This actually went a lot more smoothly than I thought it would; perhaps because it’s more of a casual discussion. That said, this post is still 15k words, so prepare for a lengthy read. (Note that even though not all of the actors were present, they did talk about all of them)
OA stuff will get done eventually…
Btw I love Noto Arisa; I miss StylipS :'(
Kazuhisa Wada – Producer
P3D/P5D Producer, part of Atlus’ Persona Team. He was also the director of P4D.
Teppei Kobayashi – Scenario Direction / Sub-director
Part of Atlus’ Persona Team. In charge of supervising choreography for P3D/P5D, which he also did for P4D. He also handled the direction for all of the events.
Kojiro Ishioka – Dancer for P3 Protagonist / Sho Minazuki
Representative Director of K-DanceNexus. He’s also a dancer himself, and he choreographs dances and performs in musicals and dance shows.
KAZOO – Dancer for P5 Protagonist / Akihiko Sanada
Grand prize winner of the Jazz Dance Art Association of Japan’s 18th dance contest. He choreographs various commercial scenes and performs on stage as an actor.
Tsukasa Shiroma – Dancer for Morgana / Shinjiro Aragaki
Dancer, dance instructor, and choreographer for artists and voice actors. He hosts his own regular variety stage called Tsukasa Festival.
Mari Kasuga – Dancer for Justine / Lavenza / Labrys
Affiliated with K-DanceNexus. She does work as a backdancer, musical performer, choreographer, coach, motion actor, etc.
Arisa Noto – Dancer for Ken Amada / Caroline
Affiliated with STYLE CUBE. She does work as a TV personality, voice actress, dancer, choreographer, stage supervisor, radio DJ, etc.
Smile Saki – Dancer for Fuuka Yamagishi / Haru Okumura
Dances for artist concerts and does choreography for idol groups. She’s particularly talented in ballet.
Ayumi Miyazaki – Dancer for Yukari Takeba / Futaba Sakura
Graduated from a musical program at a music university. She works in Broadway musicals and as an actress, as well as doing choreography and backing chorus.
First off, please tell us the story of how you reached out to all of the dancers.
Kobayashi: When we were developing the previous game, P4D, we used auditions and recommendations to find people who matched the characters’ personalities. Ever since then, we kept in touch long-term, continuing to meet up with them several times after P4D was done, so that when we were in a position to make P3D and P5D, we would have a good idea of their individual personalities and which characters they would fit for each game. When the time did come, we were able to ask most of them to come back. There were still some characters that they didn’t correspond to, but by fitting in some people who provided support for P4D’s dances, we got an amazing success rate on the offers we sent out.
Each dancer is assigned to 2-3 roles. Was the distribution decided from the very beginning?
Wada: Yes. The idea was to have each person play one role from each game, so there aren’t many cases of one person playing two roles in the same game. The P3D and P5D characters were assigned based on the dancer’s strengths, the personality they usually exude, and the opposite personality.
Kobayashi: Since we’ve known them for a long time, we’ve gotten to see different sides of them, so we aimed to have them represent two different personalities.
Were the DLC characters assigned later on?
Wada: No, they were assigned at the same time. The post-recording work takes a lot more time than the dance motions, so it’s better to do the recording while you’re still immersed in the characters/games.
In that case, was the choreography for the DLC characters requested at the same time?
Ishioka: Basically, the dancers would receive the offers for the characters at the same time, and we were free to start with whichever one we wanted. So, I think everyone started with whichever character was easier.
It seems that the final versions of the choreography were created through repeated checks by Atlus and revisions.
Kobayashi: If you bring up that topic, then I become the scapegoat… *laughs* Actually, I think we had the dancers create 5-6 songs’ worth of choreography for each song. Even though we fine-tuned the characters’ movements and dances beforehand, when it came down to actually implementing them, they didn’t look right for the character and almost all of them had to be remade. If half of what we received was usable, then we’d have another discussion and the remaining half would be remade. This process repeated several times.
Noto-san and Miyazaki-san are nodding fervently…
Noto: As they said earlier, generally, everyone was assigned a character that matched their usual personality and a character that was the complete opposite. Since we had to create the choreography for both of them, the first one was easy while the second one tended to be more of a struggle.
Wada: We did discuss how it would be difficult to choreograph the opposite character, but we’re creating a game with the Persona title, so we wanted them to bring out their different “personas” as well.
Tsukasa Shiroma (Morgana / Shinjiro Aragaki)
It seems unusual for someone as tall as Shiroma-san to play the role of Morgana. How did that casting come about?
Shiroma: I was really surprised, too. Did you ever tell me why?
Kobayashi: It was actually surprising for me, too. *laughs* When we were doing the recording for P4D, Tsukasa-san tried copying Teddie’s dance, and his movements were really cute. I was like, wow, Tsukasa-san is good at those moves! Then, when I was discussing the P3D/P5D casting with Ishioka-kun and KAZOO, they agreed that it would work and we went with that.
Shiroma: This is news to me…
Wada: Really? *laughs* You perform as an actor, but what we wanted from you wasn’t your acting–we wanted someone that showed facets of Morgana’s personality even though it wasn’t their main personality.
Shiroma-san, what did you think when you were asked to do Morgana?
Shiroma: I was shocked. But fortunately, I have 4 cats, so… Although Morgana isn’t a cat. *laughs* I wanted to leverage that experience to have him show off during the cool parts and look really cute during the cute parts… But it was really hard. *laughs*
For Morgana, your finger movements and such would be limited.
Shiroma: There were restrictions, but I did as much as I could, like showing his paw pads when I wanted him to look cute.
Noto: Oh! Now that you mention it, he does make little wrist movements.
The presence of Morgana’s thumbs seemed to vary depending on the song.
Wada: It does. Normally he doesn’t have them, but for the moments when we thought it would be necessary, we showed it manga-style to match with Shiroma-san’s movements.
Shiroma: I never get the chance to act as this kind of character, because on stage you have to appear in person. Since I got to act as all sorts of characters through the Persona series, I find myself wanting to be like a chameleon. When I’m acting, I strive to discard my personal colour and become that character completely.
Kobayashi: It shows normally, though. *laughs* Your mannerisms really are like Morgana.
Miyazaki: When Tsukasa-san acts as Aragaki, he makes this grim face, but when he’s Morgana, he smiles really cutely. The difference in his transformations was really impressive. But when we’re recording, I have to watch his knees, so I didn’t really get to see his expressions while dancing…
Wada: Ahh, because of the height difference between your characters.
Shiroma: That’s right! When you’re dancing with others, it’s important (and fun) to match your timings through eye contact, but when I’m Morgana, forget eye contact–I’m looking at the ceiling the entire time. Meanwhile, my partner is watching my knees, so we never make eye contact.
Kobayashi: In order to have the characters looking at each other, we thought of attaching a Morgana plushie to Tsukasa-san’s knee for the others to look at while dancing.
Wada: Morgana’s arms and legs are also shorter than a human’s. That obviously changes the amount that you have to move, but did you also match the distance between characters during the motion capture?
Shiroma: We did. Morgana’s steps are small, so I had to move across a huge distance.
Noto: He had to move 4 times as much as everyone else.
Ishioka: Man, it’s so painful.
Miyazaki: Oh yeah! Ishioka-san was Teddie in P4D, so he understands. *laughs*
So, what about Aragaki?
Shiroma: Aragaki was… *strained voice* difficult…
Shiroma: I really struggled. I asked Ishioka-san, KAZOO-san, and Kobayashi-san so many times, “How should I do this?” There was also a theatrical component to it too, and I consulted with everyone about how to present it through dance. Aragaki-san was just… *extremely strained voice* so difficult…
Kobayashi: There was a lot of pressure.
Wada: But your performance at the end of Persona Show Case was spectacular.
Noto: Yeah, you were amazing!
Shiroma: I seriously thought I was gonna die! After my dance, I went backstage and collapsed!
Shiroma: Kobayashi-san never takes “no” for an answer. He always pushes me to my absolute limits…
It was certainly a great performance, which makes the gap between that and Morgana even more amusing.
Kobayashi: He’s normally cute like Morgana. But the way he’s clumsy with a kind interior and the way he comes off as a good person is really a perfect match for Aragaki.
Mari Kasuga (Justine / Lavenza / Labrys)
Kasuga-san, is this your first time participating in the Dancing series as a dancer?
Kasuga: Yes, it is!
You were in charge of three roles. First, could you tell us about how you got the job?
Kasuga: Originally, I was supposed to play a supporting role like I did for P4D. But one day, Kobayashi-san asked me to do Labrys, so I became a dancer.
Why did you ask Kasuga-san to be Labrys, Kobayashi-san?
Kobayashi: Labrys’ personality is on the serious but clumsy side, and Kasuga-san has those traits as well. Also, I was shown videos of her dancing before. This time, I consulted with Ishioka-san, and he said that she would be perfect, so we extended an official offer.
Kasuga: When I was creating the choreography, like everyone else I started by trying to understand Labrys’ character. However, she only appears in the fighting games, so she’s always fighting. So, I asked Kobayashi-san what kind of choreography I should make, and he gave me some casual advice like, “She’s a robot and gives off a violent feel, so how about dancing with large, powerful movements?”
Kobayashi: Then when she showed me what she’d created, I said “It’s lacking mobility.” She responded with “What does mobility mean!?” *laughs*
Kasuga: He also told me to try dancing hard enough for my arms to tear off. *laughs*
Do those requests include Wada-san’s opinions?
Wada: No. Kobayashi is the sadist here.
Kobayashi: That may be true, but we always discuss it, you know. *laughs*
KAZOO: Umm, I’d say that both are to blame. *laughs*
Kasuga: During the song, there’s a part where she transforms into Shadow Labrys, and that part was really hard to come up with. I continued to dance day after day, but I never got the approval… I spent half a year creating it, and even on the day-of, there were small adjustments made. After recording was done, my body was so sore that I didn’t think I’d be able to dance at all the next day.
The dance for “Today” does have a lot of intense moves.
Kobayashi: Labrys has choreography for her two modes, Regular and Shadow, and the latter one has more extreme movements. At first, she danced normally for the Regular mode and only went all-out for the Shadow mode. Then, we asked her to go all-out from the very beginning, creating a full-power choreography for her Regular mode, with something even stronger on top of that for the Shadow mode.
That does sound like something reasonable to point out, but…
Kasuga: No! No!
Saki: Don’t fall for it! *laughs*
Kobayashi: It’s true that it sounds simple when you’re not the one that has to do it. *laughs* But from our perspective, it wouldn’t be Labrys’ dance if we stuck to human limitations, so for “Today”, we aimed to get a full-power choreography first and then try to force past those limits.
It did turn out to be a splendid dance.
Kasuga: I’m glad you thought so. *laughs*
Kobayashi: You really did a good job.
Kasuga: Oh shucks, thanks!
As for Justine and Lavenza, the two of them seem quite mild-mannered. Was it difficult to differentiate between them?
Kasuga: It was… But for Justine, I was paired with Noto-san a lot, so it was easier for us to coordinate with each other. Noto-san also did the choreographing, so all I had to do was put my best efforts into dancing. *laughs* However, Kobayashi-san said he was counting on us to work as twins, and it was difficult to express them as twins.
Kobayashi: They had to be more unified than anyone else. Kasuga-san and Noto-san had similarities in their movements, so I thought they’d be able to pull it off. At first, our team thought that since they had to be perfectly in sync, we would have to have one dancer do the dance, then copy and flip it. However, deep down I was thinking about when to turn Kasuga-san into Justine. *laughs*
Wada: Well, in the end we concluded that while it would be simpler to copy one person’s dance, having two dancers would be better because they can show their individual personalities. It meant twice the amount of work, but upon seeing the final product, I felt that we’d made the right decision. I don’t think we would’ve achieved as good of a result if we’d taken the copy route.
Kobayashi: Justine and Caroline are opposites in a way, so their personalities are naturally different. I’m glad we did it this way because we could show that their dancing styles were different even if the choreography was the same.
Wada: The motion staff weren’t too happy, though.
Kobayashi: I’m truly grateful to them. *laughs* Also, for Lavenza, the way she handles her duties is courteous like Justine, so we had Kasuga-san do her choreography.
Kasuga: At first, when they asked me to do Lavenza, they said I could do it however I wanted, and I was thinking, “Really!? Yes!” I’m better at fast dance moves than slow ones, so I wanted to make it a fast dance, but the song ended up having an extremely slow tempo, so I couldn’t speed up the moves at all…
Noto: I bet he knew that when he asked you to do it.
Kasuga: Yeah, probably. *laughs*
The melody and the dance match really well though; it’s a cute dance that makes you want to keep watching it.
Noto: Yup. That dance is so cute!
Wada: Cute and splendid. There’s also a little secret–if you play on Normal or All Night mode, something different will happen. Please do take a look.
Arisa Noto (Ken Amada / Caroline)
Noto-san, since you were acting as Caroline, did you notice anything from dancing with Kasuga-san all the time?
Noto: I’ve known Mari-chan for 7-8 years now, so we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to dance moves.
Kasuga: Yeah. *laughs*
Noto: So we talked about it and we wanted to do some more unusual moves, or one of those “twin dances” that’ve been popular lately. That’s how I got the idea for the desk and chairs.
So that desk part was your idea, Noto-san.
Noto: While we were discussing it, I proposed the idea of bringing out a desk and chairs and using those to dance, because it’d definitely be adorable. The other character I was assigned this time was Amada-kun, and for his choreography I had to take care to not make it too cute or coquettish–just like when I was playing Nanako-chan in P4D. I expressed Amada-kun with a more aloof and mature feel. But when I was choreographing Justine and Caroline, Kobayashi-san said it could be as cutesy as I wanted, so I just had to make it as cute as possible! *laughs*
Justine and Caroline seem a lot more affectionate than they were in P5.
Wada: I think it’s more that they’re high spirited. The concept for P3D and P5D was “fun dancing games” and bringing out the most of the characters’ charms was part of the reason why we decided to get rid of story mode. If we included a Persona-style serious story and serious scenes, the twins wouldn’t be able to frolic this way. That would also put tighter restrictions on their dancing. So, we decided to focus solely on the characters’ traits.
Noto: They do seem to be having a lot of fun.
Kobayashi: The “twin dance” fad uses narrow, fixed camera angles and highlights the performers’ facial expressions by focusing on cute hand gestures and not using any footwork or formation changes. One of the points of discussion raised was, “How do we express that in a game where the characters move around freely?” So, the table and chairs were a way to create a situation where they wouldn’t have to move.
The “twin dance” was certainly unique, but the air pump motions when a partner isn’t selected were also memorable.
Noto: I wanted to include a lot of cute elements in the acting. Their interactions with the other characters are also fun, but when it’s just the twins, the mood is different. Since they’re by themselves, I wanted to show them having their own antics and included that scene.
It got a big reaction at Persona Show Case, too.
Noto: That was actually really hard for Mari-chan, though.
Kasuga: Yeah. *laughs* Noto-san only had to move her arms and legs, but I had to lift my body using only my abdominal muscles. *laughs*
Sounds like there was some hardship behind the scenes. *laughs* So then, what was Amada like?
Noto: Amada-kun was soooo difficult. When I showed them my first take, I was told that it was “too rough”, and to make it more docile–but not coquettish–but also cheeky–and also strong-willed. *laughs* While I was creating the choreography for my assigned songs, the motion capture for the partner dances was going on at the same time, so I couldn’t really get Amada-kun’s character to stick with me.
Kobayashi: “Making the choreography feel like the character” and “dancing in the style of the character” are different, so there are actually two “walls” to overcome. If the choreography is Amada but the movements aren’t, then it doesn’t pass. I remember it being tough for both us and her.
For Amada’s moves, the air guitar stands out. I suppose that’s one of his characteristic ones.
Noto: Yes. I think kids mimic playing guitar a lot in elementary school, so I thought Amada-kun would probably have aspirations like that, too. I also wanted to include moves using his spear somewhere.
Using his spear was also your idea, Noto-san?
Noto: In P3D and P5D, most characters have 2 songs that they star in. They wanted one of the songs to feel like everyday life, while the other one has a battle feel. When I was choreographing the battle song, I brought up using a spear since it’s Amada-kun, and of course I’ve never held a spear before, so it was a lot of work. *laughs* It was easy to come up with ideas for Amada-kun looking cute, but it was my first time spinning a spear around.
Kobayashi: Amada is the kind of character that uses a long weapon to make up for his short height, but naturally it would be difficult for an elementary schooler to swing around a weapon of that size. If you handle it too masterfully then it wouldn’t be Amada, so we thought that Noto-san would be able to act as him because she wasn’t used to handling a spear. On our side, we created a baseline for a combat scene, and had her apply it to the dance.
Do you often use props in regular dances?
Noto: Not really, so I didn’t have a place to practice, either. I practiced by swinging around a 2-metre PVC pipe, and I was afraid of making holes in the training room or my home’s ceiling. So, I used a car to bring the long pipe to the river and practiced waving it around on the riverbed at night. *laughs*
What a pro!
Kobayashi: She must’ve looked suspicious to anyone watching from the field, though. *laughs*
Are any of the others good at dancing with props?
Ishioka: On stage we have action scenes with sword fights, but for dance scenes we usually don’t have props aside from things like flags.
So it’s rare to dance with props?
Ishioka: I’d say so. No one ever asks you to twirl a spear around while dancing.
Kasuga: Let alone a 2-metre one. *laughs*
Wada: This is a bit off-topic, but Labrys has abilities where she shoots her arm out with a chain.
Kasuga: Yeah! She holds out her arm and it shoots out.
Her arm doesn’t shoot out here, but she does take on the stance.
Wada: We thought about making it shoot out, but we decided not to because it would detract from the “realness” of the rest of her dance. If we put in something fake like an arm shooting out and modeled it in 3-D, then it would be harder to tell if she was really dancing for the rest of it, or if that was fake too. That would take away from what we were trying to express through dance, so we stopped at just the stance. It’d make an annoying clinking noise when the arm came back anyway. *laughs*
Speaking of Labrys, her weapon is a huge axe.
Kobayashi: I turned down that one. Her axe is too big. *laughs*
Kasuga: He said that if I could carry such a big axe, I should dance harder instead.
Natsumi Uetake (Aigis / Ann Takamaki)
Could you tell us about Uetake-san, who played Labrys’ successor Aigis as well as Ann?
Kobayashi: Let’s start with Aigis. At first, we requested to make her movements smoother than Labrys’, because she’s the latest Anti-Shadow Suppression Weapon model, but we also looked into making a dance that would elicit more humanized emotions despite her being a machine. Aigis is a very important character when it comes to the name “Persona”. The “personalities” that we emphasize are really “personas”, so we wanted a dance that would represent “What is personality?” It was a difficult order.
That sounds like an extremely philosophical question. What was Uetake-san’s reaction?
Ishioka: She was really perplexed. *laughs*
Wada: Well, it is difficult.
Ishioka: The Atlus staff often put a lot of their personal interests into showing what a character is like.
Wada: Please call it “care” or “passion”! *laughs*
Ishioka: No, I just mean that it really feels like they love Persona.
Noto: You can feel their love.
Ishioka: Instead of saying things like, “This way will be more popular”, they say “This character is this kind of kid” or “They have this side to them.” It puts a lot of pressure on us.
Kobayashi: So, when we first brought in all of the dancers, we told them, “It’s a job, but please don’t treat it as just a job.” “We’ll definitely deliver a good game to the customers, so think of it as making a creation rather than a product.” It may be because of this mindset that we’ve worked together for so long.
It does look like everyone gets along well.
Ishioka: …It does?
Saki: Are you saying we don’t!?
Noto: We’re all friends here!
Ishioka: That’s good, then. *laughs*
Kobayashi: Uetake-san is incredibly skilled and she created a great dance for us, but for Aigis we asked for something a little bit better, and she struggled for once because of it. She’d be sitting in the fetal position in a corner of the studio, listening to the song and thinking up moves. Adjusting the balance between robot and human was the hardest part. On the day of recording, she danced over and over for us, and was always out of breath outside of breaks.
It must’ve been rough behind the scenes, even though you can’t tell she was out of breath when you play the game.
Kobayashi: Aigis is a robot, so we can’t have her looking out of breath or taking deep breaths.
Noto: Ohh, that’s right!
Ishioka: Everyone had to sit down at least once, though.
Miyazaki: Yeah! I did!
Kasuga: It was a lot more than just once. *laughs*
Saki: KAZOO-san was the worst off.
KAZOO: Huh? I did it too?
Kobayashi: KAZOO wasn’t just sitting down; he collapsed on the floor, drenched in sweat. *laughs*
Now, what about Ann?
Kobayashi: Uetake-san’s usual personality is similar to Ann. She’s sexy, too.
Ishioka: Ann-chan is very human, so she danced in a human way. I think that one went more smoothly.
Wada: She really got into it.
Kobayashi: The big reason for that is probably because she’s similar to the character in personality, so she doesn’t have to act much differently from usual. Although, there was something else that was an issue for Ann. Since the character’s arms and legs are long and slender (the same goes for Futaba), it was difficult to dance at stage events like Persona Show Case because she was wearing boots. Also, Ann’s hairstyle isn’t suited for dancing, so her centre of gravity would get thrown off when she turned her head. If she didn’t stay conscious of these things while dancing, the quality of the performance would drop. So, she concentrated really hard on stage.
Did she dance differently between the stage and motion capture recording?
Ishioka: It was completely different. Her shoes and outfit are different, so movements that were easy to mo-cap weren’t so simple to perform on stage… although someone casually said “Oh, you did it.”
And who would this someone be? *laughs*
KAZOO: *monotone voice* For the record, Kobayashi-san is a very kind and caring person.
Kobayashi: Hang on a sec. *laughs*
Saki: There was no enthusiasm in that at all. *laughs*
Noto: His voice was completely monotone! *laughs*
YU JURRY (Junpei Iori / Ryuji Sakamoto)
Next, please tell us about YU JURRY-san, who played Junpei and Ryuji.
Kobayashi: Junpei and Ryuji have a lot in common–their personalities aren’t complete opposites, so it was really hard to prevent their dance styles from resembling each other.
What kind of things did you discuss?
Kobayashi: He’d been taking what I just explained into consideration from the very beginning. Ryuji is from the newest mainline Persona game, so his personality is still in the refining process. So, we talked a bit about the traits that he would be developing from here on out. But for example, if we only tried to make him act like a delinquent, he’d end up like Kanji Tatsumi (who YU-san also portrayed in P4D), while making him bright and cheerful wouldn’t be right either. Ryuji’s got that dropout feel to him, but it’s balanced with his earnestness and passion. On top of that, we have to express that through dance, making it a true ordeal. On the other hand, Junpei was already established as your comrade and the life of the party, so creating his dances went comparatively smoothly. He’s the same inside as he appears outside.
A lot of people watched Persona Show Case and thought, “He looks cool even though he’s Junpei!”
Wada: It really is something that would happen to Junpei–doing his best to show off but still looking funny, and having people say “even though it’s just Junpei”. YU-san gets really immersed when he’s playing Junpei, so he shows off and gets carried away too, never going out-of-character.
Was the baseball bat YU-san’s idea?
Kobayashi: At the beginning, we told everyone that they were allowed to use small props, and YU-san requested to use a bat. But the choreography he made at first involved the bat switching between hands, thrown in the air and caught, etc. It would be really expensive to implement those motions. The entire composition was adjusted to reduce the choreography to something viable.
Wada: Switching between hands was surprisingly time-consuming to do with motion capture.
Noto: …Sorry, I switched hands a lot with Amada-kun’s spear. *laughs*
In “Mass Destruction (Tetsuya Kobayashi Remix)”, the spear gets spun around a lot.
Wada: Amada’s spear was the only time we ignored the cost. Since it’s a long weapon, you wouldn’t be able to put on an amazing performance without doing moves like that. Making the players happy is our #1 priority, so we decided to balance the total costs to allow more for Amada’s spear. If everyone had choreography like that, P3D and P5D probably wouldn’t have released yet. *laughs*
Noto: So that’s how it was. Now I want people to watch Amada-kun’s spear even more!
We talked about the air guitar earlier, and Ryuji and Morgana’s partner dance also includes guitar motions.
Shiroma: It did! That was YU-kun’s idea. Instead of just air guitar, he also threw the guitar in exchange for my air drums.
Miyazaki: Yeah! That was cute! *laughs*
Shiroma: When he was taking out his drumsticks, it looked like he was pulling a katana out of its sheath. That partner dance was really fun, and we laughed a lot. *quiet voice* I think that was the only fun one…
Everyone: *dying of laughter*
The only one!?
Shiroma: I’m just kidding. *laughs* But really, when a dancer prioritizes their audience, they use the cheers and smiles to keep themselves going. For motion capture, you don’t have that audience–you’re surrounded by cameras and equipment, and someone is scrutinizing you the entire time… *laughs* And then you think you can just focus on your movements, but they tell you that your facial expression will be captured too, and then it’s so frantic that you can’t make the right face! Although, when playing the actual game, I did notice that the expressions were accurately shown.
The facial expressions were also recorded in the motion capture?
Kobayashi: The expressions were video-taped during recording and used as a baseline. The staff asked the dancers how they were feeling and what the nuances were for individual moves, and they implemented those into the final product. However, the air guitars were really difficult, because even though we had the motions, they were still invisible.
Shiroma: Yeah. For things like swords and spears, the physical object is there so it’s fine. With air guitars, we had to make it look like “Morgana playing air guitar when he’s never played a guitar before” or “Ryuji and Morgana enthusiastically pretending to be in a band”, and it was more difficult than playing a real guitar or drums.
“Difficult”… so you mean it was painful.
Shiroma: I-It was fun!
Smile Saki (Fuuka Yamagishi / Haru Okumura)
What was it like acting as Haru?
Saki: I originally studied ballet. There was a period of time when I quit to study other dance genres, but I thought ballet suited my figure the most, so I started it up again as a hobby. At some point, Kobayashi-san apparently came to see me on stage, and he later said, “I saw you dancing ballet, so you’ll be doing that this time.” *laughs*
That’s so sudden. *laughs*
Saki: I thought there was no way I could show them a hobby-tier ballet performance, so I took lessons, got advice from my teacher, and worked super hard on my choreography–only to be told “It’s too ballet, so it won’t get across.” At first I didn’t know what that meant, so I asked KAZOO-san and Kobayashi-san. I had to redo the choreography while thinking about what kind of ballet regular people would want to see instead of conforming to traditional ballet rules. It took some time for me to come to terms with that, because I’d been dancing ballet ever since I was a child, and my experience was working against me.
Kobayashi: Also, if her focus was on dancing ballet beautifully, then Haru’s personality would fade away. I told her that instead of just putting on an appealing ballet performance, I wanted her to dance ballet while staying in-character. I said it was “too ballet” because I wanted her to create something that anyone–not just professionals–could watch and appreciate.
Saki: It was difficult to that extent. I’ve always had a habit of flitting my palms around, which is bad for classical ballet. I always wanted to fix that, but this time I thought it might be good for expressing Haru’s personality and turned it into a good thing.
Wada: Haru’s songs are the battle song “Will Power (Shacho Remix)” and the daily life song “Beneath the Mask (KAIEN Remix)”. The other characters didn’t have any genre restrictions because they could vary their dance styles, but for Haru, both of her dances had to be based on ballet. Was that difficult?
Saki: It was. While I was dancing and trying to come up with the choreography, I pulled a shoulder muscle for the first time in my life.
Miyazaki: What!? That can happen!?
Saki: Yes. *laughs* It’s easy to build fatigue in your calves or soles when you’re dancing for a long time, but that was my first time experiencing that with my shoulder.
How did you come up with the actual choreography?
Saki: The two songs had completely different moods, so it was easier to create them after we’d settled on the direction for each of them. Instead of starting with one or the other, I worked on both at the same time, listening to both songs on loop and deciding which movement would go with which song.
Ballet gives me a refined, elegant impression, but with Haru’s dancing, I felt a strong sense of “fun” on top of that. “Will Power (Shacho Remix)” is a personal favourite of mine.
Wada: That dance is great; I love it too.
Saki: The actual recording was so hard, though. *laughs* It was fun to dance though, so I’m glad that everyone could feel it too.
KAZOO: It was splendid.
Saki: Really? Thank you!
The phrase “smash open” stood out a lot in Haru’s COMMU events. Were there any plans to use an axe in your dance?
Kobayashi: I thought about it, but using it would only result in something terrifying. *laughs*
I see. *laughs* Now then, please tell us about Fuuka.
Saki: For Fuuka-chan, there wasn’t a dance genre suggestion. Instead, I was told, “I don’t know how Fuuka would dance… I’ll leave it up to you.” I was like, “What!? Is this really happening!?” and immediately went to KAZOO-san to beg for help.
Did you mainly get advice from KAZOO-san?
Saki: No, I got a lot of advice from other people, too. *laughs*
Kobayashi: I really didn’t have any idea of how Fuuka would dance. She was the hardest character to give a suggestion for. So, we thought about how Fuuka would dance if she was put in that situation, and through that hint we focused on how she would naturally move her body.
True, Fuuka’s dancing doesn’t seem to belong to any specific genre.
Wada: Fuuka was probably the one where we had to delve into the foundation of her character the most, figuring out how she would move and the aura she would give off since we didn’t have a dance genre. We were able to bring out her charms that weren’t fully explored in the original P3, so she ended up really cute.
KAZOO: What a Marie response. *laughs*
Wada: We gathered a lot of ideas for Fuuka’s movements based on her role as a navigator in P3, her gentleness, and her unexpectedly scientific side. I hope people notice them.
The hopscotch part was really fitting.
Kobayashi: Although, everyone else’s choreography involved a lot of movement while Fuuka’s dance was very mellow. Everyone was saying that Fuuka had it good. *laughs*
It’s a dance that focuses on hand movements and doesn’t have any fast-paced moves.
Saki: I did intentionally include a lot of hand gestures.
In “Time (ATLUS Kitajoh Remix)”, there’s a part where you make different rock-paper-scissors motions with both hands. I tried to imitate it and I couldn’t. *laughs*
Saki: Those movements are really hard if you’re not used to them. I learned them as part of my finger training for playing electric organ. I thought it’d be interesting to include that.
Wada: That sounds like a way to keep your mind sharp. *laughs*
Saki: It could be! For me, my right hand always wins.
Kobayashi: Actually… Saki-chan is a lot gentler than usual when she’s acting as Fuuka, huh?
Saki: Huh? No way! …Am I really?
KAZOO: Yeah, she doesn’t shout “Yaaay!” when she gets the OK on Fuuka’s recording.
Miyazaki: You’re right, she didn’t!
Saki: I wasn’t paying attention to that at all. *laughs*
KAZOO: When you got the OK, you’d breathe a sigh in relief, and I’d think, “What’s with that sigh!? You’re usually not like that!” *laughs*
Saki: I… didn’t realize…
So you shouted when you got the OK for Haru?
Saki: I don’t know! *laughs*
Miyazaki: For Haru, she collapsed right after!
Kasuga: She shouted “Yesss!” while lying on the floor!
Ayumi Miyazaki (Yukari Takeba / Futaba Sakura)
Can you tell us about Futaba?
Miyazaki: Futaba is similar to Fuuka-chan in that they’re both navigators that don’t fight directly, and neither of them seem like they’d be able to dance. I started with “The Days When My Mother was There (ATLUS Kitajoh Remix)” and imagined how Futaba would dance to it–what her starting pose would be, whether she’d want to imitate the poses of the Featherman figures in her room, and so on. *laughs* I included things she’d like to do in the choreography.
Kobayashi: Miyazaki-san performs in musicals so she’s skilled at theatrics. She created the choreography by imagining “Futaba’s story” and what scenes it would include.
Miyazaki: Also, this time they asked me to tap dance, and I didn’t expect them to be recording the live audio at the studio too, so I had to prepare for that as well. While everyone was practicing in the training room, I would practice my tap dancing in the corner every day, and it’d echo really loudly… Ishioka-san, KAZOO-san, and Kobayashi-san would always tell me to be quiet, and I could only apologize in response.
KAZOO: “Miyazaki, be quiet for a minute” became a running joke. Even when she wasn’t making any noise, everyone would say that phrase before they said whatever they were going to say. *laughs*
Kobayashi: Miyazaki-san is a gamer, a bit airheaded, and prefers the indoors, so her personality matches Futaba as well. *laughs* She also played P5 to get an understanding of the character, so I felt that I could really trust her with the choreography.
Unlike Fuuka, Futaba’s dancing has a lot more freedom in it.
Ishioka: Even us dancers don’t know how she manages to make those bizarre movements. It’s really intriguing. *laughs*
The loach-scooping move matches the rhythm so that I understand, but what about that one pro-wrestler move?
Miyazaki: It wasn’t supposed to be that! I just thought it’d be interesting if I did this with my fingers *recreates motion with hand gestures* and moved like this, and put it in the choreography! …Huh?
Ishioka: See? No one gets it. It’s always like this. *laughs*
I think she just subconsciously thought of it because her mind has become Futaba’s. *laughs*
Kobayashi: Normally, becoming the character is the hardest part. In Miyazaki-san’s case, she was already the character to begin with, so everyone else thought it was unfair.
Does that mean you didn’t need many retakes, Kobayashi-san?
Kobayashi: No, there were still a fair amount. If her movements were too precise or too powerful, I’d tell her that Futaba doesn’t have that kind of stamina.
Miyazaki: That’s right. Also, “Last Surprise (☆Taku Takahashi Remix)” starts with a squatting pose, but even when I was waiting in that pose, I’d still get told, “Miyazaki, stand-by!” I’ll never forget how Ishioka-san would keep telling me, “Hurry up and stand-by, Miyazaki!” with me responding, “I AM!”
KAZOO: It’s not his fault you were always in stand-by so quickly. You could’ve waited until he said, “Recording!” to go into stand-by, but instead you were basically squatting the entire time.
Miyazaki: Really!? I didn’t notice at all. *laughs*
KAZOO: You were always sitting down in the middle of the studio, so I wondered if you were feeling OK or if you weren’t confident in yourself. But you were actually in stand-by. *laughs*
Sounds like you were having fun. *laughs* Also, Miyazaki-san looks similar to Futaba, huh?
Miyazaki: Right now my hair is black, but last year I dyed it orange! I’d never dyed it such a flashy colour before, and even when I went to Harajuku I didn’t see anyone else with such bright hair! I felt even more out of place than usual. *laughs*
Kobayashi: For events like the concert at Yokohama Arena and Persona Show Case, the dancers’ hair styling is done by a salonist that we work with for other things as well. Reproducing hair colours requires various testing because it relies on the person’s hair type, and it’s quite a lot of work. We try to avoid using wigs wherever possible in order to more accurately reproduce the characters, so it must’ve been hard for Miyazaki-san and Uetake-san (who played Ann) to remove the colouring afterwards.
Now that’s professionalism… Next, could you tell us about Yukari?
Miyazaki: Yukari-chan is energetic and a bit sexy, but Kobayashi-san said to just be as sexy as I could. So, I did!
Wada: Yukari is a “healthy beauty” and represents a modern high school girl in P3’s era. So, if a high school girl like that joined the dance club and tried to imitate a professional’s sexy dance for fun, she probably wouldn’t actually look that sexy. That’s why I said that to Miyazaki-san–Yukari’s personality strikes that balance of “she’s got the physical prowess, but it’s not really sexy.” As a result, her dancing represented Yukari wonderfully.
Miyazaki: Yay! Wait, that’s a compliment, right!?
She did portray Yukari perfectly. Yukari’s dances also look quite difficult; was it hard?
Miyazaki: It was! When we were recording “Want To Be Close (ATOLS Remix)”, I was really nervous and stiff, and Kobayashi-san told me as such and made me try again. The next attempt was also stiff, and in the end, I had to do it about 5 times. At that point, even though I was still mentally OK, my body was getting tired, and I couldn’t get the pass in the end… For the next recording day, I wanted to pass on the first try no matter what, so I practiced really hard and did manage to get the OK in one shot. I was so happy!
Kobayashi: It is rare to get the OK on the first take. *laughs*
I’ve heard that Miyazaki-san is quite the gamer. Have you already played P3D and P5D?
Miyazaki: Yes. I started with P5D, and I’ve finally unlocked ALL NIGHT difficulty. Just like with P4D, my goal is to get KING CRAZY on all songs on ALL NIGHT without using any supports! Also, my strategy for achieving this is “high power output” and “memorization”!
KAZOO: You memorize the time that the notes appear in the middle instead of looking at the outer targets, right?
Miyazaki: Yeah! My trick is to watch the middle of the screen, only look at one side for the double notes, and check which note is coming next!
That’s an intense strategy. *laughs*
Wada: In P3D and P5D, clearing a stage is easier than it was in P4D, but we increased the chart difficulty a bit and made the requirements for high scores stricter. Getting KING CRAZY is quite difficult in my opinion. Even if you can clear a stage, you’ll want to go for a better rank. Also, even if you’re not good at rhythm games, there’s a full assortment of custom modes that make it easy to unlock all of the content. But on the other hand, we also have more customization options for hardcore players than we did in P4D, so you can raise the difficulty really high. Then again, even on the development team, there are only a handful of people who can KING CRAZY all songs on ALL NIGHT without supports…
Kobayashi: Since she proclaimed her goal, I’ll be expecting Miyazaki-san to succeed in her conquest. *laughs*
Miyazaki: Gyaaa! I-I’ll do it. I really will!
Speaking as someone who writes guide books, I honestly think it’s impossible, but I’ll be looking forward to further news. *laughs* By the way, at Persona Show Case, you successfully cleared “The Days When My Mother was There (ATLUS Kitajoh Remix)” on ALL NIGHT difficulty. Was that really your first time trying it?
Kobayashi: It really was.
Miyazaki: Yes! It was originally supposed to be NORMAL or HARD, because someone said that I aimed for KING CRAZY in P4D so I wouldn’t need to practice. But then on the day of, they said, “You can do ALL NIGHT too, right?” *laughs*
So it was really the spur of the moment.
Noto: On the sidelines, the staff were saying things like, “Is she really going to do this? If she messes up, we’ll have to start over.”
You didn’t set any custom modes at all?
Kobayashi: None whatsoever. *laughs* We hesitated for a second because it has that Atlus-style stage progression, but we saw Miyazaki-san’s skill via her P4D high score posts on Twitter, so we decided to keep it a secret from her and go ahead with it.
Miyazaki: Now that I think about it, it would’ve been really bad if I failed! I didn’t realize at all because I was so excited to play.
Kobayashi: It took you too long to realize!
Ishioka: That’s our Futaba. *laughs*
Kojiro Ishioka (P3 Protagonist / Sho Minazuki)
Now then, could you tell us about Minazuki?
Ishioka: I’ve had experience with staged sword fights and action scenes, but dancing with a sword and dual-wielding were both new to me, so the swords were difficult to handle. Also, I wasn’t holding them the entire time, so I also needed motions for unsheathing and sticking them into the ground. During recording, the staff held them in place on the floor so that I could pick them up again from there.
Did you have the swords sheathed at your waist the entire time before taking them out?
Wada: It would restrict his movement if they were there from the beginning, so we split it up into cuts, where the part up until the unsheathing and the part where he wields the swords while dancing were recorded separately. While I’m sure it was difficult for the dancer, it was also extremely difficult for the capture studio staff. It takes a lot of meticulous adjustments to create motion data with a human and an object linked together, so the staff were wary from the very beginning and asked us how many dances were going to involve props.
Kobayashi: I told them “not that many”, but then proceeded to add a lot of them. *laughs*
The dancers are all saying “Business as usual”… *laughs*
Kobayashi: I’m used to that. *laughs*
So, it was a challenge to convert the motion capture data.
Wada: Junpei’s bat was relatively easier to handle, since he holds it from the beginning but throws it away soon after. The studio staff asked us to make all of them like that if possible, and at first, we obediently went along with it. When we got to Minazuki at the end, we used all of our remaining leeway and demanded the absolute most from them. *laughs*
Kobayashi: Minazuki’s swordsmanship was a lot of work to portray. We asked for the blades to always be moving in the direction of the sharp edge.
Ishioka: But in actuality, I was holding round, plastic pipes that didn’t have a backside to them, so I’d be like, “Which side is the sharp side!?” *laughs* I think that was the most selfish request from the Atlus staff.
Wada: It’s “care”, not “selfishness”! *laughs*
The final choreography looks great, though. It really feels like a sword dance.
Kobayashi: I knew that Ishioka-kun had high physical prowess, so I trusted that he’d be able to pull it off. Also, there’s a difference between Japanese swords and Western swords. Western swords are striking weapons in that you can use the weight of the weapon itself to hit your foe. The choreography that Ishioka-kun first created was representative of Western swordsmanship, but Minazuki wields Japanese katanas which are only sharp on one side. That’s why we needed him to slash with the sharp side…
Ishioka: He’s told me this about 20 times already.
Not to be rude, but does this really matter for a dance?
Ishioka: Right!? You’d think it doesn’t! *laughs* When I look at the finished product, I think it looks cool and I’m glad I did it that way. But during recording, if I was even a little bit off, he’d say, “No, that one just now wouldn’t have killed anything.” Kobayashi-san is knowledgeable about swordsmanship techniques so I understood why he said that, but for me, all I could do was continue slashing until I got the OK, all the while thinking, “Oh, so that one wasn’t a killing blow. I’ve never killed anyone so I wouldn’t know…” and “He must really like Minazuki…” Although, when I did a motion and thought to myself, “Was that the one?”, I’d get the OK. I thought that was really cool.
Kobayashi: Minazuki’s recording was really tough. There was one time when Ishioka-kun said, “Please give me some time, I need to concentrate” and shut out all of the other dancers from the studio. He’s very dexterous and usually adapts to whatever comes his way, but that was the first time he needed time to focus like that.
Kasuga: It was on the very last day of recording. It really needed to get done that day.
Ishioka: It was May 29th of last year. I’ll never forget it.
Wada: Wow, you remembered. *laughs* I guess it’s already been a year since then, huh?
Minazuki’s personality changes partway through his dance. Was that difficult too?
Ishioka: Great question. Between his dancing before his personality switch, his swordsmanship before his personality switch, his dancing after his personality switch, his swordsmanship after his personality switch, and his dancing after returning to his previous personality… I’d wished we had 5 dancers for him.
Was Minazuki’s personality switch decided from the very beginning?
Kobayashi: Yes. Minazuki’s dual personalities are part of his character’s appeal, so we considered it a must.
Ishioka: But because of that, I’m really attached to and confident in Minazuki.
It’s easy to get attached to something you put so much hard work into.
Ishioka: Yeah. Those movements were the product of an explosion of passion and emotion.
Saki: Will we be able to see it in real life one day?
Kasuga: I hope so!
Noto: I’m looking forward to it!
KAZOO: In live action!
Ishioka: I probably can’t do Minazuki live…
Kobayashi: It’s impossible. *laughs* If you were to do it live, I don’t think you’d be able to move at all afterwards.
Saki: Whoa, Kobayashi-san said “impossible”!
Is it unusual for him to say that?
Saki: He never says it. It’s always, “You can do it, right?” *laughs*
Kasuga: “You can do it, so I’m counting on you.” *laughs*
He does sound strict. *laughs* Also, the P3 protagonist shows up in Minazuki’s partner dance. Both of them are played by Ishioka-san, so how did you do the recording?
Ishioka: Great question.
KAZOO: The second one of the day, huh? *laughs*
Ishioka: I played both of them. Until I got the OK for both sides, we had someone else standing in place of the other character for me to dance in relation to. Once I got the OK, we’d swap places, or at least that was the plan…
Ishioka: Normally, that would’ve been fine, and the other dancer would only have to memorize the locations to go to. However, what ended up happening was the other dancer memorizing the entire choreography for that part and performing it with the correct timing, even though their motions weren’t being recorded, because that way “there would be more emotion in it.” It really did bring out more emotion from me, but at the same time, I was thinking it was such a lot of work.
Who was the other dancer?
Kasuga: It was me. *laughs* Thanks to that, my muscles got really sore that day.
Ishioka: That’s because they were pointing out your mistakes, too.
Kasuga: Yeah. They’d tell me, “Do it more like this!” and I’d be like, “You’re not even recording me!” *laughs*
Kobayashi: If the target isn’t in the right place at the right time, then the attacker doesn’t feel any tension. It just didn’t look right. *laughs*
Kasuga: They also criticized my physical size–they wanted me to be smaller when I was facing off against him. There’s no way I could do that! *laughs*
Yeah, that’s not something you can do. *laughs* Now then, please tell us about the P3 protagonist.
Ishioka: First, I got a grasp on the character by asking the Atlus staff and KAZOO-san about the P3 protagonist’s inner personality. Fortunately, I also had access to a P3 fan, Miyazaki-san, and I asked for her opinions as well as the other dancers’. His base characteristics ended up being “doesn’t seem that interested” and “doesn’t show enthusiasm”, and after discussing it with Kobayashi-san, we settled on “gives 120% effort when the time calls for it, but otherwise he always takes a step back to observe the situation.” The problem was how to express that through dance. I was also asked to make him act uninterested in his dance partners during partner dances. Earlier, Tsukasa-san talked about how making eye contact is important for dancers, but in order to show disinterest, I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone either! *laughs*
Kobayashi: Rather than “not being interested in his partners”, it’s more like if he approached them more than necessary or showed off too much, his character would fall apart. So, I asked him to try to keep his distance from his partner, but also stay close enough that he could reach them in case anything happened.
Ishioka: In that sense, the P3 protagonist’s motivation switches between 0 and 100. I was always all fired up to dance, but every song started out with him looking downwards, so none of the others noticed my enthusiasm.
Ishioka: It’s difficult to maintain enthusiasm when you’re looking downwards with your hands in your pockets, so I had to be careful not to lose concentration each time.
Kobayashi: Even though he was in his starting position, we would ask him, “Are you in the mood for this?”
Ishioka: I mean, I can’t have him showing enthusiasm from the very beginning, right? I couldn’t tell what they wanted from me. *laughs*
KAZOO: Like how people kept telling Miyazaki-san to get ready, when Ishioka-kun was in stand-by, people would cheer him on, like “Are you feeling okay? You can do this!”
Miyazaki: I was so relieved when my recording was done. *laughs*
Kobayashi: And then Ishioka-kun would stay in that pose but shout, “I’m not allowed to be excited!” *laughs*
Ishioka: Yep. Also, I wasn’t sure how to express the P3 protagonist’s inner fortitude and how he goes all-in when the time comes for it. When I suggested more acrobatic dancing like break-dancing, they told me, “That’s totally fine! Actually yeah, please do that.” But afterwards, their requests became so demanding that I wished I hadn’t suggested it… It was Teddie all over again.
Did the same conversation happen for Teddie? *laughs*
Kobayashi: It did. *laughs*
Ishioka: The interludes in “Mass Destruction (“P3” + “P3F” ver.)” and “Brand New Days (Yuyoyuppe Remix)” show off his “going all-in” mode with intense dancing, so please give them a watch.
Incidentally, in “Brand New Days (Yuyoyuppe Remix)”, the P3 protagonist extends his hand to Yukari but she ignores it and continues dancing. What was the intention behind that?
Ishioka: In that scene, if the partner is Aigis or Fuuka then he’s extending his hand to her. But if it’s Yukari, it’s more like he’s saying “Show me your dance moves” and letting her take the stage. I thought that if everyone took his hand like Aigis or Fuuka, then we wouldn’t be able to show variations in the scene.
Kobayashi: We ended up discussing whether Yukari would casually take his hand in that situation. Since we want to show the characters’ relationships through the partner dances, we thought it would be better for him to want to see her dance.
Ishioka: Also, there was something that made me think the Atlus staff were really good. Normally, the solo songs have an interlude, and the parts before and after that have the same choreography. You’d think that we’d only have to dance the first half, but in reality, they always make us dance the full song. One day I asked why, and I was told, “You get into the dance more in the second half than the first half, so we usually want to use the second half.” Now, I thought I’d always been getting into the dance from the very beginning, but when I watched the videos myself, I saw that I really was more into it in the second half. I was surprised to see such a difference.
So you generally use the second half?
Kobayashi: That’s the case a lot of the time. However, there are some characters that shouldn’t be too into it, so we always compare them carefully before choosing. Also, if I really can’t decide by myself, I’ll get everyone together to discuss it. Normally we could just give one the OK and that’d be the end of that, but when we watch it with the dancers themselves, we get different opinions like “this way is better” or “that way is better”, and I think that for this team, that’s the most natural way to pick the best one.
Ishioka: Also, personally, I created the choreography for “Mass Destruction (“P3” + “P3F” ver.)” with a battle focus, but for “Brand New Days (Yuyoyuppe Remix)” I really wanted to show his inner emotions, so there was a lot of arguing over opinions with the Atlus staff while I choreographed it. For “Mass Destruction”, if they told me “This way is better” I’d accept it right away, but for “Brand New Days”, I thought a lot about what would work for the song and the character. It might’ve been the first time that I’d ever clashed opinions with Kobayashi-san.
Kobayashi: That’s just like the P3 protagonist though: he normally adapts to whatever he’s told, but when it comes to things that are really important to him, he’ll voice his opinion. You really are just like him–I’m glad I chose you for him.
Ishioka: That’s a compliment, right? *laughs* Also, I recall the last part with everyone in “Burn My Dread” being second only to Minazuki in terms of number of retakes.
KAZOO: Yeah, even though we got the OK, Ishioka-kun said “No, hold on” and we retook it again.
Kobayashi: I told him that I gave the OK because there weren’t any problems with it, but when I asked what he wanted to do, he asked for 5 minutes to think about it before saying he’d redo it.
Ishioka: If you phrase it like that… what else could I respond with?
Kobayashi: It really was fine though. Although I did kind of want more out of it since it was such an important song. Still, there wasn’t anything wrong with the dance, so we watched the footage together and got everyone’s opinion before deciding to redo it.
Which part got your attention?
Ishioka: It was the final scene where everyone accepts his feelings one by one. For that part, I thought it didn’t matter what us dancers were doing because the technology would take care of the rest… but actually doing it felt different. We thoroughly adjusted it until the very end to show how the characters intertwined.
Kobayashi: We were also concerned about how fast they should turn.
Ishioka: Yeah. We were very particular about every last detail, from the timing of hand-lifting to the angle of the turns. Even the studio staff said they’d never had to deal with so much choreography for each song, having so many people dancing at the same time as in “Burn My Dread”, or choreography as intense as Minazuki’s swords.
Wada: They told us that, too. They said they’d never done motion capture work like that before.
Kirika Igari (Elizabeth / Makoto Niijima / Margaret)
Since we talked about Minazuki’s partner dance with the P3 protagonist, what about Elizabeth and Margaret? Did Kasuga-san assist with that one as well?
Kasuga: Yes, I did!
And how was Igari-san’s dancing?
Kobayashi: She’s really good at dancing. She’s great at dances that seem non-human, where only individual parts move at a time. That being the case, we were afraid that putting her into motion capture would make it look like it wasn’t being danced by a human. However, Elizabeth isn’t human either, so we made a selfish request to her: show what happens when a non-human being–someone who can do anything–gets carried away and dances… Come to think of it, I saw Igari-san sitting down to recoup her strength too, which was unusual.
Ishioka: Yeah, she was. *laughs*
Wada: I heard that at the end of the day, she said “OK, I’m gonna redo it!” and left, though. *laughs*
Sounds like a crazy story. *laughs* Personally, I really enjoyed Elizabeth’s nimble movements.
Noto: They’re really cool.
Kobayashi: Despite our requests for her to get carried away, she’s actually the type that gets embarrassed really easily. After she finished dancing and we gave her the OK, she’d return to her normal self and go, “Geez, that was so embarrassing!”
I see. *laughs* How about Makoto, then?
Kobayashi: For Makoto, we went with “extreme martial arts”–combining martial arts techniques with dancing. However, Makoto’s specialty is aikido, so we wanted her to base it around aikido moves. There would’ve been more constraints for her to work with compared to Elizabeth. There were limitations imposed and she wasn’t used to those movements, but I think it’s because of that that she was able to reproduce Makoto’s clumsiness and how she wouldn’t be able to just “dance” on a whim. If we let Igari-san dance however she wanted, she would be extremely at ease in her performance, but that wouldn’t be Makoto anymore.
Before, you said that she was embarrassed while acting as Elizabeth. Does that mean that her personality is similar to Makoto’s?
Kobayashi: I’d say she’s similar to both–about half and half of each. As a dancer, she dances confidently and shows off like Elizabeth, but after it’s over she gets embarrassed like Makoto.
KAZOO: I suggested showing Makoto’s cute side in her dance, so please do look for those parts.
Did you make suggestions to other dances often?
KAZOO: No, I usually just do whatever I’m told…
Kobayashi-san completely disagrees, though. *laughs*
KAZOO: But I really never thought “I have to suggest something”; I just bring up things that come to mind as possibilities. I really love the Persona series, so instead of refraining from suggestions because I’m one of the dancers, I often tell them my thoughts when they come to me for advice.
So do the others provide suggestions as well?
Kobayashi: Yes, but usually before they do that, they consult with Ishioka-kun (P3D Protagonist) and KAZOO (P5D Protagonist) first. Probably KAZOO most often, since he was also the P4D protagonist.
KAZOO: I’m not that dependable. *laughs*
Noto: KAZOO-san is like everyone’s mom. He always meddles in our affairs and helps us out.
Mom? Not dad?
Everyone: Mom. *laughs*
Wada: Yeah, he doesn’t really fit the “dad” image, possibly because of the influence from the P4D protagonist. His motherly side is the P4 protagonist and his confident, reliable side is Joker.
KAZOO (Akihiko Sanada / P5 Protagonist)
Now then, please tell us about Sanada.
KAZOO: For Sanada, the dancing itself was tough, but I had a lot of fun doing it. Sanada’s specialty is boxing, but I’d never boxed before, so first I binged on boxing videos and studied the footwork. Also, it wasn’t until I was already partway through the choreography that I realized that Sanada was a southpaw while my dance was right-handed. One day, I was taking a break and playing P3 when I noticed that Sanada’s hands were reversed in his stance. I called up Kobayashi-san and asked, “Is Sanada left-handed?” and he immediately answered, “Yup.” *laughs* I’d already done about half of the choreography, so it was a bit difficult to re-memorize it.
Sanada’s dancing reminds me of shadow boxing.
Kobayashi: If you tell Sanada to dance, he isn’t going to dance normally. We felt that Sanada would definitely think of his moves based on boxing. When I was talking to KAZOO about Sanada, you wouldn’t be able to tell that we were talking about dancing, because we’d say things like, “Is he an out-boxer? Or an in-fighter?”
KAZOO: It gives a very different impression based on whether he strengthens his guard in front of his face or breaks it to go for a step. I went through a lot of trial and error, considering things like “Since he’s slender, does that make him an out-boxer? But then again, during battles, he always charges right in.”
Kobayashi: When I said, “He’s a boxer, so his feet never stop moving, right?” he seemed to brace himself before saying, “Yeah.”
KAZOO: But in reality, there are physical limitations. In the game, there’s camerawork–so while dancing, there were points where I stopped moving my feet because I knew that there would be a close-up of his face or that it would zoom in on his hands for certain motions. And then during rehearsal, Miyazaki-san would innocently stroll up to me and say, “KAZOO-san, your feet stopped moving there.” How do I put it… it was actually kind of scary. In the end I added more steps, but as originally planned, my feet weren’t filmed there. *laughs*
Ishioka: Didn’t she just want to see more of Sanada’s footwork? *laughs*
Miyazaki: Yeah! I wanted to see more of Sanada’s movements!
Wada: Were Sanada’s partner dances hard? He moves a lot more than the other characters.
KAZOO: Yeah. Also, there were surprisingly many combinations of characters that only make eye contact for a split second–not just the ones involving the P3 protagonist. Even if they say, “I’m here! Let’s dance!”, oftentimes they’re all dancing on their own.
Kobayashi: The P3 cast are synchronized with each other through all of the battles they’ve been through, so they don’t need to maintain eye contact for a long time. Just a brief moment is enough for them to immediately understand what they need to do in order to get out of a sticky situation, so here, we often made it so that they would glance at each other for a second before doing their own thing.
Ishioka: Although, when we were dancing at Yokohama Arena, we intentionally didn’t have the P3 characters in sync. There was a baseline choreography, but each dancer changed it to match their character. When you look at them individually you can see that they’re all doing different things, but as a whole, they all fit together. That’s one of the unique characteristics of the P3 dances.
Wada: One phrase to describe it would be “title colour.” The Dancing series has a different colour for each title’s party, so while we do want you to watch the individual dances and the partner dances, you can also look at everything as a whole for a different perspective. Also, while the concept behind the Dancing series is to create fun games where you can look fondly on the characters, our main priority is naturally to create something “real.” It’s important to keep all of the characters in their official personalities.
KAZOO: P3 was really worthwhile. When I danced alone and with others, I was always thinking, “We’re doing it!”
Kobayashi: They’re more than just friends–their relationships are such that even in the midst of battle, they trust that their comrades have their back. There’s a strong sense of professionalism in the P3 cast: “Even if I solely focus on the enemy in front of me, I can trust that no enemy will attack me from behind.”
KAZOO: Although even among that, there are differences. For example, Sanada dances differently with Mitsuru compared to the other characters. It may only be a small difference, but we do put that amount of detail into the partner dances, so those who notice it can apply it to their own perspectives of the characters.
Wada: Our duty is to imagine what the characters would do if they really were placed in this situation, so it should be fun for the players to see what happens when two characters dance together.
Next, tell us about the P5 protagonist.
KAZOO: As Kobayashi-san brought up about Ryuji earlier, the P5 protagonist hasn’t been around for long yet, plus the players all have their own impressions of him, so at first, no ideas came to mind at all. Obviously I couldn’t come up with any choreography that way, so I started by thinking about the partner dances first. When I did that, I secretly had my own “real life confidant” sessions with everyone. When I talked to them, I’d interact with them as the “P5 protagonist”; for example, I’d see if Futaba would be confused and say “Huh!?” or if she’d say “That’s it!”, using that to see which way of speaking was correct. I repeated this over and over to build up my concept of his character. So, even though everyone was calling me Mom earlier, they were actually the ones helping me out. *laughs* This is how my version of the P5D protagonist came about.
Kobayashi: KAZOO is a skilled jazz dancer, so we told him to just make a great jazz dance for us. After a while, he came back apologizing because he couldn’t think of anything. As KAZOO said, the Persona protagonists are built by the players, and unlike P3, the P5 protagonist hasn’t been around for long, so his personality isn’t established at all. In order to find that personality, he had to collect all of the puzzle pieces by figuring out what everyone thought he was like.
Truly a “real” protagonist… It must’ve been a lot of work.
KAZOO: It was tough… Wait, I thought I was going to say “Everything went as planned!” today. *laughs* Well, the actual dancing wasn’t tough. It was creating the character that was a struggle I hadn’t experienced in a long time.
Kobayashi: You mentioned being in a slump. *laughs*
KAZOO: I was capable of dancing, but nothing I danced seemed to fit. I came up with a lot of moves, but I didn’t have a solid grasp on him, so it was hard to tell whether they were truly acceptable. I really wasn’t sure about his personality.
You also played the P4D protagonist. Was the P5 protagonist harder to understand?
KAZOO: Yes, but now that I think about it, he’s probably the kind of person you aren’t supposed to understand. You play the game and develop the protagonist in your own way, but at the end, you can’t help but wonder what kind of person he really is. So even now, the correct answer is probably that there isn’t a correct answer.
Kobayashi: He’s a phantom thief, after all.
KAZOO: For P4D I was able to trace the protagonist’s personality surprisingly easily, perhaps because he was similar to me.
Kobayashi: It went extremely smoothly. That’s why it was funny when you were doing the P5 protagonist and everyone else would come up to me and say, “Even KAZOO-san is saying he can’t do it; is this going to be OK?” *laughs*
Was there any pressure in continuing to play the protagonist role?
KAZOO: There wasn’t any special pressure in being the protagonist, because everyone’s characters come with pressure. *laughs* So, there wasn’t any special excitement in playing the protagonist either.
Please tell us about the dancing. The P5 protagonist seems to move around the stage a lot; was this intentional?
KAZOO: Yes. The P5 protagonist also has his “Joker” side to him, and he is truly a “phantom” when he’s in a palace. I definitely wanted to evoke that emotion in his dances. So, I strove to use all of the space I was given, moving further and deeper than anyone else did. That’s also why I ran around so much at Yokohama Arena and used the entire stage at Persona Show Case from corner to corner. As an aside, “Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There (Jazztronik Remix)” depicts an entire day from leaving Leblanc in the morning to returning at night. *laughs*
you-Z (Yusuke Kitagawa / Theodore)
Please tell us about you-Z-san who played Yusuke.
Kobayashi: Yusuke is an artist, not bound by common sense, which leads to doing eccentric things because he intuitively can’t understand the situation. So you-Z-san, who probably lives an ethical life, had to cut loose and go wild. My catchphrase for him was “Be more of a nutcase!”
Miyazaki: He did say that!
Kobayashi: Cutting loose was difficult in itself, so I wanted him to focus solely on expressing the character while dancing. What I told him was, “Disregard the notion of ‘showing yourself to someone’ or ‘being watched by the audience'” and “Think solely about how to express what’s inside and present Yusuke’s style of beauty.” It really was as difficult as painting a picture, and it felt like he had to paint over it several times.
Does that mean that you-Z-san and Yusuke aren’t that similar personality-wise?
Kobayashi: That’s a tough question… I think they’re similar.
Ishioka: Yeah, I do too.
Wada: If I had to say, his usual funny side is more similar to Yosuke who he played in P4D. However, once he’s gotten into the role, he’s the spitting image of Yusuke.
KAZOO: He’s probably Yusuke when he’s alone at home, but Yosuke when he’s with everyone else. He’s the type that shuts everyone out when he finds something he likes.
Kobayashi: He’s really sensitive to his surroundings, so yeah, he’s like Yosuke when he’s dealing with people. But when he’s really struggling to create his choreography, he resembles a painter musing over a painting. He even made a Yusuke-like pose.
He seemed to really get into the actual dancing.
Kobayashi: Yeah. I asked him to “move like a mollusc”, and he used his entire body to show the curving motions and paintbrush motions.
It was amusing how his movements were elegant yet eccentric.
Noto: I could get addicted to watching them.
KAZOO: When he was making paintbrush motions, he was apparently actually painting something. I don’t know what he was painting, but he told me before that he was, although he didn’t think anyone would notice.
So, would we be able to figure out what it was if we watched his painting hand closely?
Kobayashi: It’s Yusuke, so I don’t know if you could understand either way. *laughs* Still, he used his entire body to draw something, so please watch it and see.
How did Theodore go?
Kobayashi: Theodore was also quite a struggle. Since he’s an “Attendant”, he has power and he’s devoted to his duties, but he doesn’t understand humans that well yet. Theodore also has that “dejected” side to his personality, so if you think, “This is how I should do it”, then it’s already not like him anymore. That’s why I gave him the difficult advice to “Show his uncertainty in exploring and trying to imitate human movements.” It was a tough order, but the end result was splendid.
Chiho Katayama (Mitsuru Kirijo / Goro Akechi)
Please tell us about Katayama-san, who was in charge of Mitsuru and Akechi.
Kobayashi: Katayama-san is unparalleled when it comes to dancing and expressiveness, even compared to the rest of our dancers. She looks absolutely stunning when she’s dancing, but after she’s done, she gives off an opposite, mellow impression. The difference between her inner self and the personality she shows externally is probably the biggest out of everyone. She graduated from a university musical program and gives off the impression of a kind, elegant lady, but she’s also strong-willed, making her just like Mitsuru. And for Akechi, since she gives off that clean, pure aura, we asked her to bring out her inner darkness.
So, is Mitsuru the closest match for her personality?
Kobayashi: I think so. Basically, she’s what Mitsuru would be if she wasn’t under such heavy pressure to take on a leadership role. She’s a Mitsuru that’s led a much happier life.
What kind of advice did Katayama-san ask for?
Kobayashi: Since she’s not the type to take initiative and lead others, she said to me at first, “I’m not that amazing” and “Our personalities don’t match.” However, while Mitsuru does look like a proactive leader and “empress”, she only ended up that way because of her surrounding circumstances with the Kirijo Group. Also, as I said before, Katayama-san is usually the mellow type, but if she were pushed to get stronger because of the pressure of her position, wouldn’t that be Mitsuru? That’s what I told her and what she worked with.
And what about Akechi?
Kobayashi: Akechi was difficult because Katayama-san had to draw out her inner darkness, something she’d probably never done before. She even told me, “I don’t have any inner darkness! *sob*” I told her she shouldn’t brag like that, even if she didn’t realize she was. *laughs* In the end, she never drew it out, and her choreography failed to pass several times. After going through this process, the darkness finally revealed itself.
Wada: Doesn’t that mean she only gained a dark side because of the recording process? *laughs*
So it was all because of Kobayashi-san… It was incredibly difficult, then.
Kobayashi: I didn’t start it! She was only pulling out what was already there! Since she’s a musical actress, we talked about things that could happen around her, such as situations where she was angry or frustrated, or partners that she hated or was jealous of. She created the choreography while coming up with scenarios like that.
Rather than creating a dance, it’s almost like reconstructing your personality.
Kobayashi: Like digging up your past? In order to become Akechi, Katayama-san had to swap her life with his and imagine how she would feel in certain situations with certain people. Meanwhile, KAZOO would listen to her while playing the role of the other party, and scold her, “You’re supposed to be ANGRY there!” I told KAZOO that he would make a dangerous Akechi. *laughs*
It sounds like everyone had difficulty preparing for their roles, but Akechi was especially tough.
Wada: Akechi is an important character, so there was immeasurable pressure on her.
It’s amazing that she was able to answer those expectations.
Kobayashi: For sure, although it was also something she’d cultivated herself over time. Even after her choreography got the OK, the dance itself was so intensive that she’d groan, “I can’t stand up anymore.” Also, when we were recording Akechi, the room naturally took on a more solemn mood. The dancers silently waited for their turn instead of being lively and chatty as usual.
Ishioka: It’s because of that selfishness of yours. You were so fixated on Akechi. No matter how you looked at it, her performance was top-notch; yet you still wouldn’t approve it.
Kobayashi: It’s passion! *laughs* There was a lot she had to take on. It doesn’t benefit anyone–including the dancer–if we compromise on her personification of the role.
Is it always Kobayashi-san that gives the final OK?
Kobayashi: At the studio, yes… Please stop giving me that “It’s all your fault!” look, everyone. *laughs*
So if Kobayashi-san doesn’t give the OK, then no matter how wonderful the other dancers think it was–
Everyone answered so quickly. *laughs*
I want to ask about the MVs, too. The other day, I saw that Smile Saki-san posted a photo taken during the recording for “Last Surprise” on Twitter. ((The tweet in question: https://twitter.com/SmileBambi0923/status/999588795749036033))
Saki: The Atlus staff gave me permission to post it! I thought the players would enjoy seeing it.
Wada: That was a good photo; everyone was sprawled out.
So the dancers also acted out the non-dancing scenes.
Wada: Yes. Someone else was in charge of the MVs, and we recorded the scenes based on his storyboards. For MVs, what’s important is how the scenes are laid out, so we had to have a director in charge of camerawork and cuts.
Ishioka: For example, in “Last Surprise”, there’s a scene where the characters are inside birdcages. For that, we brought in wooden poles and they held onto them while recreating the scene. After that, we’d record them laying by the beach, and go cut-by-cut like that.
How was the choreography for the MVs composed?
Wada: First, the person at our company in charge of the MVs would propose a general scene outline and ambience for the video. We would then tell the dancers what kind of dance we wanted and compare it with the outline when they were done.
The sensuality and ambience in “Last Surprise” are really impressive.
Miyazaki: Thank you! I worked really hard as Futaba!
Wada: The scene on the swing is really cute.
Miyazaki: That was a lot of fun. *laughs*
Kobayashi: Even though “Last Surprise” has a sexy choreography, sexy moves don’t suit characters like Futaba. It was a tricky request, but I asked her to dance the sexy choreography without looking sexy.
“The Battle for Everyone’s Souls (Daisuke Asakura Remix)” has a sword fight scene in the middle, too.
Wada: That cut wasn’t done by the dancers. We asked the motion actors who worked with us for P5 to do it.
It looks like there was considerable effort put into the camerawork, not just for the MVs but for all of the dances.
Wada: The camerawork was tough. *laughs* Everyone was moving around a lot more than last time.
Kasuga: That’s because we were told to. *laughs*
Kobayashi: I did say that. *laughs*
Wada: It really was tough to capture everything on camera. It was especially difficult to get cuts for the partner dances where everyone was visible, even though the dances were so good.
The dancers probably wouldn’t have taken the cuts into consideration while dancing.
Wada: Generally, they wouldn’t. We would adjust the camera to whatever they came up with, because that way they could dance without constraints. The only thing that was set in stone was the total range in which they could move. We would assign the active area (the zone in which the audience can see the performers), which is the same as saying, “Please make full use of this space.”
The choreography for “The Battle for Everyone’s Souls (Daisuke Asakura Remix)” was really intense.
Ishioka: Thank you, that makes me happy to hear.
Noto: The remixed track itself is also really cool.
Kobayashi: Ishioka-kun is great at making stylish choreography. The motions themselves shout, “Look here” or “Look at this pose”, so the camera naturally gravitates to where it should.
Personally, I find that the hand gestures in Ishioka-san’s dances stand out to me.
Wada: They feel really decisive. A lot of his dances make it easy to tell where to focus. Come to think of it, for “Memories of You (ATLUS Meguro Remix)”, we had the dancers sing, too.
Miyazaki: We did!
Saki: There was also a motion where we picked up a mysterious object. They told us to “pick up a shining object”, but I was unsure while doing it because I didn’t know what would make sense. *laughs*
Kobayashi: By the way, the MVs were entirely directed by Takemata, one of our staff members who’s skilled with videos and scene composition. So that wasn’t my fault. *laughs* He has a really good sense for these things, and he was also in charge of important cutscenes in P5.
So there were also key staff from P5 involved in P3D and P5D?
Wada: Yes. They may be spin-off dancing games of the Persona RPG series, but the studio’s mainline staff also contributed to the important parts to create a wonderful product.
Wada: We spare no effort when it comes to creating a good game. *laughs* Oh, but of course, we only had them participate to an extent where it wouldn’t affect their other projects. What’s most important is that they enjoy the work they do for us.
Message for the Readers
Please give a message to the readers.
Shiroma: Each individual motion was acted out with extreme care! There was a lot of hardship involved, but it all led to a great product, so I hope many people will enjoy it!
Saki: As Tsukasa-san said, everyone put so much thought into creating the dances, to the point where you’d wonder, “Would anyone even notice that?” So, while it may be tough, I’d like it if you would let every character dance every day. *laughs* Please watch them every day! Also, the other day, I saw a mother talking online about how she was playing P5D, and when her daughter saw Haru-chan dancing, she said she wanted to learn ballet. I couldn’t help but go, “Yes!” I always danced ballet while hoping I could be some kind of inspiration for someone, so I was overjoyed to see it come true, even if it was only in a small way. I’ll also be happy if these games get people to look at us dancers and develop an interest in dance themselves.
Ishioka: I can only speak for my personal feelings, but I hope you enjoy the P3 protagonist’s acrobatic movements, the way he shows his inner self in “Brand New Days (Yuyoyuppe Remix)”, his interactions with everyone at the end of “Burn My Dread”, and the expressions that he shows briefly. Most of the time he looks expressionless or uninterested while dancing, but there are brief moments where he smiles, so I’d love it if you would look for those.
Noto: Each character has plenty of highlights to look out for, and we tried our best to show interactions in the P3D and P5D partner dances that you can’t see anywhere else, so I really hope you enjoy them. Also, personally, my assignments were a bit unique (a young boy and girl), so I tried to make the most of their strengths while dancing. I hope they’ll be endearing to you. Please watch the characters and discover all of the hidden aspects of their dances!
Kasuga: Labrys and Lavenza are DLC characters, so I worked especially hard on their choreography to please those who love the characters enough to buy them! Also, I really love working with these people. These dances are full of our passion, sweat, and tears, so I really hope you play the games and enjoy them. Also, I agree with Saki-san: please dance with every character once every day. *laughs*
Miyazaki: Even if you think the games are too difficult, don’t worry! Even if you fail a stage, you can rewatch it in “Perfect Play Mode” and focus on watching the dance. So, please watch the characters dance! Also, my recommended costumes are Yukari-chan’s Featherman suit and Futaba’s Halloween costume that looks like an alien with a ray gun. Please try using them!
KAZOO: Please play and enjoy the game to your heart’s content. Also, the dances this time are pretty difficult, but the game does have a “Choreography Lesson Mode”, so do feel free to try them yourself. I’d love to try dancing with everyone if I get the chance to, so I’ll be looking forward to your dancing!
Kobayashi: Part of the challenge in the Dancing series is to bring out all of the possibilities of the Persona games in a way that holds value. We also think carefully about how to add entertainment value to each of the associated real-life events like concerts and Persona Show Case. We want everyone, not just the Atlus staff, to be able to proudly proclaim, “That was good!” Although it’s also fine if you don’t think that deeply about it. *laughs* Please purchase and enjoy the games.
Wada: I feel that P3D and P5D could only come into existence because of the dancers’ cooperation. Part of the reason why we went ahead with this project was because after development finished on P4D, we really wanted to create something even better with these people. Also, unlike the mainline RPGs, for the Dancing games we really just want to make the fans happy, and we try to do things that can’t be done in the mainline games. This kind of content is important for giving users greater depth and breadth in their enjoyment of the Persona series, so I hope we continue to have more fun developments like this. I’d like to have a party with all of the dancers in Yakushima or even Hawaii(?) if we ever get the chance. *laughs* Of course, we’re also focusing on our main duty, RPG development, so please show us your continued support for the Persona series!
Thank you all for today.
wow, Great work.