The following interview is with the series’ sound effects editor Yoshihiro Sakaguchi, a feature of monthly anime & manga magazine publication Newtype’s December 2016 issue.
A program that is completed by the entire arena
Great skaters “don’t make a sound”…?
What’s unique about the sound effects in this show?
Sakaguchi: I think that, even if I searched the entire world, I wouldn’t be able to find much of a collection of sound effects for figure skating. In terms of ice skating, I suspect there’s a reasonable collection of ice hockey sounds, but not for figure skating. But when I think about it, that makes complete sense. Normally, music is playing during the programs, and it’s incredibly rare that someone records just the sound effects. Hence, in order to create the sound for this work, the first thing we had to do was figure out how to obtain those raw skating sounds.
You had to set out deliberately to record them?
Sakaguchi: Kenji Miyamoto-sensei, who choreographed the programs, also skated them for video recording purposes, and the sound was also recorded in that process. However, because the music was also captured in the track, we had to ask him to skate each element separately—for example, just the step sequence alone—which we then recorded. We had him doing other moves as well, like difficult turns that the average person would never be able to skate, so it was a really interesting process. But that’s not enough to create the sound of a performance. I had to follow each skating program closely to put all the sounds together in order to create a complete performance.
In other words, every program has a different set of raw materials.
Sakaguchi: And when we add the music and the cheering on top of that, we have the complete sound effects track. When there’s a close-up of their feet, then we make sure that the scratchy sound of the skates on the ice is amplified. But the director also gave us a concept to base our work on, which is that “Great skaters don’t make a sound.” So you can’t hear many of the skating sounds in the complete video. However, since you should be able hear something or other when they’re skating, I concentrated on adding sounds that are as realistic as possible, even if you won’t be able to hear them in the final product. In that sense, the sounds that you can hear in the practice scenes might be more vivid.
In the course of producing the sound effects, is there anything that you’ve paid particular attention to?
Sakaguchi: What I was most concerned about was whether we could depict ‘fighting spirit’ in figure skating. How do we depict a competition where the results are determined by a point value that judges award? For example, in ball sports where you try to score goals, in swimming where you can simply look at the order in which competitors finish, or in one-on-one combat sports, it’s easy to tell who wins and who loses. But in figure skating, the average person watching the performances would probably think that all of the skaters are really good. They’d only understand the more straightforward parts, such as falling on jumps and stuff. I think that trying to capture this kind of sport in animation is a pretty big challenge. In that respect, what became really important in terms of the sound was the cheering of the spectators.
That’s a good point. The way that spectators get into the programs, with actions like clapping along to the music, is a unique characteristic of figure skating, isn’t it?
Sakaguchi: You hear cheers whenever skaters jump or perform their spins—but first, everyone holds their breadth and watches over them, erupting in cheers when they hit those elements. But they’re jumping the gun just a little. Furthermore, there are slight changes in nuance depending on the capacity of the arena as well—I was quite particular over how I went about creating those sounds. The ‘Onsen on ICE’ competition had around 100 people, and there were around 2000 at the Yoyogi arena. There were about 80 people at the Okayama competition (in episode 5), but they were scattered all over the place. So I changed the sound effects for each of these venues. At the Cup of China Grand Prix event, there were around 10,000 people… Creating these crowd sounds may actually have been more difficult than creating the skating sounds (chuckles). But if we didn’t do that, then it wouldn’t feel real. It’s like we use sound to complete the atmosphere of the entire arena, and that’s how that particular location is created.
What kind of anime do you think Yuri!!! on ICE will be for you?
Sakaguchi: This is actually the first time I’ve been involved in a show about sports. As someone who has always been in the audience, it’s a genre I’ve always loved, right from the era of works like Star of the Giants (1976-79). In that sense, Yuri!!! is a show that I’m incredibly happy to be involved in. I really feel quite energised to be working on it.
Newtype published two interviews for its feature, one for the sound director and another for the sound editor. The first entry here.
Once again, biggest thanks to karice from HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL for the translation.