The following article was originally published in the Miracle!!! on Ice extra included in the January 2017 issue of Animage. The interview has been translated by Tumblr user Tora © 2017 Wave Motion Cannon
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Love for the fans, respect for the athletes!
On director Yamamoto’s suggestion, she became addicted to the impact of live performances.
—First of all, could you tell us about the role of color design in Yuri on Ice?
The role itself is basically the same as in other works, but this show has lots of sparkly and lace parts that need to be attached, and I am creating those elements. I’m using the costumes of real skaters, both Japanese and non, as a reference.
—With “sparkly” do you mean spangles?
Spangles and rhinestones, embroidery and see-through materials such as mesh. I create them imagining how I want the final picture to look like, but I’m paying attention not to make the materials too bright, because then they will need to be light-processed. The photography staff adds the sparkles and light effects. Every time I couldn’t wait to see the final product after it was processed by them.
—I heard that, like director Sayo Yamamoto and Kubo-san, you are also a fan of figure skating.
I used to watch matches since the era of Midori Ito, but I got seriously addicted around 2012. However, I never went to see it live in arenas. I believed that from the seats you cannot see all the small details, and so that I’d probably enjoy it better watching it leisurely at home. But director Yamamoto told me “It’s more interesting if you watch it live,” and here I am now (laughs).
—Was your first meeting with director Yamamoto at the time of ENDLESS NIGHT?
Persona (5) came first. The scenario she handed me neatly contained all the jump types too, and I remember thinking “Oh, you can understand everything!” (laughs) Thanks to that it was very easy to understand what the director was requesting. Also, before the production of this show started, I used to meet the director more often in arenas than in work situations. We used to eat dinner together after watching the matches, and we’d talk excitedly until late at night (laughs). When it comes to figure skating ours was not really a work relationship, it was more like people sharing the same passion.
—It’s also easier to understand each other when you have the same level of knowledge.
This is the 3rd time that I work with the director in something related to figure skating, but I do think we can understand each other more smoothly than normal. If she tells me “That performance from that tournament,” I’ll react right away with “Ah yes, that one.” I watch nice performances repeatedly, so I also naturally remember costume colors and other details.
—I guess an anime about figure skating is something you were waiting for?
I thought, “At last!” (laughs) Being it an original anime, I was sure the director was very serious about it.
The world of the anime supported by coloring.
—How did you decide the concept color for the whole series?
When I was working on the main visual I thought that maybe, inside the director’s mind, blue was the theme color. Every tournament shows 6 athletes. I’m careful to make it so that, when they appear on screen together, they all give different impressions. For example, if I use black or blue for Yuuri’s costume, then I will use red tones for Phichit, yellow for Leo and so on. I think that it’s more interesting if every one of them looks stunning when they stand on the same rink. Animation is made of moving cels and backgrounds, and there is a process called ‘recoloring’* that consists in coloring the characters with the color tones of the background. I personally think that the finished scene looks more beautiful and impressive if in both the background and the moving characters there is a color that stands out.
Translator’s note: To better understand what “recoloring” is, try to think about the same scene set during the day or at night. Even if the character is wearing the exact same clothes, in the day they will look brighter, and at night they will look darker. So for example, if a character is wearing a red shirt, during the process of “recoloring” they will decide what tone of red to use if the scene is set during the day, what tone if it’s set during the night, and so on. Of course it doesn’t only vary depending on day/night, but also on whether the scene is indoor, outdoor, and many other reasons. If the characters all wear different clothes, this must be done for every character.
—Beside the rinks and the cities, the show also features landscapes from various countries. Did this variety make it difficult to keep a good balance with the backgrounds?
More than the actual work itself, the hard part is that there were lots of recolorings (laughs). Every character has a different main color, so the problem we had to address is how to adjust the general tone of a scene and how to make the color stand out.
—What colors are normally used in costumes worn by real skaters?
Compared to the colorful costumes worn by women, men tend to have a narrower choice. Among junior and foreign athletes there are some who use eccentric colors too, but in general men often use black pants and colors that tend to give an overall somber impression. I guess it’s because black & white, or monochrome in different arrangements, look cool. Indeed, black looks nice on the white rink. I’m using lots of black in the costumes of this show too.
—What kind of instructions did you receive from the director regarding the coloring?
In the case of director Yamamoto, she always has an image in the beginning. Most of the times I would ask about her image, then reflect on it, and if what I come up with matches her image it’s ok and we can go on. If it’s different from her image she will request that I “change the depiction”. When I revise my idea I completely change the color, or if I think it’s too plain I try adding some flashy colors here and there. I have heaps of photos that make for a good reference, so I sometimes get inspiration from those too.
—So basically you gradually get closer to the image while creating it?
A character’s nationality, skin color and hair color are also elements I consider when deciding the color of their costume. For example, according to the scenario Yurio is a young skater who has just moved from junior to senior, and he has a difficult personality. Since he also has the image of a punk, I often use colors like black, white and purple for him. In the real world too junior athletes tend to be more colorful, and there are more skaters that use pastel colors than in the senior class. When they move to the senior class they gradually start to use more sober colors, and even if they have flashy colors they only cover a small part of the costume, or they are used in a gradation with sober colors, so that the overall impression is not too gaudy. I think that if you add embroidery, rhinestones or mesh they look much more gorgeous.
—I guess you also need to think about the balance with the color of accessories.
The color of accessories is very much influenced by a character’s personality. Yuuri is strong in crucial moments, but normally he’s quite timid and isn’t really confident. His phone is not a bright blue. Also based on the director’s request, we added some milky elements and in the end it became a rather fancy color.
—How do you make flashbacks and other scenes different from normal scenes?
To easily distinguish between ‘imaginary scenes’ and normal scenes I create a difference with colors. In Popovich’s love recollections in episode 7 and in the imaginary scene where Leo becomes a member of the mafia I did some playing around with colors. That scene also had really nice backgrounds, so it influenced and stimulated me to do something myself too (laughs). I purposely didn’t use skin colors and made it look like a monochrome movie. I added the black & white feeling quite boldly. I believe that doing something very daring allows you to create scenes that leave a stronger impression, and I myself think it’s more interesting that way.
—The OP footage also uses a peculiar coloring different than normal anime.
I understood right away that the director wanted to do something different than the anime itself. The OP was drawn without shadows and the lines were also different than the ones used in the anime, so I wanted to create distinct variations by using only normal colors. Director Yamamoto is a ‘cel only’ person. This is the impression I got looking at the last TV anime I worked on with her and at the OP footages the director created for other anime. I think she wants to control the colors of all things that appear on the screen. This time I chose all the colors, including the ones for the backgrounds, so I also had to decide what character painted in what color to put over what background painted in what color. While using a limited number of colors, I created clear contrasts by combining them together in various ways.
—The scene where the 3 dance together and the scenes where they dance separately have different background colors. Did you choose them based on the image color of each character?
More than the characters’, I gave priority to using colorings that would be consistent with the image of the series. I made it so that it looks the most colorful when the song reaches its climax. To create a difference between the first and the second part, I used blue in the first part and yellow in the second… and so on. I spent a lot of time together with the director until late at night to decide what we should emphasize to impress the viewers.
—The food appearing in the series and in the eyecatches is also much talked about. Especially the katsudon can be considered a key item. Is there a technique you’re using to color the food in a way that it looks delicious?
I’m actually a food color design fetishist (laughs). I personally love food and I’m always determined to make all the food appearing in the series I work as color designer for delicious (if you’re curious you can check out the series I’ve previously worked for (laughs)…… Though when I had just started the job I sucked! Please turn a blind eye to that (laughs). I believe there is a color scheme that makes things like katsudon look delicious. Animators draw the pictures after a long research, and I first color them as instructed. Then for example, there’s a part labeled as egg white and I’m like, wouldn’t it look yummier if I colored it a bit yellowish? And so on. I think that food itself has a golden section, but I also think that food color design has a golden section too. It’s a pleasure for me to look for that and find it out. By the way, the katsudon that Yuuri loves so much is based on the one made by a certain shop, which is considered delicious. Since the character designer Satoshi Hiramatsu-san said that it was so good, I jokingly told the production staff “I can’t design the color if I don’t see the real thing! Bring me katsudon!”.
The charm of figure skating is its artistic quality.
—What do you think is fascinating about figure skating?
The excellent techniques used in jumps and steps, the expressive power that you can see even in the athletes’ fingers…… there are so many that I could go on forever, but I’m personally attracted by the ‘artistry that only that skater can express’. The reason I got even more addicted after watching it live is probably this strong artistic quality. There is a skater, now retired, that I still can’t stop loving, and when he performs in a show I go to watch him (laughs).
—So you confirm that it’s better to watch it live.
I absolutely recommend watching it live, because you can feel the artistry in a completely different way than on TV! I’d like you to enjoy the live feeling that you can only experience at the arena, like the sound of the blades on the ice when a skater lands and the chilly air. However, if everyone really comes to watch it live it will be even harder to get tickets, and that’s not nice……
—Please tell us about the highlights of the climax and leave a message.
Beside of course putting in it all of our respect for real athletes, we are creating this show with the intention of making it enjoyable for both anime lovers and figure skating lovers, so everything is a highlight (laughs). This time we also received messages and presents from people who normally don’t watch anime, and I really appreciate that. To be honest, it’s super interesting until the end! I think that when you look at the skaters doing their best, and shedding tears out of a sense of fulfillment or frustration, all other bad things in your life will suddenly seem unimportant. I hope you enjoy it to the end!
⌈Comments on the color design for the single characters⌋
I use lots of black for Yuuri. Black costumes look nice on the ice, and actually it’s also the color that makes you look the most skilled when you skate (laughs). Maybe because many real skaters use black outfits when they practice? Regarding the training outfit he wears in episode 2, when he loses weight and starts to skate better, we talked about the fact that black makes you look thinner and cooler, so we decided to make it black. However, for his everyday clothes he uses various colors, also mild ones like yellow khaki and olive khaki.
Yurio is a Russian punk, so his main colors are punkish colors like black, yellow and purple. His skate guards are also purple and black, and his cellphone is gold. He likes to wear leopard prints and such for his everyday clothes. In general, color patterns that make you look like a ‘bad guy’ (laughs).
For his costume I used a combination of purplish red and gold to bring out the atmosphere of a legend. However, his everyday clothes are rather plain. Flashy colors wouldn’t really look like Victor, so I’m paying attention to give him a high-class feeling by using subdued colors. I also create more colorful clothes and have them checked by the director, but in the end what passes the check are the ones with simple colors… I always think “Director~ I finished my repertoire~!!” (laughs)
I was requested to use colors fitting for an old dog, so I created 5 color variations based on brown, and the current one is the one that was chosen.
The free skate costume is mainly white and blue, colors that suit Phichit and make him look like a pleasant young man. The short program costume is a gorgeous red costume with delicate embroidery. The brown parts on his shoulders and under his knees are decorated with lace made of gold thread, but attaching patterns that have a definite shape is actually very difficult, so the photography staff had a hard time with that. Like for the sparkly parts, unlike when a space is covered by the same pattern, when the angle changes you have to draw it differently according to the position of the body…
His costume is fitting for an active, lively boy. The color was chosen in the image of a boy that’s not adult yet and is currently shifting from the junior to the senior class. I thought that using bright colors would make him look full of energy.
It’s something that came up when we were discussing about the color of his edge cover, so it’s not a setting that is referred to in the anime, but he has a girlish side (laughs). For example, his cellphone is bright pink. Although he wears cute everyday clothes, his costumes are actually pretty sober.
Since he is a ‘serious eccentric’, his main colors are black and purple like Carabosse. The costume in episode 7 is light blue because it’s when he is heartbroken, so I purposely chose an innocent color. In the beginning I considered using more of an idol-like color, but after trying a few things I decided to settle on a more sober one. I had fun working on Popovich, he’s very unique (laughs).
His theme is ‘sex appeal’, so his costumes are made to give that feeling too. Violet-blue gradation + sparkles, black and red + mesh, and such. I tried to choose colors that would express his overflowing sensuality (laughs).
The director was also very torn regarding JJ’s short program costume. I created about 5 patterns, and the color that was chosen is a light lavender base with a dark purple part on the chest.
Leo de la Iglesia
His training outfit is a sober color, but his costume uses bright colors like yellow and orange. The other one is a mainly blue and black gorgeous costume, with sparkles scattered all over. Leo has a dark skin color and clear-cut features, he’s very cool.
According to the setting he’s not really interested in fashion, so normally he’s a very simple guy. For his everyday clothes he only wears black, but in contrast his short program outfit is flashy. It made me think “Seung-gil, what happened to you!?”
His free skate costume uses refreshing colors like blue and sky blue, that match his light hair color. For the short program he has a sexy costume. I had the impression that Emil was somewhat of a playboy, but when deciding the color for his short program costume I felt that his sexiness was a bit different than, for example, Giacometti’s.
He has a tough image. I love the scene where he saves Yurio in episode 10, he looks like a knight that came to save the princess (laughs). I wanted to make him look cool, so I dressed him all in black as suitable for someone who rides a bike.
Some people say that they expected him to be more flashy because he’s Italian, but his costumes have lots of mesh and spangles, so actually they are pretty flashy. Thanks to the transparency of the mesh he also looks sexy.