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Translation - English Okay let's get right into it. How did the AXZ project get started after GX ended?
Well, this isn't exactly how it started but when we were writing the concept for GX Mr. Agematsu ordered me to leave something in the final episode that could connect to a sequel. To be precise, Mr. Agematsu had been telling me to do so ever since we planned out G, but I stubbornly refused.
So, are you saying that between the two series creators there was one who wanted more and one who didn't?
Not exactly. In my opinion it is more important to provide a firm end to a story rather than worry about continuing it, so I didn't want to create any sort of hook at the end. More to the point, I personally feel that it is irresponsible to do so when production of a continuation has yet to be confirmed. However, working on Symphogear has been so much fun that it caused me hesitation in that line of thought. In the end, I actually began to feel that I wanted to write more for the series so at the end of GX I nervously added a hook in the form of Genjuro and Yatsuhiro's conversation as they saw Maria and Tsubasa off at the airport.
Thinking back to that now it doesn't seem very significant at all, but that was likely the starting point for AXZ. Fortunately after GX was finished, the positive response we received led to not only a season 4, but a season 5 project, which meant that I didn't have to leave the remaining questions unanswered. When I think about that, I realize that not only Symphogear, but all sequels are built upon the support and power of the fans and so I want to use this opportunity to express my gratitude in that regard. Thank you very much.
So tell us how exactly will the 4th season, AXZ, start out?
AXZ's story will pick up just about a month after the end of the “Magical Girl Incident” that was covered in GX. In fact, in between seasons 3 and 4 there is also a story that serves as a sort of season 3.5. It's called “the Alexandria Incident” and will be distributed through the smart phone app “Symphogear XD Unlimited” at a later date. Sorry for using this time to self-advertise, but I wrote the script for that story. There is some material in it that will link to and introduce AXZ, so I would be happy if everyone would look into it.
Getting back on topic, AXZ will start slowly during their leisure days, or perhaps it's better to say their school days, and involves a scene between Miku and Hibiki as they come to the end of summer.
So I guess this time won't be nearly as drastic as rushing to save a falling space shuttle?
Sorry to disappoint, but yes. We did that for GX, and AXZ is different.
Personally I feel that starting the 4th season of a series is an adventure in and of itself, even if it starts out a bit sluggish. More importantly, from Hibiki's perspective summer is ending and she hasn't been able to finish her homework and she can't finish that with a simple punch, so there is a different kind of intensity at play. Of course, it's only a 30 minute program so you know that the fighting scenes will have to come sooner rather than later.
This is just my personal outlook on it, and doesn't necessarily reflect what the director or other staff think, but AXZ episode 1 is more like an “episode 0.” The whole thing was created as if it was the scene that aired before the opening credits. So in that sense, episode 2 is where the story gets started. Actually, that might not even be until episode 3.
Does this mean that you planned something unique to the way AXZ unfolds?
To be frank, AXZ episodes 1 and 2 are filled entirely with things that I've wanted to do. I wasn't really planning anything special. Even the traditional concert scene, that I'm sure many fans are looking forward to, won't be included.
There won't be a concert scene?!
My apologizes to everyone who was looking forward to it. I'm very sorry.
I'm surprised. Could you tell us the reason why?
Lately, I've heard that the number of anime with concert scenes has increased so I figured there wasn't really any need to have one in AXZ. However, more importantly Symphogear is known as the “singing while fighting” anime and the scenes that suit it are more “absurd” and crazy, so I thought we should focus on creating more of those. Thus at the outset of AXZ's production I suggested we drop the concert scene, so I'm entirely the one to blame. To be honest I was prepared to deal with a lot of backlash from the people up top, but my proposal passed without any major affair so I was glad.
The fact such a proposal was accepted so easily has honestly left me bewildered.
This happened some time ago, but despite appearances it's been stated that Symphogear is not an anime made to sell character CDs. For example in other anime the common business model would be to release new albums, character songs, image songs, that sort of thing in-between seasons when it's not airing on TV. However, our producer Mr. Morii definitively stated “Symphogear was not made to sell character CDs, so we won't be doing that.” Of course in reality we do sell character CDs and they are undoubtedly a core part of the series itself, however we won't release CDs that don't tie into the story or don't add any meaningful content, nor do we have any intention of making them the foundation of the series.
Now that you mention it, it's true that the series has never seen any new developments made exclusively through character CDs. It's certainly surprising.
Well it's not just Mr. Morii, there are numerous members of the staff who really care for the series in the truest sense and they looked at the bigger picture and determined that sort of approach would not necessarily be good for the series overall. And so when it came to the lack of a concert in episode 1 of AXZ they listened to the reasoning, read the script and then signed off on it.
I think Symphogear is a series that is supported through the fan's love more than any other title out there, and the staff don't lose out to that either, giving their utmost consideration to it. It's thanks to all of them that we've managed to come as far as we have. It's something I am thankful for, and personally quite proud of.
Do you perhaps have any other surprising news you can drop on us?
Well AXZ's broadcast hasn't even started so I can't speak freely just yet, but I'll say that there will be other patterns and expectations that will change from the norm fans have come to expect, such as the lack of concert scene. However, I don't want people to misunderstand the intent behind that. The goal isn't to betray expectations, but rather to tweak and displace. Of course even by changing things just a little bit, the heart may break. So finding the appropriate balance is very difficult, but we tried our best.
From the looks of the images released so far, there doesn't appear to be any change in the character's symphogear armor. Is this another example of breaking tradition?
When you put it that way, it could be… but in reality the timeline has only progressed forward about a month since the end of GX, and that's the real reason. Sorry for the boring answer.
The decision to displace the existing tropes wasn't because of some unconditional rule, but rather because it was necessary for the story. So for example this time around we've shelved the concert scene, but if it later becomes necessary then there is a possibility it will make a sudden return. I think that would result in a lot of extra work for the staff, but I personally love the concert scenes so honestly even I would like to see it.
Tell us about the music side of things.
Of course the songs that the Symphogear users sing have once again been powered up! …But I don't know the appropriate vocabulary to convey just how good they are, so when you have the chance please listen to them for yourself. Under the lead of our music producer Mr. Agematsu the members of Elements Garden have been writing nothing but incredible songs. For this season we've once again shuffled the people responsible for each individual character's songs, so I think they've been able to bring out some new charm to each of them. Even though we're on the 4th season now, the songs have never gotten dull.
At this point in time I'm sorry I can't get into more detail, but more than just the battle songs, the duet songs also are rich in a variety which has helped create a more profound essence of Symphogear as a series. It seems a bit laughable but our producer Mr. Morii gave the order to “make it feel more legendary!” and I was taken aback thinking – is saying that all it takes?! But sure enough the musicians responded to that and created what I'm confident will become famous songs. There were instances where they simply adjusted the arrangement and it evolved the song entirely, and being able to closely watch musicians like that at work just leaves me in total admiration.
And I can't forget to mention how amazing the cast are during recording when they act and sing simultaneously. Every time we record they just get more powerful and often times it feels just like we're at a live concert. As usual, I can't help but think that we put too much of a burden on them but every time they clear the hurdle like it was nothing. I imagine that in their own time they put in a great amount of effort, but in the recording booth they never show signs of struggling, only the coolness of a professional as they easily sing in a grandiose manner.
Speaking of which, the character CD jacket illustrations are also very stylish and cool. The characters themselves have many odd quirks but when they don't speak and you just look at them I'm always surprised at how cool and cute they appear. I'm going to let slip a secret here, it's not really a big deal either way, but in episode 1 of AXZ you will be able to hear the singing voices of all 6 gear users. The stance of the staff is not to be stingy.
Right now we've already wrapped up the soundtrack work on a number of episodes and I can tell you that we used some nostalgic BGM tracks from season 1 and it made me really happy. The series has continued to grow to the point where looking back has become another point of enjoyment.
I realize this is a difficult question, but please tell us as much as you can regarding the story.
The enemy this time is once again alchemists. Perhaps it's more accurate to say an organization of alchemists. The group that existed behind the scenes of Carol's actions in GX, the Bavarian Illuminati, will be making their appearance. They are a secret organization that has played a hand in much of the Symphogear world's history. In fact in G we already dropped the name of the organization’s leader Adam Weishaupt, but this time the organization's top brass will be coming to Japan with a certain goal in sight.
“Perfection” is the prime goal that we have set for the alchemists to achieve in this season, but among the leaders of the group one character in particular, Saint-Germain, believes that to achieve “perfection” she must correct the warped societal hierarchy that exists in the world. In order to achieve that it will mean taking the lives of numerous people and thus as a result she comes into conflict with the Symphogear girls. And in this season the alchemists will be doing things more suitable to their name, such as creating gold. In many fictional works there are alchemists like Carol in GX, who never seem to do anything alchemists are actually known for and so we decided this season they'll be making their own little economy of gold.
As for other things that I can say about the story at this point...I wonder what's left? (laugh) From the perspective of a writer there are some things that are difficult to comment on, so it might be best to ask for more from Mr. Agematsu instead. Although, speaking of the story, due to certain circumstances I did not write the story by myself this time.
Up until this point you had written the story entirely by yourself?
Well, that's what it says in the credits. (laugh) You might be able to say that about season 1, but for G and beyond I developed the story considering the input of the director and other staff members at our planning meetings. For me to claim here that “I wrote Symphogear by myself” actually feels pretty presumptuous. In the storyboard and recording sessions, certain things were cut or added as well.
Tell us the reason why you were unable the complete the script by yourself this time.
I had an incident last summer that caused me to collapse. At that point I had written the plot outline for the season and had completed the script for the first 2 episodes and half of episode 3. I was in bad condition and couldn't move, I had to be hospitalized and underwent surgery. However by the end of the year I had returned to work and now I'm as fit as a fiddle so please don't worry.
Is it really okay for us to publish this information?
I'm fine with this information being out there rather than any sort of spoilers about the story. (laugh)
Of course this isn't something I say with any sort of pride, but the reality is when the credits roll people are going to see the names of writers in the credits other than myself and I think there's no reason to conceal the truth behind that. Actually, I'm quite happy to have something to talk about to fill the space for this interview because usually I'm really bad at these. (laugh) So in the middle of writing the script I collapsed, but we couldn't very well stop the project because it was already in motion and so this time AXZ's story is brought to you by a team of writers who worked together.
As I explained before, Symphogear's story has developed up until this point with the input of the director and staff during production, and those members have remained unchanged this season so please rest assured. The writers we brought on board for this season are wonderful, and with their cooperation and under the request of the producers, I read through every word that was produced in my absence.
This relates back to the time when I wrote video games, but I learned that when the writer of the story changes it's not necessarily an issue of the change being good or bad, but inconsistencies in tone and atmosphere often arise that don't go unnoticed by long time fans. In that regard I will say that I took the responsibility of doing some rewrites for everything past episode 3, in particular episode 5. So I can safely say that any changes in writing style should only be noticeable at a parts-per-trillion level. In fact, if there is someone out there who could tell the difference I think that they must either be a genius or a liar.
Lastly, please give us a message for the fans.
Well, I already dropped all the big surprises in earlier parts of the interview so I wish I could go back and save something for here. Anyway, Symphogear is back. And I'm back too. Back to the rigorous production offices.
But I wasn't sick in the hospital just wasting away, I spent those months with the intention of cultivating some wisdom, so please enjoy the results of that in Symphogear AXZ. Also I'm sorry to drag the news of my illness out so unexpectedly. I'm not used to having people worry about me, so if you could just treat me as you've always have that would make me the most happy. Thank you very much.
Years of translation experience: 1. Registered at ProZ.com: Mar 2018.
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A bilingual communications professional with over 10 years of work experience. After earning a BA in Mass Communications I engaged in multicultural exchange by teaching English in Japan. While there I solidified my language and leadership skills, and am now looking for new opportunities to put them to use. I am a highly motivated worker who is eager to learn new skills and refine old ones. I have strong time management and prioritization abilities. I have worked in the fields of teaching, translation, interpretation, media production, marketing, public relations and event planning. I have been employed in a variety of workplaces, which has made me a strong team-player who can adapt quickly.