Production I.G> WORK LIST> Sisters of Wellber Zwei> SPECIAL FEATURE> Interview with Takayuki Hamana (I)

Interview with Takayuki Hamana (I)

Profile - Born on November 3, 1967, Takayuki Hamana started his career in the industry as an inbetween animator. After 4 years at Ajia-do, he joined Production I.G in its early days, when the studio was still named IG Tatsunoko. At I.G, he worked as key animator for many projects, from the TV series Blue Seed (1994) to the feature film Jin-Roh (2000). However, in 2001 he debuted as series director in the smash-hit The Prince of Tennis (2001-2005), and in 2005 he directed his first theatrical feature, The Prince of Tennis - Two Samurai: The First Game. After Sisters of Wellber Zwei, Hamana will direct Library War, slated for spring 2008 in Japan.

In Sisters of Wellber, you've constructed an original fantasy story.
Everything started when Mitsuhisa Ishikawa of Production I.G said he wanted me to direct a new project he was developing with Avex Entertainment. When I joined the project, the story outline consisted of an epic war involving four kingdoms. At that phase, I felt the storyline needed more intensity. They had already chosen main characters, Rita and Tina, so I met with Atsushi Maekawa, who was responsible for story structure, and we discussed how we could build an interesting drama with these two girls. Ultimately, we came up with three main components: to make this into a human drama: the friendship between two women with different ranks, a princess and a thief, who encounter by chance and share the same destiny; an action-packed runaway-story plot; and a grand-scale struggle for supremacy among different kingdoms.

To be honest, it was the first time I worked on an original scenario, so creating the story was a bit challenging for me. I wanted to come up with a thorough and deep story, so I had some sleepover meetings with Maekawa-san and the producer besides the regular weekly meetings.

Rita Sior (left) and Tina Lothar (right).

What are the distinctive characteristics of Rita and Tina in the story?
Rita is princess and Tina is a cat burglar, so their living environment and personality types are miles apart. But once they meet and talk to each other, they find they share something. I wanted to illustrate this as the story advances.

For example?
They travel together with a common goal. They sometimes have fights or get distressed and as a result their bond strengthens. I wanted to show this process properly. Each incident they face deepens their bond. Each episode is actually full of interesting stories such as the chases and crushing the bounty hunters who are after Rita.

Rita is a princess, but contrary to her looks, she is surprisingly a woman of action.
It was Maekawa-san's idea to make Rita a strong-minded princess. After meeting Tina, she becomes softer and turns out to be a more likable person who would even understand jokes. On the other hand, Tina is a bandit who carries a gun, but she is actually frail. As they meet, their hidden new qualities surface. I think when you compare the first episode with the finale; you will find their personalities had changed in a good way. This is the fun part of creating the story.

Sangatras loyal retainer, Galahad Eiger, earned so much popularity from fans in Japan that he became the protagonist in the feature film, Sisters of Wellber Director's Cut: Elegy for a Sad Warrior, that screened at Maihama Cinema Ikspiari on November 11, 2007.

Galahad seems to be a key character too.
He is very serious and straightforward. He chases Rita and Tina to seize his master's enemy. But as he interacts with the pair, the story takes on a different direction. Actually, as the first season aired on TV, he became unexpectedly popular among fans, so he was picked as the main character for the feature film, Sisters of Wellber Director's Cut: Elegy for a Sad Warrior. Needless to say, Galahad is one of my favorite characters, along with Rita and Tina. The chain of events occurring around them generates sorrow, grief and pain. Nevertheless, they are showing great determination in trying to overcome any obstacle. They have the power to bring courage and hope to the heart of other people.

The setting for this anime definitely resembles Germany in the Middle Ages. Can you tell us the reason?
Among the countries in Europe, I thought Germany would be the closest to my image of the Kingdom of Wellber. That's one reason. But in fact, I also totally love Germany. To some extent for Japanese people, Germany represents a country of Grimm's Fairy Tales, a romantic place. I personally like the author, Otfried Preussler, so I had hoped I'd visit Germany some day. Eventually I actually went to Germany for location hunting, along with scriptwriter Atsushi Maekawa, art director Minako Akashi, chief key animator Hiroshi Oikawa and 3D producer Kenji Watanabe. I don't think I could get that hands-on feel of the real landscape and people's lives from books and other material. I really have to say, "seeing is believing!"

Background settings for the Wellber Castle (left) and the harbour town of Reloy (right), appearing in episode 8 of Season 1.

Bird-eye view of the city of Hegel (Season 1, episode 3) and customers in a beer hall in Lafadova (Season 1, episode 5).

How did you enjoy there?
Well, it was the first time. Everything I saw there, starting from the urban landscape, was fresh and exciting. I really enjoyed the food, and our guide took us to some very special restaurants.

The 6-day trip included Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Rothenburg, the Neuschwanstein castle, Munchen and Wurzburg. Eventually, Frankfurt and Rothenburg became the main reference for the series, but we included many elements from everyday life that I hope you will recognize watching the series.

(1 - to be continued)

special thanks to Thomas Webler

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