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Persona Magazine 2018 Interview Navigation
P3D/P5D (Kazuhisa Wada, Nobuyoshi Miwa, Ryota Kozuka)
P3D/P5D Artwork (Shigenori Soejima, Akane Kabayashi, Azusa Shimada)
P5A Part 1 (Masashi Ishihama, Shin’ichi Inotsume, Jun Fukuyama) (You are here)
P5A Part 2 (Mamoru Miyano)
P5A Part 3 (Nana Mizuki)
P5A Part 4 (Ikue Otani)
P5A Part 5 (Kazuki Adachi)
P5A Part 6 (Lyn)
P5A Part 7 (Shoji Meguro)
Masashi Ishihama – P5A Director
A brilliant creator who can do anything from episode direction to animation. His major works as Director include Shinsekai Yori (From the New World) and Garasu no Hana to Kowasu Sekai (Garakowa: Restore the World).
Shin’ichi Inotsume – P5A Series Composition
A scriptwriter who mainly works on films, live-action works, and anime. His major works include JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Jun Fukuyama – Voice of Ren Amamiya
Representative Director and CEO of BLACK SHIP. He has performed many major roles, including Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass.
Q: Is there anything particularly difficult or requiring extra attention when adapting a game into a TV anime?
Ishihama: We have to take into consideration that there are people that have and haven’t played the game, and I’d say it’s fun to explore the different viewpoints. Those that played the game have their own impression of it, and I don’t want to take away from that. However, that could result in a poor experience for newcomers, so I discussed it with the staff, and it was difficult to find a solution. It’s hard to find all of the impactful points in a big game like P5, but the fun in representing those points makes up for the difficulty.
Inotsume: Persona 5 is an extremely complex work with powerful themes. It’s rare to see these kinds of societal themes in anime, and yet it does feel like the characters are in an anime. The story also has a mystery element and Hollywood-style schemes. It’s a multifaceted work, and it was difficult to decide how to summarize it all.
Ishihama: I think it’s really difficult to achieve balance between the characters and the story in this work. If we focus too much on the story then the characters lose their appeal, and if we focus too much on the characters then it feels cheap.
Q: On the voice acting side, what was it like going from the game to the anime?
Fukuyama: In Persona games, the protagonist does have an identity since he’s being voiced by a human, but the most important thing for the actor is to make that identity shallow, leaving room for the player’s identity to join in. However, in the anime, he has a set name and has regular conversations with the other characters, so we have to pull his identity away from the players. We had to be careful about how different he was going to feel compared to the game. Even though you don’t decide his name and he moves of his own accord, those who played the game still see him as their avatar. Figuring out how to express this is a really exciting subject. It’s a constant self-contradiction–the protagonist seems like he has an identity, but he really doesn’t.
Q: What did you think when you first heard about the anime adaptation?
Ishihama: It all depends on the length, but it didn’t seem like an anime that would continue on for that long, so I only thought that it would be really hard to fit everything into a restricted timeframe.
Inotsume: The story itself was very clear, so it was just a matter of how to distribute it, since the plot was already decided. Other series are like that too, but in this case, while the overarching story was already set from start to finish, things that happen alongside it like confidant conversations also demanded screentime *laughs*. Deciding what would go where was a headache.
Q: Did you have any goals you wanted to achieve from a production perspective?
Inotsume: It’s based off of an existing work, so naturally, there were parts where we couldn’t deviate from the source material. Even though it’s not completely a character-focused anime, the characters are really appealing, so we have to flesh out both the story and the personalities. Because of that, we knew that the fans would be more attentive of those things than usual.
Q: I’m sure you got a better grasp on the protagonist’s personality as recording progressed. Was there anything that changed after episode 1?
Fukuyama: Every episode, I acted while thinking “This is so hard” *laughs*. I watched the anime for the previous series, Persona 4, and I really felt that (Daisuke) Ryokawa-san had a tough job. The protagonist in the game has multiple dialogue options, so different identities exist in parallel. There’s separate branches. Normally you have yourself and the character, and it’s like associating yourself with a person, but here, the character’s actions are decided by the player. I thought it’d be difficult to act out. Years later when I got the offer for Persona 5, I spent a long time thinking about how I could create his personality without too much stress. I thought I might put those simulations to use this time, and while acting him out has its charms, it’s also difficult.
Q: What did you two think about Fukuyama-san’s rendition of Ren Amamiya?
Inotsume: It’s a difficult role to play, but I think he did a good job expressing the dual personalities. The biggest aspect of the character is the contrast between his passive, inconspicuous self and his Joker alter-ego, so he has to be able to act that out well. He also has to stand firm as the leader, so I’m glad that he was able to express that in the scenes where he makes the final decisions.
Fukuyama: But you know, it’s pretty cruel to only let the leader make the final decision. I wouldn’t want that position in a company. Imagine people causing all sorts of problems and only coming to you to make the final decision *laughs*.
Ishihama: But for the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, the nuance isn’t the same as “everyone reveres the protagonist as the leader and wants him to make the decisions.” They simply want him to make the final call, and look to him with that desire. I’m glad Fukuyama-san was cast as him, because he can express that difficult nuance perfectly.
Inotsume: In a way, the protagonist is a neutral character. The other characters are strong-willed, so they need a plainer character to wrap up everyone’s opinions.
Q: Is there a story behind the name “Ren Amamiya”?
Ishihama: No *laughs*. We had several candidates, and in the end we chose this one.
Inotsume: That’s a courageous answer *laughs*.
Fukuyama: Did you consider the name from the manga adaptation? (Akira Kurusu)
Ishihama: Honestly, we originally planned on that. But the anime and manga names have always been different, so we had to think of something new *laughs*.
Fukuyama: When I first heard the name, I thought “Ohh.” Meaning-wise, Akira Kurusu is also an excellent name, but Ren Amamiya evokes a more gloomy feeling. The name added another layer of difficulty to voicing him.
Q: Some time ago, you recorded the audio commentary for the Blu-ray and DVD releases of Volume 1. What should we look out for there?
Ishihama: We were completely relying on Fukuyama-san *laughs*.
Fukuyama: It plays out as me interviewing the other two. It’s only for episode 1 so we can’t cover everything (and we can’t spoil anything), so we start with basic questions like “Why did you decide to start this series?” and narrow it down from there.
Ishihama: Fukuyama-san and I are the regulars on the program, and each time we have a guest. Inotsume-san is the first one.
Fukuyama: I figured we’d have someone from the cast coming each time anyway, so we can leave the character talk for when they come *laughs*. I think there are things about the setting that you won’t know until you hear about them. They’re only minor details, but there was a lot of thought put into them. For example, in episode 1, why is the sky blue when he rides the train? Even if you noticed that, you wouldn’t know why unless you asked. Speculation is fun too, but if you know for sure, then it puts the scene in a new light. The commentary is an incentive for those who buy the anime to watch the episode again, so I wanted to fill it with explanations like that.
Q: The opening animation also has a lot of thought behind it. What should we pay attention to there?
Ishihama: Every cut is important, but explaining any of them would be a spoiler *laughs*. This opening includes characters that appear in the latter half of the story, so I used a bit of a reckless approach. It’s also made so that you won’t understand the meaning behind it until you watch the last episode. You probably won’t make the connection until then, so please watch until the very end. Lastly, I thought it’d be fun to have detective novel-style revelations, so there’s an element of that, too.
Q: You said that when you were dividing up the storyboard, you listened to the song until you could sing it yourself.
Ishihama: I have an unfortunate condition where I can’t create an opening unless I can sing the song *laughs*. This time it was in English so I had to annotate it with pronunciation guides, but yes, I can sing it.
Q: A while back we asked the cast for their stories, and everyone said that they were appalled by Fukuyama-san’s bad puns. Is this true? *laughs*
Fukuyama: Since the directors are in the direction booth, they don’t know what nonsense I’m saying. They can’t concentrate on discussing the performances if they can hear our conversations, so they mute the input. When that happens, I make terrible puns. It’s almost terrorism *laughs*. So when I met Mizuki-san at the radio show recording, she was extremely cautious whenever dealing with me, and it was just so great *laughs*.
Q: Is this your way of setting the mood for recording?
Fukuyama: People tend to be really enthusiastic about working on big names, but I actually don’t think that’s necessary. If you’re too nervous, then it makes it harder for the guests to do their job. However, having too much fun is also problematic because you might get careless when it’s your turn. So, I’m always paying attention to whether it’s safe to do that early on.
Q: Lastly, a message to the fans about future developments.
Ishihama: The production team is frantically working until the end without any rest, so I hope the fans will also run with us until the very end.
Fukuyama: I know that a lot of people are watching. We’re working to incorporate all of our feelings towards the work, so as you watch each episode, I hope you look out for the confidant cameos taking place in the background. Thanks for watching.
Inotsume: Stories about phantom thieves and picaresque narratives tend to have a cheeky feeling that’s tricky to pull off. We’ve prepared some tricks, and I think you’ll be surprised if you watch until the end, so please do.
Extended Interview with Jun Fukuyama
Q: After the game, the series progressed through various forms of media and now it’s become a TV anime. Have there been any changes to your feelings from a voice acting perspective?
Fukuyama: Not particularly. As the protagonist, how he is perceived depends on the player, so as long as there aren’t any differences resulting from dialogue changes, I try not to change anything. Although, since P5D had lines spoken during the dances, it really helped that I’d already adjusted my tone for more emotive lines in the anime.
Q: Does it feel like you have a wider range to act in, since you have another benchmark for expressing emotions?
Fukuyama: P5D is a fun, happy game, so I could use my experience from Joker and the anime storyline. This time around I was voicing P5D and the anime at around the same time, which was really useful. In the original game I didn’t say any lines during the main story, so thanks to P5D my performance feels complete now.
Q: There are spin-offs and an OVA too, so you were voicing the protagonist fairly often.
Fukuyama: There weren’t any breaks, so it never felt like I was coming back to the role after a long time. The one thing that I had to watch out for was that in promotional material, Joker is always messing around *laughs*. He’s not as polite as he is in the game. Since it’s just for PR, Joker talks to the audience like a theatrical phantom thief.
Q: Yeah, it wouldn’t be right to bring that mood into the anime *laughs*.
Fukuyama: So, I thought I would make the necessary adjustments early on, in episode 1. When I recorded promotional lines for the game and then went back to record additional lines, I was told that my tone was too upbeat. Because of that, I wanted to set clear boundaries for this fresh start (the anime).
Q: Which scenes (up to Yusuke’s episode) left an impression on you?
Fukuyama: The protagonist spoke more than I thought he would, so it was refreshing to see him contributing to conversations. In the game he mainly just has system-related lines and calls out persona names, but in the anime he doesn’t call his personas’ names much at all *laughs*. Also I felt cathartic at the end of Kamoshida’s palace because the man reaped what he sowed. Aside from the protagonist, it’s really touching when his comrades awaken their personas and speak out their true feelings. I think that newcomers will feel the same way. Also, personally I really like Kamoshida *laughs*. He’s a straight-forward villain, so he gets more entertaining the more scummy he is.
Q: By the way, when the protagonist is wearing his phantom thief outfit, he seems to sound more confident. Are you consciously acting this way?
Fukuyama: It’s intentional. In the anime he talks in both palaces and everyday life, so instead of it being “Joker’s personality”, it’s an extension of his normal personality. For example, some people can overcome their shyness when they’re wearing sunglasses. In his case, he’s normally docile and doesn’t speak much, but putting on the phantom thief filter makes it easier for him to express his real personality.
Q: Ryuji commented on it too: “You’re like a different person when you wear that get-up.”
Fukuyama: It’s all in the script. When Joker shouts things like “Let’s go!”, I exaggerate it to emphasize that it’s different from usual. The director also agreed with me on that. I didn’t know what kinds of scenes there would be in the future, so I wanted to leave room for a wide range of emotions.
Q: What do you feel is the protagonist’s greatest appeal?
Fukuyama: I admire how even though he usually doesn’t say much, he knows how to say the right thing at important times. I’m the kind of person that talks a lot when it doesn’t matter and clams up at important times *laughs*. I’m already approaching middle age, but I want to be like him in my prime years *laughs*.