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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."

© 2006 Shirow Masamune - Production I.G/KODANSHA