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Below is a transcript of the interview with Berserk's TV producer, Toshio Nakatani. Big thanks to ZKK for providing me with the transcript. You can see the actual interview on Media Blasters Region 1 Berserk DVD release (on the 5th disc). In red is the interviewer, in white is Mr. Nakatani.

We're here to talk to Mr. Nakatani, the producer of Berserk about the making of Berserk as an animation series. As a producer, I am sure you're always looking for good stories to animate. Could you please tell us how you came across Berserk and why you chose to animate it? The point of this project was that it was to be animated for television. It wasn't made for video distribution. Berserk was made to be broadcast on TV. It was aired on late night TV. So the targeted audience was limited. If you broadcast during prime time, kids as well as adults are your audience. Broadcasting late at night gave us the opportunity to target a wide and young adult audience who've begun to understand the ways of the world. This time slot did not originally belong to an animation but to a variety show. This project's first consideration was how to create an animation that could fit this time slot. We realized that a typical animation would not work. We had to breakdown stereotypes and to turn the known parameters on their sides. It had to be something with a strong impact. That's where it started. I've been an anime producer for a long time. It's not something most producers would have chosen to be made for TV. This story isn't my typical choice for an animation. But I chose it because that it itself would create an impact. That and the great story line itself. The reason it was difficult to adapt to TV was its violent content. But behind the violence is the passion and the struggles of the young people. I wanted to make this come to life. And the late-night time slot allowed me to try something totally new. It seemed like the perfect match, that's why I chose it.
I see, so this was a challenging project. Most definitely. This project began in 1997. There was an animation boom in Japan at the time. There were about 60 new animations being created in Japan. The market was over saturated. Nihon TV wasn't broadcasting anything during the late night slot back then. But other stations, this isn't very nice to say but... the quality was so poor that you could barely watch them. Most of them were not up to TV standards. So if Nihon TV were to go this route we decided to do it head on, to put everything into it. We spent more money on production than prime time does. This cost 1.5-2 times more than a prime time production does... That's how much effort was put into it. Although it was late night, if we could make an impact and send our message the production costs would be offset in many ways. We were thinking pretty positive.
I'm sure you encountered many difficulties in adapting this story to animation. There are many violent scenes, there's a lot of slicing and dicing, if you will... it is a story with a lot of blood. What were some of your concerns when you were adapting this to animation? Regarding the violence, unfortunately, it was horrible timing. At that time, there was the very well known murders in Kobe where a young child was committing gruesome murders. And so the question was how to regulate violence on TV. That was our main concern. Of course, we were not happy about this violence. And there's nothing about it that we condone. But on the other hand, the story takes place in Medieval Europe so there were things that could only be expressed with violence. Part of their identities could only be portrayed violently and their passions were hidden behind their violence and battles. It's a story about life, death, and friendship. So rather than take the violence out of it, it was important for me to use the violence to express these things. I don't think watching this would make people violent. And I don't think our viewers are that stupid. It would be like trying to put a lid on something that smells bad. Covering up the violence won't accomplish anything. We show the violence, but if we can show their passions as well... we, including children, can take the violence head on and think about it. Regarding how we portray it in other animations, it's common to use a white or blue flash of light to portray blood when someone has been cut. But rather than make it an abstract thing with white or blue light blood is red, and it hurts, like I mentioned before if you portray it honestly, you can see it for what it is. This is something I feel very strongly about.
I'm sure when you were readapting the story you had to make many decisions about the storyline and the characters to remain 100% true to the original would be extremely difficult. There are only 25 episodes in one season. Could you please talk about some of your concerns and things you absolutely had to cut out in the process of adapting the story. As far as the storyline goes, there is a pivotal event called "the Great Eclipse". You will know what I am talking about if you've seen it. It is the end of a segment of the story. Berserk is a fantasy animation, but the Great Eclipse ends on a very dark and gloomy note. We went back and forth about ending it at the Great Eclipse but we felt the theme was a priority. Like I mentioned earlier, we wanted to express their struggles and passions. There were young passionate characters in the Band of Hawk and we opted to prioritize their characters. And at the very end, when you see the Great Eclipse you get a sense of their ferocity. And the emptiness and their breakdown can be a part of youth experience. I wanted to broadcast up until the Great Eclipse so I could convey this. There is a character named Puck who appears in the original story. We went back and forth on this, too. In the original Berserk comic by Mr. Miura Puck plays a major role and is integral to Berserk but in the animation of Berserk, Puck was taken out of the picture and it diminishes the fantastical nature a bit but the lead characters, and Guts and Griffith's passion, became the focus and became the common thread throughout the series. So with Mr. Miura's permission, it was decided.
The music for this project, Mr. Hirasawa's music is a perfect fit. What are some of the things you discussed with Mr. Hirasawa? It was very simple. Mr. Miura, the author of the original story, is a genius. Only he could write something like this. He draws every tiny detail by himself. The music that he listened to while he created this world was that of Mr. Hirasawa. In a way, the music he listened to while he was making Berserk created Berserk. So it makes total sense to bring this music to the animation of Berserk. It's a perfect match. Mr. Mirua wanted it as well. This is shop talk but musically, there are things that work together and things that don't. As I mentioned earlier, one of our goals was to breakdown walls and parameters. So there were disagreements with the record company, but we went for it with Mr. Hirasawa, and fortunately he agreed. We discussed the concepts and he created music that would match perfectly. We all feel that Mr. Hirasawa's music took Berserk to yet another level.
This is a personal question. I'm sure you've had a lot of encounters with movies and animations before becoming an animation producer. Could you please tell us about any animations or movies that have been influential to you? With regards to animations there are the ones that are representative of my generation but Mobile Suit Gundam is one of my favourites. It's a pretty run of the mill animation. It is a robot story but, like I mentioned earlier ones with human struggle as a theme, young people's concerns like we see in Berserk, that's what Mobile Suit Gundam is about. There were a number of animations but this may surprise you, but actually, I wanted to make documentaries when I came to work at this station. When I was a student, I went to Tibet and all sorts of places. I went down the Yukon River, it's quite popular in North America, river rafting in a rubber boat down the Yukon River in Canada. I also spent time on the Tibet-India border and I was wondering how I could convey a certain thing? And by conveying it, how would the viewers respond? That's what I wanted to do, that's why I came here. But I grew up with manga and anime. So eventually I came to see the beauty of these things that were created. And I think that animation was the most direct route to achieve my goals.
What sort of movies do you like? Mr. Miura will tell you that he likes fantasy movies like Berserk but I like the blockbuster movies. I like Hollywood blockbuster movies more than the minor films. I like the Hollywood scores and the big productions. I just like Hollywood-style movies. There are some Japanese films that I really like, but I don't think anyone would know them. When it comes to foreign films, let's see, what do I like... I do watch a lot of movies, probably dozens a year but I can't really name any. It's difficult. I like many different kinds of movies.
Our last question. This is to your fans in the U.S. The Berserk DVD's are a huge hit in the U.S and many people have told us that they cannot wait to see the next volume. Do you have a message to your fans in the U.S.? Thank you very much for watching. It would mean a lot to us if you could catch even a glimpse our passion for this project. From here on out, the true theme that lies dormant, the theme behind the theme... the various things that surface when humans engage in their battles like nihilism or hope or despair. If we can get this across, the secrets of those emotions this project will be a success. The manga Berserk still continues so as a producer, I would like to continue to animate the story beyond the Great Eclipse. If and when this happens I hope that you will continue to watch and that we will continue to hear from you. Thank you very much.
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