Aku no Hana's Hiroshi Nagahama talks Flowers, Evil


Nagahama answers to criticisms, and draws a complicated analogy

At Animazement 2013, North American fans were treated to a very busy Hiroshi Nagahama, the director of Detroit Metal City, Mushishi, and most recently the controversial Flowers of Evil. Still wrapping up on the production of the show, director Nagahama dropped by Raleigh, NC over Memorial Day weekend and answered questions, sketched autographs and generally be his wonderous self for the con.

Click on and read the questions and answers for his general panel, focused on his latest work, Flowers of Evil. Nagahama answers not only questions that everyone wants to ask, but also a couple left field ones that probably adds some insight to the very controversial late-night manga adaptation.

Hiroshi Nagahama arrived his panel fashionably late, even if it's just for a few minutes. Walking into the room, his chest was positively glowing, because there was a ring of blue LEDs behind his t-shirt.

After settling in on the panel and showing off his Iron Man gear, we quieted down and director Nagahama introduced to us about how he was still currently busy working on Flowers of Evil, and that there were some backlash on the show in Japan due to the rotoscoping visuals. Nonetheless he had episode 7 (which was the one aired earlier in the same week) to show us, and the panel began with a screening of that episode of Flowers of Evil. Despite that it wasn't translated, Nagahama wanted us to just pay attention to the second half, which is made up mostly of music and visuals, to take in the mood.

After the screening, Nagahama asked the audience how we felt about the episode (which was generally positive), and it lead into the Q&A session, as the audience asked their questions.

Q: Why rotoscoping?

Nagahama (N): You know about the manga right? I read it and I thought what is being depicted is something realistic and close to our daily lives, so I thought rotoscoping is the way to go.

Q: Could you talk about the amount of time it takes to do rotoscoping versus traditional animation?

N: It took about 3 months, on and off, to do the filming of the live action part. Then there is editing. Overall it took maybe twice the time as a normal animation project. Compared to my previous works like DMC or Mushishi, I did the same thing as Flowers of Evil, as I read the manga and decided how to animate it. I didn't treat Flowers of Evil any differently.

Q: You mentioned Mushishi and DMC. They're related in a way that they're depicting the hidden sides of something. Is this something you're drawn towards? Or a coincidence?

N: I guess both. I happened to work on these two shows. I also like American comics--for example, I like Magneto from X-men and Venom from Spiderman. Also Tony Stark in Iron Man is an alcoholic. So I like the dark side of people. I think you guys know the dark side of people in American comics. It's like the Force in Star Wars. It's also a side of being human, so I'm interested.

Q: If Flowers of Evil is about realism, why not make it a traditional live action series rather than rotoscoping?

N: In live action, you are looking at actors. I like Iron Man, but when I first heard about the live action Iron Man movies I knew there was a risk. The person standing in the movie isn't Iron Man, but his actor, Robert Downey Jr. You're watching Robert Downey Jr. act as Tony Stark. It's cool, but he is still depicting a character that only exists in the comic and not in real life. And the same applies to anime and manga. To depict fiction and connect it to our world, I decided rotoscoping was the way to go. Is it ideal? I don't know but I want to find out. I hope this answer is okay for you.

Q: Since episode 1 came out there has been some backlash. What is your reaction? Is it justified? Is it just people who don't understand?

N: I knew there was going to be criticism before it aired, because I picked a way to do this anime that people will be critical about. People were saying it looks creepy, but I think it's better to feel something than nothing at all. It's on late night TV, so people can see it when they turn on their TVs. I imagine when someone channel surfs and see it they may say it's creepy, but it's not like any anime. Say in 5 years it'll be on rental or on Blu-ray (if Blu-ray still exists). People then can check it out and say, "Hey this was that creepy anime on TV." There's so much anime in Japan and few titles leave an impact on the viewer. I didn't want to create something that doesn't leave an impact.

Q: I approve the rotoscoping and I think it's awesome. In Mushishi, the coloring and animation is unique. It's also unique in Flowers of Evil and how their movements depict their personalities. I think the style you've chosen is interesting. What are some styles you're interested in for future works? And how do you decide what style you use?

N: I don't have a style in mind before I start out on a project. Mushishi looks unique because the manga looks that way. Same with DMC. So I think it's just depends on the manga and that'll decide the style. Although if I do another work with rotoscoping I want to work on Mushishi.

Q: I was wondering how you pick your projects? Do you have a list of items you want to try? Or do you search for what you want to work on?

N: First, Mushishi is something I really wanted to work on, so I begged to work on it. I said I would die happy if I got to work on it. Of course I'm still alive afterwards, thankfully. (Laugh.) For DMC, I initially turned it down. Then I figured out a way to do it and I ended up doing it. Same happened with Flowers of Evil, where they offered to me and I passed, but it came back to me again. So far these are the two ways I ended up working on these things. I guess that'll be how it goes from now on. (Laugh.)

Q: Thank you for creating Flower of Evil anime. In the episode we just watched, inside Nanako's room, there's a stuffed animal on her bed. It resembles a character in a show called Wooser? Is this intentional or unintentional? Also, in the end of every episode you include an end card with the creator. Why do you animate only his hair?

N: Really? The actress for Nanako, Mishina Yuriko, used her own stuffed animal for the shoot. The actual stuffed animal has really long arms and legs, kind of like Jake from Adventure Time. So they folded its limbs and tied it in place. If that made it looks like Wooser then I guess so. 

N: For the end card, this is the first time I've been asked this question either here or in Japan, because everyone kept on asking about the rotoscoping. The end card has a self-portrait of the manga creator Oshimi. I actually animated the whole thing, genga, douga, tracing, etc. Because the actual episodes of the anime looked so different than regular anime, I wanted to make the end card more like traditional anime. Originally I wanted to do the end card in Flash, but no one in the office can do Flash. In the end I just tried to emulate that style and animated his hair, and maybe that made it look weird.

Q: The pacing and the soundtrack and way Flowers of Evil looks creates a very unique atmosphere. Is there a way you want the viewer to feel or an atmosphere you wanted to create?

N: Here's an analogy. It's like when you first meet someone, you take a look at how he dresses or what's his hair like. Then you notice his voice. Then you talk to the person and maybe you have similar interests as you get to know this person. When I watch or work on anime, as I start to let down my guard then the show begins to remind me of something. You begin to have some preconceptions. It might be easy to understand a show if you compare the show to something else.

N: If it's someone you meet for the first time, you get curious. For example if I like Gundam and I go to a con, I may see a crowd of Naruto cosplayers. Everyone seems to like Naruto. But then you see that one Naruto cosplayer who is wearing the headband but his body is a robot. You might go "What the heck is that?" Maybe it's the first time he is cosplaying and he doesn't know what he is doing, but you know he may be interested in both Gundam and Naruto. So someone who likes Gundam can talk to that guy about Gundam, and ask him about his cosplay. If you like Gundam and you see a sea of Naruto cosplayers, it becomes hard to approach them. But on the other hand if the cosplaying is too weird you would go "What the heck?" 

N: I kind of want to make an anime that feels fresh. I want to keep making anime in this way. So there are a bunch of projects that I find interesting. I hope people don't assume Flowers of Evil is the direction of work I'm doing in the future. I still want to make anime with cute girls or Jump anime! I get offers, but it's hard to find the right timing.

N: And I guess it's time! I'm sorry about most of the time being taken by watching the episode. Thank you for the questions!

And that is a wrap! There's more Q&As to come from Animazement 2013. Stay tuned!

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Jeff Chuang
Jeff ChuangAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Yet to be the oldest kid on the block, this East Coast implant writes cryptic things about JP folklore, the industry or dirty moe. Attend cons and lives the "I can buy Aniplex releases" life. ... more + disclosures


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