ANN’s coverage of Anime NYC 2023 sponsored by Yen Press and Ize Press!
At HIDIVE‘s Oshi no Ko panel at Anime NYC 2023, director Daisuke Hiramaki, assistant director Ciao Nekotomi, and producer Shimpei Yamashita delved deep into the making of the anime phenomenon with a series of questions from host Star Butler (starsama13 on TikTok).
The panel started light with how the guests were feeling about attending the convention. Hiramaki was happy to get the rare experience of meeting fans face-to-face in person. This was Nekotomi’s first time at an international convention and Nekotomi didn’t know there were so many anime lovers. Yamashita has been to many conventions in Los Angeles, but this was his first time in New York, and he claims the fans here have “stronger, hotter passions.”
The first question was about what led each guest down their career path. Hiramaki’s path is perhaps the most expected, falling in love with Macross Plus in high school and pursuing anime from there. Nekotomi’s career path was less direct. “I was in a different job,” she said, “but I just quit and I was looking for a new job, and I just saw this hiring advertisement, and they were looking for someone who could use After Effects, so I felt ‘yeah, why not?’”
Yamashita also had a somewhat indirect path toward the anime industry, studying music and then working as a video game sound creator until eventually, his senpai recommended him for a producer job. Butler commented that Americans don’t know what an anime producer does, to which Yamashita replied, “Japanese people also don’t know.” He describes his job as covering basically “everything,” but there are two main categories of responsibilities: handling the budget and hiring the talent. In the case of Oshi no Ko, Yamashita also has the job of checking all of the merchandise produced for the series.
Further questions in the panel were broken up by a series of clips from the anime’s first episode. The first clip shown was the rooftop scene between Goro and Ai. This is Hiramaki’s favorite scene that he directed. He highlighted specific details in the art (gradually transitioning between two different background paintings as the sun sets) and the music (the subtle triangle matching the twinkle of Ai’s eyes) that he was proud of.
Next was the scene of Aqua in his first movie role talking with the director. The meta element of directing a scene about a director directing a scene spoke to Nekotomi, who connected with its philosophical message. “When I was working on the storyboard in this scene,” she said, “it was deeply speaking to me. Yes, we work individually sometimes, but it’s a team production. To make animation, you can’t do it all by yourself.”
When asked about this series’ subject matter differs from other anime, Hiramaki was careful with his words: “If I chose the wrong word, it could go crazy on the internet.” He explained that he feels Oshi no Ko is “perfect” for addressing our social media-driven culture, and that it’s “nothing like anything else.”
The panel’s third clip, the scene of Ruby and Ai dancing, stands out in terms of adaptation—what was static and brief in the manga becomes dynamic and emotional in the anime. Nekotomi chose to emphasize this scene to give Ruby a more powerful memory of her mom, something that “will give her courage, hope, and dreams to thrive on her own.” Hiramaki emphasized the need to use imagination when adapting manga into anime.
The last clip, of course, was “THAT scene,” AKA Ai’s death. Butler, a horror geek, noted that the knife used in the murder is identifiable as the same model used in the Scream franchise. Nekotomi was unaware of that connection, explaining it was the first thing that came up on Google. Prop designers for anime get inspiration from real weapons, the assistant director said, but “for technical reasons, we can’t draw the same thing.”
When asked what it was like directing such an intense sequence, Nekotomi explained she didn’t feel pressure because Hiramaki trusted her and she had “the best team members” supporting her. Nekotomi’s favorite scene to direct comes after the murder: the one where Aqua and Ruby are waiting in a taxi, and Aqua decides on his revenge. The star in his right eye was painted by hand in each frame of animation; Nekotomi likes that she was “able to challenge myself,” and “explore my new way of expression through the characters.”
The panel ended with some teases for Season 2. “It is going to be a quite different atmosphere,” Hiramaki explained. “We are trying new things.” Nekotomi says it will be “much more interesting and fun,” teasing a scene where Aqua, Kana, and Akane are wearing kimono and fighting with swords. Yamashita promised huge announcements on November 26th at Ichigo Production☆Fan Thanksgiving Event 2023, which will be live-streamed for international fans.