In this latest series of interview translations, ATMA & Funomena will be presenting comments and observations of three prominent voices from the production of Violet Evergarden, concluding with Chief Animation Director Akiko Takase.
These translations are offered to fans of the series as material supplements for the making-of documentary-style video by the YouTube channel Under the Scope.
The original interviews were conducted and published in the Violet Evergarden Official Fanbook.
Other interview translations in the series:
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Designs Straight Out of the Novel
You originally became involved in this project as the illustrator for the novel. What were your impressions when you first read the novel?
Takase: The novel was so enjoyable that, as a reader, I found myself completely absorbed by it. The way it depicted a mixture of sorrow and warmth was very much my my cup of tea, so I was very happy to have come across this novel. The appearance and clothes of the characters were described in a lot of detail, which meant that I could picture them moving right from the very beginning.
From there I decided to draw the characters and add some colour, but in multiple instances I found myself thinking that a different colour may better suit the design than the colour described in the novel. I talked with the chief editor and Kana Akatsuki about this and they often adjusted the descriptions in the novel as a result.
My idea for Violet was to incorporate into her design the image of a working woman, and both the ‘softness’ and ‘hardness’ of a bisque doll. The basic design has remained mostly unchanged right through the entire design process.
Is working as an illustrator different from working as an animator?
Takase: Well, when making anime, many hands are involved, and ideas from a variety of different people are used. However, when illustrating I was quite worried because whilst it allowed me to pursue my own vision, it also meant that I was the one who had to finalise the design (at some point). The character I struggled with to the end was Benedict. In the novel he’s described as a man wearing high heels. So whilst making the most of his rather novel profile, I needed to think about the overall balance in his hairstyle and clothes, so as to give him a distinctive fashion. It really was a struggle, but I had a lot of fun drawing him.
In the illustrations for the novel, I added colours to make it seem like there was reflected light bouncing off the characters . I wanted to reproduce this in the anime as much as possible, so I added reflective highlights in the shadows of the characters. Not only does this give the impression that they are glowing. But above all, I wanted the characters to blur with the colours in their surroundings, so that they would blend in better with the scenery of their world.
Depicting Violet’s Emotions
With the anime adaptation, were any refinements made to the designs?
Takase: Between the first and second CM, I made the pupils in each character’s eyes slightly smaller. After talking to the director, Ishidate, I made the designs lean slightly more towards the side of realism by reducing the size of the pupils, to better fit a more grounded and simple style.
Also, Violet’s estimated age is younger in the anime, so I changed the impression she gives off from ‘cool beauty’ to ‘pure and innocent’.
Besides this, the designs needed be animated, so I reduced the level of detail and made some subtle changes to the colours in the clothing. In terms of the colours, we had to think about how to maintain a balance when multiple characters were on screen, so for the anime I mostly left this to (Yuuka) Yoneda, who was in charge of colour design.
With each episode the setting and characters change. You must have had to design a great many characters.
Takase: Yes. In particular, designing all the nameless townspeople was a lot of work and quite mundane at that (laughs). As the world of Violet Evergarden is a fantasy, to make sure that the world was consistent for the animators and CG staff, I used material on historical clothing as reference, and came up with profiles based on factors like different regions and variations in wealth. There’s more variation in what you can do with female character designs, but male character designs are more difficult. I almost ended up having all the male characters wear suits or suspenders (laughs).
As for anime original characters, Luculia’s design was finished relatively quickly, but the character designs for Erica and Iris changed quite a bit from my initial proposals. At first, Erica had a fluffy, older sister-like design, while Iris had long hair, but following discussions with Ishidate and Fujita, the designs were changed to what they are today.
In terms of the animation, I understand that expressing the subtle changes in Violet’s expression was a point of focus. What kinds of details did you pay particular attention to?
Takase: Violet only begins to show her emotions from episode 5, so until then we really held ourselves back on giving Violet expressions and made sure it all came together well for the climax in episode 5. Whilst Violet is often expressionless, it doesn’t mean that she’s not feeling any emotions. She just isn’t able to express them very well. As such, I made sure to add some emotion to her expressionless face, little by little. When animating facial expressions, the eyes and eyebrows are particularly important. So when correcting, if I found her expression to be too expressive, I would just reduce it and reduce it [until I was happy].
As Violet suffers a lot in the second half, I was careful to not overdo it to the point of tastelessness. Violet suffers a great deal more than anything I’ve experienced, so to make myself feel unhappy, I went out of my way to listen to dark and depressing music as I worked. It was a lot of fun immersing myself in Violet’s emotions whilst I was drawing.
Finally, how do you feel now that the production is over?
Takase: When we started making the first CM for the novel, I was just another key animator without any experience as an animation director so starting off I was helped a lot by the senior staff around me.
From there, I worked on the second CM through to the end of production for the series. Over this period, It was thanks to the support of the many around me that I also was able to grow and develop alongside Violet.
The funding of this interview translation was a collaborative effort between me and seven prominent anime content creators.
Commissioned by: Under the Scope
Translated by: @why1758
Checked by: @karice67
I aim to organise more collaborations and solo commissions like this in the future, and all the fruits bore from these efforts will never be locked behind paywalls. However, that does mean I will need help. Passion projects with no intentions of profit doesn’t mean producing them is free of charge.
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