The series is an anime original from Tachikawa, and is set in a world where humanity boards a giant fortress, Deca-dence, to face off against a mysterious threat known as Gadoll. And the survival of humanity is on the line.
Dive in below for a look at Tachikawa’s creative process, how DECA-DENCE came about, and some of what you can expect throughout the anime.
How did the concept for DECA-DENCE come about?
Tachikawa: The general idea for the project was something KADOKAWA producer Sho Tanaka, NUT producer Takuya Tsunoki, and I developed together over time. Once we reached a stage where the foundation had solidified to a certain extent, we had Hiroshi Seko, the head writer, come in.
What was unique about the process was that we had the scripts written all the way out to the end based on the series structure the four of us had composed, and then we returned to Episode 1 and fed the developments and foreshadowing of the latter half of the series back into the beginning half.
With original anime, sometimes things start feeling crammed in during the second half even though you’ve been creating it one episode at a time, so we tried a process where you circle back to the first half to make good use of the developments in the second half. It took much more time than the typical script meeting process.
Part of the allure of the show is the mobile fortress Deca-dence. Did you also have a desire within you to draw a giant structure?
Tachikawa: Including mech shows, I had never tried my hand at expressing a gigantic object, so I did have a desire to direct something gigantic. I just didn’t expect it would be a Mt. Fuji-scale object on the order of 3,000 meters tall!
Even in Attack on Titan, whose direction I participated in, a large Titan was about 15 meters, and even the Colossal Titan was about 60 meters. You don’t get to direct something this large very often, so it’s very fresh.
What was something you were careful about in the direction of DECA-DENCE?
Tachikawa: What I realized while making the show was that, when something is overly large, whether it’s 1,000 meters or 3,000 meters, it’s difficult to show small differences. There’s almost no difference when it’s on its own, so I tried to express scale, for instance by showing Deca-dence protruding above the clouds. I was quite careful about the positioning of trees and clouds and such that would serve as a point of reference.
When something is this large, isn’t the contrast with a human figure also a source of difficulty?
Tachikawa: That’s right. Suppose you have a person standing next to Deca-dence. If you try to draw that realistically, the whole background becomes a metal plate. Since it’s a Fuji-scale object, no matter what angle you draw from, no matter how low the camera goes, all you see is a metal wall. Sometimes it caused artistic problems. In such cases, we fibbed a little by adding parts like pipes, so that we could prevent the image from being monotonous.
So then is the Deca-dence the biggest highlight of the show?
Tachikawa: Of course Deca-dence is an important aspect of the setting and a major highlight of the show. However, the thing I most wanted to portray is the dramatic elements, so we took care to portray the relationship between Natsume, a girl who wants to live her life her own way, and Kaburagi, a man who has given up in a variety of ways.
In the show, there are roles: Gears, who handle the combat with the Gadoll, and Tankers, who support the Gears.
Even though Natsume is a Tanker, she dreams of becoming a Gear. What was something you considered important in portraying her?
Tachikawa: Natsume is an up-front girl who proceeds straight down the path her feelings dictate. She doesn’t pay any mind to the things that would cause normal people to give up or hesitate. Looking at it another way, you could say she’s somewhat foolish (laughing), but that single-mindedness is also part of her charm. She’s a character who well-meaningly and progressively gets those around her involved and pulls the story forward. So we took care with her straightforwardness and her energy.
But the type of person who can work solidly toward their goals can become a target of admiration or jealousy for people who can’t. This strays from the topic, but you know how these days YouTubers have incredible motivation. Some of them even make their living uploading candid videos about their lives. It may look simple, but I believe it’s something you couldn’t do with ordinary willpower. Natsume also possesses such extraordinary willpower. In the current era, she might have been a YouTuber.
Natsume explained: a YouTuber!
Tachikawa: I mean that strictly in the sense that she dives headlong into things that would make most people hesitate (laughing). Some people may feel that’s obnoxious, while others may admire it. That’s the kind of character Natsume is.
Is there an aspect of drawing her that you take particular care with?
Tachikawa: She’s a character whose facial expression changes frequently because she shows her emotion in her face, so I take quite a bit of care deciding how far to go with her expression. Because her baseline is a sweet-looking girl, that makes facial expressions for negative emotions, like sadness or emotional pain, that much more difficult.
Let’s talk more about the other protagonist, Kaburagi. He’s basically the boss for the armor repairer job Natsume ends up in.
Tachikawa: What’s appealing about him is that he seems to have given up on life from the moment he’s introduced in the story. There have been certain events in his past, and he is living his life holding doubts about himself. Of course at his core he still has passion and purpose, but he is unable to express them well.
In contrast, Natsume believes in herself, and she stays faithful to what she wants to do, so the two influence each other. I would like for the audience to pay attention to the relationship and contrast between them.
There’s this resigned expression to his design that makes an impression.
Tachikawa: Kaburagi is another character whose facial expression poses difficulty. It’s quite difficult to express an air of resignation. His baseline is that he appears composed, but at unexpected times the sorrow and pain of what he’s shouldering comes through.
Is it a little different from just seeming worn out?
Tachikawa: Yes. I’m sure some people would come to like him for seeming worn out, but I considered it important for him to be cool even as he gave off an air of resignation.
Tomori Kusunoki and Katsuyuki Konishi voice Natume and Kaburagi respectively. Could you tell us about the casting decision?
Tachikawa: We cast them both through audition. Natsume was decided smoothly. The major factor in that was that Kusunoki-san solidly expressed Natsume’s charms: her power to pull others along and her cheerful and slightly clumsy personality.
Kaburagi was a tough decision to the very end. The problem was how to convey the air of resignation we discussed earlier. In the end, we offered the role to Konishi-san, who had emphasized a dark, sad-sounding mood.
Did you give any particular directions during recording?
Tachikawa: Not only was this an original anime, but the setting and background are very detailed, so first I took some time to explain the world and the characters. But in terms of the voice acting, I haven’t made any particular demands. They had both been through the audition process, and they both had a firm grasp of the characters, so recording is going smoothly.
Are there any characters besides Natsume and Kaburagi that you’d like the audience to take note of?
Tachikawa: I’d say Kurenai, the woman Natsume looks up to. At first glance she’s a cool character with an older sister vibe, but there’s actually more of a personality gap than you might expect. She has a dependable side, and a funny side–she has a variety of expressions, so it’s a relief whenever she shows up.
And finally, for our readers who are looking forward to DECA-DENCE airing, could you sum up what you’d like them to look for?
Tachikawa: I’d like them to look forward to animation brimming with a sense of weight and lively movements, such as the gigantic fortress’s presence and the Gears’ action scenes. But most of all what I’d like them to watch is the drama between Natsume and Kaburagi.
I hope they’ll pay attention to how the relationship between the two evolves.
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