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The Making of XX: Interview with Junichi Fujisaku (1)

Junichi Fujisaku, the acclaimed director of the TV series Blood+, talks about his new project, the mobile phone comic XX.

I aimed to replicate the roller-coaster storyline of the original novel with an added mystery element

Junichi Fujisaku - Born on August 6, 1967. Director, scriptwriter, game designer and novelist. He joined Production I.G as Game Production Department Chief Director, but soon became one of Team Oshii's core members. With Kenji Kamiyama, he participated to the creation of the theatrical feature Blood: The Last Vampire (2000). The girl in sailor suit fighting monsters with a Japanese sword was in fact Fujisaku's idea. For the Blood franchise he also directed the game version and wrote the novelization. While being the mastermind behind the hit game series YaruDora (1998), Fujisaku also gave his valuable contribution to the expansion of the Ghost in the Shell world, writing the scripts for many episodes of the Stand Alone Complex series, producing and directing the game version for PS2, and writing three related novels. Recent credits include the scripts for Otogi Zoshi and the xxxHOLiC and Tsubasa Chronicle theatrical features. In 2005 he debuted as TV series director with Blood+.

This is your first project after the TV series Blood+. Can you tell us how everything started?
As you may know, the live-action movie version of XX is in its production stage. Takarajima Wondernet wished to release its first mobile phone comic version simultaneously. They decided not to ask ordinary manga artists, and they wanted to try something new. So the offer came to Production I.G. Then it all began when we met with the author and the Takarajima Wondernet side for the first time. At that time, Takarajima Wondernet suggested we could drastically change the story.

So you have rewritten the story quite a bit.
Kenta Fukasaku, who is directing the movie version, seems to be modifying the storyline significantly, so I decided to make a story that would even conflict with the original novel. It's a huge amount of pressure though.

Director Fujisaku admits that the know-how from the four-part video game YaruDora is utilized in the XX project.

What did you think of the original novel?
What's interesting about the novel is the specific feature of the printed text. If we showed it on screen or in drawings, you might end up giving away the plot. The author is trying to deceive and entertain the readers, so it does have quite a roller-coaster storyline. The setting is Ashikari, a village bound by traditional Japanese customs, but the story doesn't directly focus on the oppressive lifestyle of the village. It is used as a setting just to make the story interesting. I had the impression that this was strictly an entertainment novel. So I decided to take part in the production and enjoy it.

What were your ideas about making a mobile comic out of this novel?
To get started, I dissected the story. When I met with Joko-san, he told me he liked Yatsuhakamura (The Eight Tombs Village) by novelist Seishi Yokomizo. I could feel his dedicated homage to Yokomizo. So I added a few more elements of mystery to the plot to make the most of the roller-coaster storyline. It is a mobile comic - everyone expects to enjoy it in a casual way, so it can't be too serious. I tried to make it as lighthearted as possible, and place the main characters in the center of the story.

So in the mobile comic XX, the exploits of Shiyori and Aiko are one of the key elements.
In the novel, Aiko is the one who stands out - she even has action scenes. On the other hand, Shiyori is downgraded a little. So for the mobile version, I decided to lift her up. I asked Sho-U Tajima to work on the character designs.

From Sho-U Tajima's facial expression design book. According to director Fujisaku's image, she is "a bespectacled otaku girl who would look on through the window." Tajima's designs certainly stimulate creators' imagination. As Fujisaku further explains, "When we added facial expressions, she really started to glow."

From Sho-U Tajima's facial expression design book. The description submitted by Fujisaku was: "An open-minded girl who can make friends with anyone."

Why did you pick Tajima-san to do the character designs?
He was the only person I could think of who could come up with an extensive variety of expressions for a horror-like world. We approached him without much confidence he would have accepted, but he said yes at once. When I eventally met with him in person and explained the characters, it seemed like Tajima-san started to feel them too. The designs that he conjured up were far better than what I'd expected.

What were the requests you made to Tajima-san?
I handed him my notes about the characters I wanted. For instance, Aiko would be "an open-minded girl who can make friends with anyone." And Shiyori would be "a bespectacled otaku girl who would look on through the window." I'd point out that Tajima-san has put a lot of emotion into Shiyori in his drawings. I also asked him to create a facial expression design book. And when he added facial expressions, she really started to glow. She usually comes out with a sulky face, but as we see her laugh, get startled or overact to something, we notice she becomes more alive. She is usually a well-behaved girl, but when she eases up, you see a very expressive face. This design book is very handy when I work on the storyboards.

(1 - to be continued)

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