ANN (August 2019)
Interview with Hiroyuki Omori (Warner Bros. Japan) and Takamitsu Sueyoshi (SHUEISHA), producers for JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind. Interview conducted by Anime News Network, published on their website on August 19, 2019.
After many years of waiting, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure fans were rewarded in 2018 with an adaptation of the manga's most popular arc (in Japan at least): Golden Wind! We got the opportunity to sit down with two of the producers behind this thrilling anime series, Hiroyuki Omori (Warner Bros. Japan) and Takamitsu Sueyoshi (SHUEISHA) and discuss Part Five's journey from page to screen.
ANN: Golden Wind has a reputation for being one of the most popular JoJo arcs in Japan, with some of the most beloved characters. Why do you think it is so adored?
Takamitsu Sueyoshi: Unlike previous JoJo's series, the protagonist is not exactly a straightforward man of justice. Giorno's way of life may make him seem more like a bad person, but he's very direct about what he believes in. Araki-sensei told us that through Golden Wind, he wanted to illustrate very beautiful men, so the characters themselves are all more beautiful than before. So that's probably two of the biggest answers to that question.
Hiroyuki Omori: For any series, when it comes to broad appeal, the attractiveness of the protagonist is quite high on the list. In the case of Golden Wind, we already had quite a number of attractive characters to work with on the protagonist's side. As we produced the animation, once we reached the first team of antagonist hitmen, the series' popularity grew immensely. So I think one of the reasons that Golden Wind is more popular than the other JoJo's parts is probably the sheer number of such highly attractive characters.
Which character in Golden Wind do you personally identify with most and why?
Sueyoshi: Guido Mista! I hold a very personal adoration for him, because he's such a positive guy, and he's good with a gun.
Omori: It's Narancia for me. He's actually older than Giorno, even though he seems much more childish. However, when he engages in battle, he always looks so cool, so I'm attracted to the gap between those attributes.
What unique production challenges did Golden Wind's material pose to the staff that you hadn't encountered with previous arcs?
Sueyoshi: One of the hurdles that we encountered starting with this series was that all the clothing for each character became so fashionable right away, so we wondered how in the world we were going to put that into animation. That was a real issue!
Omori: The soul-swapping episodes were a real challenge too.
Sueyoshi: Ah, that's right!
Omori: Having Mista's seiyuu play the role of Trish...
I had not read the manga, so I was experiencing this story through the anime for the first time, and I remember thinking "Why is Mista talking so weird?" When the twist was revealed, it was the most shocking and unexpected turn in the story for me.
Omori: We were afraid that it was just going to be chaos for the audience.
It made sense to me! It was a lot of fun. Now that the season is complete, what was your favorite battle in the Golden Wind anime and why?
Sueyoshi: Oh no, it's so hard to narrow down to one! I'd have to say the battle in Venice between Ghiaccio and Mista, in episode 19 or 20. Even after Mista got shot so many times, he kept fighting. He seems to be kind of a happy-go-lucky person, so seeing him take the battle so seriously was quite impressive.
Omori: Probably the battle in episode 10 or 11, Narancia vs. Formaggio. Flames totally engulf the city, and once they are burning at their absolute peak, they turn purple. It looks pretty cool. But it's so hard to choose just one battle.
There's so many! I think Golden Wind has the best fights in JoJo's so far.
Omori: So what is your favorite?
Off the top of my head, I'd have to say Narancia's big fight in Venice, where his tongue gets possessed. I love the way it builds, because the villains are so sure that Narancia isn't going to catch them, but he keeps finding ways to overcome every challenge they put in front of him, and mostly by himself.
What was the process like for producing the series' first opening theme, "Fighting Gold", and how does the JoJo's team keep coming up with such incredible theme songs?
Omori: I work on the music myself, and in the case of JoJo's, we've always tackled the composition first, and then we work on the lyrics afterward. The reason for this is that we want to choose a singer who will best represent the song after we finalize the sound. For Fighting Gold, we actually didn't go through that usual process. Back when we were working on Part 2, Battle Tendency, the composer for that theme song was Toshiyuki Omori, and the singer was Coda, which resulted in "Bloody Stream". When Golden Wind came around, we had already made the decision to return to that composer and singer combo for the theme song before all else. There's a saying in Japan that you might translate as "going back to the original thinking." This was on our minds for Golden Wind, because we didn't want to risk becoming arrogant about the strong popularity of this work and the positive reactions we were already seeing from fans at the announcement. We wanted to put in a sincere effort for this new theme song to be great. Originally, I was told by others that because the original work was so popular, it was guaranteed that the anime adaptation would be successful. That was the common thinking in that moment, but I thought that the reality would never be that easy. I always thought that I would have to put in a serious effort to make the best anime possible, so that our audience would love it on its own quality. And when I tried "going back to the original thinking" about how we started, and the kind of passion we felt at the beginning, I thought of returning to that specific musical collaboration. I know this response is pretty long, but I'm serious about this, so hopefully that's fine. You can always cut it shorter, I hope.
Oh no, it's good! Long answers are good. On that note, it's been my experience in America that the poor fan-translations of the Golden Wind manga created a misconception for English-speaking fans. People didn't really understand what was happening in the story, so even though this arc is very popular in Japan, it was not really appreciated in America as a manga. So creating the anime to be the best version of itself was very important, because now I believe Golden Wind is the best part so far, and fans everywhere are like "Oh, this was great all along, we just didn't know."
Sueyoshi: Oh wow. We should tell the team doing the official English publication for the manga to get it done faster!
Omori: And to start working on 6 and 7, they are great as well!
On a similar note to my previous question, what was the thought process behind choosing Jodeci's "Freek'n You" for the Western closing theme of Golden Wind?
Sueyoshi: In selecting the ending theme song, of course we asked for Araki-sensei's advice, and he said the genre would have to be gangster rap, because this is a story about gangsters. So when we asked for a list of songs in that vein, he came up with a few, one of which was Jodeci's "Freek'n You." Once we started listening to it, we realized that it wasn't really gangster rap at all, it was more R&B. But the mood of the song itself fit so well with the series' aesthetic that we wanted to use it, and I think that choice was successful.
There were a number of unique adaptation changes in the Golden Wind anime, most notably the addition of Fugo's backstory in episode 12. Did Hirohiko Araki propose such changes himself, and what was that adaptation process like?
Sueyoshi: For the details about how those anime-original elements were chosen, I will leave it to Omori-san, but in the case of Fugo, he was the one character whose past was never described in the original manga. So in developing the anime's scenario, that was one of the big challenges we knew we had to tackle. We talked at length with the scenario writer about how we would like to approach telling Fugo's backstory, and then we brought our finished proposal to Araki-sensei. We thought it was very important to detail Fugo's past for this version of the story, so we worked hard on it.
Omori: In terms of our general approach to creating original elements for animation, they have to be something that will enhance the work's appeal. Even though these elements are new, they must never step away from the intent of the original work. That's the angle we work hardest on, always thinking about how the audience will feel about the story.
Golden Wind expresses the most intense and dark emotions in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure so far. How did the team approach the balance between keeping the series fun and adventurous when there's so much tragedy and horror in the story compared to the previous arcs?
Sueyoshi: It's not that we set out to create a good balance between a dark story and a fun one. I think we just wanted to be true to the original work. As long as we stay true to that spirit, we believe the balance will be maintained, so that was our focus.
Omori: The one thing we always kept in mind when producing the animation was maintaining the balance of emotions that you would feel when reading the original manga.
There was a much greater gap between the announcement and premiere of Golden Wind compared to previous JoJo's seasons. What was the cause for this extra time being taken with production?
Omori: The reason was that we really wanted to make a solid work for Part Five. We even took the three directors to Italy for location scouting. So that research trip is one of the biggest reasons we had a greater gap of time between series.
Well, I'm happy for that. I think Golden Wind is the most impressive production in JoJo's adaptation history so far, and it's a joy to watch every week. Thank you so much for working so hard on it.
Omori: Thank you!