Extra Edition / Season 2 Interview
Translation of an interview with Kawahara Reki and Ito Tomohiko from Dengeki Bunko Magazine and Dengeki G’s Magazine, on the subject of Sword Art Online’s Extra Edition and season two.
Update: Added another interview from Dengeki G’s Magazine since it’s short.
Update 2: Oh yeah, totally forgot about this, but is anyone interested in typesetting the Phantom Bullet manga when it’s out? I might be a little hard to work with, so someone with experience and patience (and a decent internet connection), please.
From Dengeki Bunko Magazine
Revealing the Secret Stories behind Working On “Extra Edition”
—Let me ask regarding “Extra Edition”, broadcasted at the end of last year. How did it turn out as a swimsuit episode?
[K] Someone suggested it, right?
[I] I recall that, but… I’m pretty sure it was either Miki (Kazuma, Editor-in-charge of the source material)-san or Oosawa (Nobuhiro, Chief Producer)-san who brought it up during the scenario planning phase.
—So it was undecided at first?
[I] All that was decided upon at the start was that would be a compilation film with some new material. The new part was supposed to be simpler, though. It ended up rather major, having the new part inserted between the compilation bits.
[K] Having the compilation become somewhat like Kikuoka’s report was your idea, wasn’t it, director?
[I] I figured that when Kikuoka appears in the first episode of the «GGO» arc, it would be better for those who didn’t know about the anime’s second season yet to go “Oh, it’s the old guy who talked a lot during the compilation film.”, rather than “Who the heck is this?”.
[K] But because of that, the parts in between had scenes of an old guy and a boy talking on and on… (haha).
[I] Well, we thought it would be better if there was something showy. But swimsuits were time-consuming, so Katou (Jun, Animation Producer, A-1 Pictures)-san rejected it with a “no way” whenever the idea came up while we were planning the scenario. The character designer, Adachi (Shingo), said “Swimsuits are fine, aren’t they?”, though, so everyone’s hearts united (haha) and it ended up with swimsuits both in «ALO» and the real world. Just that the swimsuits in «ALO»’s new part were sourced from abec-san’s illustrations.
[K] Those were the swimsuits in the consecutive bonus posters from “Dengeki Bunko MAGAZINE”, weren’t they?
[I] That’s right. We weren’t sure what to do for Asuna’s swimsuit in particular. Asuna’s hair was brown in the original illustration, but her hair’s blue as an undine. We did think about changing the swimsuit’s color to fit her hair, but Asuna seemed to like red & white, so we left it as it was.
[K] Her blue hair certainly is striking. She’s fine in her undine costume, but it’s tough making her suit any other clothes, including that swimsuit, isn’t it? And undine Asuna has long ears too. It must have been difficult dealing with that in the anime.
—Suguha was revealed to be unable to swim during “Extra Edition”, but this characteristic was only decided upon while working on it, wasn’t it?
[I] We wanted a sort of story in between the compilation parts.
[K] The thought, “Either of those siblings must have fell into that pond once.” did always come to me whenever I saw the real world’s Kirigaya home in Kawagoe. Kids would definitely fall in if there was a pond like that in the garden. So, I threw Suguha in (haha).
—I heard it was originally Liz who would sink like a rock?
[K] Well, she is a blacksmith (haha).
[I] Ah, wasn’t I the one who said that pun (haha)? “She’s a blacksmith, so she’ll sink like a rock”, I think.
[K] I believe we decided on Suguha for the surprise factor in the end. Because she had the impression of being sporty.
—By the way, why was Suguha the only one wearing a school swimsuit?
[K] It must have someone’s handiwork. If I recall right, that someone wanted “su-gu-ha” in hiragana on a label on her chest.
[I] I remember someone saying that.
[K] Well, let’s blame it on Kashiwada (Shin’ichiro, Producer, Aniplex), then (haha).
—So things like that are basically influenced by the producers, huh (haha)?
[I] Let’s leave it as that (haha). By the way, everyone went “That’s definitely not happening” on the label, so we tossed that idea.
[K] In the first place, I wasn’t even sure if school swimsuits were still in use (haha). I checked it up while wondering and found that many schools were accepting personal swimsuits or one resembling T-shirts with spats. So, I tweeted “School swimsuits might not be around anymore” on Twitter while reporting on the live broadcast and received many replies going “No, they’re still using school swimsuits over here”. So they’re still living on, even now, huh… (looking off in the distance).
—What did you like about the girls’ swimsuits?
[K] When Lisbeth was splashing water at Silica at the start of the new part, I liked how her waist moved. Lisbeth’s swimsuit was like shorts, so it made that line at her waist look good from the back; that’s what I liked (haha).
[I] I don’t have much interest in swimsuits or breasts. I prefer their thighs when they have their clothes on (haha).
—By the way, why was the new part underwater too?
[K] With those swimsuits appearing in the real world, the new part naturally turned into something underwater. We needed a reason for Suguha be practicing swimming: to participate in an underwater quest in «ALO».
Your First Time Writing a Screenplay Was More Interesting than Writing Novels!?
—The compilation left quite an impression, using all of the anime’s OPs and EDs.
[I] It seemed likely to have the BGMs repeat when gathering scenes from various places… we were concerned about that. Like in the battle scenes, it was mostly M1… the music that played whenever Kirito won, so we wanted to avoid using the same piece over and over again. While searching for alternatives, we thought of using the OPs and EDs.
[K] It just makes you want to shout out “Oooh!” whenever the OP plays, doesn’t it?
[I] I’m glad it blended in better than we thought it would.
—Is there anything else you would like to point out?
[I] I inserted the scenes I wanted to see into the compilation. The scene where Oberon was caressing Asuna in front of Kirito wasn’t in the scenario, but I put it in since I wanted to see it (haha). I figured everyone else would have wanted to see that too.
[K] “I knew it! I knew this would be in!” went through my head. I was really happy being able to hear Koyasu (Takehito)-san’s “Just grovel there!”.
—So Kawahara-san was the one who wrote the screenplay for the new part?
[K] It was supposed to be just the plot at first, but I wrote in the lines and movements, so it just became like “Wait, isn’t this already a screenplay?” (haha). And so, I was told to just write it in that format.
—It appears to be your first time writing a screenplay, so how was it?
[K] The speech and movements practically just wrote themselves, so it was much more relaxing than writing novels (haha).
[I] Some sort of message, maybe (haha)?
[K] Actually, I went and said “Writing the screenplay was fun, so I’ll quit being a novelist and become a screenplay writer.” at the drinking party, and Miki-san and the rest went “Go ahead and try if you think you can do it, it’s not as simple as you think.” (haha). Normally, the writer would get corrections on the screenplay from the original author, the producers, and the directors, right? Fixing those up over and over again would certainly get on my nerves (haha). And there are times when a straightforward scene in the screenplay would be replied with a reaction going “This scene is going to turn out that complex?”.
—It does seem tough showing underwater combat.
[K] The screenplay would just have lines like “They float in the water” or “Unable to move well in the water, they stumble”, but showing that visually is hard. I ended up thinking that it’s really no good if I don’t think about how the screenplay would be represented visually.
—So, that’s where the difficulty of writing a screenplay comes in?
[K] No, I wasn’t thinking about that at all when I wrote the screenplay (haha). I did go and write “Some humongous old guy drops down from above” and “The old man transforms into a gigantic octopus” without even pondering over it, after all. That’s why I’m reflecting on it (sweatdrop).
[I] Having some old guy dropping down isn’t a challenge (haha). What’s difficult was handling the water’s movement. It’s not just the new part with the underwater quest; the school’s pool in the real world was exhausting too.
[K] The water looked really inviting with its glittering surface during the pool scene.
[I] It was horrible gathering the resources to prepare for that. We wanted it to waver underneath and for the surface to stay still, so we had to put a white, wobbly image around the borders. It would have looked wrong if even a single pixel was off. I even ended up looking at resources I shouldn’t had been looking at.
[K] Woah, that must have been tough!
—Were that any scenes you really liked, especially in the new part?
[K] There were many interesting scenes in “Extra Edition”… Like when Klein and Kirito got sucked in by the pitfall and splashed their way out. I love scenes like that (haha).
[I] You know the circle at the bottom of that pitfall? That was from when Oberon used the gravity magic that had yet to be implemented. The swirl’s formed as the gravity pulls it down.
[K] I see. It did seem like the swirl wasn’t on the whole time, but only when someone fell into the hole. Also, the scene right after where Silica said “No matter what you’re like, Kirito…” before Lisbeth butted in was good. Like how Lisbeth didn’t just interrupt halfway, but Silica actually waited for her to jab in (haha). They’re a good duo, aren’t they?
—Were there any scenes you were fixated with, Itou-san?
[I] The camera switches between the counselling room and the pool in the compilation part, but we put proper thought into how those scenes link up in the storyboard. But it was too bad how the commercials were placed into all of those connectors (haha). For example, when Lisbeth looked up at the counselling room, muttering how they must be making out. And in the next scene, we have Kikuoka and Kirito stuck close together doing something. It just doesn’t work without watching that directly!
[K] If they were connected, people would have understood that Kikuoka was looking at the pool when he peeked through the blinds too, right (haha)?
[I] Well, we can’t do anything about the commercials, though.
[K] Everyone, please, “watch it again in the packaged edition” (haha).
The Sensation of Firing a Gun for the First Time While Gathering Material for the «GGO» Arc!?
—The new project teaser movie played right after “Extra Edition” ended.
[K] Sawashiro-san’s fluent enunciation was really cool. People thought that the line, “2014 ACTIVATED”, would be hard to understand at the start, though. I’m glad we went with it. That reminds me, was the gunfire sound the one recorded at Guam?
[I] Of course we used it. The gun’s actual sound was used along with some editing.
—Actually, it appears that the other anime staff had also went to Guam to collect data for producing the «GGO» arc, hadn’t they? Was it to record the sound of gunfire?
[I] In addition to that, I had never fired a gun before, so I thought it would be best to fire it once or twice. Guns appear often in TV dramas and anime, but still, I couldn’t come up with a proper impression of guns when I actually tried thinking about them. Things developed from there, leading to the proposal to have everyone go since it was a rare opportunity and all.
[K] It was a first for me too, firing a gun.
—How do you feel after firing a gun for the first time?
[K] I couldn’t hit a thing (haha). I figured I wouldn’t be able to aim right, but I did even worse than I expected.
[I] I thought, “how scary”. It goes without saying, but guns really are a weapon for killing humans, huh. The round would kill a person if it hits, or at least, cause heavy injury even in the best case scenario. I reflected on how lacking I was on that realization.
[K] What they drove into us first was to never point a gun at another person and to never place your finger on the trigger until the instant before firing, after all.
[I] The instructors told us, “If you ever point the muzzle towards us, we’ll shoot you on the spot”. That’s the impact guns have.
—The recoil from firing it must have been dreadful.
[K] Sure, firing it was, but the sound was too. The sound, or rather, the shock wave just comes at you. We were wearing earplugs, but still, there was that huge “gaan”.
[I] Part of the high and low tones gets stripped away from gunfire in videos due to the recording equipment, so it’s just not the same. I believe it was good that I could experience it first-hand.
The Appeal behind «GGO», a World of Guns, and the New Heroine, Sinon
—Do you have any thoughts regarding the «GGO» arc receiving an anime adaption?
[I] I started with the vague impression that the world in «GGO» wasn’t a pretty one like «Aincrad» or «ALO» were. Like how it didn’t have a nice sky like in «ALO», but one filled with fumes. I think I want to show that world as one where people commit savage acts.
—By the way, what led you to write the «GGO» arc, Kawahara-san?
[K] Well, you can call it the true charm of online games: it’s fine sticking to a single game, but there are plenty to choose from. I thought it would be nice to explore various game worlds.
—There are several new gameplay systems appearing in «GGO», such as the bullet line, aren’t there?
[K] Due to their circumstances, games have to differ from reality in certain aspects in order to keep them entertaining. For example, in most FPSs (first-person shooter), you wouldn’t die even after getting shot several times. Of course, you’ll die if you continued getting hit, but your life gauge will recover if you take cover and hide. That keeps the game interesting, but I figured it might be unnatural in a VR game. In «GGO», you can look at the line predicting the bullets and avoid them. It seems difficult showing that visually, though…
[I] We’re mostly settled on that matter. We’ll follow the original novels’ rules for the most part.
—Organizing the guns must have been a mammoth task.
[I] It certainly was. Unexpectedly, they don’t look good at all unless most of the details are drawn in, as we realized while working on the preview.
[K] You aren’t going to use CG?
[I] I believe we will be using it somewhere, but Hecate II was drawn in the preview.
—So the guns are based on modelguns?
[K] We managed to borrow a whole bunch of modelguns from a certain source, so half of the guns appearing will be from modelguns. However, the gun in the leading role, Hecate II, hadn’t been adapted as a modelgun, so it’s tough not having the resources. There was the idea of purchasing the real thing from Europe and making it unusable, but numbers were extremely limited and there weren’t any available second-hand. There was an auction in America once, but the price was 30 thousand dollars…
[I] That’s 3 million yen (haha).
[K] I went “As if I could bid for that!” (haha). It’s too late now, but I think it might have been better if I had used a more famous gun.
—There are many new characters appearing in «GGO», huh. The first key visual art had been released, but…
[I] Just who is that black-haired girl… That said, anyone reading this would know, wouldn’t they (haha).
[K] You can tell Adachi-san spent a lot of effort on that key visual art. He’s truly bordering the line of becoming an actual girl.
—It seems hard to work with, huh?
[K] Strangely enough, abec-san had trouble drawing Kirito’s appearance at the start too, for the illustrations in «GGO» in the source material, so abec-san apparently drew him as a female character with breasts on, then erased those afterwards. I suppose it must be difficult when you’re conscious that he’s male. I’m looking forward to how he turns out in the anime, as well as how Matsuoka (Yoshitsugu, Kirito’s voice actor) will perform his role.
—Please tell me more about Sinon too. I hear she’s a popular character?
[K] Within the source material, I guess Sinon would be right behind Asuna in terms of popularity. I’m not sure on what basis are people rooting for Sinon either.
[I] Her legs? Or maybe the ass (haha).
[K] I do think that was done extremely well in the preview.
—I’m sure that’s part of her appeal (sweatdrop), but how about inside?
[I] I believe it would be how Sinon appears to be strong, but there’s that part of her inside that would crumble easily.
[K] If we take Asuna, as she was at the start, out of the picture, she would be the most tsun character among the lot.
[I] I wonder there’ll be a bunch of fans wanting to get shot by Sinon-san (haha).
—Did you have anything particular in mind when you came up with Sinon, Kawahara-san?
[K] I recall first deciding she would be a sniper, then fleshing her out. I wasn’t thinking too hard when I wrote back then, so I ended up giving her a whole lot of traumas. First, her father died in a traffic accident, then she comes across a bank robber, while—and so on.
[I] She’s living on hard mode, isn’t she. Viewers will be depressed with a heart-breaking story, so I don’t want to have too much sadness and gloom in the anime. Of course, we’ll definitely have Sinon’s past still, but it will be balanced out.
The Unexpected Questions from Foreign “SAO” Fans
—I heard both of you attended anime events overseas last year?
[K] I went once, to Sakura-con in Seattle.
[I] I had the chance to go to Boston’s Anime Boston and Singapore’s Anime Festival Asia.
—How did the fans respond?
[K] I liked how they expressed their feelings really openly, or rather, enjoyed it with all their heart. I could sense the organizers trying really hard to make the guests and attendees feel welcome, and I thought it would nice if I could go again.
[I] There were many enthusiastic fans and they questioned about even the slightest detail.
[K] Everyone were really knowledgeable. There were scenes that they probably felt strange due to cultural differences, like how in Hollywood films, women would never just wait for help when kidnapped, but actually fight, for example. It seems that evolved from the desire to avoid being linked to misogyny, though. Hence, it was quite a shock that Asuna stayed captured in the «ALO» arc. When they asked “Wouldn’t having Asuna caged for the whole «ALO» arc after fighting so much in the «Aincrad» arc make people find it as an example of male chauvinism?”, I was so surprised I couldn’t think up of an immediate answer.
—I recall Asuna trying to escape, though.
[K] I guess it was because she stayed captured until the end. I think she would have probably succeeded in her escape and fought together with Kirito if it was in a Hollywood film.
[I] I think I know why Asuna-san is so popular overseas. Because she tends to say what she really thinks. She did tell Kirito-kun, “I love you” so clearly, after all. Also, there was a roaring “Waah” cheer for Agil when he appeared. They went “Oooh!” at that “Wait a moment!” part in episode 2 (haha).
[K] They certainly did. I want to apologize a little since Agil won’t be appearing much in the «GGO» arc.
[I] I don’t understand what caused that reaction, though (haha).
—Lastly, a word for the fans looking forward to the new anime project, please.
[K] To both those waiting for it and those who aren’t too, please, catch it every week. And I won’t say when it starts broadcasting, but it’ll be some time this year!
[I] Please look forward to Sinon’s crotch… just kidding (haha). The gun action would totally get boring if it’s too realistic, but well, this is a virtual world, after all. We will work hard to make it look fancy after discussion with the gun supervision staff. Please look forward to it.
—Thank you very much for your time.
From Dengeki G’s Magazine
Q.1 So “SAO2” has finally been announced. How did you feel at that time?
K: I received many cries of “I’ve been waiting for this, I’m looking forward to it!” even on Twitter. I couldn’t be happier.
I: Now I can finally say “We’re doing it! (the 2nd season)”.
Q.2 The essence of the appeal behind the true heroine, Sinon, is!?
K: Maxing out in both “strength” and “weakness”. She’s tremendously unstable, but I believe that turned out to be her appeal.
I: Her “ass”, I believe. (immediate answer)
Q.3 What should we look out for in the anime adaption?
K: I think it would be the gun action of a full-dive type VR game. Characters in real FPSs have a plain range of movements, after all. I’m looking forward to how it’ll be able to exceed that!
I: (I’m the one adapting the anime, so) I’ll keep that in mind to ask myself later.
Q.4 Is there something you would recommend people do before watching?
K: I think knowing the names of the guns and such beforehand would enhance your enjoyment. Aoi Eir, who sang the OP theme song for the first season, seems to really love FPSs, so I’m looking forward to her thoughts.
I: “That’s the gun that other character from that other series used…”, some might enjoy it like that too.
Q.5 Which heroine in her swimsuit caught your eye and the reason behind it?
K: Lisbeth in «ALO». I liked that line at her waist.
I: She was in her underwear, rather an a swimsuit, but I liked Suguha while she was tapping away at her smartphone.
Q.6 To get straight to the point, which heroine would you like to marry?
I: Lisbeth for me.
Q.7 What did you fuss over in the screenplay and production for “Extra Edition”?
K: As I wrote the screenplay, I wrote it with the thought of making it a cheerful and fun story.
I: Adachi (Shingo) paid extra attention to Suguha’s breasts. The cut with Suguha’s bra was amazing! We were told off by the girls at A-1 Pictures with a “That’s definitely not happening in reality” (haha).
Q.8 What would you like to do if you get into a VRMMO like «SAO»?
K: I want to create my ideal writing environment and work on my manuscript. It seems nice placing a gigantic monitor and keyboard in the middle of the great nature and doing my work.
I: I want to try playing as the opposite sex!
Q.9 Which male character would you want to be friends with?
K: Hmm… I don’t think Kirito would be friends with me, Sugou-san would just grumble about his job as a boss, Agil and Klein would be too good for me… Well, let’s go with Diavel-san. I think it’ll go well, seeing as he’s perfect while having quite a number of hopless aspects too.
I: Then I’ll take Kibaou-san. Or maybe Recon as a gofer (haha).
Q.10 A message for the reader of Dengeki G’s Magazine, please.
K: I hope for your support for the new TV anime project as well as the popular manga version of “Sword Art Online Progressive” being serialized in G’s Magazine.
I: Sure, “Love Live!” is nice, but please support “SAO” too!