The following article is a transcript of a Q&A panel with Wakana Okamura, producer at TOHO animation (Haikyuu!!, My Hero Academia, Psycho-Pass, Blood Battlefront Blockade), and Susumu Mitsunaka (director of Haikyuu!! and Cuticle Tantei Inaba) at AnimagiC 2017.
Sadly, we couldn’t record the Q&A panel. We wrote everything down as it was told so questions and answers are not quotes but more the gist of what was said. Additionally, all answers were given in Japanese, translated into german by a translator and then translated into English by @Somatoshi and @Asukaratechop. Take this translation with a grain of salt.
Question: How do the two of you like Germany so far?
Mitsunaka: I like the old buildings here in Mannheim. They look really nice.
Okamura: The beer here is really tasty. I also like how close we are to the fans here. People are always nice and seem to really love Haikyuu!! and anime in general.
Question @Okamura: There are very few women working as producers in the industry. What’s it like being a female producer in Japan?
Okamura: Of course there are more male producers in the industry, just like everywhere. I don’t generally approach work paying attention to gender, it’s more about how you go about your work. Although, I do think more female perspectives would be great, as the female fan base of anime is rapidly growing as well. But I don’t think too much about that.
I just hope that there will be even more excited fans like the ones I met here.
Question @Mitsunaka: How did the staff accomplish those impressive tracking shots like Hinatas tumble across the screen in episode 1 [of Haikyuu!!]? [Previous to the panel the audience got to see the first episode with German dub.]
Mitsunaka: Animating sports is a really difficult task. Since I was an animator myself I know how difficult this can be, so I tried to give the staff as many pointers as possible while writing the storyboard. We animated the movements first and then the rest while the backgrounds came last.
We didn’t have any direct references like recordings of what we wanted to do. What we did do, was visit high schools and even tournaments. We wanted to get references on how the players move to get a better feeling for how high school students play and recorded some of it as well so we could look at it again later.
I hadn’t played volleyball before Haiykuu!! even though I am a sporty person. I did pick it up though to get a better feeling for the characters and movements.
Question @Mitsunaka: Sports anime include a lot of movement. Did you have difficulties with that?
Mitsunaka: There exist very few animators that animate sports well. That’s why we gave those the most important scenes. The biggest difficulties came with putting them all together and making them consistent. We had some trouble finishing in time because of that.
Question @Okamura: Are there any differences between German and Japanese fans?
Okamura: All fans love the work equally. What I like about Germany is how the male fans are much more outgoing [referring to Haikyuu!!/sports anime]. In Japan, they are usually much more reserved if they attend events like this [Q&A] at all. I observed that female feedback is usually much more emotional and character-centered while male fans are more likely to ask/mention technical things like the tracking shots and such.
[The panel’s host, who works for german publisher Peppermint Anime, told the audience about a Free! event that was stacked, yet he was still the only male attendant.]
Question: Not entirely sure whether I’m asking the right people for this, but why do Oikawa and Iwaizumi go to different universities?
Okamura: Since this is an adaption of a manga we sadly can’t really answer that. But I know that there will be a movie coming out in Japan soon that has a scene in which Oikawa and Iwaizumi talk about their plans [Haikyuu!! Movie 3: Sainou to Sense, Sep 15th], so please look forward to that. Whether you can see it here in Germany is probably up to him [referring to the host] so tell him if you want to see.
To give a possible answer though, I think it may be that for Oikawa, only volleyball matters, so he’d choose the university best suited to getting better at the game, while Iwaizumi might consider other aspects too.
Question: Who are your favourite characters and character dynamics?
Mitsunaka: [In English:] It’s me, Tanaka! [Probably the funniest moment from the panel as there’s a striking similarity between the two].
Otherwise, my favourite is Asahi.
Okamura: I like Nishinoya and Hinata the most. Not just because of our similarities [She’s quite short], but because of how much energy they put into overcoming their handicap. I can relate a lot to that. I also like all the setter/ace pairings since they are the core of their teams.
Question @Okamura: How do you decide which artists you use for an anime opening?
Okamura: We have a music producer with whom we discuss the theme and atmosphere of the season and what we want to highlight in it. He then picks out the artist that fits the most. Usually, we approach artists that we would want to feature ourselves. However, sometimes artists hear about an anime and come to us to show us a few songs [she said something like “around 5”] they composed and think would suit the anime quite well.
How famous artists are don’t play a big role to us. It first and foremost needs to fit [the series]. For the first season, we hired Spyair, a really popular japanese band while we had a fairly unknown one for the third season that actually had their debut this way. [probably referring to Burnout Syndrome]
Question: This is a question a global group of fans tries to get as many opinions from people in the industry for. What do you think of pineapple on pizza?
Mitsunaka: [in english:] Good Taste! I don’t eat it very often, but I do like it.
Okamura: I hate it.
[The german VA of protagonist Hinata (Christian Zeiger) broke the tie by saying he likes it.]