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Vanna's Note: This is the text-only version of one of two interview sections of the MASSIVE June 1997 Animage Extra 'The Utena Dossier,' a 36-page booklet of interviews, Enokido script notes, character notes, setting designs, voice actor hijinks, and more. I've taken Nagumo's cover to cover translation and worked it into the original scans for the full experience! The images are hosted here, in our new, work in progress, Utena Gallery, if you want to check them out individually! (Note: Click download for the massive full-size copies!) That said, the easiest way to get the total tour is probably by downloading this here 110mb PDF! It's not quite the same as having the booklet in your hands, but I hope it's close!! You can view the entire book here, including the below interviews which are also worked into the scans! It's an absolutely monster piece of work that took us FOREVER, but it's full of juicy meta and even the adverts were translated! The two bigger interviews are here for ease of access!

The Auspicious Joining of Manga and Anime

All the gorgeous character designs of Revolutionary Girl Utena published in this Utena Dossier are based on original creations by mangaka Saito Chiho that have been polished for television by Hasegawa Shinya.

So, what are the secrets behind their creative process?

Saito Chiho (Creator・Manga)
Mangaka. Debuted in 1982 with The Sword and the Mademoiselle. Since then, she's been an active veteran participant of Shogakukan's Shoujo and Josei magazines. Winner of last year's Shogakukan Manga Award. Best known works are Kanon, The Flower Crown Madonna, Magnolia Waltz and others. Participating in Utena as a member of Be-Papas.
Born June 29, in Tokyo.

Hasegawa Shinya (Character Design)
Animator. He’s highly regarded for his depictions of dynamic action and sensual women. Best known works are Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon and Neon Genesis Evangelion. A member of Be-Papas, the creative group behind Revolutionary Girl Utena.
Born July 28, 1968, in Tokyo.

AM: So what was your first impression of Saito-san's art when you saw it?

Hasegawa: It's been two and a half years thereabout, since Ikuhara-san told me "the project is going to be based on this person's art," and handed me Saito-san's Magnolia Waltz. I hadn't read that many shoujo manga before, so it was the first time I've seen Saito-san's manga. Recently, there have been a number of mangaka drawing in a very anime-like manner, but Saito-san's art doesn't do that. So I thought to myself, "here's a worthy challenge." I've always wanted to try my hand at designing something that's not like current animation.

Saito: The greater the challenge, the more worthy it is, right?

Hasegawa: That's right.

Saito: I also believe that something challenging is more rewarding to attempt. So, whenever I run into something and go "this is impossible," that's when I face it head on. I try to avoid subjects that make me go "this is a piece of cake!"

Hasegawa: I feel the same way. Even before working on Utena, I received a few offers to do character designs for mainstream games or for anime-style manga, but they were the sort of thing anyone could draw. Saito-san's manga on the other hand, was probably the sort that would be difficult to make into anime. So I felt that it would interesting to try and do it. And sure enough, it turned out to be quite a challenge. (laugh)

Saito: That's quite the ordeal. I want to go "I'm sorry I put you through so much!" (laugh)

Hasegawa: Not at all. (laugh) Honestly, I think it’s because of my lack of technical skills. This is my first character design job, and I haven’t learned all the tricks of it yet. My first attempt at drawing didn’t resemble them at all… It was a huge shock. I lost all motivation for a while.

Saito: Really?

Hasegawa: Getting back on my feet took quite some time. I started working on it in January of last year (1996) and it wasn't until the fall that I was able to create the full character list.

Saito: I heard out of all the characters, Utena was the most difficult.

Hasegawa: Utena was definitely the most difficult. She had only a few distinctive traits.

Saito: Anime Utena is so cute. I gaze at your art while drawing the manga now. (laugh)

Hasegawa: Oh geez! (crying) You’d better not, Saito-san, or else our drawings will cancel out each other’s sexiness...

Saito: You think so? (laugh)

AM: Saito-san, what was your initial impression upon seeing Hasegawa-san’s rendition of Utena?

Saito: When I first saw the completed drawing, I thought "Woah, she looks so mature!" The drawings I was shown after that were much cuter, and that was a relief. I felt that if she looked too mature, it might not work out for the anime.

Hasegawa: There were qualities that were hard to portray properly. Saito-san's art has a very adult allure to it, so that maturity seeped out into anything I drew.

Saito: Huh? But I meant to draw it cutely! (laugh) I guess I don’t get my own art.

Hasegawa: While I was doing the character designs, she’d sometimes send me letters and manga volumes and stuff. Looking them over made me go, "Oh man, I haven't even shown her the character sheets yet. She must have incredibly high expectations!" I felt so much pressure.

Saito: Heehee. Well, of course I had high expectations! And you did as expected— no, you went far beyond. I was very impressed.

Hasegawa: Oh no, please don't exaggerate. I don't think I managed to convey even a tenth of the charm of your art.

Saito: That's not true.

AM: So how did you feel when you saw the completed anime?

Saito: I loved it. In particular, the opening was so amazingly stylish, I watched it on video over and over again on the first broadcast day alone. At one point, I thought "I’m watching this so much, what will I do if I record over the video by mistake?" As soon as the thought occurred to me, I pushed the record button by mistake and copied over it. Oh, it was a horrible shock. (laugh)

Both: (Laugh)


Hasegawa: Saito-san's art is often said to have a 'Takarazuka taste' to it. I figure that probably means using the entire body to express emotions, using hand gestures to set the mood, and so on. Saito-san's art is glamorous and wonderful for still shots, but I feel it'd be harder to recreate that in moving animation. Your art is expressive enough that it needs only a single drawing; if we were to animate that, I think its appeal would be halved.

Saito: You really think so?

Hasegawa: Take this trope, for example. You know when a character gets startled and their hair billows even though there’s no wind? It's an expression of emotion, but when you do it in an anime, viewers end up wondering, "Why’s their hair billowing like that when they’re standing still? It’s even staying stuck like that!"

Saito: Ahahah. Ah yes. Sure enough, anime means it’s moving. In manga, I can quickly draw up a cool pose and go "I'll leave the rest up to your imagination," which will fill in the rest. In anime, though, you have to, well, animate everything.

Hasegawa: There is a method in animation where you can use lots of 'still images,' but you can't use that technique for everything.

Saito: It's like the difficulty of drawing a cool way to fall. (laugh) When I draw a falling scene in my manga, I only draw the coolest moment of that fall.

Hasegawa: A while ago, Saito-san took me to see Takarazuka. Onstage, the actresses can be doing nothing special, just standing around normally while conversing, and their poses still look cool.

Both: (laugh)

Hasegawa: They're cool when they're performing but even when they're not, they never drop their act. It was a great learning experience. Saito: Their stage poses are a result of dance training, right? Since they vigorously train themselves through dance moves, they’re able to create any end result they desire. It's very difficult to capture that panache in a picture, isn't it?

Hasegawa: Saito-san, you’ve done ballet before too, right?

Saito: Yup. I did.

Hasegawa: When you're drawing out those poses, do they naturally come to you because of your experience?

Saito: It doesn't come out naturally, it's just I used to dance so I know where they're focusing their strength and where they are moving to. "Ah, now they’re trying to express emotion through their fingertips," or "this is where their center of gravity is and here’s where they're relaxed." I might pick up these things because I used to do ballet.

Hasegawa: Right now in Japanese animation, there's a strong trend towards depicting realism with excellent quality, so ‘meaningless’ poses like that are discarded.

Saito: Really?

Hasegawa: By steadily eliminating needless lines and poses that don't fit the logic of movement, I feel one gets simplistic art that conveys only the absolute minimum amount of information. But to me, the appeal of Saito-san's art lies in how it does the opposite—in its stylistic beauty.

Saito: That's a really difficult part, isn't it?

Hasegawa: I might have gotten used to the methods used in recent anime, or become a jack of all trades instead.

Saito: You’ve been having a hard time of it, huh? It’s not like you can get away with simply drawing a pretty face.

Hasegawa: What’s more, the way you draw your bodies and of course your faces is so proportionate, Saito-san.

Saito: Y-you really think so?

Hasegawa: It’s been seven years since I became an animator, but this past year is probably the first time I’ve focused so carefully on my own art. Up until then, all I ever did was draw the key animation frames of other peoples’ character designs. By taking the time to look at Saito-san's art and carefully converting it into my style, for good or ill, I’ve grasped what my style is for the first time. It made me think, "What a warped art style!" It reflects my personality well.

Saito: Oh yeah? (laugh)

Hasegawa: I know I should just draw in an honest, straightforward manner, but I don't. It's like my own body won't listen to me.

Saito: That must be because you’ve locked into your own art style.

Hasegawa: It could be that I developed some sort strange quirk from the work I've done until now.

Saito: I've often heard from Ikuhara-san that you're very good at action scenes. Would you consider them your specialty?

Hasegawa: Not too sure about that. Actions scenes are rather easy to draw, are they not? It seems more difficult to draw something like a love scene, where they're face to face and getting intimate with each other.

Saito: Hmm.

Hasegawa: Even among animators, there aren’t that many people who can draw that sort of scene, I think. Shots of the subtle tilt of the head or changes in facial expressions are better at directly exhibiting the animator's artistic ability and understanding of acting.

Saito: That’s true; when you draw something, you could say you’re also acting it out.

Hasegawa: That’s right.

Saito: I study love scenes a lot, too. I’ll watch my favorite movie scenes over and over or lots of sexy ballet scenes. By making observations like "approaching like that is so sexy" or "putting one’s hand there makes the woman look cute and gives a feeling like one really cherishes her." I’ve gained mastery. Though maybe it’s just because I like them and spend lots of time watching them tirelessly. (laugh) One learns the most by watching tons of things that get the heart racing, like movies and stage plays. You can practice depicting them yourself, but when you do, you can't see them in an objective manner.

Both: (laugh)

Translator’s Note: 煩悩: Buddhist term for earthly desire, lusts, carnal desire, worldly passions, unwholesome actions, poisonous thoughts, and evil which results insuffering. The wages of evil. Translated as ‘primal’ throughout.

Hasegawa: To be able to draw like that, it’s important to get excited.

Saito: Yup~ that’s right. (laugh) All I draw every month is manga with those scenes, but I honestly can’t draw them unless I’m in the mood. So to set the mood, I watch a romantic movie or a ballet movie where I can go, “Oh, how lovely! ♡” Then I draw the storyboard. I have to deliberately get into the mindset.

Hasegawa: You have to fall in love every month.

Saito: You’re so right. I often miserably think to myself, "I don’t even feel like it right now! Why’d I get involved in such an unrewarding career …?"

Hasegawa: That’s what it means to be a pro: like it or not, you’ve got to coax out your primal passions.

Saito: Yeah. It’s a tough job. Have you ever felt like that, Hasegawa-san?

Hasegawa: Nah, I’m totally upfront about my primal passions...

Both: (laugh)

Hasegawa: Rather, my primality comes out when it’s stifled. In fact, it seems it won’t come out at all unless I stifle it. Saito: What do you mean by ‘stifled’?

Hasegawa: For example, when I’m working on a shoujo anime and the director tells me "This is shoujo, so give it a sweet, fresh mood," it makes me want to do the exact opposite…

Saito: (laugh)

Hasegawa: Even without my primal urges, I still want to go against those constraints. Could it be that I can exert more energy by defying them? If I participated in a shonen manga, I might end up drawing the art in a shoujo manga style.

Saito: Oh, I know what you mean. You and I are the same: contrarian blood type Bs. (laugh) We often do the opposite of what other people are doing.

AM: So when it comes to Utena, what constraints do you deal with, Hasegawa-san?

Hasegawa: Until now, someone else had always done the character designs while I participated as the key frame animator and animation director. When I had that constraining me, I’d work while asking myself, “How about I draw something that deviates from the character design?”

Both: (laugh)

Hasegawa: That’s the type of jerk I am. Up ‘til now, that’s the vector I've been working with, but this time I am the character designer...

Saito: Heehee. That must be so hard on you.

Hasegawa: Whatever shall I do? As the character designer, I can't go and draw the complete opposite of Saito-san's art, right? So I decided to place constraints on myself where possible.

Saito: On yourself?

Hasegawa: Yes, I’ve been trying to personally keep my primal urges in check and give my art a fresh feeling. I feel it’ll be more interesting to see what all comes seeping out. Also, I want to rebel against the industry. In this business, people tend to have a narrow-minded view: if one type of art gets popular, they all immediately ape it. That's why when I do design work, I always want it to be unique.

AM: And so, Hasegawa-san, what’s the art like for the present Utena anime?

Hasegawa: ...It seems there’s still some stiffness to it—one more hurdle I haven’t cleared. Even the character chart I think of not as a ‘finished product,’ but rather the starting point to drawing Utena. However, since the opening garnered a good reaction and positive feedback, lately I feel like I've been given a freer hand. Though I admit, I'm afraid if I start working too freely, it'll end up as a gigantic mess.

Saito: Is that so bad? (laugh)

Hasegawa: I'm an adult, I have to protect my work from myself.

Saito: But, well, I’m sure expressing your own tastes more freely will result more in art that appeals to the fans, Hasegawa-san. It seems to me that you’re still concerned about how to express my lines, but I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone will cut loose and go all out. I’m already pleased as can be knowing that you’re all replicating my art. Given that, you can all do whatever you please. Fundamentally speaking, the anime art belongs to those drawing the anime, so naturally I strongly believe that it’s best for the animators working on it to enjoy drawing it. Besides, I’m aware that “Revolutionary Girl Utena” is a Be-Papas group effort creation.

Hasegawa: Please excuse me. (crying) Saito-san, you really are so mature.

Saito: Not at all. Hahahah.

Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena) is © Kunihiko Ikuhara, Chiho Saito, Shogakukan and bePapas/TV Tokyo and/or their respective copyright holders. The US release of the Revolutionary Girl Utena series and movie was © Central Park Media and now belongs to Right Stuf. The US release of the Utena manga is © VIZ. The various sources used in this site are noted where their content is presented. Don't sue us, seriously. Blood. Stone.