Isekai Quartet is an anime crossover spin-off that brings together characters from 4 ‘isekai’ (other world) anime series: Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World, Konosuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!, The Saga of Tanya the Evil, and Overlord. A mysterious red button appears in each world and sends the characters from the 4 different anime to a school, where they now have no choice but to live their student lives as classmates together. Of course there is no way that these strong characters can live together peacefully…
This one-of-a-kind anime series is directed by Minoru Ashina, who has directed many short anime, including Kaiju Girls. Read our previous interview with the director:
An Interview With Kaiju Girls Director Minoru Ashina
MANGA.TOKYO invited Ashina, who is also responsible for the anime’s screenplay, to talk about this unprecedented anime series.
Could you tell us how the idea of this anime sprang up?
This is a crossover anime of 4 anime series including Overload, Konosuba, Re:Zero, and The Saga of Tanya the Evil. Except for Konosuba, each series has their own short chibi spin-off anime.
One day, the producers of the anime series and I were talking about how it would be fun to combine all the short anime series into one. We were excited by the idea of making the Avengers of anime, ‘We can do a crossover since they’re all the rage at the moment. It’s going to be so much fun.’ It was a casual chat and was meant to be left at that. However, it somehow ended up being materialized. That’s how Isekai Quartet was born.
I have a few questions from you from our readers overseas.
nintendoandanime: Why did he want the crossover to take place at a school instead of a more fantasy setting?
andre_andricopulos: Who came up with this idea?
Evogamer224: What was the reason to bring together these four isekai worlds into one? or Why these four series in particular?
Evogamer224: Are the original writers of the four series joining in the gags?
I included Overlord, Re:Zero and The Saga of Tanya the Evil as they all had short anime series. The inclusion of Konosuba was more spur of the moment.
The original authors of the four novels get on well and there are many staff members who have worked together. So, we thought it would be easy to discuss the crossover anime.
Regarding the content of the show, they just asked me, ‘what do you want to do?’ All four anime are of the isekai genre, so it’s inevitable that fans would start discussing which character is the strongest online. That’s not what I wanted to do with this anime. I think while it’s totally fine for fans to enjoy imagining the characters fighting in their heads and discuss it online together, it’s not our job to find out who is stronger than whom.
I had to think about how to prevent the characters from fighting, especially the characters from Overlord as some of them like to fight. I needed to make rules for them not to kill each other. Creating a mutual enemy is a good tactic in preventing that. However, if we make such rules, there may be characters who appear frequently and others who don’t, so I tried to consider a setting where fighting is simply not allowed, and came up with the idea of a school. I asked the producer if the series could be a school anime and he said OK. That’s how we decided on the setting.
What did you pay attention to in particular for the four anime to be balanced?
It was really difficult. In general, I just tried to create friendly situations where the characters could get along. I needed to insert gag scenes, otherwise the situations would become quite tense. I depicted battle scenes as jokes or just play-fighting. I was very careful about not showing real battle scenes.
Regarding the balance of the 4 titles, Konosuba was the easiest to depict as it fits best for gag anime. Although Overlord and The Saga of Tanya the Evil have gag elements, they aren’t so obvious. It’s difficult to create gag scenes with those characters in particular, partly because of the fifteen-minute length and also because immortality comes into play. Re:Zero is the toughest one as it’s set in an isolated world where few interactions with the outside world exist. On the other hand, the characters in Konosuba are adventurers, so it’s easy to depict them in different settings.
It’s also difficult to balance out their lines. There are just too many characters for a fifteen-minute, twelve-episode short anime series. If we had more time, they would have been given more lines – just like viewers want the characters to do more, we also wish the same. If it were only a handful of popular characters appearing constantly, other characters would lose their reason to even be in the show at all, which would be sad. Whenever you may be thinking ‘I wish my favorite would talk a little more’ there is another fan thinking the same of their favorite character too. With this in mind, I want viewers to make sure they pay attention to all the other characters, not just their very favorite. I sound a bit like a teacher, now, don’t I? [laugh] I wonder if I sound similar to schools overseas.
To be honest, I actually count the lines every character has so I know how much they say. If there is a character who has fewer lines, I try to find a scene with them and consider adding more lines. However, Overlord has a lot of characters, whereas Konosuba only has four, so it’s inevitable that viewers might want the characters from Konosuba to speak more.
What turned out better than expected?
As I originally intended, there are many viewers who started watching the original shows after watching Isekai Quartet, and I think it’s great. There are viewers who have only watched Re:Zero, Overlord, and The Saga of Tanya the Evil but haven’t watched the others. For example, viewers who watched Isekai Quartet because they like a character from Konosuba can start watching the other anime to enjoy Isekai Quartet even more. There are many posts saying that they started to watch the other anime on social media. I myself have watched all 4 anime series and read their original novels, and I really enjoyed all of them. Nowadays, we can easily watch older TV anime series on video streaming services and find some fascinating shows, which I think is interesting.
The series is well received overseas. Why do you think this is?
I wasn’t sure how well Isekai Quartet would be received outside Japan. My style of anime is basically an accumulation of many conversations between the characters in which the stories are built. This style isn’t that common among overseas dramas and comedies. Some anime fans outside Japan upload ‘Anime Reactions’ on video sharing sites, where they record their reactions while watching anime. I thought these fans in particular would understand this style of anime because they are already into Japanese anime. Their reactions exceeded my expectations and made me laugh so much. Since I myself find it funny, I thought that this series would be able to make people all over the world laugh. But when I saw their reactions in these videos, I thought it was great rather than feeling a sense of relief. Overseas fans have to watch anime with subtitles, so I suppose sometimes it’s difficult to understand conversational tempos and subtle details within the original Japanese dialog. It’s interesting to know that the funny illustrations and comedic pauses are universal.
Other anime series I’ve created are quite standard of the anime industry in Japan, so I think they are probably pretty accessible for anime fans overseas. I feel that fans abroad enjoy clichés. In Isekai Quartet Episode 4, Subaru and Kazuma are running late for school. When Kazuma sneakily scales the school wall, everyone in reaction videos laughed, but it wasn’t that funny for the Japanese viewers. Kazuma’s actions in this scene are pretty typical for a Japanese student, so for the Japanese viewers it perhaps wasn’t that surprising. Like in this example, it’s interesting to see the different reactions at different scenes between Japanese fans and fans overseas.
Here are some questions from overseas.
Adjie Satryo Pamungkas: What’s your favorite thing about the isekai genre?
No one can police the settings of isekai anime. If an anime is set in the real world, some people can be picky about various parts of its setting. With isekai anime, we can just say things are meant to be like this, that’s just the way it is, and concentrate on creating its story. I think this is one of the reasons why isekai anime is so popular. Depicting the real world requires painstakingly delicate detail nowadays, whereas isekai anime can get away without going that far. I feel a little sad that we have to choose the isekai genre to avoid narrowing our creativity.
Karan Desai: Is Kazuma going to steal the panties of the other girls in the quartet? Especially Albedo’s?
He’ll be dead if he does. [laugh] I’m not sure she wears them.
There are too many fans who wanted to see characters use and perform various magic and skills. I hope they are happy to watch Megumin’s Explosion Magic the one time it appears. [laugh] You can’t even imagine how long it took and how much it cost just to create that scene. [laugh]
Fans have different expectations. Some just want to see the characters flirting with one another, others just want to see jokes and gag scenes, and others Explosion Magic.
Do you have any favorite pairs from different anime?
sn.sanchez2806: Who’s your favorite couple of isekai characters?
Each fan has their own preference, I guess. Personally, I like Kazuma and Subaru. I think they can understand each other. Tanya and Ainz also make a nice pair as they seem to be able to understand each other, but in many ways they also don’t. As for the more typical boy/girl couples, I don’t want to say too much so I’ll leave it up to the fans’ imaginations.
While reading fans’ comments online, I saw that many of them want to see stories with characters from different anime series. I get it – I think it’d be great, too. However, it’s only natural to stick with the group of people you were sent to an isekai with. If we forced them to pair up with characters from different anime series under the authority of the school, it would be unnatural. We must be careful with the balance and make sure we don’t create something that feels out of place. To begin with, the characters from Overlord are led by Ainz and aren’t sure if they can get along with the characters from other anime series. I have high expectations of the characters from Konosuba as they have great communication skills.
Many fans want to know if there will be a second season of the anime.
It depends on how much support we can get from fans, in particular merchandise sale figures and for overseas fans, video streaming service viewing figures. These figures are important when they make a decision about renewing for a second season, so we’re counting on your support.
What would you do if you received an offer for a second season?
I’d die. [laugh] Writing the script was much harder than I expected. The original authors and producers helped me a lot but it’s still much tougher than people might think. The original authors helped out with checking the dialog of their own characters, but they also said that it’s my job to create the dialogs of the characters as they are in the anime series I’m directing, of course. For this reason, I was only able to ask how characters behave in certain situations. But I think it’s an interesting job.
There are many things I wanted to do but couldn’t. If I am able, I would like to direct a second season if I receive enough support from fans and an offer from Kadokawa. They might want a different director, though. [laugh] Now that I know the to some extent how overseas fans reacted to different parts of the series, if I were to continue directing, I feel I’d know what to do to create an even more enjoyable second season. The characters of Isekai Quartet are cute rather than sexy, but I’d be so happy if fans like them and purchase merchandise to support us.
Have you and the four original authors gotten together?
We haven’t yet as we are all very busy. Apart from [Overlord author] Kugane- we watched the first airing together. I often see them individually. We might get together to watch the final episode.
Could you tell our readers what to pay attention to?
Isekai Quartet is fundamentally a gag, comedy anime but its story makes a full circle and then concludes. A rule I have made for my work is to make sure the story fully completes, like with Kaiju Girls. I’m just creating the final episode, it’s gonna be really cool and full of passion. The characters who haven’t played an active part in the series will have their moment.
Finally, could you give a comment to our readers?
It might be difficult to fully understand everything without having watched all four anime series, but it’s still just as fun to just watch casually and enjoy everyone’s cuteness. How you enjoy this anime is up to you and will be different for everyone, but please just have fun and don’t think too much about who is the strongest.
Thank you very much.
This interview took place on 25 May 2019, and the second season of Isekai Quartet has since been confirmed! We hope Ashina will try not to die and do his best on Season 2!
Born in 1977. Ashina creates digital anime and music production while working as a veterinarian. He acts as an MC at events. He’s a busy and lively creator/vet. His works include Ple Ple Pleiadesu, re:Petit Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu, Youjo Shenki, and Kaiju Girls.