An interview with Shoji Kawamori

Q: When did you start thinking of making a sequel to Genesis of Aquarion?

A: Around the time we finished "Aquarion: The motion picture", our satellite company was already discussing ways to move the story forward. Still, it took quite a long time get it actually made. To be exact, about when we decided to start the project… it must have been around 2009. It was then that we decided on an idea we thought would work for a sequel. Of course, as these things go, we did not end up using that particular idea (haha). Even still, that idea is what led us to make up our minds, and ended up setting us on the path towards Aquarion Evol.

Q: The previous Aquarion ended in a very final, clean way. Did you have trouble thinking of a way to expand on a finished story?

A: The character designer and director of the previous series, Fujikawa, was apparently asked what he thought would become of the characters he had made. The question eventually made its way to me, and I started to think we could extablish stronger connections with the characters of the previous series. Orginally, since we had decided to make an entirely new series, I had been set on making something completely new and different, but I started to rethink that policy. That was when I came up with the idea to set Evol 12,000 years after the original Aquarion. At the end of the original we have Apollo saying, "let's meet again in 12,000 years," so I just followed along with that (haha). With such a large time span between them, I became interested in how much would have changed, in whether or not you could even call it a sequel. It made me think about creating a series with a completely new story that still kept the feel of the previous one. Deciding on the setting made it much easier to imagine the details of that new story. The size of the story gave me the most trouble, trying to pin down its structure. I had a lot of ideas, but so many of them seemed to difficult to implement, which made me worry. In the end, I finally found a way to fit it all together, and I think it works well.

Q: In approaching the series as a sequel, where there elements from the original that you purposefully included?

A: Sure, the first of which was the unions. We had so many ideas for unions and special moves that never made it into the first series. I think fans will have plenty of that to look forward to in "Evol". Secondly, because this is an Aquarion series, we wanted to keep the mythic feel of the story. Much like the greek myths, where the gods take wives and fight amongst themselves, leaving children of unknown origins and fates, we wanted to build a story that placed equal emphasis on the wars of heaven, and also asked deeper questions about the relationship of man to the universe. So, yes, those both carried over from the original series: the unions and the mythic atmosphere.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about new ideas you are introducing in "Evol."

A: We think of "Evol" as a three pronged story, add love and romance to the previously mentioned elements of unions and the mythic atmosphere. We produced the first series for an afternoon time-slot, which had an impact on where we went with the story. For example, the characters and situation had to be easily understood by, and appropriate for, a younger audience. So romantic elements took a back seat to the rest of the scenario. With "Evol", we wanted to move the romantic elements to the foreground. But that would quickly lead to an expected union in the Aquarion: This is why we added the extra layer of rules forbidding such unions. Unions between the sexes were forbidden, making it a love story without any love! (haha). If men and women who loved each other were to form a union in an Aquarion, something very bad would happen. The ramifications of this play a big part later in the series, so please look forward to that. Also, keep in mind that the rules regarding love and relationships only apply to the students at the element school. Normal citizens are allowed to do as they please. So being accepted into the school is a major honor, but it carries with it some of these, well, unhappy consequences. (haha).

Q: Can you tell us how you came up with the title "Evol?"

A: Jeez, how should I answer that one? Some people have already figured it out, but I will stay silent on that for the time being. I think it will become clear as the series goes on. (haha)

Q: At the time of this interview, the first two episodes have aired. Is there anything you'd like the viewers to keep in mind as the series goes on?

A: Well unions are forbidden between the sexes, but could it be that Amata and Mikono have actually already pulled off a union? I think the relationship between the two of them, and the way that Zessica gets involved, forming a love triangle, is one of the more interesting parts. Also, Kagura, on the enemy-side, is after Mikono, so that will play a big part down the line. Aside from the story, the music that Yoko Kanno and Ayako Otsuka have bade is really great, and the opening song is particularly catchy. "Evol" has just started, and there is a lot more to look forward to.

Q: There are a lot of people working on "Evol" that were not part of the original series. Can you tell us a little bit about them?

A: We looked for people that understood what we were aiming for with the original series, which played up the gap between its ridiculous scenario and its more serious scenes. This time, we have filled that gap with love stories. Holding this disparate ideas together as a cohesive story is a difficult thing to pull off. We thought about who had the talent to do it, and that was when we got in touch with Yusuke Yamamoto and asked him to direct. When we worked together on "Earth Maiden Arjuna" he was always good and emphasizing the serious scenes, while also keeping the comical nature of the light hearted pieces intact. With "Evol" we wanted the guys to be very cool, and the girls to be cute, and we decided that Yamamoto was the best person to pull off that range of character.

Q: Can you tell us more about the Series Coordinator, Mari Okada?

A: Ms. Okada can write a love story, she can write about the thoughts of young men and women, and she can also come up with some totally crazy scenarios (haha). Apparently she approached the team because she loved the original, and said that there were very few opportunities to be involved in such a stupid, fun project. She understood that Aquarion was about making fun of serious situations, and being very serious about silly things, and she wrote our script with that in mind. Still, I was amazed at the amount of dirty humor she managed to fit into that script (haha). The original script was at least 10 times dirtier than what ended up on film. I had to trim and tone down some scenes that took it too far, and whenever that happened she look a little sad (haha.)

Q: Your scenario planning meetings sound like a lot of fun (haha).

A: They are fun, and very interesting. We go nuts at them. Aquarion as always been about being crazy and playful. So anytime we have a scene that is too "sophisticated" or "serious", they need to be cut. That just doesn't fit!

Q: So the characters were all created by Chinatsu Kurahana and Kana Ishida?

A: Well Ms. Kurahana mostly works in the gaming industry, but her male character designs are always really cool. That's why we commissioned her to design the male characters in "Evol". Ms. Ishida designed some costumes for characters in the official Macross F Doujinshi, as well as doing a lot of concept art for the Macross F Movie. Her work was so good that we asked her to come work for us designing the female characters.

Q: So the character's were divided by their genders, even during the creation process?

A: The separation of masculinity and femininity are a major motif throughout the entire series. To underline this separation, we thought it would be interesting to separate them even in the creation process. There are quite a lot of characters in "Evol." They are all distinguishable by their elemental powers and personalities, but we wanted their designs to make them instantly recognizable as well. Having said that, we still wanted the men to be "cool" and the girls to be "cute", so I thought it would be difficult to separate them all by their character designs. My fears were unfounded, and the designs all came out great. They are all very idiosyncratic. I love it. And of course, I'm thrilled that we turned the design work over to those two.

Q: Now that we've heard about the staff, can you tell us a little about the Mechs? What approach did you take to the Aquarion designs this time?

A: As in the previous series, we started with making models from Legos, but we wanted to the assembly of the morphed forms. Sure, it would be easy to just change the outer appearance of the mechs, but that would not be very interesting, and we'd miss out on the opportunities available to us at the start of a whole new series. We ran into some issues. When the models were assembled, like in the previous series, from three machines, their backpacks were too heavy, making the completed aquarion unbalanced. If the machines didn't have to transform, we could just make their backpacks lighter, but because of the transforming and merging, we had to make the designs capable of supporting the upper half of the completed form. It was a real dilemma. We tried moving heavy parts from the shoulder to further down on the designs. In doing so, we also added a few gimmicks to the Aquarions, like rotating cannons, that were not present in the original series. Its a lot like the way that the VF 25 from Macross F became the VF29 in the Macross movie, with additional parts and weapons. Of course we couldn't do anything as complicated as a VF29, but we aimed for a similar ideal.

Q: So you thought about ways to differentiate the three different forms that Aquarion can take?

A: In the original series, Aquarion Solar, Mars, and Spada, were all essentially designed as "super robots". The final form was very militaristic. This time, we aimed for a combination of these two themes. The Evol form is closer to super robot desings, whereas the Aquaria are more militaristic. Regardless, we aimed to emphasis these characteristics, to make them more "super robot" or more "militaristic" versions of the previous designs. More emphatic designs, if you will. We wanted the designs to be different though, so that we could have a few different "kinds" of robots in the same fictional world.

Q: How was it working with CG to animate the Aquarions?

A: Well the Aquarions are designed with Legos, then turned into sketches, and finally turned into CGI models… So I thought it would be easy, considering the designs were originally 3D models, but once we tried animating the designs, they didn't work as well as I'd hoped. The adjustment of the CG models felt like a never-ending nightmare, it just took forever. (haha). But once we had them how we wanted them, I was amazed at how much better they looked than the original series. The tech was so much better looking. More specifically, the level of detail was much higher. In the last series, if we shot a close up of an Aquarion face, there wouldn't be enough detail, so we would have to draw additional details onto the models. But the CGI was detailed enough this time that additional work was not required for close up shots. The CGI cityscapes also look much better. If you look at the shots of the new setting, Neo Kowloon, I think you will agree.

Q: Finally, do you have anything you'd like to say to your fans?

A: The story will develop in a very "Aquarion" kind of way. Stupid and fun and by turns sad and beautiful (haha). I hope that you enjoy the world of Aquarion.