Since I just started watching Gurren Lagann (yeah, I know, I’m behind the times), I figured I might as well dig up an old translation I did for Kill la Kill, which was also directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi and written by Kazuki Nakashima. Nakashima is an interesting case for an anime scriptwriter. When he’s not writing anime scripts, he’s also a playwright for the popular Japanese theater company Gekidan Shinkansen. You can read an interview with him on the Performing Arts Network Japan here if you’re interested.
Imaishi’s commentary came from the Japanese limited edition Kill la Kill BD and was included at the end of the first volume of the drama CD. See the comments in their original Japanese here.
Hope you enjoy the translation!
The wisdom to create something shallow with purpose
It should probably go without saying that Nakashima-san is far more accomplished than I am in his career and his abilities, but the first script I worked with that genuinely clicked with me was Nakashima-san’s Re: Cutie Honey. To be honest, I only started watching the Gekidan Shinkansen after encountering the Re: Cutie Honey script.
I often wonder why his script clicked with me so much. Afterwards, I watched many Shinkansen plays, and the parts I really liked filled me with such an incredible rush. They were created with a considerable amount of skill, wit and experience. Those parts always felt purposeful, I thought. Those elements are simultaneously calculated and natural, humorous and serious, optimistic and negative—all these things that are normally in conflict with each other. I found that this was the most appealing thing about it. It’s the epitome of fun, and I think it’s the deepest form of expression.
It’s always a lot of fun making storyboards out of such high-level scripts. With Kill la Kill’s first episode, adapting the script into storyboard form was the most time-consuming part, but the end result fit to a T. This time, Nakashima-san adopted a firm attitude with Kill la Kill: “I won’t do what I don’t want to do.” He personally wanted to see a trashy schoolgirl love story, especially one where the tough girl Ryuko drowns in sexual lust and degrades her body (that was the plan for Nagita-kun’s episode), but it was way too risky to introduce that halfway through the series, so the romance elements were almost entirely removed. (In the resulting episode 13, Nagita-kun took on a completely different significance, which I really liked.)
That being said, I’m the same when it comes to the artwork. Since my attitude is to revise certain things entirely according to my own vision, I didn’t have any particular problem with his approach. I’m really grateful that Nakashima-san had the strength to not even flinch at the prospect of all these minor “revisions”. He’s completely on board not only with what he “wants” to do, but also with what “must” be done.
When writing for stage, Nakashima-san supposedly writes realistic stories that appeal to people in their fifties, but when he was making an anime with me, it felt like he was using the skills of a fifty-something-year-old to express themes with a fifth grader’s way of thinking. An integral part of this “fifth grader” sensibility involves using “humour” and “jokes” to relieve tension, but it also involves illogical things or implausible ideas that your average person would never put into action even if they did happen to come up with them. Most of the time, you’d have no choice but to snuff out that fictional world.
But Nakashima-san was stubborn; he tapped into his adult’s sophistry and painstakingly brought that world to life. Actually, the process of creation was very cathartic. We were making such ridiculous scenes. The more we expressed ourselves proudly at the top of our lungs, the better it felt.
Together, we created a work that is ridiculous and filled with trashy elements at first glance, but somewhere within it all there’s an element of truth. Even as we snorted at that idea, we still believed in it with all our hearts (it was something that just happened), and I think that’s the part that made me happiest about this whole project.
Hiroryuki Imaishi, Kill la Kill director