Here’s another interview that came with the x365 BD Box! This time, it’s a talk between important figures in the Hidamari anime’s production: Ryutaro Usukura, Yuma Takahashi, and Junichiro Tanaka.


Trial-and-error anime Hidamari Sketch

Let’s start off with introductions. What is your name and your involvement in Hidamari Sketch?

Tanaka: I’m TBS Producer Junichiro Tanaka. I’ve been involved in Hidamari’s production since the very beginning.

Yuma: That’s right, you chose the initial staff, didn’t you?

Tanaka: Yes. From choosing a studio, to director and scriptwriter… I conferred about different options, and was able to draw up a list.

Yuma: I’m Yuma Takahashi from Aniplex. I’ve been the publicity producer since the very first season. I make information booklets, plan events, and manage various other things related to advertising.

Usukura: I’m Usukura from Lantis. I’m in charge of all things music, like assisting our music producer Shigeru Saito. All of Hidamari’s music is so enjoyable. Overseeing the process has been a valuable experience for me.

Because you three have been so deeply involved in Hidamari’s production, would you mind reflecting on everything since the first broadcast and sharing any stories or memories from that time?

Yuma: I don’t often get the opportunity to talk about these things, so I’ll do my best to dust off my memories.

Yes, please go ahead!

Yuma: I clearly remember Hidamari’s beginning stages even now. It was around 2006, wasn’t it? It started airing in January 2007, so that’s probably it. Producer Atsuhiro Iwakami, who had heard from TBS about a Hidamari adaptation, pitched it at a planning meeting. He said, “It’ll be a challenge, but I want Aniplex to make anime of this genre too.” Of course, now there are many works depicting girls’ everyday lives, but at that time there were barely any. Even Aniplex hadn’t worked with anything of the genre before. Iwakami wanted Lantis (with their hit “Hare Hare Yukai” from Haruhi) and Director Shinbo (responsible for “Le Portrait de Petit Cossette”) to team up for the very first time.

And now that same Hidamari that started from trial-and-error is…

Tanaka: At its 4th season!

Yuma: I can’t believe it.

Tanaka & Yuma: (laugh)

Tanaka: I was a little anxious before season 1 aired, but I felt encouraged when the reaction to episode 2’s screening in the editing studio was “This really works!” I felt the freshness that the “montage” technique and the experimental insertion of real photographs brought to the screen.

Handmade Hidamari events

The first Hidamari event (Hidamatsuri at the SME Nogizaka Building) was held as early as February 2007, just one month after the anime started airing, wasn’t it?

Yuma: At first I wondered if people would come and get pumped up at an event when the anime was still in the middle of airing. But at that time I didn’t know anything about planning events. (laughs) I handmade everything. I contacted the cast, Hisanori Yoshida of Nippon Broadcasting, marble, Ume Aoki… The venue was capped at 300 people but we received thousands of application forms. This experience taught me that this is the kind of thing fans want. It was my first event, and considering I’m supposed to be the man in charge of advertising, well, I messed up a lot. (laughs)

Tanaka: Ah, yeah… Like when everyone was moving tables to set up the hall.

Yuma: That hall is normally a corporate cafeteria. (laughs) Everyone was exhausted from moving the tables and chairs. Nowadays I ask a lot of favors from the event planning companies, but at that time I had no idea how to go about it. The handmade feeling was in full effect. (laughs)

Tanaka: I was in charge of collecting application forms. I remember having to send out the acceptance emails. So yeah, there are still some things I regret from then…

All: (laugh)

Usukura: Events exclusively for a single anime aren’t that uncommon nowadays, but they didn’t really exist at that time. I think Hidamari was a pioneer of these types of events.

Yuma: I think so too! The event itself was a huge success, but it was a personal failure for me. I was using my own computer to display a PowerPoint, but for a second I accidentally projected my wallpaper of an anime from another company. I was like, “Oh… crap…” (laughs) Honestly, since that little slip-up ended up being so popular, we’ve been going in stranger and stranger directions…

Usukura & Yuma: (laugh)

Hidamari feels handmade because of its trial-and-error beginning. Does it also reflect the feelings of the creators?

Yuma: Maybe. Hidamari is extremely close to its fans. It’s a strange feeling. I wonder what it is?

Tanaka: Definitely close. Maybe because it’s lasted so long.

Usukura: Everyone in the staff loves Hidamari Sketch, don’t they? Could that be it? Like, each person on the staff is both a fan and a viewer. Maybe we’re not just “close” to the fans, we’re part of the same “root.” It’s not only understanding the fans’ feelings, it’s having that “Yeah, it’s great!” excitement coming from both sides. I think both the staff and fans are very much in sync.

Memorable stories from events

Usukura: “Chou-Hidamatsuri” was ridiculously funny.

Tanaka: It was a disaster. We had to apologize to King Records… (laughs)

Yuma: At the beginning of the event we showed a parody of “Hito Toshite Jiku ga Bureteiru”, the opening of the Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei anime that was airing at the time. (laughs) Hidamari production director Tatsuya Oishi said he wanted to make a Hidamari version of it and I gave him the okay. (laughs) But because it was another company’s property, TBS had to apologize.

Tanaka: Well, the broadcasting station and publisher were different… Only the director and animation studio were the same. (laughs) Speaking of which, where was the song recorded? Aniplex’s conference room, right?

Yuma: Ume Aoki recorded her own “Iitomo!” in there. She made it the “Ume Aoki Hour ‘Waratte Umesu!!’” corner.

Usukura: That was also for Chou-Hidamatsuri, wasn’t it? We were making tons of stuff like weird commercial parodies. (laughs)

Yuma: She sang songs from that famous noontime variety show. I handed her the tape recorder and left her in the conference room alone.

Tanaka: I told her, “Okay, sing to your heart’s content. Just tell me when you’re done.” (laughs)

Yuma: Kana Asumi sang the “Hito toshite~” part. Ryoko Shintani, who already had a role in Zetsubou Sensei, sang the chorus.

So no one could tell if it was official or a parody? (laughs)

Yuma: Music producer Shigeru Saito said it had the same kind of impact of Mikuru Asahina’s “Koi no Mikuru Densetsu” (sung by Yuko Goto, voice of Hiro).

Usukura: (cracks up)

It’s not like there was anyone around to stop her. (laughs)

Usukura: Basically, who would want to?

Tanaka: We went into the event knowing “We can get away with this because we’re never going to put it on DVD.” But from a business perspective, if we don’t release a DVD, we don’t really make any money…

Yuma: I’m so sorry!

All: (crack up)

Tanaka: Still, that “live” feeling is nice. It’s like you’d never see it if you weren’t there. It closed the distance with the audience.

It’s almost conspiratorial. Although you’ll hear fans say, “Put this on DVD!”…

Yuma: You had to be there to see it. (laughs) It would be appreciated, and even if I propose a silly project like this with a “Why not?” it might be accepted. But instead I’ll start worrying, “Is this really okay?”

Tanaka: As long as we still make money, we’re fine. Just have to stay out of the red.

Usukura: I don’t think this kind of freedom is found in many other works. This is something definitely Hidamari-ish.

Yuma: That’s right. We always keep the “Let’s have fun while making this” feeling in mind.

Usukura & Yuma: Uh-huh.

Out of the innumerable events to date, what moments stuck out as unforgettable?

Usukura: For me, it was when Sketch Switch was sung four times at Chou-Hidamatsuri. (laughs)

Tanaka: Oh yeah!

Yuma: It was sung at the event’s opening and ending, then as an encore, and finally one last time at the surprise season 2 announcement. A total of four times. (laughs)

Usukura: It was the only song sung by the entire cast at that time. But it still got everyone super excited.

The event went overtime, didn’t it?

Usukura: It went over by one hour so the whole thing was four hours long. (laughs) Since it was right after I joined Lantis, it left a big impression. “They have events this funny?!!” I thought. It was interesting. My goal was “to top this event someday!” (laughs)

Yuma: I’m very thankful.

Tanaka: For me, the tin badges stuck out as memorable.

Yuma: Oh, those!!

Tanaka: I got a sudden phone call in the middle of the night before Chou-Hidamatsuri. “What happened? Am I in trouble?” I thought, shuddering. Then the voice said, “Come help me make tin badges.” (laughs)

Yuma: We were going to sell tin badges at Chou-Hidamatsuri. But I had no idea how to make them at the time.

You didn’t ask a manufacturer?

Yuma: For some reason our workplace had a tin badge-making machine. So I was like, “All right, let’s make these ourselves!”

Huh?

Yuma: First you put the picture and transparent film on top of the badge and punch it through the machine.

Tanaka: Then you attach a safety pin to the back, and that’s one done. It was like a work-at-home scheme.

Yuma & Tanaka: (laugh)

Tanaka: For three nights the two of us stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning making badges. As a result, we ended up oversleeping the day of the event…

All: (burst into laughter)

Tanaka: Yeah, our “homemade” events in the beginning were definitely unforgettable.

Yuma: I really can’t believe how many events we’ve done. All of them were memorable, but “Chou-Hidamatsuri Z” struck me as especially unique. It was just a singing event. A 1:1 replica of Hidamari Apartments was made to put on the stage. The cast entered through its doors and sang.

Wow!

Yuma: That was something the stage director suggested. “You can do stuff like that?!” I exclaimed and they said “Let’s do it!!” (laughs)

Was your aim to catch everyone by surprise each time?

Yuma: I wouldn’t say that. My job is advertising but the communication part is relatively easy. Compared to anime production, advertising isn’t as hard. Even updating the series homepage counts as communication. There are many different ways of communicating. I’m always thinking, “Is an advertisement like this enjoyable?”

Fans’ hearts become one at the Hidamari King Showdown

The “Hidamari King Showdown” event held from September to November 2010 was very impressive.

Yuma: What did you think when you first heard of the plans?

Tanaka: “Will this even catch on?”

All: (laugh)

Tanaka: I was worried about things like “Will people come?” and “What are we supposed to do if the Hidamari King wishes for something outrageous on stage?”

Yuma: Questions were compiled from the story, radio, events, CDs, and other things available at that time. We wanted a chance to look back on all things Hidamari and for people to discover new things and fall in love with Hidamari all over again. That was our only incentive. Everyone ended up quite “dumbfounded.”* (laughs)

*[The word he uses is “pokan”, which was the answer to a question in the finals of the competition: “What was the title of the strip in which Nori made her first appearance?”]

Tanaka: Yeah. I was wondering, did you make a joke just now?

All: (laugh)

It’s amazing how well you were able to implement the idea.

Yuma: Of course, it was a matter of business and we had to have a meeting with the production committee. Everyone was thankful they gave the okay.

And then the first-generation Hidamari King Kyosuke wished for a 4th season of Hidamari. Is this the kind of wish you anticipated?

Yuma: No no no, not at all. I had no idea how the event was going to turn out in the first place. (laughs)

Tanaka: I was really surprised. The atmosphere in the hall was incredible. I witnessed the moment the fans’ love for the series deepened right before my very eyes.

Yuma: Everyone in the cast and even Ume-sensei were weeping.

What about you?

Yuma: I most definitely did not cry on stage! But I may have had a tear or two in my eye…

All: (grinning)

A message to Hidamari fans

There’s still so much more to talk about, but for now, please leave a message for all the fans who love Hidamari.

Tanaka: I’ve made the utmost effort for Hidamari Sketch’s 4th season in October 2012 to live up to the same expectations everyone had for the first three seasons. Thank you for enjoying Hidamari Sketch, and please keep looking forward to more!

Usukura: I’ll keep making music that makes everyone go, “Now this is Hidamari!” I want to look forward to the future with everyone else.

And finally, Yuma?

Yuma: Thank you for purchasing the BD box! I feel like I’m a kind of “mother” to Hidamari Sketch. I’ve learned many things from the ups and downs I’ve experienced working on it, as it was my debut series as publicity producer. I feel like it’s become the foundation for me now. I’m eagerly planning new events for the Hidamari fans to greatly enjoy. I’ll try not to push myself too far like I usually do. (laughs) Please keep enjoying Hidamari Sketch.

Previously you said in an interview that “Japan’s anime fans are best in the world.” I remember it well.

Yuma: I truly believe that from the bottom of my heart. Everyone’s so good at getting excited and their “Let’s enjoy anime!” feelings are genuine. It’s especially noticeable among the people who wave glowsticks at events. I strongly believe anime is supported by wonderful fans who are wonderful people. I want to keep making anime to enjoy with everyone.


We asked the Hidamari Sketch producers!

Q1. What character(s) do you like the most?

Usukura: Landlady, Yoshinoya, and Natsume.

Yuma: Both Miyako and Yoshinoya are the best examples of free spirits of the Hidamari world, so they’re fun to watch.

Tanaka: Arisawa!

Q2. What is your favorite Hidamari tune?

Usukura: I love the “Oh, it’s starting!” feeling of “? de Wasshoi”, “Otoko no Puzzle”, and “Sate sate”.

Yuma: Aside from the opening themes, the first series of character songs was very memorable. I’m glad the series continued long enough for those CDs to be released.

Tanaka: “a sunny place 1”

Q3. What do you think is the most memorable episode?

Usukura: Season 3 episode 5B, “January 31st: Honest Words”.

Yuma: Season 2 episode 1, “Nice to meet you, Ume-tentei!”, was very impressive for marking the miracle of getting a second season.

Tanaka: Season 1, episode 2!


So, um, who’s starting the petition for them to release that SZS OP parody to the public?

Advertisements