As an employee of David Production, he was approached by the company's vice president, Koji Kajita, after directing Inu x Boku SS and was subsequently asked to be the director for the JoJo TV series.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: The Animation
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind
ANN: What is the difference between your role as director and Kenichi Suzuki's role as "series director," as far as how things are managed?
Naokatsu Tsuda: The best way to think of it is not as co-directors, but one as the executive director and one as the actual director.
So he's in more of a producer position and you are the creative director?
We're both creative, but I have final say in everything.
How were you approached about directing a JoJo's television series and what was your reaction?
So, the story starts off with me being an employee at our production company, David Production. My previous work was directing Inu X Boku Secret Service and our Vice President, a man by the name of Kajita, asked me, "You like JoJo?" And I said "Yes!" And he said, "Okay, you're directing JoJo." That's it! Very easy.
When looking at the material, did you feel that there was much adaptation that needed to be made for language and references, since it is over twenty years old, or did you feel that it was timeless and you didn't have to change much?
The main adaptation needed for a modern audience would be in the visuals. If you look at the original JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the lines are very detailed and I question if a modern viewer would be able to relate to these details. Also, we do need to simplify the lines for animation. So simplifying the lines was something we definitely prioritized. But the JoJo's graphic novels, over the years, have become something of an internet meme, or at least they are the source of a lot of internet memes. One thing we can do today that wouldn't have been possible 20 years ago is pick up on already established memes and see how we can pull those into the anime. Many parts of the series are already finished, so we are in a unique position today where we can do a wholesale retrospective on them. Also, modern audiences have a preference for higher-paced dialogue, so that's also different today from how it would've been adapted back then.
That's very interesting to hear about the meme culture of JoJo's. So you were aware of that stuff going in and you consciously said, "Oh we have to get this right, we have to make this feel classic for fans of the manga?"
Yes, in fact that was fully intended. We wanted to make a show where a fan could watch the animated episode and then go back to the graphic novel and see that their idea of JoJo was faithfully animated. We wanted to make something that could be shared as a new source of fan memes, and something where everyone's idea of JoJo could come to life through it.
One of my favorite things about JoJo's is the incredible sound design and music work on this show, both the soundtrack and the use of sound effects visually is very powerful. I feel like viewers can listen to this show and understand the story almost as well as seeing it. What was your philosophy going into the music and sound effects for the series?
The written words that show up in JoJo's is something that we call a "word effect." This comes directly from the manga, where if you look directly at the panel, the written sound effects are an integral part of the layout. Usually, when you animate a graphic novel, all those sound effects would be taken out, but that also changes the visual layout of the panel in translation to the screen. Now when you look at streaming culture today in Japan, especially when you look at websites such as Niconico, all the users just paste up their text reactions as part of the video stream, and that's part of the actual fan culture. My takeaway from that was younger audiences of today don't actually have any problem seeing written sound effects onscreen. So rather than changing the original manga layout, we wanted to incorporate that into the anime as well and use word effects in choice places for favorite lines and favorite sounds, perhaps sound effects that the viewer might want to shout out along with the show. So it's just thinking about things backwards and then making them work out. I don't think you actually need to be able to read the text, because it's more of a visual element than a language thing.
For the music, I really wanted to incorporate film-style music rather than something that resembled a variety show. When you use music in film, it's often set to a specific character or emotion or scene. In the first two parts of Jojo's, the music is really set to the scene and only once in a while is it set to the emotions of the moment. Part 1 takes place in 19th century England, which isn't exactly a place anyone has first-hand experience living through. So we used the music to establish a sense of history and location and period that we can relate to. Then we skip over to Part 2, which takes place in Art Deco America. So we had to establish something more stylish and pop in tone there. Since there's a graphic visual difference between Part 1 and Part 2, we wanted the audience to be transported 50 years forward through the music as well as the visuals.
What was the process for choosing the ending theme songs like "Roundabout" and "Walk Like an Egyptian?" Is this a tradition that you want to continue in future parts?
Well, those came from the author of the original graphic novel, Hirohiko Araki. They're all songs that he was listening to back when he was drawing the individual parts. Mr. Araki only listens to Western music because he doesn't understand English, so none of the lyrics come across to him as language, but as pure sound. So we got a list of these songs that he was listening to back when he was writing each part, and we chose songs for the closing animation based on which ones Warner was able to secure the rights for. It was up to Warner to actually do the negotiating. So if there is an anime production of the next part, we'll probably go by the same process. Traditionally, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has been a gateway to learn about Western music for Japanese readers. For American fans, a lot of the music and names featured in JoJo's are more an acknowledgement of familiar artists, but this is also cause for Warner to be engaged in a lot of negotiations to secure those rights.
Yes, the names of these characters are changed in the official subtitles for American viewers. Vanilla Ice becomes Cool Ice, Oingo Boingo becomes Zenyatta Mondatta, and so on. The fans always know the real names, so they see that and sort of laugh at it. They feel like "what, are they afraid of lawyers?" How do you feel about American audiences being given changed names?
Well, I do think someone may have tried to err on the sensitive side of things in translation. When you look at characters like Oingo and Boingo, if the musical artist of the same name wasn't happy with the idea of being depicted as such comical characters, perhaps erring on the sensitive side might have been the right decision.
On that note, where did the Oingo Boingo Brothers song come from? It was a very fun surprise!
Part 3, Stardust Crusaders, is split into two halves for television airing. At the time, the music producer at Warner, Mr. Oomori, had asked if there was any scene-specific music that I wanted to have in the series. You might be familiar with a specific practice in Japanese animation where episode one and episode three are very important for a show's production. If episode one doesn't execute well, a lot of viewers will write off the show and never watch it. And you also need to have a new development or twist take place in episode three, or more established viewers will abandon the show. It's not such an issue with episode four onwards, but that's the unfortunately reality of the industry right now. The Oingo Boingo episode in question is actually episode three of Stardust Crusaders' second half, so we knew we had to make it stand out. Boingo is an enemy who uses manga as their gimmick, so for the ending we thought this could be the first and only instance of a character song. I thought it would be something that the viewers would be very happy to see. So I went to producer Oomori, he greenlit it, and the Oingo Boingo Brothers happened.
And the Hol Horse Boingo Combo as well! Now do you have a favorite Joestar or a favorite character? Not just in the three parts that are animated, but from any of it?
Well, since I just finished working on Stardust Crusaders, I'm most sympathetic to Jotaro. In part 4, my favorite is still Jotaro. As a high school reader of the manga, my favorite Joestar was… well, it's actually questionable if he's from the Joestar family, but he's the main character from part 5, Giorno Giovanna. He's actually Dio's child, but he inherits a very large portion of the Joestar family spirit.
You mentioned that the manga's art could be difficult to adapt to animation. What were your thoughts on adapting the manga's striking color design in a way that wouldn't be too overwhelming?
One thing that makes anime different is that once you establish the color setting, you can't change it, whereas there's no set color for a lot of things in the JoJo's graphic novel. Once we established the color setting inside the anime, we knew there might be a lot of fans who would object to the choice of colors. As a JoJo fan myself, I do really understand the kinds of things they would object to. So we decided on scene-specific coloring, so that the "set color" could still change depending on the specifics of the scene. Since the graphic novel doesn't actually have set colors for a lot of things, I think that was one way to take advantage of its style, while creating something that would be acceptable to fans.
One last question: JoJo's is filled with great moments of elation, and it must be exciting for the voice cast to do that sort of thing. What was the most powerful moment for you, vocally?
There's far too many to mention, but if I were to choose one, it would be the final episode of Stardust Crusaders, where Jotaro and Dio are having their showdown, and it is the battle of ORAORA and MUDAMUDA.
I knew the story, so I knew it was coming, but I was still surprised when Dio shouted "ROAD ROLLER!"
I'm very happy to hear that.
- It seems like some parts of the part 4 anime were arranged differently compared to the original manga
Naokatsu Tsuda: Creating a television series has its own set of conditions and compositional considerations, but Araki-sensei told us "you should change things around if you need to". Originally it was rare for Araki-sensei to offer up his thoughts concerning the anime adaptations, and at the beginning he had a completely hands-off approach. He began to get more involved around the time of Part 3, and by the time Part 4 came around he was going as far as to help us check our use of colors.
For example, I don't think fans of the original manga necessarily got the impression that Koichi had grey hair, but when we presented him a number of color concepts to use and asked him "which of these do you think is closest to the image you have of Koichi?", that's what he settled on. We had other color designs prepared as well, like blond, white & brown. That said, he doesn't come to us saying "I want this to be like this", but rather he takes the time to properly check what we show him. In that sense, I suppose I would say that Araki-sensei's stance towards the anime hasn't changed all that much since we worked on Part 1.
Naokatsu Tsuda, the creative director in charge of David Production's anime adaptation of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, was a guest at the Anime Boston 2017 convention. The following is paraphrased from questions that he answered.
Araki had approached them when they started Part 4 to ask them to add in the foreshadowing scenes with Kira. When he was writing the part, he didn’t know who the main villain would be, and if he had known, this is how he would have wanted it to have been.
Tsuda said the color schemes for the characters were based off the Medicos palettes because those are Araki approved. They wanted to add in those color changes because 1) no other anime does that and 2) he felt like everyone reading it had different visions of the colors and wanted to include that feeling in.
His favorite openings were the first one and Great Days, and he talked about how usually directors don’t get a say in the openings but he got to choose the style of music and the feel for the openings. He also mentioned he couldn’t legally say which songs he wished he could have used for the endings but he had a lot.
Usually, anime come out before games, so the voice actors from the anime carry over to the game. However, since All Star Battle was out before the anime, what they did was they allowed those voice actors to re-audition for their roles. Since game voices are recorded alone, and anime is recorded together in a group, they cast voice actors based on how well the teams meshed together, which was why some were chosen differently for the anime. They wanted to have a team that sounded good all together.
The first opening included all the JoJos because Tsuda wanted to promise the fans that he would animate them all. He really wants to do all the parts, and said it really helps to show the companies like Warner that the audience has an interest in them by doing things like writing in. He asks everyone to please send comments in to let them know more JoJo is wanted.
When asked which part he would be most excited to animate, Tsuda replied saying Part 8. He then facetiously asked how they knew Part 8 since it wasn’t officially translated.
There is another interview with Tsuda by AnimeHerald at Anime Boston.
It would be difficult to overstate how profound of an effect “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” has had on Naokatsu Tsuda’s career. He had been a fan of the manga from Shonen Jump, which led directly to him getting the job directing the anime adaptation. David Production COO Koji Kajita asked Tsuda directly if he liked Jojo, and Tsuda responded “Yes.” Kajita wanted fans on the production team.
After being given the directing job, Tsuda needed to decide how the anime was going to look. Tsuda explained that the publisher provided feedback that they wanted to anime to stick very close to the manga. I’m not sure they anticipated just how close Tsuda was prepared to go.
Of course, the publisher may have had a good reason for wanting the anime to hem quite close to the manga:
“Jojo fans are very fanatical.” -Naokatsu Tsuda
He noted that his job is getting harder every year. The trick is making each season unique, and Tsuda himself noted that “the idea drawer is getting depleted.”
The discussion then moved into the difference between original works and adaptations. Tsuda commented on the subject, stating:
“Both are challenging, but original adaptations are much more difficult and rewarding.” -Naokatsu Tsuda
He explained his reasoning. With an original work, you need to generate a screenplay from scratch. Furthermore, with so little set in stone, directing is much harder.
“No change for me yet. We will start thinking about the future audiences for our next productions.” -Naokatsu Tsuda
He elaborated that he’s currently working on several different productions, some of original works, others of existing properties, but he wasn’t at liberty to give specifics.
He dropped a bombshell when I asked about how the industry has changed during his career. He noted that digitization had been the biggest change, but then followed:
“I feel we can do away with paper as soon as possible.” -Naokatsu Tsuda
He explained that the issue is geography. When working digitally, you can have many people working on the project from any location. I’ll come back to this in a second. I followed up, asking what he felt the greater limitation in production was: Money or time. He laughed and replied:
“Talent!” -Naokatsu Tsuda
He followed up, stating that it really depends on the position and the production. Sound directors and editors were very important areas to have quality staff. Character designers, in particular, had to fit the production. I guess that makes a lot of sense, given how much everything flows from the lead character’s design. Nailing Jojo and Dio helped propel the show into the stratosphere.
I was curious about the process for selecting what shows both he and his studio would work on. Tsuda explained that the label would send their producer out to pitch a show to Tsuda’s studio. Tsuda became a bit introspective here, and wondered if their studio might be at the point where they could do an entire production in-house. (I want to confirm that is what he meant as the translator may have struggled a bit here)
I asked him if he felt it was harder to move up in the industry today. He felt this was not the case:
“It is much easier today, with so many titles in production. Too many.” -Naokatsu Tsuda
I swear to Jojo that he said the next line exactly as you’re reading it:
“Each title eats a director.” -Naokatsu Tsuda
We moved on to the nuts and bolts of the job. He explained that he is almost never completely happy with his work. However, he has a responsibility to keep up with the schedule, so that keeps him moving forward. The most important thing are the storyboards. With those, he simply cannot move on until they get a passing mark. After that, he’ll strive to perfect them as time allows.
I was curious if he was worried about being typecast. He replied:
“I’m happy to be known as that ‘JoJo guy’, but it is not something I can rest on.” -Naokatsu Tsuda
He went on to share that he felt compelled to go work on original titles. He was concerned about stuck in one place, mentally.
“I was happy to work on Planetarian. I explored new things, grew, and took that growth back to JoJo.” -Naokatsu Tsuda
I asked him what recent works had impressed him. He replied that KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! was pretty much flawless, with nothing to complain about. Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan also impressed him, as did Erased.
He noted that he was impressed both with the Erased manga, as well as the anime. He knew they were going to have different endings, but the fact that they were both executed so well, and in such a short turnaround, that was something special. He followed with one more title:
“I liked Your Lie in April. It was good.”
I finished up by asking what he was reading these days. He said he was reading “Wave, Listen to Me”. Kind of a lucky break that it is something that is available in America, as that didn’t have to be the case.
After having some time to think about and digest everything Tsuda said, I’m wondering if the current production system is sustainable. Tsuda was clearly concerned about acquiring the proper talent for each production, and I wonder if that is going to become more difficult in the future. His push to go digital so that they can work with the best staff available, from anywhere in the world, is apt. He’s also concerned about burnout, with so many productions ongoing.
Special thanks to the Anime Boston staff, including translator Takayuki Karahasi. Thanks to Naokatsu Tsuda as well.
Q: So, what's your day to day activities like when you aren't directing anime?
Tsuda: I sleep, wake up, get ready for work, work, come back home, and sleep, really.
Q: Really? That's it?
Tsuda: Really, it's true.
Q: What are the secrets to creating an opening and ending sequence for JoJo's?
Tsuda: The opening sequence should serve as the intro to the show but also get the audience hyped up. The ending sequence, though, needs to leave audiences feeling like, “Aw man, it's done?”
Q: I like how in one opening sequence during Stardust Crusaders, the opening sequence was interrupted by Dio's stand. It's that kind of thinking outside of the box that's really unique.
Tsuda: I'm glad you bring that up, actually. I'm glad that the title includes the word “bizarre.” It really gives us free license to do what we want to do.
Q: What is your favorite Stand and what Stand would you hire to work at the studio?
Tsuda: My favorite Stand is Gold Experience because its really strong. When it comes to what Stand I'd work with, I think “Heaven's Door” is what I'd pick. It'd be very convenient for meeting deadlines.
Q: What directors have influenced you?
Tsuda: Actually, a lot of American movie directors, like Ridley Scott, Guillermo del Toro, and Stephen Spielberg.
Q: How closely did you work with Araki on the music choices in the opening and ending sequences?
Tsuda: We didn't work with Araki so much on the opening sequences but definitely a lot in the endings. He was heavily involved in providing the art and music choices.
Q: When it comes to “Roundabout” by Yes, I bet they had an increase in sales after their song was used and were pretty confused when that happened.
Tsuda: I think that song was not well known by Japanese people but when they heard it, they thought “Wow, who sings this? It's cool!”
Q: So what inspired you to transfer the sound effects from the manga directly into the anime series?
Tsuda: Well, the idea came from the manga. I think the world of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure would be incomplete without the sound effects there.
Q: What do you want viewers to know about this new anime season of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure?
Tsuda: I think this one has the heaviest themes, so I hope you'll please watch it with all of us in Japan until the very end. 
Key Animation (原画)
- In his high school days, Tsuda's favorite JoJo was Giorno Giovanna. His favorite Stand is Gold Experience.
- His influences include many American movie directors, like Ridley Scott, Guillermo del Toro, and Stephen Spielberg.
- Tsuda's favorite openings are JoJo ~Sono Chi no Sadame~ and Great Days.
- Tsuda wants all parts of JoJo to be animated and is most excited to animate JoJolion.
- Interview: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure director Naokatsu Tsuda
- Naokatsu Tsuda Q&A at Anime Boston
- Naokatsu Tsuda Anime Boston Interview
- Naokatsu Tsuda Q&A at Anime Expo 2018
- Naokatsu Tsuda Q&A at Anime Boston