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At HIDIVE’s Oshi no Ko panel at Anime NYC 2023, director Daisuke Hiramaki, assistant director Ciao Nekotomi and producer Shimpei Yamashita delved into the creation of the anime phenomenon with a series of questions from the host show Star Butler (starsama13 on TikTok).
The conference started brightly with the feelings of the guests attending the conference. Hiramaki was happy to have the rare experience of meeting fans face to face. This was Nekotomi’s first time attending an international convention and Nekotomi had no idea there were so many people who loved anime. Yamashita has attended many conventions in Los Angeles, but this is his first time coming to New York and he asserts that fans here have “stronger, hotter passion.”
The first question was about what led each guest on their career path. Hiramaki’s path is perhaps the most expected, falling in love with Macross Plus in middle school and pursuing anime ever since. Nekotomi’s career path was less direct. “I was working another job,” she said, “but I just quit and was looking for a new job, and I just saw this job posting, and they were looking for someone who could use After Effects, because so I felt ‘yes’, why not?’”
Yamashita also had a somewhat indirect route into the anime industry, studying music and then working as a video game sound creator until finally, his senpai asked him to be a producer. Butler commented that Americans don’t know what an anime producer does, to which Yamashita replied: “The Japanese don’t know either.” He describes his job as basically covering “everything,” but with two main categories of responsibilities: handling budgets and recruiting talent. In the case of Oshi no Ko, Yamashita also had the job of inspecting all merchandise produced for the series.
The questions that follow in this section are broken up by a series of clips from the first episode of the anime. The first clip shown is the rooftop scene between Goro and Ai. This is Hiramaki’s favorite scene that he directed. He emphasizes specific details in the art (gradual transitions between two different backgrounds as the sun sets) and music (the delicate triangle that matches Ai’s sparkling eyes) that he’s proud of.
Next is the scene where Aqua in her first movie role talks to the director. The meta element of directing a scene is about the director directing a scene talking to Nekotomi, who connected with its philosophical message. “When I was storyboarding this scene, it spoke deeply to me,” she said. Yes, sometimes we work individually, but it’s a team product. To do animation, you can’t do it all yourself.”
When asked how the theme of this series differs from other anime, Hiramaki was careful with his words: “If I choose the wrong words, it could go crazy on the internet.” He explained that he felt Oshi no Ko was “perfect” for addressing our social media-driven culture and that it was “unlike anything else.”
The third clip of the panel, Ruby and Ai dancing , stands out in terms of adaptation—what was static and concise in the manga becomes dynamic and emotional in the anime. Nekotomi chose to emphasize this scene to give Ruby a stronger memory of her mother, something “that would give her the courage, hopes, and dreams to thrive on her own.” Hiramaki emphasized the need to use imagination when adapting manga into anime.
The final clip is of course “THAT SCENES”, AKA Ai’s death. Butler, a horror enthusiast, noted that the knife used in the murder could be identified as the same model used in the Scream film series. Nekotomi was unaware of that connection and explained that it was the first thing that came up on Google. The assistant director said the anime’s accessory designers were inspired by real weapons, but “for technical reasons, we couldn’t draw the same thing.”
When asked what it was like to direct such an intense scene, Nekotomi explained that she didn’t feel pressured because Hiramaki trusted her and she had “the best team members” supporting her. Nekotomi’s favorite scene takes place after the murder: the scene where Aqua and Ruby are waiting in a taxi, and Aqua decides to take revenge. The star in his right eye was drawn by hand in each frame of animation; Nekotomi likes that she “can challenge myself” and “explore new ways of expressing myself through the characters.”
The panel ended with some teaser information about Season 2. “It’s going to be a pretty fun, different atmosphere,” Hiramaki explained. “We’re trying new things.” Nekotomi said that the movie will be “a lot more interesting and fun,” teasing scenes of Aqua, Kana, and Akane wearing kimonos and fighting with swords. Yamashita has promised to make important announcements on November 26 at the 2023 Ichigo Production☆Thanksgiving Fan Event, which will be livestreamed for international fans.