RErideD: Derrida, who leaps through time is liable to turn heads this fall for several reasons. It's not just an original work from the mind of veteran director Takuya Satō, (who directed the Steins;Gate anime and opted not to direct its prequel, Steins;Gate 0, because he was busy developing RErideD), it also marks the return of acclaimed artist and writer Yoshitoshi ABe to the anime scene for the first time in 15 years. This time-traveling thriller marks the pair's first collaboration since the lighthearted space alien drama NieA_7, so fans nostalgic for the experimental stylings of this duo's early 2000's work are bound to have questions
Before the screening of the series' first two episodes, both Yoshitoshi ABe and Kadokawa series producer Rie Ogura answered some of these questions in a press roundtable, explaining where ABe has been for the past decade and why they're so excited about RErideD.
How did this new project get started and how did you get involved?
ABe: When director Takuya Satō started this project, he asked me to do the character designs. Even the previous year, he'd told me that he was working on something and would ask me to be involved. Originally I was just called in to do character designs, but eventually they asked me to help with the story itself, so I wound up writing part of the screenplay for the series as well.
Since this is the first original project for Geek Toys, what about this story made it a good choice for the studio?
Ogura: Originally Geek Toys was a studio that worked on live-action projects in Japan – commercials and things like that. They decided they wanted to get into the anime business, so we challenged ourselves to make an anime. Why this one in particular? Fate, I guess! For Kadokawa as well, we wanted to pick something to really challenge ourselves.
There are so many time-traveling sci-fi anime, so what makes this one stand out?
ABe: Originally this project was supposed to be based on Heinlein's novel "The Door into Summer", just a straight adaptation. We wound up making an original project instead, as I got more involved and contributed ideas. So if you're asking why it's a time travel story, the answer is that originally it was an adaptation of this Heinlein novel.
ABe later added after the screening that his most prominent creative contributions were the increased presence of the heroines and greater personal suffering for the hero throughout the story.
Naming the series after “Derrida” is a strong statement, since Derrida is known for his theories of narrative deconstruction. Would you say there is something “deconstructive” about this story?
ABe: The director picked that name – maybe he just liked the way it sounded!
So since Mr. ABe worked on this original script, was there a story you wanted to tell with this work?
ABe: When I'm writing, more than picking a particular theme and saying “this is the story”, I tend to just follow my ideas. In my opinion, this hero is very interesting – he ends up in a bad future where things took a wrong turn and he deeply regrets his own actions. This was all drawn from my own feelings.
Your art has a particular soft and textured style that seems difficult to recreate in animation. Do you take a different approach to anime design than you do with illustration?
ABe: When I'm illustrating, it's true that I wind up drawing many, many lines instead of just one main outline. I end up piling lines on top of each other, creating something that has a hazy, less defined, softer effect to the viewer. In anime, you can't really do that. So for the character design phase, another character designer took my illustrations and made them more animate-able, collapsed them down into one line and made them easier to animate.
Did you have meetings with the character designer to iterate on those designs or did you just hand them off?
ABe: This time I basically just turned over my drawings. Eventually he came back with some drafts and we had a discussion, but my style is really hard to animate. Because of that, if I were to take it back and make changes again, it would just get harder again, undoing everything that he did, so I didn't provide much feedback. I've tried doing it myself, drawing anime character designs – I can't get it right. The angles are not right on the model sheet, the ear's not in the right place, etcetera, so I just leave it to the professional animators.
It's been over a decade since ABe was involved in an animated production. What about this project seemed like it was the right time for you, and what had you been working on in the meantime?
ABe: It was more like 15 years actually – for six of those years I was working on manga. I also did some anime planning, trying to create a new show that took about a year and a half, but it wound up getting thrown out in the end. I helped plan a game too, but we ran out of money at the end, so that didn't go through, and that's what I've been doing.
The tone of the manga Ryushika Ryushika is very different from your other works – it's less moody and more uplifting. What caused that kind of thematic change?
ABe: I've made a lot of different kinds of things – I've worked on some darker stories, and I've also worked on lighter things like NieA_7. So I've done a whole range of projects. For Ryushika Ryushika, what I wanted to do was to capture a child's viewpoint. I felt as an adult that I wasn't able to see things from that child's viewpoint anymore. When I was a kid, the surrounding world was kind of scary, and at that age, you put your imagination to work making it a brighter place. You take your scary surroundings and use your imagination to survive them and make them into something more palatable. So more than just being a cheerful work, I consider it more a personal work about that aspect of life.
Recently, Chiaki J. Konaka announced that Despera wasn't canceled, it was just in development hell due to the current state of the anime industry and the difficulty in producing independent works. Can you elaborate on the status of Despera and your opinion on the difficulty of making independent works?
ABe: We did put out a book for Despera, but we weren't able to get it completed as an anime. Nobody ever asks us about this in Japan, but in America someone always asks about it. It isn't a big topic of conversation in Japan, but whenever someone asks me about it, it does make me happy. So we've had trouble bringing a real shape to the anime, but we might discuss making it as an anime again next year. (to Ogura) Is it OK to say that?
Ogura: Probably, since it's basically determined at this point. As for original productions, I don't think it matters if you have a big studio or a small studio producing it, what really matters is your passion.
Has Crunchyroll's assistance in that regard made it easier to greenlight an original project as a small studio?
Ogura: Yes, they've been very helpful! ABe-san has fans all over the world, and Crunchyroll is helping us provide this show to those global fans.
With all these interesting details fresh in my mind, I was hyped to see what Sato and ABe's team at the fledgling Geek Toys had come up with. As the lights went down and the episode began with an abstract montage featuring ambient sound design and a cherubic young girl in a red coat, I felt that wave of ABe nostalgia sweep over me and prepared for an engrossing time travel experience.