What’s something better than a single hunky anime popstar? Try seven!
The new anime series IDOLiSH7 follows the journey of seven young men who are trying to become the hottest boy idol group in the world, but have to contend with rival groups as well as each other’s conflicting personalities. The original is a rhythm game, and the anime series will be officially launching in January 2018.
Director Makoto Bessho and the IDOLiSH7 PROJECT’s Executive Producer Sokichi Shimooka were busy promoting the show at AnimeNYC, and Asian Crush got an interview with them!
Otter: How did you both become involved with IDOLiSH7 and what attracted you to the project?
Shimooka-san: The company I work for, Bandai Namco Online is a game company and we are interested in producing new IP. From time to time, we discover new IPs by going through lots of ideals for potential projects. In there, I saw something that would later become the seeds to IDOLiSH7. That’s how I became involved in the project.
Those seeds have bloomed into the IDOLiSH7 that you know, and I am right now responsible for overseeing all of it.
Bessho-san: My studio was originally asked if we wanted to do the IDOLiSH7 Project. As a director, I was there, thinking “Well, would I be the person best fit for this project?” I had questioned myself over and over again, but I have since decided to take on this role, and I’m glad that I did.
Now, I am not really a gaming sort of person, but upon becoming the director for IDOLiSH7, I was actually told to play the game because I would need to understand the game in order to make the anime for it, so I tried to play the game. And when I played the game, I sincerely thought that the dramatic aspects of it, the story aspects of it, were very appealing. I thought that creating a visual media from it as an anime would be an important thing to complete.
Otter: How far did you actually make it into the game?
Bessho-san: I made it to the middle of around the second arc.
Otter: What sorts of plot points and features were already planned from the beginning? What sorts of personal touches and choices did you get to add as director in terms of plot points and features?
Bessho-san: Regarding the game, what I really respect is the story element of IDOLiSH7 and because of that, I believe that I don’t really want to make any drastic changes in terms of the story or existing material. Upon making it a visual medium in anime, I wanted to visit and showcase the side stories but without making too many changes or adding original elements to them.
Otter: The character of Tsumugi represents the player’s avatar in the game. How did you flesh out her character design and personality compared to her actions in the game?
Bessho-san: Since Tsumugi is the avatar of the players, I believe that there are multiple Tsumugis with multiple characteristics, each for their own respective players. I believe that all of them are very important and I believe that the character Tsumugi in the anime respects all the player versions of Tsumugi. I wanted to make her not too cute but not too distasteful. I wanted to make her relatable to the players, so that they would cheer her on through her journey.
Otter: How do you dream up the lively choreography and music videos? Where did you draw inspiration?
Bessho-san: With regards to the dance scenes, there was actually a choreographer and dance teacher helping us with the choreography. We also used motion capture technology in order to make the dances feel a lot more authentic. We also did put care into watching actual Japanese male idol groups and their performances, so that it would be more authentic, but at the same time, we wanted to be careful that we weren’t just copying them and tried to give ours its own unique charm.
Otter: What was it like juggling the needs of so many protagonists? Did you find it difficult?
Bessho-san: I do believe that there is a balance to it. Since there are seven main characters and we’re going to be putting the spotlight on many of them, there will be lots of vectors where each character will become the main in certain episodes and certain characters will get more of that spotlight. While that will happen, we’re also putting care into the fact that the other characters are acting with their own personalities, even when they are not fully in the spotlight, so that is something I made an effort to balance.
Shimooka-san: Since the story follows the game, what Bessho-san just mentioned about the characters being in the spotlight but at the same time showing other characters and their reactions even when they are not the main focus of the episode, that’s truly something that can only be done in an anime medium. In the game, you do have certain limitations of what can be shown on a single screen. You might be limited in how many characters you can show onscreen in a moment or characters that may not be show in that direct scene or place. The strength of the anime is how you can see every reaction of every character when they react to the people who are in the spotlight, and I believe that is truly a strength of the anime. It doesn’t even have to be in the same scene, they could be in a completely different place, but in the game, that would all be left up to the player’s imagination. Just because a character is not in the spotlight does not mean they are not important. They are all completely vital to the show.
Otter: Who are your favorite members of the group?
**Lots of laughter**
Bessho-san: As someone in the position of the director, I really can’t choose an individual character that I like over the others. That’s not just to please the fans, but it is my stance as the director of the anime! If I were not to be fair with the characters, it might sway my creative decisions. Therefore, I would like to say I love every character equally.
Shimooka-san: I, on the other hand, DO actually have a favorite. Mine is Izumi Mitsuki. And there’s a simple reason as to why I like him. It’s because he is a very humane character. It was part of his dream to become an idol, but he wasn’t blessed with the chance to become one until now. As someone in the midst of fulfilling his dream, you would imagine him to be rather happy, but in the case of Mitsuki, he has his own problems in achieving that dream. He has to go through many hardships
The other characters have their own problems and hardships they need to get through, but it’s deserved for them because their problems arose from their own actions. In the case of Mitsuki, his dreams become his hardships. I believe that aspect of Mitsuki makes him a very humane, very life-sized character.
Otter: What would you say are the themes of IDOLiSH7?
Bessho-san: IDOLiSH7 has seven main characters who all want to become idols for different reasons. To do that they have lots of barriers and hardships to overcome, but they never give up. They charge through those barriers and make a break through! And not giving up is the theme I most want to present to the audiences watching this anime.
Shimooka-san: Firstly, thank you for asking this question because I was planning to say this whether you asked it or not, but you gave me legitimate reason to say it! Before the project even started, I had three themes that I wanted to pass on to the audience.
One is the courage to move forward in life. This is something that I, Tsushimi-san, and Negishi–san, the three of us are all in charge of the plot, talked about. The topic of life and how moving forward requires courage.
The second theme is the difficulty of remaining true to one’s self, and I believe that this is another central theme to IDOLiSH7.
The third is trust in others.
I’ve mentioned these three topics in other interviews, but thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share them with you now.
Thank you Shimooka-san and Bessho-san.