What will the "Code Geass" app game and new anime be like? General supervisors Taniguchi Goro and Ookouchi Ichirou talk about it [Interview].
It has been about 14 years since the TV anime "Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion" was broadcast. The popularity of the profound storyline and fascinating characters has not waned, and the movie "Code Geass: Lelouch of the Resurrection" released in 2019 performed well, earning over 1 billion JPY at the box office.
On December 5, Lelouch's birthday, the "Code Geass Next 10 years Project" was announced, depicting the world after "Resurrection".
First of all, "Code Geass Genesic Re;CODE", the first smartphone app game in the "Code Geass" series, will be released in 2021.
In addition, "Code Geass: Z of the Recapture" will be produced as a new anime.
How do the creator of "Code Geass", director Taniguchi Goro, and screenwriter Ookouchi Ichirou, envision the next 10 years?
We asked them about the past and future of "Code Geass," including the story behind the TV series, and their thoughts on the work.
[Interview and text by Hashibiroko].
The significance of depicting the story after "Resurrection"
From the very beginning, "Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion" was intended to be a long-term project. That's why, Taniguchi-san says, he was conscious of creating a story that would work even if the times changed.
What was important in "Code Geass" was not "when to make it" but "what to make". I created the basic structure of the story from a broad perspective, not too much in line with the real world, so that it would be applicable in any era. However, it is thanks to Sunrise producer Taniguchi (Koujiro) and the rest of the staff that the work has lasted this long.
In fact, after the broadcast of "Code Geass Lelouch of the Rebellion R2" ended, I was afraid of wearing out the whole series. This would lead to a different outcome from the initial request to me, which was to create a work that could be made into a continuing series. In other words, the project would fail. To avoid that, I asked to look for new possibilities to expand the world of "Code Geass".
There are derivative works of "Code Geass", but until now, the story has basically been a link between the first season and "R2". According to Ookouchi-san, it is "like the 'Gundam' series that depicts the Universal Century." For this reason, it was created in a way that did not deviate from the worldview established by Taniguchi-san and Ookouchi-san.
Ookouchi-san believes that "Code Geass" allows for freedom of thought by its creators, but he recalls that there must have been an invisible barrier for the work that depicts the timeline in between.
"'Code Geass: Akito the Exiled' was a work that was positioned between the first season and 'R2,' which may have put director Akane (Kazuki) in a tight spot.
However, with 'Lelouch of the Resurrection,' the story revolving around Lelouch had come to an end, and now there is a whole new plain to explore. I'm happy that the new staff can finally create without restrictions. The new staff may feel uneasy about the lack of constraints, but I hope they will be able to create freely.".
For the app game "Genesic Re;CODE" and the new animation "Z of the Recapture", Taniguchi-san and Ookouchi-san are in charge of general supervision.
Taniguchi says that his basic policy is to avoid making restrictions as much as possible. "I think it would be difficult to depict the world after 'Resurrection' with a free hand, so I first told them about the changes in social structure and direction. But I left it up to them to decide whether they wanted to adopt my ideas as they were or to make further arrangements.
I'm intending not to say no to the finished product unless it deviates too much from the project. For example, if we feature too much of a specific nation, ethnic group, or religion, it will not be 'Code Geass' anymore. As long as that's not the case, it's basically OK."
"I don't care if Arthur becomes overpowered."
Before this interview, Mr. Taniguchi was checking out the development screen of "Genetic Re;CODE". The first thing he felt when he saw the screen was "a tickling in the heart".
"When I saw the screen, I felt a tickling in my heart," Taniguchi-san said, "because all the characters from the previous 'Code Geass' games were gathered together on one screen. It was similar to the feeling I had when I first played a game I was involved with in the "Super Robot Wars" series.
As the person who launched 'Code Geass', I felt like a parent watching over their child as they leave the nest. I enjoy watching the process and results of the app development team as they enjoy making 'Code Geass'."
"Genesic Re;CODE" also features characters from the previous "Code Geass" series, such as Lelouch, Suzaku, and Akito. Ookouchi-san expressed his hopes for the app development team, saying, "I hope you will move Lelouch and his friends without any constraint."
"I don't want the production team to be shy of making Lelouch do new things from the fear of offending the original creators. I don't want him to be treated with kid goloves. I want people to be free to use existing characters as long as it makes the game itself more interesting.
Of course, it's a prerequisite that their characterizations are preserved, but I welcome the unexpected emotional expressions, such as when Mirei is messing with Lelouch. I'd also like to see a lot of surprising uses of Geass."
Director Taniguchi also respects the ideas of the development team as well.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the new fun that will come from other people's interpretations of our work. It's okay if Arthur the cat becomes overly strong by some mistake. I'll gladly accept the fact that the development team has decided to play with the characters that way."
They have previously released "Code Geass Lelouch of the Rebellion: Lost Colors" for PS2 and PSP and "Code Geass Lelouch of the Rebellion R2: The Geass Theater on the Board" for Nintendo DS, but this will be the first release of an app game.
Taniguchi-san said that he feels there are possibilities in the way of development that only a smartphone app can offer.
Taniguchi-san said, "With a smartphone app, you don't have to release it once and be done with it; you can keep updating it over the years. We can divide the episodes into seasons, or we can develop the story in a larger flow. Looking at the development process, I am relieved to see that it is going to be a very interesting work.
The only drawback is that I'll have to play more app games every day (lol)."
Ookouchi-san, on the other hand, had high hopes for the real-time excitement like a serialized manga.
"I want people to get excited about it with their friends, just as they do with serialized manga and weekly anime broadcasts. I think the app has something fun that everyone can enjoy together, like 'What's going to happen next week?' I think the app has the fun of being able to enjoy it with everyone. Unlike TV, there are no regional differences in broadcasting stations, and you can watch the same thing at the same time anywhere in Japan. It's really wonderful.
In the case of animation, both TV and theatrical versions are completed before they are shown to the audience, so it is impossible to change the development depending on the response. But with the smartphone app, we can reflect the feedback of the users as we create the app, so I think there is a possibility that we can continue the app in both directions for a long time."
Genesic Re;CODE" drawn by a light novelist
In "Genesic Re;CODE," you can look back on past "Code Geass" titles and also enjoy new scenarios. The writing team consists of several writers who are active in light novels. It was Ookouchi-san's proposal that led to the offer of a novelist instead of an anime scriptwriter.
"When I went from being a novelist to an anime scriptwriter, I had a hard time.
Anime scenarios are supposed to be visualized. Since images, music, voices, etc. are added to the story written in text, the amount of information assumed is several times greater. So, if it takes five pages in a novel to make the protagonist's anger boil over, in an anime it is possible to raise the tension in just a few seconds with the help of music.
When I wrote my first anime script, 'Turn A Gundam', I didn't understand the difference between anime and novels, so the director, Tomino Yoshiyuki was often angry at me and said to me, 'You're too slow!' I can see now that what I was writing at that time was not a script but a novel.
This app is a text adventure, so I basically needed to convey the fun of the game through text alone. I thought that a novelist would be more suitable than an anime scriptwriter.
The abundance of talent in the light novel industry was another reason for my recommendation. Compared to anime scriptwriters, the entrance to debut and the opportunities for success are much wider, which is a wonderful enviornment.
By the way, I never imagined that such a gorgeous group of people would gather here. I can only express my gratitude to the staff who gathered them together, and to the writers who took on the task. That's why I always look forward to reading what has been written myself."
Changes in anime fans and the direction of "Code Geass"
Another highlight of the "Code Geass Next 10 years Project" is the new animation "Z of the Recapture". Compared to 15 years ago when the first season was broadcasted, Taniguchi-san says that the demand from anime fans has changed drastically.
"I feel that the way audiences perceive animation has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, and that there is a growing demand for works that are exciting even in a short period of time. In other words, there is a need to create content that can reach a wider audience and is easy to understand.
However, this trend is not limited to animation. The same is true for dramas and comedy. One-shot performances are selling by leaps and bounds more than properly put together comedies.
Of course, there are audiences who enjoy a profound story, but that is no longer the majority. If you want to entertain your customers exactly the way you want them to, a format that allows them to switch their minds and concentrate on the show, like a movie or a video streaming site like Netflix, is more suitable.
It will be necessary to switch between the two types of enjoyment depending on the project."
Taniguchi-san also said that Japanese animation development is becoming divided into domestic and international. What kind of development is he expecting for "Z of the Recapture"?
"I would like to see the whole 'Code Geass' series, not just the 'Z of the Recapture', be developed for the domestic market first.
It's difficult to make a business out of animation with just software, so we need to develop multiple aspects such as three-dimensional products and applications in parallel. First of all, I want you to make sure that we clear the Japanese market. After that, we will expand our business to the overseas markets such as Asia and North America, as we have done with the 'Code Geass' series so far.
There are many opinions about the recent development of the animation business, but I personally do not see anything wrong with it.
In fact, Japan and the U.S. are the only countries where the private sector is involved in the animation business. In most other countries, the budget is provided as a government project, which makes it difficult to create a diversity of works because the government's policy is involved. In contrast, Japanese animation is independent, just like in the U.S., so it is free to create and earn money. For this reason, I personally believe that a business perspective is essential for anyone who makes commercial animation in Japan."
I'm glad that people love my works and fragments.
"Code Geass" has become a long-lasting piece of content, just as it was intended to be when it was first launched. When I asked Taniguchi-san about the moment when he felt "loved" by the fans, he replied with an answer unique to the anime industry.
"When voice actors Shimazaki Nobunaga and Murase Ayumi, who appeared in 'Lelouch of the Resurrection', as well as other new staff members, said, 'I used to watch Code Geass!' I felt that the work was loved by the audience. It's a complicated feeling to feel the flow of the times, but it's not an unpleasant feeling.
If they became interested in the creating side after watching 'Code Geass' and came to the animation industry, I'm happy that I was able to contribute to the industry in some way."
When asked why "Code Geass" has become a work that is loved by people of all ages, Taniguchi-san said, "To be honest, I don't know yet," revealing an episode from the time of the TV series production.
"'Code Geass' is a work that incorporates many different elements, but I don't know which specific elements were accepted by the audience. All I can say is that we were desperately working on the anime.
While I was working on the TV anime, I had no idea how the audience would react. I was so busy working at the studio that I couldn't even go to the preview of the 24th and 25th episodes of the first series. There were times when I was worried that maybe it wasn't going to work. That's why the contribution of the sales staff at the time, who were involved in the work but could take a step back and analyze it, was so important."
I wanted to write a work in which I could play a leading role.
For Ookouchi-san, "'Code Geass' is still my favorite work, and it is an important work that we all created together." As a screenwriter, there are certain points that he likes about it.
"In 'Code Geass', I like the fact that the main character doesn't just ride a robot.
I've always liked characters who think and are strong rather than characters who fight and are strong. However, in robot anime, the main character riding a robot and fighting is the best part of the story. Ever since I was a child, I have had mixed feelings about whether the person who wins first prize in the running race would also be the main character in the anime world (lol).
If a person who uses their brain and is good at thinking can also be the best in the world of anime, it would be such a wonderful thing. That's why I'm very happy to be able to portray a hero like Lelouch who fights with his brains.
In 'Code Geass', there is room for someone like me who is weak in fighting to play an active role. I'd love to recommend this anime to my childhood self, who thought I couldn't play a leading role.
At the script meeting, we dealt with several stories at the same time. This meant that they had to go back to previous episodes and revise lines, or add episodes themselves to make the story even more exciting.
"Some of them were written in one night," recalls Ookouchi-san. "The seventh episode of the first season ("Shoot Cornelia") was not in the composition. But then a new enemy named Cornelia would appear, and they would lose the first battle. Such a character would not be scary as an enemy in the second half. So, before episode 8 ("The Black Knights"), I put in a story to show Cornelia's strength. That way, the story of Lelouch starting the Black Order would be more convincing. So I asked the producer, Kawaguchi Yoshitaka, to let me add episode 7 because I would write it in one day, and I wrote it all night."
"Code Geass" started from a losing battle
Taniguchi-san and Ookouchi-san have worked together on a number of works since their first collaboration on the science fiction anime "Planetes" broadcast in 2003.
"Director Taniguchi and I are comrades, but the first battle we fought together was a losing battle. Our first collaboration, 'Planetes', turned out to be a wonderful work that I'm still proud of, and the staff felt very fulfilled. But compared to other Sunrise works at the time, there was a huge gap in sales. In reality, 'Planetes' didn't do badly at all, and was in the black, but at the time I felt a sense of defeat on my own.
I think of a scriptwriter as a kind of chief of operations to the work. For 'Planetes', there were many wonderful people who worked on it, including Taniguchi-san, who would later work with me on 'Code Geass', as well as Senba Yuriko, Nakata Eiji, Maruta Kazuya, and many others, but it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. It was very frustrating to see those people not get the recognition they deserved.
That's why I wanted to make the upcoming 'Code Geass' a winning battle. I wanted to shout, 'My comrades and Taniguchi Goro are so amazing!'"
Director Taniguchi, on the other hand, spoke of the trust that has been built up through their long relationship.
"Talking about Ookouchi-san is like one half of a comic duo evaluating the other.
If I may venture to say so , with mad respect for his abilities, Okochi Ichirou and Taniguchi Goro probably have different goals. But as long as they are on the ship 'Code Geass', they are moving in the same direction. That's why there are no conflicts and I can trust him."
When I asked for a final message to the "Code Geass" fans, both of them expressed their gratitude without hesitation, saying, "Thank you so much for your support."
Ookouchi-san added, "Both the app and the new anime have been created by talented people who love the 'Code Geass' franchise. I'm sure everyone will be happy, and I myself am looking forward to the completion."
Director Taniguchi made a meaningful comment, "Lelouch's story has come to an end with 'Resurrection', but that doesn't mean that Lelouch won't appear in the future."
"I think I've done all I can with the story centering on Lelouch. I'm looking forward to seeing how other people will discover new ways to play around with 'Code Geass' in the future," he said, giving us hope that the game will continue to expand.
The two projects in the "Code Geass Next 10 years Project" are sure to be enjoyed by fans of the first series, as well as those who started with the app and new anime. Let's keep an eye out for further news.