Interview: Fire Force Animation Editor Breaks Down Unique Tempo and Rhythm of the Series

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It’s Monday, and you know what that means! Thanks to our partners at Kodansha, we’ve got another special interview for you, this time with Fire Force Animation Editor Kiyoshi Hirose!

This is the final interview in our special behind-the-scenes series for Fire Force, so if you haven’t caught up on them all, we got you. Trust us, you’ll learn something new in each one.

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Hirose-san expertly breaks down what it’s like to work with the tempo and rhythm of Fire Force, and how the series challenges him. Take a look below at his full interview, and let us know what anime interviews you’d like to see next!

I think that there are probably many people who don’t know specifically what the job of an editor is. Can I ask what form your work takes in conjunction with the series?

Hirose: In short, it involves “cutting” and “replacing” and “master versions.” In broad terms, cutting involves the work of connecting each of the individual, separately animated shots, while either shortening or lengthening them, so that they run for the right amount of time.

I work with the director and episode directors on this, and we decide together how to handle this work. This also includes watching the finished movie while the voice recording is performed.

So linking the shots together is the editor’s work. What about replacing?

Hirose: Basically, at the time of cutting, not all of the artwork will have been completed, so once it does get finished, the sound effects people add their sound at the right times, and we “replace” the unfinished footage with it.

Also, once all of the work is completed, we transfer it to tape, send it to online editing, and have them do the fine tuning, such as blocking in the right amount of time for commercials so that it can be aired on TV. Once all that is done, we will finally have our master tape. This master tape is also called the “master version.”

It seems like editing has a major role in establishing the tempo and rhythm of a production.

Hirose: That’s true. We first get a firm grasp of the director’s and episode directors’ intentions, and then do the editing with that in mind to bring it about.

It’s impressive how this series skillfully blends the impactful action scenes and the quiet day-to-day scenes and keeps moving forward at such an exquisite tempo.

From an editor’s point of view, what exactly is it you consider when working?

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Hirose: At the time when I was editing Episode 1, I was wondering what sort of rhythm the director was trying to convey. When I first looked at the photographic data from each shot, I felt that he was trying to create a wide gap in the rhythm between the day-to-day and the action.

This is an awfully intuitive matter, so it’s hard to explain, but overall, I guess it’s like “glide…bang!” It’s a little more confusing than it should be.

So what you’re saying is that you “glide” through the day-to-day scenes, when suddenly, “bang!” an action scene springs up, is that about right?

Hirose: That’s about right. However, the earliest rush checks are ultimately just first impressions; it’s during the subsequent fine tuning of the cuts that I often better understand the preferred length of the intervals that the director and episode directors want.

As such, when I do the editing, I have discussions with the director to figure out which cuts are long enough to fill the right amount of time, and which cuts feel a little too long.

As your work with editing went on, did you gain a grasp of the director’s intent early on?

Hirose: Hmm, good question. The work entails having these discussions again and again, so I do think that I got what he was going for to some extent. But even at that, the director would sometimes inject an unusual pause, and each time it happened, I struggled quite a bit with how exactly I was going to edit that (laughs).

Fire Force Season 2

What do you mean by unusual pause?

Hirose: Typically, we cut our shots together so as to maintain a flow from the previous shot to the next. But in Season 1, there are some shots that just pop up where the artwork has no direct connection to what comes before or after.

That’s true, especially in the action scenes. It struck me how dizzyingly the unfolding artwork would change.

Hirose: When putting together cuts like that, the right move is usually to arrange them so that the viewer doesn’t get tripped up or see anything as being out of place. However, by introducing those quirky shots into it, it could lend a unique quality to the production.

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With that in mind, I figured that rather than having things connect in a smooth fashion, I needed to look within myself for a rhythm that perfectly matched the world of this series. The work of finding that rhythm within myself that was convincing was quite difficult, but also invigorating and interesting.

Perhaps that is also where the characteristic sense of tempo crops up.

Hirose: Maybe so. It was also suggested to me that I might want to go through and re-edit after the voices were added in. Ordinarily, the editing work is most often put together all at once, without any sound, but for this show, to create that characteristic sense of tempo, I wanted to give it a little more detailed timing. As a result, I was able to better fine-tune the timing on those shots.

As a result of this series having its own characteristic “unusual pauses,” its out-of-the-ordinary tempo sets itself apart from other series.

Was there anything else about the editing that was intentionally done for dramatic impact?

Hirose: As far as the tempo of the series goes, I made sure to keep the timing between scenes nice and robust.

Between scenes?

Hirose: For example, in many series, the general rule is that when a scene changes, there will be a BG (background) shot by itself that lasts for two or three seconds.

But in this series, there are many of these shots that go on for four or even five seconds. By keeping these nice and leisurely, it allows the viewer to move calmly into the next scene.

Now that you mention it, I do remember how that beautiful background art was shown in a nice, steady manner. The series has so many action scenes, though.

Doesn’t this sort of direction leave less time for the really big scenes?

Hirose: That is something I discuss with the director and episode directors while we watch and tweak the entire thing, so it has not particularly been an issue. The editing job requires you to think about how best to show materials that are already there.

Maybe having a certain shot in one place will detract from the momentum of a scene, and maybe having even more shots will increase that momentum. That is something I discuss with the director and episode directors in each case, while snipping out a shot here, or reinserting it again there, to continually adjust things.

With Season 1 being complete, along with its unique tempo and shots, the world of the series has been well established. From your editor’s perspective, have you also come up with your own steadfast format?

Hirose: No, I haven’t. I still haven’t arrived at a stable format or any answers.

I have worked on a good number of anime productions in my life, and it always feels like it’s a matter of trial and error, where I imagine to myself “that went a little better than last time, didn’t it?” Personally, I feel that relying on one format and not doing anything new is boring, so I do my best to work in a way that I’m not pulling right answers out of my own drawer.

Then we can see new direction and the challenges that go along with it in Season 1. I think watching it again after knowing more about the job of editing will make things even more interesting.

Incidentally, while I think that Season 1 had a tremendous response, was there anything that really hit you from an editing standpoint?

Hirose: This is quite personal and humbling, but my own children now like the series after watching the anime!

That’s gratifying to hear.

Hirose: The opinions of those who are nearest and dearest to you are the ones that really resonate in your heart. Of course, I’m also glad to have people know more about the details of my work, and I would appreciate having everyone watching Season 2 see it from a new point of view.

The scale of the upcoming season grows even larger, as more friends and foes are introduced and little by little, the truth is revealed, so as a watcher of the show myself, I’m already excited for it.

UP NEXT: The Hottest Moments in Fire Force (So Far)