In the second part of out interview with Detective Conan producer Michihiko Suwa, we ask him some questions from you, the readers of MANGA.TOKYO! If you haven’t read Part 1 yet you can find it here:
Interview with Detective Conan Producer Michihiko Suwa Part 1
We Asked Mr Suwa Your Questions!
— Now, could you answer some questions from overseas? I have 6 questions here selected from more than 100 questions we’ve received.
Karylle Enchinares Famero asks: What are some of your favorite murder tricks that you’ve encountered while producing the series?
First of all, I like the trick from the episode The Sunfish Murder (File 56: Script by Kazunari Kouchi). It was an episode from one of the early seasons and I was thinking so hard with the director to come up with good tricks. Of course I still ponder over new tricks and sometimes they even see the light of day. The Man Who Was Killed Four Times (File 175: Script by Nobuo Ohgizawa) is another favorite of mine. It’s a story about a tough victim who is killed by multiple perpetrators, but each time he comes alive again. Therefore, it’s very difficult for Conan to get to the bottom of the case as the plot is quite complicated. Fortunately, we had a talented script writer who can wrap up the story within twenty-odd minutes. I really like The Entrance to the Maze: The Anger of Colossus (File 208: script by Chiaki Hashiba), especially the trick of the murder that happened during a ropeway ride through a tunnel.
Ruffa Marielle Aquino asks; What are the most memorable things you did for the series and is there any advice you can give to students like me who want to pursue the same path of animation production?
During the opening song ‘Koi wa thrill, shock, suspense’ (File 205 – 230: sang by Rina Aiuchi), Conan performs a ‘Para Para Dance’ which was on-trend at the time. He wasn’t allowed to smile while dancing, as it was a rule of the dance. I was worried how an opening without smiling would be received by viewers, but decided to follow the rule and let him dance the proper way. Masahito Yoshioka , a program director from TMS Entertainment, was doubtful at the beginning, but eventually made up his mind to create a proper dance routine which everyone can enjoy dancing. We asked a choreographer to teach us the moves, and we created Conan’s take on ‘Para Para Dance’.
The 20th anniversary special episode Conan and Ebizou’s Kabuki Juhachiban Mystery (File 804-805) is another memorable one. Famous Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizou actually provided the voice of Ebizou in the anime. The script was written after his appearance was confirmed. I was impressed by Kashiwabara’s skillful script centering on Ebizou.
If I may advise students who want to get into the anime industry, make sure that you keep your eyes open, find something that interests you, and learn deeply. I think communication skills are vital for our job, and in order to communicate better, you need knowledge. Read newspapers and magazines regularly to know current affairs. What is important is to make the person who you are talking to understand what you are interested in. You must know what you are talking about. In other words, you must speak with deep-rooted knowledge. It’s like anchoring a ship, so you don’t waver from your assertions.
You must prepare to be able to explain clearly what sort of anime it is you want to make, what your favorite works in the past are, and why you like them. For me, they are Columbo, the late Osamu Tezuka (a creator known as the ‘God of Manga’ and was a pioneer of anime and manga as we know it), and Oretachi no Tabi (a Japanese coming-of-age drama aired in 1975). They made me what I am.
I watched Columbo when I was a junior high school student. I remember I felt excited when I watched the episode ‘Any Old Port in a Storm’ which takes place in a winery, even though I had never drunk alcohol at the time. It was as if I were watching adult lives through a window. I want to provide such excitement to viewers. Although that doesn’t actually have anything related to the Conan episodes with tricks related to wine, though. [laugh] I just want to tell you that finding interest in small things in the area you love will lead you to being a mystery fan.
Sana Hayama asks: What made you want to produce the series? Maybe you loved reading books which involved criminal action and mystery and tried to solve them? I’m sure this could be a reason for such an amazing and lively series!
When I watched the movie Murder on the Orient Express in 1974, I hadn’t actually read Agatha Christie’s novel at the time. However, I personally believe I was the one who solved the mystery first in the theater. A movie remake will be released soon, and I can’t wait watching it.
Mark Gabriel Acribal asks: What are some of the challenges or struggles you had to overcome before becoming a producer?
I was an assistant director for a midnight variety show called 11PM for two and a half years, and I struggled to death. It would have been almost classified as ‘power harassment’ (Japanese term describing psychological abuse and bullying at work) if it had happened today. [laugh] However, I learned what it takes during that time. The experience of confronting the difficulties, which was actually not as heroic as it sounds, made me what I am today. I always wanted to create something, but I didn’t know how difficult creating processes were.
Making a decision on everything about the footage is hard work but fun. The format of Detective Conan is made by the accumulations of my experiences. From the first episode, it has an epilogue, an ending, and a bit of a bonus scene. I’m confident in the format which director Kodama, producer Yoshioka and I devised together. We’ve been using this format for the TV series for all these years, and almost the same one for the movies.
Ieng Wong asks: Were you a big fan of Conan before producing it?
As I said earlier, I knew about the manga before its serialization, and kept my eye on it. When I read the first chapter, I was so impressed by its tricks and depiction of situations. I was surprised how much it can do from the first episode.
I also liked The Kindaichi Case Files which had started running in a different magazine before Detective Conan. Luckily, I got an offer to produce The Kindaichi Case Files after I started Detective Conan. I feel exceptionally fortunate to be in charge of the two great detective anime series.
Ryan Kun asks: What are your favorite detective movies and who are your favorite male and female characters in Detective Conan?
I still watch many detective movies. Strictly speaking, it’s not a detective movie but I like Around the World in Eighty Days (premiered in 1957). It was based on the novel of the same name written by Jules Verne, and depicts a man who takes a bet to travel around the world in 80 days. He is disappointed in himself as he misses the deadline just one day. However, it turns out he actually won the bet, because he gained one day when he had crossed the International Date Line. I love such dramatic comeback wins. It’s a great bonus for viewers who are amazed by the trick at the last minute. I want to deliver such amazement to our viewers.
My favorite character is always Kogoro Mouri. When the anime started airing, I was 37, the same age as Kogoro. He had a lovely high schooler daughter at that time, but I didn’t, though. [laugh] Although he has become crazier recently, he’s always lovable and no one can dislike him. I simply admire his personality.
Among the female characters, I like Sonoko Suzuki. She was only meant to appear once according to the initial plan, but became a regular character because of the superb voice acting of Naoko Matsui who portrays her. She became a fixture of the anime, so much so that the character setting of Momiji Ohoka from the movie Crimson Love Letter was ‘Sonoko in the West’. Sonoko is incredible because she is such a down-to-earth person despite being a daughter of an extremely wealthy family.
Thank you very much for sending me questions. It is much appreciated. I wish I could understand English more, so I could read all your questions and comments myself.
— What’s your next goal?
Detective Conan has become a household name in Japan, and I’m quite satisfied with that. I’d like to crack the world market with Detective Conan. I can’t understand why only anime can’t show murder scenes in English-speaking countries, whereas other forms of mystery can. However, I feel optimistic because there are not so many murder scenes in the anime.
For successful international market penetration, I must find why Japanese anime has become so popular and acclaimed worldwide. I also have to find a way to make foreign viewers understand the dramaturgy of the anime, otherwise they can’t remember every character.
My ambition is to sail through the world with Detective Conan and make it a flagship anime on the globe.
— Could you give a comment for the fans?
It has been 24 years since the manga started, and 22 years since the anime’s first airing. One day, Detective Conan will reach its conclusion. We don’t know when and how it ends, however until that day I’ll create the anime with all my heart. I hope you enjoy the anime both based on the original manga and the anime originals, as well as the movies. We’ll keep working our hardest to meet your expectations. Please continue to watch and follow Detective Conan.
— Thank you very much.
(C) Gosho Aoyama / Shogakukan/YTV/TMS 1996