The fifth day of Scotland Loves Anime held such delights as the European premiere of the second Berserk movie: Battle for Doldrey, the international premiere (that's even before general release in Japan) of Nerawareta Gakuen as well as a repeat of last week's European premiere of Blood-C: The Last Dark.
The Berserk movie was once again graced by guests Naoyuki Onda and Fuko Noda who provided a brief Q&A session after the film which, despite a persistent issue with the synchronisation of the subtitles with the audio, was everything a Berserk film needed to be. Cleaving closely to the story set out by the manga but making some smart decisions on what to include and what to omit for a feature-length production.
Introducing the film, Naoyuki commented on the odd advert reel that had played beforehand (and before every film thus far in the festival for those getting bored of the Armani adverts) but said that he was honoured to be here and to represent the movie's staff. Fuko followed up, saying she was glad to see so many people return from the previous night's showing of the first film and commented that she thinks quality of the story and animation has improved and hoped we would enjoy it.
Immediately after the showing, festival director Andrew Partridge took to the stage to personally apologise for the subtitling issues: a result of Viz Media in the US only completing the work at the last minute, but also for the French company which burned the HDCAM version that was provided to the cinema.
Questions and answers
Launching straight in, the first question was more of a prompt to provide some context to the Battle of Doldrey within the Berserk storyline. Fuko responded by saying that it is the biggest human battle with every subsequent one in the manga involving monsters. As for the Band of the Hawk, it is when they are at their peak being able to glimpse nobility but it's all downhill from there.
Posing the next question to Naoyuki as character designer and chief animation director, how did he approach the story, specifically the fine details like the gold thread on Griffith's sleeves or the fur on Caska's coat? As it turned out he had little to do with the CG aspect of the film which both of those examples were, harking back to the hybrid animation approach of computer generated bodies and largely animated faces. Following up on this was a question on the particle effects within the film such as the snow, dust and petals which Fuko confirmed were done completely from scratch and in-house with no off-the-shelf software or studios used.
Going back to a topic raised at the beginning of Gyo (Tokyo Fish Attack) last weekend, Jonathan asked how the Tohoku earthquake had affected the production, specifically with Naoyuki sleeping at his desk? Fuko started by saying that they were already in production of the second and third films when it had happened and although they had felt the quake and despite it being a frightening experience, everyone in the studio was safe. As for Naoyuki, the subsequent rolling powercuts didn't seem to happen that much while he was there, perhaps there was an anime fan in the Tokyo Metro power authority.
The first audience question was from Andrew Osmond who asked whether there was a particular group of animators who were responsible for key scenes like Adonis' death or Charlotte's encounter with Griffith. Naoyuki replied saying that there were different people for each scene, with Jonathan clarifying that unlike the American animation system, it's very unusual for one animator or group to take “ownership” of a specific character.
Coming back to the burning question that was somewhat dodged in the Q&A session yesterday, another audience member asked why the 1997 anime series was remade? The response from Fuko was the same: (Kentaro) Miura was the one who wanted it that way. As for the process of getting the project started, she explained that Studio 4°C was approached by another company with the outlook that Berserk is known around the world and is already seen as very “cool”.
A token oddball question next, on a throwaway scene in the second movie where a dead cow is launched at the enemy (the “cowterpult” as Jonathan put it), was it possible any of the production team were Monty Python fans? Naoyuki seemed tickled by this and said that while he was aware of it, it certainly wasn't based on that. Jonathan put on his figurative historical researcher hat saying that sowing discord and disease within the enemy was a tactic used in medieval times so was somewhat historically accurate.
Another couple of questions followed – each worded differently but asking the same thing – would there would be more movies from further into the manga? Each was met with a stern but polite doublespeak (“if you spread the word, who knows!”) from the guests, until Fuko revealed the next film would bring the Golden Age arc to a close and maybe just a teeny-tiny bit more.
Back onto the somewhat divisive hybrid animation style, another audience question was on the factors which decided when to use 3D and when to use standard animation beyond the obvious large-scale battle scenes. Fuko responded that each director for a scene was free to choose, but the decisions were largely based on what would be most effective and efficient which boiled down to the level of detail required in the expressions or the scene's overall difficulty.
Jonathan interjected next, asking whether any of the animation teams had taken names from Berserk like “Band of the Hawk”. (Ed. this is what was done by Production I.G. When making Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex with a “Section 9” team when I.G. only had less than five). Fuko replied that they didn't have funny names but they all said that they had been “branded” as sacrifices, which no doubt confused any Berserk newbies in the audience as to what the third film might contain.
Finishing off the questions before a brief signing session, Jonathan asked whether, hypothetically, if there was another Berserk film, would there be any influences from their time in Scotland? Naoyuki repeated his dislike for location hunts but said that it was different to see things with your own eyes. Fuko, after some prompting, was more specific, saying that after visiting the Palace of Hollyroodhouse and seeing the beds there, it was clear they had made Charlotte's far too big! Having only been given a description and drawings originally, they would definitely use this new knowledge in the future.
This completed the question and answer portion with Naoyuki Onda and Fuko Noda from Studio 4°C and despite almost identical questions from yesterday's session being asked today (repeatedly), overall the quality of the audience queries has been remarkably high, rounding out a very impressive and enlightening two weekends of Japanese guests.
Nerawareta Gakuen and Blood-C
The remaining two films of the day was the highly anticipated Nerawareta Gakuen (Psychic School Wars) as well as Blood-C: The Last Dark. The former packed the cinema with nary a seat spare, even attracting the two Japanese guests who were no doubt looking forward to stealing a march on the Japanese debut on the 10th of November. Jonathan once again provided an introduction, covering the story's similarity to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, including being remade whenever that film is. Colourful, confusing, and anecdotally divisive, it's hard to call the showing anything but a success, especially when the final master of the movie hadn't been completed in Japan until Tuesday, making the shipping process especially fraught.
Blood-C: The Last Dark put on another good showing with many of the audience (by a show of hands) having had no prior experience of the Blood storyline. Jonathan's introduction was slightly less wayward this time around, covering the history of the franchise back from The Last Vampire, through Blood+ and the Blood-C series as well as picking up on the CLAMPisms that are sprinkled throughout. The film itself was identical to the one shown in Glasgow (without the awkward projection failure part-way through) with stunning image quality and solid subtitling throughout.
So ended the penultimate day of Scotland Loves Anime, with only three films remaining which include the classic Ninja Scroll, another showing of the Anime Mirai project shorts and the sold-out, European premiere of Mamoru Hosoda's Wolf Children.