The Plunderer anime is off and running on Funimation, and the fan reception has been amazing. In order to hype up the show’s broadcast, we’re running a series of interviews conducted by Web Newtype, in collaboration with KADOKAWA, featuring the staff and cast of the series!
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Below is the first in the series, featuring Plunderer anime director Hiroyuki Kanbe and assistant director Yasuhito Nishikata.
What were your impressions of the Plunderer manga when you read it?
Kanbe: The preliminary talks of turning this story into an anime came up quite a long time ago. At the time, I read all of the available manga, which was the third volume, and it had quite a shocking ending. I had no idea what was going to happen next. I couldn’t even guess! So the first impression I got was that turning this into an anime would be quite a big deal. The manga series itself running on the Shounen Ace magazine was at the part of the story that takes place in the past. I talked to the editorial staff of the manga, but still couldn’t come up with a solid structure for the anime. Some time passed, and more volumes of the manga were published, and then finally I was able to start thinking about the story structure.
Nishikata: I first heard about this anime project just as the production was about to start. At that time, the part of the story taking place in the past was just about to finish, and my impression was that Suu Minazuki-sensei was trying a bold, new style. Minazuki-sensei is known for his approach that mixes comedic and serious tones, but I felt that this particular story was more weighted towards the serious.
Kanbe: The crux of the story is very dark and heavy. I think it’s quite unlike the other works from Minazuki-sensei.
Nishikata: Minazuki-sensei’s other works often feature girls getting put into harsh situations, but I think this one takes that a step further, especially when compared to the previous project, Heaven’s Lost Property. From the very beginning of the story, lots of hints and covert references are laced into the plot, which connect solidly to the events that follow much later. I really felt that Minazuki-sensei is putting a whole lot of passion into this project.
Given this story, what direction were you thinking of taking with the anime, and what types of highlights were you planning to develop?
Nishikata: I got the impression that Director Kanbe wanted to take this in a more serious direction and not lean so heavily into the comedy.
Kanbe: We’re not going all-in on the comedy side; more serious atmosphere, and sincere.
Nishikata: For example, in the manga, sometimes the characters go into “Chibi” mode during combat. That’s actually hard to pull off well in an anime. This is especially true if the music in the background has a serious tone. Suddenly jamming a gag into the flow just isn’t funny. So in those types of scenes, we tried to focus on the battle and cut what we had to cut. Also, the sexy scenes were hard to balance too. We got an opinion saying, when Licht tries to push his face between Hina’s legs with a dead-serious expression, he just looks way too perverted (laughs). We really went through a lot of trial and error to get the style right. After all, we haven’t shown any panties yet.
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Kanbe: Yes. I’m pretty sure it’s a good idea to altogether avoid showing panties during the whole first season. So we haven’t. There are some sexy scenes, but we wanted to focus on getting the story across properly, so we wanted to avoid being called a “Panties Anime” by throwing panties in everywhere. To make up for this, I put in a lot of references to panties in the next episode previews section.
Who is writing scripts for those previews?
Kanbe: I wrote the one at the end of episode 1 (preview of episode 2), but only that one. I then showed that to the scenario writer, who is using that as a basis to write the rest of them.
Interviewer: It went “Hey, I’m Licht! Plunderer’s next episode is a panties festival! Panties, panties, panties, panties, panties, panties….” (Licht) “Do you really love panties that much?” (Hina) “Yes! I’d love to see yours, Hina!” (Licht), so….
Nishikata: So full of lies.
Kanbe: Yes, I’m sorry. I was accused of panties fraud. People have told me “There are no panties [in episode 2], what is this?!” I have no excuse.
Your roles are Director and Assistant Director. How do you separate the work?
Nishikata: Director Kanbe does almost all of the storyboard checking, so my role is to manage the work at the ground level. Director Kanbe handles the audio things, and I am the one instructing the background art and filming crews.
Director Kanbe, is there anything specific in the storyboard phase that you focused on?
Kanbe: The action scenes were a lot of work. The manga is drawn in a very impactful way, and I had to do a lot of trial and error to figure out how best to express that in an animation format. For example, in the first episode, when Licht moves extremely quickly, he generates shockwaves whenever he moves. Another thing that I put a lot of thought into is how to show the Ballots. When Jail appears in the third episode, we had to think about how to show his “Iron” Ballot ability, and came up with the black sparks. We have a lot of discussion over how to do the composition like that.
Which Plunderer character is the favorite at the production team [GEEKTOYS]?
Nishikata: The area under Nana’s bra is extremely important. Nana’s outfit is structured in a way where her skin shows in that area, but early on, during the coloring phase, there was a mistake and we thought there was fabric there. I think we mistook the design as a type of tube top, and it still pops up from time to time. So during the All Rush (production-level review), we bring the whole team in to stare at the area under her bra to make sure we didn’t color it wrong. That said, I think everyone agrees that Nana is pleasant to draw.
Kanbe: Minazuki-sensei loves Jail.
Nishikata: Oh, that makes sense. When we submitted our character designs to the manga editorial side, we got a lot of requests about Jail, and when we had the dialogue reviewed, there were nuance adjustments to Jail’s lines.
What were your plans on what kind of protagonist to depict Licht Bach as?
Kanbe: At a very basic level, he is a cool protagonist, sometimes showing how he is affected by a dark past, and sometimes presenting a lewd side. I got the impression that his brighter side was created through his meeting with Hina. I wanted to make that apparent through the story.
Nishikata: During the early parts of the story, Licht wears a mask all the time, which really communicates those things. The “hyottoko” mask was very hard to draw. It has a weird mouth angle; it’s a lot harder than drawing a normal face (laughs).
On the other hand, what are your plans on how to depict the heroine, Hina, in Plunderer?
Kanbe: She is a sincere and dedicated young girl, in search of the Ace. She can do nigh impossible things, like walking 40,000 kilometers on her own.
Nishikata: She’s a bit of an airhead too. She’s sincere and determined, so she’s the character that’s easiest to follow without anxiety.
Interviewer: The ending sequence appears to feature scenes from Hina’s past.
Kanbe: The ending is from Hina’s point of view. It presents the 40,000 kilometers journey that Hina has traveled so far.
Yoshiki Nakajima plays Licht, and Rina Honnizumi plays Hina. How was the casting process?
Nishikata: It was a lot of work, wasn’t it?
Kanbe: Yes, because there were so many people at the audition. We spent an entire day on the studio audition. In this story, some characters appear as several different versions of themselves at different ages, and we wanted to have one person play all of the versions of a character, if possible. That said, we wanted someone cool and experienced to play the older characters like Alex and Schmerman. We needed to put a lot of thought into who plays whom. Also, for example, Licht requires a lot of breadth in acting, because he has a younger version, an older version, a “Chibi” comical version, and so on.
Nishikata: We definitely wanted a versatile person to play Licht. In that sense, I think Yoshiki Nakajima was a great pick and awesome fit.
Kanbe: The first episode starts with Licht doing a comedy scene, and when we recorded it, Nakajima-san was in tune with the gags from the get-go. We were all struck by his professional skills. Thanks to that, the recordings were quite smooth and things moved along at a very good tempo. Honnizumi-san, who plays Hina the heroine, also really lands the heroine aspects of the role very well.
Nishikata: I think Honnizumi-san is another example of a good actor-character match. The classic, orthodox heroine, so to speak. She really tightens up the story as the heroine in every single episode, so we’re comfortable relying on her.
What are some especially memorable scenes and cuts for the two of you?
Kanbe: For me, the end of the first episode is definitely it. Licht holds Hina in his arms and presents himself as the Ace. From the moment I read that part in the manga, I’ve been working to make that the most memorable cut.
Nishikata: In my case, it would be the end of episode 2, where Hina gets left behind by Licht. It’s a tearjerking scene, so I put a lot of effort into it. It’s my favorite scene.
What is episode 7 like?
Nishikata: The feel of the story takes a sharp turn from this point in the plot, so before we did that, we wanted to insert an episode where everyone gathers together. We asked Minazuki-sensei for his help too, and added in an anime-original episode.
Kanbe: We inserted an anime-original episode in episode 7 because we wanted to establish the character relations a bit more robustly before we moved on. Episode 6 was quite depressing for Licht, so Hina cooks for him to cheer him up. We also wanted to put in an episode centered around Hina, so we inserted the introduction of her survival skills here, instead of later in the story as was the case in the manga.
Nishikata: The things this heroine does with a shiny sparkly smile is quite novel (laughs).
What are some other things we should look forward to in the upcoming episodes?
Kanbe: Things are going to get very tumultuous from here on out, and we hope to make this a story that you’ll never grow tired of paying attention to. Please look forward to how this plays out.
Nishikata: First of all, please focus on how the character relations deepen in episode 7. Then a lot of crazy stuff happens, leading to the growth of Licht and Jail as a tag team. It would be great if you could enjoy how that plays out.
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