Sometimes, you want a simple and comfy show to take your mind off things, just for a bit. That’s what Eden, streaming on Netflix, is to me, in essence. Nothing complicated, an hour of privilege indulging in a story of a young girl growing up in a future so far away. Here, we speak with Eden director, Yasuhiro Irie, with help from Yoshiko Okura, interpreting for us. You can read the spoiler-free review here, if you missed it.
As for the interview itself, it touches on spoiler territory, so proceed with that in mind. Interview has been edited for clarity.
Q: What drew you to this project?
Yasuhiro Irie: The producer of the project, Justin (Leach) contacted me and showed me the world he had written. It entailed what happens, the view of the world, and I was very much intrigued by that text and thought it would be really fun to be a part of.
Q: In the past, anime like Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion have approached the mecha / robot genre with interesting, new takes on humanity’s relationships with robots. How does Eden approach the subject?
YI: Well, the approach to robots in this work was that they wouldn’t be able to use words like humans. But then, how are they going to emote and share their emotions when they don’t have human faces, eyes, or mouths to express themselves? How are they then going to communicate with the last person on Earth, which is Sara? I thought that would be a really interesting premise.
Q: What are the differences in creating original anime and adapting a manga?
YI: When you’re working on an adaptation of a manga or its source material, I think what’s important is to make sure you remember that feeling of when you first read it, because that’s probably what most fans would feel when they read the source material, and you need to keep that sensibility in mind when you’re making the adaptation.
When you’re working on something more original, obviously nobody knows anything about the world or what you’re about to do. So, it comes from us, the producers, and you keep on filling the work with the ideas that you think are fun and interesting, and that’s how you start to build a bigger world.
Q: What inspired this choice to move from 2D traditional animation to 3D CGI rendered animation?
YI: When producer Justin (Leach) came to me, he suggested to do this in 3D CG to begin with. We were discussing and playing with ideas of doing the characters in 2D and the robots in 3D, all sorts of ideas. Personally, I went for a full 3D CG work because I thought that would be a new challenge for me. When I made a 3D CG work before, I felt that I hadn’t been able to do everything I had wanted then, so this was going to be a wonderful opportunity to explore the world of 3D CG.
Q: With this much story in four episodes, were there any concerns the story would not be clear enough for viewers to understand?
YI: Well, there’s a variety of elements in each episode, but we have different levels of information, so to speak. Some are dense in detail, while some can be taken in at a sensory level in that they’re much lighter in terms of information. I feel that everything about the world is explained or shown to and through Sara, the main character. Her emotions, what she sees… when viewers are following the story from her perspective, I’m convinced that it worked well.
Q: The premise of the story follows a young girl named Sara trying to survive in a world where robots took over. What’s the most challenging aspect about creating robotic characters audiences can connect with?
YI: There’s a certain closeness we had to show for the robots around Sara as they have been communicating with her for a very long time. Christophe (Ferreira, concept designer) decided not to go for an angular design, instead opting for rounded squares to give the robots a soft form. Through that, you’re able to feel an affinity between the robots and Sara, and how close they are because of the time they had spent together with her. Christophe’s concept was that these robots had an industrial product design quality, which is to say that they were designed to be with people, in a space with human beings, and that had a huge effect on the designs.
Q: How do the robots communicate? With each other, with humans?
YI: Sara’s human voice activates the programs in robots to communicate in the human language, if they have that functionality to begin with. You have a smaller robot like PJ-3 which doesn’t have that function, but it’s still possible for it to communicate with Sara as you’ve seen. The other robots don’t use human language, but they’re able to communicate with their robot language. We’d discussed in detail the levels of the robots were at, in terms of communication, be it with humans or robots.
Q: Throughout the entire anime, the only other living thing you’d see other than Sara is a worm. Did any other animals survive? Was it a choice to not show the other animals, or is there a deeper meaning to it?
YI: We didn’t show other animals, but they do exist. Due to the limitations of 3D CG – where you’ll need to model and render them – we wanted to focus on our resources on the robots and Sara’s modelling, where we show her in different ages, hairstyles, how she expresses herself, or the effects you see in the battle of the robots.
Q: There’s Eden Zero, One, and Three. Where’s Eden Two?
YI: When Justin (Leach, producer) first showed me this world he had written, it was already there and touched upon. If we have the opportunity to tell the continuation of this story, it will probably make an appearance. I feel that when Eden Two makes an appearance in the future, the scale or scope of the show will be much bigger, and it’ll be really exciting to work with.
Q: Eden was originally planned to be released in Fall 2020. What were the reasons for the delay?
YI: We were unable to complete localisation in time, especially for the dubbing when many countries had been locked down at the time. We wanted to show this series to a global and broader audience (e.g. kids and families) so we decided to postpone the launch.
Now, there’s a dangling apple for us in Eden Two. With humanity’s future needing the time to grow up and learn, there will yet be things for Sara to do before then, don’t you think? With Dr. Fields in a robotic doggy, I’d love to know what kind of canine companion he’d make…
That’s all the time we had to ask about Eden from Yasuhiro Irie. Much thanks to Yoshiko Okura for interpreting for us.