The Girl in Twilight (Akanesasu Shoujo) is a project which includes a recently concluded anime as well as a mobile phone game. In the story, main character Asuka Tsuchimiya has been testing out a ritual with her friends that supposedly opens up the door to another world. The group has been trying every day to no avail. One day, they use a frequency found by using a crystal picked up by one of the members. The frequency is exactly what they were looking for and they find themselves standing in a strange world where Asuka encounters another Asuka. The girls visit various parallel universes from that day on and meet formidable ‘enemies’.
Created by well-known faces in the industry, The Girl in Twilight is a sci-fi fantasy action anime in which ordinary days interweave with the extraordinary. MANGA.TOKYO conducted an exclusive interview with producer Yutaro Takadera from Sony Pictures Entertainment about the new anime.
Where did the idea for the anime come from?
Game producer Hiroyuki Suda told me of his idea to create a collaborative work between a game and anime, which I thought would have great potential. We began creating an original story for both media based on his idea.
We decided to balance between the game and the anime, because once the balance is lost, it becomes a game based on an anime or an anime based on a game, and there are already many of them on the market. We basically worked on both of them in tandem. We thought that an anime and a game would each have their own strong and weak points, therefore they can complement each other.
How did you manage to gather such famous staff members?
Suda introduced me to Kotaro Uchikoshi, who is in charge of the original concept of the series, and I gathered the rest of the staff members. We didn’t plan on gathering such notable people at the beginning. They just became interested in our work while we were developing our ideas or when we consulted them about the works. We were lucky to end up with such noted staff members on our team.
Masakazu Katsura was in charge of the original character designs. Hiroyuki Asada was involved in the anime at an early stage of development as a concept artist and an original character designer. He was mainly responsible for the intricate and unusual designs including the twilight world which is filled with strange colors and has its own peculiar atmosphere. He was also responsible for the alternate Asuka and Yuu, and ‘the agents of Twilight’ who appears at the final stage.
I think there are more strong points to the anime than just the well-known members of staff. However, it’s a tricky bit as the publicity for the anime heavily relied on the fame of the staff.
I presumed that there would be many eccentric characters in the anime because it was based on urban myths, but they are all quite sensible.
The characters travel through various parallel universes in the story, so I was concerned that it might become overly complicated. That’s why I made sure that the members of the crystal radio club were simple and realistic. Asuka comes across as quite a unique character at first, but she is genuine and viewers can relate to her. The other characters in the anime were all designed in the same way.
Despite her unique behavior, Asuka is actually quite sensible. This is the key to the development of the latter half of the story. She intentionally chooses to be an oddball. She is actually able to read between the lines, is clever and considerate, and she chooses to behave the way she does. That’s the twist which leads to the story development.
Not many high school girls are familiar with crystal radios.
I didn’t know about them before working on this anime. [laugh] During the process of creating the draft with Uchikoshi, director Jin Tamamura and game producer Hiroyuki Suda, Uchikoshi brought up this idea of using a crystal radio. Asuka is meant to like Showa-period retro items according to the character background that was written for her. The props in Asuka’s room and the coffee shop the girls frequent are based on this setting. They include the Walkman, cassette tapes, gramophone, and of course the crystal radio. We complied with the recently popular slice-of-life anime format about a school club which does non-typical club activities. A crystal radio is something suitable for Asuka’s character setting. The only person who actually touches the crystal radio is Chloe, though.
What about the chikuwa? (‘Chikuwa’ is a Japanese fish cake made from a fish paste and molded into a tube shape and steamed, then the surface is browned. You can eat chikuwa as it is or use as an ingredient for many dishes.)
We thought chikuwa was interesting at that time while developing our ideas. It has a hollow center and looks like a pipe. Asuka is hiding her obsession to take over the family business, a miso manufacturer. Due to her strong sense of responsibility, she feels she is obligated to take over, therefore believes her future has been set and cannot change. Chikuwa is an item that signifies her troubled mind. We didn’t explain about the chikuwa, so it might be difficult to understand for our overseas viewers.
What part do you find you did better than you previously thought?
I think the outcome is exactly what we wanted. It’s an easy-going slice-of-life anime with a lot of jokes in the first half. I think viewers can watch it and relax. As for the latter half, director Tamamura worked his socks off showing his artistic flare, especially for the final episode. Some parts are quite avant garde in expression. I think this is going to be an anime with a difference.
Shin Onuma created the storyboard for the final episode which was directed by Tamamura. Onuma used to be Tamamura’s apprentice, so Tamamura responded to Onuma’s aggressive storyboard with passion. I think the result will be beyond imagination.
Another feature of the anime is that it spends time depicting various worlds. One of the themes of the anime is ‘multiplicity’; multiplicity of characters, futures and so on. More worlds in the series means less time for each world to be depicted. I thought the setting of each world would be minimal. However, as the staff members were absorbed in creating each world, the settings for them ended up truly brilliant. It’s a shame that we must scrap them after just two episodes. That is something better than I previously thought and I think viewers will enjoy these worlds, which have interesting settings.
It must be difficult for the cast members to portray all those characters who have subtle differences in each world.
I think so. Asuka and Yuu’s voice actresses struggled the most as I asked them to play the differences while using the same voice.
As we already knew the voice acting for the anime would be difficult, we focused purely on their acting talent during the casting process. Asuka and Yuu’s voice actresses needed to be able to play three ways with subtle but clear differences. I think they were very difficult roles to play.
Who is your favorite character?
To be honest, I like Chloe’s sense of values. She is the character who has the most things in common with the contemporary girls, so I can understand her more or less. She tends to distance herself from others, yet at the same time tries to stay connected. She isn’t exactly a loner, but she won’t let herself be affected by others. Her personality is difficult to depict. It’s as if she’s saying, ‘OK, I’m alone but what’s wrong with that?’
Here is a question from one of our readers. hoopwhoop.trash wants to ask, ‘Any characters that you had difficulties designing, if so, why?’
Asuka’s design is the base of all the other characters, therefore we took our time in designing her. It was a process of trial and error. Asuka in the parallel universe was also difficult. Although she shares the same facial parts as the Asuka in our world, she uses different facial expressions to her counterpart. Furthermore, because she has many action scenes, Asada had some trouble designing her costume. The color design for the agents of Twilight was another difficult one as she is a versatile character.
A question from Mika: ‘what are the biggest influences on your styles of animation and this story if any?’ and ‘what are your inspirations in life?’ Rankingyouth also asks, ‘which would you say is your main source of inspiration to create this amazing project? ^^’
Although it’s not an anime, there is a lot of influence on this anime from the Kamen Rider series. While creating the original concept for the anime, I discussed with Tamamura and Suda about the motif. We talked about Heisei Kamen Rider especially Kamen Rider Decade in which the protagonists make journeys to parallel universes where they encounter other masked riders who belong to other worlds.
We also use the action scenes, camera works, and character design of RWBY as a reference. In fact, I used to be assigned to RWBY when I was at another company. It had quite the impact on me and I often refer back to it. It’s an anime made in the USA and the character designs seem to be influenced by Japanese anime style at first glance. Despite that, the characters are, deep down, different to Japanese ones. I feel that their struggles and words are real. I think the character designs of RWBY partly had an influence on our anime.
Apart from them, what is your favorite anime personally? blast_not3 also wants to know, ‘what’s your favorite anime?
Millennium Actress directed by Satoshi Kon. It also makes a lot of use of various settings. It might have had an influence on our anime as well. I personally love the anime because it utilizes expressions which are only possible in anime.
There are many dark anime works with a girl protagonist in recent years. How does this anime develop towards the end? _librarycat has a similar question: ‘do you feel like the anime is similar to other dark magical girl series?’
The story reaches its darkest point in Episode 9 but I don’t want this anime to be depressing. It has a proper theme and revolves around it, so it’s not straightforward to depict. Tamamura was adamant that it would depict views of life and death, so it inevitably includes gloomy scenes. However, the story doesn’t end there, and there is hope in the final episode, like in most entertainment movies. We made sure that it has callbacks to the earlier foreshadowing for a clear-cut and uplifting ending.
What were you particular about?
I want this anime to be one of a kind. There are many rules when it comes to depicting parallel universes. Sometimes I wonder who set those rules. I want to go beyond such restrictions and think outside the box to create an original anime like this one. That’s what I stick to for this anime. It might end up an unconventional anime, though.
What we should focus on towards the ending?
The anime concerns dual nature. The other side of the story will be revealed in the latter half. Please brace yourself for the sudden change and continue to watch till the end.
Sony Pictures Entertainment (Japan) Inc.
Born in 1984 in Kanagawa prefecture. After working for Warner Bros. Japan, he joined Sony Pictures Entertainment. His notable works as a producer include RWBY Volume 1 (Japanese version)