Going back to the interview with director Kazuki Akane, here's the continuation of my first post
Special thanks to Eternal Dreamer for helping out.
Since they used a male with Lelouch, I decided this time I would make the main character in the story a female, so I came up with Leila.
The surprising starting point of the Heroine, Leila
-So, in creating the concrete world for “Akito the Exiled” it all started with development of the characters?
To be honest, I really hadn’t envisioned the framework of the entire story yet, so until those thoughts came to me I just plowed ahead in producing the characters. This current work actually takes place in between “Lelouch of the Rebellion” and “Lelouch of the Rebellion R2” which brings me to the point that the story’s conclusion was limited from the beginning. There was absolutely no way we could do a happy ending by “establishing a wonderful earth nation,” and there was no way we could restore the country of Japan. So having to create a world under those terms was very difficult, and the story didn’t just come from sunrise to sundown. As a result, it all began with a rough development of the characters first.
Since they had used a male with Lelouch, I decided this time I would make the main character in the story a female, so I came up with Leila. Then, when I revealed the setting for her “Leila…32 years old…has children…is divorced,” everyone was completely against it (laughs).
I was like “what’s wrong with that?!” (laughing). I argued, “Lelouch was a student, so why can’t we use a 32 year-old for this story?! I think a 32 year-old heroine is totally acceptable!” but they all ganged up on me and finally persuaded me saying, “A 32 year-old in anime is too old! And she can’t have kids!” (laughs).
-The result then was a mature 17 year-old (laughs). So, the first thing you came up with, rather, the catalyst for your character image was Leila?
Leila is the one who sees the mystery that is the Japanese person, Akito. This Japanese person has lost his country, so what is he fighting for? I thought it would be good to develop her in this manner.
-So the story of this Japanese person who lost his country is not told through his eyes...rather, it’s told through the observing eyes of this Leila who comes from a different country, Britannia?
Yes, and this Leila has given up her own country of Britannia and lives as an exile in the E.U. This is how my image of her was first developed.
When I asked Producer Kawaguchi “What was the theme of [Lelouch of the Rebellion]”, he responded “a battle between adults and children”. What was created in Code Geass was the image of children being sucked into a system built by adults without any choice in the matter and wanting to do something about it while struggling forward. In that case, Leila should also be like that, is what I thought. Therefore, I thought, “How about a girl having to fight in the E.U. while being both a Britannian and an exiled noble?”. Her character was completed in that way.
The clumsy image of youth included in Akito
-If Leila was the starting point, then how did the protagonist Akito’s character come about?
For Akito, it was when we were talking about “What are young people today looking for in anime heroes?”, and someone made the comment “Aren’t they looking for ‘chuunibyou’-type (note: delusional) characters?” (Laughter). But back then I said “What the hell’s a chuunibyou!?”.
-So you weren’t familiar with the term “chuunibyou” itself (Laughter).
That’s right (Laughter). So, they showed me books that were kind of like explanatory diagrams on chuunibyou, and while I was thinking “So this is what chuunibyou refers to…”, I tentatively tried consciously thinking that way, but… after thinking over various things, I understood that I myself seemed to be “chuunibyou” at my core (Laughter).
I really didn't want to think about it (Laughter). Well, having said that, summing up Akito with just the word “chuunibyou” was too stereotyped, so it ended up being a little different from that.
-Then, if you were to explain Akito’s image a bit more concretely?
In short, he views the world in a slightly slanted fashion, and though aware of the power he hides, he doesn't let it out. He actually strongly desires comrades, but whether because he was betrayed by comrades in the past or experienced some kind of trauma, he secludes himself in a shell without getting close to others… That kind of image.
That “shell” gradually comes off due to meeting new comrades—but the “strength” that he possesses and is self-aware of might be sustained by secluding himself in a shell. In other words, if that shell comes off, he might become an “ordinary person”… Akito is a character that just barely walks along that line.
I've created this kind of character countless times up until now, but I thought I should face this kind of character once again this time.
-There was also a part of you that was conscious having Akito contrast with Lelouch, right?
Lelouch is a character who doesn't care about what methods he chooses for the sake of results. He has the facet where, if the result is correct and just, it doesn't matter how evil the process to achieve it may be. I think that part of him is modernistic and fascinating, but in contrast to that, Akito may have been partly made as a character that is like “I also want the process to be correct and just due to my pride”.
Rather, by doing his best to make sure the process is correct and just, he can’t arrive at the ideal result. I tried to create that kind of clumsy guy.
-It’s true that Lelouch was fascinating due to being skilled when it comes to being both good and bad, and conducted himself well when responding to the situation at hand.
When I was young, I think part of me had a longing for those kinds of characters and saw them as heroes. But, humans don’t consist of just those kinds of people. There are also those who, though clumsy, live and do their best, and there are sometimes moments when that looks beautiful. There are also those with a bushido or chivalry-like image. That goes for not just Akito; the Euro Britannia characters also possess hearts of chivalry.
-If Lelouch’s way of life is to stress the importance of the “objective” and not care about the chosen means if it’s for the sake of achieving it, Akito and the others have a way of life that places importance on the process or “path” that is heading somewhere. In other words, the difference between their two ways of life is “What should I live for?” and “How should I live?”, right?
That’s correct. I think that you can see it that way. What follows is the theme of “People who only pursue their own personal happiness are selfish”. This is not limited to Akito, all the characters have that side to them that thinks this way. Leila fights not for the sake of her honor but to carry out justice, and Ryou’s group also treasures their “comrades”. I didn't want to create characters that “betray their comrades as long as they themselves end up fine” that much this time.
While we were thinking that, we came up with Akito and Leila, as well as Ryou, Ayano and Yukiya, anyway, we thought ideas like “This person is this kind of character” and “They went through these kinds of experiences up till now”. So, it ended up feeling like “It should be interesting if only these kinds of characters appear, so let’s all think of a concrete story” (Laughter).
-By the way, is there some reason behind the name “Hyuuga Akito”?
Okouchi-san came up with some slightly elaborate names for the Japanese when they were doing “Lelouch of the Rebellion”. Like Kururugi Suzaku. That’s why we decided to make the names relatively simple this time. At the same time, we wanted the show to have the soul of Japan by giving them names that symbolize Japan. So, while we were investigating, we ended up choosing “Hyuuga” from the land of “Hyuuga”, the territory that Emperor Jimmu first alighted upon. This land where the building of our nation started is divine and solemn, but it’s also a land that has been forgotten due to the center of the country moving to Yamato. Speaking of which, Akechi Mitsuhide was also “Hyuuga no Kami”—when we thought of that, it somehow had a lonely and sad echo to it as well. We thought that kind of atmosphere would suit Akito. The name “Akito” doesn't have any especially deep meaning to it, we just honestly chose it for the way it sounded. There was never really any other name candidate; he was just Akito from the beginning.
We can see the characters thanks to the good performance of the cast
-Using those character images you spoke of as the core, you then had CLAMP make the character designs, right?
That’s correct. However, it was still far from concrete back then, so CLAMP-san splendidly retorted “We understand that Akito is smart, but we don’t really understand his character” (Laughter).
Concerning Akito’s character, we ourselves didn't actually grasp it until recently. We truly went along with it while thinking “Just what kind of person is he?”, and recently we finally managed to understand him. That’s the impression we got.
-Rather, was a new character image born while looking at the characters designed by CLAMP-san?
Right, right. We actually started to think that way, like “Akito is this kind of character, now we can do this!”, after the post-recording of the first episode was finished. Irino Miyu-kun was doing the voice for Akito, and it was then I really felt “Ah, this is it”. It really felt like we were fumbling around until that point.
However, I think that applies not just to ourselves, but to the original animation too. When the post-recording ended, along with the dubbing, sound effects and music, and the first episode was completed, we then finally managed to grasp a concrete response on the characters and the work, thinking to ourselves “Yeah, they’re like this”.
-Akito’s voice actor Irino Miyu and Leila’s Sakamoto Maaya. What was the reason for choosing these two cast members?
Irino-kun, at any rate, gave off the impression of being intensely skilled at acting. He did the protagonist Senkawa Tsutomu in “Birdy the Mighty Decode”, where his power of expression was magnificent. Also, Irino-kun has played many roles of modern and calm young men, but I thought he was actually interesting when he did delicate and sharp roles as well, so I want to hear Irino-kun act out that kind of role in our work. I thought that, if it’s him and his comprehensive ability, he would probably come to thoroughly understand the role and perform it properly. So, when I asked him to take Akito’s role and perform it, he fitted into it splendidly. I think he wonderfully expresses Akito’s feeling of tension that stretches out like a thin thread.
Regarding Leila, she is burdened with her own complex background. Her grace and dignity as a descendant of a noble family, her strength in serving as a commander at such a young age, and yet despite all that her softness as a 17-year-old girl had to be properly expressed. A suitable acting ability was necessary, so I thought “Sakamoto-san is the only one for the role”. Leila’s a difficult character, so a big part of me was betting on Sakamoto-san’s power of expression, but she managed to meet expectations and splendidly acted out Leila, so I’m truly glad.
-What kind of requests did the director give to the two of them?
We didn’t give them much information, and just gave them simple explanations like “Voice it like this please” during the recording. We didn't regulate them, and thought we should just let Akito and Leila decide using the performance the two of them did in the recording as the basis. Speaking conversely, I think that part of the earlier versions of Akito and Leila will change from now on depending on Irino-kun’s and Sakamoto-san’s performances.