Anime to live-action adaptations, and the other way around, have always been treads into murky waters by most standards in the fandom. It perhaps can be considered sexy for anime to be turned into flesh-and-blood these days with very-recently announced titles like Chihayafuru and Anohana that seem to promise more realism, vis-à-vis their 2D worlds, but sometimes, an awkward Frankenstein is born, in the muddy process of conversion. Less draconian criticism from fans are often about undesired storyline changes, failure to keep the realism of some storyline elements or the series simply not feeling right.
Garo is a case of a tokusatsu with an already different approach: one that takes place in a medieval setting, one of much dark maturity, as opposed to the modern, real-world and sci-fi settings of the longer-running Super Sentai and Kamen Rider franchises.
The series was recently adapted into an anime albeit with a relatively different direction of artistic portrayal and tone to the toku. Its first series aired from October 2014 to March 2015 with a second season confirmed to be arriving later this year.
As a part of a promotion of the ongoing project and elaboration of the anime’s artistic direction, the animation studio, MAPPA , conducted a 40-minute panel for their Singaporean fans at the Special Stage of the Chara Expo anime convention at the Singapore Expo, an enclosed-area segment of made mostly out of panels and talk shows during the 2-day Japanese entertainment convention comprising anime, games, wrestling and music content.
Much of the discussion focused on the standards of the tokusatsu – which were retained as close as possible given that the onus was on series director Yuichiro Hayashi to oversee its conversion from 3D to 2D in Garo: The Animation. During the panel, he was accompanied by up-and-coming voice actresses from the series, Eri Ozeki, who voices Anna Lewis in the animation, and host-cum-interpreter Misa Miyagawa.
In a nutshell, this was the trick: adhering to the story and mythos set by the toku while devising appropriate replications or substitutes in the visual department.
“I was already a fan of the toku, so there was no reason to reject the offer,” said the director whose portfolio included renowned series like Inuyasha and Inazuma Eleven.
He, of course admitted that working on the anime to be more liberating in a number of aspects.
“The tokusatsu is limited when it comes to number of expressions and actions that can be depicted. But I have fewer limits when it comes to the animation,” reasoned Hayashi.
However, live-action trumps the animated sometimes – the realism of a spandex and metal suit can prove difficult to be emulated in the anime.
At this point in time, a stuntman in a Garo suit appeared on stage in front of a presentation slide of his anime counterpart’s concept art, stunning the audience in awe of the suit’s quality and metallic shine.
“I use a lot of CGI (instead of regular 2D animation) to replicate the golden shine of Garo in the toku”, he explained, with the audience’s eyes in juxtaposition between the flesh-and-blood golden hero with the on-screen comparison.
“The toku Garo looks very heavy and strong – traits which are hard to depict in the anime. Thus, I preferred to focus on building up his speed instead.”
Describing the animation’s artistic direction, he cited the scenes of Gaia leaping and running as highlights.
Himself and Ozeki went on to display a few of their favourite scenes, but were cautious not to over-elaborate as the series had yet to be broadcast officially in Singapore at during the panel.
Perhaps the charm of animation, in itself, is the selling point of the Animation, and Hayashi commits to preserve it without excessively overlaying it with CGI. To this end, he is proud of the scene when protagonist Leon duels Alfonso in human form to regain his sword, a sequence produced relying solely on the good-old-techniques of animation, free of CGI-effects.
For guest speaker Ozeki, Garo was a sizable addition and change of breath to her relatively-new portfolio of voice acting work for the former actress who has previously voiced for idolm@ster and Rage of Bahamut: Genesis.
“Garo is my lifework, so to speak, as I have done a lot in this project in just one year, ” credited Ozeki. “It’s something that I can’t forget.”
“My loved ones were quite surprised that I was given mother character in the animation, which saw me recording many lines but without knowing which ones will be used”.
She commented on her director, which kept a serious face throughout the panel, on how he looked unhealthy the first time they met with his “many dark eye rings”, which were still there there and then on stage.
The series will air on the cable television channel Waku Waku in Autumn 2015, as reminded by Miyagawa.
“Garo is an authentic hero story that I believe everyone will love”, affirms Hayashi as closure to the panel.
Special thanks to Leon Koh for assisting the reporter in note-taking during the panel