Interview with Hiroyuki Sawano and Tetsuro Araki, where they talk about their work on the anime 'Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress'.

Q: After Guilty Crown and Attack on Titan, Kabaneri was your third collaboration. What was your first meeting like?

TA: First of all, I learned about Sawano-san after the first episode of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn. From the themes during the culminative scenes of Unicorn, I was impressed. I thought it was a pity that I do not have a man who would write such songs. To be honest, I was quite jealous.

HS: Yes, you talked about that.

TA: After that, we started working on Guilty Crown. Sawano-san is primarily known for creating dramatic music, so I asked him to use all means to create that sort of music.

HS: It was around the time when I was working on the music for the anime Blue Exorcist.

Q: And in five years time, what do you think about the personality and style of each other?

HS: Director Araki makes a very strong impression. It is quite normal for his work to turn out to be incredible. The energy coming from the director is passed on to me every time, and I believe that I should return the same energy using my music. In addition, Araki listens to the music I make for his shows a lot, and is very grateful.

TA: I really appreciate it. From my point of view, Sawano-san is a very bright person, and I wonder how he can write such dramatic music with a smile on his face (laughs). During the concerts he is also very cheerful. Thanks to the dramatic music that he makes, the emotions and feelings of the shows are greatly enhanced.

HS: No, no, no, it's unexpected. When I'm writing a song, I'm completely different (laughs). I'm just being impatient and talking very fast.

TA: Meetings with Sawano-san always end very quickly. Even if he had to talk for two hours, then our conversation is always less than two hours. Even if it is a very long conversation, Sawano-san always says: "Yes, yes, I understand, everything is alright!" (laughs)

HS: I remember how Araki-san hurried me in one meeting and he kept saying "Sawano-san, I'll be going home soon". But in reality that wasn't the case. There are people who carefully study and think about the music, and think of what sort of atmosphere is required. And they give out some ideas. But I'm not like that: I can just sit in front of my computer and listen to the finished songs, until there is an idea. But this time I'll try to talk a little longer. (laughs)

Q: Let's talk about Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. How did this project start?

TA: The animation studio Wit, who worked on Kabaneri, is the best when it comes to action. I tried to do a work that can compete with most other anime. We planned to make a project that was quite different from others of its genre.

Q: Zombies in Steampunk Japan.

TA: If the main character kills someone, how can I prevent him/her from being hated.. I thought about it and added zombies to the anime. Unlike people, when killing zombies, people will not feel disgusted. To be honest, there are many reasons for me adding them, but this is the biggest one.

Q: What about the music of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress?

TA: I felt that it was not necessary to make the music too "Japanese". I thought I'd ask Sawano-san about the music. And for this anime I didn't give him any direction on the music. Listening to the music he sent me, I said: "It's amazing, this will work really well in the show!". So I wanted Sawano-san to not limit himself when creating music.

HS: I'm happy that Araki-san always supports me. Of course, there are specific works where it is necessary to do something specific, and for those I am given detailed instructions. But I prefer to work freely, without limiting myself. If you say "please stick to Japanese music", then the range of musical approaches is narrowed, and there will be a lot of similar songs. I want to express my opinion about the world of work, combining different genres.

Q: Which songs do you find to be especially impressive in the show?

HS: Of course, there are many, but there is one that is very strong - this is the main theme, "KABANERIOFTHEIRONFORTRESS". I put all of my energy into it, and you could first hear it in the scene where Ikoma became a Kabaneri. I was very happy with how that scene turned out with the music. In addition, vocal songs are also used in the anime in action scenes, but Araki-san also used them in fun scenes. I liked that the song Warcry was used in the action scene with Mumei.

TA: When listening to music, there are situations where the songs are not particularly impressive. But if these songs are combined with scenes in the anime, then they will sound more emotional than expected. In other words, I care about how I combine music and the show. If the emotions in the scene and music combine, then that scene will turn out really well. In KABANERIOFTHEIRONFORTRESS, the main theme, there is no doubt that it caused a lot of the "emotional explosions". In all the scenes in which a battle was won, this song is played. I know that as soon as that song is played, victory is just a few steps away.

Q: Especially in the battle scene of the 6th episode, it worked very well. Sawano-san, what was it like watching the anime as a spectator?

HS: Firstly, it's great that this anime has very high quality animation. In addition, I often watched anime when I was about 20 years old. Unlike the current fashionable anime, when watching Kabaneri it was nice to plunge into the atmosphere of old anime again. Perhaps Haruhiko Mikimoto's designs contributed to the strong feel of the show.

TA: The design of the characters in the anime, namely the adults and children, is very similar to the 80s. There is no doubt that they were influenced by Mobile Suit Gundam directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, which I really like. Kabaneri was a work that showed the old animation using modern technologies.

HS: Yes, yes! But I thought that Princess Mononoke also had an impact on Kabaneri, namely the similar style of old Japan. Later, I realized that I could compose songs that fit this setting.

TA: Of course, Old Japan in Princess Mononoke had a huge impact on Kabaneri. Despite the fact that this anime uses "old" animation, I made sure it looked natural like modern anime. For example, I decided that the hairstyle of characters should be shown through modern animation. Q: Sawano-san, what scene did you like the most?

HS: Scene from the third episode, where Ikoma says he could not help his sister. It touches on the subject of family values. The past of Mikasa in Attack on Titan was also like this, and I immediately began to sympathize with her.

TA: I also like this scene. First of all, the voicework of Ikoma is good. His voice fit the scene very well. During this scene, you can also hear the more subdued part of 克JOU気MACHINE.

Q: The closing theme of the full-length film is the song "ninelie <cry-v>", a new arrangement of the anime ED that Sawano-san wrote.

TA: Thanks to the new arrangement of the song, the last scene of the film was very emotional and strong. It was very nice.

HS: True. From the very beginning, I was asked to be in the shoes of a listener, and tried to understand the difference between the songs (laughs). Aimer and chelly sang the original song, but this time there was only Aimer, so I borrowed her energy and changed the song. She added a bit of rhythm and several elements fitting to her voice.

Q: Sawano-san said that the title of the song does not have any deep meaning. But still, it is written for this anime.. so what is the real meaning of ninelie?

HS: The answer is hidden in the name of the new arrangement of the song. This is "cry", that is, "crying". Also, it was in the lyrics of the song, but when I did the original song I thought the name should be hidden. "Ninelie" is simple wordplay: "c" = 9 = nine, "ry" = lie.

TA: It's quite cool if the fans find the meaning of the song.

Q: On the site of one fan, I saw a theory that all the stories about Mumei in the anime were all lies. There were nine of these lies, to be specific.

HS: Really? Well, this corresponds to the main plot. Incredible coincidence is that ninelie was the ninth single of Aimer. I did not know about this, it happened entirely by accident.

Q: Now I'll ask you about your next work, which was announced recently (the new Kabaneri project). Sawano-san, you said that you heard about it a bit earlier the first time. But what is your opinion now?

HS: I'm still a bit surprised, because I first learned of the 2nd season before this interview. But I'm looking forward to the continuation, because while working on this anime I thought that there should be a lot more anime like this one. Of course, I am very honored to be able to work on this series again. (laughs)

TA: Of course! It is a great honor for me to ask you to work on this series.

Q: What kind of work will be next?

TA: Although I can not go into specifics, it will be a continuation of the story of Ikoma, Mumei, Kurusu and Ayame. At this time I am very enthusiastic to continue.

HS: Araki-san, did you initially think there would be a sequel? Or will there be a whole new story in this setting?

TA: There are nuances that have not been clarified in the anime. Originally, I was planning to show a great story that was not shown in the anime itself. A man named Ikoma is a story about giving up his life for the sake of a girl. I tried to showcase this story, but was not happy with the result. I was extremely dissatisfied with 12 episodes, it was way too little. I wanted to do a lot more episodes.

HS: Wow! I'm looking forward to the new story.

Q: Sawano-san, tell us what songs we will hear in the next Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress series.

HS: When I'm responsible for the continuation of any work, I realize that I don't want the main theme to change. The main theme is a song that created the "face" of the entire work itself. Therefore, I want the main theme to stay the same or at least similar. Of course, I know that we need a new sub-theme of sorts. Therefore, I think that to continue Kabaneri, I will change up the old songs. And create a few more new songs as well, that will suit the changes of the sequel.

TA: Of course, some new elements will be added in the future.