This year at Otakon, Manga Mavericks Editor-in-Chief Varun Gupta had the pleasure of interviewing Takaharu Ozaki and Shinya Tsuruoka. Ozaki is best known for his directorial work on anime such as Goblin Slayer and Girls’ Last Tour, while Tsuruoka has served as a producer on several titles including Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! and Hi Score Girl. Most recently, Ozaki and Tsuruoka were the director and producer for the anime adaptation of BASTARD!! -Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy-, which premiered its second season on Netflix on July 31st.
Check out our full interview with Ozaki and Tsuruoka down below:
Manga Mavericks: I want to start off by just asking about the BASTARD!! anime itself. Before the current adaptation, BASTARD!! hadn’t been adapted into an anime since the 1990s OVAs. What led to the new BASTARD!! anime getting produced and how did you both get involved with the project?
Tsuruoka: First of all, Shueisha and Warner Bros talking to each other with regard to making BASTARD!! into a new series anime instead of just stopping at an OVA. We were talking about the timing of it all, since this project was being talked about quite a while ago, however, the timing still was undecided. Roughly about three to seven years ago, the isekai fantasy genre started to pick up. Say for example, things like reborn as someone really strong or being really strong in a different world. That was something that had recently been picking up steam. So, we had BASTARD!! being talked about between Shueisha and Warner Bros, and we found that the time was right, because as the originator of lots of the fantasy manga genre, I believed that BASTARD!! had the quality that would best equip it to be successful in the current trend. We also have the ability to get this project to many eyes through the power of Netflix, and it will be able to reach many more people. So, that is how BASTARD!!‘s current Netflix anime adaptation came to be.
Manga Mavericks: How much was creator Kazushi Hagiwara involved in the production of the anime or did he provide any input?
Ozaki: Hagiwara-sensei left it up to us for the most part. However, including the God of Destruction, we decided to change some of the designs of the monsters, and to do that, Hagiwara-sensei had to come up with new designs. For many of the other new designs of the monsters. Hagiwara-sensei has also said that he’ll be as proactive as possible in making the changes. However, on the other fronts, Hagiwara-sensei has given us the full green light, saying that as long as we’re true to the source material, to do as we wish. So, we try to remain true to the source material on the other parts.
Manga Mavericks: With regard to respecting the source material, the anime is very faithful in both tone and visuals to the manga in that it has that late 80’s ~ 90’s feel. Was it difficult to capture that old manga feeling in modern anime?
Ozaki: Since it’s a manga that has spanned for a long amount of time, the looks of the same characters were going to change, so we decided to go specifically for the 90s taste, because that was when I believe the manga had peak popularity. For me, I think it was for me easy to do this, because I am the person that was there to see it all, and I think I have a taste for the looks of the 90s. However, the current generation, like people in their 20s, might not have the same sort of ease for doing these character designs as I did, because they might be more accustomed to newer tastes in character design.
So on that note, actually, there were some pretty interesting interactions with some of the new animators drawing the characters. We went through lots of edits, because the faces didn’t look as 90s as we had hoped for. So, there was a bit of a learning opportunity with the “sakuga”, and we went back to each of the scenes saying “We should do this!” or “Do the face the like this!” and kind of fixing it up for them.
Manga Mavericks: Ozaki-san, having worked on both BASTARD!! and Goblin Slayer now, what do you think is the best approach to making a dark fantasy story engaging to viewers?
Ozaki: So with regard to the dark fantasy genre, the big problem is the censorship with topics such as violence and grotesque depictions. We want to be sure about what’s the line that we must keep, but at the same time, we want to make sure that we keep the nuances. We keep everything as same as possible to the original source material. So, we want to remain true to the source material, and one thing that we believe is important is that even if there are scenes that were inappropriate in terms of violence or grotesque depictions, for every one of those scenes that are difficult for eyes to process, we want to be sure to include equal amounts of scenes that are beautiful and that project the best of humanity. This is the case in Goblin Slayer. This is the friends and allies that help out Goblin Slayer, and in the case of BASTARD!!, it will be the protective nature, the trust and protection, that come from the friends. What I do not like is hiding stuff that was in the original source material, but at the same time, I believe that it is equally as important to put in the beautiful things that we as humanity should focus on and have faith in.
Thanks again to Takaharu Ozaki, Shinya Tsuruoka, translator George Endo, Warner Brothers, and Otakon for making this interview possible!