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18 April 2005 @ 07:32 pm
Maeda Interview Translation  
Took me two days, but I have done it! I translated the interview of Mahiro Maeda that was up here: http://eg.nttpub.co.jp/news/20050406_01.html from when he won the "Tokyo Anime World" competition. I've tried to keep it as direct a translation as possible but Japanese can be vague so I sometimes added things in for clarification. Those will be in brackets. As far as I know, everything is accurate but my Japanese is nowhere near flawless so if anyone who knows the language pretty well notices that I've made a huge gaff, please feel free to point it out. That being said, enjoy!

While it may be a late night anime, Gankutsuou, which was chosen as one of the winners of the Excellent Production prize in the recently opened Tokyo International Anime Fair’s “Tokyo Anime World” competition, has extended its popularity to not just anime fans, but also the general public.

This time we were able to hold an interview with Gankutsuou’s director, Maeda Mahiro over e-mail.

--Congratulations on receiving the award. Could you please tell us how you feel right now?

Director Maeda: I’m really happy! To have my work chosen from almost 230 works even though it’s a late night one with a 2:12 time slot is like a dream. I want to say thank you to my staff who have been working so hard with me up until today.

--Taking Gankutsuou, which, originally, only served as a striking title for the Japanese translation, and using it as a keyword you’ve expanded on the work in a daring manner. Could you tell us the particulars behind how Gankutsuou was created?

Director Maeda: From the time we started planning up until now it has always tended towards Science-Fiction, so it started from the thought that it would be more interesting, coming down from a work in which a Count disguises himself, to show it in a more visual manner. So at that time, we were thinking of a more extreme plan where he was possessed by an alien and had the ability to transform into a parasite-like beast so he could change into a completely different person. But as the work progressed, it gradually changed and just like we had talked about at first, he eventually settled into the role of a bystander as lonesome Edmond’s friend. But lately I've been thinking maybe it was all just something that Edmond himself created in his subconscious from the madness of being locked up in Chateau D'If. But I think it’s boring if you answer all of those questions in the work so leaving some room for interpretation in that area will allow people to think about it.

--Compared to the Count in the original work who, although he was seeking revenge, showed forbearance towards others, the Count in the anime was turned into a vengeful demon who had lost his humanity. What was the reason for making the Count one step removed from the original work?

Director Maeda: Although this is the image of the Count, I had never once intended to portray him as having lost his humanity. Rather, I believe that’s what a human is like. In the anime, I extracted all the essentially Christian parts of the original work from it so instead of “the judgement of God” and “forgiveness,” “human emotion” is the axis around which all of their actions turn. To a modern day person’s sensibilities, if you make a drama that is completely built on Christian concepts, it might seem like it’s only based on simplistic logic. I thought it doesn’t seem very modern to make something that leans heavily towards one religion so I think the decisive divergences from the original work’s Count arise from that difference. If he doesn’t have the dilemma, as a man, of whether he reviles them or can forgive them, loves them or hates them, I don’t think viewers of the drama will be able to go on understanding it. If he is not able to complete his revenge then the Count’s very self will be shaken. If he was going to be stopped by something like that, then he wouldn’t have done it from the beginning. Therefore, I was trying to show that until episode 23 when he turns a gun on Albert and pulls the trigger, that is to say, until the moment when his revenge has been fully achieved, [all the Count’s actions were] by the Count’s (Edmond’s) own will. I think you’ll understand if you’ve seen the progression up to that point, but I certainly intended for there to be a moment when he would suddenly realize “Oh, he’s just like my old self,” about Albert who is only a pawn in his game of revenge, and feel sympathy. Even so, he stuck to the belief that he had to go through with his revenge, and I think the figure struggling on earnestly towards his revenge, surpasses madness and despair, and represents the sadness of the human condition.

--This is about the main character Albert who, until midway through the show, acted and spoke in a very childish manner, and was called “Ahobert” not only by the viewers but also by the cast. In the climax his youthful purity is what brings back the count’s humanity (I think.) This feels to me like the anime’s theme and I was wondering why you decided to add in these elements?

Director Maeda: People have some pretty harsh names for Albert, don’t they? (laughs) But I personally like Albert a lot. I guess you could say that I was like that at 15 and it really is the most embarrassing period in a person’s life. (laughs) Albert certainly has a soft-hearted, pure, and sheltered side to his character that society makes a fool of him for, but it is precisely because of that that he has the virtues of not bearing ill will towards others, being gentle-mannered and honest/meek. I wanted to portray him as that sort of double-sided character. And then there is the Count who wants to kill him for being that contrast. Rather than creating a simple thrilling revenge tragedy of “It’s been done to me so I’m doing it back!” I was aiming, in this day and age, to create this kind of work. If a person should be faced with hatred from another, what kind of a relationship will be born from the way they act towards them? How should people face one another? It is these things that I felt I should focus on. In the 23rd act, it is not simply a matter of Albert saving the Count with the purity of his heart. Towards a person who will not face him and who his words will not reach, what kind of action will Albert take? And, conversely, towards a person who is attached to him and he must definitely kill in order to accomplish his revenge, can the Count’s will persist? I wanted to see that serious/true/hardcore collision. What that means is that up until the end, Albert is Albert and Edmond is Edmond. The two of them might spend their whole lives running on parallel lines, but in spite of that, can they continue to interact with each other? Can they continue thinking [of each other]? That’s probably the theme. If that’s where the words “Wait and hope” are to be found, then don’t Franz’s words “Feelings of love and feelings of hate both stem from caring about a person” serve as the light of that faint hope? That’s what I think.

--The supporting characters Baptistin and Bertuccio end up doing a great deal in the final stages. Could you tell us how that came about?

Director Maeda: Actually, we had not planned for them to be doing something big at first. More than the demands of the scenario, it’s the character’s will [that determines what happens], isn’t it? Even though they are servants, they are not dolls, and because they are always watching what is going on, so I thought “Wouldn’t they have the most objective viewpoint?” Up until this point, to serve was their job so they drew the line at their orders. However, they suddenly snapped. I think that’s because they realize to a painful degree that the point at which the Count will no longer able to be stopped is approaching, but they can’t do anything about it. But, they want to save the Count. I think they kept coming back to those two problems again and again. [Translator’s note: He literally says: It’s that repetition, isn’t it?] That’s why I think they decided to gamble on Albert. When he revealed the seriousness of his intent, they gave him a hand for the Count’s sake. They’re thinking that Albert might be able to do something about the Count who is tumbling towards his own destruction.

--Is there a character who you have a particularly strong feeling for?

Director Maeda: That’s a question that I hear a lot so it’s a bit troublesome. I have too many strong feelings for all of the characters… And then I’m still left with this feeling that I haven’t portrayed enough of any of the characters. I’ve thought it would be nice if I could close up each of their individual dramas a bit more…

--The way you depict the character’s, the depth of the character’s dispositions, and the setting that seems like it has its own consciousness comes across quite a bit. With what intention did you create the art this way?

Director Maeda: After thinking of the television format, I thought about my own anime style. I think it is the result of me thinking how to lay stress on the characters and their entanglements in that vague form of presentation, which is neither a movie, nor a manga, nor a simple picture.

--It is a higher quality anime than one would expect to see for a late night show, so the work suggests that the tension of the stuff must have been very high. What do you think it was about Gankutsuou that motivated the staff so much?

Director Maeda: For one thing, I had an excellent staff who really enjoyed and approved of my project. Also, thanks to the reliable work of the scheduling staff, we were able to have extra time and all of the staff members stuck to it. I think those two points account for it.

--Could you tell us about something that was particularly difficult during your work?

Director Maeda: Developing the story and creating the storyboards were generally difficult. I could certainly feel a struggle with the scheduling and quality of the work.

--The manga edition which has started being serialized is being done by you, the director. Is that because you don’t feel you’ve shown enough of Gankutsuou?

Director Maeda: It’s because this is a project that I came up with myself and, moreover, it was the first time I directed it from start to finish. So when we were finally able to serialize a manga, I thought I’d like to draw it. It’s a monthly serial so I don’t know how far I’ll be able to keep it up. Everyone, please give me the benefit of your support. (laughs)

--A message for the fans please.

Director Maeda: To those who are fans of the original and those that aren’t, I have tried very hard to make a work that you will find enjoyable. I have put all my ability into seriously portraying each episode and each character. There’s no greater happiness for me than if you are able to enjoy that. For those who I’ve been working with for the past half a year, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Not to mention all those who will watch my shows after this. Please wait for them!


Note: Just to clarify on the nickname "Ahobert" that fans and cast apparently gave Albert. Aho means idiot/fool. It's basically the word baka in Kansai dialect. I've noticed on futaba-chan (2chan) that people call Albert 'aho no ko' (stupid kid) and Franz 'fubin no ko' (compassionate kid) or just aho and fubin for short.

Also, when I hear Ahobert (pronounced Aho-Bear) it just gives me a mental image of Albert as a foolish little bear.

Hissori: Renji // by doctorizzy_hissori on April 18th, 2005 05:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for translating this! I always meant to try to read this in Japanese, but got lazy since it was so long. XD; It was really interesting though, to read about what went on in Maeda's head as he worked on the series!
winkinblinkin on April 18th, 2005 05:13 pm (UTC)
Hey, thanks so much for taking the time to translate and post this. It was really interesting to read. Particularly the part about Maeda's views on Edmond's humanity.
Piroecchipiro on April 18th, 2005 05:19 pm (UTC)
Wow, thx for translating this.
I don't know very much Japanese but what you posted here made sense. So I'd say you did a good job at translating it. ^^
viscountalbertviscountalbert on April 18th, 2005 05:20 pm (UTC)
ROCK ON. Great work on the translation, and it confirms a lot of what I suspected... GOD DAMN I love Maeda even more now. Author of the year, for sure!
felkwafi on April 18th, 2005 09:00 pm (UTC)
Awesome icon! *is still laughin'*
MegaMinda_vengeful_soul on April 18th, 2005 05:31 pm (UTC)
Pretty cool. Thanks a lot. :)
Commander of the Western Army: albertsanada on April 18th, 2005 05:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you!! Wow, I have even more respect for the story after reding Maeda's ideas of what Gankutsuou really is.

...Ahobert? *sob* I thought people were just mean on 2chan...
kudasarukudasaru on April 18th, 2005 10:26 pm (UTC)
I think some people might use it affectionately. Aho is sort of a mild insult.

viscountalbertviscountalbert on April 19th, 2005 07:29 am (UTC)
Yeah, the 'ahobert' thing is really no worse than us calling him 'special' and 'short bus' and all. :)

Doesn't mean we don't love him anyway XD
MegaMind: Mea_vengeful_soul on April 18th, 2005 05:42 pm (UTC)
I could ask, however....


Why did you kill Edmond off?! LOL

Sybel Sayrah: Laugh and Cryrocknlobster on April 18th, 2005 05:47 pm (UTC)
I win!

I mean...yay! Maedo! ::worship::

I'm SO glad he's doing the manga, too. ::marks this entry in memories::
Sybel Sayrah: As You Wish - Vader/Fettrocknlobster on April 18th, 2005 05:49 pm (UTC)
Er, Maeda. Yes. ::smack self::
should win the nobel prize for evil: iconz_kthx-franz is molesticiousnayami on April 18th, 2005 06:52 pm (UTC)
Maeda has a unique view on humanity there, especially the emphasis that Edmond was acting of his own volition. I do have some attachment to the notion of Gankutsuou possibly being something that Edmond made up since it places more of his action on him and can't explain them away with mere possession. But I still prefer previous explanation I've received as to Edmond's mindset near the end since this one still seems to deny Edmond his redemption in favor of revealing the true human conscience. It's the anime's agenda and I acknowledge that but it still doesn't still perfectly well with me. I do really like her analysis of the conflicting parallels between Albert and Edmond, paying particular attention to the statement in Franz's letter.

Thank you for translating this and giving us a glimpse within the creator's head. It seems a very intriguing place. XD
Indouindou on April 18th, 2005 08:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks so very much for all your hard work in translating this for us! Such a great interview :) I had seen the "Ahoberu" on several fansites... poor guy XD
kibo_chan on April 18th, 2005 11:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for the translation! I really appreciate getting to read about the director's thoughts, it was really nice for you to go through the trouble : )
rem_chanrem_chan on April 20th, 2005 03:43 pm (UTC)
Awesome translation!! Most of what Maeda said has already been discussed by the fans; it's great to see that his vision came through to the audience. I'm glad he's drawing the manga; he's got a sense of humour that man.