Jun Fukuyama & Makoto Ueza (Seiyuu Men Vol. 19 2020)

福山 潤

Fukuyama: You graduated from art college, right? Didn’t you originally aim to be a screenwriter? Ueza: That’s right. I was not good at studying, but I went to art college only because I was good at drawing. Since I had a part-time web-related job, I was vaguely thinking that I might become a web designer in the future. However, I had absolutely no desire to improve myself, so I dropped out of college with excellent grades (laughs). I had nothing to do, so I was making a website and playing around with it. Fukuyama: So, there is such a scout (laughs). What kind of website was that? Ueza: The appendix of the TV magazine, I’m a good adult, but I play seriously and write stupid sentences. A guy who was writing interesting sentences on mpage. It was time to become a hero. Fukuyama: Yes, it’s a so-called text site. “Samurai Spirit” and “Chiyu 12-year-old” were popular. Ueza: That’s right. I changed the banner exchange with “Chiyu 12-year-old”. It was a relatively popular text and was introduced in magazines.

Fukuyama: You were like a popular YouTuber (laughs). But you had no experience writing scenarios. Did you learn your screenwriting skills from there? Ueza: That is, in my case, there was a period of training. I didn’t have anything to do with it, and as soon as I came to Tokyo, I was given the chance to write a script, which became my debut work. I believe that the TV anime “Ground Defense Force Mao-chan” and the game “Yumeria” were around the same time. Fukuyama: That’s amazing. It’s completely different from the creative activities you were doing on your website. Ueza: I had nothing to lose, and I think I was able to do my best because I was taught by Yosuke Kuroda-san, the screenwriter and master of the script, that I was not going to be killed, so do my best. It’s a golden saying.

Fukuyama: As far as I know, Ueza-san has a glaring image, which is rare for screenwriters. Ueza: Huh? I didn’t mean to do that at all. It’s good (laughs). Fukuyama: No, no, this is a compliment. It’s not about fighting back or being scared, it’s hard to see people who have the feeling of “I’ll definitely make something interesting!” and “Don’t hide that feeling.” I won’t take it. Ueza: That’s because of the influence of my teacher, Kuroda-san, and the animation director Seiji Kishi-san, who I’ve been working with since I was young. Both of them are very energetic people and they are the type to pull people along, so I think it’s a skill that I acquired as a result of trying to match their stride. Are you by nature extremely introverted and happiest when you are building plastic models in your room? (smile).

Fukuyama: That’s right. Ueza: On the contrary, from my point of view Fukuyama-san is a complete top ranker. Fukuyama: Thank you (laughs). Ueza: When I want to call Fukuyama-san I feel that it’s a card that can’t be cut normally when there is a chance of success or a clear plan for the work. Fukuyama: The first time I got the chance to appear in Ueza-san’s work was the role of the assistant in “Humanity has declined.”  Ueza: That’s right, the assistant is a character who doesn’t speak at all, so I was so sorry that you didn’t have a line even though I called such a big name, so I couldn’t go to the meeting (laughs).

Fukuyama: It was a so-called cameo appearance, which was popular at the time. sound director Riki Iida-san and Director Kishi-san were laughing the whole time (laughs). Ueza: That’s completely the fault of those two (laughs). Fukuyama: Because he asked me to be handsome and cute. Ueza: Even though there are almost no lines (laughs).

Fukuyama: Ueza-san, when you write a script, to what extent do you imagine a play or a picture? Ueza: I wrote the play and the pictures with everything already taken into account. I don’t have many big-budget jobs where I can handle an unlimited budget, so I have to think first about how to finish with a limited budget and ingenuity. We started by clarifying our vision of how we would make it and how we would call it a success if it as received by our customers. Should we set a sales target for software such as Blu-Ray and make it for core fans, or should we ignore sales and raise viewer rating for a wide range of people? Because of that, even if it’s the same original, the method will be quite different. In any case, the vision of the finished product must be clearly shown, and the person who speaks vaguely will die first. It’s a world that goes on.

Fukuyama: That’s why it’s necessary to have as much of an image of the play and picture as possible at the stage of writing the script. Ueza: That’s right. Of course, we’ll decide that together with the director and producers, but since the script is the first deliverable, it’s necessary to clearly show where the work is heading. Fukuyama: How far do you think about casting? Ueza: I heard some voices while I was writing. There are times when I have an image, but I don’t really feel like, “This is the only person!” Even if it’s an original work, I basically don’t address it. However, when I wrote Ron, who Fukuyama-san played in “Laidbackers,” Fukuyama-san’s voice might have crossed my mind a little. The number of people who can understand gag breathing is limited.

Fukuyama: Certainly, Ueza-san, you also participate in the casting meeting, don’t you? Ueza: Of course. I also put in some requests for each character. However, I think that the cast line-up is the same as that of a theatre company, so if my first choice is the main character, even if it is decided, the balance may collapse depending on the face that solidifies the surroundings. That’s really difficult, and it’s the part that gives me headaches every time. Fukuyama: I understand very well. I played the final boss named Namikoshi in “Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace,” but actually, I originally auditioned for the role of Hashiba. At the same time, I also felt that if I were to do Hashiba, the other casting would be quite a headache. Ueza: No, that’s exactly right. This is a hypothetical story, but for example, if Takahiro Sakurai-san was already decided to play the main character, Akechi, and Fukuyama-san joined as Hashiba, this would be Rie Takahashi-san (playing Kobayashi, a newcomer at the time), and it will be very troublesome.

Fukuyama: That’s why I was really convinced when the main group was announced. To be honest, at the audition I had a pretty good feeling about it, but in the end, I see. Ueza: You’re clever. Everything is predictable. As you say, it’s sometimes difficult for skilful people to build their own decks. Fukuyama: I think I’ve experienced a lot of works so far, but when everyone on set is solidified by talented and popular people, there are times when I feel that it’s really difficult. People with ability have a strong sensory perception of the troupe, so when they feel that it is a work in which they can fully demonstrate their abilities, they naturally do their best. However, when that happens, the computer that connect and bundles them. The rol of the conductor is important, isn’t it? I feel that it is the same as saying to that person, “Dedicate yourself to your role as a conductor.” It was quite difficult to take on such a job because everyone was highly capable and able to demonstrate their abilities to the fullest. If there is even an inexperienced newcomer among them, the situation will change completely, and I think that a different way of being will be born. Ueza: That’s why I think the anime cast members are part of a theatrical company. Before the pandemic, we would always have a drinking party after dubbing because for us, it was also to assess that kind of relationship, or to take care of our weak points.

Fukuyama: I see. That’s right. Ueza: I think that the conductor on set should be one of the actors, but if it’s outside the set, we can go around to help. I think it’s the staff’s role to soothe people who seem to be in a bad mood, and to cheer them up when they’re depressed. First of all, I like actors, and more than anything else, I believe that a work that the actors don’t enjoy will inevitably fail. Fukuyama: Ueza-san’s words and deeds have helped me a lot, so I think I can understand how you compare the cast to a theatre company. Especially in “Assassination Classroom,” at the beginning he said, “If you have any questions about the dialogue, please tell me anything.” Ueza: In “Assassination Classroom,” Fukuyama-san acted clearly as a conductor. It was very easy for us to do it because he was kind enough to do it for us.

Fukuyama: “Assassination Classroom” is a special work for me. It was through that work that I became deeply involved with my juniors for the first time. Ueza: It’s true that your impression of Fukuyama-san has changed considerably with this work. Until then, you were somewhat of a lone wolf. Fukuyama: That’s right. Until then, I had decided not to get too involved with other people. I felt presumptuous about giving advice and pointing out things, and I didn’t really know how to get involved. However, in my opinion, it is fair to point out how to make a better work, but if you make a mistake, you will hurt the other person, and if you do it poorly, it will lead to vandalism. Things that weren’t a problem a long time ago in the easy-going days are very different now. Ueza: Of course, it depends on how you say it, but these days it’s hard to give caution or point it out.

Fukuyama: Even if I presented an opinion, it was up to the other person to decide whether or not to accept it, and my stance was that I would never say, “Do this.” However, I felt that this work alone would not go well with that stance. Koro-sensei educates the students while leading them to the future where he will die, but that is by no means a one-way education. Koro-sensei also received a lot of things from the students and piled them up. You can finally reach that climax by going through the motions, right? In that sense, I thought that I, who played Koro-sensei, would not be successful unless I received something from everyone. I wasn’t confident that changing the way I had been doing things would work, and it’s not like I was able to do it properly, but if I hadn’t been deeply involved with my juniors in that way, I wouldn’t have been able to do that climactic play. In that sense, this work was a turning point in my life. Ueza: About five years have passed since then, and now that I’m talking to you like this, it makes a lot of sense to me. Before, Fukuyama-san was so cool that I wondered if there was anything fun in life (laughs).

Fukuyama: Oh, Nobuhiko Okamoto-san said that to me. Ueza: At that time, Fukuyama-san replied, “I try not to create unnecessary conflicts.” But “Assassination Classroom” is a memorable work because even as a staff member like us, we have never been so involved in it in our lives. Fukuyama: In the first place, “Assassination Classroom”, it was a progression that the anime would end at about the same time, wasn’t it? This is a genuine question, but was that what you had in mind from the beginning? Ueza: That’s right. Shuesha proposed a plan to complete the live-action film and TV animation at the same time as the original work. However, in order to do that, we had to make the first half of the first season a success, and whether or not we could do the second season, which was the final version, depended on that. First of all, pitching with full power in the first term. As a result, it was very well received and we decided to do a second season, but when that happened, it was already a rage.

Fukuyama: At the time Ueza-san was writing the script, the original was still in the process of being serialized. Ueza: I wrote the last 10 episodes of the anime with the help of the author, Yusei Matsui-sensei. “Assassination Classroom” is a story in which the ending is decided from the beginning, so the path was already clear to Matsui-sensei. What’s more, he was very interested in the idea of ending the series at the same time as the anime. Thank you for your cooperation until the end. That’s why the 24th episode of the 2nd season, where everything comes together and bears fruit, had to be legendary, and we, the staff, were also burning with passion.

Fukuyama: In episode 24, there was no commercial during the main story. Ueza: That’s right. I decided to do that at the screenplay stage, and I’m preparing for it. Fukuyama: That’s right. As far I’m concerned, I don’t think that everything went well with the play, but I learned a lot during that time, including how I behaved on set. I think have reached the point where I can get confirmation that if that is the case, I should definitely think like this. Even if Matsui-sensei said otherwise, I would think, “No, I agree.” Later, when I checked the answers with Matsui-sensei, they were correct, so I’m glad I didn’t make any mistakes. But I think the reason I was able to believe so much because I threw away my previous style and approached the site, and that changed my sense of values. It was the first work in my life that made me seriously think about accepting others. Ueza: When such a change occurs to the task at hand if you’re doing your best, it’s nice, isn’t it? What does it mean to work hard. That kind of thing happens and it’s great I think it’s a wonderful experience. Fukuyama: Have you ever felt a change in your state of mind while being treated? Ueza: That’s right. Fukuyama: You mean now? Ueza: That’s right. Over the age of 40 and I think that the change in the way I work due to the influence of COVID-19 is a big factor, but I feel like I have to change direction.

Fukuyama: How is that? Ueza: The work that I have done so far has been to present a concrete image of the finished product as much as possible so as to not to cause misunderstandings among many staff members. That’s what it’s all about. It’s strange to say it myself, but I’m quite good at that kind of dexterity, and I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do. Up until now, I have felt joy in demonstrating that ability, and I have been asked to do so by those around me. But now, I’m no longer satisfied with such a clever way of doing things in that way. I can’t write a single line. I can’t write unless I’m genuinely satisfied with the lines and actions.

Fukuyama: I think I understand that feeling. When I was young, I also enjoyed watching the storyboards drawn only by Maryu and Ten and replaying the lines of the other characters in my mind and thinking about a play that would fit them perfectly. I was happy that the plan was perfect. But now it’s getting harder. Ueza: Yes, I used to feel a sense of satisfaction in suing technology to put the pieces of the puzzle together. I feel in my body that I can’t fight like that. Fukuyama: Compared to us, screenwriters spend more time working on a single work, so maybe that’s why they feel that way. Ueza: No matter how many anime scriptwriters write, at most they write about four works a year. Moreover, I tend not to agree with other people’s scenarios, so I have to rewrite all the stories myself as part of the series composition, so the number of works is narrowed down more and more. When I think about it, I realized that I can’t write so many numbers in my life anymore. That’s why each and every one of my future works will be a posthumous work. That’s why I can’t be happy unless I write something that I’m really satisfied with. People around me tell me, “Please do it with small skills as usual,” but physically and mentally I can’t do that anymore. So now, for the first time in my life, I chose a job. I’m doing a lot of things.

Fukuyama: Is that so? Now it’s true, you write what you want to write. Ueza: That’s right. All of the things I’m working on now are original works, but I don’t think about other people when I write them, and I put a lot of emphasis on whether I’m satisfied with them. However, every now and then, my bad habits show up, and I think it would be fun to have a character like this here (laughs). But I feel like I can write what I like without trying to impress people, and that makes me happy. Fukuyama: That is truly a new frontier. What kind of work do you think the work you are preparing now will turn out to be? Ueza: The themes that have never been dealt with before, such as LGBT and poverty, are hidden in the setting, and even I’m surprised. I never thought about it, but I actually wanted to make a work that touched on various social issues like this.

Fukuyama: Looking back, you had that kind of taste in “Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace”, didn’t you? Ueza: It was indeed a rough stone. However, at that time it was still rough, and even though there were many things I wanted to do, I couldn’t grasp the balance of how to express them. As an extension of that, you probably want to write something more thorough. Up until now, I have made it my theme to write stories for the weak, but I think this will become even more pronounced in the future.

Fukuyama: Sounds interesting. Are there any themes or genres that you would like to write about in the future? Ueza: It’s a true story. The movies “Argo” and “Dallas Buyers Club” are both true stories, but they’re all very touching. It would be great if an anime like that could be made someday. I have all the actual materials, so it’s fun to order the setting and art (laughs). Fukuyama: Well, listening to what you have said so far, Ueza-san may be struggling right now, and it may be a difficult time, but when I look at it from the outside, I think it’s interesting. Ueza: It is true that I’m still searching and struggling, but I’m also enjoying the changes. I was just an otaku who just liked robots and riders, but the day will come when I think like this. I really don’t understand life (laughs).

Fukuyama: I agree. I’m originally an otaku (laughs). But now, I think that what I really want to do as a play is a normal conversation in a normal living room. Ueza: If you can move people’s hearts with a play of ordinary everyday conversation, that’s already the best for an actor, isn’t it? Fukuyama: In the end, no matter how far I go, I guess I want to play “human subtleties.” Ueza: I also want to draw the same thing. Of course, it will be fine if there were flashy things like coalescence and transformation after that, but that’s where it starts. I’m deeply moved by the fact that Fukuyama-san and I are both in our 40s and have come to think that way again. Fukuyama: Really. I’m very excited to see what kind of works Ueza-san will write in the future.


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