Ranpo Kitan Roundtable (Kai-You)

In late July, director Kishi Seiji, actress Takahashi Rie, musician Sayuri, and animator Shiraishi Keiko participated in a round-table discussion with Kai-You reporter Yoshida Yuuya to promote and discuss aspects of the show. I found it interesting and decided to take a little time and translate the thing. Of particular interest to me was Shirashi’s comments on the last page about how she used 8mm film to shoot the ending, which resulted in the animation’s antiquated aspect ratio. It’s also an amusing consequence of the roundtable to see Sayuri, who’s in the roundtable as the ED artist and doesn’t typically handle anime production, provide some of her basic observations as a viewer that the anime talent can elaborate on.

The other main purpose of this article, especially evident on the third page, appears to be to drum up interest for a live ustream/nico broadcast of Sayuri’s “Suffocating Girl Sayuri; The Parallel Laboratory of Dawn ~Anime Version~ supported by 2.5D and Kai-You” program, which aired on July 30th. Said program features guest appearances by Takahashi, Kishi, and YKBX (illustrator of Mikazuki’s album cover, whose pictures appear in the original article) and airs another episode on August 26th.

Original Interview: http://kai-you.net/article/19239


“Ranpo Kitan” Roundtable with the Director, Voice Actress, and ED Artists
Behind the Beautiful Madness Drawn in a Shocking Manner

<Page 1>

photo caption: “Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace” special round table / from the left, Kishi Seiji, Takahashi Rie, Sayuri, Shiraishi Keiko

50 years since the death of this outstanding Japanese author, a proposal was made to turn the phantasmagoric world of Edogawa Ranpo’s works into an original anime, Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace, which is, as of July, currently airing on Fuji TV’s noitaminA block.

During the show, works like “The Human Chair”, “The Shadow Man”, “The Man of Twenty Faces”, and “The Strange Tale of Panorama Island”, stories with a strange yet addictive beauty are tuned to suit the modern age, and depicted via shocking images carrying an air of beauty.

On top of that, one of the key characters, Kobayashi, hides madness behind his mysterious charm, and in doing so enhances the atmosphere of the work.

This time, in order to better express thoughts on the complex world of Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace which can’t be put so simply into words, we’re holding a special round table.

In addition to the director, Kishi Seiji-san, and the voice actress playing the role of Kobayashi, Takahashi Rie, we also have the one who created the ending animation, Shiraishi Keiko-san, and also the female singer-songwriter Sayuri-san, who’s making her major debut with the ending theme, Mikazuki, that’s going on sale August 26, all here to share stores and make Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace still more interesting.

Interviewer: Yoshida Yuuya/Text: Yuta Onda

Title: Shocking Entertainement based around bringing Edogawa Ranpo’s madness into the modern age

Interviewer: The series has been broadcasting since July, so what do you think of the response so far?
*At the time of the roundtable, episode 3 had recently aired.

Kishi: “What’s up with this anime?” “It’s crazy!”, well, there are a lot of differing opinions, but the people who have seen it don’t ignore it, and it always gives rise to some sort of reaction, so that’s an encouraging response to a TV program.

Sayuri: I personally thought it was crazy. (laughs) Speaking for myself, I like bloody and grotesque things, so sometimes I go looking into them myself. That’s why when in episode one (“Human Chair (First Part)”), when I saw the corpse that had been arranged into a chair, I went “Kyun!” to myself. (laughs) And then, there’s Kobayashi collapsed next to the corpse holding a weapon, right? You’ve got this really cute Kobayashi in front of a corpse holding a weapon. That sense of unbalance was quite exquisite, it was right down the middle of my strike zone. (laughs)

Takahashi: That part!?

Kishi: Well, just what I’d expect. (laughs) Actually, you’re just the type of curious person we wanted the work to latch onto, I think. One of the goals we had with this project was “to deliver shocks”, so I’m really happy to hear we got a response we were aiming for. After the broadcast ends, I’m hoping we hear things like “that series was seriously messed up”. (laughs)

Sayuri: I liked Edogawa Ranpo-san’s works from a while back, they’re more distasteful than they are grim, it’s literature with a strange feel to it. That sort of work where a twisted conclusion brings salvation, I don’t think you find the same degree of that anywhere else.

Kishi: The works of Edogawa Ranpo-san, they have these erotic/grotesque and alluring natures, and they’ve picked up this image of emphasizing the bright side of perversion and madness, and there is all that, but if I had to express them all in one word I’d say I think that word is “madness”. So when talking about Ranpo Kitan, we’ve decided to take up that “madness” of his in particular. Well, I get the feeling that Kobayashi is the one shouldering most of it. (laughs)

Title: Kobayshi is me?

Sayuri: Koboyashi is my favorite character, and honestly there were a lot of points where I sympathized with him to the extent that I was like “Are you me?”

Takahashi: Among people who have seen Ranpo Kitan, sympathy with Kobayashi is a sentiment I haven’t heard much; it’s quite refreshing!

Sayuri: Normally, I have this weak sense of feeling alive, so every day I like to take a look at a map and investigate places along the roads I travel.

When I investigate those buildings, sometimes there are unexpected facts that come to light, like “This was the site of a murder”, and I mix what actually happened with my own imagination, I turn buildings with no relation to me into buildings that do have a relation to me. By doing that, I begin feel more alive.

This part of me really originated back in middle school, when my relationships with people weren’t going particularly well, so I began to wonder about Kobayashi’s gender-neutral clothing and air of madness, if these were perhaps due to a negative past Kobayashi had experienced, or if, like me, he had a weak sense of being alive; I speculated on all this myself.

Kishi: Many bits may still be mysterious at the moment, but just wait a little while longer. I’m sure you’ll see a Kobayashi that won’t betray your expectations. (laughs)

Takahashi: Actually, when a saw a drawing of Kobayashi at the audition, he had more of a cool atmosphere than he does now, if you had to say, he left the impression of being cool. But when I actually tried out that voice, I was told to “make it cuter”.

As a result, he became cuter than I had imagined. Thinking back on it now, it felt like putting emphasis on the cuteness really completed the character.

I: Sayuri-san said this earlier, but you sometimes glimpse at this ominous air of madness within Kobayashi.

Takahashi: When I play Kobayashi, I don’t try to depict that “madness”, or to deliberately scare people; in fact, I think I may be consciously trying not to show that madness when I talk.

But because of that conscious effort, Kobayashi’s bright and refreshing nature, his innocent traits, they mix up with this mental sense of “madness”, and associate into this uncomfortable, warped feeling within people, I think.

It may feel upsetting and they may come to hate it. But I’m fine if they hate it, so long as they acknowledge the fact that Kobayashi is there.

<Page 2>

Title: Nobody remembers the voice of some random stranger

Shiraishi: When I saw both parts of Human Chair, what I thought was new and interesting was, in most detective stories I’ve previously seen, you see the characters and wonder “who’s the culprit?”, while in Ranpo Kitan, it’s when Kobayashi becomes interested in the character that that person becomes visible.

Kishi: This is a bit extreme, but do you remember the faces of people you pass by on the street? It’s the same sort of thing. You don’t remember the face of some random person you met yesterday, and things that don’t interest you just don’t interest you. Kobayashi’s nature originates from those ideas; we inserted it as a natural aspect of his personality, and built the character up from there.

Sayuri: And here I was sure that that aspect was inserted afterwards.

Kishi: We weren’t trying to make him be that way, he was that way and unique because of it. But it is something everyone feels to some extent. You don’t remember the faces of people who don’t interest you. When Sayuri-san said earlier that she sympathized with Kobayashi, I thought it was an unusually honest response.

Sayuri: I’ve still only seen up to episode 2, but I really love the line “Even if I continue living like I have ’til now, there’s no point to it.”  It’s like there was sadness in the way he acted and spoke, not that he was gloomy, but there was this feeling that he was holding back somehow, and was now captivated by these mysterious circumstances.

That’s why I wanted to ask the real Kobayashi some things now that I’ve seen you in the flesh. (laughs)

Takahashi: I’m really happy to hear that from someone! Sometime later, then… (laughs)

Kishi: That was him saying “It can’t be helped” from the bottom of his heart. It’s a line that comes back to life in the second half of the anime, so it’d be wonderful to hear your reaction at that point.

Title: When someone is killed, there has to be a reason

I: In opposition to the “Madness” which is one of the themes of this show, I’ve also heard beauty mentioned as another one. What do you think about that?

Kishi: Thank you very much. That’s another bit we had in mind during production.
I think that’s tied in to the aesthetics typically expressed by Edogawa Ranpo-san.
In his works, almost all of the murder victims are women.

But we couldn’t just depict it as such, we’d just end up a show with very grotesque content. That said, we didn’t want to weaken the shock factor.

Rather, we have this unique opportunity to adapt Edogawa Ranpo-san’s works, so we focused on strengthening the shock factor to make the entertaining nature of the works stand out clearly.

At the same time, we made certain that everyone killed had a thorough reason as to why they were, and we made sure to depict the characters that became corpses in meaningful fashions. As a result, it’s got shock factor, but can be seen as beautiful.

Takahashi: Take episode 1, when Kobayashi sees the corpse of the murdered teacher right at the start of the main portion (i.e. after the OP). Without his head, though. (laughs) Around this teacher there are cluster amarylis flowers blooming, and that’s a bit beautiful.

Kishi: In that particular setting, once Akechi enters and sees the corpse there’s nothing. But when you first see it through Kobayashi’s eyes, they’re blooming in a flash.

I: Does that have any particular meaning to it?

Kishi: Actually, in this series, considering for the background of cases and various other circumstances, we choose flowers which, in the language of flowers, have significant meanings. The cluster amaryllis in Human Chair, for example, mean “sad memories”. The flowers which appear in each episode differ, so you may find it interesting to pay attention to that aspect.

Takahashi: I feel like that flower language of “sad memories” could also work as the theme for the series overall.

Kishi: Speaking from the director’s perspective, there’s the additional angle of “flowers=blood” symbolism, and putting flowers on something can add a motif to that something.

<Page 3>

Title: I want proof that I’m alive; Mikazuki and Kobayashi resonate

I: The ending theme to Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace is Sauyri-san’s Mikazuki. What sort of world were you trying to create while composing this piece?

Sayuri: There are a lot of things I work on after considering a theme, but Mikazuki was more about my day-to-day mood; it’s a song born from my inner feelings.

Those “I want proof that I’m alive” feelings I talked about earlier have always been there, and as I was slowly giving shape to each of them, I received this offer to do the ending theme to Ranpo Kitan.

Once I heard it was an adaptation of Edogawa Ranpo-san’s works, those images in my head just exploded, and this Mikazuki is the song I completed with the resulting momentum.

People generally feel the moon is beautiful when it’s a full moon, I think. I often have feelings of inferiority, so I’m envious of this full moon that everyone thinks is pretty.

However, the incomplete, lacking crescent moon eventually becomes a full moon. If that’s the case, then “I want to believe that I have that sort of presence too!” is the sort of feeling I packed into the song.

Also, when I start to compose a song I always start from the “smell”. Remembering what I had been smelling at a particular time and such.

Takahashi: What sort of smell did Mikazuki come out of?

Sayuri: It’s hard to explain, but it was a smell I smelled when I was a middle school student. I started having a real interest in music around my second year in middle school, but when I say that, it’s not like I put out a CD or anything.

I couldn’t do the things that people around me did naturally, so what did that make me? It was the passive smell of a strong inferiority complex, I guess you could say.

Takahashi: You really match up well with the real thing. When we were recording the audio, I heard from Hashiba’s Yamashita-kun (Yamashita Daiki) that, when he heard Mikazuki, he thought it was Kobayashi’s song, so it’s really a piece that might resonate with Kobayashi, or at least I think it’s a piece where there’s a strong emotional overlap with the character.

I’m playing the role, and I feel that way, so meeting you in the flesh here and hearing that you sympathize with Kobayashi really makes me very happy.

Title: A butterfly effect illustrated via human dominoes

I: Tell me about how Shiraishi-san was chosen to create the visuals to compliment Sayuri-san’s Mikazuki.

Kishi: Well, we had worked together on other projects before, and those times she left a very powerful impression. Because I had been so impressed with her earlier, I asked Shiraishi-san if she would bring her sense of design to this work and let it run wild. This may be a rude way of saying it, but I guess she had the same smell as me, the scent of death. (laughs)

Shiraishi: Thanks a lot. I’ll take that as a compliment!

I: Before working on the actual visuals, did you decide on a concrete visual or theme?

Shiraishi: From the director, I heard that the theme of this work was “human connections”; in the main series, humans (not acknowledged by Kobayashi) are depicted as silhouettes, and the butterfly, which was one of the main motifs, prompted an image of how one happening can lead to unexpected consequences in a butterfly effect scenario.

I got a hint from there, and I started off with a butterfly, then sillhouettes of people, then something spreading thoughout society; one thing leading to another, as well as affecting the bonds between people and things. Imagining all of the above as part of a “human domino chain”, I began to express it visually.

I: It definitely seems like it ties into the main show.

Kishi: I wonder about that. (laughs)

Shiraishi: In Mikazuki’s lyrics, a butterfly appears as well, and the ending is drawn to connect well to the overall series, so you can look forward to that. There actually is foreshadowing built into it.

Kishi: It’s connected very intricately, thank you.

I: When you were making the ending, were you conscious of the song as well?

Shiraishi: Of course. At the time I heard the song, I think I had images in my head of both Edogawa Ranpo-san and Sayuri-san’s works, and I built the visuals from those.

Sayuri: The characters who appear in Edogawa Ranpo-san’s works, it’s like they’re always lacking something, or they’re trying to bury the evidence of what they lack, and while they take their first steps into a dangerous world, they become warped, they’re trying to fill that hole in themselves. That’s reflected in the themes of Mikazuki.

Rooted within the statement, “I want proof that I’m alive”, it’s a piece I was able to imagine and finish soon after being asked to, so the piece is me myself as well as the theme song of Ranpo Kitan.

Kishi: It is an element that will come up in the later episodes of the anime. When the story really starts to move, it literally depicts a drama of people who are lacking something, so in that sense it’s stuck right in there with the series’ sense of taste.

Shiraishi: That’s true. When I heard the song for the first time, the images (of the ending) just streamed into my head; I think it’s just that well matched with the series.
In that sense, I think of the visuals as being very intimate with Mikazuki.

I: You feel a certain retro atmosphere throughout the ending.

Shiraishi: I tried to focus on a somewhat nostalgic feeling. In particular, this time I used 8 millimeter film and combined actual images that I had photographed. The reason why the entire screen isn’t covered is because the film I used is a size smaller than that of the current standard.

Kishi: This sort of feeling of brokenness definitely comes across.

I: Sayuri-san, what was your impression upon seeing the finished visuals?

Sayuri: Seeing something that I had composed be reflected in images from someone else’s mind made me think “This is incredible!” It made me feel alive; that instant was a really moving one.

Kishi: Just like Kobayashi’s “This is fun!” moment. I’m really glad we had Sayuri-san to sing the ending for us. This feeling she’s felt for a long time links up with the character, and now that we’re sitting here talking we’re 100% in sync.

Sayuri: Thank you very much. Speaking as one of the anime’s viewers, it helps me sympathize with the character more. I’m happy Mikazuki was able to become a factor like that.

Title: Sayuri’s news-related live program will be broadcasting live, simultaneously on niconico and ustream

On June 30th (Thursday), Sayuri-san’s live program, “Suffocating Girl Sayuri; The Parallel Laboratory of Dawn ~Anime Version~ supported by 2.5D and Kai-You” will be broadcast live on both ustream and niconico. In addition to Sayuri-san, we’ll have Kishi-san, Takahashi-san, as well as YKBX-san, who assists with Sayuri’s visual accompaniments, so feel free to watch on the stream below.

[Translator’s note: the article includes a link to 2.5D’s ustream channel at the end here, though the live broadcast mentioned in this article has finished.]

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