The following interview with Shinichiro Watanabe, renowned director of Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy, and the hit thriller Terror in Resonance, was originally posted to the official Japanese Terror in Resonance website before the series launched. We hope you enjoy it, and make sure to watch Terror in Resonance every Thursday at 12:50pm Eastern! Click here to watch now.
Interviewer: Tell us the story of how Terror in Resonance came to be.
Watanabe: I think to some people, it looked like I took a break and didn’t work from around 2007 until I made Kids on the Slope in 2012. But actually, during that time, I prepared many project proposals. However, due to the recession and other factors, it was hard to get any of them approved and made. Terror in Resonance was an original project that I came up with during that period. I created the proposal before the Tohoku earthquake, about 4 or 5 years ago.
Interviewer: So it was something that you wanted to make since then?
Watanabe: That’s right. About three years ago, I heard from Fuji TV about Kids on the Slope, which was based on a comic. When I received the offer, I said, “I also have this other project. Do you want to make it?” and told them about Terror in Resonance. When I did, the chief producer of noitaminA, Koji Yamamoto, said, “Well, why don’t we try having not just Kids on the Slope by itself, but also plan for the original work after that?” That was when we were finally able to start working on this.
Interviewer: How did you come up with the idea for this project?
Watanabe: In recent years, there have been terrorist attacks all over the world, but Japanese people seem to be under the impression that these are things that happen in countries far away. However, if there were suddenly serial bombing attacks in the middle of Tokyo, what would happen? How would we deal with that? What if the culprits were teenaged boys? What if terrorists showed up who could use current technology to lead Japan around by the nose using their smartphones? These ideas were what formed the original concept. And then, thinking about possible acts of terror that could occur in Japan, I had to think about the systems in Japan as a country and how they work.
Interviewer: We still don’t know much about Terror in Resonance. What kind of story will it be?
Watanabe: There is a lot of action and suspense. If you look at it that way, even some of my past works seem unexpectedly similar to modern American action movies. The series also includes themes of adolescence, or rather, the youthfulness of the teenage years and their immaturity and instability, but with the feeling of constantly being on edge and challenging everything. I wanted to depict those ideas in this series, and I think everything gets mixed together in Terror in Resonance. I guess you could call it a coming-of-age/action/suspense series, although I’ve never heard of such a genre (laughs). Well, one must always continue to pioneer new genres. I also thought about foreign TV shows where recently, movie directors have been working on TV series. These TV shows have had a jump in quality simply because, since they are longer than movies, more story and dramatic elements can be packed in.
Interviewer: Foreign TV shows?
Watanabe: Yes. I don’t think I need to make shows that are like all the other anime that have been made recently, and I aim to create shows with a wider appeal. However, explaining it as a show about terrorism seems kind of inaccessible, so in order to make it easier to understand, recently, I have been insisting that it’s “a series like 24” (laughs). Also, we spent a lot of time and effort working on the terrorist group “Sphinx” and their riddles in every episode, so I have also been telling people, “Parts of it are like Sherlock, too!” (laughs).
Interviewer: Looking at the announcement that the show will be about “two mysterious children who combine forces to form the clandestine entity ‘Sphinx’ and play a dangerous game with all of Japan,” it looks like this will be the most provocative show in your filmography to date.
Watanabe: That wasn’t something that I tried to do on purpose—it just happened naturally. Especially in the case of an original anime work, we have to create the setting from scratch, which is difficult if there is nothing to base it on. So I end up using what I know, and parts of me end up in the work. For example, even if we all live in the same world, how we perceive the world is different depending on the person. There are people who think the world is a depressing place that’s full of deception, making it hard to live in. But there are also people who are generally satisfied and feel like the world is a good and peaceful place. How I perceive the world and how I feel about it comes out naturally when I am working on an original anime.
Interviewer: The character designs were by Kazuto Nakazawa and the music was by Yoko Kanno. These two people are often connected to you, and they are both participating in this project.
Watanabe: What they both have in common is that neither needs very much explanation from me. When I am working on something, it is difficult to explain exactly what I want to the staff in words. In fact, it is often the feeling before it’s even put it into words that is important, so most of the time, people don’t understand what I want. For example, there are people who want me to tell them that I want “a work like such and such,” but I don’t want to make something that is like another work (laughs). In the midst of that, these two don’t need me to keep explaining myself before they understand what I need. The other thing they have in common is that even if we work with the same theme, the two of them present it in a way that allows as many people as possible to understand their work. They always have that goal in mind, which is something I appreciate very much.
Interviewer: Finally, please tell us your hopes for Terror in Resonance.
Watanabe: It is something that I have wanted to make for a long time, so I am putting my heart and soul into it. I want to know what people think, so I hope that you will all watch it.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.
Translated by Nita Lieu