Press Conference: The Eminence in Shadow’s Director Kazuya Nakanishi and Producer Kazufumi Kikushima of KADOKAWA spoke to The Natural Aristocrat® at Anime NYC 2023.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT (NIR REGEV): What lessons did you have during the production cycle of ‘The Eminence in Shadow’ Season 1 going into Season 2?
KAZUFUMI KIKUSHIMA: When we were working on creating Season 1, it was a brand new series that we started to work on. So it was a challenge. I felt more challenges to make it happen and maybe to bring that anime to the audience.
But after all the hugely positive reactions for Season 1, we now have more confidence at the moment creating Season 2. We are gradually growing our confidence as well as the voice of the fans.
This genre is quite huge. When the first season started, probably a lot of people thought, ‘Oh this is another kind of Isekai series.’ But now starting Season 2, people recognize The Eminence In Shadow is something different.
They’re more watching what is really going on in the story, without comparing it to other Isekai. We’re presenting this anime work with a very high quality technique to deliver it to as wide of an audience as possible. That’s what we’re going for at the moment.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What do you attribute to The Eminence in Shadow’s success in the West?
KAZUYA NAKANISHI: I wonder why everyone always asks me this question? (laughs) I do not have the answer ’cause I don’t know why. Yes, we are trying our best. Nowadays, with all the devices culture going on, many people are starting to watch anime and getting into the anime world.
And yes, I’m a little bit aware of trying not to do too much of things that the overseas fans don’t really prefer. We are trying not to go there.
But really, this whole thing was very unexpected! It’s not like we are going for what overseas fans are seeking. We are not really only concentrating on that because I, myself, am a big fan of the original novel. It’s the story that I really fell in love with.
So I just don’t have the answer!
On Reddit fans nicknaming Kazuya Nakanishi a ‘One Man Army’:
KAZUYA NAKANISHI: (laughs) Of course, I don’t make everything all by myself, just to be clear! But it is true that I do a lot of things that you cannot even imagine to get the anime series done.
This ‘One Man Army’, the title suits me but I personally think this nickname is not quite a positive. I don’t really have a positive feeling about this nickname.
I’m like the person who does what he wants and then everything else I leave to all the other staff members! (laughs) Do this and do that and get it done! Blah, blah, blah.
And then the final product comes out… When I watch the end credit roll and then see my name everywhere, I was like, ‘Oh, I wonder how did that happen?’
Like, my definition of a Director is not something that I imagined. It’s very different.
On advice for those wanting to work in the Anime Industry:
KAZUYA NAKANISHI: Well, as one person working at this animation industry, I have so many stories… So many hardship stories to share, but not much about healthy stories.
So if you would like to work for something that you love as a job, you would have to have some sort of commitment that you can hate what you love. And if you don’t have that commitment, then you can just enjoy anime as a hobby. Then you can stay liking what you love.
KAZUFUMI KIKUSHIMA: In my opinion, yes, there are so many hardships that’s very true. But at the same time, I really enjoy the hardship and I have a job that I really love from the bottom of my heart.
And so what I would love is to share this passion to as many people as possible. But if you are deciding to do this as a job, to do what you love for a job, then you would definitely have to think about it from a different perspective.
Not just a Producer’s perspective. What’s the fan’s perspective? What’s the overseas’ culture like? Lots of perspectives are needed.
Just be excited about what you do. I love to work with someone who loves what they do. That’s my opinion.
On any preference between adapting from the Manga vs the Novels:
KAZUFUMI KIKUSHIMA: It’s quite hard to answer that question because adapting from one medium to the next doesn’t directly connect it to satisfaction per se.
The satisfaction comes from how well the staff member worked. Are they satisfied with what they did? Are we satisfied with what we brought to the table?
That’s something that we feel, so it’s not dependent on where we adapt from. For us, even though the works are well received from the fans, that doesn’t mean that we were satisfied necessarily.
If a work is not well received from the public, we pretty much do not care. It’s still all about, ‘Are we proud of what we did?’
Whether, we have different approaches when we were adapting from the manga as opposed to the novels? Yes, we have various approaches in order to make the anime series happen.
More importantly, I as a Producer am more focused on ‘What is this story is trying to tell’. I’m focusing on what needs to come across to the audience.
Kazuya Nakanishi on having his Directorial debut on a personal favorite series:
KAZUYA NAKANISHI: It’s don’t know why this is really happening. But I’ve been in this industry for quite a long time and I was fortunate enough to get an offer as a Director on one of my favorite stories.
So having this opportunity to direct my favorite story… It’s like one of my dreams came true. I really appreciate this opportunity and I need to pay it forward.
On surprise receptions to ‘The Eminence in Shadow’ characters:
KAZUFUMI KIKUSHIMA: As a Producer, I would love to say everything that happened was all expected. But it was both the Japanese and international fans having Cid Kagenou (Kageno), the main protagonist, as their favorite character.
I thought everyone just loved kawaii girls! (laughs) So it’s kind of surprising. Cid, as a character is not a typical hero. He’s too quirky and very selfish at the same time.
So, it’s quite unexpected that people love the uniqueness that he brought to the table.
On difficulty of script & Cid’s lines:
KAZUYA NAKANISHI: To be honest, it is very difficult. There are so many things that we want to convey and tell people, it’s quite hard. For example, for Cid’s lines or the script writing meetings or the storyboard meetings, we make sure to double check, even triple check what he’s saying.
‘How and when is he saying something?’ We are trying so hard for the important messages to come across as we imagined them as much as possible.
But sometimes people just don’t get it. So it’s about finding the balance, how much can we push, how much can we not?
In the works that I’ve been involved with in the past, there are times that we had to change the ending just because of various reasons. Changing the message can be very stressful.
As human beings, we are already a complex living thing. But Cid the character, he’s really quite simple. The essence a human being has is quite light in Cid’s character.
So every single time as the Director directing the scenes, we are trying to make sure what he wants to say, how he wants to say it. So then the message can just come across.
On audience reaction between seriousness and comedy:
KAZUYA NAKANISHI: All the reactions that the audiences have, I’m just gonna leave it to them. Whether they like watching certain scenes, whether they get angry or are they feeling happy about it? It’s not my territory to decide.
So I’m just gonna leave everything to the audience, how they take it, how they feel about it. And if something is funny to them then it’s funny, period. In terms of this show, basically all the characters are not trying to make people laugh.
They’re very serious about what they do and well, we are trying not to forget about that. We’re not really going for trying to make someone laugh. The characters are basically doing some silly things in a very serious way.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Thank you!
KAZUYA NAKANISHI & KAZUFUMI KIKUSHIMA: Thank you!
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