Written by Mari Okada
It has been one month since Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms opened. I have received many heartfelt messages from people who have seen it on Twitter, in blogs, illustrations, and letters. I am so happy and thankful to see all their reactions every day. There are some who have seen it multiple times, too. Thank you all so much.
The other day I went to see it by myself, at Wald 9.
Sound director Wakabayashi said to me, “you should see it from these seats around here. This is where you can hear the ideal sound.” It was incredible. The voices, the music, the sounds. All the loud and quiet sounds were perfectly balanced, reverberating in my mind.
Wakabayashi and everyone on the music team created delicate, subtle, and gripping soundscape. They found the perfect sounds for everything. Ariel crying as a baby was an actual baby, even when he cried out “mama”. Of course, the baby was probably actually saying “manma”, for “food” … Oh, what an instinctive word!
Kenji Kawai, who was in charge of the music, was introduced to the project by Wakabayashi. I totally admire Kawai, so I couldn’t believe he agreed to work on it. I was nervous at first, but he is so kind and easily responded to our silly requests. The music was perfect for every scene: sometimes bigger than the scene, sometimes taking a step back… the music brings out lots of emotion in the dramatic pacing.
The greatest thing I realized working with Wakabayashi, Kawai, and everyone on the music team was how flexible they all are.
It’s the same as with anyone in any section, but among people who are called “amazing”, there is no one that is haughty about it. As I worked with them, I started to understand why. Not only are they people of character, but they are always challenging anything before them. They are ambitious, and always uncovering more potential in themselves and the project. They never take the time to rest on their laurels. I really want to be like that.
To mention another movie for a moment, I’m reminded of a monologue I wrote for Ohana in another P.A. WORKS movie Hanasaku Iroha.
“Like the hotel manager taking pride in her work, working her hardest… kind of childlike… forever remembering how I felt at first, never forgetting my original dream… I want to be like that.”
So many on the staff were like Sui Shijima to me!
Even though this is the Maquia production blog, if you’ll allow me to drift off-topic for a bit… In Hanasaku Iroha, there is a ryokan called Fukuya that was modeled after a hotel called Shuhokaku. Shuhokaku closed on March 17th. It was a place full of wonderful memories for everyone who traveled to Yuwaku (hot spring). It’s a place I will never forget. Thank you so much for all the memories! They are my treasure!
Written by Mari Okada
Last winter, when Ishii and I were at our busiest, we started a “jersey club”. We would get to the office, take off our coats, and put on our jerseys and get to work. Ishii wore a Yomiyama North Middle School jersey, from Another. I was worried that something awful would happen to her when she put in on, but luckily, she was fine! I’m relieved. And my jersey was this one.
And it’s got my name embroidered! This is a Kissui-so jersey from those who supported Hanasaku Iroha. Filled with the spirit of Shijima, and with my name in gold on my back, I could approach my work with a spirit of never running away, never hiding!
There is one more thing that pumped me up: I mentioned it at the previews, but it’s Izor, as drawn by main animator Inoue! It’s so cool, and Ishii and I put a copy by the desk and would make excited comments about his jawline and forehead. In tough times, I would look up at Izor and be plagued by evil spirits…no, wait… a burning motivation.
When flipping through Inoue’s layouts and drawings, it felt like a new reality, and, no exaggeration, my pulse would quicken. I even exclaimed “wow!” out loud a few times. I was surprised at how much information you can express in a drawing. Like for example how Maquia runs. I made a general request, like “she is not very athletic when she runs”, but in Inoue’s drawings, you can see not just the way her hands move, or how she raises her head, but the wrinkles in her clothes as she limps! Determined a single-minded… just looking at the way she runs, you can understand a lot about Maquia.
In this movie, there are some… unique… girls. Quiet, sorrowful, sometimes violently emotional… all their scenes were helmed by Inoue. I hope you enjoy the dynamic movement condensed into this anime movie!
Written by Mari Okada
When writing a script, the director acts as a compass. You search for what the director is looking for, get their input, and make more drafts. Though there are struggles, the feeling you get when someone outside your perspective tells you “oh, this is great!” can only be found in the collaborative process. Sometimes, directors tell me, “just write whatever you like.” Truthfully, that is nerve-wracking no matter the director. There’s pressure because they put so much trust in me so I can’t just put in a half-hearted effort. But I can go forward knowing that if I turn in my best script, they will make wonderful animation… and the person that does that best is director Shinohara.
During interviews, I was often asked, “Why did you want to direct?” I have many reasons, but the person who encouraged me the most was Shinohara. He told me, “why not try directing?” and “if you direct I’ll help out”, so that gave me lots of courage to jump right in. But he meant not just as a supervisor, but as total director… I had misinterpreted again. How troublesome. But even though he was surprised and said “really!?”, he still joined the project.
As assistant director, Shinohara helped me a lot on this film as I had no experience as a director. Just like when I write a script and he tells me “make it however you like”, he came up with many methods that would make it easy for me to make decisions. He told me how to hold meetings for each section, how to make a storyboard, how to think as a director. His words made me see things and feel relieved many times. And in terms of animating. This movie has a lot of difficult cuts, and it was hard to figure out how to animate them as a director, but he helped me and handled many difficult cuts, even the storyboard scenes that he did not write.
I asked Shinohara not just to storyboard particular parts, but “every moment of Maquia and Ariel’s happiness”. There are many ways to interpret happiness, but Shinohara is a person who takes great care to build things up. In anime, you have to take care to build up things, which usually do not exist in the real world, as if they were there. That brings breadth and depth to the world in which characters live and gives temperature and breathing to the visuals. Refined, high-quality, and warm. I love the world that Shinohara creates.
When the project started, and Shinohara first called me “director”, I feel like I had made up my mind. Shinohara is the “father” of this film. So I hope I have imparted even a little bit of filial piety.
Written by Mari Okada
February 24th. Opening day of Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms.
It took 5 years since the initial project, and 3 years from when production started. Many people went to the theater to go see it. Thank you all so much!
On opening day, we appeared on stage in Shinjuku, Ueno, and Ikebukuro. Along with me were Iwami, Irino, and Kaji from the cast, rionos, who sang the theme song, and line producer and president Horikawa. It was so moving to hear them talk passionately about their memories working on the film. And seeing Iwami’s beautiful tears… it was all I could do to not run up and hug her!
Over a year before voice recording, we did a table read. Even though there was no footage, the cast performed freely, and the recording made that day was given to the animators, so they could make drawings based on those performances to get a sense of the direction and personalities of the characters. It is often said that the voice recording is the time when life is breathed into the characters, but this time the cast and animators came together at the same time to bring them to life. I was filled with many strange emotions as I listened to Ishii and Iwai talk during the preview tour.
The theme song is “Viator”. We received the demo version at the climax of production, but we all thought it was perfect for Maquia, and it gave us the energy we needed for the final push. Iwami and rionos’s voices are so different, but both seem to overlap quite nicely with Maquia.
Before release, I was asked “what is this film to you?” I had so many feelings about it that I couldn’t settle on just one answer. I discussed it with Horikawa, who said, “why don’t you just say, ‘it’s my Hibiol’?” Kind of an embarrassing answer, I thought at first, but it was actually quite fitting, so I used it.
The people of Iorph all weave a fabric called Hibiol.
This movie was weaved together thread by thread every day by the staff, cast, and everyone who helped out, all so that everyone would see it. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms is that Hibiol, in which each of you is engraved. And I would be so happy if you weave this movie into your own Hibiol!
Written by Mari Okada
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms was finished through the process of color grading. All the color balance is finalized, cut by cut. Through that work, you can really feel the passion of the staff in every little corner of every scene. Even though we’ve seen these pictures at each stage of the production, nevertheless seeing the completed version is overwhelming. We were blessed to have an amazing staff on this project.
The person we have to thank for putting together this amazing team is line producer and P.A. WORKS CEO Horikawa. There were a lot of people who joined the project because Horikawa was line producer. When he was checking the ending credits, he said to take a picture of him the moment “Director: Mari Okada” came up on the screen, so he continued waiting on the side of the screen. Watching his serious profile, I felt many things.
P.A. WORKS is based in Toyama. Horikawa’s office was in the Tokyo office until now, but with this as his last project, he will go back to the head office to focus on his duties as CEO.
Thinking about Horikawa, I remember always making him angry, ever since true tears. That’s why I wanted him as line producer on this film. I was going to be directing, and there were so many things I didn’t know, so I wanted someone there who could set me straight. And, just as I hoped, I upset him a lot. I could feel his earnestness, and though I took the heat, I stood up straight and knew I had to do it right. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms ended up a simple, conscientious, honest movie. And I think that’s all thanks to P.A., and especially Horikawa.
Right around the same time that production finished, Horikawa got a Shiba Inu and named it Koshimaru. After color-grading, when I was sad about being away from Horikawa and the staff, he would talk excitedly about the plans he had with Koshimaru… “I’m going to take him for walks along the rice fields every morning!” Come on, at least feel a little sad about having to say goodbye! But… oh, well, Koshimaru is just too cute.
I hope Horikawa always stays excited.
I’m counting on you, Koshimaru!
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms finally comes out tomorrow. We hope you will go on the journey with Maquia, Ariel, and the others, even as we let them go to run off on their own!
――The release of Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms is approaching.
HORIKAWA: In this production, I wanted to see characters that are not easy to understand. And the character of Maquia is understood in different ways by different people. In a meeting with director Okada, she explained, “I would like to make this kind of movie”. But in this movie, the staff does not take her explanation at her word. “Okada said that, but how about me? How should I think about this movie?” They were making this movie, thinking like that. So there is director Okada’s vision of Maquia, and then all of our individual visions of her, and various interesting things can come out of that, and through that director Okada may probably see things about the character that she didn’t realize before.
――What do you mean by “characters that are not easy to understand”?
HORIKAWA: In a TV series, you have several different script writers on the project, so you have to have consensus on the characters, like, “this person is such and such a person”. When you do that, you can’t really express those inscrutable parts of humanity. Of course, the situation is different if it’s something based on a novel, like The Eccentric Family, and I wonder if it’s possible to do with an original anime project. But if someone doesn’t have that inside them it can be hard to depict. Like, “if you dig deeper into this person, you’ll find a bottomless well of stuff”. I felt Director Okada has that sort of thing, which is why I said that I wanted to see something that is “100% Mari Okada”.
――Was the scriptwriting process smooth?
HORIKAWA: The script was pretty much in its final form right from the beginning. Yes, of course there were changes, but we didn’t do anything like, “this is difficult to understand, so make it easier to understand”. Instead, the staff, following director Okada’s explanation, would each approach their own interpretation. And what was interesting is that assistant director (Toshiya) Shinohara and core director (Tadashi) Hiramatsu wouldn’t go to director Okada for confirmation on every little thing. They would just say, “let me know if it’s wrong!”
――Background art director Kazuki Higashiji said that he had a hard time grasping the character of Maquia.
HORIKAWA: Yes, but we definitely welcomed anyone trying to wrestle with it. He’s the kind of person who will grapple with the world of a project as much as he can. So it’s not good to just let it be. You have to understand that everyone wrestled with it exactly because they think the movie is very important to them.
――How was the reaction to the previews?
HORIKAWA: There were a lot of people who reflected the movie onto their own lives, remembering things about being a parent or being a child. But that is different for everyone, so in a quiet movie like this, for people to re-discover their own precious connections with others, was really interesting.
――You have decided that this movie would be the last one in which you engage in the production site yourself as a producer. Is that true?
HORIKAWA: Yes, it is. So, when we had the reading session and I could see the complete vision of this movie, I really appreciated that this script will be my last movie. This was a challenging work to end my career as a producer.
Kenji Horikawa,P.A. WORKS president & CEO. Produced works such as true tears, Hanasaku Iroha, The Eccentric Family, SHIROBAKO, and more.
――What was your first impression of the project?
IRINO: It’s a fantasy, so at the audition I thought there was a lot of difficult fantasy jargon. After that, the main cast got together for a table-read. I had already received the script, and I was moved by it, and was sure it would be very interesting!
――Were there any emotions you felt typical of Okada in the script?
IRINO: I’m not familiar with every project she has done, so I can’t say with much certainty… but the dialogue is very straightforward, and I was struck with how harsh it could be. It is a very Okada-like world.
――How did you feel about working under Okada’s first directorial work?
IRINO: It was an interesting thing to try. It’s a big decision to direct, and it’s a difficult job, but I really got the sense at the recording sessions that she was really doing her best to create something interesting.
――The movie hinges on the relationship between the long-living Maquia and the human Ariel.
IRINO: The fantasy aspect of the relationship between a human and a member of a race that lives a long time was depicted very realistically by Okada, so there were so many parts about the role I could relate to. There are some lines of dialogue that Ariel has about his relationship with Maquia, and two lines in particular sum up their entire relationship. I thought, this is unconditional love. I really hope a lot of people come see this movie.
Miyu Irino (junction management). Known for voice roles in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (Saji Crossroad), Anohana (Jinta Yadomi), Code Geass: Akito the Exiled (Akito Hyuga), The Garden of Words (Takao), A Silent Voice (Shoya Ishida), and more.
Written by Mari Okada
Horikawa answers often-asked questions on Twitter, so I’d like to answer one as well.
“Your works often have long titles. Why is that?”
What a great question! A great question, but a difficult and painful one… That’s because basically, for titles of original projects, the staff meets during discussion of the scenario and gives out many ideas before deciding. There are actually only three titles I came up with all by myself (one of them being P.A WORKS’ Nagi no Asukara). Yes, that’s right: the titles I come up with are never chosen! I have a long history of failure!
For example, when I worked on the P.A. series Hanasaku Iroha. I love the title, but it was an idea from Tatsuto Higuchi, who helped on the script. Thank you Higuchi for the wonderful title! Give me some of your good sense for naming things!!
Anyway, I am really bad at coming up with titles. I couldn’t think of one for this project either. It was just a temporary name, but I thought for a while, just Maquia is fine… But the promotional team said: “Okada, your works always have long titles, so please think of anoher title”. Aaaahhh!
Long titles are hard, and it took a lot of grumbling, and talks with the staff, and we missed the deadline. I had no idea what to do, so I asked the promotional team if we could hold a meeting to decide the title. We wrote a lot of options on the whiteboard, but there wasn’t anything that everyone agreed on, so we instead came up with several keywords we wanted to use for the title.
I thought of the world “promise”. A promise is a beautiful thing, but it can also restrain you, or someone else. They can be shackles, or provide a sense of safety. A promise has plusses and minuses, but can also be a source of support.
Combining it with the words the promotional team came up with and mixing them around, we finally settled on “When the Promised Flower Blooms”. It is a title of great importance. The promotional team did such a great job during the preview tour. I didn’t have a lot of contact with them during production, but I got to know all of them individually during the preview tour, and was so happy to learn more about their passion for the project. I hope we get to work together more in the future!
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms
When we finally decided the title, we were overjoyed and pasted it on the wall, and Ishii drew a picture on it for us. I’m so glad Maquia and Onora look very happy… Sorry it took so long! Oh, and give our regards to the King as well.
――How did you feel when you were selected to play Maquia?
IWAMI: I thought for sure I wouldn’t pass the audition, so I was really surprised. I wanted to get into voice acting because of Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, written by Mari Okada, the director of this movie. Plus, Miyu Irino and Ai Kayano were going to be in it, and they were also in Anohana. So it was a dream come true.
――I hear that before doing the voice-over, the main cast got together and read through the script at a table read.
IWAMI: It was the first time I had done that. They didn’t just want to get a feel for the acting, but they also said that they wanted to film our facial expressions as reference for the storyboards, so there were cameras filming during the read-through. I was really unused to everything and really nervous at the time, but Mr. Irino gave me some good advice and with that I was able to get through it somehow. That desperation I felt was very similar to the character of Maquia, so director Okada told me it was fine just like that, so I was able to perform somewhat.
――There was an entire year between the read-through and the recording, right?
IWAMI: I had no confidence in my audition, so I knew that I had to grow and improve until the recording. So I was thankful that I had a lot of time to think deeply about the role and get the right image in my head. On the other hand, there was so much time that I changed a lot, and I sometimes second-guessed myself, thinking like “oh, I was better at the audition, what should I do?”
――Maquia is from Iorph and thus has a long lifespan, so she does not change much visually, correct?
IWAMI: Yes. That was difficult to portray. In the story, Maquia is a mother of sorts to Ariel, but she always looks like a young girl. So if you aren’t careful, she’ll always seem like a young girl. So director Okada told me to maintain her as having strong maternal thoughts.
――What kind of movie is Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms to you?
IWAMI: First, it’s a story about Maquia’s growth. Through that, and through life and death, parent and child, and through the flow of time, you begin to see what is really important. When you first see it you may be surprised by the sheer scale of the world, and not be able to come to grips with the emotions. I think some people’s lives will be changed by this movie, so I hope this movie resonates with many people.
Manaka Iwami (Pro-Fit management). Known for her voice work in Tada Never Falls in Love (Teresa Wagner), Gamers! (Chiaki Hoshinomori), Children of the Whales (Lykos), and more.
Written by Mari Okada
February 13th, Shinjuku Wald 9. This was the last stop on the tour. Thanks to everyone who came!
This time, I was with Iwami, who provided the voice of Maquia. Pure, gentle, awkward, single-minded… Iwami used these qualities in her voice to bring out the character of Maquia. She’s a great voice actress.
As mentioned during the talk, the reason I directed this movie was because Horikawa said that he wanted to see a movie that was “100% Mari Okada”, and I guess I misconstrued his words to suit my own purpose. But it would be completely wrong to say that Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms is 100% me. No matter the edit, the movie is overflowing with the staff’s passion and talent. It’s impossible to say how many people helped to create the final cut, and how much of themselves they put into the work. With the support of assistant director Shinohara, the staff completed this movie with great care. Anime is a team effort, so it is not 100% any one person. Everyone made this movie; it is everyone’s.
Even though I’m not a great director by any means, I was very happy to be able to greet everyone as representative of the entire staff. I look forward to seeing even more people as the film is released, and I’ll keep going!
Written by Mari Okada
The preview tour continues on: in Hakata on February 6th, Osaka on the 8th, and Nagoya and Shizuoka on the 9th. Thank you to everyone who braved the cold to come be with us! It was so nice to meet everyone!
In Hakata, I was with character designer and chief animation director Ishii.
Our seats were sectioned off from the other staff by a shelf. So not only were we hidden from everyone else, but we could get in some exercise, talk about nothing… and even though the film wasn’t completed yet, start making another story for the characters (especially the boys), and had a lot of fun with background artist Waba too.
Ishii said during production that her drawings kept changing, but… it was a good change. The characters seem to mature along with the changes in her art, making them into living things. Currently, Ishii is working on a copyrighted work, but every time she finishes a drawing, Higashiji and Kitsunai are always excited, saying that the gods have descended upon her.
In Osaka, Horikawa who is always with me, came down with the flu… I am very sorry to everyone who was hoping to see him. He always works so hard, and maybe pushed himself to the limit before we knew it. Maybe it’s best he takes a little time to rest…
For Nagoya and Shizuoka, I was with core director Hiramatsu.
Hiramatsu was the “Tora-san” of this production. He would come in like the wind, and leave like the wind, but he always delivered high quality! In the push to the end, he was passionate and raised the bar, never compromising.
Hiramatsu was responsible for the big turning point of the story. Maquia and Ariel’s relationship goes through a huge change. Hiramatsu’s storyboards and layouts have lines of flow that draw your eyes through the action. They are delicate but dynamic and moving. I hope you will watch out for it.
I want to write even more about all the staff that worked on the movie!
…but if I do I would have to mention some spoilers, so I’ll hammer those out once Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms is released.
Hello everyone! This is Tadashi Hiramatsu.
I was the core director and animation director for Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms.
First, I’d like to explain what a “core director” is, as you have probably not heard much about that position.
At first, Horikawa asked me to be in charge of storyboards and animation director, but after a while, I was asked to be animation director, and then design a few sub-characters… and my work grew. As production went on, I was asked to give some ideas to director Okada and Shinohara on how to improve the rush check work, even though it wasn’t part of my job (“rush check” is checking the actual filmed footage and making notes on any changes). As they say, too many captains will steer the ship up a mountain, (though in anime you might have a ghost ship or flying airship that can actually climb mountains), and nothing good would happen. So, I was responsible for technical things only, but in the end I worked on a wide range of tasks. Toward the end, Horikawa told me “I want to give you an actual job title, not just “animation director.” So after a lot of discussion, we settled on “core director”. Woo-hoo!
So, this is less of an interview and more like an essay. That said, if I just write my own thoughts the focus might be quite narrow, so instead, I had the production deskman Kitsunai, who has been such a big help from the beginning to end of production on Maquia, compile some questions. He came up with 4 questions, and I’ve answered them below.
So, here we go, one by one.
Q-1: How did you feel about working with director Okada?
It was the first time to work with her, but it was easy to work with her as everything from the story to the characters to the message was so clear. On the other hand, it’s not like all those elements come together quickly, and we would talk a lot and I would get hints from those conversations. It wasn’t always easy, because there aren’t always specific answers; it’s more like a subconscious feeling of “eureka!” So at first it was slightly confusing, but it became more and more interesting as it went along. That’s how production goes, you find new discoveries as you go along.
Q-2: How did you feel when you first read the script?
I had never worked on animation in the fantasy genre before, so I wasn’t sure if I could do it or not. I am trying to avoid spoilers here, but elements in the script overlapped with things I am interested in, and I was attracted to the characters, so the more I read it the less I worried.
Horikawa gave me a job which is the middle of the story called a slump where the audience becomes bored. It’s something necessary for any story, and I thought, wow, Horikawa really understands my interests, and I was able to visualize the imagery from the first time reading it.
Q-3: In terms of your work as animation director, did you have any particular expressions you wanted to focus on?
The part I was in charge of was the town with the large stone water mill you can see a little bit in the promotion video. It was completely different and interesting after what comes before, that is, Iorph and Mezarte, and it was interesting to depict the changes in the relationship between Maquia and Ariel. The most interesting thing about directing is depicting the changes in the relationship and emotions between people. My main focus was on how to convey that.
Q-4: What do you think is the thing people should look out for in this movie?
All of it.
No, wait… let’s narrow it down a bit.
There are so many interesting scenes, but taking the entire movie into consideration, I think it’s interesting to compare the things that change drastically over time, and the things that do not change at all. You may not realize it after just seeing the movie once. But among all the change in the environment, between people, between seasons–sometimes violently so–what things never change no matter how much time has passed? Are they even tangible? I think this is the main thing to look out for in this movie. …or, rather, all of it!
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms is a film created through the hard work of everyone at P.A.WORKS, from the young new staff to old-timers like Toshiyuki Inoue and me (?). The art is beautiful, the music is wonderful. The filming and sound effects are delicate, and Yuriko Ishii’s character designs are so fresh you can almost smell them.
I hope you come to the theater and follow the scents of Maquia and Leilia, and their lives! Let’s experience it together!
――What was your first impression of the project?
OKADA: When I heard that Mari Okada was directing, even though I knew it was her first time directing, I knew the script would be great. I was pretty lucky to get this job, I thought! (laughs) I love fantasy, so it was a no-brainer.
――What orders did you get about the world and setting?
OKADA: I started with Iorph, Maquia’s homeland. Director Okada told me that it is a place that stands on its own separated from the rest of the world, but she was still unsure how to visualize it on film. I came up with several ideas on how it should look, and while waiting for a response, I started working on the art for the Mezarte palace and the metal town of Dorail. At first I had two ideas for Mezarte, but one was too rugged and overlapped with Dorail a bit. So I emphasized the gothic atmosphere of Mezarte, with steeples, and lots of ornamental designs. To contrast, I made Dorail feel much more rugged.
――Iorph ended up feeling very mysterious.
OKADA: The image was of many buildings carved out of limestone over many years. The people of Iorph live for a long time, so I imagined it as a residential area created very diligently. They aren’t buildings built in an industrial manner, so there are lots of curves in various places.
――Helm, where Maquia and Ariel live, also has lots of curved lines.
OKADA: For Helm, we started with a hint of art nouveau, and tried to stick closer to nature. The image is to use tree trunks as columns, and branches for beams, and the buildings on farms have a tendency to be inclined. So, when I drew the settings, I felt like I made mistakes about the perspective drawings and modified them unnecessarily and unknowingly. I had a hard time with the perspective drawings.
――There is always a lot of information in background art. Did you stay conscious that it was a movie?
OKADA: Of course, it is a movie, but I wanted to make sure that all the information means something. For example, the ornamentation in Mezarte shows that it is a very rich land. Through these things, I think that all the information in the backgrounds helps to touch the audience. So, I hope the backgrounds of this movie play the role to bring much bigger impression to the audience.
Tomoaki Okada, known for works such as Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos (art concept design/art director), Kuromukuro (visual concept, mech design), Gundam Reconguista in G (art director) and more.
Written by Mari Okada
The private preview on February 2nd took place in Niigata.
It was snowing in Tokyo, but it was bright and sunny in Niigata. Everyone who came to the preview was so lovely! My nervousness was in full force for some reason that day, but I was happy to spend time with everyone. Thank you so much.
Since it was Niigata, I was hoping to buy some sake on the way home, but the theater staff gave us some as a present. Yes, I can drink a lot!
I got some sake, so what should I buy as a souvenir?
Maquia the Promoter told me the most recommended Niigata souvenir, Kaki no Tane!
Kaki no Tane! Roadshow on February 2nd, 2018.
▲The promotional helper Maquia, as drawn by Yuriko Ishii
Maquia, what a nice choice!
Per her recommendation, I bought white chocolate kaki no tane.
This promotional helper Maquia was an animation which Mr. Kitsunai, the deskman of this movie, originally drew the picture and moved it. “When the work for this movie is over, my dream is for Ms. Ishii to draw a picture for me!” he said. Just as he wished, she drew a picture for him. How cute.
It’s great your dream came true, Mr. Kitsunai!
The movie will be released on February 2nd!!. Please go see it!
▲Ryota Kitsunai’s version of promotional helper, Maquia
――Tell us your first impression of Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms.
HIGASHIJI: To be honest, my first thought was “What, really?!” (laughs) Before I even knew about the project, I got an offer directly from director Okada, and I thought, if she’s in charge, I’d love to join. I was under the impression it would be a modern drama, and I didn’t learn the truth until later. When I heard it was a straight-up fantasy story, that’s what I thought, “what, really?!” (laughs).
――Why did you think that?
HIGASHIJI: I remember director Okada telling me that people of our generation got into fantasy through games like Dragon Quest. But I thought, yes, it’s true and I played those games, but it’s different from drawing fantasy for practical purposes. Also, the way I saw it was, it’s a lot easier for people to relate to things set in modern times. A school classroom, a vending machine on the way home… viewers can remember these things from their own lives. But not with fantasy. I thought, wow, I’ve really taken on something huge. And for a while, I couldn’t get a grasp on Maquia as a character. I even sat down with director Okada and complained about all the things I didn’t understand about the character. So, for some time, I had a hard time drawing.
HIGASHIJI: There were a few things that sparked the change, and one of them was sitting in on a table read. In a table read, the main cast comes together and take 2 hours to read through the script from the beginning. Director Okada asked me to sit in, so I did, and the first thing that struck me was the high energy from the cast. And then when they were done, everyone was crying. Then for about an hour everyone talked about the script. Seeing that, I thought, this is probably a really great piece of work. Then I remember apologizing to Okada for complaining. Another thing was a bit later, when I was telling Okada about all the doubts I had about Maquia as a character. She said to me, “It’s hard for her too!” and I noticed that I saw this story from Ariel’s perspective, which changed my approach a lot.
――――How did you feel about being a part of the project?
HIGASHIJI: Regarding the art direction… if I was a piano, and I was only making music with half the keys, Okada wanted me to use all 88. Being so close to the heat source that is director Okada, I felt like I was able to do good work using that heat.
Kazuki Higashiji, art director on works like AngelBeats!, Hanasaku Iroha, TARI TARI, and Nagi no Asukara
Written by Mari Okada
The preview tour has also reached a turning point.
We went to Hiroshima with art director Higashiji. Even though I can never shake off my nervousness completely, Higashiji said “leave it to me this time!” and even prepared his outfit himself. Higashiji is already so dependable not only at work, but also in this kind of situation!
On the event schedule is written “please do some crosstalk”, and while having a friendly chat with Higashiji I feel like I finally understand how to do that. I’ve leveled up! I feel like I have inherited some of his skills.
It took place in a small theater that felt like home, with a seating that is arranged in sloping tiers, so even though I have bad eyesight I was able to see everyone’s smiling faces. Thank you to everyone in Hiroshima who welcomed us so warmly.
We mentioned it at the preview, Higashiji is very famous for the color of blue, but I really like his use of black. There is a warmth in the way he expresses darkness. Among the many great examples of darkness, this is my favorite cut.
There is a sense of warmth to the black. You really get the feeling that this is a place you can rest easily. It is almost impossible to express in words all the things that this scene shows. Because Higashiji was a part of this project, I thought I would take on the challenge of writing the script keeping the background scenery in mind. I hope you will keep an eye out for it!
We had so many brilliant staff on the background art team. With the drawing animation, people imagine and talk about who drew this character in this cut. But with the backgrounds, everyone in charge of backgrounds has a great sense of individuality. When checking the background art, I started to be able to guess who drew what. When I confirmed my guesses with Higashiji and found out that I was right, I felt pretty proud of myself.
――There are a lot of scenes of daily life in Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms.
ISHII: Yes, there are. You need a lot of original images if you want to show natural movement, so the animators worked very hard. When checking the work, director Okada often said, “I want there to be more movement like this”. With actions we see every day, like “sitting in a chair” or “holding something”, if it’s not done right it looks strange. Also, we were very eager because it was going to be a theatrical film.
――When did you first meet director Okada?
ISHII: The first time I met her in person was location scouting for Hanasaku Iroha. But since then we didn’t have a lot of time to speak face to face, maybe just a few days location scouting for another job. This time, working with her in the same space, seeing her powerful script, I felt like I saw another side of her. It’s like there’s a little girl inside an adult. For example, she would draw caricatures of me during work (laughs). I put it on the side of my desk. When I would get frustrated, I would just look at the caricature and think, “don’t forget to smile”.
――What was your working relationship with director Okada?
ISHII: As chief animation director, I am responsible for making the characters expressive. So, there were a lot of times when director Okada had very particular notes. For example, like “the face is not that angry, but there is a lot of different emotions within them”. Director Okada is very particular about delicate emotional expressions. She sat close to me, so if I was drawing and still couldn’t figure it out, I could ask her, and then was able to better grasp the expression.
――What do you think about the character Maquia?
ISHII: I was moved when I first read the script, but I don’t think I really understood her as a character at that point. In my work up until now, I sort the character individuality into categories and I draw the character’s expressions based on that, but I felt like that wouldn’t really work for the character of Maquia. On the other hand, that’s not to say that I understood how Maquia would feel. Instead, I approached it from the position of myself, walking alongside Maquia, wondering what kind of face she would be making at a particular moment, and then drew her expression with that distance between us. I hope that people can feel all the different emotions of the characters as they watch the movie.
Yuriko Ishii’s main works include Hanasaku Iroha (main animator), Another, Nagi no Asukara, and Kuromukuro (character design and chief animation director for all three).
Written by Mari Okada
January 25th and 26th of the preview tour.
We went to Sendai in Miyagi prefecture, and Sapporo in Hokkaido.
Both days were full of snow, snow, and more snow. The wind was really strong too, so I hope everyone’s okay.
I wanted to see everyone, but I didn’t want anyone to overexert themselves…
I was worried, but in the end a lot of people came to see it.
Everyone in Sendai listened to our talk with smiles on their faces.
I wish everyone on staff could see those smiling faces!
In Sapporo, the screen was huge and the theater was very big.
I was so nervous my mind went blank several times,
but everyone listened to my not well-organized story very intently.
A big thank you to everyone in Sendai and Sapporo. I hope you were all able to return home safely.
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms.
Please write your impressions here.
I hope I can have this after the screenings are over…
Speaking of Miyagi and Hokkaido, the food is very good.
In Sendai I had beef tongue. So powerfully delicious… the best flavor can be found in the place it’s most famous!
Mr. Horikawa really liked the miso, so he bought some at the airport.
In Hokkaido… well, I really love ramen.
In Chitose airport, it was like a switch was turned on inside me, so I had shrimp miso ramen, miso butter corn ramen, and a half-portion of soy-sauce ramen, and ate them all no problem.
I don’t have much of a stomach for sweets, but I do have one for more ramen!
I don’t think I’ll step on a scale for a while, and keep my eyes firmly turned away from reality.
――Maquia is finished, at last.
SHINOHARA: The previews have already begun, but I haven’t seen the final cut yet. I wonder when I’ll be able to see it! (laughs)
At first, I thought that if Mari Okada was going to direct, it would be best for her to do a TV series, but when I heard it was a movie I was a bit flustered. With TV, the longest a production will go is about a year and a half, but this time, it took over three and a half years from the first meeting! As someone in the midst of old age, director Okada says, I had some complicated feelings. (laughs)
――What is it like being assistant director?
SHINOHARA: My job is to support director Okada from behind. For this film, I provided assistance and support for general production.
――As an assistant?
SHINOHARA: I listen to the general idea of what the director wants to do, and try to put it into practice more specifically, like an on-site director I suppose. I tried to present several different options, without mixing in my own opinion, and have director Okada make the decision. It’s very rare for anime we have worked on to have one person do everything. I direct myself, but I don’t draw or write scripts, and I can’t even begin to think about directing music or sound effects. But the director can do all that thanks to the hard work of all the staff. And as for director Okada, first she writes the script, and she has a clear view of the whole world and all the characters. After that, as long as there is a staff who can provide practical support, we can create a movie with a vision that is “100% Mari Okada”, as producer Kenji Horikawa conceived.
――What did you think of Mari Okada as a script writer?
SHINOHARA: I’ve been working with director Okada as she has written scenarios for 12 or 13 years now, but even now I think she is a script writer with a bottomless well of talent. I’ve only seen a small piece of it, but she can do everything: draw great characters, have great ideas, create good stories, and write amazing dialogue that grabs hold of your heart. Especially regarding the balance of the organization, it’s like a skilled, mobile worker. By mobile, I mean that if you take a weight off one aspect, you have to attach a similar weight to another one or else the balance falls apart. She is very good at knowing where to place what kind of weight so there is nothing extra and nothing lacking in the story overall.
――Can you say something to all the fans waiting for this movie to be released?
SHINOHARA: Among the staff, there were many different feelings about Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms. I think that’s because the film seems to change depending on whose perspective you choose to follow, and what is most important. So I hope that people see it not just once, but two or three times, so you can find something new every time. As a creator, I hope you find something that touches your heartstrings even a little bit.
Toshiya Shinohara: director known for Black Butler, Tatakau Shisho, Nagi no Asukara, and more.
Written by Mari Okada
January 22nd and 23rd: “The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country” (by Y. Kawabata). But we didn’t need to get through the tunnel, because the whole place was already covered with snow.
The nationwide private preview tour for Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms has begun.
Black roof tiles look like solemn ink paintings against the white mountain peaks.
Toyama, the home of true tears, and the first loves of Noe, Hiromi, and Aiko…
It’s a lively city, with plenty of history.
Kanazawa, where Ohana and friends followed their dreams, learning about tradition in the TV-anime Hanasaku Iroha…
…it sounds like I’m writing a travel guide.
The screening tour started in Toyama and Kanazawa, which are places important to P.A. WORKS and myself.
We hope everyone enjoys Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms.
The entire staff has worked very hard for this day.
So I have to take charge and represent the feelings of the entire staff…
but my nerves are catching up to me, and my stomach is doing flips.
But when it’s time to get on stage to talk, all that nervousness goes away!
…sorry, that’s an exaggeration. I was nervous, but luckily, I was much happier.
Everyone who came to the previews welcomed us warmly.
Everyone also had very kind thoughts about the movie.
Even though I have been somewhat excited from the beginning, now I feel like I’m going to lose my mind…!
Thanks to everyone who came out even in the face of bad weather.
Every single one of your words are like treasure to me.
I came to like my mother very much.
Mother and child, always getting along.
Next is Sendai, and then Hokkaido.
To everyone who will be attending, it is expected to be very cold on those days, so please stay warm!
I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.
Written by Mari Okada
This is the room where the freelance staff on Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms gathered together. We called it the Maquia room.
The main work done in this room is already over, so it’s quite empty.
Up until quite recently, they fought quiet but intense battles over and over… But now, it’s the complete opposite, so somehow, I feel strange…
It’s sad that it’s over… but also a relief… actually, mostly sad.
Usually, I did work on the script at home.
I don’t play music when I work, so my office was just me and the sound of my keyboard.
But the Maquia room was different.
The sounds of pencils scribbling, of drawing paper flipping…
And when it was time for me to check the work, I became part of the noise too…
It’s a little poetic I think.
I have the assistant director, Shinohara, quite a shock when he saw my handwritten notes… “I can’t believe her handwriting is so bad…”
…maybe I’ll take up calligraphy.
It’s already checked. Please take it with you.
A message to the production staff after I checked their work.
I sometimes add playful little pictures…
This is a loving (?) collaboration between myself and chief animation director Ishii.
Even at times like this, my handwriting is really bad.
Written by Mari Okada
Hello everyone. This is Mari Okada.
Starting from today, I will be taking helm of the Maquia production blog.
It has already been 3 years since work on Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms began. Last year around this time, I went to the Toyama head office in order to attend a crammed animation meeting. The P.A. office and the animators held meetings over each cut, and this meeting was, how can I say, very quiet but filled with an uplifting feeling.
You may know many of the names from P.A. films, books, and credits, but there will be a lot of people who will be speaking out for the first time. Like, this person draws sharp pictures, but they are actually quite calm… or, that person is actually quite a happy young lady… We know these people first from their art, and then enjoy learning about them as people.
The first time I visited the new building, it was really nice, and felt like a school. I had a good meal at the employee cafeteria, and it felt like a tasty school lunch. Strange, considering I used to hate the school lunches in elementary school. I was often left in the back of the classroom, until cleaning time.
“How did you grow up to be like this?!”
….which is also a line from the film.
It’s a nonchalant scene, but there are so many moving animation frames in it.
I’d like to use this space to ramble on about things, so please look forward to it.