miércoles, abril 29

2004 - Entrevista a Kenji Kamiyama


What was on my mind when I started working on S.A.C. 2nd Gig
Since the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex first season took forever to complete and took a lot of energy out of me, I was beginning to feel that people might be getting bored with the characters and the anime setting. This was before commencing the production of the 2nd Gig.
Then after I started working on the second season while still finishing up the first one, I felt I hadn't fully got everything in. I also felt that the characters were sort of guiding my way.
In other words, the characters were no longer moving according to a set plan, but were moving according to their own will, so to speak. I felt that their movements and conversations just came about naturally.
Sometimes I had strange experiences while writing a script or drawing a storyboard when I wouldn't really remember writing or drawing it. At that point, I feel that I could work with these characters even further.
This is one of the reasons for experimenting with minor characters from the first episode, and creating original stories for them in S.A.C. 2nd Gig.
If you felt that we added a more human quality to S.A.C. 2nd Gig, then it might be because to this.
The Ghost in the Shell TV series inherited many aspects from Director Oshii. I didn't try to distinguish myself from Director Oshii, Instead, I totally tried to copy him.
By nature, I like emulating others. I try to be like some that's well admired. If I was a fan of some band, I'd be copying everything they do, even their clothes and hairstyles. I'm that kind of person.
In regard to Director Oshii, I shared the same philosophy in making and directing anime. I respected him even before I came to I.G.
So when I was directing MiniPato, I was full of conceit, seeing that I was a good substitute for Mamoru Oshii while he was away.
After it was finished, I was absolutely sure that it would appear very much like Director Oshii's work. I was sure that if the ending credit showed Mamoru Oshii, the audience would have believed it was Oshii-san's work.
Still, there was one miscalculation on my part. In the third episode, The Secret of Special Vehicle Unit Section 2!, where they make dried fish, I knew there was a slight deviation from Oshii-san's style.
For example, in the way I portrayed Captain Goto, Oshii-san said that Captain Goto's model was Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki. I thought that was fine, but when I actually had to direct it, I realized I didn't know Suzuki-san in person. I began to feel that Captain Goto was Oshii-san himself as well as Ishikawa-san for me (I had followed the two movies Patlabor 1 and Patlabor 2 as a fan.)
From that viewpoint, given the respect I had for both of them, I somewhat pushed aside the image that Oshii-san had of Captain Goto, as well as the image that Ryunosuke Obayashi, the voice actor, had in mind.
I didn't realize this until I started working on S.A.C. It took me a while to understand this.


Things I learned through copying
The S.A.C. series, when compared to MiniPato, was not only a total copy of Director Oshii's style, but I also wanted to express my respect for Shirow Masamune. So I decided to make something that was like a "cousin" to the movie and manga versions.
At the time, people were also working on Innocence at I.G, so I decided that I would not cut ties with the Oshii Ghost in the Shell. Even then, the finished product showed a slight but definite deviation.
In the first Patlabor movie, Oshii-san made Noa, the main character, say, "There are no humans!" And 15 years later, he made the movie Innocence where there are almost no human beings. I felt that human beings had finally disappeared from Oshii-san's consciousness.
For the past four years, while working on the S.A.C. series, I tried to avoid speaking with Oshii-san. Even when I had questions, I didn't ask him for his ideas.
The result was that Oshii's Ghost in the Shell world, and this includes Innocence, no longer had humans in it, while my S.A.C. decidedly featured "humanity."
I wasn't actually conscious of it, but I asked the voice actors to portray the eager members of Section 9 as 15 years younger than the characters in the Ghost in the Shell movie. I also tried to turn Motoko and Aramaki into more down-to-earth characters.
When the production was over, the story turned out to be about offering hope for the humans, even though I understood Oshii-san's sense of taking out the humans, as in his film.
This was a very interesting outcome for myself. I could then see objectively what I was interested in and what kind of story I wanted to tell. I learned that what most fascinated me was the "human" aspect after all.
Now that S.A.C. 2nd Gig is finished, I could see this very clearly, and I feel both good about it and at the same time, lost. This is very difficult to explain...



Learning about human nature through reassessing the characters
Ever since I started writing scripts for the first season, I'd always thought that it would have been much easier if someone like Aramaki were with me.
As I tried to figure out how to direct an anime series, I often ended up in a dead-end without anyone to help me. Oshii-san wasn't around either.
Given these circumstances, I found myself gradually developing the Aramaki character as someone who would be like my ideal boss.
Also, from my standpoint as a director, I understood the sorts of issues and difficulties facing Aramaki. Being the leader of a team, you realize that you have to be decisive for the sake of the group, even if you know you could be wrong.

After a while, Aramaki began to take over. The anime director and the section chief of Section 9 coexisted within me and made a connection with each other.
It was also like that for "Laughing Man", an original character we created for S.A.C.
The crime he committed and the work of Section 9 were fundamentally the same: "Effect justice against an unseen crime." Nevertheless, he winds up being a criminal and Section 9 is treated like a group of heroes. The difference is where they belong. If the Laughing Man was a member of Section 9, no problem. But since he was just an ordinary citizen, he had no authority to do such things. He reminds me of myself as a teenager and in my 20's, which I wouldn't care to remember.


When I was starting out, I used to bring my drafts to the likes of Sony and the Shochiku film company. They didn't take me seriously most of the time and so I was a frustrated kid. Now I realize that that's not the way it works. Inexperienced freelance animation directors are simply never taken notice of. In those days, I was so naive. I had no idea.

When I look around, my staff provides perfect models: some walking about intently, trying to look smarter; some with low esteem who undervalue themselves; some jumping onto any opportunity they see; and others just toiling away at their given jobs. But everyone is doing his and her best to make S.A.C. better. This sentiment is more or less reflected in the character profiles of Section 9 members such as Batou and Togusa. Thinking about it, I guess I was hoping that the positive and ideal aspects of the characters in the anime would transfer onto my staff at the studio. Or perhaps I was thinking that it would be awesome if my staff consciously imitated the characters.


However, as to the character called "Kuze" in the second season, it is totally a different story...

And with Motoko Kusanagi, I had trouble putting my finger on the true identity of this character. This was because she happened to be a superhuman!
Oshii-san also said, "I don't understand Motoko!" He used to say, "That's why I made her a woman preoccupied with her own desires."

But I somehow felt that this might not be the case. She may be cynical, but she's also a woman who would use her powers to help others. I basically couldn't understand her motives in the first season; the only reason I could think of for her actions was that she was the heroine of the show. But I wasn't happy with that. She could never be the centre of the S.A.C. story. So in the second season, even though I wasn't really supposed to do this, I created an episode that was not written in the original manga, and recounted her past. And in order to emphasize her past, I put a love affair in there. Through this process, I finally understood that this mysterious superhuman was actually a real human being with a miserable past. And as a human who was chosen to gain this superhuman power, she probably believes that she has an obligation to use that ability for the benefit of others. This was my conclusion. You know, just as a very talented athlete gives us inspiration through his or her efforts, she is stoically trying to use her capability in her own way.

But I felt I couldn't come to this conclusion without telling the story of Kuze, an original character in the second season who embarked on a new life leaving a similar past behind. I think this was a lucky spin-off that came about as a result of my being so bold as to include the unlikely element of a love story in the Ghost in the Shell world setting.

"It is yet another crime not to fully employ your capability whatever the situation you are in!"

This could be how Motoko Kusanagi sees it...



The context of Stand Alone Complex

This was something I never intended, but realized while writing the script.
When I first named the series, "Stand Alone Complex", I tried to underscore the dilemmas and concerns that people would face if they relied too heavily on the new communications infrastructure known as "the network".
When "the network" links individuals together, the speed and the amount of transmitted information is greatly boosted. Also, people can share information as if they had actually experienced it, using virtual reality tools in the same way that cell phones and text messaging is commonly used today.
When you are only exchanging text messages, you tend to include all sorts of presumptions and imagined notions. I became aware that this could lead to a sort of parallel information further leading to dangerous situations. This is the image I had for the title.


But as I worked on the series, one type of character embodying this particular problem, the Tachikoma, gradually gain their own individuality through parallelizing each other's information.
This is similar in the way that, while I tried to totally copy Oshii-san, I could never do it. Therefore, the parallelization of information might not be all there is to it.
Even in an ambiguous network society, there may be a positive new hope.
Although the parallelization of information could have numerous side effects, I came to conclude that true individuality would only stand out after parallelizing all of the information.
At that point, I could no longer see hope in the latter half of the 20th century, so I turned to the forgotten art of Sci-Fi to express my hopes for the future.
And I began to see that Stand Alone Complex represented humanity and human society. Then I was curious about what would come next. That really got me fired up to face the ordeal of creating the 2nd Gig.


A new problem that emerged
But I was yet to encounter a new problem.
If I had to comment on the two series, I would say that for the first series, "information disseminates and parallelizes; and the Stand Alone Complex phenomenon actually exists."
And for the second, "good cause is seldom parallelized, and does not disseminate."
In one of the episodes, someone says, "as water runs toward the lowest point, so does human nature." Some may find it upsetting to hear this, but I couldn't find proof otherwise during the production process of the second series.
You know, bad news spreads easily. Similar crimes recur, whereas great people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. are hard to find.
But that did not make sense to me. Good stuff should disseminate as well. And I looked for evidence.
Is this really improbable? I looked around thinking about it.
Unfortunately, nationalism was in the air, and I wanted to do whatever I could to stop this tendency toward war. People all over the world were definitely against it in the beginning, but when they actually started firing, everyone just shut up.
It wasn't like this back in the 70s when everyone was passionately about political action. Now, it's different. It's hard to find politically active movements.
Why is this?
Since judgments could differ significantly according to your standpoint, it's not easy to answer. But at least in the process of making S.A.C. 2nd Gig, I could not find even one instance of something worthy to note. And my desperateness was sort of expressed in the series.

I feel there is more to the Stand Alone Complex, but I also feel that I've done all I could, given my position.
I was very lucky to be on the team as a director. It was an invaluable experience.
For the first series, I tried to be anonymous. At the same time, I toiled away to perfect it, and to create a work of art. I used every resource to do so, and, you know, I wanted to do a faultless job. I am sure the viewers would agree that the series was easy to follow.
But for the second series, I was restless.
When I was working on the first series, although it reflected the era, I was still confident about the power of storytelling.
You might remember the Glico-Morinaga Case (*) and political corruption scandals of the 1980s. I wanted to get to the bottom of them.
As a vulnerable kid back then, I couldn't relate to the fact that politicians committed crime. It had been two or three decades, and I felt a strong desire to retrace these incidents, and solve them (in my stories, at least). And I guess I did realize my dream.
For the second series, when I discussed the theme with Oshii-san, we decided that we couldn't avoid the issue of "war". In other words, we simply couldn't ignore the way society had evolved since the events of 9-11. That was the approach we decided to take, and I tried to illustrate a 21st century (near-future) war. But to tell you the truth, I couldn't avoid feeding back into modern reality.
I had a wish, at least in the anime, to end the war and I kept on asking my staff to find a way to do that. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the solution. This was the hardest part.
When I was working on one episode about a refugee ghetto, incidents occurred one after another, such as the slaying of a Japanese traveler in Iraq and a Chinese submarine appearing near Okinawa.
I was totally carried away. The series shows how I committed myself to these issues, and you can see what may appear like remnants of a war. I put a lot into it. The process wasn't easy, but I can still feel the enthusiasm that I had back then. So the second series turned out to be one of my favorites.


(*) The Glico-Morinaga Case - On March 18, 1984, two masked men with a cap on carrying a gun and a rifle stormed into the house of Katsuhisa Ezaki, president of the giant food maker Glico Corporation. The two men held Ezaki for ransom of 1 billion yen. Ezaki escaped three days later, but this was only the beginning. In May, blackmailing started with letters sent to the newspapers telling that they had laced some Glico products in the Nagoya-Okayama region with potassium cyanide. The letter was signed by "The Monster With 21 Faces", after the villain in Edogawa Ranpo's popular detective novels. Glico products disappeared from the stores, with a loss of more than 5 billion yen. In June, Japanese newspapers received a new letter from the group: "We forgive Glico." But then The Monster With 21 Faces shifted the target from Glico to other food companies, Marudai Ham, Morinaga and House. However, after one last message, dated February 27, 1985, nobody heard from The Monster With 21 Faces ever again. The identikit of the "fox-eyed man" as the police called the prime suspect of the Glico-Morinaga Case, was on all papers and TV channels, becoming one of Japanese crime history icons. In March 1994, the statute of limitation ran out for the abduction of Ezaki, leaving the case unsolved and without explanation. The Glico-Morinaga Case, or Case 114 as it is officially designated, has been the highest on the Japanese Police priority list for 10 years.


Evolution of Real Robots

Before I started working on Stand Alone Complex, I was looking for ideas for a new "real robot" anime ? a missing link to fill in the gap between Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell. But I couldn't find any.
There's nothing surprising about that, because Ghost in the Shell was the ultimate robot anime.
At the height of the robot anime back in the 80's, the most elegant creations among the various infrastructures were land vehicles and aircraft. The robots were expected to replace those vehicles and aircraft on infrastructures created by man..
In the 90's, computers were introduced.
Patlabor had the foresight to use robots as replacements for computers, and not for vehicles and aircraft. When the Internet was introduced as the new infrastructure, we could no longer do anything without linking to the Internet, even though Patlabor did not have a full link to the web.
What then could we utilize on the web? Without any doubt, this would be information.
How about virtual robots in the world of cyber space? That would not do. Robots are robots only when they possess actual robotic bodies.
What if we piloted robots using the web? That was a little off track. Robots take on character when they are piloted directly just like vehicles and aircraft.
I was playing around with these ideas when I realized that if we introduced some kind of interface by which to gain access to the networks, that would serve as a replacement for the idea of piloting a robot. At that point, giant robots disappeared from my mind. The fusion of the web and robots is none other than the artificial bodies you see in Ghost in the Shell.


If we can find a new infrastructure that incorporates real robots in an anime, in other words, if we can invent a situation where we can use an army of robots and still make it convincing for the audience, then we can revive the old style robot animes.
When Patlabor was in production, the Japanese economy was in a bubble, and that made it convincingly real to have robots as heavy machinery to restructure Tokyo. The Babylon Project, an ambitious plan supposed to redevelop Tokyo, was another element to the basic story setting introduced to justify the presence of giant robots.
But still, that was not as convincing as the on-going war being the rationale, or infrastructure, for mobile suits in the Gundam anime series.
Well, I won't give up on my search.



Salinger's Influence?

In S.A.C. 2nd Gig, I dealt with a lot of political issues. Actually, I wasn't particularly interested in politics until I began to work on this series. I didn't really pay attention to the political pages in newspapers before. I was only interested in making anime, ever since I was a high school student.
In anime production, you have a production crew ranging from in-between animators right up to the director. Each and every one has a different role to play.
When I was an amateur, I was happy doing the in-betweens. At one time, I even thought it would be cool just to do the artwork in anime productions.


As I got to know more about the production system, I decided that I had to become a director to do what I really wanted in the commercial anime industry. My dream was to impress people with my work, as I was impressed and influenced by many anime in the past.
This meant that I no longer just sat with a pencil and drew. This was because, in order to realize my vision in anime, I had to work with animators and directors, as well as sponsors, voice actors, and of course, the audience.
It was quite tricky. I found out that I couldn't get things done without political and diplomatic maneuvering. I needed to use my powers of persuasion in the creative workplace.


So it is no coincidence that I gradually became interested in politics.
When I start working with a new crew, I sometimes ask, "If you were chosen to be prime minister by chance ? like by winning a lottery ? would you take the office?" I'd ask, "Without having toiled through all the stages to become prime minister, you just fall into the job tomorrow. Would you take up that opportunity?"
Most of the time, six out of ten people say no.
If I were lucky enough to have the chance, I would even take leave from this job and take up the position. I don't know what I'll do, but I'll try to finish my term as prime minister. I'd be driven by my own curiosity, but I'd also have some hope that I might be able to change something. To help the underprivileged, for example. Even a little support would do.
A young person would say, "I'd rather do whatever I wanted to do with someone I love". I think it is the special privilege of young people to have that kind of dream. Some people commented that S.A.C. is the extreme opposite of a "closed world" type anime. As a director, I couldn't ignore the fact that there is a society between the "world" and the private life of "you and me".



Potential Of The Original
As we finished working on this project, I came to realize that the original Ghost in the Shell created by Shirow Masamune truly had great potential.
Director Oshii once told me long ago, "When I was just about finished Urusei Yatsura, I knew the company would ask me to do Maison Ikkoku, by the same author. They were similar, but the potential of the two were different, so I made up my mind and declined the offer."
I now understand what he meant.
With the setting for Urusei Yatsura, he could do classic literature and hardcore Sci-Fi with the characters, but it would not have been the same with Maison Ikkoku.


It was the same with Stand Alone Complex. Within the fifty-two episodes, I could experiment with a "program picture" structure or break down the drama and restructure its story. I could even insert my secret messages into the story.
With the current networking society and the potential of the original story, I think I was very lucky to have had a chance to direct Stand Alone Complex at this time.
Compared to the time when the first feature film version came out, I think we, as the production staff, and the audiences can now relate to the networking society better.
So I am extremely grateful to Shirow Masamune, the original author, to let a rookie like myself do the job.
I tried not to forget the respect I always had for the original story. While I was working on S.A.C. , I was always conscious that I would be handing it back to Shirow Masamune when it was completed. I'll have to have others judge whether I had done a good job.
As it turned out, my perception deviated from Oshii-san's, and it might also be somewhat different from the original story as well.
I feel that creating something is a process of clarifying the differences between yourself and other people.


New Challenge
Up until now, Production I.G has always stuck to police stories. I feel it might be interesting to create a story from the criminal's point of view. Being on the side of the authority, you never lose, but don't you think criminals have more freedom? Of course crimes are immoral, so it is hard to produce an anime from that perspective. But I think it would be fun to go about in the world of S.A.C. from a "commoner's" point of view.
Tetsuya Nishio and Dai Sato often suggest that we should make anime set in convenience stores and family restaurants! (lol).


© Shirow Masamune · Production I.G / KODANSHA

Behind the Scenes Part 10: Kenji Kamiyama (Director)

In this tenth and last interview, we couldn't but invite Kenji Kamiyama, the director of the movie, who certainly does not need introduction.

Part 10: Kenji Kamiyama (Director)
"We consider this project as a sort of badge of honor."

Profile Director and scriptwriter. Born in Saitama Prefecture on March 20, 1966. In 1985 he joined the background atelier Studio Fuga. A rare example of a background artist shifting to directorial roles, Kamiyama worked as sequence director in Jin-Roh (1999) and wrote the script for Blood: The Last Vampire (2000), then debuted as director in MiniPato (2002). International attention eventually arrived with the TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002) and Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd Gig (2004), followed by the feature-length Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society (2006). In 2007, after almost 6 years in the world of SAC, Kamiyama directed the high-fantasy TV series Guardian of the Spirit. In 2006 he 'acted' as a superlivemation digital puppet in Mamoru Oshii's Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters, in the role of Manager Kamiyama.

What were your thoughts after finishing Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society?
For this special chapter of Stand Alone Complex, we spent an entire year and a budget totaling 360 million yen (about US$3.4 million), which is about the amount usually spent for a feature film. The S.A.C. series started in 2002 - actually even earlier, if you count the planning and pre-production period. At that time, I was still a novice director, so I thought I'd be happy if this series could serve as an opener for Director Oshii's feature film Innocence, which was in production at the same time. And I thought it would be an honour just to have the series' DVD to be placed in a small corner of the section dedicated to Mamoru Oshii's works in video stores. That was my feeling when I started. But one good thing about a TV series is that since it unfolds across a wider time-span, it progressively captures more and more fans, and allows the staff to develop stories as we could not otherwise in a single feature film. Eventually, staying with this project all these years has turned out as a very rewarding experience.

Starting from myself, all the staff has the greatest respect for the world of Ghost in the Shell, so we have been very cautious not to degrade this name. Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society was not originally made for theatres, but I think it was because of our years of hard work that made its screening at the 19th Tokyo International Film Festival and other film festivals overseas possible. I am very honored to be the representative of the production staff. And I am so proud that we were able to produce a series that's been loved for so long.

Have you ever felt it difficult to make a sequel to S.A.C. 2nd Gig?
To tell you the truth, when I completed S.A.C. 2nd Gig, I felt I had done everything I wanted to do. So I wasn't really confident about doing a sequel when I started working on the script. I was wondering whether I could actually make a sequel, or whether the fans were really waiting for it, and all that sort of thing.

But as we proceeded into the production, I came to realize that the audience, staff and the people who were associated with this project were looking forward to my next challenge with the world of GITS: SAC. Of course there was no question about my motivation to make a new anime, but what really moved me while working on Solid State Society was this strong sense of gratification in being aware that we were creating something that was highly anticipated by those people around us. Even though it was not intended for theatrical release, this was my first challenge with an over 100-minute long anime, so the production staff and I had some very difficult times, but everyone really gave his and her best. I am so grateful and I feel we have produced something that is going to stay in terms of quality and storytelling.

After Kusanagi left Section 9, Aramaki chose to expand the organization and appointed Togusa to take on the job as the leader of the new expanded team. In S.S.S., the audience will be exposed to an extensive human drama that's unequaled in the previous S.A.C. series.

Solid State Society was produced two years after 2nd Gig, and in the SAC timeline, the movie itself is set 2 years after the last episode of 2nd Gig. We can see that the leading characters had gone through a minor change in their relationships. What do you think are the key points to remember in S.S.S?
The anime characters are not real actors, so you would expect them to move as I, the director, wish them to. Furthermore, they are not supposed to get older ever. But after working with the same characters for six years, they began to go out of control. I mean they actually gained "ghosts," i.e. the human souls. The members of Section 9 had moved on, so that they didn't allow themselves to stay in the same moment in time over and over as is the case with popular family entertainment anime characters. Actually, when I completed 2nd Gig, I regretted not being able to bring Motoko's emotional state back to the cheerful one you can see in the original Shirow Masamune's comic book. So that became my goal in Solid State Society. But as I worked on the script, I found myself at the latter part of the story, with no more time left, and Motoko apparently still unwilling to decide to go back to Section 9.

My mentor Mamoru Oshii taught me one important truth: "as you keep working with a story, you gradually realize that it becomes impossible to control the characters." I never dreamed I'd experience that myself, so I was happy, but also sad at the same time when I actually encountered that moment. It was exactly as he told me and I felt Kusanagi was telling me, "If you are going to return me to Section 9, then you must make a convincing story." And then, just seven minutes before the end title, I felt that I finally accomplished the goal I set out, i.e. to put Kusanagi and Section 9 back to almost where the first season started. Even at that point, Kusanagi didn't say she wanted to return. At the same time, I think that we have succeeded in depicting the maturation process of Section 9 after two years and a full-scale reorganization in a real and credible way.

For the incidents occurring in S.S.S., you've chosen topics that come directly from our present times, such as the aging society and child abuse. What was the reason behind choosing these topics?
As a matter of fact, in the entire Stand Alone Complex series, we have often taken up actual social issues and incidents, so in a way we just stuck at an established "tradition." But there's another reason. My mentor Mamoru Oshii's feature film, Innocence, also dealt with kidnapping. However, although that was the theme of the movie, the story didn't necessarily cover the actual kidnapping of real humans, but inclined toward telling the story of the "containers" they were dubbed into. I had my own ideas, I mean I felt it was about time to grow away from my mentor... I felt I had to give back something to the director too, but Innocence sort of stood in my way. So I decided to present my own idea. That was my first motivation to take up kidnapping as my theme. Basically, I think S.S.S. is the most actual and political of all the S.A.C. installments. And at the same time, I am confident that S.S.S. has extensively portrayed the human drama to the maximum that the S.A.C. series could offer.

Issues of the elderly and child abuse were chosen as core elements to buildup the storyline for S.S.S. The movie inherits the habit of the S.A.C. series to borrow ideas from Japan's crime history, such as the Lockheed bribery scandal, the Glico-Morinaga case and HIV-tainted blood scandal.

How do these themes connect to the title, Solid State Society?
I was conscious of the double meaning of the words. I have used the word transistor (a solid-state device) as a metaphor of the elderly - there is actually a line in the story that tells of this. So the title means a society where elderly people lived, but at the same time I made it a society that had already deteriorated (device-oriented.) I tried to insert a message that we should get back to a society where people were conscious of and caring about others.

Lastly, could we have your message for the fans?
S.S.S. is the materialization of the appraisal received by the staff for the Stand Alone Complex series, and the culmination of 6 years of hard work. We consider this project as a sort of badge of honor. I am especially indebted to chief animation director Takayuki Goto. He was the spiritual backbone of the animation team, and instilled souls to the characters in the film. He checked all of the cuts attentively - more than 1200 of them - all alone. His titanic efforts greatly contributed to bring S.S.S.'s quality to a theatrical feature film level. We have spent one full year and gave all our energy to it. Hope you will enjoy it.

Behind the Scenes Part 9: Kenji Teraoka (Mechanical Designer)

In this ninth interview, we talked to Kenji Teraoka, who worked mechanical designs throughout the S.A.C. series along with Shinobu Tsuneki, featured in the previous Behind the Scenes interview. We asked about his impressions as he wrapped up his assignment on S.S.S.

Part 9: Kenji Teraoka (Mechanical Designer)
"I don't think we could do the same in other projects."

Profile Born on March 28, 1962, in Shimane Prefecture. Mechanical designer, he worked for AIC in Gun x Sword (2005), in Noir (2001) and Spider Riders (2006) for Beat Rain, and for Sunrise in Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (2006). Regarding Production I.G's title, Teraoka is probably best known for being the irreplaceable designer in the Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. series, but fans may enjoy his work also in Blood+.

What was your first impression when you were approached to work on S.S.S.?
I had previously been working on the TV series, so to be honest, I thought, "Wow, I could be in real trouble." The TV series was over at last and I was virtually drained. If I were to do another project that meant I had to gear up and start over again!

But I looked forward to it, of course. I felt that somehow it was going to be a real challenge. On top of that, at the very early stage we did not know whether this was going to be a TV program or an OVA, so we couldn't foresee how much detail we were going to put into it. Naturally, I had a feeling it would be the same as usual, so I thought that the animators were going to experience some hard time again.

What was the most difficult component to design for this series?
The care beds this time. I had to custom design them for each character. The square-shaped equipment at the bedside was the symbolic paraphernalia that served as an indirect metaphor for this series which dealt with elderly care. I was contemplating the design for this equipment in the beginning. Once that was decided, all I had to do was to check the balance of the whole, so the process picked up a little speed, sort of.

The beds were challenging, especially Karma's bed. He is a rich man, living in a gorgeous mansion. A highly sophisticated man who has good artistic sense too. But he is represented as an elderly man who needs care and is confined to a bed. I designed each bed by visualizing what sort of bed this particular person would sleep in. If this was a hospital bed, it would not be a custom-made bed and could do without accessories, but for Karma's bed, I really had to think about his personality to design it. That was a bit of a tricky part. To tell you the truth, I designed quite a few beds for 2nd Gig, so I've done relatively a large number of beds. Since this series is a police story, a lot of people get injured. There were quite a few scenes where people are lying on hospital beds, so I guess the amount of medical related designs for this series outnumber other projects I had designed.

Is there any particular design that you recall?
First, Karma's bed and then the powersuits. In Part D, where cyborgs... because they're not powersuits but rather cyborgs. It may sound funny, but there are cyborg suits. So they look like powered suits, but they’re actually cyborgs. That's how they are specifically conceived to be. They were drawn with notably bizarre lines and the legs resembled bird-legs for a change. The bird-legs bend in the opposite direction than human legs, so animators normally hate to do them. Their movements look shaky, and we intentionally exploited that peculiarity to some extent.

I received a lot of complicated design instructions. It wasn't that the designing was difficult, but I had a lot of uncertainties about how they would turn out if they were used in the animation, starting from the powered suits. And the deep-sea robot has six legs! The six-legged ones are really complicated, so we seldom, or I should say, we almost never do them. Well, I think Kamiyama-san was confident that after all those years, the 3D team was certainly able to manage that monster. Having said that, it is a bit of a challenge to draw anyway. I don't think we could do the same in other projects.

What are the specific parts that you, as a creator, hope the audience to see?
It would be fun to watch the deep-sea robot I just mentioned and also the complex movements of the 3D cyborgs. You'd be surprised to see unexpected components moving. You will probably not notice these movements the first time, because that's the way we made it, with lots of meticulous details and movements. There is so much going on in each scene, so I think it would be easier to follow if you watch it once then run through it two or three times again. As you can tell, this is an interesting piece, so I imagine you won't mind seeing it over and over again. I'm sure you'll like it!

Behind the Scenes Part 8: Shinobu Tsuneki (Mechanical Designer)

This eighth installment of the series features Shinobu Tsuneki, who has been responsible for mechanical designs for the entire Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. series. We asked him for his thoughts after finishing S.S.S.

Part 8: Shinobu Tsuneki (Mechanical Designer)
"I have used all my time to push my designs to the limit."

Profile Shinobu Tsuneki is currently in force of Studio Takuranke. His credits include Crest of the Stars (1999), Sci-fi Harry (2000) and Zoids Genesis (2005) among many others. Along with Kenji Teraoka, he is the distinctive mechanical designer throughout the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series, including the game edition.

In your designing work, were you conscious of the fact there was a time lag of two years between the 2nd Gig and S.S.S.?
To say the truth, actually not so much. Rather, this time I was exceptionally given quite a generous amount of time, so I thought I'd use all my time to push my designs to the limit, sort of. I get into that mentality when I have extra room in my schedule. By the way, for S.S.S. I took care of the overall design of cars. I know, it's up to the audience to decide whether it was worth taking all that time. Personally, I was glad that I was also able to put my energy into designing firearms as well as cars.

You mean you designed a lot of firearms as well?
For this project, they let me do Motoko's gear too. Usually, that job goes to Teraoka-san, but they asked me this time. It felt good to do the main character things once in a while. Basically, the gear used by Section 9 was supposed to be Teraoka-san's territory. So a tiny pistol from Sebro and the like that appear in this series were done by him, of course. But for Part D, which is the final section of the movie, it was decided that I was to come up with ideas for all the gear used there. So I had to figure out what kind of parts were necessary to fasten to the gear. As for rifles, they usually come with sling belts, but I thought it wasn't fun to see the slings every time. You know, there is a way you can sling it with a wire nowadays. So I thought it might be interesting to use that idea from the real world. They don't appear on screen a lot, so this might not mean anything unless you're really into them. I might be biased, but if you are knowledgeable, then I imagine you'd enjoy it a little bit more.

Is there a memorable episode from working on S.S.S. that you'd like to share?
We developed a huge towing trailer for Tachikoma from scratch again. The old trailer was pretty plain, so it wasn't very exciting as a vehicle. Actually, they originally ordered it as such, but this time around, we made it a little flashy and got a bit picky with the design. For example, I visualized a tiny Tachikoma plastic model and I pictured the towing trailer that I'd wished someone would make for me. I actually like plastic models, you know. So I designed something that I'd love to own.

What are the must-see scenes in S.S.S.?
As you know, in this movie, Motoko is no longer with Section 9 and there is a sort of uneasiness between Togusa and Batou. Their relationship is changing, but at the same time they have unchanged, subtle feelings toward each other, including mutual respect. I can sort of sum up that the emotional side of the characters is the main theme of this series. For instance, why did Motoko leave Section 9? How does Batou take this? I think it would be fun if you pay attention to the circumstances surrounding Motoko and each character's emotions.

Any message for the audience?
Sure! Please make sure to take a look at Motoko's outfit in the last battle. Even though you see it for only a matter of seconds.

This is the only scene where you can recognize a piece of gear hanging from a wire. Watch out. It disappears in a matter of seconds!

Behind the Scenes Part 7: Yoko Kanno (Music Composer)

The music for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is like jewelry sprinkled all over, glittering in an assortment of colors. From a minimalist rhythm to a scratchy guitar passage, a cool vocal in Russian and a singing piano melody, the background music for the Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. series is a medley of numerous compositions.

We interviewed Yoko Kanno, who has been for five years responsible for the music score of Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. from the first season in 2002 to the latest Solid State Society in 2006. How did she fulfill her mission?

Part 7: Yoko Kanno (Music Composer)
"I had this image of a formal and rigid "manly" world for the original comic. So I tried to think of ways to destroy that world."

Profile Born on March 18, in Miyagi Prefecture, Yoko Kanno is a music composer, arranger and pianist. She has written and performed music for many commercial films, TV dramas, feature films, animation and video games, and is currently one of the most world-renowned of Japanese musicians. She wrote the score for famous animated works, including Macross Plus, Cowboy Bebop, Vision of Escaflowne and Wolf's Rain, and is the most trusted composer by veteran and new-wave directors such as Yoshiyuki Tomino, Shinichiro Watanabe and Shoji Kawamori..

Do you remember your first thoughts when you were offered to compose music for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex?
I had heard of the name, "Ghost in the Shell" but I had only a vague idea of what it was really about. When I told my staff that I had an offer to work on this "Ghost in the Shell" thing, they were jumping with joy. Especially the male staff. They all loved it and said, "You must!" So I checked the original comic, and boy, it's very erotic. (lol) Most of the crew was composed by males in their 30's or 40's, so I thought, "Wow, this is what they like?"

You thought Stand Alone Complex was going to be an erotic anime! (lol)
That's right! But when I met with Director Kamiyama, he said he wanted to do J.D. Salingers' The Catcher in the Rye. You know that my first impression of the comic was erotic, (lol) so I was really curious how that would relate to The Catcher in the Rye! After talking with him, he turned out to be naive and sounded quite pure hearted. Above all, he had passion. And besides I like literary works including English works, so I thought I might be able to fulfill that task.

"I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes"  a line from J.D. Salingers' The Catcher in the Rye appears in the Laughing Man logo (left). In the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, we can see numerous copycat offenders that simulate the Laughing Man, like Aoi (right). However, the original Laughing Man never makes his appearance in the series.

What was your intended musical approach to Stand Alone Complex?
I had this image of a formal and rigid "manly" world for the original comic. So I tried to think of ways to destroy that world. The theme I had in mind was, "be human." It represented the sentiment of "why don't we take it easy and be more like a human being?" - instead of being a workaholic salaried man working for his company. Or be it Tachikoma wishing to become human. I wanted to express these "tangible fuzziness," sort of. For the opening theme song called "inner universe," I had an image of digital bits and composed a score consisting of recurrent quick beats.

What were the actual exchanges between you and Director Kamiyama in the process of composing the scores?
Actually, Kazuhiro Wakabayashi, the sound director, gave me a menu to follow while composing the soundtrack. He has an extraordinary talent with words. He communicated delicate emotional feelings to me with his writings that were like poems. For example, in S.A.C. 2nd Gig, he wrote, "A man with a Japanese sword, Kuze. Things that go through his mind..." It was like I could imagine a scene from a movie. That was the menu I got.

What was your impression of the first episode, "Section 9" of Stand Alone Complex?
This is something like a habit of mine, but when I team up with a new staff member, I get into a thorough discussion until I am totally clear about the project. As for Stand Alone Complex, when I saw the first episode, I felt I understood what the director was aiming at, but I felt that was not "initiated" yet. So after the first episode was completed, I had a discussion with the director and Wakabayashi-san. We actually talked about things that were not at all related to the anime. For instance, we debated about the current entertainment environment. I expressed my idea of "what" and "how" we should connect to the audience. Others talked from their point of view. It was very stimulating. We were like students activists  naive and green, too much thinking, all talk and no action, sort of. Not that I was into it, no. (lol)

The melody run rabbit junk was used in the scene where Motoko barges into a high-end Japanese restaurant in episode 1. This score is now used as the theme melody when Section 9 strikes the offender's hideaway, but using that music for that scene in the first episode was in fact Kanno's idea.

Creating the music for Stand Alone Complex, that counts 52 TV episodes and one feature-length OVA, resulted in a 5-year endeavour. It is not very common to work on a project for such a long time, is it?
I think I've been very lucky to be a part of many successful projects. Actually, when a title is positively received, I'm often asked to do the music for the sequel, too. But at that time I get very panicky, because I feel a certain pressure to do better than the previous work. But strangely enough, I didn't have that dilemma with Stand Alone Complex. Maybe that's because when I worked on the first season, I had to deal with enormous pressure and inner conflict. The original manga was already immensely popular and when they decided to transpose it into animation it, there was a lot of pressure. So when I worked on S.A.C. 2nd Gig, I simply enjoyed working with a staff that had accumulated experience. It was obvious that the director himself as well as the staff around him were all more experienced than when we worked on the first season. I felt I didn't have to rush to accomplish something. That was a good thing. I had no worries.

I see. The progress Director Kamiyama and his staff made became a secure foundation for the project.
Simply put, they were the brainy theory-loving kids when we started out with Stand Alone Complex, but by the time we were working on S.A.C. 2nd Gig, I felt they were expressing more emotion and made good use of their intuitions. I sensed that sort of change in Director Kamiyama and his staff.

For Solid State Society, where did you get the ideas for your scores?
The script was so exciting. I in fact devoured it in a sitting. For a TV series, we usually compose music ahead of time, but for this particular project, I really wanted to synchronize the scores with the scenes to share this ingenious world with the audience. I actually did match the scores with many of the scenes. In Solid State Society, individual parts had separate identities. This was an underlying theme on the personal level. It's difficult to explain. I'll give you an example. Motoko, if I put it in catchy words, had her divided identity dwelling in different parts of her body. It was like she had her "self" here as well as another "self" over there, I think. Two years had passed since S.A.C. 2nd Gig, and she can now integrate or disintegrate her body parts of her own free will. This was how she came about to be. That was my assumption. My personal objective was to illustrate her progress, flexibility and strength in my music.

Did you read the script and the storyboards really thoroughly before working on the scores?
It wasn't necessarily a "thorough reading," in terms of what it literally means. I would quickly read the script. Maybe in twenty minutes to get that valuable first impression. Then I put it aside and compose the score with the holistic image of the story.
I usually look at the storyboards too, but frankly speaking, I am not very good at deciphering them. I seldom read manga, so I don't know how to shift the pictures in my head. I rather design with the images I get from reading printed material.

Solid State Society deals with complex and realistic social issues. What were your thoughts?
I don't know what to say. (lol) If I take them seriously as social issues, I can't make music that really explodes. What interested me was not really the theme, but the flow of things; how they told the story. It might be that it is not the language or the words that compel me to compose. I could say that I'm driven by a sensitive world that precedes words as a form of expression.

You compose based on your impressions of images from the anime?
Well, you see, I think music is closer to emotions. When I say that it precedes words, I mean closer to pure emotiveness. For example, I feel I compose music to express my feelings that arise from seeing the everyday world around me. Vague and raw feelings which are not clear enough to be put into words. To give you a more specific example, the primitive and unresolved feelings such as "This person interests me," "I don't like that person, but I can't ignore him/her," "I want to go, but I don't want to leave," or "It will be dangerous, but it will be fine." You know what I mean? I think I am fascinated with expressing feelings that can't be expressed well with words.

Is it easier to put them into musical notes than words?
Yes, I would say that. A violin's tone can sound scary or powerful with a tiny variance in how the instrument is played. A slight vibration of a note can deliver a minute nuance that you can't express with words.

Did you use Sound Director Kazuhiro Wakabayashi's music menu as a guide for your work again this time?
Of course. I have composed about 35 or 36 scores in total for Solid State Society. And I received menus for 70% of them.

Which of Wakabayashi-san's music menus was most impressive?
I must say the menu for the scene with Togusa and his daughter. It was most solemnly written. I think the director had a special sentiment for it too. I felt this was an important scene, so I wanted to dedicate more time to it and for this reason I left it until the end. But when I actually set out to work on it, I just couldn't get on with it. So I pulled out all the scores I composed for Solid State Society and listened to them. It was strange. The first piece I composed, which I thought I would never use at the time, fit perfectly. This was a total coincidence. If I meant to do such a thing, it would never have happened.

When a person renders a scene, generally, the outcome depends on the person's preference. Some people tend to lean toward negative views and others, positive. I prefer something that is a mixture of various perspectives or opinions and feelings. I am attracted to something that barely exists at the balance between things. If you push on with monotone or only use a certain pattern, perspective or point of view, people will get bored. The brain is not the only active factor in music creation. I sometimes wait for a coincidence to take place, use my body to create, or borrow someone else's brain, and at times, my emotion goes out of control. I would always like to blend in these cluttered qualities into my work.

Do you compose music using your head or is it more to do with your senses?
Actually, I don't really know the details of the storyline even now. I read the script once quickly. I just ignored the details, and there are parts that I don't even remember. But it's the best way for me to create music. It doesn't work for me if I get absorbed in thought. From my experience, it's best to give priority to my first impressions.

Let's talk about the opening song, player. I heard you had a chance to talk with Tetsuya Nishio, who was the animator for the opening sequence.
This is another strange story. We were chatting about dream interpretations. Kamiyama-san was with us too and I asked him, "Tell us about your latest dream." He replied, "Something to do with red." Then I looked at him - he was wearing "red" glasses and had "red" sneaker strings. He had an unforgettable dream about the color red and was trying to investigate what it meant to wear red.

But I've heard that you told Nishio-san, "White is the theme color."
It might be a rebound to 2nd Gig, which had a blackish color tone - I am not sure. I don't remember telling him that. Maybe because Nishio-san's head went blank at the time. (lol)

What about the climax scene of Kusanagi and Batou?
Yeah, right. What was that? You know the scene where Batou puts his arm around Kusanagi's hips. What was the intention? I'd like the director's clear answer! (lol) Anyway, this movie had a very nice ending. It felt different from the previous TV series. This time, I could feel their passion, like, "We will be back!" Until now, the series ended with Kusanagi saying, "The network is vast" and that felt like a statement without an answer. But this time around, I felt an energy surging forward. I thought this feeling was very important. And that led to date of rebirth, which was used for the credit sequence at the end.

I understand from your words that your music is made with your love for the project and the staff. It seems like your eagerness to enrich the content comes through in your music.
The ultimate root of my music making was a love letter. When I was in kindergarten, I really liked one boy and I composed a song called, "I like you very much" for him. This was the first song I composed. I guess I couldn't say it with words. But I could with music. So it is true that even with Solid State Society, I compose a score to tell the director, "I love this scene!"

Director Kamiyama said he was grateful because, according to his words, "Kanno-san composed score after score as if a big sister was helping me out."
Ha-ha. (lol) Next time, I might try to compose from Motoko's stance. You know, she is quite sadistic and cruel, don't you agree? She is more likely to say, "You are totally dumb." (lol)

Behind the Scenes Part 6: Masayuki Yoshihara (Storyboarder and Sequence Director)

Three sequence directors eventually worked on S.S.S. In this sixth installment, we have invited Masayuki Yoshihara, who directed Part C and worked on the storyboards with Kenji Kamiyama. We asked Yoshihara-san what his thoughts were after finishing S.S.S.

Part 6: Masayuki Yoshihara (Storyboarder and Sequence Director)
"When I read the script, I felt S.S.S. was a piece of work filled with excitement from the start to the end."

Profile Masayuki Yoshihara is a professional in force of the studio P.A. Works. For the Stand Alone Complex series, he was responsible for episode 3, "Android and I" and episode 12, "Escape From" as episode director and storyboarder. The start of his collaboration with Kamiyama dates back to the days when Kamiyama was still working in the background art section of studio AIC.

When asked about the director, Yoshihara smiling responded, "Kamiyama-san hasn't changed since the old days. He knows the goal clearly. I feel he was meant to take up the position he has now. When I first got a job to do the storyboards and direct the animation, I secretly asked him for advice. Kamiyama-san is my mentor in directing. I have learned my trade through working as his assistant".

The two are responsible for storyboards for S.S.S.

"It is interesting to notice that we didn't direct the part we drew storyboards for. Toshiyuki Kono worked with storyboards done by myself and Kamiyama, and Masaki Tachibana and I worked with Kamiyama's storyboards."

In the S.A.C. series you can find a solid portion of detective drama as well as a lot of everyday-life scenes. With respect to S.S.S., it is true that people talk about the abundance of action scenes in, but actually, you should not miss the great emphasis given to the everyday-life scenes. "I am being conscious of things like from what angle a cameraman would shoot if this was a live action film. This is not a sort of anime with thunderbolts and characters jumping up high. We have a strong sense of making a conventional detective drama and portraying real people. Of course, the members of Section 9 are all super-humans with capabilities 50% more than the real people."

Studio 9 is equipped with 3D CG and camera shooting facilities for anime productions. Yoshihara stresses on the fact that this in-house production system eventually turned extremely advantageous for the staff. "For instance, there is a scene where Saito and Batou give chase on a highway. It was indeed a painstaking process involving 3D and filming sections. We even asked Kazuchika Kise to help us with the 'after image' effects."

"Everyone is under unbelievable pressure with tight schedules and situations, but when you are faced with an unsolvable problem, you can easily ask someone in another section without spending the day over the phone or going to external studios one driving hour away from your workplace. This was truly a helpful environment."

Yoshihara thus looks back at the production process. We asked him about his favorite scene.

"It has to be the scene with Aramaki and Colonel Tonoda. I had a meeting with Kamiyama, in which we had so many things to talk about for that scene. And also at the meeting with the key animators, we felt it was the most emotional scene of all. We loved it."

"You see, Colonel Tonoda was beginning to have a memory disorder and he asked funny questions. But at the end, he makes a remark to Aramaki, 'I'm glad you didn't take after me. It's like that proverb: a kite gives birth to a hawk. I am proud of you.' Aramaki replies with a nod.
All I can remember about Part C is that there were too many things going on and lots of action scenes as well. (lol) I felt I came to a frightful place to work. But to be honest, the fact that this scene with Aramaki and Colonel Tonoda was in Part C kept me going."

"Nowadays, there are quite a few anime works that are simply not viable. And I'm not even talking about the quality of storyboards. But for this project, I could carry on with my genuine job, that consist in adding extra detail to the storyboards and decide how you are going to present the scene. That meant I suffered as a sequence director, but I had a tough time in doing what I was supposed to do. It made me feel good to be working on this project."

In the very limited time available, it must have been a continuous struggle for Yoshihara-san. You can't decipher what he went through from the gentle look on his face now. The joy of accomplishment was much greater than the hardship endured to deliver it.

These are storyboards from Part C of S.S.S. where Yoshihara-san directed. There were so many cuts that he had to divide the part into three batches. Portions colored with red colored-pencil on the left hand side of each cut shows the progress, whether the key animation is done or it's in the process of filming. You can tell Yoshihara-san was in control of the progress of each cut as he worked along.

"Part B is a dialogue drama, but I think this part is the core drama of the entire story. Owing perhaps to Kono-san's skillful processing, it turned out really impressive. The part mainly goes on with describing the situation and I was sort of worried it might be a little boring with less action, but it describes the relationship between indecisive Batou and the members of the new Section 9 quite well."

"As a storyboarder, I get really intense doing these types of parts than the action scenes. (lol) For instance, the scene where Batou is late coming into the briefing room and Togusa says a word or two to him; surprisingly enough, there is nothing extraordinary about it. I had a very tough time making that shot where they speak to each other. But I really had fun creating the storyboard. Especially where I had to render Batou's feelings as he wondered what others thought about him."

Behind the Scenes Part 5: Toshiyuki Kono (Sequence Director)

In order to facilitate the production process of S.S.S., the movie was divided into four parts (A, B, C and D), and Kenji Kamiyama was assisted by three sequence directors, who took care of each section separately. After Masaki Tachibana, in this fifth installment of our special feature on S.S.S., we would like to introduce the second sequence director, Toshiyuki Kono, who has been with the S.A.C. staff from the early days. We asked him of his impressions after finishing S.S.S., in which he tried to focus on the flow of the story of the entire series.

Part 5: Toshiyuki Kono (Sequence Director)
"I think we were able to produce a film that could hold up to being watched over and over again. When you finish watching it to the end, you definitely want to go back to the beginning."

Animation supervisor and sequence director. He worked at Anime-R before joining Xebec, and later Production I.G, where he participated to a number of projects, including IGPX. He is one of the core staff members of the Kamiyama Team, being involved in the GitS: S.A.C. project since the very first season as episode director for episode 1, "Section 9" and storyboard and episode director for episode 2, "Testation."

For Kono, who was the animation director for The Laughing Man, it was not the first time he collaborated on a feature-length project of over 100 minutes. In S.S.S., he worked alongside Masaki Tachibana and Masayuki Yoshihara.

"I worked on Part B and the latter half of Part D. Since I was not the only sequence director for this project, I started out by trying to identify the flow of the entire film. I first worked on Part B. I was concerned about how Part B could take up the flow of the story from Part A and pass onto Part C, because when you subdivide a movie in parts like this, the emotional tension of each character often tends to go astray. We had to show to the audience one aligned flow of emotion for each character throughout the story, so that they would not see the discrepancy between the parts. This was my priority in directing."

From a narrative construction point of view, Part A introduces the situation, while Part C represents the turnover before Part D, the conclusion. Therefore, Kono's Part B is where the story has to be developed, in order to be passed onto Part C. In a detective story, this is where you would be sorting out the situations and at the same time trying to deceive the audience.

"After all, you can't go ahead and solve the case in Part B! (lol) So my purpose was to make the audience anticipate what would come next. Facing a sequence of mysterious incidents, Section 9 starts gathering the elements of the jigsaw puzzle and tries to organize the information. This is also a process for the audience to sort out the information as well."

The script for S.S.S. probably stands on the top of all the S.A.C. series-related material in regard to the amount of information, the exhaustive network of clues and the high number of characters; this made the script ever more complex. Kono, in order to direct the scenes, went through an analytical process of the story structure, aimed to uncover and extract the plot points from the script on his own.

"When I read the script for the first time, I thought, phew, merely reading the script as is won't take me anywhere. So I went through the script and jotted down some points in 2 to 3 lines; and put boxes around them.
I sort of made a flow chart to understand the storyline. I then realized how it was ingeniously created. I did not participate in the scriptwriting process, so this was a helpful learning process."

"I was not that concerned about how each scene looked. I was more concerned about how each scene made the entire story viable," explained Kono. He was very intent about asking the audience to watch the film over and over again.

"The drama is very intense, so I think you can go back to it again and again. I know for some films, you watch it once and say, that was fun, but let's go and get ice cream and head home."

"But for S.S.S., after watching it once, you would feel you want to watch it again from the beginning. And every time you will appreciate or discover new aspects: you can decide to indulge in the animation picture at one time, or maybe focus on the 3D renderings at another time. And... well, it would be awesome if even a few people decided to check on the directing. (lol)"

Kono started out on this project to make it the culmination of the S.A.C. TV series, and it seems like he emerged with a solid result.

Kono's storyboards filled with directing notes. You can visualize his fierce struggles from this red ink-drenched storyboard.

"In the TV series, I was probably the one who dealt with episodes centered on Togusa more than anybody else in the staff, so I obviously have a sort of empathy toward him as a leader of the new Section 9. Nevertheless, I have to say that the most exciting character this time in S.S.S. is Batou. He is one of the core figures. Check out his ambivalent feeling after his reunion with Motoko and how that gradually settled down. It should be fun to watch from Batou's point of view."

Behind the Scenes Part 4: Masaki Tachibana (Sequence Director)

The Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. (S.A.C.) series surpassed the quality standard of Japanese TV productions in many ways. One of the key persons of the production team, Masaki Tachibana, is featured in this fourth interview. His collaboration to the S.A.C. project started with episode 6, "Meme." Then he contributed his talent in storyboards and episode directing throughout the two seasons of this series. We asked how he felt about completing a new chapter, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society (S.S.S.).

Part 4: Masaki Tachibana (Sequence Director)
"We paid attention to even the slightest emotional change of a character as well as the facial expressions and manners."

After working as an assistant director at Toei Animation, he became a freelancer. Starting from episode 6, "Meme," that he directed and for which he created the as a storyboard, Tachibana was one of the essential episode directors throughout the two seasons of S.A.C., and was naturally asked to come aboard for Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society. He also directed the OVA, The King of Fighters: Another Day.

"I always have the most difficult time with storyboards, but this time, that was not my part of the job, so I could concentrate on the actions of each character. However, that turned out to be the trickiest part. (lol)"

Tachibana-san looks back on his task in the S.S.S. production. Since the first TV season, he tried to be conscious of the camera position and sought ways to a more realistic rendering.

"If you seek realism, you have to visibly show the relative positions of the ground and the character and that means the camera is obviously placed at eye-level. Right from the S.A.C. series, I created storyboards with this natural camera work in mind. And another feature of the S.A.C. series is the numerous color variations. For instance, you would have four variations for night scenes: without light, under the street light, in the building, and in the car. If Section 9's four or five members appear in a scene, then we must prepare 4 or 5 sets of color variations for each of them. And we also have dusk and daytime scenes as well. The painters had to go through a lot of torture because of this, but it certainly improved the quality."

The color variation gave a more realistic look to the scenes and also offered a great deal of advantage to the directing staff. Lighting boards (*) were used in the production of S.S.S. and it was Tachibana that suggested that.

"I discussed this with the director Kamiyama and asked the art director, Yusuke Takeda, to produce lighting boards ahead of the storyboards. At the art meetings (NOTE: meetings held to decide about background art), I noticed Takeda was always very keen about the position of the key light source, because it affected the impression of the respective scene.

For instance, in a scene where Kuroma and Batou chat in the parking lot, there is a mercury vapor construction lamp shining from behind Kuroma. The coloring of the entire scene is somewhat subdued, but since we are looking into the light that's lit in the background, I think it really made a shocking scene. Scenes and effects like this are totally exclusive to the S.A.C. series."

"Every anime depends on its picture, so my chief concern is to create top grade pictures," says Tachibana-san. Nevertheless, he is keener about the subtle actions of the characters.

"The movie is divided into 4 parts, from A to D. I've done Part A and D. Part A was at the beginning of the story, so there was lots of accurately calculated dialogue in the script. To make it worse, it was very difficult to show the changes each character had undergone in the two-year gap by their facial expressions and manners."

"Take Batou. He is upset about the incident that has just taken place, but Motoko is rather calm to observe the very same event. Togusa is a little short-tempered guy and I tried to show that by inserting a little pause. The construction of this delicate play was not easy."

"For the production of the S.A.C. series, certain things, such as how to express particular scenes or the theme of the story, were already worked out at the script level. When we started the production, the Kamiyama-san gave us detailed directions such as 'this character thinks so and so, so make him/her act in such way.' I toiled away to fulfill his intent and at the same time add my own flavors."

Tachibana-san said he's challenging the art of expressing the complexities of characters' minds. We asked which character he liked the most.

"I'd have to say Batou. He looks as if he is going his own way, but actually, he is a very sensitive guy and always puts Motoko first. After the disappearance of Motoko, the other members of the new Section 9 are willing to move on to somewhere else, but Batou can't forget the original Section 9 with Motoko. From time to time, he would reveal special sentiments toward Tachikoma or go after the disappeared Motoko. I like that soppy side of him."

"Don't you think you can relate more to characters with weaknesses? I am not sure I would want to be friends with someone who's perfect. That's why I find Batou magnetic, and when I portray him, I keep that in mind. He is reliable in urgent situations, but when he is alone with Motoko, he is vulnerable, sort of (lol)."

"I think this method of expressing an atmosphere with color variations comprises a very important visual effect in the S.A.C. series. For instance, the colors that are used to express the dusk; you can notice this right away in episodes directed by Masayuki Yoshihara. You know, when a run-away Tachikoma and Miki search for a dog, the whole screen looks melancholic."

An impressive scene at dusk with little Miki looking for a dog. A melancholic mood is expressed with the colors of sunset. This style of creating a picture with a mood is something special about the series. It expresses the sentiments that go beyond a police story.

"After the two years' absence of Motoko, you would be thrilled to see how Section 9 members had adjusted their stances slightly. You would notice this right from the beginning of S.S.S. when you see Batou and Togusa. They are not on friendly terms anymore, and there is this faint distance between them. A little awkward, you could say. I know the audience will be uncomfortable, but we intentionally did that. If you watch the series with these slight changes in relationships in mind, then you will see where these people are heading regardless of the progress of the incident. That should be interesting for the audience to see as well."