Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Interview with Urobuchi Gen, Ota Katsushi and Iwakami Atsushiro

©Nitroplus / TYPE-MOON, ufotable, FZPC
I'm very happy to present to you an interview with the great Urobuchi Gen (writer of Fate/Zero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica), Ota Katsushi (Vice President of Sekaisha, Publisher of Fate/Zero novels), and Iwakami Atsushiro (Producer for Aniplex)! This interview has been brought to us to Sakura Con by Aniplex USA.

Despite the late notice and late start of the press conference, the other press members and I were able to get quite a lot of information directly from the source. We took turns with the eight members of the press that were there, asking questions to all three or sometimes only to Urobuchi. Those present were from SUTORAIKU Anime, Radiant Dreamer, Japan-A-Radio, The-O Network Online, and Sankaku Complex. Questions and answers were translated by Karahashi Takayuki.

The Difference between Anime Events in Japan and in North America

This is the first time Urobuchi attended an American anime convention. Which made him curious about the fans in North America if our hobbies are not something to be fully proud of. Our representatives from RadiantDreamer and Sankaku Complex answered for us, which felt right in my mind. Some fully embrace it but there are still who are embarrassed since it's still perceived as someone watching a childish cartoon even if the anime is made for mature audience.

©Nitroplus / TYPE-MOON, ufotable, FZPC
Urobuchi answered with a very fundamental difference between the fans here and in Japan, "Japanese otaku have some degree of self-loathing and that leads to loathing of other similar people of the same kin. So when Japanese otaku get together they don't necessarily like each other or treat each other that well and that's the self-loathing that I feel do not exist here at Sakura Con. It's rare to see conventions in Japan where the all the attendees are friendly to each other." He also added, "I've yet to smell funk here, everyone bathes." Which is one of our conventions etiquette, might I add ^^; Though I have to note this takes place in spring when it's not that hot, so perhaps if he came in summer it would be a little different. Ota supported Urobuchi's comment saying that the Summer and Winter Comiket have been called a battlefield, and "it does not smell like a battlefield here at Sakura Con."

Iwakami have been to other conventions such as Otakon. He noticed that the reaction from the Fate/Zero (episodes 14 and 15 were shown at Sakura Con) screening is not something you see in Japan. Although Japanese audience are more forthcoming when they're in front of the keyboard commenting on Nico Nico Douga. Ota also noticed that west coast fans are more open than east coast fans after he attended the New York Comicon.

Working on Content

Urobuchi prioritize on having fun with his work. If he's not having fun working on it, the customer can tell right away. "That's not something I'm willing to allow my product to have." As an editor, Ota also prioritize having fun working with the writer hoping to lead to something with good sales. Iwakami have the need to prioritize the business first since he's a producer but if the product is not entertaining it would not sell anyway.

Fate/Zero Survivors

Urobuchi has mentioned in the Fate/Zero radio show that his ideal character is someone who would survive. There were only four continuous characters who survived til the end of Fate/Zero until Fate/stay night. Though Kiritsugu was only mentioned in name only and Gilgamesh was not introduced until the end of Fate/stay night. Only Saber and Kirei became the pillar for Fate/stay night and Fate/Zero respectively, therefore his ideal characters? Or perhaps the ones that are predetermined to survive for stay night. Others asked about Waver Velvet, Matou Sakura and Tousaka Rin but Urobuchi says that Waver is not part of Fate/stay night and Sakura and Rin were only in youth and felt that they were performed by different actresses which did not count either. To be honest, I feel like this question was lost in translation. ^^;

Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica Merchandising

Kyuubey plush, a popular
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
And suddenly it came to my turn for asking a question. I didn't realize that I was more nervous than I thought... I asked about how they felt about Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica merchandising, such as the new Azone Saber doll coming out in August (though I mistakenly said September). I was expecting an answer regarding the existing figurines that are out there, but instead I got myself a better information regarding the merchandising of shows in Japan!

Urobuchi answered that the orthodox magical girl, Kamen Rider and Ultraman shows are merchandise-centric shows that usually build the show around the toys to sell the product. "The creative endavours that I've worked in have been the polar opposites of that. I've never had to think of it that way but if I ever were I would adapt to the demand of the creative process." He also added regarding Madoka Magica, "For example, if merchandising were a priority to the show, the toys need to be selling in the first week of broadcast. So it would be impossible for Madoka not to be transforming in the first episode." That gave me quite the giggle.

It helps when there's a producer in the group. He gave us another insight in to the merchandising and licensing of anime titles. Iwakami mentioned that many licensees loved the merchandise potential of Madoka Magica characters when it became popular, particularly Kyuubey who made the perfect plush goods. Though none of them were prepared prior to the production of the show for the market.

Memorable Moments from Producing Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica

Art by Hina Hina
Urobuchi had many memorable moments, but his most memorable was anticipating the reaction to Madoka Magica episode three, "I was just sitting upright in front of the TV and it was like waiting for what the doctor would tell me about my diagnosis." For Fate/Zero, Urobuchi was very impressed with the first episode, knowing that Ufotable, who produced the Garden of Sinners anime, is the one animating his story. "There was much to be expected, but they exceeded a whole lot of my expectations and that was very great."

Ota had a very interesting story for Fate/Zero which pertains to even before it was official work. "The statute of limitation has probably transpired so I can probably talk about the doujinshi. I was very excited to hear that Nasu and Urobuchi was going to do Fate/Zero but initially this was a doujinshi so it's nothing something I could openly help with." Although he was not impressed with their editorial design he was happy to be able to secretly help them without letting his employer know. For the anime, he wasn't there initially but the others invited him for the production which made him very happy.

Producer Iwakami had the same reaction as Urobochi regarding the third episode of Madoka Magica and the first episode of Fate/Zero. The night when episode three of Madoka Magica was first aired in Osaka, before the broadcast in Tokyo, he and Director Shinbo were having dinner and did not see the reaction on the internet until the next day. "It was as though the world had completely changed. We were anticipating that there might be a lot of split reaction to the episode, but we were impressed that a lot of viewers were thrilled." As for Fate/Zero's first episode, it felt like a big challenge for him for the first episode of Fate/Zero because it was an episode without a single battle in it. "Episode three of Madoka Magica was a big challenge. Episode one of Fate/Zero was a big challenge. And all these challenges were rewarded."

The Music of Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica

Iwakami field the answer to this question since he produced both series. For the music selection, he tends to ask the original creator for input, "it was Urobuchi's specific request that he wanted to have Kajiura Yuki as the composer, and he considered that a long shot, but since we already had worked with her for Garden of Sinners, it's something we went about and made possible." For the theme songs, Iwakami usually go to Sony Music Group for their selection of musical artists. ClariS, Kalafina and LiSA are some of the many from that said selection. Usually a producer can choose from the songs that the artists already have, but for a more popular title, an original song would be written to synchronize better with the story.


I felt like this question was a landmine when my colleague thought about asking the night before. Fortunately it yielded an interesting discussion and it was good to hear the opinion of the creators themselves. Ota even mentioned that it was a difficult question, prompting my colleague to apologize. Iwakami initially answered to this question, "that's not something we can fully appreciate, but what I can appreciate is the enthusiasm... I certainly wish everything could be watched through legitimate means." Urobuchi chimed in, "I almost wish there was a magical way to make revenue without relying on the IP mechanism."

Ota Katsushi, before the Nisemonogatari screening.
The Bakemonogatari license was announced at Sakura Con.
Many fans obviously have seen Bakemonogatari
prior to the Nisemonogatari screening.
Ota responded with an insight to the anime creation in Japan, "The Japanese population is approximately 100 million, and the unfortunate thing is that this is enough for a market to sustain the endeavors of most creative people there. Those producers and creators do not really have the market overseas in mind. That mentality needs to change, because we've come here to Sakura Con to see that there are demands for what we make overseas."

Through Nico Nico Douga, Iwakami provided a more legitimate means of watching Fate/Zero at the same time of the Japanese broadcast, but he knows there are still those who watch fansubs. To him this is at least a start. I think this is quite the start as well because providing the means of watching something that just aired in eight different languages subtitle is impressive! Iwakami asked us what they could do to improve this system. We answered with a few suggestions, including creating a purchase system where we can watch the episode anytime without the restriction of watching it within the week, especially since there are people who would rather sit there watching it all in one sitting. The problem also lies with Nico Nico itself since it is not very well known and the comment system sometimes give out spoilers. It also seems that the internet speed in the United States still aren't up to par to streaming video, to which Urobuchi jokingly replied, "I thought Bill Gates had established the fastest broadband network!"

Other Mythological or Historical Figures in Fate Universe

Jack the Ripper
The Deadliest Warrior show was also brought up, but unfortunately Urobuchi didn't know about this show. He had free reign on who he can choose but he is already happy with the characters that he chose for Fate/Zero. He also mentioned that there are other creators who are drawn into Nasu Kinoko's Fate universe who have other historical figures in mind and coming up with their own Fate spinoff, "so they will be the ones to introduce new ideas of what kind of heroes to incorporate in the world." For example, Jack the Ripper is in one of these spinoffs. Later I found out that this project is Fate/Apocrypha, a canceled online game that became a light novel written by Higashide Yuichiro, a friend of Urobuchi.

That was the last question and we were pretty much wrapping up at this point. I had one more question that I was hurting for an answer, so I asked one of the Aniplex staff quickly to ask to Urobuchi. He mentioned Urotsukidoji in the Puella Magi Madoka Magica panel and I became curious whether he knew Maeda Toshio, the creator of Urotsukidoji. He didn't know him personally and only knew the title, but I was glad to get an answer to satisfy my curiosity.

- FIN -

A big thank you to Eugene Harng from the Sakura Con staff who provided us with this opportunity to interview the honoured guests. Another thank you to EJ Rivera, our contact from Aniplex who helped me in providing a key art for this article and some missing names. Huge salute to our translator, Taka-san, who provided splendid translation for us in between his coughing fits. And lastly a big, big thank you to Urobuchi Gen, Ota Katsushi and Iwakami Atsushiro for attending this press conference and answering all our questions! You can read the full transcript at SUTORAIKU Anime. Also check out Anime News Network's interview with these three creators who came right after us.


  1. Great job with all the little details, they are a nice touch... like with crediting the translator even!

    Hey, I recognize that meal... Kyuubey likes tuna sandwiches and green tea apparently. ;)

    1. Thanks! If it wasn't for him, this interview would've been very difficult ^^;

      Tis the meal of a creatures who are uninterested in humans! LOL