If you’ve been watching Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World on Funimation, then you know love is a battlefield. But you might not know that the anime’s producer, Kosuke Arai, has worked on other fan favorite series, like BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense. and Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!
Thanks to our amazing partners in Japan, we’re excited to share this exclusive interview with Arai, discussing all things Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World and key insight on the production process.
Take a look below and don’t forget to stream Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World right here on Funimation.
NOTE: There is a spoiler-y question in this piece. We have notated where it starts and stops, so please skip if you want it to stay secret.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your role and involvement in the show.
Arai: I’m Kosuke Arai, Animation Planning Section 1, Planning Department, Animation Group of KADOKAWA.
I’m undertaking the role as a producer for this show. In the past, I’ve produced shows such as Hensuki: Are you willing to fall in love with a pervert, as long as she’s a cutie?; BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense.; and Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!
When I read the light novel version of this show, I thought it was extremely interesting and wanted to share my experience with many of the anime fans around the world. That’s what triggered the TV animation project.
I’m involved in a way where I would understand the full picture from the business side to the creative side, create a project environment that enables directors and production staff to work comfortably, and act as a flag person that controls the direction of the project.
Could you please explain what a producer’s role is in the creation of an anime?
Arai: The producer is the project’s leader.
There are two sides to a project: the business side and the creative side. Of course, the producer takes on the role as a flag person for the business aspect of the project, and the director is in the most important position for the creative side of things, but the two roles must work together when creating an anime. Major directions and other aspects that catches the producer’s attention from his/her standpoint would be discussed with the director.
Specific tasks could be grouped into different categories. For example, there are tasks required to create the production committee. This includes the handling of deal negotiations and collecting funds that are needed for anime production from business partners.
Tasks required to deliver the anime to the world includes coordination with ad agencies to work out the broadcasting station and airtime for TV shows or coordination with distribution agencies to work out the theaters for movie titles. Tasks required to execute the advertising and promotional plan includes working together with the marketing team to deliver the show to as many viewers as possible. Tasks required to seize business opportunities include collecting receivables through package sales, domestic broadcasting, international sales and product commercialization.
And finally, there are tasks required for anime production, which includes searching for projects that would do well if it was adapted into an anime and working with the directors to produce the show.
For the Fall Season, you work as a producer for Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World. Why was this particular light novel selected to be made into an anime?
Arai: First of all, it was because the characters were cute and attractive. Especially Alice (laughs).
The second reason was because I felt a strong urge to adapt it into an anime. In addition to Sazane-sensei’s elaborate story settings and carefully built storyline, things like the “top echelon of an organization” like the Saint Disciples, or the “factional feud” between the Lous, the Zoas and the Hydras really got me excited.
You could say it brought out the “Chuunibyou/Eighth-Grader Syndrome” in me (laughs).
Did you have any conversations with Sazane-sensei during the adaptation process?
Arai: The first time I met Sazane-sensei was in April 2019. Looking back, I probably saw him once every other week from back then to now, through script meetings or post-recordings.
I’ve also played board games with Sazane-sensei outside of work as well (laughs). Before we had a meet and greet with the directors, I went to go see Sazane-sensei to propose some major directions and to make sure we’re on the same page.
Some things I brought up were my desire to “feature Alice and Iska,” “create a truly classic fantasy anime in the midst of many fantasy anime that exist today” and “create a cool world where modern weapons meet magic.” I think we had this meeting at a cafe right next to SILVER LINK.’s building (laughs).
How long does it take to create an anime, from selection of the work up until broadcast?
Arai: It took us about two years to create this anime. We started the prep work to move forward with the project around the fall of 2018. First, we pitched the idea to SILVER LINK., and then the directors were picked out.
After that, we internally got the approval to move forward with this project, got the green light from Sazane-sensei to adapt it into an anime, and started the script meeting on April 2019. For this project, we spent a longer time in script meetings in comparison with other projects.
This all depends on the anime, so some could take less than a year at the quickest, while most original projects take over three years.
What are some of the other interesting steps in creating anime, besides the actual animation, that fans may not be as aware of?
Arai: After the completion of the anime broadcast, we have a wrap party to recognize the voice actors and production staff’s hard work, although we recently haven’t had them due to COVID-19.
About 150 people would attend, enjoying great food, speeches from the directors, sound directors, voice actors and producers, as well as fun door prizes and such. Normally, the principal company, which is KADOKAWA for KimiSen/Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World, would represent the production committee and hold these events.
This might even be something the overseas anime fans don’t know about (laughs). By the way, for projects that I’m involved in, we often use this venue that’s located in Shinjuku, Tokyo. I think it’s safe to say that every anime producer in Japan would know which venue I’m talking about (laughs).
In all seriousness, most of the anime made in Japan are made through production committees. KimiSen in particular is a collaborative project where eight companies had financed the production cost. Generally speaking (and not specific to KimiSen), the producers are the ones that go searching for companies that would finance millions to hundreds of millions of yen and conduct business with them, so having a good network and trust is extremely important.
When a company does decide to invest, it means that they are placing their trust on my project proposal, so I owe a debt of gratitude to that company and those in charge. I give everything I’ve got to produce a good result both from the business standpoint as well as the creative, so that they would want to work with us in another project again.
As a producer, which members of the creative staff do you meet with directly?
Arai: For KimiSen, I’ve directly met with the two directors, sound director, screenwriter, character designer, front desk clerk of the production studio and the accompaniment composer. I work with the directors with other projects such as BOFURI, so I think I see them once or twice a week (laughs).
If possible, I wish to meet with all the animators involved, but that is a little more difficult to accomplish. In an effort to at least do something, I send them things like snacks, gelatin or instant ramen noodle cups around the second half of the season when the production becomes tough.
While I cannot meet them all, I always do appreciate them, and I want to be able to express that, even in its tiniest form (laughs).
Are you involved in decisions about the story or animation as well?
Arai: I’m involved in script meetings, post-recordings, dubbing (process of adding sound, such as accompaniment and sound effects), provisional video-editing (video checking), video-editing (final video checking before submitting it to the broadcaster), etc.
You also served as producer for Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! What are the differences in adapting anime from a manga and a light novel?
Arai: First of all, when adapting from a manga, the contents are visualized so it’s easy for the directors, screenwriters and the author to share a common understanding. It is easier to create anime settings (background, prop design, sub-characters, etc.) as well.
From that standpoint, it may be easier to add ideas that are original to the anime when adapting from a light novel because the settings aren’t as visualized. Of course, this can be said for Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! as well, but it’s still possible to add episodes or settings that are original to the anime that was adapted from a manga, too.
Secondly, when comparing light novels to manga, the volume of the original work is much greater for light novels because it only uses words. So, one of the differences in adapting anime from a manga versus a light novel is that for light novels, there’s an additional task of picking out important aspects from the story and cut down on the rest. Also, it’s a lot of work to go back and read the light novels again (laughs).
SPOILERS IN THIS QUESTION FOR OUR LAST CRUSADE OR THE RISE OF A NEW WORLD
KimiSen/Our Last Crusade, Uzaki-chan, and Hensuki are very different titles. Does the genre or content have any influence on the anime production itself?
Are certain kinds of shows easier or harder to produce than others?
Arai: Anime that doesn’t involve vigorous movements and has few characters, like Uzaki-chan, can be categorized as a genre that’s easier to produce. However, you also need an edge, an extra effort to make dramatic impact so that the viewers would still be interested in the show.
On the other hand, genres that involve intense battles and have a large number of characters, like KimiSen or BOFURI, are harder to produce. Especially when there are robots involved, like in the last episode of KimiSen, creating settings and animating it seems to be a lot of work for the production company.
SPOILERS IN THIS QUESTION FOR OUR LAST CRUSADE OR THE RISE OF A NEW WORLD
Last year, you came to Anime Expo to present the first episode premiere of Hensuki. What was your impression of Western anime fans from that experience?
Do you think Western anime fans are similar or different from Japanese fans?
Arai: It was an extremely fun screening. I’m probably the only producer in the universe that waved a pantie-shaped fan that was being distributed with the fans and chanted “pantsu/panties” with everyone in the venue (laughs).
The “passion for anime” is something common in all fans regardless of the country. The difference would be that there are more Western anime fans that outwardly express their “love for anime” and “love toward the work.” I would love to have another opportunity to interact with Western anime fans again!
As a producer, how much do you consider the Western audience when working on a new anime? Do producers or the committee have specific goals or hopes for an anime to become popular overseas as well?
Arai: I consider the Western audience a lot. In KimiSen’s TV anime project proposal, I listed three points in its anime adaptation, but one of the points clearly stated that we will create an anime that the Western anime fans can thoroughly enjoy.
During the script meetings, I’ve brought this point up to the directors and screenwriters on numerous occasions, explaining that I want to take good care of the Western audience.
We heard from your introduction at Anime Expo last year that you are an anime fan yourself. Are most anime producers actually fans of this medium? Is it important to enjoy anime in order to be a producer?
Arai: I wouldn’t exactly say most producers are anime fans, but I think there are many that like anime. When I say they like anime, it could mean that they like anime production, or that they like the content business. This is my personal opinion, but I believe people who become producers should enjoy watching as well as making anime.
I think it’s the love for anime that makes you understand the fan’s feelings. It also leads to watching various anime in a positive manner and learning from it. I’m also not sure about having someone who dislikes anime become a producer, since it seems disrespectful to the hardworking animators (laughs).
However, I do think it’s necessary to avoid becoming too big of an anime fan so that you are capable of having an objective view of the project and make coolheaded decisions.
Can you tell us what inspired your career? Did you always want to be involved in the production of anime, or did you have another dream?
Arai: This was during my previous employment, but I originally wanted to go into advertising for the entertainment industry. That dream came true, and that’s what I did. I still remember the time when a publicist whom I respect said, “A special publicist could sell an ordinary toothpick for 10,000 yen!” I wanted to be a publicist like that (laughs).
At the time, I thought that as long as you advertise the product right, you can sell anything; regardless of what that product is or the product quality. One day, under the directions of top management from the company I worked for, I started getting involved in the anime business. I’ve always liked anime itself to a certain extent, but since then, I’ve become engrossed in anime. My love for anime grew stronger, and I felt a strong pull toward the business side of anime as well.
I like the freedom of it all, because you can adapt anything into an anime, and theoretically use any business structure. In the future, I would like to tackle the challenge of adapting not only comics or light novels, but also art books into anime as well.
What are important traits a producer needs to have?
Arai: There are many traits, but I think they’re humbleness and hunger. I think humbleness is important because you need the support of many people to work on a project, and without gratitude and humbleness toward others, they won’t want to work with you for the next project.
These people include not only directors and production staff, but companies that join the production committee as well. On the other hand, you have to compete to get the rights for the original story these days, and the project isn’t going to move forward on its own.
That’s why I think you also need hunger like second to none and actively go find projects as well as new production companies and partners.
Many overseas fans would love to work in the Japanese anime industry. Is it possible for a foreigner to become an anime producer?
If so, do you have any advice for someone who would like to pursue this career?
Arai: Not only is it possible, but we actually welcome it, since anime should be produced for the global audience! We encourage those to contact KADOKAWA!
Do you have any message you would like to share with overseas fans?
Arai: I will continue working on projects that can be enjoyed by everybody, and hope that you would watch them! I will do my best so that you’d have a good time, even for just a short amount of time.
If you have any requests for a type of anime you’d like to watch, or something you’d want to see adapted into an anime, I would love to hear them. Thank you for your continued support!