Animetrendz (August 2019)
Interview with Hiroyuki Omori and Shueisha producer Takamitsu Sueyoshi, producers of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind. Interview by Animetrendz, published on August 1, 2019 on their website anitrendz.net.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind has captivated anime fans over the past few months. Warner Bros. Japan brought Warner producer Hiroyuki Omori and Shueisha producer Takamitsu Sueyoshi to Anime Expo 2019. We had the opportunity to interview both producers before JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure panel.
How has your time been in Los Angeles so far? Have you gotten the opportunity to do any touring?
Hiroyuki Omori Omori: I was here once in 2013. Last time I was here, I also participated in a JoJo panel. The weather in Los Angeles is wonderful. It’s much drier than Japan. Sightseeing, we haven’t done much. We really haven’t gone sightseeing, but with Sueyoshi-san we visited Warner Brothers studio as Sueyoshi-san can share [about our tour].
Sueyoshi: For me, I was here in the US about 20 years or so, when I was a kid. LA, the weather is wonderful, it’s easy to spend time here and the people are friendly, so it’s a wonderful place to be in. So, the sightseeing, we visited the Warner Brothers studio, and I was impressed. This is a place where all the movies are made!
To start, what are your responsibilities as a producer?
Omori: One common thing that we both work together on is to create the highest quality works of animation.
Sueyoshi: For me, I’m a producer from a publisher, so we are given the rights of this work from Araki-sensei. That’s one area I’m also involved in.
How did you get into working as an anime producer? What steps does one have to take if they want a job like yours?
Omori: In my case, one of the companies I worked for simply told me to do this, and that was 20 years ago. It’s not that I wanted to be a producer or anything. Of course, I love anime, but no one at the company knew that I loved anime. So, it’s a mystery why I was asked to be a producer. It’s not much of advice here, but it’s just uh… happenstance and luck maybe (laughs)
Sueyoshi: My story is fairly similar. I originally worked at an ad agency, and I always loved manga, so I changed my job to a publisher. After that, it was pretty much the same thing! I was told to be one (a producer).
Did you anticipate such a positive response to Jojo’s from the fans here at Anime Expo?
Omori: Since 2013, we have had some kind of event related to JoJo, and it seems that the scale of the event and the popularity has grown over the years. We’d like to see that the interest will grow this year as well.
Sueyoshi: So I tweet, and I see a lot of comments from overseas. They all seem like positive comments, but I never thought that such an enthusiasm exists, and I’m really happy about that.
What is your favorite Part of the series? (for example: Phantom Blood, Battle Tendency, Stardust Crusaders, Diamond is Unbreakable, Golden Wind, etc)
Omori: At the panel in 2013, I gave the same answer, that Battle Tendency was my favorite, and there was a call of “USA”. In the second episode of part 2, is titled “New York’s JoJo.”
Sueyoshi: Part 7, Steel Ball Run, takes place in the United States as well. There’s a protagonist, and a buddy. It’s a very, very hot story.
What was the process and the decisions that led to Part 5: Golden Wind, getting green-lit for adaptation?
Omori: The start of the project was after Part 4 ended. Well same goes for every series, [we have to think about] the next series after the previous series ended. We have to think about how popular the next series is going to be, and how satisfied our audience will be. That’s how we plan the subsequent series.
For the story, we have the original work to work with, so there will be no changes. But how we are going to staff the next animation production, like who the director is going to be, who the character design is going to be, we work with the Shueisha to figure that out.
Sueyoshi: For Part 5, I wasn’t involved with the very beginning of the project, so I’m not familiar with the actual process. However, how it normally goes is that Warner Bros. would talk to us (hey we wanna do this), and then we would talk to Araki-sensei (hey, we would like to produce the next series) and we go from there.
For a continuing series, how much does the success of a previous anime contribute to the decision to adapt more?
Omori: There’s an incredible, immense impact on whether the subsequent series will be produced or not. Thus, the series has to be successful.
Sueyoshi: As a publisher, we always like to see the following series produced. However, as Omori-san said, the series has to be successful.
Omori-san, you’ve produced JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure ever since the first season. How does it feel to have continued working on this series for so long?
Omori: In the production of the series, I was able to meet so many people, but at the same time, once the series ends, you sort of part ways, so I’ve experienced many happy things, but many sad things as well.
And of course, parting ways with people you’ve worked with is a sad occasion, and also meeting new people is such a happy occasion, so it’s really become a part of my life. It’s kind of a … sad story
Part 5 is home to the scene known as “the torture dance” in episode 7, which turned four panels of manga into a minute long surreal audio-visual experience, to much fan acclaim. From the perspective of a producer, what do you want the audience to get out of that scene?
Episode 7 Omori: The idea of making the scene, was an idea from three directors: Tsuda-san, Takahashi-san, and Kimura-san. They wanted to make this scene a substantial one. At first, I was asked to create music, and then to create the animation. It’s just like an approach you’d have for a music video. And, this is something that the audience would probably never suspect. We looked forward to seeing how the audience would react to it.
Sueyoshi: When I heard that music was going to be created, I realized that there was so much energy that was going to go into this particular production. So yes, because of that, I expected a lot as well. When I saw the storyboard for the video itself, I seriously thought “Are you serious with this? Are you going to go this far?”
When the video and images came out, my reaction, like “Are you serious?” That was the kind of reaction I wanted the audience have as well, and that was also when I realized, “Oh wow, JoJo is the kind of work that would go this far.”
You mentioned that there is a back and forth when deciding what to adapt and how to go about adapting it. For this scene, obviously it was a surprise to go all out. How is that working relationship with the team on deciding what to emphasise and what to abbreviate or cut?
Omori: It’s really up to the three directors I mentioned earlier – Tsuda-san, Takahashi-san, and Kimura-san. They would think about it. In order to improve the appeal of the animation itself, such as which area should we emphasize? They will discuss and create a proposal. Then bring it up to us, and then we would talk among ourselves and make decisions whether to do it or not.
Sueyoshi: So the rule to make the decision would be, when the audience watches the piece, “This is JoJo”. That is the standard we make the decision on.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is unique among anime for having ending themes that are songs by Western artists such as “Yes, The Bangles, Pat Metheny, Savage Garden, Jodeci, and Enigma.” What led to the decision of picking these songs as ending themes? Why Western artists?
Omori: It goes back to when we were designing the theme song of part 1. When we made a proposal for the theme song to Araki-sensei, the reaction was “Hmm that’s not quite the right image for the piece”. So we asked Araki-sensei to come up with some songs we could use as a reference for the theme song. He came up with the three songs as a reference, and they were all progressive rock. Though, it’s not that he was telling us to use them.
He came up with the three songs, they were all progressive rock and roll, but for me to make a new progressive rock and roll song, or the song that is a similar mood, I couldn’t really imagine making it.
I asked, is it okay to use one or all of the songs that he gave us? Out of the three, we decided to go with the one, “Roundabout” and one of the reasons we decided to go with it is we got the licensing!
“Roundabout” is one of my favorite songs, and I’m familiar with the lyrics also. It is an intersection, but it’s a roundabout. It’s like a roundabout of life: you meet and part ways in life, just like the relationship between Dio and JoJo. I think that “Roundabout” is very fitting, and it matches well with the JoJo story, and that’s also how fans reacted, positively.
Since then we asked Araki-sensei, “What would be a song that would fit the image of this series?”. And then, we will make a request for licensing.
Any final remarks?
Omori: We are getting very close to the finale of part 5. We have received many positive voices and reactions from our audience. I hope we’ll be able to deliver JoJo in a way that [will leave you] happy and satisfied, so please continue watching!
Sueyoshi: And even while we’re in Japan, we hear a lot of support from overseas, and we will really appreciate if you continue to support our work. And of course, that little support may trigger whether we will continue with the series.
Thank you very much!