After a brief introduction by Anime Limited’s Jeremy Graves, Yuichiro Hayashi took to the stage in the company of his colleague, MAPPA’s pre-production coordinator/head of International Development Andrew Upton. The pair co-hosted the panel, with Andrew serving as interpreter for Mr Hayashi. Although both images and video were presented at the panel it was requested that attendees not record/redistribute any of said content, with which we have complied.
Mr Hayashi greeted the audience by saying in English “Nice to meet you, London. My name is Yuichiro Hayashi, director of Kakegurui. I hope you enjoy today.”
Andrew began by giving a rundown of the production schedule for an anime series. The production begins with series composition, working with the script writers to confirm the story and break it down episode by episode. From here character designs and art direction are designed, helped with manga adaptations such as Kakegurui already having established design works to base on. It’s at this stage that work begins on storyboarding and from them animation, including the keyframes. Compositing of elements is then done and once the animation is completed the dialogue and music tracks are applied.
Special focus was then placed on the storyboarding process, Andrew explaining that although many different animators will storyboard episodes across a series run they will all be overseen by the series director. Hayashi explained that often a director will have to revise storyboard sequences if they feel the individual boarders have composed scenes in a bad way, with us being shown examples from Kakegurui of some boards before and after such assessment/revision from himself. The specific sequence involved Itsuki gifting a cake to the main characters, with Hayashi feeling the scene as originally boarded was difficult to follow regarding direction of items and placement of characters in relation to one another. In a related sequence he felt too much focus was placed on character’s faces and tried to offer more of a creative range with focus of the shots. Additionally, he took liberty to add interactions not seen in the manga of the characters sharing and eating the cake to add extra bits of characterisation to the sequence.
Ideally, once the time comes for the actors to record dialogue they are presented with a completing sequence but due to the tight deadlines of the Japanese animation industry they may have to work from the rough animation instead. The advantage of this is that it means the final animation can be in fact be amended to better correlate with specific performances delivered by individual actors.
The next stage of the presentation focused on the liberties that were taken to tell the story of the manga but make it more exciting and dramatic in motion. Specifically the gambling sequence in episode three where Yumeko plays against Yuriko. Compared to the original manga, more dynamic staging and use of CGI elements was involved to make the elements of the game more dramatic. Additionally, Hayashi revealed he took influence from Japanese theatre for the cutaways during the most dramatic moments as the room the game is played in is adorned in traditional Japanese masks and related motifs.
The next sequence was the final gamble of season one, an original sequence created for the anime. With the drama of this sequence resting on the flipping of a card on the table, the animators had to work to come up with imaginative visuals to make such a simple act feel impactful.
We were then shown the Russian roulette game against Midari, with Hayashi highlighting that the original manga carried constant air of menacing sadism that flirts with sexual and he tried to make sure that mood was maintained in the anime. Specifically, although there are many grotesque things in Kakegurui he tried to find ways to make them beautiful at the same time so that viewers were engrossed rather than repulsed. Additionally, as a big lover of horror he made the decision to make the room Midari and Yumeko compete in resemble the bathroom from the Saw films.
We were then shown the ED sequence for season two as a preview for the at the time forthcoming Netflix release (please note our coverage of this event was delayed pending licensor approval). Depicting Yumeko walking through a forest, the sequence was intended at its core to be an homage to older anime EDs that would highlight the lead walking from one side of the screen to the other.
The floor was then opened to questions from the audience. Asked about how much influence overall he took from traditional Japanese theatre, Hayashi responded that it was an intentional agenda he brought to the production but simply that grew out of the established décor of the room in the aforementioned sequence. On favourite directors, Zack Snyder holds the top spot for him. His research for the series did not involve looking into real life gambling addicts but instead focused on movies about gambling instead. However, people have told him that when working he displays a different wild energy from his usual self so he believes possibly in that way he’s not so different from the characters in Kakegurui who get fired up about their passion for gambling in the moment.
The final question concerned actors he was most impressed by. Although he wanted to give every actor in the Kakegurui cast their due he offered specific praise for Saori Hayami and Mariya Ise who play Yumeko and Midari respectively. He was impressed with how both actresses were able to embody his vision for the pair of characters. The panel then concluded with a preview trailer for season two, now available to watch on Netflix.