From Page to the Screen: How Kenichi Suemitsu Adapts Welcome to the Ballroom for Television (Animage, July 2017)

HughThis interview was originally published in the July issue of Animage, 2017.  The interview was translated by Twitter user @HwpMatthews © 2017 Wave Motion Cannon

If you would like to see more current translations please support us on Patreon!patreon_new_2017

A passionate world where there’s no room for imperfection

Kenichi Suemitsu anime ballroomKenichi Suemitsu (Series composition and Screenplay)

Animage: I have heard that this is your first anime job, but how did you receive an offer from director Yoshimi Itazu?

Suemitsu: I made an acquaintance with director Itazu when I kindly offered him to go see the stage version of the late Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress. When I received the current screenplay of the story from Itazu, I just knew that in a way there was a link that connected him to Satoshi Kon. I was keeping in mind when writing the screenplay that the order of events would basically be referencing the original manga, but since I’m a screenplay writer in the field of theater, I face head on the prospect of “presenting to the public” so I’m expecting to feel fired up or that feeling of going live.

Animage: In general, you take on theatrical jobs, but did you have any deep knowledge or such of ballroom dancing?

Suemitsu: Ballroom dancing was, in a way, like knowing about movies or variety show planning. A performer’s desire for self-approval and the similar desires of others etc., dance as well as theater have things about them that overlap with each other. Both leaders and partners mutually appreciate that it isn’t an easy thing, and in drama performing a production built on a sufficiently mutual understanding with your co-stars is also not an easy thing. These sorts of professions have a lot of things they can empathize on.

Animage: Reading the original manga, what were the aspects that you felt appealed to you?

Suemitsu: When I first read the manga, it jumped out to my eyes, which is certainly what I’d call “the power of pictures”. While it can look refined, the rougher sketches also have a similar energy to them. Adjusting the line work from the movements of the dances to the way dresses trail in anime, it has to be difficult for the animation staff. In a previous version of the anime screenplay, Tatara wasn’t the kind of person who was facing up to each and every problem, while little by little turning into a “dancer”, and I believe that step should be important.

Animage: In this instance, you’re in charge of doing screenplay for all of the episodes, aren’t you? The original manga is still in publishing, but describe when you became aware that you were going to do series composition.

Suemitsu: It was their intention for me to be writing the screenplay for all the episodes. It was hard writing that amount of material, but I’m grateful to them making it easy for me to control the balance of the whole show. At the point I became aware of series composition, I was facing tournament episodes where there were a lot of dance scenes in the Mikasanomiya cup and Tenpei cup, and where the drama seemed to rise between Tatara and the people around him.

Animage: Was writing the screenplay for each episode something you particularly had in mind?

Suemitsu: In scheduling the amount of episodes for an anime, you aren’t able to include all of the source material’s dialogue and scenes. So even though I was putting in cuts, and despite trying to not make it feel completely digested, that’s how I intended to write it. In a cut segment, despite making sure that something like the emotional connection to Tatara wasn’t completely lost, that segment in the original manga had an emotional element to it that was distinct. So if giving off the same feeling from reading the manga can make all of our viewers truly pursue Tatara’s coming of age story, I think that would be great.

Animage: Were there any scenes you felt yourself getting into as you were writing the screenplay?

Suemitsu: There’s a scene in the first episode where Tatara was given a DVD from Tamaki and was faced with the calls of “Look at me” coming from all of the dancer’s souls. In the source material, a big and unique appeal of manga comes from showing through pictures, but as I wrote the anime screenplay I felt like I wanted to deliver a portrayal that would be unique to anime, but as there was some very lovely animation, it filled me with excitement. Another scene was in the Tenpei cup where Tatara was engulfed by Mako’s beauty or something to that effect, I remember feeling very uplifted while I wrote that scene.

Animage: Tell us about Tatara and co.’s appeal and what makes them sympathetic etc.

Suemitsu: If I told you I wasn’t afraid of causing a misunderstanding, I wouldn’t be sympathetic as an individual. It’s because everybody has some sort of genius in them. Given that geniuses stick around with other geniuses, as long as I can sympathize with joy, suffering and also with ordinary people, I feel like I can’t exempt myself. In reality, that also includes Tatara. He is also a person who holds the seed of a genius. That is where it becomes a “dancer’s story”. So therefore, I want to sympathetic with and embrace these different feelings of wonder, longing and fear, and find a way to bring across the charm of these characters. Still, since this series is a story about the people involved in dance, I think that everyone can share in the universal feelings of those parts of the series. As a human drama, the series has a lot of things that you can sympathize with, and as they are some of the highlights of the series, I want to make sure they are given the proper treatment.

Animage: Lastly, do you have a message for the fans looking to the show?

Suemitsu: When I was writing up the screenplay, I went and gathered up research material on actual competitive dance tournaments. I did not find the so-called textbook image of ballroom dancing; it was totally the image of an athlete’s world. There’s success and failure, glamour and crudeness, talent and non-talent. It’s a passionate world where there’s no room for imperfection, and in that world is the story of the fiercely hot-blooded Tatara and friends. We welcome and look forward to your support!

If you would like to see more current translations please support us on Patreon!patreon_new_2017


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