including sketches and images of characters, locations, objects, and costumes.
S: I hand all that over to Okama-sensei, along with a written summary of the plot. Okama-sensei then adapts the dialogue for the manga, sends it to me for checking, and once I approve that, they draw up a storyboard, which I again check for things like character expressions and reactions.
If there’s anything I’d like changed, I may say something like: “I think this character should look/react like this instead” and have that bit redone. Once all that’s finished, I mostly leave the rest to Okama-sensei.
M: And how about the anime adaptation? How deeply are you involved with that?
S: This is the first time one of my works has been adapted into anime, so I was fairly hands-off and left most of it up to the directors, series designer, actors, and the other staff.
But like I mentioned earlier, the directors had carefully read the source material and frequently asked me for feedback. “Sazane-sensei, what do you think about this?” or “Would it be okay if we tried that?” and so on.
I mainly answered questions about characters and settings, or how we could cut or rearrange scenes in order to stay within the episode time constraints.
S: I was also present for the voice recording process. The director of the audiography and Oonuma-san are in charge of things, but I advise the actors as well. For example, I helped shape the attitudes and feelings of affection between Iska and Alice over the course of the 12 episodes.
Like in episode 1, they’re both enemies, but they begin to open up little by little from episode 2, so I asked the voice actors to speak their lines in a way that reflects that.
Note: We asked off-camera about Sazane-sensei’s involvement in the voice actors’ selection.
The editorial department of Fantasia Bunko told us that in the early stages of the anime production, Sazane-sensei told the production team the character’s height and personality.
Besides that, he left the cast selection to them.
Also, as mentioned before on the radio program, the casting of Sora Amamiya (Alice’s voice actor) was his only request.
M: You explained earlier how Iska and Alice’s relationship is best described as one of “affection,” but many fans have said that it’s also kind of similar to that of Romeo and Juliet. Did the play have any influence on the story of KimiSen?
S: Actually, I didn’t really consider Romeo and Juliet when I was creating KimiSen’s story. Shimoyama-san, the series designer, explained it very well when they described the difference between the two stories.
In Romeo and Juliet, they’re deeply in love, but their circumstances won’t let them be together. However, with KimiSen, Iska and Alice do have an affection for one another, and they could probably run away together to a neutral city and live happily ever after if they really wanted to.
S: Unlike Romeo and Juliet, they could make it work if they set their mind to it.
But nonetheless, they choose to fight. The two stories are quite different in that sense.
Romeo and Juliet’s love could never be, despite how much they wanted it to, whereas Iska and Alice choose to fight one another. So that’s why I never really thought about Romeo and Juliet while I was creating KimiSen.
M: How aware is Jhin of the relationship between Iska and Alice? As you know, Jhin is incredibly bright and very sharp, so one might assume that he’s realized what’s going on to a certain extent. Would it be correct to assume this?
S: By the point where the anime ends, Jhin hasn’t met Alice face-to-face yet, but he is aware that Iska is involved in something.
S: But at that point, he wouldn’t be able to figure out the connection between Iska and Alice.
Jhin knows that something is going on with Iska, but smart as he may be, he’s clueless about romantic matters. So even Jhin’s clever mind can’t help him when it comes to that sort of thing. Yes, he’s smart, but not that smart.
M: If you had to live in either the Empire or the Sovereignty, which would you choose?
S: Well, I’m not very good with technology and machines. For example, when I upgrade to a new phone, I have a really hard time adjusting. In that sense, I lean more towards the Sovereignty.
But since it’s located in the northern part of the world, it’s really cold there, and I hate the cold. So ultimately, I’d probably choose to live in the Empire.
M: A lot of overseas fans are very passionate about light novels, and many would like to become authors themselves. Do you have any advice on how to write stories or have your work published?
S: I’d recommend experiencing lots of different art and entertainment, so you can find something you really like and can be really passionate about.
This example is more related to illustrating, but as I mentioned earlier, Nekonabe-sensei really likes drawing long-haired girls or full-figured characters.
If you have something you really like, start by drawing that. It could be from anime, or whatever you’re into.
S: The same goes for writing books or creating anime. When I talk to other authors, they often tell me how much they love this or that series or genre.
And there are lots of people who are inspired by a particular work to become authors. So, try to find lots of works that appeal to you!
End of interview.
This is PART 1 of the interview; we’ll post PART 2 in the upcoming weeks so make sure to subscribe to our newsletter! Part 2 has a lot of interesting information you won’t want to miss!
Remember that volume 7 of KimiSen in English is coming out very soon. I’m a big fan of KimiSen and I can’t recommend the novels enough. You can find volume 7 here.
Thanks again to Sazane-sensei for his revelations about this magnificent story.
Thanks to Fantasia Bunko, Sazane-sensei, our friend Kei and everyone that made this interview possible.
Finally, thanks to Anime Trending, the Mipon community, and r/KimiSen/ for the questions and suggestions.
Editor: Chelsea McWillis.
DISCLAIMER: All the images above were used with the permission of Fantasia Bunko and KADOKAWA.
©2020 Kei Sazane. Ao Nekonabe/KADOKAWA/Kimisen Project