Alright, here comes some more words. Here's one for the opening credits for every episode sans ep 39...RONDO REVOLUTION
KUNIHIKO IKUHARA’S THOUGHTS
There were several forks in the road to the theme song "Rondo – revolution."
First I had X, the producer at the time, play me several demo melodies. One of them really felt like “the one,” so I decided on that one with X (naturally, the chosen one was the melody that would become "Rondo – revolution," but we also released it separately later in a form close to that original one, under the title "Rose&release").
Next, X set up a meeting for us with a certain lyricist at a restaurant in Shibuya. We explained the project, presenting Ms. Saito’s drawings, and the lyricist seemed really raring to go.
The lyrics that came back to us some days later didn’t sit well with me.
"They’re just not quite right…" X agreed, and fell silent.
Several days later, I got a phone call from X saying, "She says she wants to do it. I’ll have her call you, so stay put." This phone call was how I found out that Ms. Okui would be singing the theme song. And that she would be singing the theme song. And that she would take charge of the lyrics herself, too. Right after X hung up, I got a phone call from Ms. Okui, and we ended up having a meeting.
I’ll dredge up my memories of that period to write the rest of this story. This all happened a long time ago, though, so there will be some details I can’t remember.
I got a phone call from Ms. Okui.
We started our planning meeting on the spot, but production was still ongoing, for one thing, so in terms of the show’s content… I couldn’t tell her a lot of crucial things. Nevertheless, she’d thankfully read several of Ms. Saito’s works, so she already understood the "spirit of the work" very well.
That meant that in our meeting, we were able to focus on "what we’re trying to express" instead of on the story. By their very natures, there’s no way to perfectly reconcile "the world of song" and "the world of anime stories." But I felt there ought to be a way to bring together the spirits of “song” and “anime.”
"I want you to think of this as a song that will play during the story’s last scene."
That’s what I told her. Like I said, we hadn’t decided what the last scene would be yet. Still, I had a vague suspicion that it would depict a "parting." At the time I didn’t have a concrete image of what kind it might be; there’s—
parting with a lover,
parting with a dear friend,
parting with a beloved sibling or
parting with the entire milieu in which
Those were my nebulous thoughts.
What could a person who’d lost all those things gain in the final scene…? It would be magnificent if that could be captured to a song… Surely the viewers who watched the series through the end would think, "I see, so the theme song was about this final scene" …
Some days later, I faxed her a note.
Even if the two of us are torn apart,
the time that we spent together
So I can change the world
I asked her if she could express something along those lines. And I also had the temerity to ask her to include a few keywords in the lyrics that expressed the world of the show:
"strip down to nothing at all"
"change the world"
Several days after that, the finished lyrics were faxed back to me. My "garden" and "revolution" suggestions in Japanese were there in English. I thought the show’s spirit was expressed brilliantly.
Above the lyrics was a note saying, "What should the title be?" (I think). I also think that "Take my revolution" was there as a provisional title. And in another display of temerity, I asked if she’d be willing to write the kanji for rinbu ("round dance") but gloss it as "rondo" to arrive at a title of "rondorevolution." She agreed, on the condition that we inset a hyphen and make it "Rondo – revolution." (Or maybe the changes went like this: "Rondo – Take my revolution" → “Rondorevolu – tion” → "Rondo – revolution".) I took my inspiration from Ms. Saito’s manga for the word “rondo.”
Later, even when production circumstances were harsh, this song really bolstered my spirits. This is only occurring to me in hindsight, but maybe it was able to me in hindsight, but maybe it was able to express the "Utena" spirit so well because Ms. Okui and I were in very similar frames of mind at the time.
…Nah. It was probably just the fruit of Ms. Okui’s talents.
Or on second thought, maybe it was X’s skill as a producer after all.
Now for the first closing. The book I have actually has pictures of what Ikuhara's about to talk about in the last paragraph, so there's another reason to get those DVDs while you can... ENDING ANIMATION
THE MAKING OF
The Revolutionary Girl Utena endings were divided into Season 1 (episodes 1-24) and Season 2 (episodes 25-38), with a final episode getting a scat version of the theme song “Rondo – revolution.”
The first season’s sequence had romantic visuals, with Utena in a dress dancing with Dios. Utena and Anthy give us glimpses of serious looks in their eyes, and in the latter half Anthy appears with Dios as well, in the exact same pose as Utena. The whole mood of it is mysterious; it makes you think, "This is no simple prince-and-princess romance."
The ending theme song is "truth." It’s performed by Ruka Yumi. You can see key art for this sequence on the next page. Shinya Hasegawa said that he put Hiroshi Nagahama in charge of it because his sharp style, with its striking silhouettes, would be a good fit for something with so little motion. Within beautiful animation that projects a noble impression; the main characters dance all dressed up. He’s directed them brilliantly.
And starting in episode 25, the staff made the ending theme song J.A. Caesar’s "Virtual Star Embryology," and changed the visuals as well. Maki Uetani did the vocals. It was different from the choral pieces in the duel scenes, and the more piercing ring of the solo vocals was pleasing. Shinya Hasegawa, Yoko Kadokami, and Hiroshi Nagahama were in charge of the key animation for this sequence. Tall, thin visuals of Utena and the ornamentation behind her, drawn in black silhouette, climb up into the blue sky as if on an elevator. Partway through, cuts of Utena and Anthy holding roses come in, timed to the music, and then it’s silhouettes of the two standing facing each other, with Anthy in her bridal gear. At the end, birds soar up to the castle in the sky, scattering feathers, and rays of light break through the clouds. There’s also an "Akio Car version" of this second ending as well, which was on episode 33 of the TV broadcast. On the LD and VHS releases, episode 25 also had the Akio Car version, but on DVD it was only in episode 33. The theme song is the same, but the Akio Car shows up in the video, and no characters appear. It shows a scene of he Akio Car zooming along, switching from cut to cut in time with the song’s chorus, until it finally arrives at the dueling arena. It’s a playful arrangement that got people talking even at the time.
Also, apparently a humorous, cute ending featuring Chu-Chu was conceived during Season 2 production as well. The idea was to have close-up of Chu-Chu’s face that took up the whole screen, with Utena, Anthy, and the other main characters appearing inside his eyes. To the right are some rough storyboards drawn for that sequence by Shinya Hasegawa. Chu-Chu’s facial expression would change depending on which characters were in his eyes, so the visuals were very humorous, with anger and tears and everything else. If that ending sequence had been used, it probably would have been given a cute song, but if "Virtual Star Embryology" had been paired with that close-up of Chu-Chu, the peculiar mismatched feel of it would have surely surprised viewers.
And that's pretty much it for Ikuhara in the book, other than a passage from the LD notes. Now it's time for a doozy: an interview with the people who were involved with the HD process. Lots of great Ikuhara stories in this, so we here go! HD VIDEO REMASTERING
INTERVIEW WITH THE STAFFHiroshi Kaneda
Film Transferring/ColoristHaruyasu Yamazaki
Technical CoordinatorTomomi Takemura
Master Editing/Online Editor Hideki Ito
Let’s start off by talking about the production process for HD remastering. Revolutionary Girl Utena (hereafter referred to as "Utena") was originally done on 16mm film, wasn’t it?
Ito: We convert that to the high-definition "HD" format, create new materials, and then process them to produce a new master. "HD remastering" means trying to raise the quality of the master by updating it to a new generation of media.
Please tell us what your impressions of Utena were when you converted the first materials.
Kaneda: The theatrical version of Utena was 35mm, and the TV version was 16mm. Given that this is an HD remaster, I think first off you can sense the difference in quality that comes from the difference in film type. Also, the old TV vision was created for broadcast, so only about 90% of the cel art is visible after fitting it to the TV frame. So if the rest of the cell had stuff in it that shouldn’t be there, it didn’t matter because nobody would see it anyway. But now we have full-display TVs, like LCD TVs for example, and everything is 100% visible. That meant that when we were first recording the HD type, how much of the frame to use became an issue. Ultimately, we ended up showing everything, since that was the director’s preference. And so the 10% that was never visible before got cleaned up and generally corrected, and now you can see the whole frame as it was originally drawn.
That’s something to be happy about. What about adjustments to the whole screen?
Kaneda: There were aspects of the look of that outer-space background in Utena and Anthy’s dance scene in the movie that didn’t fit the director’s image. He said it needed more depth, more profundity, so we altered the way we transferred the film. We tested three different categories of original film elements – positive film, negative film, and interpositive – and used the one that yielded the best image.
So he wanted to express more translucence and depth, then?
Kaneda: That was the one scene where we adjusted the parameters most minutely, to bring out the sense of translucence and depth. The director and I went through each individual cut together, with endless trial and error.
Did he have requests about the coloring of the characters, too?
Kaneda: As an example, Utena’s hair is pink, but there’s pink and then there’s pink. You have your reddish pinks, your yellowish pinks, and all that. For this project there was no order chart or other basis for color matching in the film, so we started by getting permission to examine actual cels of the main characters, and we decided to match those. The character that I especially felt had the most variation in her coloring was Anthy. Her skin was difficult. I think there were probably several different versions from the beginning. You see, it was a slightly different color each time. As we worked, we consciously worked to avoid letting those color variations make anything seem off within a given scene. For example, one part of a sequence of evening scenes abruptly had a more daylight sort of coloring, so we consulted the director: "Should we match this bit to the evening hues for continuity?" And then we adjusted the skin tones to fit the overall tonality.
Are the colors any more vivid than when we watched the show on TV?
Kaneda: None of the colors got drastically more vivid. After all, it’s not good to make them too far removed from the video you’ve seen up until now. They are sharper now, though. We’ve revised them to be clearer, so I think they’re easier on the eyes.
I see. And after that, you need to clean up any defects in the frame, right?
Takemura: In terms of order, first you have digital remastering, and then you set up filter parameters to do the denoising. You remove all of the noise and distortions in the frame. Then you bring this processed footage to the editing room and check it with the director.
But when we watch anime on TV, we don’t really think "Look at all that noise!", do we?
Ito: Most of the anime shows made in recent times were produced digitally, so there isn’t any noise, but even though this Utena is a "digital remaster," I think there’s bound to be a certain amount of noise in it, because the original materials were film. Still, I think this is far and away cleaner than the previous DVD release. It’s not even comparable. You see, that was a seriously mad dash to the finish.
Takemura: To start with, I did about 100 corrections per episode.
Yamazaki: That was after my team cleaned up each cut, though. We’d remove the noise, cue and paste things from other places, and generally make it look clean. Ultimately, it’s almost like compositing work. Then we’d lay that back to tape again and check it with the director, at which point we’d receive additional corrections… (laughs)
Ito: Yamazaki would input the tape media to a nonlinear machine and work on it, and then Takemura would edit it on tape media, and that would become the final master.
Yamazaki: You were saying that to start with the director check would yield about 100 corrections, but how many did he give you on the second half of the work?
Takemura: About 300. Because after we’d done one full pass on the show, more corrections would come up during rechecking.
That sounds like a lot of revisions. Is that more than average?
All: Oh, yes… (laughter)
Takemura: Basically you’re doing frame-by-frame recording of the cels, right? And when there’s lip flaps with layered cels, the noise you end up with ultimately stands out. That stays in the picture throughout.
I see. And I understand that when it came to pieces like the onscreen text put in during original video recording, you changed them to digital elements. Could you tell us what that means?
Yamazaki: Things like the final "to be continued" and the eyecatchers weren’t on the film itself, so we recreated them. Then there were things like the rotating roses in the four corners of the screen.
In the TV broadcast the movement of the roses was jerky. Has that changed now that they’re been redone?
Yamazaki: We tried not to break the atmosphere the show’s had up until now. Out motto on this project has been, "Try to keep the image of the show as intact as possible." Still, we did want the audience to feel like we’d done something, so we tried to get that to show through, but then it was like, "Mmm, no, that’s going too far." The director and us tossed back and forth various opinions and ideas as we pinned down the right feel.
There are also some places where the key art is new, am I right? I’m told Mr. Shinya Hasegawa drew it.
Takemura: That’s right. The new materials are static image data (the digital version of cel drawings), so they’re sparkling clean. We take them and blend them in with the texture of the old film. We input the new materials we receive to an editing system called "DS," and then composite them while adding motion. In the final stage we add grain to make it fit in with the grittiness of the film.
Are there any other scenes that changed?
Takemura: The eyecatch that says the show title is completely new in the HD version.
Yamazaki: The director was very respectful of the image of the original, so we did out best to work according to the goal of using original materials as much as possible, but this part apparently just didn’t fit the image… There were those silver plates in the four corners of the eyecatch, and the idea was broached that "Maybe these are just in the way," so we took them out, and it really did look better. When you look closely, the red backgrounds that’s unfolded beneath the lettering is different in the pre- and post-commercial bumpers, too. The eyecatches took a ton of time, because in the beginning we had no idea what direction to go in. We couldn’t even begin to figure out how they’d given the letters those rolling motions back then. There’s a certain analog-style awkwardness there, as if it got done by coincidence. The idea was to trace that, but it was no easy thing to get that bit done digitally. Once we had the motion, our next problem was the texture. The original opening bumper had a yellow logo with a bit of gradation, and there was this sort of green bud thing rotating above it. It was quite a vivid eyecatch. But we were asked to make it all gray this time, and to give the texture a crystal-clear feel when the letters were finished unfurling. So we thought maybe we should make it metallic, ad we experimented a lot with different textures, until finally we found that that just wasn’t the right direction to go in… But you know, the logo in the show’s opening sequence was a silvery, chic monotone. So we figured we might as well try spinning it that way, and then it was like, "This is it!" We could finally see the finish line ahead of us. Ultimately, we got eyecatches where silver is born from a slightly darkened screen, and then when the spotlight hits it, the red of the background rises up and the bud at the top gives off a pink shine. In the end, when the director finally told us "OK!", there was applause. (laughs)
Ito: I can understand the director’s pickiness, since eyecatches are things that appear every episode. With proposed revisions like this, we had Takemura find the middle ground in terms of how we’d make this all hang together as a final work. He’s the one who had the most communication with the director.
What types of things would the director say to you, Mr. Takemura?
Takemura: He’d say, "Do something about this part." But Director Ikuhara isn’t someone who just says "Do something about this" and leaves it at that. He’s good enough to ask, "What options do we have for fixing this?" When I grope for a few answers and propose them, he’ll make a decision: "Okay, let’s use this method here." He really listens to our suggestions and makes his decisions after taking them into account. It was the same way with the denoising. There were some cuts where we were like, "This is a tough one; it might not get clean," but the director said, "That’s OK." Well, when someone tells you that, you think, "I have to do something about this!"
And you had to synch up the timing, too, didn’t you?
Takemura: You see, the film in use at the time was already gone. That meant the video and audio didn’t synch up, so we had to balance the accounts at both ends, so to speak. And the scenes in the duels when the prince descends – some episodes didn’t have anything that really fit, and we had to adjust them in editing.
I see. So all of you listened to the director’s various wishes and put them into practice.
Yamazaki: In the beginning I wasn’t directly discussing things with the director. But when things came to crisis point, he said "Let’s walk this path together," or something along those lines. At first, I thought he meant we’d have a talk every week or something, but we started emailing back and forth on the principle that “That’s nowhere near enough!” And I’ll tell you something… he replies really quickly. During the eyecatch thing, I’d message him with "How about footage like this", and immediately I’d get back something like "I want to see an example of this pattern, too."
Could you all sense the director’s enthusiasm?
Yamazaki: Absolutely! If he’s like this with a remaster, I wonder what he’d be like if he decided to do something new.
Ito: His enthusiasm is amazing.
Takemura: He’s a passionate person, isn’t he? We talked about various things in our spare moments on the job, and I can tell you one thing: he watches all kinds of stuff. I mean, if it’d been a week since you’d last gotten together, he’d tell you about this movie or that DVD that he’d seen in the meantime. I thought he must be trying to absorb into himself anything and everything good that might be out there.
Ito: Yes, he was always watching things with curiosity: "How did that scene in that show come out?"
Takemura: Like, "That was beautiful, huh? How do you they did it? Can we do that too?"
He’d talk about those things even in the studio with you, then.
Takemura: When he does checks, he has his eyes glued to the screen the whole time, and I think he concentrates pretty intensely, so he probably gets worn out. He’d spend over three hours on one episode of Utena, so we’d usually take a break after each one.
Mr. Kaneda, can you share any impressions of the director or happenings during production?
Kaneda: He’s picky down to the last detail. I only noticed this as I was working, but – you know how there were all those scenes of the Akio Car speeding away? There was a point when there were three people in the car, but in the speeding-away shot, only two people were there. We fixed things like that at his request. But fundamentally, even when we were redoing things, he would always say he wanted to faithfully convey the image of the original, from back when it was first made.
Ito: It seemed like he wanted to do the things he couldn't do back in the day, the things he wished he'd done, the things he had a chance to do over now.
Kaneda: Yes. Basically he wanted to get it that much closer to perfection.
What about you, Mr. Yamazaki?
Yamazaki: I think I’ll just be repeating the other two, but in the studio with us he had a "Let’s do this as a team!" mentality, and that in turn made us think “I want to do something to make this good!” He keeps getting more and more of the people around him on his side. He has that kind of charm, I think. "Look how much love he gives to his works!" – that much was plain as day. And that’s exactly what makes us start thinking, "We’ve gotta do this thing!" This isn’t the nicest way of putting it, but there are sort of "hired director" types in this world, you know? He’s not like that at all. He’s the polar opposite. His type of director is rare these days.
Ito: He’s a man among men. Because he hates dishonesty and unreason. Can it be done or not? If not, he won’t do it. But if there’s a chance it can be done, he goes all the way with it.
Yamazaki: Before he decides whether something is possible or not, though, he’ll try various things. Right now we’re don with the show itself and we’re working on the DVD menus – and he refuses to compromise about them, too. For him this isn’t just about the work called "Utena"; right now he’s trying to create the work called "The Utena DVD Box Set." That’s the sense I got.
That’s so true; I can see you’re all striving together as one to make "The Utena DVD Box Set" happen. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
I got some more, along with some thoughts that I hinted earlier at the thread, but I say let's wait until we get some more response in this thread so I can split things up.