Ever wonder what goes on in Shinbo and Nishio Ishin’s head? Want to hear the creative minds behind the Monogatari series talk about their experiences and thoughts working on the series? Here’s your chance. Enjoy.
Q: What’s the secret behind Nisemonogatari, the sequel to the big blockbuster, Bakemonogatari?
Nishio (N): I try to visit the set of Nisemonogatari as often as possible. Not that I really do anything, I just enjoy the atmosphere and go home (laughs).
Shinbo (S): Thanks for bringing us food all the time (laughs). He might not be doing much, but I find myself asking him about intonation or pronunciation quite often. I take great care to ensure that his original word choices are translated verbatim to my adaptation. I feel that changing an author’s words takes uniqueness away from a novel. Adaptation invites scrutinization by viewers, who’re inevitably going to compare and contrast differences in plot and setting. I don’t really want to rely upon such changes to draw attention. My goal is to create something inherently interesting.
N: My book isn’t meant to be read aloud, so I think adapting it into an anime is quite tricky. That’s why I’m really happy that the voice actors are reading my original words, verbatim.
I visit these recording sessions because I want the director and everyone else in the creative staff to energize me. Novelists work alone in their own personal space, right? Anime is created in social spaces, with lots of people. It’s really fun for me to participate in the creative process and not just passively watch as things get done.
S: We don’t really talk about work all that much (laughs), but I was really impressed by Mr. Nishio when we were doing character commentaries for the DVD/Blu-Ray release of Bakemonogatari. He’d frequently look at the script and ask me things like, “How many seconds does this portion take?” He’s got this way of just jumping into things, which I think is probably completely unrelated to his talent as a novelist. I thought his character commentary for the last DVD/Blu-Ray volume was a real masterpiece. This isn’t the first time I’ve worked with novels, but it is the first time I’ve adapted a novel verbatim. The big difference between adapting a manga and a novel is that in a novel, there aren’t that many visuals, so you have to sort of construct the visual environment of each scene from scratch.
N: Watching Episode 1 of Bakemonogatari, even I was surprised by the design of things like the stairs and the abandoned cram school. I’m the original author of the series! In the novel, I’m limited to describing things from Araragi’s viewpoint, so there aren’t many scenes where I describe his general surroundings. The anime made my constructed world much more vivid. It taught me things that I didn’t even know about it.
S: I think one of the keys to the series success was that Mr. Nishio didn’t feel that there was anything “wrong” or “off” about the visual direction. Mr. Nishio’s works are distinguished by their long conversations, and there’s a lot of wordplay that I can’t remove. Especially in Nisemonogatari, there’s quite a bit of dialogue, even when compared to other works in the Monogatari series.
N: You could call Nisemonogatari a novel of conversation (laughs). I tried to create a story out of many conversations, conversations that I thought the characters needed to have. I’d actually thought I finished the Monogatari series when I finished the second half of Bakemonogatari. Then, Kizumonogatari came along and I thought to myself, “Well, that’s the second book in the Monogatari series.” When I finished Nisemonogatari, I thought, “Well, there goes number three…” (laughs).
After that, I wrote Nekononogatari (White), which was really supposed to be the start of a second series. After that, I was inspired by the anime to continue expanding the scope and content of the Monogatari series. When I wrote Bakemonogatari and Kizumonogatari, an anime adaptation was nothing more than a distant dream. I was looking to do things that I could only do in novel format. I wouldn’t say that Nisemonogatari and all the other books after it are tailored towards anime adaptation. If anything, I’ve decided to make them even harder to adapt. I thought Mr. Shinbo could handle it (laughs).
S: There’s quite a few conversation scenes, and it was really difficult to convey a sense of movement during these scenes, in which essentially no action happens. For example, scenes where characters are talking in the streets are doable, but all of us really worked hard to figure out scenes like Araragi’s conversation with Oshino Shinobu in the bathtub or his conversation in Kanbaru Suruga’s room.
N: I was really surprised by the visual direction. I can’t get enough of it. I mean, look at Araragi’s house. It’s so incredible, as if the house itself is a monstrosity… (laughs). There’s a lot of scenes with no movement in Nisemonogatari because I really wanted to emphasize what the characters were seeing. A change in scenery represents the a shift in time or character growth. The visuals really drive that message of maturation and growth home.
S: Compared to Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari has a much stronger inclination towards fanservice. It’s my attempt to dig deeper into each of the characters introduced in Bakemonogatari. I’m putting them in the spotlight, one by one.
N: I try to make each of my works diametrically opposed to whatever came before it. Bakemonogatari and Kizumonogatari are opposites, as are Kizumonogatari and Nisemonogatari. That doesn’t mean Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari are the same, though. They’re definitely in opposition to each other. The only thing that’s common throughout the Monogatari series is that I am not writing them purely out of obligation. When I’m writing for any reason other than personal interest, this series will be over (laughs). I still can’t believe that so many people have responded positively to my capricious novels.
S: When I first read Bakemonogatari, I just thought it was really fun. “I can make an anime out of this. I’m glad this came to me,” I thought. I’m really glad this project didn’t go to anyone else. That’s a complicated feeling, of course, because I can’t help but feel someone else could have done this better than me. But, a lot of our staffers are fans of Mr. Nishio’s work, so the decision was unanimous. When volume 1 of the DVD rolled off the line, we were positive that we’d created something great. The character commentaries and such really rounded out the content of the series. Combine that with the packaging and design, and we knew we were holding something special in our hands.
N: I wasn’t able to get my hands on Volume 1 of the DVD on release day, even though I wrote the original work (laughs)! I ran from place to place until my legs gave out, but they were sold out everywhere. I wasn’t able to get a copy.
S: Isn’t that a good thing (laughs)? I really think that SHAFT’s visual direction and Mr. Nishio’s works go really well together. This is just wishful thinking on my part, but if you take NISHIOISHIN and combine it with the illustrator’s name (VOFAN), you get SHIN-VO, my name! When I saw that, I knew this was going to go well (laughs). It’s such a Nishio Ishin-esque joke, too.
N: I thought of a lot of names, but I can only say that this was a miraculous coincidence. I’m aiming for ten anime adaptations! The movie version of Kizumonogatari is number four, so it’ll be here before you know it.
S: Well, there you go, that’s your scoop (laughs). We’ll try our best to catch up to the novels. It’s time for us to turn our promises into reality. We’re full of enthusiasm. I hope that Mr. Nishio will write the script to his own tenth commemorative adaptation!
Originally printed in SWITCH, Vol 30 No. 2 (Feb 2012), by Niimi Nao and Yonemura Tomomi. Translated by Akira. All emphasis is the original author’s.
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