Akemi Hayashi's Commentary:
1) At the beginning, the music sounds like a lullaby. The room with the long, narrow window that the girl is in is designed to give a dark and chilly impression. I had Lord Genome play the easy to understand villain role. This time, for the women serving Lord Genome and the audience around them, I thought we don't need to see the emotions of anyone besides the main characters, so they were drawn with their faces dark in an abstract way.
2) The part where Yoko teases the boy is put in there because the whole thing was too serious and I thought there should be at least one cut that is comical. The red stone that the boy has in his hand isn't shown very much, but it's something the boy received from the girl in the past. This story begins with the boy's point of view, but in the middle it starts shifting to the girl's point of view.
3) The boy is a character who is always looking on. He is a person who is watching over the girl to the end. Though he looks like a child, inside he is quite an adult (is that too philosophical? do I hear someone saying that? (laugh)), so I didn't draw him looking childish. Conversely, the girl is much younger than she looks on the inside. That's why in the scene at the end when she realizes she must part with the boy and starts sobbing, I kept in mind to give her a childish innocence.
4) In the scene that shows there are people who will go with the girl into the outside world, I had Viral appear for just one cut. This is a part that is a reversal of his position in the original story. So people could recognize him as Viral at once, I kept his design close to that of the TV series. The vocals sing the boy's words in the lyrics, but only the very last line of the lyrics are the girl's words. The song only has a feminine atmosphere in that part too. I hoped that that one line would be the girl's "reply" to the boy's feelings...
Interview with Akemi Hayashi:
Boy Meets Girl in a closed-in world
--Why did you decide to participate in "Gurren Lagann Parallel Works 2"?
Hayashi: From the beginning, I decided for two reasons. It had been some time since I made "Namida no Mukou" for "Anikuri 15," so I had been thinking I wanted to create my own film again. But the theme of "Namida no Mukou" was the everyday lives of women close to reality, so this time I thought maybe I could take a science fiction/fantasy approach. "Gurren Lagann" itself is science fiction, but recently there are very few works that are firmly science fiction/fantasy, and I hadn't done that kind of work much recently either. So I thought it would be interesting to put in the taste of anime I used to watch from the golden age of OVAs, and dare to make something that goes in the opposite direction of the current trend. I realized that the 80's generation of anime from my adolescence had a large influence in my roots, so I felt a strange tension while working and......when I was drawing, it was so much fun!!
--Did you decide on making Nia the protagonist from the beginning?
Hayashi: Yes. Because just before, a DVD featuring Yoko called "Kirameki Yoko BOX ~Pieces of Sweet Stars~" had been released, and I myself find Nia easier to deal with as a character than Yoko, and there was also Nia's popularity as a character, and I knew she had been widely accepted by girls too. So this time, when I decided to make a story about a boy and a girl, I thought it would be best to use Simon and Nia after all.
--Did you start with a script?
Hayashi: I started with image boards. I vaguely drew situations in the image boards, or drew things like manga storyboards. In the manga storyboards, I drew parts where lines of dialogue would be needed, or wrote memos to myself about the characters' relationships or roles, and in that way I kept earnestly drawing scenes as they came to me. Because from then, I'd already decided what would happen in the beginning and end, so for the rest, in order to get to that point, I had to think of who would interact with whom, where and how.
--So then next was the storyboards.
Hayashi: From the beginning I started drawing it like a rough draft, and when I got to around 2 out of a total 3 minutes, I looked at the thickness of the storyboard paper, and I thought, this (the number of cuts) looks bad!! Then I began counting, and by the middle there was already about 180 cuts (laugh). And I had been told in the beginning to keep it within 100 cuts...... The schedule was looming over me quite a bit too, so from there, while making clean copies, I scraped parts off while considering how to convey the things I wanted with the minimum amount of scenes. This time I think that was the best for this video, but there were still parts that didn't go down well in terms of the time limit. I actually wanted to put in more explanation on the situation Kamina and Yoko are in, but since Simon and Nia are the focus of the story, I tearfully had to shorten that...... If I were to make the whole story into a video, I think the second part would be almost an hour long.
--What's memorable about the storyboards is that Simon and Nia are referred to as Boy and Girl.
Hayashi: This is "Gurren Lagann Parallel Works," so in the process of creating this story, when trying to fit in the "Gurren Lagann" characters, Simon and Nia happened to be in the positions of the main characters. In the latter half of production, I used the characters' names in order to convey it to people, but for me, "boy" and "girl" is enough. That's why it's a strange condition where he's Simon but not Simon, and she's Nia but not Nia. I'm just taking Gurren Lagann's settings and reversing them, while also including other things that I thought I could use afterwords. Nia and Kamina didn't interact in the original story, but when someone had to go tell Nia the truth in the second half, in that situation, it had to be "Kamina" who would do that. And as a result, it turned out like a parallel story.
--So there must be various background details.
Hayashi: To an extent. It wasn't explained much, but Kamina and Yoko are living in a situation where they have no options. They have a carved seal somewhere on their bodies, and they're unable to go outside. I thought having them be numbered would be the most simple and easy to understand way of showing that they're in a situation where they're under someone's control...... In "Gurren Lagann," there are original letters and numbers called Gurren script, so I used that for the numbers. I thought, if I don't at least use this, it won't be Gurren Lagann anymore!! Well, it might already be too late though (laugh).
--Also, the storyboards have lines of dialogue written in them.
Hayashi: Of course it would be easier to explain things with dialogue, but this time instead of explaining the content of the dialogue, I'm leaving that role to a few lyrics. I thought it would be interesting if people see the parts where characters are moving their mouths (talking) and imagine, What are they saying?
--For the background art, how did you choose to proceed?
Hayashi: From the stage where I was drawing boards, I had a vague image. From the opening through to the middle, it would be a cramped, dark and insular world, and at the end it would move into a wider world...... For the end I was thinking I wanted to show a wide space with the sky as the main point. Also, the birdcage where Nia is singing is a regularly used motif, but I thought it would be good because it's easy to understand. Having curtains to divide the rooms was to give the image of a stage. I also wanted to show the boss's castle having a high ceiling. Above, there is nothing but dark space, and yet it doesn't connect anywhere...... For the rest, I hadn't decided on the finer details before starting work, so the only parts that have background art settings are the room with the birdcage and Nia's room. For everything else I decided the layout for each cut, and created the pictures while placing importance in atmosphere. Though this is something I can do only because I'm both director and animation director.
--Is there anything you kept in mind while doing key animation?
Hayashi: The two protagonists' facial expressions. Toward the beginning, Nia's expressions and acting look fake like that of a doll, so I was careful not to show much of the changes in her emotions. Toward the second half, little by little, some things start to change inside Nia, and to match that I would give her larger expressions. I would think, what would be the best way to convey what Nia is feeling right now...... As it reaches the middle, there is a scene where Nia approaches Simon as he's fixing the Lagann toy, and that's the first time Nia shows a human-like expression. That's the first change point. After that, she sees Yoko and Simon being friendly with each other, and she has a loney-looking, complicated expression. That's the scene that triggers Nia to become properly aware of "Simon as a person" (though they've actually interacted a lot more before then). I myself drew about 30-40 cuts of key animation focusing on the first half, but for the last scenes, from where Simon leads Nia outside and thereafter, Tadashi Hiramatsu-san took over the key animation......I'd thought that Hiramatsu-san would probably be able to produce 1.5 times that of what's in the storyboard (laugh).
[Skipping four questions here because I don't find them as interesting and I'm getting tired of translating, sorry. Highlights include Hayashi agreeing that the designs resemble her work in Revolutionary Girl Utena more than her simple designs for "Namida no Mukou," and admitting that she hoped for Kamina to be popular with girls.]
--I heard that you held out to the very end in photography......
Hayashi: Ultimately, it was Sushio-kun and I fighting over who would end last in photography (laugh). I had my own director of photography, and Sushio-kun had his own director of photography, and we were both sticking right behind our photographers, saying "Make this a little more....." while making adjustments to each cut, and our photographers patiently accompanied us to the very end. Because Sushio-kun's work had a lot of cuts, I thought I would definitely finish first, but at the stage where there were only 12 hours left before the time limit, Sushio-kun said "We have only 4 cuts left over here." And then for a moment I was in a panic (laugh), but, rather than having regrets later like "I should have done this," I think it was definitely better in the end to have held out, even if it was tiresome. Of course, it's not like I didn't leave anything undone 100%, but I do feel that I did everything that I could have in that situation.
--What kind of image did you have for the music?
Hayashi: We were having meetings for the music at the same time that I was working on the image boards, but at first I was wavering over whether there should be lyrics...... In the second half, when I was able to see the music to some degree, I thought I wanted to add lyrics after all, so I gave a try asking Ai Ujita-san.
--Ai Ujita-san is the vocalist for BlueBlue (formerly I's CUBE) who handled the music for "Namida no Mukou," isn't she?
Hayashi: That's right. Then it turned out she herself was quite interested, and we decided she would sing the song too. The first draft of the lyrics was completed in about a week. And from there I had exchanges with her such as "This word is too direct, can you think of a different one?" and we searched out words that would be appropriate for a song from the boy to the girl.
--The music really matches the progression of scenes.
Hayashi: I had many exchanges regarding the tune too. I wanted it to be something that has a logical development, and I explained things like, "The girl and boy meet around here," or "Changes in her emotions start appearing here." And then the composer Akio Kondo-san created the flow in one tune. When the tune was almost close to the Fix stage, we made an animatic (when a storyboard and music are put together in a compilation) movie, and I was relieved to see that it was quite close to the image I had. I think that having the music and drawing advance at the same time was a primary factor in how well the emotions in the music and video matched up.
--In the beginning, it starts with scat singing.
Hayashi: We recorded about four patterns of Ai-san's scat singing, and we made the song stacking them all on top of the other. When Ai-san was scat singing, I asked her to sing differently for the boy and the girl.
--Just when you think the boy and girl are going to set off on a journey together...I suppose that's this work's point.
Hayashi: That's what you would think. But women (including Ai-san) have gotten tough with me, asking "Why can't they be together?" (laugh) So then I say, "Well, they can't. She has to go alone from there." Going together is too conventional, and it wouldn't do anything for the girl's growth. So from the beginning, I asked for the lyrics to be about the boy watching over the girl.
--Is it fun after all to make a short film like this?
Hayashi: Yes, it's fun. It's great to be able to control things even down to the details. When making anime, a division of labor occurs no matter what, so you have to hand things off to people at some point. When you get to that stage and you have to share the work, there will always be parts where your hands can't reach. But in a short film, there are less people involved, and you can work while having one-on-one communication with those people, so you have a considerable amount of control. But it's not like a division of labor is bad, and of course there will be good happenings when you involve other people too. Though that's quite difficult when making something in this way (a work that has image taking precedence). It's only because you cooperate with other people that you can relish that sense of achievement in anime. I give all my thanks to the many people who helped me this time......and I would be happy if the people who watch this are able to enjoy it even a little!! Anime is hard to make, but it's fun after all.
Interview with Ai Ujita:
Keeping the importance of "words" and "the changes in feelings"
--How did you come to participate in this?
Ujita: It was in relation to my being in charge of the theme music for "Namida no Mukou" ("Anikuri 15") which Hayashi-san directed.
--What kind of meetings did you have in regards to this work?
Ujita: In the beginning, just like for "Anikuri 15," I was given a number of Director Hayashi's image boards, and was told the basic story. A girl (Nia) and a boy (Simon) appear, but for the content of the lyrics, she wanted me to sing the boy's feelings to the girl. Within our many meetings, I was finally able to hit on the director's messages of "I don't want you to fear stepping forward into an unknown world" and "I want you to believe more in your yet unseen potential." On top of that, I used the image of what Simon, who is unable to join her, feels as he sends Nia off. There were parts where the nuances of the words were slightly off from the director's image, so she gave me some suggestions, and I ended up using those for some parts.
--Was there anything you kept in mind as you were writing the lyrics?
Ujita: It was the same with "Anikuri 15," but I avoided expressing specific nouns or scenery, and concentrated only on feelings. The climax is the part where the most "changes" occur, so I thought about how to divide the three repeated hooks. I worried over the first and second hooks in particular. I thought I would need enough empathy and persuasion to naturally bring in the atmosphere of "You don't have to be afraid" and "You'll be all right," so I had the director consult me on those parts the most.
--Was there anything you kept in mind while recording? Was there anything notable about how you sang it?
Ujita: I kept "words" in mind first, with "changes in feelings" second. For the part with the lyrics I wrote, I really fell into the world of the song, and unintentionally sang too intensely, and I kept hearing nothing but warnings like "Make it softer," or "Make it gentler," and I kept having trouble with it, like "That's still not gentle enough?!" (laugh) That was also the moment I secretly realized that the technique of calmness and delicateness is a theme in my own songs from now on. It was a very good experience. Also, there's just one phrase at the end that expresses Nia's feelings, and I also had trouble singing that in a "girly," airy way, but it was fun (laugh).
--Please tell us your thoughts on the completed piece.
Ujita: I was moved. Very moved. It had been quite a while since I worked on the song and lyrics, so I think I was able to watch it with a fairly composed mindset. While making the song, I had a general idea of what pictures would go where, and the timing matched that image exactly, but Simon and Nia's expressions were so real, and all sorts of pronounced feelings crossed over, I could hardly take it. The second half kept sending chills up my spine. Nia and Simon are really cute. But not only that, I thought it was a work that firmly conveys the kindness and sadness of a person feeling for another, and the feeling that people can grow strong from having all of that. I am truly happy that I was able to participate in such a wonderful work. Thank you very much.
Sorry for the sucky scans. :(
In the top left image board, Kamina is saying "Do you know what these mean? They're identification numbers in the order that we're created in. It means we can't live anywhere but here..."
In the bottom left image board, Simon is saying "Sorry, I can't go with you..."
Caption under Boy (Simon): "Having met the girl once when she was young and now reunited, he tries to help her escape to the outside world."
Caption under Kamina: "Lives in the captive world while hating its rules."
Caption under Twins: "Children who adore the girl."
Caption under Yoko: "Created by the boss, she is being made to work in the boss's world."
Caption under Girl (Nia): "The songstress in a captive world. With the boy, she aims for the world outside but...."
Caption under Boss: "Reigns over this world, and controls the boy, girl, and the others."
Caption: "The world controlled by the boss. In the darkness, one can see a glimpse of what kind of work the woman (Yoko) and man (Kamina) do."
Nia's dialogue as she's crouching next to Simon: "Can that really be fixed??"
"Simon makes an expression like 'What are you talking about?'"
Caption: "The woman and girl. The only comical scene in the story. There is dialogue written in the storyboard."
What Yoko says to Nia: "You're actually starting to look human now..."
What Yoko says to Simon: "Sorry, sorry, I wasn't trying to bully your important person~"
Caption: "The elders' roles. The man (Kamina) and woman (Yoko) think about the boy (Simon) and the girl (Nia)."
"Kamina, looking toward the boss, has a face like 'This looks bad...'"
Yoko: "What are you going to do...??"
Kamina: "...I'll go..."
Caption: "Parting. The outside world. What awaits there is...... The changes in Nia's expressions are drawn in detail."
Simon as his number is revealed: "I can't go with you."
Simon as he's soothing Nia: "Smile...Nia."