Maaya Sakamoto & Gekidan INU Curry special interview (III)

- Maaya Sakamoto meets Gekidan INU Curry -
The untold story behind the production of Universe (III)

Maaya Sakamoto's 2007 album 30minutes night flight was released on March 21st, after seventeen months following her last work. An animated promotional DVD was produced for Universe, the sixth song in the album, and included as a bonus DVD in the limited edition of the album. The animation was made at Production I.G's Studio 4 (IGPX) and almost entirely crafted by Gekidan INU Curry, the creative duo composed by Doroinu and 2shiroinu.. In this interview, Maaya Sakamoto and Gekidan INU Curry look back at the production of the video clip and talk about how they put their feelings into the song and video.

Profile: Maaya Sakamoto - Born on March 31, 1980, Maaya Sakamoto started her professional career as a singer at 15, when her talent was discovered by world-famous composer and music producer Yoko Kanno. At that time, she performed the opening song for the animated TV series The Vision of Escaflowne (1996) while giving her voice to the heroine of the series, Hitomi Kanzaki. Her career as voice actor and singer continued in both animation and live action productions, her credits including Nathalie Portman / Padme Amidala in the Star Wars saga. Maaya's 10th album 30minutes night flight is a musical concept work that the artist herself describes as "a 30-minute night flight dedicated to all the people who experienced at least one sleepless night."

Profile: Gekidan INU Curry - Translating 'Theatrical Company Dog Curry', it is a creative team composed by two young artists, 2shiroinu. (2white Dog., picture right) and Doroinu (Muddy Dog, picture left), who after a career in commercially-based animation decided to focus exclusively on art films that can express their sensitiveness. "We both had set our eyes on Russian and Czech animation styles. Rather than working with a lot of people like in an orchestra, we prefer to create miniature landscapes that can be accomplished by working individually." A few years after Universe, they were to receive global attention for designing the witches in the hit franchise Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Who drew the storyboards?
Doroinu: I did the final assembly. 2shiroinu. and I had several meetings to decide on the plan for the storyboard step by step, and I did the final drawing.
Sakamoto: I wish I could watch you at work throughout the project. To observe how you create things. Do you do the meetings by yourselves, I mean, only the two of you?
Doroinu: Yes, in places like family restaurants and so on.
Sakamoto: No kidding?
Doroinu: We did a sort of brainstorm to bring out as many ideas as possible. For instance, we talked about putting a big star in the first scene and use that image of a circle in the second scene. Later, I'd write them down and create storyboards.
Sakamoto: Do you two disagree at all?
Doroinu: Sure. For this project, 2shiroinu. complained that the characters were not cute enough.
2shiroinu.: I blow up too often.

The storyboard for the starting sequence of Universe, portraying the solitude of the Girl who goes out to find morning. In the finished video, her solitude is demonstrated by making her the only moving figure on the screen.

Sakamoto: As a duo called Gekidan INU Curry (literally: 'Theatrical Company Dog Curry'), are you like two peas in a pod? Or do you have different traits?
Doroinu: I suppose you could say both of us definitely fail as respectable citizens. (lol)
2shiroinu.: Both of us are hopeless failures.
Sakamoto: Don't you share similar tastes for things?
Doroinu: Yeah. We do share the same goal in what we want to create. We both had set our eyes on Russian and Czech animation styles. Rather than working with a lot of people like in an orchestra, we prefer to create something like a miniature landscape that could be accomplished by working individually. We wanted to do something together on a small, almost private scale.
2shiroinu.: Of course a big group has its advantages, but we wanted to do what we could by ourselves. And just when we decided to took that direction, we were offered this project.

As the music reaches its climax, we can see the Little Devils dancing with their partners. Although each cut lasts for only a couple of seconds, all characters and background art created lavishly detailed miniature landscapes.

Sakamoto: There were a lot of coincidences that led us to meet each other this way. You know, every creator wants to work and keep everything within reach. As the project expands, the extent to which you can keep your eyes on it becomes limited. I think it is some kind of an ideal for a creator to complete an all hand-made work. I personally agree with you very much. I think I was actually attracted to your drawings, which had a warm handmade feel to them.
As a result, we have this video that matches perfectly with the song, Universe, and my concept theme. Of course, the timing of us meeting was good too, I should say. I really appreciate that I met you.
Doroinu: Working on the project was fun, but we had asked too much of the staff around us. You know the production staff we asked to dance for us in the middle of night? We also had to ask them to color our drawings. We have to get down on our knees to thank them!
Sakamoto: When we make videos, we tend to end up fighting against time. I was transmitting "Hurray!" to you and wished you wouldn' run out of time. I sometimes sent you sweets too. (lol) Basically, after I saw the storyboards, I had no worries, not to mention your approach toward my music. I was more interested in seeing you create with liberty and was looking forward to the completion of the video.

What was your impression of the finished video?
Sakamoto: I liked the feel of the hand painting and the color combination of the first rough drawings, so I wished they' keep that essence. Of course I knew it would be very difficult technically to do that, but I wished they' keep a taste of it.
When I finally watched the video, I could see that the inviting feel of the carefully done hand-painted drawings was maintained in the actual animation. The story is incredible, especially after the appearance of the Prince. "inary person you' meet anywhere who happens to be someone special" message I wished to express in my lyrics. In the video, you were able to fill the gap where I couldn' fully express with words. I cried. I really did.

The video reaches the peak when Sakamoto-san' singing and the music score hit the climax. When you realize you are not alone or isolated, the Prince makes his appearance, synchronized with the line, "The true answer lies within ourselves".

Doroinu: Thank you very much. Your excessive compliment makes me uncomfortable. (lol)
Sakamoto: I'm just saying the truth! There are many characters in the video with various backgrounds, but they share the common "universe." And that is expressed through "dancing." I really love the story in the latter half. Let me add that the light of dawn seen in the final sequence overlaps with the climax of the album, exactly as I had imagined it. I was overwhelmed.
Doroinu: In this video, Kanta Kamei, who collaborated in the composite works, assisted us a great deal including that part with the light of dawn at the end. We feel so indebted to the people at I.G. I can't sleep with my feet in that direction. I owe so much to people all over the place that nowadays, I have difficulty stretching my feet when I sleep!

(3 - end)

© Gekidan INU Curry · Production I.G / Victor Entertainment