An interview with Psycho-Pass Director Naoyoshi Shiotani
Date: Tuesday 29th November 2016 [15:49] | Posted By: Joe
The MCM London Comic Con is always great for anime guests! This time around at the October 2016 event on of the anime guests of honour was Naoyoshi Shiotani. Working for Production I.G, he's directed a few titles including the hugely popular dystopian future anime Psycho-Pass. The good folks at Anime Limited arranged to the director over to the UK just in time to promote the UK home video release of the Psycho-Pass Movie.
Rather than sending our editor to interview him, we wanted to send in a Psycho-Pass super fan. So we sent in Nes who cosplayed as antagonist Makishima while interviewing Mr Shiotani. Not only did it make for an interesting interview, Nes managed to find some interesting insights into the series that many fans may have not been aware of!
How did you first get into the animation industry?
I loved drawing as a child and I loved manga, anime, films and it's quite easy to get into animation in Japan. It's hard once you get in! But I thought I'd give it a go. I was quite laid back about it.
I liked Ghibli Films, like Hayao Miyazaki's Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service and I knew about I.G. through Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor so I thought I'd give it a go.
How does animating a 3D CGI feature like feature like Oblivion Island compare to a animated series like Psycho-Pass, which is mainly has a traditional 2D feel, with CGI enhancements?
In a way they're not so different, but in another way they are different. It's hard to explain, it's a different mode of expression. So with 2D they're drawings, so you have each drawing, each picture, but with 3D the character already exists. So with 2D they really are moving pictures and you're trying to make them fun and cool and amazing, but with 3D you're moving a character that already exists. It's a different starting point, they're both interesting and sometimes something will work in 2D, but not in 3D, and sometimes it'll work in 3D, but not in 2D.
Plus with 2D the more you make the more it costs, because you have to pay per picture.
You've directed children's movies, a more romantic story in the form of Tokyo Marble Chocolate, and the dystopian Psycho-Pass, is it drastically different working on all these different features?
They are very different. Tokyo Marble Chocolate was the first thing I directed, I was 28 I think and for good or bad at the time I was young and quite idealistic and I wanted to create a romantic happy love story. Then with Oblivion Island I sort of broadened my view to not just to a couple, but to a family and what happens in a family. Then moving onto the dystopia of Psycho-Pass I turned towards society and relations with other people. So my world view has gradually broadened.
I think if I tried to do a sort of crime story in my twenties I don't know that I could have done it justice. I think I was probably too young and I've learnt a lot since then. Back then I don't know if I could have created that world convincingly. I do try to take on work that suits my age and my stage of life. That's not to say that I couldn't do a love story now!
Were you surprised at the success of Psycho-Pass?
To be honest I was surprised. When we started making Psycho Pass , 4, 5, probably 6 years ago there wasn't anything like that around in Japan at the time. There wasn't anything dealing with social issues in this way, with the police society and that kind of thing. Where as when I was younger there had been. There'd been things like Ghost in the Shell, things that made you think. You couldn't just sit there, sit back and watch them. They dealt with some complex issues and hard issues. There were some things in there that you could only do in anime. Although it did exist in live action as well, there were some action scenes you could only do in anime. At that point there wasn't anything like that around. which is what made us want to do something like that again.
There was actually another Psycho-Pass before, or another Psycho-Pass planned before the one that actually got made and that got changed quite a bit. Not a complete 180, but it did get changed quite a bit to become the Psycho-Pass that actually happened. So this one is a Japanese society in a hundred years time, but at the planning stage it was a post disaster world in trying to rebuild the country various things happened and they had to overcome various things. But then the actual Great East Japan Earthquake happened as we were working on it and it seemed to real to do that. So it changed.
What were the main influences of Psycho-Pass?
For anime things like Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor that I mentioned earlier. Then live action I think you can probably tell from watching it, things like Blade Runner, Minority Report, Gattaca, Fifth Element, Seven, Brazil and the Millennium Trilogy - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
What was the most challenging aspect of the project?
With Psycho-Pass the biggest challenge is that there are a lot of inconsistencies. So it's set in Tokyo and there's a Sibyl System where the computer controls human society and there's a system that prevents crime from happening. But because this is a police story we need crime! So the biggest problem is how to allow crimes to take place in this peaceful society? How to disrupt the order of this society? That was something that was very tricky and we spent a lot of time thinking about that and trying to find the loopholes.
It's a setup where you can't walk the streets if you're thinking bad thoughts. So the challenge is how could someone hide their thoughts? How you could walk around and be a baddie, because you need a criminal for this story to work.
Which character do you find most relatable?
I do really like Makishima. This is a society where people leave the decisions to the computers. Even the small things like what am I going to eat today. It's like a form of fortune telling, you leave it up to the computer, because they've started believing the computer knows the answer and will be able to decide better than themselves and the criminals are the people who have a problem with that, who question the system and who think that people should really think for themselves. Those people (as is normal in life) will succeed and fail and those are the people who carry out the crimes. So the criminals are more human in a way than even the police who are hunting them down. So I like Makishima and Kogami. The protagonists who aren't normal people in this world, but I've kind of split up the humanity between different characters, so I like them all.
As the parents of all these characters, the person who's created them, the one who I kind of maybe dote on the most is Ginoza, because he started out so bad and he's gradually grown and got better. As a parent!
There seems to be an underlying theme that Kogami and Makishima are actually really similar and that it wouldn't take much for Kogami to end up doing some of the things Makishima does - yet they're also frequently played as opposites. For me this was a really interesting and effective juxtaposition - can you tell me more about your process behind this?
I think it's not that unusual if you think about the Angel and the Devil in your own head even something as small as you see a pound coin on the floor, should you pick it up and hand it in? Or, it's only a pound so should you keep it. Then later you remember and you think you should have handed it in. There's good and bad in all of us. You're not a different person because you make a different choice there's just different possibilities, you could chose A, you could chose B and in this case they're two people, they're not the same person obviously but they have the same way of thinking. They've just made different choices, they represent two different possibilities. I wanted to show that contrast, which is why they're white and black, which is why their names, Makishima is Shogo which means the time between midday and sunset, and Kogami is Shinya the time between midnight and sunrise. So they are opposites as well, even their names!
What genre would you like to work on next?
I'd like to do more stuff like Psycho-Pass, the science fiction, action, difficult topics, but at the same time, it's a bit like Kogami and Makishima! I want to do something completely opposite, you know, no one dies, love stories, maybe something to do with sports. Just the complete opposite!
Otaku News would like to thank Naoyoshi Shiotani for giving such awesome interview answers, Nes for going in cosplay and agreeing to interview Mr Shiotan, plus MCM London Comic Con for hosting the Psycho-Pass director and of course Anime Limited who arranged everything and Psycho-Pass The Movie on Blu-ray and DVD.