Happy Sugar Life is an anime series based on the manga of the same name running in Monthly Gangan Joker published by Square Enix. Protagonist Satou lives with a mysterious girl named Shio. Although Satou has never been in love with anyone, she finds herself resorting to any means in order to keep her content daily life with Shio, even if it means murder! It’s a psychological horror story which simultaneously depicts an ordinary but happy everyday life of the cute girls and the dark drama which is bubbling underneath.
MANGA.TOKYO conducted an exclusive interview with the general director Keizou Kusakawa, whose previous works include Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha and Aho-Girl. We asked him about this challenge to make a completely different kind of anime.
Happy Sugar Life is quite different from your previous works, isn’t it?
When I read the manga, I thought it had the same feel to it as a shoujo manga, and it has a lot of monologues. I had always wanted to do a horror anime at least once, so I’m pretty excited. I wanted to do this kind of psychological story. I thought about how I’d be able to bring something different to the screen, like completely changing the color schemes and such. We kind of push the boundaries a little, so I was worried that it wouldn’t be able to air on TV. The series is also being streamed outside Japan, but I’m not sure what really sure what is okay or not. So I’m really nervous and excited.
What do you think about the process of making the anime series?
I applied some techniques which give a strange feeling to the anime, such as the changing of the color scheme, adding video noise, and inserting frames with inverted colors. I feel they turned out exactly how I’d hoped.
What did you pay extra attention to during the adaptation process?
I tried to preserve the vibe of the characters. I had to omit some lines without changing the world of the original manga or shorten some of the dialogue as there was a lot of it. Regarding the more poetic lines, it was just a process of trial and error. It was challenging but I enjoyed the task.
The dialogue seemed to be quite difficult.
It was. For instance, there were quite a few scenes which had monologues from the characters and I had to put a lot of thought into them. I had to distinguish these monologues from the regular dialogue by how they sounded or resonated. However, they were intricately intertwined in some scenes and our sound effect mixer struggled to deal with them. It was also difficult to create the storyboards for these scenes.
Who is your favorite character?
I like Shio. In part because I enjoy drawing children and in part because I just really like her. She has a sad background and grew up in a cruel family situation, though. Satou is quite sincere and has a strong will, so she wouldn’t hesitate to kill someone to protect her love. Her personality is fully-developed in a way. In contrast, Shio has a rather fragile personality but as the story progresses to the latter half, she becomes the leader of the two. I think viewers will notice her character development.
My impression of Satou is that she is insane.
I think she is deranged but not mentally ill. She has a personality which drives her to do something outrageous because of love. I can’t relate to her or understand her fully, though.
It seems there are many characters who are difficult to understand in the anime.
Yes, I think so. Other than Shoko, the cast is made of strange characters such as perverted guys and the serious yet twisted Asahi. I did wonder if Kitaumekawa was too perverted to be on TV, but thought it would be fine because he is truly perverted in the original manga. [laugh] The problem is that sometimes these characters end up being the butt of jokes. I struggled to balance the seriousness and the funniness in the anime. I have to say though that Mitsuboshi is the best character for funny scenes. [laugh]
On which scene did you work hardest?
That would have to be the climax of Episode 9. I made sure the scene had a sense of realism and seduction, but I wondered whether it would be okay to air on TV. I made an effort to subdue it by switching up the colors, though.
The relationship between Satou and Shio can be understood to be based on yuri (girls’ love) or family love. As the general director, which do you think it’s based on?
Well, I guess family love is more likely. Having said that, I think it has both elements.
Could you leave a message for our readers and tell them what they should pay attention to?
I’d like it if more and more people could watch this anime series since I put so much effort into it. I drew 4 storyboards myself and attended every recording session despite being the general director, who is expected to sit and just overlook the series as a whole. No general director works harder than me. [laugh] Satou and Shio are so cute but have scary aspects. I hope they grip viewers. Please enjoy the anime series.
Works for Diomedia Inc. He made his debut as an episode director with Shima Shima Tora no Shimajirou and was involved for a long time. His directorial debut was Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s. He has been continuously creating hit anime works since then including Ro-Kyu- Bu!, Dog Days, and Aho-Girl.