Interview: Fire Force Director On ‘Brilliance’ of Character Design, Love For ‘Individuality’

Thanks to our partners at Kodansha, we’ve got another special interview for you, this time with Fire Force Character Designer and General Animation Director, Hideyuki Morioka!

We’re just a few episodes into Fire Force Season 2, and things are already heating up, so it’s the perfect time to take a walk back through the series’ creative process with the crew.

RELATED: Interview: Weekly Shonen Magazine Editor Details Fire Force Success, Working With Ohkubo-Sensei

Take a look below at the full interview with Morioka, his work on the series, and what’s to come throughout Fire Force Season 2.

The lifelike character designs that seemed as though they leaped from the original manga for the first season of the Fire Force anime were captivating. I know that you have done numerous character designs for various anime. How do you take two-dimensional characters and create their anime designs?

Morioka: This is my own personal method, so I don’t know if it’s all that informative, but the first thing I do is skim through the original work. After that, I recall the memories and impressions that particularly stand out in my memory and impersonate them for each of the characters.

Fire Force

Imitating them by working them out with my body provides me with the sensation of having the original characters inside me for a time where I can break them down. I don’t just look at them with my eyes, I feel them with my whole body.

Then, after I’ve had a chance to digest a character’s elements, I reconstruct them in my own artwork. Finally, I copy those and adjust the finer details until they are complete.

That does indeed sound like you reach an understanding of the characters on a level you don’t get just by reading the original manga.

The author, Ohkubo-sensei, is someone who has very compelling artwork and designs. Did he have any specific requests, or was there any give-and-take?

Morioka: I remember that he didn’t give me any specific instructions, and allowed me a great deal of freedom. What he did request dealt with the turnout gear and overalls—the silhouettes of their clothing.

The individual designs and outlines cast by the turnout gear was a distinctive part of the original manga as well. When you actually read the manga, what was the overall feel that you got from it?

Morioka: I thought that Ohkubo-sensei’s character designs were quite excellent. You could tell who was who just from their silhouettes, and they expressed each character’s personality and tone very well.

Fire Force Season 2

The range of his design is also varied, and his use of monotone is skillful. This is a fantasy series where the world building is done nice and tight, but his character designs are still accessible, and quite catchy.

Upon watching the anime, the first thing I felt was how closely Shinra’s expressions had been reproduced. I thought that the unique way his nervous smile was replaced was done well.

I’d be curious if there was anything you kept in mind or were especially careful with when creating his expressions.

Morioka: The things I keep in mind when doing Shinra’s expressions are the lift on the corners of his mouth, the angle of his eyebrows, and the size of his pupils. I make sure that these areas on him are a little bit different than with all the other characters. 

However, managing and balancing those jagged teeth of his are tricky, and I struggled with them every time.

You did not just do the character designs, but served as the general animation director as well. I’d like to know what you gave special attention to in terms of that position.

Morioka: Muscles. I’m a big fan when it comes to Captain Obi. I also like Maki. Beyond that, I give extra focus to how neck muscles and fists get animated.

Maki - Fire Force

It seems like the brilliance of the character designs and animation throughout the first season were often mentioned on social media. What sort of feedback did you have after the anime was aired?

Morioka: I was bowled over by Episode 6.

The episode where Hibana’s past is revealed.

Morioka: There are a number of turning points in the first season, and as a little bit of the mystery within the story is being laid bare, Shinra makes his cathartic entrance as a hero.

Following that, the story grew and developed into something even greater, so I felt that the viewers’ reaction was pretty good. Personally, the Asakusa arc at Episode 12 got me all worked up.

The Asakusa arc had Company 7’s exciting battles against the Infernals, and was a storyline that packed a punch that was a little different from the others.

Morioka: It was fiery, wasn’t it? I think the part where Obi and Benimaru square off against each other was exceptionally done well, both in terms of story and artwork.

Finally, we’d like to hear anything you have to say in your capacity of character designer and general animation director for the upcoming second season.

Morioka: Well, since it’s a new season, I of course hope you’ll pay attention to the new characters. Each and every one of them has their own individuality and richness of expression. I did all of their designs with the intention of maximizing their appeal.

In addition to that, there are a number of interactions with characters who thus far have not had much time in the spotlight who have more content that I believe will be worth watching.

As with the first season, the storytelling ramps up right to the end, and the intensity of the animation rises along with it, so I hope you’ll follow the exploits of Company 8 all the way through to the end.

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