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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."

(*) See S.S.S. Behind the Scenes Part 1 here.

© 2006 Shirow Masamune - Production I.G/KODANSHA