For 2022’s Anime NYC, Nante Japan had a chance to speak with three of the people behind the hit anime series, Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Producers Ishikawa Tatsuya, Kikuchi Yuichiro and the voice actress behind the titular character Kaguya, Koga Aoi. Find the interview below!
Thank you for meeting with us! So to start, how did you decide to make this arc a movie instead of a series adaptation?
Ishikawa Tatsuya: Making a full series takes a long time. For fans, that’s a tease – imagine having to wait weeks between when Ultra Romantic finishes to when the first kiss would happen. I wanted the fans to be able to enjoy watching it all happen all at once.
And was that the thinking behind airing the Dual Confessions arc back to back?
Kikuchi Yuichiro: With the Dual Confessions arc, there was still a rom-com aspect that we could retain and use in the series. But with this, it was very focused on Shirogane and Kaguya, so we wanted to condense it even more than you could with two episodes.
What was it like to see the reactions of fans across the world?
Ishikawa: This is a very quintessentially Japanese story, so to hear that global fans both resonated and love the work regardless of those cultural barriers. It almost feels like with each work the things that separate us disappear bit by bit.
Koga Aoi: To hear that even famous celebrities know of the “how cute” reaction is really surprising!
Kikuchi: This was a work that we honestly just had fun doing, and to know that fans both domestically and internationally resonate with it so much is really rewarding. To us, nothing about the animation process has changed to incorporate the overseas audience, but seeing the happy reactions from overseas fans is always a treat. That was a major consideration in deciding to screen this movie like this today.
That being said, one of the ways in which the non-Japanese audience has responded to our work is reaching out and wanting to help turn the anime to the best it could be – something that just very naturally happened as we created such outstanding work.
Speaking of the series, Kaguya-sama has to be one of the most well produced rom com animes to date. How do you ensure it always has the resources it needs to succeed?
Kikuchi: One of the best ways to ensure that the series really succeeds as it should is to let the actors approach their characters as naturally as possible and find the expression that is both easy and natural to them. In addition, we create as collaborative an atmosphere as possible, incorporating the ideas of both experienced individuals and newer animators (like Vercreek) to gain as many new ideas as possible so that the work still feels fresh despite several seasons and now a film under our belt under the same franchise.
Ishikawa: And before all of this, we’re all fans of the original manga. When Kikuchi and I talk we’ll discuss our favorite parts and go, let’s make sure we adapt this particular bit 140%. To be sure, now that the anime has really established itself we’re able to call ourselves a truly standalone entity, but it is our love for the series overall that continues our drive to deliver as fine a work as possible.
And speaking of all of this, what does the character Kaguya mean to you?
Koga: At the beginning, my first impression was to think of how different we were. Kaguya comes from a really wealthy background, and has that extremely harsh and cold exterior that I just don’t have. I truly admired just how cool and elegant she was at first glance. But Kaguya’s interior world was something that I could find plenty of similarities with – like her jealousy when Shirogane was being nice to others.
Over time, Kaguya became an entity that I felt had always been with me. When I first heard that the manga ended I was so shocked – it was through this series that I was able to meet, work with and see so many people and places. All I could feel was this deep sense of gratitude towards the creator, the series, and of course the character.
One of my favorite moments was truly the romantic climax of Ultra Romantic. When we got to the emotional climax of that season in the clock tower in my head I was going – YOU DID IT GIRL! I’M SO PROUD OF YOU! It is moments like that that make me feel really proud to be Kaguya’s voice actress.
Finally, a word for your overseas fans!
Koga: I feel so blessed that there are fans across the world that love this work so much and that I am able to be here to watch the fans’ reactions in person. Thank you so much for this chance to be the person who can bring such a beloved character to life.
Kikuchi: Working on this series has shown me so much, and these valuable experiences will help me continue to better myself as a producer. Being able to see and feel the response of international fans is incredibly valuable as a perspective for working on future projects.
Ishikawa: And if there are animators who would want to work on Kaguya-sama or anything else, please be sure to DM Kikuchi on twitter!!
Many thanks to the staff of both Anime NYC and Aniplex for allowing this interview!
See the movie in theaters in the United States February 14th and 15th, with tickets available here.