So Long Shinsengumi! – Miyawaki Chizuru Talks Gintama’s Current Season (Animage 05/2016)

kiirobon sakakiThe following interview was originally posted on WEB Anime Style on  July 19th, 2003. The interview has been translated by Twitter user @kiirobon © 2016 Wave Motion Cannon

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“Our Fight begins from here!” This message stated strongly at the end of the sponsors, given by Director Miyawaki after the surging waves of battle in the heart of the anime Gintama! Now we recap the current season!! The tension filled “So long Shinsengumi” arc!!


First, good work with completing a year of the TV series. Can you tell us how you’re feeling about this?

Miyawaki: It’s very difficult to say. It really feels like it happened so quickly without me realizing it, but at the same time it felt like a long time coming. I’m caught between these two feelings, really…or maybe I’m just feeling “spaced out”. It’s like, a part of me is wondering how do I express how my feelings to the people who watched when I’m not sure myself. Though right now I guess I’m in a period of strong feelings of self reflection where I look back and think “If there’s going to be another one, this I what I’d like to do.”

Especially the second half where the story became much more serious, as did the production and calories. It appears that this story is going to be long and continue from here after all.

Miyawaki: Nah, I mean there’s no way. For one thing we started on this under the idea that it’d be a comedy anime (laughs). Everyone on staff has used their willpower and guts to ride through it I think. We got this far thanks to everyone.

Even you, as the director has said “At first this was supposed to be a comedy anime” didn’t you? (Laughs).

Miyawaki: (Laughs) But for me even though it’s not like I’m no good at serious works, as a director, Gintama to me is “Though the first half is full of idiocy, the second half becomes a wonderful story.” Because of the episode count, I was able to do lots of things, but to keep the pace and from getting bitter, we had to keep from drawing things out. Of course the contents of the story were very heavy, so from time to time I’d wonder “what should I do” and such…

Well then, the series ended with the “Goodby Shinsengumi Arc”…can you tell me what you think of it in retrospect?

Miyawaki: How should I put this….well first, the “Farewell Shinsengumi Arc” is a story that was difficult to tell. Before that was the “Shogun assassination arc”, which was by comparatively easier to understand. There was the huge drama of the “Shogun’s assassination.” and while that was going on, Gintoki and Takasugi’s fated confrontation started, and then after that confrontation, it returned to the main story and concluded. As the action heated up, the story flat out became more difficult to understand. Then the “Fairwell Shinsengumi arc” was a story where two lines between Sasaki Isaburo of the Mimawarigumi and Kondo Isao of the Shinsengumi intersected, and it was hard to tell where things would go from there, but in that vein it was very deep. As such, it became incredibly difficult to balance of the episode count. To convey the end of Isaburo and tell the story of the Mimawarigumi, and the Shinsengumi who were there, as well as the escape from Black neck island were the main parts of the story and there was no way we could abandon any part of them, furthermore the action took center stage artwise. Each time I though to myself “Ah, please don’t explode.” (Laughs).

So you could say on the other hand that with there being tension all of the time, that there was plenty of drama to waiver between as well.

Miyawaki: That’s true. Those two lines contrast and because of that we had to find a means to include cuts that properly conveyed the material which was also something I was anxious over. Though Sasaki (Tsurumi) -san the editor took the difficult job of arranging the cuts and was very precise about leaving the essentials in, while not abandoning others. I often thought if it would be possible to condense the contents in the film.

So Long Shinsengumi - Miyawaki Chizuru Talks Gintama's Current Season.jpg

Isaburo’s changing expressions.

Kondo of the Shinsengumi’s and Isaburo of the Mimawarigumi had two stories going on at the same time that both contrasted each other. The Shinsensgumi’s story included the Yorozuya and Katsura’s group, and it accumulated and spun into one another as they effected one another. On one side Isaburo arrives, and the truth of the matter is revealed almost instantly and the reversal is as quick as it is surprising.

Miyawaki: That’s right. What was being told at that point is the “truth”.

First, could you tell us your impression of drawing Isaburo?

Miyawaki: Probably the positive and the negative. With Isaburo being the negative and Kondo the positive, I think. The negative side doubtlessly looks up to the positive one, while knowing full well that they cannot become that way, so that admiration has some jealousy…but those feelings are what make cooperation possible, due to there being something affixed to the heart. When lost they seek the path of the samurai. Even then if you lose what is important and fall into feelings of sadness, they can see a man of certain significance. I am the type who’s similar to Kondo who is the type of person who likes people, but I can understand Isaburo who’s on the other side and admires Kondo for this.

Isaburo entered during the “Farewell Shinsengumi arc” and his expressions gradually changed…how important were those changes?

Miyawaki: Yes, those expressions he would make became gradually more abundant, didn’t they? This was possibly because of Nobume, and how when their death was nearly certain their hearts opened up –what they hadn’t been able to say was finally put into words, and as such the expressions changed. It was really enchanting to see them like this. Isaburo’s eyes are very small so drawing him with emotions , but looking at it from a different angle I could see it. Once we saw it “there” it was up to the key frame artists to help out and capture it. Isaburo’s voice actor, Morikawa (Toshiyuki)-san gradually allowed more emotion to come out in his acting as we closed into the climax as well, which accumulated into the revelation of the final scene. Like during the scene when he was overthinking his daughter’s name, or his final scene. So in short, he was happiest during his final moments which were the most important of them all. That’s why that clear performance makes me think of the final words of a father to his daughter.

So Long Shinsengumi! - Miyawaki Chizuru Talks Gintama's Current Season

Seeing members of the Shinsengumi that we haven’t until now.

Now for one other point in regard to the Shinsengumi. Since this Gintama started, it gives the impression of several years being sublimated all at once.

Miyawaki: It felt more like no matter what I did the heaviness would come, (laughs). In the original work, when I read tthe scene where Okita said “I won’t move until the vice captain (Hijikata) tells me to”, I until that moment hadn’t thought too much about anyone when reading, but then I felt a sense of heaviness like never before. Okita had always been hostile to Hijikata no matter what scene he was in before now, but here, the vice captain is standing before us…that sense of maturation…”If I mess up this scene then it’ll definitely be heavy” (laughs). The “Farwell Shinsengumi arc” was made of several of these scenes.

It was a ways in, but we were finally told of how Kondo-san had charmed everyone as their chief and his strength was affirmed.

Miyawaki: That’s right, the reason why they follow Kondo Isao. Until now we’ve gotten whiffs of the story here and there, but the actual story hasn’t ever been told. It’s always been something like “This is just how things are” or “Well, I guess that’s all there is to it” and such.

They really do have a tact for swords as we saw. It would seem on top of that they really are quite broad minded huh?

Miyawaki: If it’s just having tact for swords, then perhaps no one could oppose Hijikata and Okita, but when it comes to having strong feelings, Kondo, is far beyond Hijikata and Okita.

On the contrary, Hijikata seems somewhat brittle on first glance, but as the arc wears on it’s enough to make one cry for him.

Miyawaki: To see someone as strong as him get that beaten down has some charm to it, and from there to see him get up from where he fell and stand up again, it’s enough to make one cheer for him isn’t it? The “Farewell Shinsengumi Arc” is Hijikata who endlessly up until now had acted strong, and aloof, but no one really knew what he was thinking, and as such we go to see what was hidden in his heart…it was a story of seeing him for who he is.

If that’s the meaning, then the “desperation” that we saw in even Okita must have left an impression as well.

Miyawaki: Certainly Okita too became anxious without Kondo-san around. As for what left an impression on me personally, it would have to be the opening of the arc with Hijikata and Okita. “It’s in order to protect the Shinsengumi” is what Hijikata said as he didn’t make a move while Okita said “There’s no point anymore since we weren’t able to protect Kondo-san.” in response. Okita’s immaurity is what brought him straight to that point, but without mistaking it, he is correct. However Hijikata with more years experience was able to stay cool as he always was which was also the right thing. Both of them are “right” so the moment where they collide is one that’s filled with tension, isn’t it?

Moreover despite their collision, they actually do understand how the other feels.

Miyawaki: That may be so….if when viewers watch they consider their ages, they may find themselves “understanding” either side or not understanding either. Youngsters would probably side with and understand Okita’s feelings, perhaps.

The feelings of wanting to go save Kondo-san right away, yeah?

Miyawaki: That’s right. On the opposite side of things, those who are older or in the middle of being employed might think “No, we can’t move from here.” or something along those lines. (Laugh).

But Kondo-san told them to “bear it” didn’t he?

Miyawaki: To say we understand both of their feelings…I wonder if that’s really true? In the sense of everyone being split up and stuck because of it. Everyone individually stands up to do what they can without leadership, and that’s what the true core for the Shinsengumi was. Their true backbone. That each and every person should make their on decision and move as such, to search for a path of their own, however they come back for each other and remain connected. I believe they really are a great organization.

Gintoki's change and standing up against Utsuro

Gintoki’s change and standing up against Utsuro.

How did it feel to draw the relationship of Gin-san and the Shinsengumi?

Miyawaki: At the time I read the original work, At first, I thought Kondo and Hijikata’s past in relation to each other was going to be told here” so I was really surprised. So I thought about how wonderful it would be to convey that surprise in the anime version. As I thought, the previous “Shogun Assassination arc” would be the the tool to step into Gintoki’s soul from then on in, though it was still If that was enough for Gintoki and Takasugi’s fate to stir a confrontation and sort out their own pasts then, perhaps their attitudes would change, but Gintoki isn’t the type to be honest with himself. From the start he really is a gentle man. He’d quickly rather sacrifice himself for the sake of protecting others.  This is the foundation of his actions. It’s what makes him able to draw out his strength. At the same time, he is able to face the “weakness” inside of himself and as such mature. For example, before where he’d normally silently fight on his own, during the “Kabuki-cho shitenou arc” he was able to fight alongside Kagura and Shinpachi together without any more hesitation.

This time around there were a substantial amount of brutal fights, which from the start should have been obvious but neither one of them seemed to act as if they had any intention of stopping, huh?

Miyawaki: Shinpachi and Kagura’s resolve is what probably made Gintoki realize that he had no choice but to accept it. That too is a form of maturation. It’s because his heart had changed like this that he was able to slowly take steps forward. To be more precise it’s like he couldn’t now return to how things were. Back when he was Shiroyasha, Gintoki probably was like this, but because he lost so much he decided to stop living that way….and perhaps that lead to him becoming who he was.

At the end it was Hijikata who said “It was I who was able to take back something I forgot..” wasn’t it?

Miyawaki: That’s right. Kondo and Yoshida Shouyou-sensei were both important and it seems they were going to meet the same end, however with the past revealed, they were able to make a different choice and this time properly take Kondo back. It felt like this time they were overcome with feelings of gratitude, doesn’t it? The moment Kondo and Shouyou-sensei overlapped, there were feelings of deep gratitude, I think.

So when Gin-san had finally achieved this change, it was Shouyou-sensei himself who appeared in front of him as Utsuro. It’s so very cruel….(bitter laugh.)

Miyawaki: That’s right. It truly is. (Bitter laugh.)  Gintoki and Utsuro confrotned each other on episode 49 (314) and during recording, Sugita (Tomokazu) san’s final “Who the hell is he” line was filled with fear. That was exactly the kind of image I had as well, so I was glad for that. Sugita-san’s performance made me think “Ah, so even Gintoki is this terrified.” it was amazingly convincing that even I thought, “Okay, let’s go with this!”. Even the OA who was watching thought “Wow that Utsuro is really scary! He doesn’t even die!!” (Laugh.)

Yamadera (Koichi) is Utsuro’s voice actor….at the moment he spoke he had a powerful sense of persuasion and being in his performance, huh?

Miyawaki: It really worked out super well. (Laughs).  When Utsuro appeared, I said “Thank goodness we left this for Yamadera-san!” (laughs.) The threatening quality of Utsuro’s voice alone had amazing impact. The feeling that he has the “Same voice as Shouyou-sensei but is a different person” was something Yamadera-san nailed. Or in a sense of Gintama everything worked out. (Laughs).

Shinpachi and Kagura's maturation and the deep and meaningful epilogue.

Shinpachi and Kagura’s maturation and the deep and meaningful epilogue.

Did you have any impressions of Shinpachi and Kagura?

Miyawaki: Of course those two matured as well. For Shinpachi, his most important role was being able to play the part of support. It’s because of his will that the Yorozuya was able to protect everyone, and he looked cool doing it. Kagura thinking of Nobume really made her look like an adult. Perhaps she saw something in her that was like her own past. How do I put this…perhaps seeing a girl crying is something that reminded her of her own sense of weight.

And the series ended with 51 episodes (or 316) with one episode left for epilogue…it was rather deep and meaningful.

Miyawaki: It became an epilogue where each and every person indicated what they’d do next. For example, Kagura and Okita’s farewell scene was where they said “Don’t lose to anyone else.” The fact that they were able to say this to each other was great, wasn’t it? It was a yell to support each other in strength and weakness. And then Gintoki and Hijikata’s turn at the restaurant, that scene was connected to the “Leader switch arc” it felt like.

That scene where sweets and a mayoler seemed to be set up like a comedy one but…

Miyawaki: At the end the Uji Gintoki bowl and the Mayo don exchange and then subsequent eating somehow had a mysterious air of being moving more than comedic. (laugh) And then Shinpachi, Kondo and Tae’s part was with Kondo’s scar. Utagawa-san said that “It hasn’t been that long since he got the scar so it should still be a bit red” So that the scar still seems fresh and painful. When the OA had a look at this they gasped. So perhaps making it fresh like that was the best idea after all.

It appeared to be temporary, though when the peace returned the scar was still there. It seems now for them this scar is a symbol.

Miyawaki: Even in the original work the panel where we see the scar is shocking and leaves quite the impression. So in the anime we wanted to duplicate that shocking scene. The storyboard artist Umahiki (Kei)-san was the one in charge, and they left a good impression, along with the director Yamaguchi (Hikaru)-san. Who really made it feel like “This is really good.”

And then the last scene. How do I say this…I felt like I was taken back to when I read the original manga…..but the ending narration was Yamazaki, (laughs).

Miyawaki: That’s right, (laugh) At the very end it was Yamazaki.

The first half of the episode had a push for the mysterious Yamazaki who would have thought things would have ended up that way. (Laughs)

Miyawaki: (Subdued) That’s right, everything was exactly as planned wasn’t it? (Laughs)

(Laughs) All kinds of characters appear and play unexpected roles which is very Gintama-ish. In any case, at the beginning of the “Farewell Shinsengumi arc” that hardboiled policeman Kozenigata was in participation. (Laughs).

Miyawaki: He was the one who refreshed the first half, huh? (laughs.) (Ishidzuka) Unshou-san’s role as Kozenigata was one he really enjoyed and when he got to record the lines he said “It’s been a while” and was really happy to be back. (Laughs).

Can’t let your guard down? From here on in is Gintama too!

Do you have any impressions as you look back on this year of Gintama in it’s entirety?

Miyawaki: I’d like to think of it as a series with a wealth of variety. At first glance, the first half of Gintama is full of fooling around, and nonchalant stories, but then the second half charges into a serious atmosphere. So i’d say for a TV show like it, the one thing I hope reaches people is how much things have a major flow in the series.

gintama anime manga.jpg

It must have been tough gleaning over what stories in the original manga would be animated…

Miyawaki: As the second half became a serious arc, we had discussions about just how much would need to be dedicated to the seriousness, as well as gleaning over which we could do and couldn’t do. Though honestly having to skip over anything was a bit harsh…I’m deeply sorry to anyone who’s a fan of the original manga!

In August there will be a separate DVD sold with volume 65. So those who cried out for the episodes left out will pick up  one, the “Aizen incense arc” it seems.

Miyazaki: That’s right, that one has a…how do I put this, a carefree feeling. It’s like returning to how things usually are without having to put an absurd amount of strength into it. It’s just something we could just sit back and enjoy making. (Laugh).

Oh and beyond that, the other day there was the Gintama spring festival 2016 (temporary) event. There was an interesting piece of footage running then at the end during the sponsors screen.

Miyawaki: Yes, yes. That was a key frame I drew after so long, (laughs).

Is that so?

Miyawaki: I’m the one that checked the storyboard and the timing for the main story once in a while, but I was so busy that I had to ask others to do it quite often, even when I wanted to do it myself sometimes. So after so long I finally got to draw one and it was a lot of work. It wasn’t a cut that was moving at all, yet it took up so much time. The “Shogun assassination arc” and the “Farewell Shinsengumi arc” had lost of action cuts and they were able to draw them on that schedule…It’s like “Why are things so difficult”….and to that effect I once again have to apologize. (Bitter laugh.)

The footage aired, and with no explanation the event ended….

Miyawaki: Well….it’s that thing, you know…(laughs) Our fight is starting here! With everyone’s supporr maybe somewhere sometime we’ll be able to meet again. If everyone keeps supporting us, that’d make me really happy!


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