I’m thrilled to tell you that we interviewed Shigeru Murakoshi (writer) and Nobuhiro Takenaka (producer), the geniuses behind Zombie Land Saga.
Both gave us a lot of captivating facts about Zombie Land (season 1 & 2). You’ll love the interview!
Why you chose Saga Prefecture as the setting of the series. Was that already decided on when you began planning?
Note: Saga Prefecture is located on the island of Kyushu, Japan.
Nobuhiro Takenaka (Producer): Before [lead writer] Murakoshi-san joined the project, the plan had begun simply based on the concept of a “zombie idol” series. At that point, it had nothing to do with Saga. That’s how it started, but the project hadn’t yet gotten the green light within the company [CyGames]. Our CEO, [Koichi] Watanabe-san, is from Saga, and he had mentioned in unrelated conversations that he wanted to do an anime about Saga. So we had this zombie idol project that couldn’t get approved in-house, and instructions to create an anime about Saga, so we tried putting them together to see if that would get cleared. And that’s how we wound up with the plan for Zombie Land Saga.
Mipon: And that’s how you began talks with the Saga prefectural government?
Takenaka: That’s right. When we began the location scouting process, we contacted the municipal government and asked if they could show us around.
Mipon: What was their initial reaction?
Takenaka: Murakoshi-san was with us for the scouting trip, but right from the start they didn’t seem all that surprised—they were very business-like. I did hear later on that they were a bit hesitant at first, but they decided that it could benefit the Prefecture and so they were very cooperative from the get-go. We would explain to them “We want to do this kind of scene, do you know any good locations for this?” and they offered various ideas. They were very helpful and cooperative.
Did you choose the real-life locations yourselves, or were they mostly suggestions from the Saga government staff?
Takenaka: For the most part, we worked with the Saga government on location scouting, focusing primarily on places that Murakoshi-san wrote into the script. However, they mainly advised us on Saga’s specialties, like how they’re famous for mikan (tangerines) and such. Most of the locations were just decided upon as part of the story.
Shigeru Murakoshi (Lead Writer): For locations like “café moka” from season 1 episode 4, or “Plaza 656” [mutsugoro hiroba] where Lily sang in season 1 episode 8, we just did internet searches for popular locations in Saga, found places that looked good, suggested them to the production team, then and visited them during our scouting trip. I think most of the decisions were story-driven though.
Takenaka: If the story dictated a certain location that might require filming permission, we’d ask the prefectural staff for help, then arrange our schedule for that day so we can visit several places in one go. The government helped us out with that kind of thing.
I’d like to ask how and when you got your start as a writer, Murakoshi-san.
Murakoshi: As an anime scriptwriter, I actually started out very late in life at age 35. After I graduated from university, I wanted to be a director of live-action movies. So I decided to attend a film school, but during that time, I realized I couldn’t handle the on-scene work [laughs].
On the sets where I worked, there were all these insane requirements and standards, and I was like “Wait, why is this bad?” and people would unload all their pent-up stress by yelling at me. I love films and I’m glad I got to have real-world experience making them, but being out there actually making films was a bit much for me.
At the time, I didn’t quite have the passion I needed to work in environments like that, even though not every set is like that, of course.
But I still wanted to be involved in the video production process somehow, no matter what. So after thinking about my options in that regard, I decided on script writing. I had always been interested in it, so I decided to pursue that path. However, it took me a while to make it to where I am now.
Little by little, over a period of ten years, I worked on story writing for late-night anime, but I couldn’t get by without doing part-time work as well.
My mentor, who had taken me under their wing, then recommended I go to a scriptwriting school. They were a scriptwriter themselves, and even from back then, they were working on the front lines of the anime production business. That’s when things began to pick up.
Mipon: Sounds like quite a tough journey!
Murakoshi: It definitely was. Since I was doing part-time jobs in retail service, many of my coworkers would eventually become “suits” [white-collar workers with full-time jobs]. And I was working in my hometown too, so I was really sensitive to those kinds of changes.
The psychological impact of comparing myself to everyone around me was rough, but I was doing what I loved, so I made my peace with it and kept on working.
How did you become interested in the film industry, to begin with?
Murakoshi: Compared to most scriptwriters, all this happened fairly late in life for me. It’s not like I dreamed of working on movies since high school or anything. I had always liked movies, more or less, but it wasn’t until I was in university, and I saw Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. I was completely enthralled, and his perspective was very unique.
As I watched more movies, I noticed more that had utilized the “chronologically out-of-order” style like Reservoir Dogs, but that was the first time I’d seen it used, and I wanted to make something like that myself.
And how was it that you came to join the Zombie Land Saga project?
Murakoshi: Well, as Takenaka-san said, I joined after the project was launched. One day I was contacted by [Manabu] Otsuka-san [CEO of] MAPPA and he asked me “Hey, there’s this idol anime in the works. Are you interested?”
I told him I didn’t know much at all about idols or idol anime at the time, but he assured me that the project’s strength was ignoring the “definition” of what idols are. So I gladly accepted and joined the project.
How much of Zombie Land Saga’s story was decided before you began writing the script?
Takenaka: We had a general idea and the main points figured out, so it was mainly about us all trying to weave it all into one neat storyline. Surprisingly, everyone had their own ideas and visions, so we all got together and pooled our ideas—imagine just dumping out a toy box full of stuff—and got to work sifting through them.
Mipon: How long did that take you?
Murakoshi: About two years after I joined. Because of that, we were able to finish writing the script at a fairly early stage. By then, everyone already had a solid idea of what kind of series they were making, as well as things like characters and storylines they wanted to include. They had already come up with a lot of stuff.
Takenaka: Before Murakoshi-san joined, everyone had pooled their ideas. Once he joined, we started doing research about idols. We interviewed lots of idols and listened to what they had to say, which helped us structure our story. I was really impressed by how dedicated and passionate everyone was about their art.
Mipon: It can be said that idol anime are comparatively less popular in countries outside of Japan. However, despite that, Zombie Land Saga proved to be quite a success, especially in terms of the idol aspects.
Takenaka: I’m glad to hear that!
Was the idol aspect always a core part of the project? Or could you have done things a bit differently, such as make them a rock band, for example?
Takenaka: I would say that yes, it was essential. There’s a basic template that most idol anime follow, and without that, I don’t think Zombie Land Saga could have been done. If we didn’t have that format as a foundation, I don’t think the series would have made sense to viewers. Everyone has a basic idea of what idols are like, and we tried to upend that. I guess it also succeeded here because Japan has such a strong idol culture as well. The idol archetype is just that clearly defined in most Japanese peoples’ minds.
Murakoshi: As far as series set in rural areas, there are “local [regional] idols” throughout Japan that promote their town or prefecture. That concept is familiar to most people here. However, it’s not so easy to do the same with bands. That’s not something that would click with most people here.
Takenaka: Exactly. But “idols + zombies” just fits really well, right? The finer nuances may be hard to express overseas, but above all else, idols have to be “cute.” Adding zombies to the mix would probably be the last thing you’d want. But we deliberately chose to take the opposite approach. So for that reason, I think having idols was an essential aspect after all.
Mipon: That’s a good point. “zombies + anything” is pretty much a recipe for success with western audiences at least [laughs].
As for the story itself, were there any elements you had planned to include, but ended up not using them?
Murakoshi: I really don’t think there was anything that we wanted to include, but couldn’t. We crammed as much as we could into the series, and used just about everything we thought would be fun, without having to compromise. As far as what we weren’t able to use, nothing really comes to mind.
Takenaka: If anything, I suppose there were lots of minor things that we ultimately decided to cut [laughs].
Murakoshi: Yeah, especially comedic scenes. Even though they fit well in terms of story, it’s fairly common to cut out gags and joke scenes because of time constraints. But I don’t think there were any major aspects of the story that we had to leave out. For the interview today, I went back and looked at my notes from the early days of the project. One of the ideas for a comedy scene we rejected was having the girls play futsal against Saga’s pro soccer team [laughs].
Takenaka: We didn’t exactly have our hearts set on that one though [laughs].
Murakoshi: Right. We just didn’t use that idea.
Takenaka: Realistically, it was one of those ideas you’d reject.
Murakoshi: My notes say it involved [the zombie dog] Romero replacing the soccer ball at some point, and since he can move on his own and make wild turns. The girls could win the match like that.
Takenaka: We were trying to come up with a way they could beat a team of J-League [Japan Professional Football League] players.
Murakoshi: We also had a “Tae-chan Meeting” where we discussed what [Yamada] Tae’s true identity was.
Takenaka: Yeah, we were actually able to use some of those off-the-cuff ideas in Season 2. Like when Tae is sent out to buy groceries.
Murakoshi: Even though we had that meeting, we never figured out her true identity. But there wasn’t really anything we thought of but couldn’t use. It may be more accurate to say that some things we couldn’t use were re-worked a little bit.
In terms of personality and the like, did any of the characters change from how they were when you first created them?
Takenaka: Surprisingly, we managed to write the script while sticking with the original characters’ settings. We made Sakura more motivated and energetic, I suppose, but that change was made while we were interviewing idols for our research.
You could say she became more like the main character. Aside from that, everyone more or less ended up the way we planned at first. We had a well-formed idea of who they were, and the voice actors worked within that framework.
Speaking of voice actors, how closely were the both of you involved in the production of the anime itself?
Takenaka: Murakoshi-san was heavily involved. He helped organize and direct the whole script—honestly, the project couldn’t have happened without him.
Murakoshi: You’re too kind! For my part, I would talk to various people, go out on location scouting trips and take part in scenario-planning meetings. Then I’d put all of that together. So really, I was focusing entirely on writing. Once that part was finished, I wasn’t involved.
Takenaka: True, once the script is complete, there isn’t much involvement with the anime production process. As for me, thanks to Murakoshi-san being there, the project would have done fine whether I was involved or not.
Murakoshi: No, you were really helpful and gave us lots of ideas!
Takenaka: Yeah, but I don’t really feel like I contributed too much.
Murakoshi: What? You were there from start to finish! [laughs]
Takenaka: Well, maybe at the very beginning and very end, I guess. Let’s just say I was involved [laughs]. But as far as Zombie Land Saga is concerned, I feel it was truly a team effort and not carried entirely by one or two people. If one of us hadn’t been there, I’m not sure we could have found someone equally as good.
As for what did make it in the final cut, is there anything you wish you could have changed or rewritten?
Takenaka: Ooh, that’s a tough one [laughs].
Murakoshi: Personally, I’m not unhappy with anything story-wise. We tried as hard as we could to fit everything within the time constraints, and as far as plot points go, there wasn’t anything I hadn’t approved that was broadcast anyway. Nothing comes to mind, but that’s a good thing.
Mipon: So you’re satisfied with the finished product?
Murakoshi: Yeah, I would say so.
Takenaka: It’s hard for me to say too. When you’re involved in the creative process, you’ll always have lingering feelings. Not regarding the work itself, though. It’s more like “Oh, next time, we should do this…” and so on. During the process itself though, we always gave it 100%, so there’s not anything I would want to go back and redo. We do the best job we can, and then think about how we can improve on that for the next project.
Murakoshi: After the first season, I was like “Yes! We nailed it!”
Takenaka: Exactly. “We finally finished!” [laughs]
Murakoshi: At the end of Season 1, there was a good balance between development and story elements that hadn’t been explained or revealed yet. It was enough to get people excited and keep them in suspense, like many other works that leave room for sequels. The satisfaction of achieving that balance and the sense of accomplishment after finishing Season 1 was incredible.
Was it difficult to manage a group like this, where everyone has very distinct and contrasting personalities?
Takenaka: I think that it would actually be more difficult if the characters were similar. It works precisely because everyone’s unique, so we didn’t really have to change anyone once we had their characters defined. In that sense, everything fell into place easily.
Murakoshi: All the girls are from different time periods, lived in different environments, and faced different circumstances. It’s interesting because everyone in the group varies so much. So I wouldn’t say it was difficult to work with. On the contrary, it was a lot of fun.
Mipon: More inspiration than an obstacle, then?
Murakoshi: Yeah, we had lots of fun working on the series. Each of the characters is from a different time period, so while their perspectives and ways of speaking seemed only natural to them, they seemed a bit odd to each other.
How much freedom were the voice actors given with their characters?
Takenaka: Aside from a basic explanation of the character, everyone was given quite a bit of freedom.
We decided how well they fit their characters during the auditions, but once production got underway, we just occasionally made suggestions about difficult lines in the script or what kind of feeling to put into reading such-and-such a part. The rest was mostly up to them.
Were there any lines or scenes that were ad-libbed during the recordings?
Takenaka: There were a few ad-libbed parts. Conversely, although I’ve often been told how much it sounds like ad-libbing, [Tatsumi] Kotaro’s scenes were pretty much exactly as scripted. The performance was very faithful to the script.
There were some off-the-cuff parts, like when Kotaro’s mouth wasn’t shown on screen, that [voice actor] Miyano Mamoru added his personal style to, but otherwise, he followed the script very closely. I just want to make that clear so that it doesn’t reflect poorly on him. He understood Kotaro’s character very well and did a great job bringing him to life with his acting performance.
Had you decided on Miyano-san playing Kotaro from the beginning?
Takenaka: I think what decided it for us was a suggestion from the head of the sound tech company. We were discussing who should play Kotaro, and they suggested Miyano-san. Immediately, we thought, “Yeah, he’d be perfect! He’d really get immersed in the role.”
So from that point, we began to associate Miyano-san with Kotaro, and from there, we just had to make sure his schedule allowed for it.
Would you say that Miyano-san was the core of the main cast?
Takenaka: Yeah, Kotaro’s character is key to the whole story.
Murakoshi: He’s at the center of it all, which made him very important.
Mipon: I was actually quite surprised to find out that Miyano-san played Kotaro. He did a fantastic job, but I had such a strong image of him as Light [Yagami Light, from Death Note] or Dazai [Dazai Osamu, from Bungo Stray Dogs].
Takaneka: Since Kotaro has a lot of comedic scenes, we needed to find someone we felt confident about. When Miyano-san’s name came up during our discussions, we agreed that if anybody could do it, he could. So we decided to ask him to play the role, schedule permitting.
Murakoshi: Even while sticking to the script, Miyano-san brought a unique tone and energy to the character, and he knew how to make the most out of his scenes. It was about as close to perfect as you can get.
Takenaka: His very first line, when he screams “GOOD MORNING!” was incredible [laughs].
Murakoshi: He nailed it, right off the bat.
Takenaka: I’d never laughed that hard during a voiceover session. And all it took were the words “good morning.”
Mipon: His performance really is amazing.
Right from the beginning of Season 1’s broadcast, [Yamada] Tae seems to have become very popular among fans of the series. Was it difficult to create a character like her, considering she has no spoken lines?
Takenaka: It’s said that the fewer lines a character has, the more difficult it is to convey their emotions, so you need a truly talented actor for the role.
Even among those types of roles, Tae was very difficult to cast. As we were struggling to find someone, the director [Munehisa Sakai] suggested [Kotono] Mitsuishi.
We said we’d love to have her for the role if she’s interested but would she take a role like this? [laughs]. So we asked someone from the sound company to speak with her about doing a role with no spoken lines, and Mitsuishi-san said “Sure! Sounds fun.”
I’m really glad she was able to do the role though. Considering how famous she is, we were all a bit nervous during the recording [laughs].
But as soon as we began recording for the first half of episode 1, when Tae chases Sakura through the house, Mitsuishi-san gave such a great performance despite not being able to use actual words. The mood immediately changed, and the other actors became really energized and motivated to do an equally good job—I could tell even from my seat in the control room.
I was truly impressed. She managed to lead the entire team.
Mipon: Tae is my favorite character, and she never fails to make me laugh.
I’m curious about when she’ll regain awareness though.
Takenaka: I don’t even know the answer to that, actually.
Murakoshi: You’d like her to regain her awareness?
Murakoshi: Interesting. I suppose there are a lot of fans who are really curious about her.
Can you tell us a bit more about how Mitsuishi-san was chosen for the role of Tae?
Takenaka: Well, as I said earlier, the director suggested it, we weren’t sure whether Mitsuishi-san would agree to take on the role. I later heard that from the start, she was quite happy to do it. She was asked “The character you’d be playing has no speaking parts, is that okay?” and apparently she said she’d love to. I’m not sure how much she knew about the plot at the time [laughs], but she casually agreed to do it.
Murakoshi: I think it helped that she knew the director, Sakai-san, very well.
Takenaka: I believe it was mentioned that Sakai-san was directing when the offer was made to her, but I get the feeling that she would have accepted either way. Having met and spoken with Mitsuishi-san, you find that she’s very motivated and eager to try new things. I really respect her drive to grow and improve.
In terms of design, who was the most difficult character to depict?
Takenaka: I’d have to ask someone who was more involved with animation, but I do recall people telling me that Saki’s ponytail was tough to animate because of the movement and the 3-D depth. Yugiri’s hairstyle was a bit tricky, but everyone else was fairly simple.
How about in terms of backstory and personality?
Takenaka: We put off addressing Yugiri’s backstory during Season 1 because we were having trouble writing it.
Murakoshi: Yeah, we needed to decide on things like the content and mood of her flashbacks.
Takenaka: We had a general idea of what we wanted to do, but we found it hard to fit into Season 1. In terms of planning the series, we just didn’t have room to include her backstory, so we postponed it until Season 2. Doing that gave us a lot more freedom, however, as we were able to take our time and have a 2-episode flashback. As the main character, it was a bit challenging planning Sakura’s character as she developed over the course of the series. It took some time, and there was some trial-and-error at first, but in the end, I think we managed to create a compelling character.
Murakoshi: As we were planning Sakura’s character development, we made the decision to develop her a bit more by adding a flashback scene. That choice was made partway through. Originally, we had planned a slightly different story arc. We really struggled with Yugiri’s way of speaking. It was difficult to write convincing dialogue in her “kuruwa kotoba” way of speaking.
*Kuruwa kotoba, or “quarter jargon,” were special languages used by Yoshiwara courtesans during the Edo period, partially to mask the regional accents of the women, who were brought in from all over Japan. These languages varied between a courtesan’s working house.
Takenaka: When we decided to launch a Vtbuber project* for Yugiri, I really understood how difficult it is.
*Yugiri livestreams in her program, “Snack Chinatsu” （スナック千夏）on Cygames’ official YouTube Channel
Murakoshi: It’s incredibly difficult. It takes nearly twice as long to write for an “oiran” (courtesan) character because they have such a unique way of speaking, so you have to do a lot of research. First, we wrote the lines in standard Japanese, then we’d have to figure out how real courtesans would have said it. If we couldn’t do that, we had to change the dialogue to something that would translate well. That took a lot of time.
Takenaka: It really throws off the tempo of the conversations too. Were you [Mipon interviewer] able to understand her?
Mipon: I can mostly understand Yugiri’s speech, but it is very difficult.
Murakoshi: I know, right? It’s not a regional dialect either—it actually came about as a means of concealing the background of people like Yugiri who came to Tokyo. It’s a very unique way of speaking, and it’s difficult to find reference material for, so I’m sure our version of it was far from perfect.
Takenaka: Heck, we’re probably way off! [laughs] But I think a general atmosphere is conveyed well.
Murakoshi: But as we did our research, we found that there are a lot of people who are very passionate about this kind of thing. If we did things the lazy way by just adding “-arinsu” to the end of words, those people wouldn’t be happy with us. So we did the best we could to research the subject and write accurate dialogue so the experts wouldn’t find it unnatural. There’s a limit to what we can do of course, so after a certain point, you have to prioritize emotion over accuracy.
Takenaka: I’m much less concerned when we’re doing the Vtuber live streams though [laughs].
Murakoshi: I don’t think we need to worry. Yugiri’s speaking doesn’t sound unnatural at all to me.
Mipon: The cultural nuance is reflected very well in the English and Spanish subtitles. They really capture the emotion from characters like Kotaro as well.
Takenaka: How does the dialogue change in English? Do they try to use a similar regional accent from the English-speaking world?
Mipon: First I’ll watch an episode with no subtitles, then I’ll go back and watch it in Spanish or English and see how it’s translated. It’s very interesting to see how it’s expressed in another language.
Takenaka: I see. A lot of thought goes into it, doesn’t it?
Murakoshi: There are a lot of aspects to consider when translating as well.
Mipon: It’s rarely a perfect 1-to-1 match, but the translated dialogue tries to capture the characters’ personality and atmosphere as closely as possible, like with Yugiri’s speaking or Saki’s tough attitude.
Takenaka: That’s impressive!
Mipon: The translations are very good. I’m impressed as well!
Takenaka: That’s very nice to hear.
Murakoshi: I’m very happy that the appeal of the different ways of speaking can be conveyed so well in other languages.
Lily is another popular character among fans. I found it interesting that, although there are a lot of “otokonoko” characters in anime, they tend to side characters for comedic relief. Lily, however, is a very well-written character with complex circumstances and a serious past. Was it difficult to create her character?
Takenaka: She definitely wasn’t an easy character to create. Given the concept of Zombie Land Saga, we thought hard about what we wanted to convey through the series and what normally would and wouldn’t be tolerated in an idol anime, including zombies, of course.
The nuance is hard to express, but one of my favorite lines in the series is when Lily declares “I’m not Masao! I’m Lily!” That line was actually a rewrite we made during the recording sessions, but I feel it perfectly encapsulates her character. We spent a lot of time thinking about her character and made sure there was a suitable balance of comedic and serious scenes.
In addition to the matter of gender, Lily also died at a very young age, and that was of course difficult to address properly. But we wanted to make her a very strong person who stays positive no matter what and lives life to the fullest…well, zombies “living” is a bit of a stretch, but you know what I mean [laughs].
Murakoshi: We discussed things as a team and worked very hard to include scenes like the ones of pre-Zombie Lily living with her father and how they came to understand one another. But at the same time, as Takenaka-san said, once Lily became a zombie and a member of Franchouchou, personal differences don’t matter to the other members. Whether it be someone like Tae, or Lily, who was born a boy, but none of that matters to the members. Of course, everyone has their unique background and personality, but after such an absurd thing as becoming zombies, everyone is unphased by other things and readily accepts whatever differences each other might have. They see past everything and don’t make a big deal of it. Do you know what I’m trying to say, Takenaka-san?
Takenaka: It’s a tough situation. You need to be careful and considerate with this sort of thing since otherwise, it could become problematic. Of course, the easiest option is to just avoid it entirely and not have to worry about anything. But in the end, we relied on our intuition, striking the right balance of humorous and serious elements while asking ourselves “will viewers understand what we’re trying to convey?” It’s not something you can ever know for sure. Sometimes we were confident that doing this or that would be fine, but I was still nervous about how things would turn out right up to the broadcast. Because of such concerns, we did a lot of dialogue rewrites during the recording sessions.
Takenaka: The line I mentioned earlier was originally something like “The rest of you are Masao, and I’m Lily!” [Line from Kotaro, S1 E8 13:35~]
Murakoshi: Yeah, that’s it. “The rest of you are Masao, and I’m Lily!”
Takenaka: No, wait, that might have been a different line.
Murakoshi: Yeah, I think that was a different line. I was thinking of “What?! Is Masao not allowed in your girly idol group anymore?!” I think Kotaro’s line was there from the beginning, and Lily’s line after that one had been changed from something else.
[Line from Kotaro, S1 E8 13:30~]
Takenaka: We did a test run and decided to edit the line a bit. It seems like the scene was well-received by fans, so it all worked out well. As creators of the show, we didn’t feel like it was absolutely necessary to bring the matter of gender into an idol group. But on the other hand, we wanted to challenge the conventions and do what other idol series didn’t. Maybe there are other series that have also done that, but I’m not aware of any.
Can you tell me how much of an impact you think Zombie Land Saga had on revitalizing Saga? Was it an effective advertisement for the prefecture?
Takenaka: We’ve done promotions like stamp rallies, two since the anime began airing, that encouraged people to visit different areas and receive Franchouchou merchandise. We also got several requests from local businesses who wanted to produce collaboration merchandise and such.
In that sense, I think it was well-received by the people of Saga and helped people elsewhere get to know and love the place a little better.
Would you say the Zombie Land Saga project could be a model for promoting other regions of Japan facing population or economic decline?
Takenaka: Honestly, I’m not sure what would happen if you tried the same thing for a different location. Personally, though, I’m not planning to try and recreate the same success elsewhere. Maybe Murakoshi-san is, though? [laughs]
Murakoshi: No, me neither [laughs]
Takenaka: There’s no guarantee you’d be able to make a successful anime in any given region, so I wouldn’t say that Zombie Land Saga is a model in that regard. After all, we didn’t begin the project by deciding we wanted to revitalize a countryside region. All we were concerned with was making an interesting series, and making Saga an element of that just happened to mix well with our idea. If doing that contributes to the idea in some way, then great, but I’m not sure it’s a surefire success. If it were, every anime would be like that.
I’d like to ask you both if you have any advice for people who might want to do the same jobs as you. Murakoshi-san, what would you say to any aspiring writers?
Murakoshi: Well, as I said before, I took a very roundabout path to get here. If you start out wanting to write scripts, then there’s probably a more direct route than mine. It’s kind of a boring answer, but even to reach where I am now—helping create an anime and being interviewed about it—it’s all because I kept going. I’m also fortunate to have been in an environment that allowed me to do that.
I sometimes felt like people were looking at me and wondering why a guy in his 30s was still doing part-time work and what I would do with my life. My family was also concerned. Nobody ever said anything to me directly, but that’s how I felt sometimes.
But I kept persevering and when an opportunity came along, I took it and worked as hard as I could. There was someone very active in the anime industry who I wanted to acknowledge my abilities, so I made sure to always give 100% on my work.
I was also aware of my age and that I wouldn’t be getting any younger [laughs]. I kind of felt like I had to make this work. So for me, it’s a bit difficult to say “You should do this, then that and I guarantee you’ll become a writer.” I’m here thanks to simple perseverance and probably a bit of luck as a deciding factor—I’ve sometimes been chosen for a project or introduced to someone purely coincidentally. Hmm, does this count as advice? [laughs]
I can only speak for myself, but I made it here simply by not giving up. That may be easier said than done for some, but it certainly worked for me.
Takenaka: There’s a lot of truth to that, I think.
Murakoshi: At any rate, I hope that I could encourage at least one of your readers who might be in a similar situation!
How about you, Takenaka-san? Do you have any suggestions for people who might want to work as a producer?
Takenaka: To be honest, I don’t care for the title “producer,” by which I mean that I’ve found that so many people want to be producers, but what is their definition of a producer? For example, someone might say they want to plan and oversee a project, but you don’t have to be a “producer” to do that.
If you have an idea and are able to bring it to life, then you’ve already done what a producer does. So I think “producer” is an incredibly vague job title. If you want to become a producer, then just produce something!
I think people who want to create something aren’t wondering how to become a producer. They’re already out there producing something in some form or another.
Rather than creating something as part of their job, people who say they want to be producers tend to have this image of an important leader that they aspire to. But to me, that’s not really what a producer is.
Instead of your goal being “I want to become a producer,” I think something like “I want to make a ____” is a much more realistic goal. And if you want to make such-and-such kind of work, then keep on doing that.’
If someone says that to me, my answer is “Well, what do you want to produce?” I think that’s much more important. If you want to make an original anime, then study how to put together a plan or a script and then think about how you can make it happen.
Then, you need to figure out how to get funding, right? That’s what I think a producer is: someone who can picture a goal and break down the process into clearly defined steps.
Suffice it to say I don’t like the title “producer” [laughs]. I don’t really like calling myself one, to be honest.
There are tons of people out there with the title of “producer,” but only a handful of them really produce something—by which I mean come up with a plan, make that plan a reality, send it out into the world and make it a huge success and make everyone involved in the project happy, all by themselves.
To me, that’s what a true producer is. And that’s why I still don’t consider myself a fully-fledged producer. I’m still working towards that ideal.
I was wondering if you could tell us how close Zombie Land Saga is to being “finished.”
Takenaka: It’s hard to say at this point. I think we’ll have to wait until Zombie Land Revenge is totally behind us before we decide what to do.
I see…So a third season, or even a spinoff, is unlikely?
Takenaka: I’m honestly not sure. I said something like that when Season 1 finished, so who knows? For now, I want to focus on successfully completing Season 2.
Note: This interview was held on June 9, 2021.
Thanks to Cygames, Murakoshi-sensei, Takenaka-san, and our friend Tristan and everyone that made this interview possible.
Big thanks to Karl, a member of our team, for interviewing and translating it for us!
Finally, thanks to the Mipon community for the questions and suggestions.
Interview and Translation: Karl Bruder.
DISCLAIMER: All the images above were used with the permission of Cygames.
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