The Saturday of MCM London Comic Con, Anime Superhero had the chance to interview Yuichiro Hayashi. A passionate director, storyboard artist and key animator whose credits include Psycho-Pass, Code Geass R2 and Batman: Gotham Knight, Mr Hayashi was at the convention primarily to promote Kakegurui and we took the chance to get our gambling freak on with the director himself.
ANIME SUPERHERO: There’s a sinister edge to Kakegurui with many of the characters being sadistic. What are the challenges of getting into that setting as a director?
YUICHIRO HAYASHI: As you say, several of the characters have a sadistic edge and there’s quite a lot of fetishes. I think that’s perhaps something fans of the original manga had really been drawn to, so I really wanted to act in service to the fans by taking that sadism to a completely different level. Again, I really feel that was one of the driving forces behind why the series became so popular in the first place so I really wanted to see how we could elevate that and was constantly thinking about during production of the anime adaptation.
ANIME SUPERHERO: Much of the action in Kakegurui is based on suspense and psychological tactics. What challenges does this present in keeping excitement compared to more traditional anime fight scenes?
YUICHIRO HAYASHI: One of the really interesting things about gambling in particular is that a lot of the suspense and similar psychological thrill comes from bluffs; “Are they bluffing? Are they actually telling the truth?”, those kind of tactics. So I was very, very careful with those expressions, to make sure they came across in a way that would create drama for the audience. I feel that’s where you get a big kind of difference between this kind of psychological thriller and action because action is quite black & white, it’s you versus your enemy. Whereas there’s quite a lot of grey zone in this kind of suspense driven series. With the gambling focus the character can be losing and then suddenly turn it around to their advantage. This creates a rollercoaster effect that is unique from more traditional action scenes.
ANIME SUPERHERO: You worked on key animation for Redline, a film heavily promoted on its use of hand drawn animation compared to computers. What was it like to work on the film and how did you set about creating the visuals of such intense speed?
YUICHIRO HAYASHI: [Ponders for a moment] That’s actually a very difficult question to answer! [laughs]
For Redline, as you said, all of the animation was done in 2D and all of the backgrounds were also hand-drawn. So to depict action like a character speeding down the road, what we would normally do is create a lot of that movement, that almost G-force effect, in the compositing stage. But as it was all 2D animation I found it was almost easier to create the effect of speed as we imagined it ourselves. So that was an interesting aspect of that production.
ANIME SUPERHERO: Similarly you also worked on Welcome To The Space Show, another film with imaginative visuals. Would you mind talking a bit about your experience on that production?
YUICHIRO HAYASHI: My job on that specific production was making corrections to the background layout. In Japanese we refer to it as genzou, basically the blueprint for the layout art. I have very strong feelings as an artist about how I want layouts to look, a standard I hold for all of my work. That sentiment thus carries over to Kakegurui; very strong opinions on scene layout, how we frame the scene, how the location looks, what emotion the scene presents, etc.
ANIME SUPERHERO: That leads in quite well to my next question. Western animation is currently in a storyboarder led era, with individual boarders styles/takes on character designs dominating episodes they’re in charge of. Do you feel Japanese storyboarders enjoy the same freedom in their own domestic productions and if not is it something you’d welcome?
YUICHIRO HAYASHI: That’s a very interesting question. For me personally I’m welcoming of that kind of individuality with each storyboard artist and to be honest with you there’s not many creators who can cut off their own sense of individuality when they’re approaching storyboards. It’s something we have to curb at a directorial level when going over the storyboards. In Japanese animation you will episode to episode see different styles from the various storyboard artists, but we do want to make sure there’s a sense of unity across the series.
A perfect example of us drawing on someone’s individual style- for Garo: Divine Flame, all of the action scenes were storyboarded and key-framed by Seong Ho Park who went on to be the series director for the third Garo anime, Vanishing Line. He has a very unique style and a very original approach to action animation. He’s an incredible artist so we left it up to him.
ANIME SUPERHERO: You worked as the director on Garo The Animation. How familiar were you with Garo beforehand and if not so much, what research did you do?
YUICHIRO HAYASHI: I went and watched through all of the live action series. It’s a long running franchise which provides a lot of material to work off of. I sat down with that live action material, what we refer to in Japanese as tokusatsu, and tried to determine what the appeal was. What the directors before me had focused on, how I could interpret it myself and bring it into the world of animation.
ANIME SUPERHERO: With season 2 of Kakegurui set to be released on Netflix next month, do you have a message for European fans of the series?
YUICHIRO HAYASHI: This season will bring a range of new and diverse characters, each with their own specific appeal. So the stage upon which Kakeguiri is set becomes a lot more lively. The games and gambles I feel are even more exciting than those seen in the first season, leading to a situation where viewers won’t know what to expect next and be kept on the edge of their seats. Established characters will also return and we’ll get to see new sides of them that viewers might not have expected. So I hope that European fans enjoy further exploring the world of Kakeguiri with new and old characters alike.
Anime Superhero would like to thank Yuichiro Hayashi for answering our questions, MAPPA pre-production coordinator/head of International Development Andrew Upton for interpreting and Andy Hanley & Jeremy Graves of Anime Limited for facilitating this interview.
Kakegurui season 2 is available to watch now on Netflix.