Entry #71: Freely written, “The Time Étranger”

Scroll down to the block quote for the translation of the column piece.

I watched GoShogun: The Time Étranger for the first time a month ago, despite having had it on a vague “I should eventually watch this” list for more five years. I walked into it knowing nothing besides the cover image, and it blew me away. Afterwards I tried looking online for interviews with the director Kunihiko Yuyama that discussed this work but nothing came up. However, I did end up finding a column piece from the late original creator and scriptwriter Takeshi Shudo. By the end of the piece I was tearing up. I had just been taken through the perspective of a veteran anime screenwriter reflecting upon one of his greatest achievements, made possible by the unique climate of the 80s anime industry.

Afterwards I wondered what the English speaking fandom had been saying about Takeshi Shudo. Based on the Google and YouTube results that came up, almost all the discussion and articles about this man are dominated entirely by Pokémon. I don’t have anything against Pokémon, but it is a show ultimately for children. It’s not that works for children are incapable of addressing interesting subject matter, but I find it unlikely that any work created for that universe could possibly rival the remarkably adult, complex, and compelling themes of GoShogun: The Time Étranger (the irony is not lost on me that the original GoShogun TV series was undeniably aimed towards children). As such, I thought it was extremely unfortunate that there was not a single mention of the work that he might have considered his magnum opus.

GoShogun: The Time Étranger is a standout example of the kind of experience I get from watching the best that 80s anime has to offer that I don’t get outside of this decade. I don’t want to go into details because I think it’s best to walk into it blind. However, if you need more convincing I highly recommend you check out the fantastic corresponding episode of the Anime Nostalgia Podcast, and read the excellent Buried Treasure column piece. Had I not been reminded of the existence of this movie by Usamimi’s tweet, this masterpiece of a movie may have been left forgotten in the recesses of my to-watch list.

Takeshi Shudo passed away in 2010, but his ambitions still live on in the work he left behind. Thanks to Discotek, his greatest endeavor is once again available for the world to see, now in the best quality it’s ever been released to English speakers. With that in mind, I think it’s still appropriate to give Takeshi Shudo a figurative salute and say: SEE YOU AGAIN.

Entry #71: Freely written, “The Time Étranger”

When writing something set in the novels of “Sengoku Majin GoShogun”, a conversation sprung up regarding a new “Sengoku Majin GoShogun” movie that would be ultimately made for the home video market.

It would be produced through Tokuma Shoten’s Animage.

Three years had passed since the end of the TV series was broadcast.

That is why it was no problem for the novelesque plot to center around the human characters, and to pay no attention to the TV series. Rather, it was okay for the robot I created to not appear.

The theme and story would be entrusted to me, and I was told I could create anything.

Basically, as long as “Sengoku Majin GoShogun” was in the title, I was allowed to make anything.

A movie where an author is free to create whatever they want… Surely no scriptwriter exists that wouldn’t leap to work under such conditions.

Another anime that was also beginning production around the same time was Mamoru Oshii’s “Angel’s Egg”. I think that work must have also been a movie where the author was free to create whatever they wanted.

Otherwise, it’s unthinkable for such a mysterious and auteur work to be made, and for that work to be produced into a movie and released to the public.

This is merely conjecture on my part, but at the time I believe that these opportunities were due to the hit “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” produced by Tokuma Shoten. Through the leftover momentum of that success, the opportunities increased at Tokuma Shoten where an author was entrusted entirely with anime production.

Along this line of thinking, it could be said that “GoShogun: The Time Étranger” and “Angel’s Egg” are like byproducts that would not have been produced without the success of “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”.

If so, I have to be grateful to the staff who created “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”.

Putting all that aside, there was a subject I wanted to explore.

It was of a parallel depiction of an individual’s life through childhood, adolescence, and old age. To express that depiction in words was difficult, and I thought that a novelization of this idea was impossible.

If it was a film which peremptorily takes the viewer through the time periods, I felt it may be doable. However, it didn’t seem that there would be willing anime companies nor the money to proceed with a film adaptation on this kind of subject, so it was a work I almost gave up on.

Without voicing such concerns, they let me do this.

Even though it was for a 1.5 hour long movie, I wrote none of the plot. After three days of all nighters I completed the screenplay.

“The Time Étranger” is a single film that comprises a montage which alternates between the childhood, adolescence, and the golden years of Remy Shimada, the heroine of “Sengoku Majin GoShogun”. Even if I explained this premise aloud, or wrote a synopsis, it would probably be difficult to understand. So I decided to skip straight to writing the screenplay and show that to people.

It would have been a pain to write childhood, adolescence, and old age for each and every scene. I thought this would slow down the readers of my script, so instead I indicated which time period was taking place by affixing a mark to the scene headings.

For example, scenes marked with ○ denote adolescence, scenes marked with □ denote childhood, and scenes marked with ☆ denote old age.

I don’t know if that ended up clarifying the time period well, but I received no complaints anywhere on the script. Without any modifications, the film adaptation proceeded from my screenplay.

Normally before I let someone read my scripts I make a few adjustments, but this time I didn’t even do that.

Reflecting back on this now it’s embarrassing but back then I was brimming with confidence. So much so that I could have said that anyone who would dare badmouth my script was someone who didn’t know how to read screenplay. My mood was at its peak.

Afterwards, my script was printed in the roman album for “The Time Étranger”. However at that time I thought the screen header marks alone would be difficult to understand, so I got the color of the printed text changed to indicate the time period.

Basically, scenes printed with black text took place during her adolescence, whereas scenes printed with red or green text took place in other time periods.

By and large I am allowed to write my scripts as I please. However, to this day there still isn’t a single script I’ve written since that matches the especially unrestricted one I wrote for “The Time Étranger” of “Sengoku Majin GoShogun”.

Even from the quality of the screenplay, I think this script is among the best five I have ever written. I also novelized “The Time Étranger”, but as expected it was difficult to textualize the tempo of the montage comprised of different time periods and places.

At the time I was told by Mr. Toshio Suzuki, producer at Tokuma Shoten, that between the screenplay, anime, and novel, the screenplay was the most interesting.

Even now I remember those words.

In this work, the protagonist Remy appears during her infanthood, childhood, adolescence, and golden years. Simultaneously, the striving-to-surive proactive Remy, and the forlorn Remy resigned to a fate of death, transform and appear as an old lady as well as a mysterious girl who controls a beast.

Between Remy’s various stages of life, the lively and assertive Remy, and the negative Remy whose form would change and emerge, at most seven voices would be required for Remy.

When the original voice actress for Remy, Mami Koyama, heard about that she blurted “I’ll do all seven roles”.

In the first place, this was the Mami Koyama, said to have a rainbow’s worth of voices.

Indeed, she was a remarkably blessed actress. Even I as the scriptwriter had assumed that Mami Koyama would be the voice of Remy while writing the script.

From an infant to an old lady… Furthermore, each bright part and every dark part… If she were to do that, Mami Koyama’s voice would cover most of the 1.5 hour running length.

As expected that would be too reckless. So in the end, under the judgement of director Mr. Kunihiko Yuyama and sound director Mr. Noriyori Matsuura, two of the roles were given to other voice actors. Having been serious about performing all seven roles, Mami Koyama appeared quite disappointed.

During production of “The Time Étranger”, there was an incident where her pride as a professional really shone.

After the whole recording process was finished, Mami Koyama was not satisfied with her performance. All of a sudden she said “I want to redo my parts. All of them.”

She said she would do it without compensation.

After getting approval from the director and sound director, we all went to the studio on a night with no other films scheduled, and redid all her lines.

Even now I remember that typhoon night.

The recording finished by the time the typhoon had left in the morning.

Upon leaving the underground recording studio, the morning sun was peculiarly bright.

Mami Koyama also had a satisfied expression.

Afterwards, all of Remy’s voices in “The Time Étranger” were replaced with her redo, the results of which are fully reflected in the work.

But Mami Koyama expressed some regret over this “redo without compensation” incident.

If other voice actors began to do something like that, then both the recording studio and the pay by rank system of voice actors would proceed to be thrown into chaos.

That is probably correct.

However, it is certain that “GoShogun: The Time Étranger” improved severalfold due to Mami Koyama’s redo.

Nowadays with digital video it’s become commonplace for actors to do retakes, but back during the era of the production of “The Time Étranger”, sound recording was done with analog tape.

If you made a mistake, then the process of having to rewind the tape would be quite troublesome.

Particularly due to that, it was crucial to avoid making mistakes during the actual recording session.

Back then, the performance ability and technique of voice acting were essential.

By the way, the amount of anime featuring amateur live action actors and young voice actors has been increasing. However, what enabled that is the transition to recording with digital video. Unlike before, it’s become a much more relaxed process.

Accordingly, we now live in a time where even if the quality of voice acting drops it still goes through.

More and more young people, who lack the performance ability and technique of voice acting, are steadily appearing.

The reason is simple. It is cheap to hire such people.

Alternatively, there are instances where people are cast based on looks and not voice in order to attract fans.

I don’t know who said this but gravure voice actresses have become rampant.

The number of voice actors who simply read aloud their lines, without any concept of the work as a whole, is increasing. The quality of anime has certainly dropped as a result.

I went on a tangent about the state of voice acting, but particularly because “GoShogun: The Time Étranger” came out 3 years after the TV series, we assembled that group of voice actors at the peak of their abilities.

Unfortunately, several of them have passed away, and no longer can I hear their voices.

The sound director, who gave us the music and sound which created the unique world that is “GoShogun: The Time Étranger”, Mr. Noriyoshi Matsuura too has since passed away.

No longer will there be circumstances where I am entrusted as both original creator and scriptwriter and am allowed to do as I please.

Even from the standpoint of sound, “GoShogun: The Time Étranger” is a precious work to me.

 

To be continued.

October 18th, 2006.

Translated from the column “The Art of Creative Writing. Why not screenplay? – Anyone can do screenwriting”. Source: http://www.style.fm/as/05_column/shudo71.shtml.

Regarding translation:
I have never had any aspirations of doing any kind fansubbing or scanlation, or any kind of translation work period. Usually I am not confident I would be able to translate and be absolutely certain that I didn’t misrepresent the writer’s intentions in some way. After witnessing first hand just how questionable some fan translations are, I had no desire to contribute to this widespread occurrence. I simply want to avoid misleading others. But every once in a while I will come across something where I want other people to see it really badly. This rather short article is the first time I’ve gotten this feeling so strongly that I actually buckled down and took a stab at translating something that was longer than a handful of lines. Translating this was goddamn taxing, and just reaffirmed that translation is not my thing. However, to give me reassurance that I was providing a fair representation of the author’s words, I called upon my friend erlog whom I can trust to check that my translation didn’t go off the rails. Many thanks to him for taking the time to look over my work and give me feedback.

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