Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song- Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-


Roundtable discussion

Vivy -Fluorite Eye's Song- Roundtable discussion

Original concept/screenplay: Tappei Nagatsuki, Eiji Umehara
WIT STUDIO: George Wada, Joe Otani
ANIPLEX: Yuma Takahashi
■Writing a novel as the original concept for the anime
----Please tell us how this project came to be.
Wada  The project all started when I reached out to Mr. Umehara and asked, "Would you like to create an original anime title with me?" Mr. Umehara and I started working together at same time at our previous studio, Production I.G, and even after starting up WIT STUDIO we collaborated on many titles together, including the series composition for the Laughing Under the Clouds: Gaiden movie trilogy. As the two of us delved deeper into discussion, he suggested to me, "Wouldn't it be interesting if we got Mr. Nagatsuki on board?"

Umehara  I worked on the screenplay for Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World (Re: Zero), an animated TV series based on Mr. Nagatsuki's novels, and the screenplay meetings for that show were really great experiences for me. I learned a lot about how to adapt a novel into an animated TV series and was able to have constructive discussions with the original novelist, Mr. Nagatsuki. Since that was the first time I worked on series composition for an animated TV series, I wanted to incorporate techniques that were successful with past titles that I had worked on. So for Vivy, I first wanted to have a novel written before we worked on the screenplay.

Nagatsuki  I was genuinely surprised when Mr. Umehara asked me, "Can you write a novel that we can use as the concept for the original anime, rather than us make an adaption of the novel?" (laughs) But it was a new approach, and I felt that it could be really interesting. Even before I worked with him on Re: Zero, the scripts Mr. Umehara wrote for the game CHAOS;CHILD had a big impact on me. Mr. Umehara joined the Re: Zero team in the latter half of the series, but when I was introduced to the name "Eiji Umehara" as the new screenwriter, I got so excited, thinking, "The guy from CHAOS;CHILD? I just finished that game the other day!" (laughs)
----So it was a very fateful first contact. (laughs)
Umehara  I distinctly remember talking about that right off the bat when we first met. (laughs)

Nagatsuki  Since we're close in age, we struck up a great conversation afterwards, and I was convinced that if I collaborated with Mr. Umehara we could create an incredible anime, so I definitely wanted to take part in this project. From there, the two of us had many meetings to create a series composition chart that spanned all the episodes. Based on that, Mr. Umehara and I split up who would be in charge of which episode, and then we began writing for the novel. After that, we would rework and fine-tune each other's stories.

Umehara  Re: Zero started as a piece that Mr. Nagatsuki wrote on the website "Shousetsuka ni Narou (Let's Become a Novelist)", which was then edited and published as a novel, and then reformatted for the animated TV series. As Mr. Nagatsuki has ample experience in rearranging his stories for various mediums, my goal was to first write a novel together in order to expand the universe we were trying to create.
---- By going through the step of writing a conceptual novel, you were able to fine-tune the story frequently, compared to the conventional process of writing for an original anime title?
Umehara  When it comes to original titles, it can be hard for the creative team to see the bigger picture, and it can also be difficult for the staff members to share the same vision. But when there is a novel first, it can serve as a guide during production.

Nagatsuki  That's why the novel was only used as the initial concept, and when we started working on the anime, we had many meetings with the director and producer to make big changes to the story. In fact, the characters' personalities, the events of the story, and even the narrative arc that leads to the ending are different. Even if you know the story of the novel or anime beforehand, you can enjoy the other as a fresh experience.

Umehara  A big advantage of this method is that you can reassure the creative team that there is an original story to work off of, while keeping the viewers excited because they don't know what’s going to happen next, which is unique to original anime titles. If I may say so, the downside to this method is that it takes a tremendous amount of time (laughs). The project began at the end of 2016, we started writing the novel in 2017, and finally finished writing in the latter half of 2018. I wouldn't recommend this method to everyone (laughs).
----How did you work out the details for the story of Vivy?
Nagatsuki  Mr. Umehara already had the themes of AI and singing when he asked me to join the project. There are many interesting angles you can choose for stories based on AI, but we were fascinated by the fact that the lifespan of an AI is extremely long compared to humans, so we wanted to create a story that focused on the concept of time. The elements of time travel and going back in time were woven into the story, probably because I joined the project (laughs).

Wada  Time travel is a motif that Mr. Nagatsuki is no stranger to, since it's a key component in Re: Zero as well. I believe that because Mr. Nagatsuki brought the concept of time to the forefront of the story, the Vivy project took a giant step forward.

Nagatsuki  The AI girl Vivy, who is the main character, realizes that what really happened in the past and what is recorded in history are different. Since her thought processes are different from humans', she is forced to make a choice as an AI. After this concept had solidified, all the ideas we needed to write the story came to us pretty quickly.

Umehara  Vivy fits into the sci-fi genre, but we tried to remove any elements that would make the plot too complex. The sci-fi aspect was used as a tool to enhance the drama, and our challenge was to create something that would be entertaining to a wider audience.

Nagatsuki  In the first place, artificial intelligence and time travel are themes that are often used in Hollywood movies, and I believe that it’s a genre that has universal appeal. After hearing about this project, I wanted to cram everything I ever wanted to try using AI into each episode. Working on each episode with that in mind, the episodes connected to each other and naturally led up to the grand finale. The story came together in a way where I think people will be drawn into the series as a whole.
■Collaborating with trusted colleagues on production
----For the production, how did you choose the main staff for the anime?
Wada  Actually, Director Shinpei Ezaki also joined Production I.G around the same time I did, just like Mr. Umehara. Mr. Ezaki worked on WIT STUDIO's first contracted anime title, Attack on Titan, and has worked with Producer Otani on multiple titles. Anime production is a group effort, so it’s important to choose people who will have a great dynamic together. I was confident that Mr. Ezaki would be a great leader for everyone working on production and pull everyone together on the team.

Umehara  Mr. Ezaki is a director who knows how to portray the dramatic elements of characters in subtle ways. I was confident that he would understand what we were trying to express in the screenplay and then expand on it in his approach to directing.

Otani  Mr. Ezaki is really good at taking screenplays and converting them into storyboard form, and one of the highlights of Vivy is the emotional expressions and actions that are unique to the AIs. The story also jumps between different time periods, and Mr. Ezaki was very particular about expressing those changes through the background art. We hope everyone enjoys the series while noticing the changes in the background art between the different eras.

Wada  We were able to convey these changes in an artistic way because we had the conceptual novel beforehand. Since we had the overview for the entire series from the beginning, we were able to link the drawings and background art to the story in effective ways.
---What about the character designer, Mr. Yuichi Takahashi?
Otani  We held a competition to decide on the character designs, but Mr. Ezaki gave a recommendation saying, "You should definitely invite Mr. (Yuichi) Takahashi to the competition as well." Mr. (Yuichi) Takahashi has the ability to take the original character designs and refine them into what we needed for the anime. He's extremely skilled at listening to our explanations and translating them into drawings. Whenever we saw his artwork, we were always like, "This is exactly what we need!"
We have a lot of talented members on the team and many of them worked on Mr. Ezaki's previous projects. Mr. Ezaki’s vast network of talent really helped us out a lot.
■Building the Vivy universe through music
----When did Aniplex join the project?
Wada  In 2017, as the first draft of the novel was nearing completion, I presented the project to Aniplex and they kindly agreed to join the project.

Takahashi  My boss and Mr. Wada know each other well, and after their initial discussion I was chosen to be the on-site producer. This was the first time I had to read a novel before the meetings for an original anime production (laughs). Since this novel was written as an initial concept for the anime, when I read it, I could easily see visual images in my head, and the story featured multiple characters pushing to achieve their goals or missions, which I thought was intriguing and conducive to an animated TV series format. I also felt a strong connection to the original character designs by loundraw, since he worked on the illustrations for the novel I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, which was later adapted into a theatrical anime feature film that I produced.

Wada  As the producer, Mr. Takahashi took the lead for another important theme in the series, which was the music.

Takahashi  The main character of Vivy is a young AI songstress that is trying to bring everyone happiness with her voice. Since music was an essential component in building the universe for this series, we decided to have one composer work on the opening, ending, background music, and soundtrack. After discussing with the in-house music producers at Aniplex, we decided to ask Satoru Kosaki to work on the music. Mr. Kosaki is a composer that knows how to express the broad spectrum of the sci-fi genre through music, and he can compose in a vast array of musical styles. So, we had Mr. Kosaki compose all the music that you hear in Vivy.
----Are the songs on the Vivy soundtrack sung by the voice actor?
Takahashi  Ms. Atsumi Tanezaki is the voice actor for the main character, but we asked an artist named Kairi Yagi to perform the songs. We had professionals in their respective fields of voice acting and singing helping to develop this character, while the movements of the character were created through animation, so we had three different “actors” building this one character. Ms. Yagi’s vocals were in line with the image of Vivy created by Ms. Tanezaki’s voice acting, but also brought out a new side of the character. The opening theme song can be heard in the trailer, so I hope everyone gets a chance to listen it.
----Lastly, can we get a message for the readers?
Nagatsuki  Vivy is packed with everything that makes a series about AI interesting. People who are already fans of the genre will love this, and the series is a perfect gateway for people to get into the AI genre for the first time. We wanted to create an anime that everyone loves, so I hope you enjoy the show.

Umehara  Our biggest goal is for people to enjoy the anime, but in time the novel I wrote with Mr. Nagatsuki will be published as well. Although we’ve finished writing the script, the production is still ongoing, so we will continue to promote the series, and we thank you for all your support.

Wada  The story of Vivy came to be thanks to Mr. Umehara, Mr. Nagatsuki, and the whole team involved. Though the characters and story of the novel and anime are different, our end goal was the same. After a long production period and having discussions with a lot of people about the different pathways to the ending, we found a finale to Vivy where we thought, “This is the only way we can end this story.” We'd be delighted if you would all watch the series until the grand finale.