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


Roundtable discussion

Vivy -Fluorite Eye's Song- Roundtable discussion 4

Series Composition / Screenplay: Tappei Nagatsuki, Eiji Umehara
■Racing toward the Same Goal with the Production Staff
――The Vivy broadcast has just ended. Can you tell us how you're feeling right now?
Nagatsuki Since I was involved in the project for so long, getting to see Vivy’s journey through to the end is extremely fulfilling for me.

Umehara We started at the end of 2016, so it's been at least four and half years.
For us, there was the struggle of creating the project, but I'm sure it was an extremely long road for everyone on staff who took part in it. Now that we were able to bring it all to fruition in the best way possible, I feel nothing but gratitude.

Nagatsuki Once the screenplay was done, there was nothing more for me to do but leave it to [director Shinpei] Ezaki and his staff, but I feel that at least in spirit, we were all running toward the same goal together. And nothing made me happier than crossing the finish line together.
――How does it feel, looking back on the series as a whole? How was the response from the viewers?
Nagatsuki At the time, I'd never done any series composition work on an animated TV series, so the whole process of screenwriting was a matter of trial-and-error. Having to incorporate cliffhanger elements to incentivize our viewers to watch the next episode, introducing new characters for a 2- or 3-episode arc, suddenly fast-forwarding decades into the future… I think that these plot devices of ours helped draw our viewers into the show in a positive way.

Umehara I agree. Although Vivy is a science-fiction title, rather than placing the focus on the complicated settings, we wanted our viewers to enjoy the relationships and drama between the characters from the start. So it was thrilling to see them react so much to the banter between Vivy and Matsumoto, as well as the drama of the Sisters, Vivy’s sibling AI models.
――The first Blu-ray and DVD sets were released on June 30, and they feature bonus content like the drama CD you two produced, and audio commentaries you took part in.
Umehara We wrote the story for the drama CD to expand on the background of the characters, which we didn't get a chance to do in the actual show. We packaged the drama CD with a character song of the same name.

Nagatsuki I really hope that people take note of the fact that the character song and the drama CD are included as a set. Unlike main themes or insert songs, you don’t normally hear the character songs in a show. I always think that's kind of a waste, and I was always wondering if there was a way to link the character songs to the show. Apparently, our producer, [Yuma] Takahashi, felt the same way, and he suggested to us, “Why don’t you write a story that’s directly related to the character song and include it in the drama CD?” With this format, we could show the background of why this particular character was singing the song, and what kind of emotions she was trying to express.

Umehara Writing a script for the character song was a lot of work, but we were determined to do everything that we could. After all, we already went through the trouble of writing an original novel just so it could be adapted into the Vivy anime. (Laughs)

Nagatsuki You're right about that. It was a great way to create a deeper link between the song and the show, but since it took so much time, I wouldn’t really recommend this method to anyone. (Laughs)

Umehara Speaking of which, we did a similar thing with the opening theme song “Sing My Pleasure” where we paired it with an audio drama. So if you’re interested, please give it a listen.
■Vivy's Voice before She Gains Emotions
――Now I'd like you to look back at each episode. What did you think of Episodes 1 and 2, which aired back-to-back?
Nagatsuki Along with the final episode, Episodes 1 and 2 were the most time-consuming to produce. From the start, we were confident that if we could hold the audience’s attention until the last scene, where the airplane crashes, then we could keep them interested in what was to come. But no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't fit it all into a single episode…

Umehara There were just too many things we had to cover, like Vivy's mission, her first encounter with Matsumoto, and the Singularity Project, which was launched to stop the coming war between humans and AIs.

Nagatsuki We came up with all these different ideas on how to summarize all that. For example, we considered starting Episode 1 with Vivy in an action scene where she is carrying out the Singularity Project and waiting until Episode 2 to explain the background of the story. But then we realized that we wouldn’t be able to depict her relationship with Momoka (Kirishima), which would take away the impact of the final tragic scene. After racking our brains for a while, we ended up settling on combining Episodes 1 and 2 to create a one-hour episode. That was all thanks to Mr. Takahashi [the producer] working hard to negotiate for us. I’m sure that it was largely due to the double-episode broadcast that we were able to get so many people to watch Vivy.

Umehara If Episodes 1 and 2 had aired separately, I'm sure that the show would’ve left a completely different impression. And of course we owe a lot to the production staff’s talent as well. Mr. [Shinpei] Ezaki [director] and the staff all contributed so many ideas to fill out our screenplay, so when we saw the finished product, we were floored, again and again, since they’d elevated the story way beyond anything we’d imagined.
――Is there anything you’d like your viewers to look out for upon rewatching Episodes 1 and 2?
Nagatsuki If it's after watching the final episode, then I think they’ll be astonished to see how Vivy expresses herself before she gains any emotions. You’ll be able to see that in Episode 1, Vivy is still very robotic. (Laughs) And that’s because (Atsumi) Tanezaki took the approach of gradually adding a little more emotion to her performance in each episode. Vivy begins to understand what it means to sing with all her heart., and that’s why you’re able to see her growth in a completely organic way.

Umehara Among the finer details in the show, one interesting thing was that while Vivy is still learning how to express her emotions, there are moments when it seems like her emotions might explode at any moment. In Episode 1, when Matsumoto sees that there were hardly any people in the audience for Vivy’s show, he makes a cynical remark saying, “You look and sound so rigid on stage, you tend to keep people away.” Vivy shoots back, “On stage, I am smiling...” And in the next scene, we see a close-up of Vivy’s feet while she’s walking, and as the clicking of her heels gets faster, you can tell that she’s filled with anger, which is something that even Vivy herself doesn’t realize. This wasn’t in the screenplay; it was something that Mr. Ezaki added to the storyboards. I was amazed that he could depict what was going on inside Vivy so skillfully, despite the fact that she was still in a state of being emotionally stifled.
■The Meaning of the Line, “I think I am jealous.”
――Episodes 3 and 4 are set on board the Space Hotel Sunrise, and we meet Estella and Elizabeth.
Nagatsuki We actually made a major modification to the screenplay when we were adapting this episode from the novel. In the novel, Estella was suspected of killing the previous owner, but there was just no time to show how that mystery was solved in the anime. In the anime, we showed that Vivy understood without a shadow of a doubt that Estella had nothing to do with the previous owner’s death when she hears Estella’s lovely voice at the end of Episode 3.

Umehara Not that we weren't apprehensive about taking that approach at first. We weren't sure if we should show that an AI could make an illogical and emotional decision in a series like Vivy.

Nagatsuki That’s why we decided that the focus would be much more on Vivy’s mission of singing with all her heart for the anime version. For her, that was what she prioritized above all else, and because she could sense Estella’s heart in her singing, Vivy could tell that Estella had done the right thing. As I was writing the screenplay, it was this final scene from Episode 3 that convinced me that I could build off the novel if I went in this direction.
――A lot of people were reacting to the final scene in Episode 4, where Estella and Elizabeth are in the space hotel up until its potential demise in order to save humankind.
Nagatsuki What made me happy was how our viewers also accepted that end result in a positive way. Since Estella ultimately ceases to function, at a glance, it would seem as if she came to a tragic end. But it doesn’t come off like that thanks to the line Mr. Umehara wrote for Vivy: “I think I am jealous.” Thanks to those words, it’s clear that for Vivy, Estella’s choice wasn’t a sad one, but one that made her feel jealous. In other words, the message is clearly conveyed—for an AI it’s something feel envious about.

Umehara For an AI, fulfilling one’s mission is of utmost importance, even if it means that they will cease to exist. It was a line that came to me naturally, without my having to ponder about it too much, and I think that we were able to convey what we wanted to.

Nagatsuki Spoken in such a stylish way that it made me feel jealous. (Laughs)
■Whether or Not We Should've Shown the Gun
――Episodes 5 and 6 were set on the unmanned offshore plant, Metal Float.
These episodes followed the story of a human-AI couple, Dr. (Tatsuya) Saeki and Grace, and the ending was shocking to a lot of people.
Nagatsuki Let me just point out from the get-go that most of our viewers’ reactions to Saeki's suicide at the end were along the lines of, “Why did you do that Nagatsuki!?” but it was Mr. Umehara who wrote the scripts for Episodes 5 and 6. (Laughs) Mr. Umehara has such a knack for creating these utterly hopeless, tragic endings.

Umehara No, wait, it was you who came up with the idea of Saeki killing himself. (Laughs) And the reason I was able to make that final scene so shocking was because of the immense support I received in terms of the visuals, so it was thanks to our talented production staff, led by Mr. (Yusuke) Kubo, who worked on the storyboards and direction.

Nagatsuki We actually weren’t going to have Saeki die at first. But for Vivy to transform into her alter-ego in Episode 7, there had to be an incident at the end of Episode 6 that would create conflict within her. In other words, we needed a tragic ending for Saeki and Grace’s story.

Umehara Deciding how we would depict Saeki taking his own life with a gun caused some really heated discussions during the script meetings. For example, should we show that Saeki had the gun behind his back, or should we keep that hidden? Our opinions were divided on that. If we were to show it, then that might add some suspense to the scene—the possibility he might either shoot Vivy, or shoot himself, or else not shoot anyone in the end. But on the other hand, that tension could interfere with the dramatic elements.

Nagatsuki We ended up not showing the gun until Saeki shot himself because we’d already depicted him with the gun in his hand during the battle scene, and we decided that it would be better to prioritize the dramatic elements over the suspense. And it turned out to be the episode that generated the most buzz of the entire series.
■ “Strong Character” as a Keyword
――Episodes 7 - 9 are about the Zodiac Signs Festival in which Vivy’s alter-ego, Diva, appears.
Nagatsuki Vivy transforms into Diva, who is bright and cheerful, which is the exact opposite of Vivy’s personality. That also changes the dynamic of her relationship with Matsumoto. We’d already planned for Diva to disappear in the end, so our first order of business was to establish her as her own unique character. We tried to give her a charming vibe so that everyone would be sad to see her go.

Umehara Our keyword for Diva was that she would be a strong character. (Laughs) I think that at first, seeing this upbeat, energetic character would make our viewers wish for Vivy to return, but we wanted them to be able to relate to Diva, and maybe even miss her after they were done watching.
――One highlight of Episode 9 was the battle between Diva and (Yugo) Kakitani.
Umehara That was really incredible. The storyboards and animation were done by an animator named Masahiro Tokumaru; the same person who animated the AI battle between Vivy and Elizabeth in Episode 4. Personally, I liked the action at the start where Kakitani grabs Diva’s hair. That was another scene that wasn’t in the screenplay; it was an idea that Mr. Tokumaru added in. I was also stunned by the way he depicted that series of shifts in the center of gravity—being blasted away, rolling on the floor, but never falling all the way and then getting up right before the knife is pulled out from the arm.
――What did you think of the songstress AI, Ophelia, and the sound master AI, Antonio?
Nagatsuki I was personally invested in the relationship between Ophelia and Antonio, but there was a lot that we ended up not using form the novel. The focus of the story is on Vivy, so we wanted to devote as much time as we could into the drama surrounding Diva. If you’re interested in Ophelia and Antonio’s relationship, then I’d be thrilled if you read the next issue of the novel, Vivy prototype. It's a story that really delves into darker emotional themes like jealousy between AIs and the sorrows that all ordinary humans experience.
■What It Means to Sing with All Your Heart
――In Episode 10, Vivy, who can no longer sing, starts composing a song in the museum.
Umehara Until we started the actual writing process for Episode 10, the only thing we’d decided on was that Vivy would be writing a song. So nothing was determined yet, which also meant that we had a lot of freedom, so it was also a fun episode to write.

Nagatsuki Our breakthrough came when we asked the question, “How should we show that a lot of time has passed while Vivy writes her song?” The 100-year journey is a keyword in Vivy, but by the time we got to Episode 10, only 60 years had gone by.

Umehara That's why we thought that having Vivy meet Dr. (Osamu) Matsumoto as a young boy, and then having Dr. Matsumoto come to see her once a year, would be an interesting way to show that continuing relationship, as well as Dr. Matsumoto growing up. And during their final meeting, Vivy touches a baby —something unknown to an AI, as they can’t leave behind progeny. And that's when Vivy feels something, which leads to the breakthrough of her starting to engage in a creative activity, which is composing music.
――And the finale occurs in Episodes 11 -13. You mentioned that the final episode was the one you struggled with the most; can you tell us what it was like?
Umehara We'd already decided on the ending, with Vivy stopping the war by singing, but there was a lot of discussion regarding what kind of drama we’d surround that with to give that scene a sense of reality.

Nagatsuki In this day and age, we can’t plow through to the finale with a simple ending, so we needed the story to unfold in a convincing way. Ultimately, the method we used was to include a program in the song that would affect the AIs, while the humans would be moved by the emotion in the song, which would stop the war. But then there was the question of who wrote that program. There were all kinds of suggestions, but since it had to be a character who’d always been able to assert their existence, we narrowed it down to the comprehensive AI database, Archive.

Umehara Vivy displays her creativity by writing a song, which is an ability that AIs normally don’t possess, so Archive recognizes that she is being special and entrusts her with the future of the world. We sprinkled a lot of hints in Episodes 11 and 12 that would lead up to the final episode.
――What are the highlights of the final episode?
Umehara Personally, I'd say it was the return of Vivy's support AI, Navi. I'd been agonizing over how to create a highlight scene before the climactic singing scene, when Mr. Nagatsuki suggested, “Why don’t we have her talk to Navi?”

Nagatsuki I felt that we needed to find some kind of closure in the relationship between Vivy and her initial partner, Navi. We enjoyed writing the scenes at the beginning of the series that showed Vivy and Navi's relationship. Back then they were good friends, maybe even like sisters. But then it faded out thanks to Matsumoto’s appearance.
――Navi tries to stop Vivy from taking action by using a hologram of Momoka.
Nagatsuki Well, Navi also cherished the promise Vivy made to Momoka, to one day sing on the Main Stage.

Umehara Momoka reappeared partly because she was a favorite of [director] Mr. Ezaki’s. I mean, he kept asking at the end of Episode 2, “Are we really going to do this?”

Nagatsuki And so he was really thrilled about the way this final episode turned out. (Laughs)
――Tell us your thoughts about Vivy’s rendition of the insert song, “Fluorite Eye’s Song” during the climax?
Nagatsuki Of all 13 episodes, that was the song that needed to project the most conviction, so I’m sure it was difficult for the music team. One of the themes of the series was Vivy searching for the meaning of singing with all her heart, for which there is no real answer to. But the music staff led by (Satoru) Kosaki were able to create a song based on that theme, so I’m really grateful to them. Vivy found her answer to that questions from all her experiences starting from Episode 1, and I hope that everyone can get a sense of that from the song.

Umehara Vivy is a show based on the themes of AI and music. And that one song was like the culmination of all that, so I’d like everyone to listen closely to her voice. There are all kinds of meanings in the lyrics too, so I hope that everyone picks up on that.
――Finally, how about a message for the fans?
Nagatsuki We tried to make Vivy as engaging as possible by filling the story with all the elements that we love personally. I think that if you’ve read this interview, then you’re already a fan who’s having a blast with Vivy, and who wants to know more about it. So I have nothing but gratitude for you all. We talk about the show in the audio commentary included on the Blu-Ray and DVD, and in the booklet, as well. In the radio show, you’ll hear the cast members each describing how they feel about the show. Jun Fukuyama, who played Matsumoto, always has profound observations which astonish us as writers. If you’re interested, I hope that you get to listen to all of this and get the full Vivy experience.

Umehara I could tell that while Vivy was airing, the response from the fans really motivated the staff members. The reason why we are even involved in creating a project like Vivy is so that the fans enjoy it, and so that the people working on it also feel a sense of joy. If Vivy turned out to be that kind of show, then there’s nothing that could make me any happier. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.