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Toonzone @ MCM London Comic Con May 2017 – “Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry” Panel


Anime Limited’s Jeremy Graves took to the stage to introduce two of the key talent of the film Fairy Tail:Dragon Cry to a strong round of applause- director Tatsuma Minamikawa and producer Yohei Ito. Translation between Jeremy and the guests was handled by Bethan Jones.

Jeremy asked each of the guests to introduce themselves. Minamikawa went first, stating that he hailed from Fukuoka in Japan, is 32 years old and is looking for a girlfriend (much to the audience’s amusement). In turn Ito introduced himself in English, saying he wanted to enjoy his time at the panel and noting “I have a wife…and two daughters!”. This quickly set the jovial tone for the panel.

Asked what they made of England, Minamikawa responded it was the first time he’d left Japan at all whilst Ito had previously visited Manchester to view championship football. They’d spent the previous day sightseeing around London. The first anime that Minamikawa saw was Mazinger Z. Ito saw Akira and Ghost in the Shell, at the cinema. Minamikawa has enjoyed Konosuba recently whilst Ito enjoys watching Precure with his daughter.

Asked to sum up Fairy Tail for the uninitiated, Ito went simply with ‘magic battle’ whilst Minamikawa summed it up as being a cool and popular Japanese comic. Both guests were aware the manga had been in publication for over a decade, thanking fans the world over for helping it to become so successful.

Jeremy asked Ito if he could help shine some light on the nebulous role of an anime producer. Ito pondered but for a second before responding in English “To make money?”. After the laughter subsided, he continued that for this title in particular one of his key roles was to help see through the ambition to release the film near simultaneously in various countries. To this end he helped secure local partners and funding.

At this point we were shown the trailer for Dragon Cry:

Concerning Japanese fan response to the film, Minamikawa had hoped to see the film opening day but it was so popular that he couldn’t get a ticket! Ito added that the film appeared following a long hiatus from the television series, with fans commenting they were glad to see the characters animated once again. The film itself occurs prior to the final arc of the manga, with Ito clarifying they wanted to make the story occur at this point as a celebration of the final arc of such a successful story.

Questioned by Jeremy about the differences between directing theatrical and TV animation, Minamikawa responded those looking to get into the industry would do well to know it’s a big difference. Whilst television animation is presented essentially for free, theatrical animation is viewed by those who go out of their way to pay to attend to screening and thus he felt much pressure to make Dragon Cry worthy of such a personal investment. As the film was his first involvement with Fairy Tail, he knew the fans would know far more about the series than he did and he wanted to respect their passion. As part of this he purchased the entirety of the manga up to that point and read every volume.

Ito added to this saying that as a producer he felt strongly that the film should be something special that would speak to fans in the present, something relevant to where the series currently was and thus really grabs their attention.

Jeremy’s final question moved away from Fairy Tail to ask both guests if they had any memories of working on the first season of Attack on Titan. Minamikawa was a unit director on episode 8, a role he had to share with others as there was too much work for him to complete alone. Wit’s studio was a 10 minute bike ride from his home, leading him to believe it would be a leisurely commute. While working on the episode, he didn’t get to return home for a fortnight!

Ito’s anecdote likewise concerned long stays away from home. Acting as a producer, he was involved with licensing for season one. His long absences led to his wife believing him to be having an affair, in turning using an app to track him via iPhone. This should have been no problem as the app would usually correctly identify him as being at the office. Alas, sometimes the GPS would glitch and instead place him as being at a nearby all female university. This, he explained, went on for six months.

The floor was then opened to audience questions, with each participant receiving a free item of Fairy Tail merchandise. If they had to pick one set of powers wielded by the cast, Minamikawa would choose the perfume/morphing magic of Ichiya. Ito would choose Erza for her fashion change ability, thus never having to buy clothes again.

Concerning what led them to get into the anime industry, Minamikawa was coming to the end of his time at university and wondered if the enjoyment he got from watching anime might extend to making it too. He started his career at Pierrot. Ito was simply shuffled into the anime department during a Kodansha shake up.

If they could be any fictional character, Minamikawa would choose Son Goku from Dragon Ball and Ito would choose Snufkin from The Moomins.  Favourite Attack on Titan characters are Titan Eren and Annie, respectively. Likewise their favourite Fairy Tail characters are Juvia and Happy.

Asked which character they most relate to from the series, Minamikawa answered Jellal as he always feels used by others (prompting sympathetic ‘awws’ from the audience) whilst Ito responded that Erza reminds him a lot of his wife.

If they could work on any franchise of their choice, Ito replied he is happy working at Kodansha and wants in that role to be part of the next effective ‘Attack on Titan’/’Fairy Tail’ on the anime scene. Minamikawa would like to be involved in a comedy series, like Konosuba.

A fairly jokey question asked about favourite Fairy Tail fanservice. Minamikawa revealed that a moment of fanservice early in Dragon Cry was originally far more steamy, with Ito reigning him in as it was felt the original version of the scene was too much for a film planned for international release. He still has the original version on his computer.

The final question concerned their favourite part of working on Dragon Cry. Minamikawa joked it was the aforementioned scrapped fanservice. A bit more sincerely, Ito replied it was getting to see the positive reactions from fans the world over. He feels they were able to take the strong positive themes of the original manga and translate them into something itself enjoying global success, which is no easy task.

Read our interview with Tatsuma Minamikawa & Yohei Ito here.