The creative team at Madhouse behind Chihayafuru — director Asaka Morio, character designer/chief animation director Hamada Kunihiko and animation producer Tsunoki Takuya — came to Anime Expo to chat about the show and some of their other work.
Introduction by Shinmaru
Shinmaru They confirmed that there will be a second season of Chihayafuru, but the interesting thing is that it’s unknown whether this specific creative team will helm it. They didn’t clarify what the problem may be; however, it could be that the schedules for certain members just aren’t working out. One of the trickiest aspects of Chihayafuru for them was depicting karuta in a way that made sense and was exciting. Even in Japan, karuta is not the best known game, so they had to keep things simple but also dynamic. They studied the rules of the game and actual players to get the movements of the characters down as well as possible. The ultimate goal of the Madhouse crew was to convey the idea as karuta as a sport.
Eternal When asked about his favourite Card Captor Sakura episode to work on, director Morio Asaka mentioned the one in which Sakura accidentally loses a report on her father’s computer and they work together to rewrite it. Another interesting question was on the topic of moe which the staff all shared similar views on, stating that they prefer to work outside of the constraints of it, but that moe is not mutually exclusive with quality. Of course, Chihayafuru was the topic of many of the questions, and the staff said that they spectated karuta tournaments in real life to get a feel for their atmosphere. As we can see in the anime, the tournaments feel more like sports events than a casual pastime game.
Kylaran Earlier on Thursday morning, Day 0 of the convention, the NHRV team had a chance to ask the Madhouse team some questions directly. Here’s a debriefing of the sort of questions that were asked. As always, our questions are in bold.
Q: Making an anime about karuta sounds hard. Was there anything in particular about Chihayafuru that made you want to take on this project?
A: It was hard, but we had to do it because that’s what we had to do.
Q: Has Chihayafuru spread the popularity of competitive karuta?
A: In Japan, competitive karuta isn’t very popular in the first place, but the original manga caused a surge in popularity. We also heard that the anime broadcast led to an increase as well.
Q: Do you play karuta yourselves?
A: [Everyone] Nope. [Guy on left] We did say we’d make a team, but that never ended up happening.
Q: Why does Chihayafuru, as a shoujo anime, appeal to boys?
A: The story is about highschoolers. I don’t think a sex divide exists.
Kevo While shoujo usually features female characters and their relationships, there are no exclusively feminine aspects about the plot. On the contrary, Morio commented on how he admired that Chihaya “does things straight”. The directness and candor of Chihaya can easily endear her to male fans.
Q: [For Asaka Morio] What do you think about Card Captor Sakura being moe?
A: I don’t really get it. I made [Card Captor Sakura] for little girls and their moms.
Kevo Of course, Morio Asaka unintentionally became one of the “fathers of moe” when he created Card Captor Sakura. It goes to show how some of the greatest moe characters are natural created as strong female characters and are cute but draw their ability from inner strength — rather than artifical, intentionally designed “moe-blobs”.
Q: Do you guys think of yourselves as having a particular style?
A: No, we don’t try to put ourselves into the work.
Q: Which girls do you guys personally like the most?
A: [Asaka Morio] Chihaya. Kana-chan has big knockers though. [Hamada Kunihiko] Kana-chan. [Tsunoki Takuya] Kana-chan. Because she resembles my wife in some ways.
Kylaran By this point in the panel, I hadn’t asked a question yet so I figured I should take a gander. Earlier this year, I wrote an article on how Chihayafuru borrowed common techniques from both boys and girls manga, so I was curious to ask them directly about the anime’s aesthetic. Unfortunately, the translator had a few problems getting my question across, so it ended up only focusing on the use of flowers in the series, but there were a lot of interesting points to be learned.
Q: In the opening scene of Chihayafuru has very beautifully animated sakura blossoms. In addition, there are times in tournament scenes when the motion is incredibly detailed. How did you guys decide to choose the animation techniques for the different scenes? Was there a logical way of deciding, or something more organic?
A: It depends on the scene, but in the case of Chihayafuru… The very first poem in the Hyakunin Isshu refers to a specific flower, and that flower is the sakura. Using that, we decided to depict sakura falling.
Q: Following up on that, does that mean you have been selecting flowers to use at certain key moments by drawing from the poems?
A: We tried doing that at first, like in the case of Kana. We didn’t do it for the guys, but that was probably because of the original manga’s atmosphere and the characters themselves.
Q: Have you guys received any help from any karuta organizations?
A: Yes, for scenes related to the game itself.
Q: Do you think Madhouse’s style tends toward darker anime?
A: No, we’ve worked on darker stuff before, but it’s not like we always choose to work on shoujo manga.