Little Witch Academia: Interview with Director Yoh Yoshinari

The following article was originally printed in the October 2015 issue of Newtype (images courtesy of artbooksNat). The interview has been translated by Twitter user @NohAcro © 2017 Wave Motion Cannon

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It’s not only in stories where everyone’s energy becomes an encouragement

“Anime nowadays tend to be more and more rigid, but to my mind there must be more different ways to do it. That’s why I wanted to try various types of expressions. The project got bigger this time, as was the amount of drawings, so there was also a limit to what I could do. That’s why the animation is even freer than the previous one, and my course of action was to proceed while making the least amount of corrections possible.”

yoh yoshinari newtype LWA interview.jpg

A sequel connected to real world events

—The previous work depicted the daily life of Akko and her witch apprentice friends while concluding as an action flick involving an ancient dragon. What is the central narrative this time, in The Enchanted Parade?

I wanted Akko to have a proper conflict as a character this time. We couldn’t include that kind of emotion in the previous one because of the runtime, so this time I wanted to depict the process of her facing a problem, struggling and surpassing it. The issue here was how to make her face that problem, and that’s when the idea of making the parade a success to not fail her school year came out.

—There were many ideas before this plot was set, weren’t there?

Indeed. At first we were thinking about Diana, the rival, taking over the parade, messing up and being saved by Akko, that kind of thing. But doing so would give too much attention to Diana. So we changed our mind and decided to focus on depicting the relationship of the main trio, Akko, Sucy and Lotte.

—So this time you also bring spotlight on Sucy and Lotte.

Lotte isn’t the kind of character who can spontaneously be placed under the spotlight, so we created a situation where she didn’t have a choice. For Sucy there are the mushrooms (laugh). Since she’s specialized in magic potions, I wanted to make more scenes involving mushrooms for her. And then there’s Akko who tries hard in the story to make the parade a success, but she spins her wheels and ends up confronting Lotte and Sucy.

—So they get into an argument?

The difficult parts were how to make them argue, and how to end that argument in a convincing way. Lotte is a very placid character, so she wouldn’t easily get upset. Sucy for her part isn’t the type to get excited to the point of being angry. We thought hard about how Akko would get into an argument with these two. The runtime became longer because we tried to show the evolution of those emotions.

—The previous one was 25 minutes, how long is this one?

We were aiming for 40 minutes, but it in the end it’s 50. We tried to do it in 40 minutes but there weren’t enough pauses, thus it lacked atmosphere and emotions.

—Mitsuru Shimada-san, who handled Little Busters! as well as World Masterpiece Theatre series and several kids shows is credited at screenwriting.

We had many ideas for the plot from the beginning and the story was written for a good part, but we couldn’t tie it up well, including how to show girls’ feelings. So we asked for Shimada-san’s help. Were able to pack it correctly thanks to him.

—Apparently the original idea for the first work was to superpose Akko joining the Luna Nova Academy looking up to magic and the situation of a young animator. Is there also an element like that this time?

There is, clearly, since the film is about creators asking the impossible, their surroundings climbing the walls and how to make the project a success in such conditions (laugh), there are even more parts we drew inspiration from our workplace. Besides, this work was accomplished thanks to crowd funding, so the “Everyone’s energy becomes an encouragement,” part doesn’t come from nowhere.

—Since you wanted to depict Akko’s struggle, you highlighted not only the action but also her expressions, right?

In the previous one she was constantly angry, you know (laugh) so she actually didn’t have that many normal expressions. This time she is hyper during the entire first part, and then gets a little bit depressed… She displays many emotions we didn’t see in the first one, so when I was drawing, I was sometimes thinking things like, “Wait, was Akko a girl like this?” (laugh).

—What do you think is Akko’s charm?

Maybe her cheerfulness and relentlessness. The fact that she doesn’t get negative and irresolute. She’s actually the kind of character I understand the least (laugh). But she’s also one who doesn’t stay in one place, so it’s rather easy to animate her. There may also be a part of admiration.

—Did you set an objective as a challenge in terms of representation this time?

That was also a difficult part. If I start imagining scenes I want to draw, the story doesn’t take shape. The best way in the end was to start by thinking what kind of drama I want to show, but the drawback is that there wasn’t enough place for scenes I wanted to actually draw as images after that. I felt that dilemma.

—What do you think about the result?

I was very nervous just before showing it at the Anime Expo in the US. I was expecting to be called all kinds of names… But fortunately, it seems like people enjoyed it, that was a relief. During the production, I’m only able to focus on improving the work’s quality, so I don’t have time to think about the audience’s reaction. But the response after it’s finished is really encouraging. I hope fans in Japan will also enjoy it.

—It is your second directorial work, do you have a word about that?

There are many things I regret on my own works, so I hope I could have another try if possible. The characters are set, so there is plenty of material for slapstick situations. There’s also the difficulty of thinking about what kind of story I would prepare for Akko and her friends, but I hope I’ll get a chance to work again on Little Witch Academia, as a quite untypical comedy with charming characters and interactions.

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One Comment

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  1. Yoshinari is a good artist, and is doing well as a director. As a talented entertainer who tries to run something, he is doing well, as well as other directors who were also entertainers [still are]. He’s at least doing the basics, which is thinking about how he should direct the work, not just the animation, the type of character he’s working with, and how to unfold his roles within the plot. This is being a director, and he’s going the right way.


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