Malaysia isn’t known for its anime, but that’s what Yore Productions hopes to change with their anime idol project, Project Dreamcatcher!! As fellow Malaysians and appreciators of all-things anime, we caught up with CK and JY of Yore Productions, the director and assistant director of the project to learn more about their IP.
“Anime is a very well-known medium. People from USA, Japan, Taiwan, China have their own anime,” said JY. Realising its worldwide appeal, the team at Yore Productions felt that there is a huge potential for “Malaysian beauty and culture” to be promoted overseas with anime as a medium.
That said, idol anime may seem like a niche genre for what is possibly Malaysia’s first anime, but according to CK, “It is a great concept. You can incorporate idols into your IP because it’s very versatile—you can turn them into ambassadors, you can do a lot of things, basically. It started off as a passion project because we just graduated last time and gradually, it snowballed into what you see today, thanks to support along the way and the professional input from the Japanese side of the industry.” CK, being a fan of idol anime himself, got the inspiration from a visit to Akihabara after graduating.
The birth of Malaysian idol anime
After a year of development, CK’s idea was starting to take a more defined shape. JY revealed that “Malaysia has so many nice places but we shortlisted Penang or Melaka, which are very well-known to overseas tourists so that it will be much easier to market it. Through our study, many people are much more familiar with Penang. As for story-wise, it is centred around Penang but CK’s vision is that eventually, it will cover the whole of Malaysia—so we’ll slowly incorporate Melaka, Kelantan, and other states into the story as well.”
The story features secondary school students forming various idol units, serving as something similar to that of co-curricular activities. CK summarised the setting of Project Dreamcatcher!! with, “You start it off with Penang and after the interstate competition, you go to the national level. By doing that you can expand our scope of coverage to other states.”
While the idea of teenage Malaysian girls competing to be the country’s top idol group is certainly catchy, Yore Productions first move Project Dreamcatcher!! with is to make a music video (MV). As CK puts it, “The MV itself is a proof of concept, to prove that we can produce something worthy of Malaysia.” JY added:
“Because of the culture, you sometimes need a proper story to tell (it), but MV is more like a visual showcase to prove we can do something to the overseas people and audience. At the moment, we will only focus on well-known places and locations like Chew Jetty and Kek Lok Si, Penang spots basically, and a few shots where they’re holding local food like Potong.”
Fusing Malaysian culture with idol culture
One thing that piqued our interest during the interview is the Japanese voices actresses for the characters. While the team is open to including dubbing for other languages in the future, the decision to cast Japanese talents to voice the Malaysian characters is a marketing one.
Considering that Yore Productions is working with Japanese talents, it doesn’t really come as a surprise when we found out that they are working with a Japanese composer. When asked about the genre of music, JY clarified that since this is their first music video, it will feature happy, cheerful music, as with most anime idol songs.
“Maybe in the future, we’ll have like a very traditional (local-inspired) idol group. Maybe we can add it to our music as well as a new fusion kind of song. But I’m guessing we’re still pretty much like the “idol” idol type of music because it is an idol IP, so the music should be something towards that direction,” he elaborated.
One thing to note is that Malaysia doesn’t really have a prominent idol culture, unlike in Japan. When asked about how the team is approaching this, CK answered:
“Of course, idol culture is not really our culture, but personally, I believe that idol is just a plot device because if you look past that element, you are still trying to tell a story. That’s what is important right? And also if you notice that these few years we have a lot of VTubers. Local VTuber-wise there are a lot of idol oriented VTubers, so I believe that is there is interest in this field. It’s just that for now, we don’t really have a platform for them.”
“This is why we build our community here so we can consistently get feedback from people to see whether we can proceed with this kind of idea, or whether they accept or not, so we can anchor ourselves in a much better position as the IP grows,” adds JY.
As Yore Productions continues to gather feedback as they take the first steps towards idol culture in Malaysia, we were also curious about another aspect of idol culture—school life. Most Japanese idols, especially seen in anime, are recruited when they’re still in school, leading to stories that blend both school life and music.
“We will try our best to depict the Malaysian school life based on our experience. We all went through that. So I believe that we can write our story into it,” CK shared. “In Japan, you just take the train, right? Train, bicycle—that kind of thing. But in Malaysia, it’s usually your parents who fetch you there or you take a bus. Another simple thing that we can change is the uniform. Because in Japan, you have summer and winter. We have one.”
“I would say we are using anime as an art medium, but the core, story direction and setting will still reference Malaysian setting and stuff. So how we go through our daily life will show through the story as well,” JY added.
Developing Project Dreamcatcher!!
Project Dreamcatcher!! began as a passion project for CK and JY, who are also the co-founders of Yore Productions.
“So basically, initial starting development is just CK and me doing the project like ideation, design and stuff. Design falls under CK and I’m supporting for the 3D,” said JY. “But at the moment, I would say 80% of staff is still in-house. For things that we are not familiar with, we outsource to freelancers. Currently, our production house is not that big. As for core members, we have like four or five people in-house as a team, so yeah.”
For such a small team, creating their own 3D anime is no doubt a daunting task. However, the decision to use 3D as a medium does have its merits. JY claims that “We like to explore how 3D can explore much more different kind of art styles. Actually, people have been doing that. I can give you examples like Tarzan or Beauty and the Beast, they used 3D. But just at that time, it’s using 3D as a reference and then they retrace it back into 2D. So, combining 2D and 3D isn’t something new.
Just that as the years goes by, 3D visuals started to get more and more prominent because it saves your time to do repetitive stuff. For example, you have something that you know will be showing throughout the scene. You can use 3D and save you some time from having to keep redrawing the same thing.
We all know that in animation fields, everything is very kind of a struggle—very hard. I mean, you have to take care of your budget,” JY continued. “We now have tone shading, cell shading stuff and you can use them inside the 3D software as well. So we see the benefit of 3D.
Project Dreamcatcher!! and beyond
Interest in Project Dreamcatcher!! has been building up as of late. JY disclosed that there are interested parties and companies that are keen to invest. Much of this is still in the discussion stage, but it certainly is a promising sign. Besides that, many individuals with ties to the anime community such as artists, EN VTubers and even music producers have expressed interest in collaborating with the project.
“We’re trying to see if we can work something together, because at the end of the day, we hope that we could include the local people and community as much as possible. So we are still trying to see if we can put something up with that.”
Anime idol franchises are typically multi-media projects, spawning songs, anime series and even video games, We’re naturally curious to learn what sort of big dreams the team has in store, or whether they will follow the path of anime idol franchises like The [email protected], Love Live and BanG Dream. This is what CK had to say:
“To be honest, it’s a little bit unrealistic for us because they are multi-million businesses, right? So, as an indie project, it is very hard for us to go in that direction. But nonetheless, those IPs are really great references for us. So if we want to make some sort of business decision, we can actually refer to that to make a better judgment, in general. But of course, if let’s say the investors are really into the project, then we can do more about it.”
“I would say for now we will focus more on what we can produce at the moment, which is the music video, and hopefully, we’ll have more funding and later we’ll start to share more about the stories and everything. Then, if there is an investor that would want to venture into maybe more mobile games or visual novels stuff or anything, then we’ll see how it can branch out from there,” JY chimed in.
Besides Malaysia and Japan, we were also curious where does Yore Productions plan to take the IP to in their future ventures with the project.
“As an IP owner, we hope that our IP can travel as far as it can, but realistically speaking, we hope to target Japan, America, and if we are able to enter China, that will be great,” answered CK.
We asked the duo when and where we can expect to watch the music video (we’re just too excited). The team will be releasing the MV on YouTube, but is also open to airing it on other platforms, should there be distributors who are interested. As for when, the team hasn’t exactly settled on a release date, and is looking at either the remainder of 2021 or early 2022. JY said:
“CK and I are working from home. So we need to have strong communication and stuff. It’s currently still manageable, but there are still some hiccups over overall productions. All I can say now is stay tuned.”
We saved the most important question for last. This was a tough question to ask, as CK and JY were able to get our interviewer to reveal his best girl (Shanti) before they did. Here’s JY’s answer:
“Previously, I would pick Eleanor, because she’s like a very elegant kind of character…how to say—princess-y kind of character. But recently because working from home is quite a struggle, so I kind of switched. Like, I want to calm down a bit, so I switched to Qiu Yu, the quiet type. So that would be my pick.”
As for CK, he spilled the beans with:
“The character that I liked the most is Yue Shuang. Well, I just like her personality. She’s just like an angry little gremlin and teaser—she will play a really big role in the story.”
We’re stoked to see how Project Dreamcatcher!! will turn out. Be sure to follow them on Twitter for more information. CK and JY also said that their DMs are open, so feel free to shoot them a question if you have something to inquire. The Project Dreamcatcher!! Discord was also recently started, so feel free to join and be part of a growing community!
Alternatively, visit the Project Dreamcatcher!! website for more information.