“Let’s all revitalize our cells together!”
I don’t think that anyone who would put more love into this than we did will ever appear.
Creating ‘names’ to convey to the staff what this anime was all about.
Read Part 1 here!
—The episode scripts of Yuri!!! on ICE aren’t in text form; instead, they’re all ‘names’ (rough manga drafts) that you have drawn. This is the first time that you’ve been involved in making an anime—how is it different from drawing a manga or working on a live-action adaptation?
I drew names for the live-action Moteki movie as well, so at first, I thought that it’d be fine if I did something similar. But in this case, the implication of “drawing names” was completely different. With Moteki, everyone was on the same page in that we all had the manga and drama adaptation as a foundation. But this time, nobody had an image of Yuri!!! on ICE to draw upon. We had to create it completely from scratch. Just how could I convey, to the rest of the staff, the charm of the story and the images of the characters contained within Director Yamamoto and myself? How could I get them to love this show…? Then I realized: “Oh, I have to give the names everything I’ve got!” And after that, because the anime is still not completely finished, it’s the first time that I’ve had to yell “Please do your best!!” It was pretty nerve-racking.
—How did you feel when you saw the finished product?
It didn’t feel like I was watching the characters from my names moving—it felt even fresher than that. Something like “That’s right, I was also thinking along those lines!” (chuckles). I’ve always thought that my designs aren’t suitable for anime adaptations, so I wondered if my fastidiousness about my own drawings would became a hindrance…but thanks to character designer Tadashi Hiramatsu-san, as well as Junpei Tatenaka-san and Eiji Abiko-san, who are in charge of the figure skating animation, they all move so very smoothly! I was incredibly touched to know that, going forward, I’d be able to see something so exciting. And at the same time, it was so astounding that it made me see the ‘manga’ form of expression that I had taken for granted in a new light.
Toyonaga-san is Yuri in the flesh! The cast that was decided upon without hesitation
—Moving on, could you tell us how you decided on the cast?
I listened to the audition tapes with Director Yamamoto, and they were all incredibly good. But when I heard (Toshiyuki) Toyonaga-san, that was it, like, “He’s the one!” The times where his voice quavers, the way he expresses weakness and that fresh-faced feeling…and on top of that, the frankness that comes through when he becomes more confident. It‘s like he was Yūri Katsuki in the flesh. There wasn’t a shred of doubt in our minds.
With (Jun’ichi) Suwabe-san, once again, it was great that we didn’t need to sit on it after hearing him on the tape, but his “Amazing!” when we had him come in for the audition was very funny (chuckles). He really went all out rehearsing that line of “Amazing!” by himself. No one else did it, not for that line (chuckles). He isn’t just suave and cool, the versatility he has as a voice actor, which makes him so beloved by everyone, is simply fantastic.
As for (Kōki) Uchiyama-san, right from his “I’m Kōki Uchiyama from the Himawari Theatre Group” at the beginning of the audition tape, he kept a low tone of voice (chuckles). When I was thinking about what kind of voice Yuri would have, I really got into the type of voice that Uchiyama-san has. And even when we’re doing the actual recordings, they’re all so incredibly convincing. Hearing them unite themselves so thoroughly with the characters, I found myself thinking once again that voice actors really are amazing!
—Are there any episodes from the voice-over recording sessions that have left an impression on you?
At the end of the first episode, that scene where Victor, buck naked, faces Yūri and says “Starting today, I’m your coach.” We had Suwabe-san try many different takes on that line, and when we decided on one that wasn’t all that suave and cool, but felt kind of goofy, Toyonaga-san had this look on his face, as if he was thinking “Was Victor this kind of fishy character?” The image that Toyonaga-san had of Victor seemed to differ slightly from ours, and I thought to myself: “Exactly! The Victor Nikiforov that you’ve always admired is going to be changing his image, just like that!” There were many times when Toyonaga-san seemed to overlap with Yūri, as he did in that moment.
—Finally, could you share with us what to look out for from episode 2, and then leave us with a few words for our readers?
The Victor Nikiforov is becoming his coach—isn’t that just insane?! (chuckles) It really is like a dream for the athlete you admire to become your coach, but there really are worlds in which such dreams come true. The unprecedented development in our story is that Victor is still active as a competitive skater. It might be a complete fantasy for a skater who’s at the peak of his popularity and prowess to take a break even from his own practice to coach a skater from another country. But it’s precisely because of that stage setting that this series became so colorful in just an instant. And within it, Yūri Katsuki will change and deepen his relationship with Victor… The bond between an athlete and his or her coach is really important in competitive sports in the real world, too. We’d like you to pay attention to how the characters deepen that relationship, and how the skaters themselves change, each in their own ways.
And from October, the curtain finally rises on the real-life Grand Prix Series. For skating otaku, it marks the start of a period where we have no time to sleep (chuckles). With this overlap, I hope that you will get even more excited about Yuri!!! on ICE. Let’s all revitalize our cells together! After all, this kind of opportunity is incredibly rare! I want to say something like “Figure skating is incredible, so everyone should make more anime about it,” but I don’t think that anyone who would put more love than we did into making this will ever appear. I am pretty confident about that, so even if you’ve had no interest in skating until now, I’d be happy if you take Yuri!!! on ICE as an opportunity to come to enjoy the world of figure skating.