Director, Tatsuma Minamikawa (left) and Producer, Yohei Ito (right) shared details on their latest anime movie release: Fairy Tail Dragon Cry. Both talents have also worked on Attack on Titan, with the audience (including the Japan-Cool team), avidly listening at MCM Comic-Con London 2017, couldn’t help but meet all their work with applause. With the Platinum Theatre full of people and the presence of Minamikawa and Ito, this was one of the most enjoyable panels we have ever been to. It was also a new experience as the panelists did not speak English, so there was a translator sat between them, quickly jotting down notes as they answered in Japanese to her. At times, they would be laughing between them, which caused us to be even more excited to hear the translation. With AllTheAnime leading this panel and posing the questions you’re about to find out the answers to, we hope they will be back in the UK for Comic-Con again.
Describe Fairy Tail in one sentence.
Ito: Magic Battle.
Minamikawa: (With a cheeky grin) It’s really popular… and really good… and the most famous Japanese animé ever!
How did you both discover Fairy Tail?
Minamikawa: I read it when it came out in the magazines.
Ito: It was 2006 when it started to be serialised, I was a student at university at the time and started reading it.
When you look back at the fact that Fairy Tail has been running for a decade, how does that make you both feel?
Ito: It wouldn’t be where it was today without the support of the fans around the world, including you guys.
Minamikawa: There is so much manga out there and it’s so rare to see one that runs for ten years and for it to be as well known as Fairy Tail.
How did you both become involved in the franchise?
Ito: I worked for a publisher in the rights division and we got to know Hiro Mashima when one of his previous works was licensed. Fairy Tail was already at that point but then when one of the other producers left I got to take over from him and that’s just about when the idea of this was coming about.
Minamikawa: I was working as a freelance episode director, I got a call from a producer at their studio and they offered me the job and that was it… Another producer, not this one. *He signals to Ito*
A director and producer have many roles in the world of animé so for you, in the context of Fairy Tail, what were yours?
Ito: Hmm… (He pauses for comedic effect and says in english) To make money.
Minamikawa: My main aim was to have the Fairy Tail movie released in all other countries at the same time as Japan, so I needed to find more partners to work on the project so time was spent making this so.
The film has been released in Japan, what has the audience reaction been like so far?
Ito: It had been a year since there had been any Fairy Tail on television in Japan so fans were happy to see their favourite characters back on the screen.
Minamikawa: I wanted to see it when it came out, but I couldn’t get a ticket, it had sold out!
It says a lot when you can’t get a ticket to your own film.
An intriguing detail about this film and a very important one is that it takes place in the continuity of where the manga is currently at. Was the movie always planned for it to be set in this part of the Fairy Tail timeline?
Ito: When we were planning the film, there were two things that we wanted to do. One was to have a story that was related to the main manga and the other was that, this had already been announced in Japan, but unfortunately Fairy Tail is coming to an end so we wanted something for the fans to get excited about to coincide with the end of the manga.
What is the difference between directing for television animé and film animé?
Minamikawa: There’s a really big gap between working on television animé and film animé and anyone involved in making animé in Japan is going to find that working on a film is a very special experience. People pay to watch a film so you have to make sure that it’s worth it, that the quality is up to it, that the detail is up to it and that the fans will be happy with what you made so I was really really nervous.
So Fairy Tail is one of the flagship titles in Kodansha’s Catalogue, and from the perspective of working in a franchise like Fairy Tail, what challenges emerged to maintain the high level of consistency that has helped this franchise grow to its popularity?
Minamikawa: Getting involved with Fairy Tail for the first time, and for that first time to be this extra special movie, I was very aware that the fans knew more about it than I did at the time and I wanted to make the current fans happy, as well as those who were new to Fairy Tail. As soon as I got the job offer, I bought all the manga and kept them on my bedside table, reading them every night. I wanted to be just as passionate as the existing fans.
Ito: In the series, you’re turning the manga into an animé, so it’s fairly straightforward. What I was particularly aware of when making the film was the timing, it had to be something worthwhile for the fans to be watching right now, the content had to be relevant to this moment… that for me was going to ensure the quality of the film. And people pay to see it so it’s gotta be special and feel like a special event and encapsulate all the emotions that came with Fairy Tail coming to an end.
Both of you have worked on Attack on Titan, could you share an experience you have from this?
Minamikawa: I was a unit director on episode eight of the first season and if you look at the credits, you’ll see there are actually three of us listed as I couldn’t even do it by myself as the job was so demanding. The name of the studio that made Attack on Titan, Wit Studio, is only ten minutes bike ride from where I live so in theory, it’s really close and I can get to work and back home very quickly but… I hadn’t been home for two weeks cause I was working so hard. The final episode turned out amazing in the end.
Ito: I was a producer on the first season, and I also worked in the rights division doing licensing for merchandise all by myself so therefore I had so much work to do that I also didn’t go home much either. So what happened was, my wife thought I was having an affair. You may know the ‘Find my iPhone’ app so she started to look for me. When I was in the office, everything was fine. But near the office where I worked, there was an all-female university and sometimes, because ‘Find my iPhone’ doesn’t get it always right, that is where it would place me. So I would get a phone call from my wife asking ‘Where are you? What are you doing?’… This went on for six months. It’s not uncommon in Japan.
A few non-anime questions…
Is this the first time you have visited England?
Minamikawa: My first time outside of Japan.
Ito: I’ve been to Manchester to watch the Champion’s League. We’re both football fans and consider it our favourite sports.
What is the most random present you received?
Minamikawa: A book called The Chocolate Diet.
Ito: A broom.
What is your favourite food?
Minamikawa: (He stands up and points to his T-Shirt that says “No Sashimi. No Life.”)
We will be adding Attack on Titans to our Tamashii Nations range in August!