So many 5-page columns ;; Yoshidaaaaaaaa
#86: “Dad of Light: Square Enix Side – Part 3”
Published in 2017/06/22 issue
The media tour for FFXIV’s newest expansion pack, Stormblood, has ended and I’m back in Japan. The last column was written when I left, and this column is being written shortly after returning. These two weeks went by in the blink of an eye. 63 media interviews totaling 37 hours. This might be a historical record for FFXIV…
Now then, this is Part 3 of the Square Enix perspective of Dad of Light. I’ll probably be done after the next column.
The “Eorzea part” of the series was something that’d never been attempted before: using the in-game world to act out the characters. Since it was such an unfamiliar idea in cinematography, the producer Pii-san and the original author Maidy-san struggled to get their sponsors to understand. However, they overcame this tough situation beautifully by creating their own pilot version… and that’s where I left off last time.
Dad of Light’s drama adaptation was essentially confirmed after the success of the pilot version, and it was finally time to start writing the screenplay. This was also a rough trial. Nowadays, there’s always concern about live action adaptations of manga and novels. It’s supposed to be a happy thing when your favourite work gets adapted into live action, because it’ll reach a wider audience and the original work will get praised more as a result. You also feel a sense of superiority when you say, “Oh, I’ve known that work since before it got adapted.”
However, there have clearly been more failed live action adaptations these days (in my personal opinion). Some of them even make me worry that the original work’s ratings will go down. I’m a cog in the entertainment industry wheel myself, so it’s not that I don’t understand the circumstances surrounding these adaptations, but still, I can’t help but think they could do a better job…
A big contributor to these deviations is the script. But, this isn’t necessarily the screenwriters’ fault. The people and businesses that fund a movie adaptation obviously want to profit from it, so the people trying to sell them on the idea have to show off all of the “winning” elements that it’ll contain. A huge factor of this is who will be performing. Some even say that it’s all dependent on the actors.
If the actors are decided before work on the script begins, then there could be restrictions on the lines and direction (this is only an example of what could happen), which causes problems for the screenwriter. Even if they know that leaving out a certain line or action will detract from the original work, they could be afraid of going against the actor’s image. If the actor won’t agree to perform, then the investors might take their money back, which puts the screenwriter in a deadlock. This is just one example of something that complicates screenwriting.
Dad of Light wasn’t a big-budget production, but that meant that it’d be a late-night type of drama with more freedom allowed in its creation. I think it’s really fortunate that they could start from the script first. Also, since both the original author, Maidy-san, and the FFXIV copyright holder Square Enix were involved in writing the screenplay, we could focus on preserving the essence of the original work while adapting it.
Another possible concern is if the original creator interferes with the adaptation to the point where the resulting work has no clear direction. However, Maidy-san was only focused on certain parts that he absolutely wanted to keep and deferred to professional opinion for everything else, so I doubt there were any issues there. Besides, since he was also heading the in-game acting, he was essentially part of the adaptation staff rather than just the original creator, which felt like it had positive effects.
…Writing this makes it sound like the screenwriting went smoothly, but actually, the script for the first episode was rewritten over 20 times. This applies to any creation, but episodes 1 and 2 are what determine the direction of the story, so it’s very important to clearly portray the themes for the audience. And in this case, we had clear goals in mind: preserve the essence of it being a true story, alternate between the game and the real world, break away from gamer stereotypes, etc. Everything was thoroughly discussed as to whether it would deviate from these goals.
I still have the update history of the synopsis and episode scripts from back then, and it’s pretty interesting to read over them now. The constantly-changing initial setting had Akio (the protagonist) working for a game company and all sorts of unbelievable, over-the-top descriptions. There were also a lot of twists and turns as we hadn’t decided on how we would shake off the gamer stereotypes. Even in the original proposal, the most interesting line in my opinion was “The father progresses through the game, and seeing him trying his best in the world of Eorzea motivates the protagonist, Akio, to try his best in his real-life job.” This ended up being kept intact in the drama, but back then, the script was such a volatile back-and-forth that the very next version didn’t have that element in it at all.
Maidy-san’s original blog didn’t have the part about Akio maturing in the real world (to be precise, it wasn’t written, but you could infer it by reading between the lines). But in a TV drama, the audience has to be able to empathize with the protagonist. Since Maidy-san was originally writing for his personal blog, of course he wasn’t going to reveal things about his personal life situation. Instead of trying to get the blog readers to empathize, he was just having fun documenting everything that happened. From my perspective, this was the most definitive difference between the original work and the drama.
It was a matter of whether we’d be able to create some overlap between the viewers’ lives and Akio’s life in the drama. Plus, if all went well, we could break out of the mass media’s negative gamer stereotypes and show that gamers are also regular people living regular lives. Within Square Enix, emails were flying back and forth, insisting that we push that angle no matter what. It must’ve been hard on our person in charge who had to pass everything on to Pii-san. *bitter smile*
Creating a live action adaptation of something comes with a lot of hardship, and there will always need to be changes made. Just as I said before, different forms of media are viewed in different ways with different audience motivators. If you don’t combine the strengths of the original medium with the strengths of live action to preserve the original work’s fundamental themes, then even if you make an exact adaptation of the original work, it won’t be interesting as a live action.
That was the biggest realization I made during this feeble attempt to write about the drama production. Next time, I’ll be writing about the “There are too many lalafells!” problem.