Translation of a recent interview with the director and three of the writers of Sengoku Collection, posted September 20. All material in (parentheses) is editor’s notes from the original article. This is part 1; I have no idea how many parts there will be.
TV Anime Sengoku Collection began airing this April. The warring generals from the Sengoku world (all of them ladies) star in this omnibus of one-episode stories, but…
The protagonist, Oda Nobunaga, in order to return to the Sengoku world must go on a journey to gather the secret treasures of the other generals; Tokugawa Ieyasu becomes a modern pop idol; and Uesugi Kenshin flourishes as a model. Date Masamune is tricked by the Yakuza and sent to prison. Toyotomi Hideyoshi gets lost in a rice wonderland while freeloading at a farm. Takeda Shingen isn’t lost in Japan, or even on Earth, but on a space station where she battles an aggressive artificial intelligence!
This compilation of crazy artistic license packed obsessively with historical references is Sencolle. Ekirebi! Anime Division (tentative name)‘s Tamago Mago and I have both actively pushed it.
So now, with two episode remaining until the finale (episode 26), we sat down to talk with director Keiji Gotoh and the writing team. Of the five scenario writers, we were able to gather up Go Zappa, Teru Arai and Shintaro Kanazawa. (Arbitrarily) representing Sencolle fans around the world, we asked them questions about everything from the show’s inception to our excitement about the finale.
——— Gotoh, when you were offered the position as Sengoku Collection‘s director, none of the contents or staff had been determined?
Gotoh: Correct. I did get the normal “Can you direct this for us?” call from Brains Base (the animation studio). But none of the staff or script had been decided at all. The original work is a social game. So they gave me a bunch of pictures from the cards (used in the game) and just said “use these…”, it had that sort of feel.
——— The original game has lots of characters, but essentially no plot.
Gotoh: It really doesn’t. It’s a work unlike anything I’ve done before. While that was worrying, I also wanted to give it a shot.
——— So, the basic idea of Sengoku generals coming to the modern world and living among normal people, how did that come about?
Zappa: I think that idea came from the director.
Gotoh: Yeah. So many other Sengoku Whatever works, relatively speaking, have already dramatized the Sengoku era. If we had done that, I doubt it would have stood out very much. Bringing them to the modern era, it’s a bit original, it makes it stand out more.
Zappa: The three of us joined (the staff) at the same time. By then, the setting had already been decided. Also, rather than having one story, Nobunaga being the protagonist but each episode having a different general with a different flavor, that had been decided as well.
——— What was the reasoning behind the omnibus format?
Gotoh: I think I recall that suggestion coming from the client. After I decided to have the Sengoku generals in modern times, I thought “well, so what next”, was around when that came up. Oh, and it seemed like it would be easier to do, so I went with that.
——— Oda Nobunaga as the lead part, was that decided quickly?
Gotoh: Konami gave us some data on which cards were the most popular in the game. According to that, the “Sweet Little Devil” Oda Nobunaga was the most popular card, so we made her the lead part.
——— After the basic setting was established, when it cametime to decide which characters to include or what kinds of episode to write, Zappa, Arai, Kanazawa, were you brought in for that?
Gotoh: That part was sort of just (turns to them) “write whatever you like”, you know? (laughter)
Zappa: To start, we made a list of the most popular characters from the game, along with the generals that you just think of whenever you think “Sengoku era”. Myself, I was in charge of Nobunaga. I tried to slowly build a story from the beginning to middle to end through all 26 episodes. Also, the director would say “this episode should have this kind of motif”, and we could use that. Then we’d get together and decide which character would work for that.
——— So, the shape of the whole work settled into place as you worked on it?
Gotoh: Sort of. If I had to specify, yes, we just wrote one episode and then the next. It sounds bad if you say we did it without any planning, though. The series composition wasn’t very firm, either. Though since Nobunaga is the main character, Zappa wrote many of the key episodes. Other than that, we just looked at the list of characters we chose and thought “we haven’t put this one in, we should probably put them in pretty soon” or so. That was why Takeda Shingen’s appearance was so late.
——— She’s a major general, but she wasn’t in the show until episode 21.
Arai: Zappa wrote Kenshin in episode 3, so we thought she could be in that episode, but it didn’t happen. (laughter)
Arai: She came up in episode 20 as well, so at that point we had to put her in.
Zappa: She’s kind of the highlight of the second half (laughter). Who wrote what character, it was just sort of who raised their hand and volunteered, right?
Kanazawa: I asked to write Tsukahara Bokuden (episode 5). I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who picked something that way.
Arai: Ieyasu (episode 2) being an idol was a request (from the client), I think…
Kanazawa: That was because her card in the game said “idol”, wasn’t it?
Zappa: Oh, you’re right. That was one rule, they wanted us to stick to the flavor text on the cards. In Ieyasu’s case, the card said “Sengoku idol”, so we expanded that into being a modern idol.
——— So you were able to use the setting of the game to help. Personally I had no knowledge at all about the game when I started watching Sengoku Collection. The first episode is Oda Nobunaga and some guy in a “boy meets girl” thing, the second is Tokugawa Ieyasu’s idol debut. The third is Uesugi Kenshin and Naoe Kanetsugu being all lovey-dovey, the fourth has Date Masamune in a prison movie. The fifth has some suspicious guy making an example out of Tsukahara Bokuden to complain about the danger of the Sengoku generals and swords. Each episode is so interesting, but also so varied, that it really draws you in.
Zappa: It sort of felt like a rule that we shouldn’t repeat what another writer had already done.
——— So you all gathered regularly for scenario meetings?
Gotoh: Yes. Along with the producers, we met once a week.
——— Was it ever like “Aw, you took that one!” or anything?
Arai: But never like “Oh, you ended up with that genre!”.
Kanazawa: Yeah, not really.
——— You each got to write the material you wanted to write?
Arai: We all have different tastes, so it wasn’t too painful.
Zappa: No, you guys just wrote whatever the hell you wanted. (laughter)
——— Zappa, you had to consider putting it all together as well, right?
Kanazawa: We were all working under pressure, too! (laughter)
Arai: Yeah. We weren’t completely oblivious. (laughter)
Zappa: Oh, is that so? (laughter)
Arai: The only one I was really free with was episode 4 (Date Masamune) with the prison movie style. After that, everyone else burst forward so fast that I had to rush just to keep up.
——— But was episode 4 everyone’s cue to burst?
Kanazawa: It did become like, “Oh, we can go that far?”
——— So, now I’d like to turn to the writers, and talk to each of you about the episodes you were specifically in charge of. Particularly difficult episodes, or ones that surprised you when you saw the finished product, talk about the process with those.
Zappa: I think the episode that most felt like my own work was 13 (Sugitani Zenjubo). Even if it’s not an episode where anything really exciting happens. I just wrote it normally, and thought it was kind of a fun episode, but ended up giving it one last push in the portrayal of the characters. And it turned out great. That and episode 19.
——— That’s Akechi Mitsuhide’s episode, right? It continues into episode 20, and it points toward the climax, it’s an important episode.
Zappa: Within a framework with no real connecting strand (like Sencolle‘s), it felt like I had found a way to run one strand through it despite some absurd constraints. The script itself was a pain to write, but the way it came out is interesting to watch. The explanation isn’t too hard to follow, either. Plus, as dense as it was as a script, they packed even more into the final episode.
——— As both a story and an episode it’s very dense, but then unrelated to anything you have things like that black cat slipping off the side of the house…
Zappa: Yeah, that. Like they didn’t need to go that far.
Gotoh: All that extra stuff, all of it, that was the storyboarder and episode director (Shingo) Kaneko. I didn’t do anything. I actually reeled him in a bit.
——— A bit ago you mentioned episode 13. The character Ageha, who grows close to the main character Sugitani Zenjubo and Oda Nobunaga, was really something. What was it like developing this original character from the modern world?
Zappa: Well, Ageha was mostly developed from my own tastes (laughter). From a composition standpoint, Zenjubo and Ageha’s relationship is sort of connected to Nobunaga and Mitsuhide’s relationship in some ways. Also, I thought it would be fun to pit Nobunaga’s constant “me first!” attitude against an opposing force.
——— Nobunaga gets forced into buying her food, right?
Zappa: Plus, Sencolle and its characters are a derivative work. It sounds like we can do whatever we like, but there is a limit to how much we can play with the characters. On the other hand, you have a lot more freedom with an anime-original character. Running into a unique character gives the Sengoku generals something to play off of, too.
——— Arai, Kanazawa, did you have any worries about how to deal with the Sengoku generals, too?
Zappa: Oh, these guys don’t care about that. (laughter)
Arai: If I remember right, I tried to do a lot of unreasonable stuff.
Kanazawa: At first I didn’t know how much wiggle room we had, so they got mad at me. In the second half I’ve toned it down some.
Zappa: You haven’t toned down at all! (laughter)
(By: Daisuke Marumoto)
(Continued in Part 2)