During AFA Singapore 2022 we were able to interview MAPPA CEO Manabu Otsuka, Executive Director & Rights Management Director Makoto Kimura, and Director Yuichiro Hayashi to gain more insight into the studio and the process of making anime.
When it comes to major animation studios in Japan, very few have risen the way MAPPA has. Founded in 2011, the studio has gone on to make classics, like YURI!!! on ICE, Dororo, and Zombie Land Saga, and is currently working on anime titles, including two of the most popular anime in the medium: “ATTACK ON TITAN” The Final Season, and Chainsaw Man.
In addition to being CEO, Manabu Otsuka has been a producer on some of MAPPA’s most well-received titles including YURI!!! on ICE and BANANA FISH. Makoto Kimura is credited as the producer for hits like Your Lie In April, and “ATTACK ON TITAN” The Final Season. Speaking of The Final Season, Yuichiro Hayashi is the man directing it. He has previously directed shows like Kakegurui and Dorohedoro.
The three of them were guests at the recent MAPPA stage event hosted by AFA where they spoke about their current and upcoming projects. In this interview, however, the MAPPA Staff told us more about an important aspect of making anime like faithfulness to the source material and taking over “ATTACK ON TITAN” from WIT STUDIO.
Studio MAPPA took over the production of “ATTACK ON TITAN” from WIT STUDIO. Was it difficult continuing such a popular anime with such high expectations from fans and adapting the series finale?
Hayashi: We understand the situation of shifting from WIT STUDIO to MAPPA can be difficult for fans and we try to consider their opinions as well. Since we took over the production from someone else, we had to be extra careful about reading the source material and watching the initial seasons so that the energy of the show wasn’t broken. We wanted to make sure that as we entered The Final Season there was a seamless continuity from WIT STUDIO’s production to our own.
For The Final Season, we put a lot of effort into understanding the world that we were coming into. We want to make sure we understand everything so that we can freely move inside this universe and create our own take on how it is portrayed. We want to put everything we can into the finale of The Final Season.
One of the things fans enjoy about the Chainsaw Man anime is how every episode has a different ending. Could you tell us more about making these different endings and the creative process of animating them?
Kimura: We put a lot of thought into the 12 different ending songs and animations [of Chainsaw Man]. We wanted to make sure we got everything perfect for each new ending so we had to make sure we consulted with both the source material and the director for that episode to ensure they were a good match.
All 12 artists who did the ending animations are also quite big fans of the series so they wanted to make sure it was a perfect fit when they [the composers] produced the songs for the anime.
If you watch the Chainsaw Man endings, they feature only one chorus so they’re quite short. If you listen to a full version of all the songs, you will be able to see the entire worldview of Chainsaw Man, not just the stories covered in the anime itself. We encourage the fans to listen to each full song individually.
Many of the shows MAPPA has produced like Chainsaw Man, VINLAND SAGA, and ATTACK ON TITAN have been praised for accurately representing the detail of the manga. What is the most critical aspect of adapting a manga into an anime?
Hayashi: It changes depending on the studio, and source material. Personally, while I try to understand what the original mangaka was thinking when they were creating the piece, I don’t want it to be a panel-for-panel copy. I try to take a lot of things from the original and then I want to put in my own original thoughts. That’s what I think will make it more interesting for fans.
We also try to consult all of the smaller details with the publishing company to make sure they approve however we don’t always have time to do that. Sometimes we have to put in our own thoughts and opinions. We put in what we think the publishing company might like and that’s how we make the final product.
MAPPA has also been pretty innovative with using 3D animation, could you talk a bit about the differences in working in 2D vs 3D?
Otsuka: For our team, there is no difference between 2D and 3D as the purpose is to bring the image to the life through animation, bringing the original work to the fans. Sometimes when we think the image is better done in 3D, then we will do it in 3D. Sometimes if it’s better to do it in 2D, we do it in 2D.
At the end of the day, it’s really about bringing the original work to life through animation. We strive to deliver a better product so that the customer’s impression is not affected by differences in 2D or 3D tools.
A lot of your anime has been distributed by Netflix and other streaming services. What are the benefits of streaming anime online over traditional broadcast anime (if there are any)?
Kimura: One of the advantages of watching anime on a streaming service is that you can watch it on demand, at any time you want. There are also advantages to watching anime during the premier broadcast though. The main advantage is that you’re watching it at the same time as everyone else. You get to feel all the emotions going through the show at the same time as all the other viewers. So there’s an advantage to each, whether that’s streaming or live broadcast on television. I believe that streaming and broadcasting can complement each other while providing synergistic effects.
With streaming services becoming more popular overseas, what are MAPPA’s plans for the future?
Kimura: We are looking into merchandising. In Japan, it is very easy to get goods based on the latest titles but that’s not the case abroad, so we’re also trying our best to export goods overseas so that overseas fans can access them just as quickly as the Japanese fans. We are also exploring using overseas media, especially on Twitter because it’s a source of information for us. We try to catch the opinions of fans on Twitter and consider those for our own decisions.
At the time of this interview, MAPPA is currently airing Chainsaw Man during the fall anime season of 2022. In addition, they’ve already announced five new series for 2023: “ATTACK ON TITAN” The Final Season Part 3, VINLAND SAGA SEASON 2, JUJUTSU KAISEN 2nd Season, Hell’s Paradise, and last but not least, Campfire Cooking in Another World with my Absurd Skill.
Needless to say, they have a lot on their plate but with their hard-working staff, and proven success with various IPs and genres, I’m sure they’ll do great. We thank MAPPA staff Manabu Otsuka, Makoto Kimura, and Yuichiro Hayashi for speaking to us in this interview, and can’t wait to see what they have in store in the future.