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Les 24 Chevaliers Part XXIV: Kazuhiro Furuhashi (Director) (02)

Welcome to the second part of our exclusive interview with director Kazuhiro Furuhashi.

Part XXIV (02)
Kazuhiro Furuhashi's In principio erat Verbum: "Realism"

Kazuhiro Furuhashi
Born on June 9, 1960. Director. He's known among anime fans worldwide for his TV series, Getbackers, Rurouni Kenshin, Hunter x Hunter, and Zipang. These works illuminated his realistic story structures and meticulously detailed rendering of the characters, which are also profoundly evident in Le Chevalier D'Eon. Furuhashi is currently working on his new series, Real Drive based on an original story by Shirow Masamune.

PART 02: Encounter with a cross-dressing chevalier

What was your first impression of the historical figure of D'Eon de Beaumont?
To be honest, I had never heard of his name. So my initial reaction was, "Cross-dressing? Really? Eccentric." But when I read his biography, I was impressed. He was an all-rounder. Very knowledgeable and a good swordsman as well.

In reality, he was a knight dressed as a woman. But in the anime adaptation, he appears to actually transform into a woman when he is possessed by his elder sister's soul. What was your initial plan for this transformation of D'Eon and Lia?
When we met at WOWOW the first time, Ubukata-san said, "I'd like to see you put together something that would captivate the audience in a way that's not possible in writing." He also mentioned if we could have "animetic renderings" such as having his hair burst out while the clothes transform and so on.

My answer to his requests was, "those kinds of renderings are not uncommon and nothing new in anime. I'd rather avoid the typical animetic renderings for a historic figure." I could see that he was at a loss. It was like facing the biggest crisis at the very beginning.

So you had no intention of making a story of transformations.
If you overemphasize unrealistic aspects when you are rendering occult elements, you lose the freakiness. It might work with books, but when you are working with pictures, going too straightforwardly would leave no room for imagination. It would be easy to use it as a format, but at the end of the day it's not very effective. So I thought we had to take a minimalist approach. Just show a little of what would hint at his transformation from a man to a woman, like untying the hair and changing the color of the lips.

Director Furuhashi had been insistent about the process of Lia's soul taking possession of D'Eon rather than D'Eon transforming into Lia. In a fight scene with the gargoyle dogs in Episode 7, there is a lot of theatrics showing the man-into-woman transformation.

Le Chevalier D'Eon stands out in the panorama of Japanese animation for his very realistic style. What were your requests to the character designer?
Basically, this is a story of the people of France, taking place in France, therefore I wanted the characters to appear convincingly Caucasians. In a good deal of Japanese animation, characters are deformed to the extent they don't even look like humans, never mind the lack of any distinctive ethnicity they could be related to. And this style has become so prevalent and standardized these days, that you can't tell one anime from another by the characters only. So if you are aiming for a drama-focused story on historical figures, following that trend in character design is the last thing you want to do.

On the other hand, if I go for 100% realism, people might find it difficult to relate to the characters. And of course it would be difficult to find enough animators that could do it. So I asked for the middle ground. And needless to say, even if they had come up with ultra-realistic character designs, I still wouldn't be able to tell the difference between French, English and Russians. (lol) Anyway, when I saw the first episode, I was delighted. They didn't look like Asians!

The swordfight fencing sequences are a must-see, too.
Sabers and rapiers in those days were never swung like Japanese swords. They are pointed weapons, designed to strike into an opening in the armor. So we had to make sure we did accurate renderings, but as a result, we couldn't get that vigorous spark of swordfights. You know, they didn't look like they were fighting for their lives. So from Episode 3 on, we decided to adapt whatever came to our mind. We settled with the idea that the story was more important.

Furuhashi stated, "no vigorous spark," but the battle scenes in Le Chevalier D'Eon are very powerful with some first-person view renderings. Not only the upper body, but also the lower body movements are incorporated to give a realistic feel to the battles.

(2 - to be continued)

© Tow Ubukata · Production I.G/Project Chevalier 2006