We have now come to know that the new cg Vampire Hunter D series will be called Vampire Hunter D resurrection. We found this out as the people behind the project pictures’ Kurt Rauer and Scott McLean. The two are bring the series here first to do an hour long episode series run. Which is unheard of in Japan for an episode where they will do it for a movie. You can learn this and more in the conversation listed below. Vampire Hunter D has you following a vampire hunter named D who is a dampire part vampire part human. This new series is being said to follow the novels which will be different for those who followed the animated movies as this gives are first look into his story. To be far it is a lot to read so make sure you have some time to read this.
“Zac Bertschy: So for starters: how did this projected get started? How did you decide “we’re going to do an animated TV series for Vampire Hunter D?”
Kurt Rauer: That’s a two-part question.
Scott McLean: Yeah, a two part question. I’ll field the first one. It started with me. I got an email that said, “Hey, can we chat?” Got a phone call from Japan saying, “would you meet with some friends of mine?” [These were] some people we have business relations over there, and I said “sure.” And that’s literally all I had, “would you meet with some friends?” Came home one night, got on Skype, and I had some people tell me “we’ve acquired a bunch of IPs to existing and yet-to-be-published properties, and we’d like to find a way to expand into the US domestic market. Because, currently, what is done with a lot of Japanese entertainment does not penetrate well into the broader American market and we’re looking for a US-based production company that we could partner with to do that.” And so that brought this whole discussion about over the last several months of, well, “how do we form a true partnership so that it would truly serve the function… how do we take a wonderful IP and make it something that has broad appeal, both to the US domestic audience and the international market?” So that’s a bit about how this started in really short form.
Kurt: And there were a few things that Digital Frontier had in their catalogue that they were interested in finding some way to exploit. So we had seen a number of different ideas, a number of different existing properties, and when VHD came up we both looked at each other and said, “Is it true that they have it? What rights do they have?” and “This is probably something that goes really well between East and West.” So we got back to them and said, “can we have a conversation about Vampire Hunter D specifically?” That was really our first roundtable Skype with the guys at Digital Frontier. We found them to be really open and interested in new ideas. At the end of that conversation, we sort of went away and had a think about the best way to exploit this and the best way to present it to a US audience. So we came up with a short-form list of ideas to take back to them. A week later, [we] got back on the phone and presented the idea of using VHD as a springboard for animated feature television. And when I say that, it means to me, at least, high quality, one-hour dramatic series with a season-long arc. So the easiest thing is to say, think of it as an animated version of a Game of Thrones. We presented that to them and asked: does one hour feature animation work in Japan? And their answer was “no, but our audience does not has an issue at all with breaking up episodes.” So you say great. So the novel way to approach the US market is to do it in this fashion, and I think we can get some traction. And so they said, “look, we believe that’s where the best possible result could be is to have a US-led broadcast, so let’s go with that idea.” Which was encouraging and slightly surprising that they were willing to work together in such a complementary fashion, so that launched us on the way, actually, in my mind, was that conversation of them being open enough to say, “what we have in Japan could work in the US and your ideas on how to exploit it seem to be complementary with our own.”
Zac: That’s weird that they said hour-long animated programming doesn’t work in Japan. In so far as I can tell it’s never been attempted. There’s one production that tried it and it was kind of a success, so I’m surprised they said, “No, it doesn’t work here.”
Kurt: I’ll bet that’s why. I bet it is the untried, and it could’ve been lost a little in translation that what they really meant was: it hasn’t been proven in Japan. However, look, if we could figure out… our goal, just to cut to the chase, is to do ten to twelve episode seasons, so think a ten-hour season with a season-long arc and then a show-based arc as well.
Zac: So Vampire Hunter D as a property has a history of being more popular in the West than it is in Japan. It’s always performed here a little bit better than it has over there. The books sell here pretty well, the movies, you know, Bloodlust was produced for an American audience, it was produced in English. Did you look at that and think, “okay, this is a property with crossover potential, this is an obvious fit?” Is it more like you had the idea for the hour-long animated drama and Vampire Hunter D fit into that mold, or the idea for an hour-long animated show for adults came out of the opportunity to work with something Vampire Hunter D?
Kurt: It was the latter of the two.
Scott: Definitely. For me, I remember… for Kurt and I, when we started talking about this, when we realized this was one of the properties that we could start a project with them on… We both really liked the 1985 film. It was kind of an eye opener of “hey, this stuff exists” when we were younger. For me, when reading the novel for the first book, which was made into the first movie, you can see what they changed to make it fit in a one-and-a-half-hour feature format. As I compare the two and you look at what’s being done with feature television right now, and seeing what other book properties have been adapted to both film and television, I think we can say that you can really use a lot more of the material in the book in the premium television format. With today’s cable market you don’t have to censor a lot, so you can put in the hard-hitting stuff that you really want to tackle as a part of your story, so you don’t have to lose that coming out of the novels. You don’t have to winnow it down to fit a really constrained time frame that tells your story, like you do with a film. And with the breadth of the novel series, we could explore a lot more in that series format. So I think that the series format really lends itself well to the kind of story we’re wanting to tell, that we have with this property.
Zac: Right. And so, is the idea to basically just adapt the novels?
Kurt: No. The idea is to take the universe and to draw out of the universe, arcs. We have the ability to adapt novels and there may be storylines in there that are supportive of that, but I think that we go into it with a much more open mind. I think that what led us to believe that feature TV is the right way to go is the fact that the universe is so well described. George Martin’s universe is fairly well put together. You could take and make feature TV out of Dungeons and Dragons or Dragonlance universe, you can do the same thing in the Star Wars universe, because it’s so well thought out. Outlander is another version of that, where it’s very well described. Because of the scope of the novels and the detail in the novels, that’s what led us to believe it is an evergreen version. If we were to do a dramatic one-hour and it isn’t purely going to be trying to adapt a novel. I think that they’ve had a difficult time–I think Bloodlust was successful, but somewhat compromised, because they were trying to fit so much into a two-hour time frame.
Zac: Yeah, you’re right, and I’m actually relieved to hear you say that. To me that’s a big “oh, great,” because frankly those novels, people read them and everything, but what you’re talking about, that’s much more exciting. It’s “we’re going to take this universe and these characters and we’re going to create compelling television out of that,” instead of slavishly adapting these novels that have been around for a long time. I think that’s refreshing and I think fans will actually respond to that.
Zac: So, Taliesin, you gotta tell us your experience with the franchise, you’re an old school anime fan. Were you always into Vampire Hunter D? I can’t imagine you weren’t.
Taliesin Jaffe: I had never heard of Vampire Hunter D until about ten minutes ago.
Taliesin: I came up with Streamline Pictures kids and I was a goth kid, so I was a Vampire Hunter D fan from back in the original release. I even have, somewhere in my house I’ve gotta find it, a beautiful Amano sketch that he made for me of Vampire Hunter D back when he did his first gallery showing in Los Angeles–god only knows how long ago–during the 1001 Nights show. It was so long ago.
Kurt: Tim, one of our partners, did animation for Blur in 1001 Nights.
Taliesin: And it was so beautiful, it such a striking piece.
Kurt: Is it Resonate or Blur? I think it was Blur he did some animation for.
Taliesin: Just some amazing color in that show. I was actually part of a team that originally thought of doing something similar to this with Bloodlust way back in the day. I was part of the team trying to entice Universal Pictures into putting money into the production, which met the fate that a lot of these ideas back in the 1990s and early 2000s met. So I’m not only a fan of Vampire Hunter D, I’ve been a fan of the idea that this is yet another iconic anime property that deserves to become an international icon. And I’m so excited, it was at Anime LA, I believe…
Taliesin: Where Scott approached me and was like, “hey, we’d love to take a meeting,” and they brought me in saying, “do you know Vampire Hunter D?” And I was like, “well, there goes the next year of my life; funny you should say that, because I’ve done this before…” And that was so exciting and I’m a huge fan.
Kurt: Well, I think all of us… for me, and Scott I think has a similar story… Well, more specifically, for me it was the first time back in the early 80s that I realized that animation happened in other places on planet Earth. It wasn’t just Disney/Warner’s thing. It was sort of eye opening, being in early high school and seeing this. We were turned on to it very early and then started seeking it out. So, the first theatrical run of Akira that happened in Northern California, we went to go see because of what we had seen with the original D. When we saw it come back across our desks here, [we] said, “that’s the right thing to do, it’s the right timing, we believe we’re working with the right group of people, we have the ability to do this, and it’s going to be a blast to make it happen.” So it is one of those things that, through a series of happenstantial experiences, led us all into the same place. And it’s been pretty consistent with Unified Pictures as a whole. We just meet wonderful, wonderful people and it’s usually right at the optimum time.
Zac: Obviously you’re in maybe pre-pre-pre-production, wherever you’re at, before this thing really takes off. Are you in the design stage right now? Are you looking at concept art? Is that what’s happening right now?
Kurt: We’re getting to talk about visual development and look and feel. Part of our challenge, I believe, is going to be finding the right note between East and Western-style animation. So, how much can we take from a Japanese style and how much is acceptable to a broader US audience? Our goal isn’t to make this for the niche audience. We know that will be successful in that degree, but it will be very difficult to break out. So how can we still maintain the pure essence of the original art and design, yet adapt it enough so that it’s palatable for a casual US viewer? And when I say “casual,” it would be somebody that has a familiarity with Japanese-style animation, but may not be a lover of, or may not be a hardened fan. That’s the group where we believe there are many, many viewers; somebody that’s interested in a good story, well told, that has the idea that animation can be dramatic, it doesn’t just have to be for kids and it doesn’t just have to be humorous. That’s where I think we live and die. So because of that we have to put as much effort into creating a visual language that executes that statement. It will be very evolutionary. This will be very telling, a cooperative production, both East and West. So, I think for a fan it will be riveting to see whether or not it’s successful or just turns into a train wreck.
Kurt: Because it could be, all the nightmare scenarios of a co-production can exist here when you have somebody with a particular taste or flavor on one side of the production and somebody with the opposite taste or flavor… so to that end, we’re trying to hurdle that now by putting enough reference back and forth–everything from selective images from Bloodlust, to backgrounds from Bambi with the old-school multiplane and natural media look and feel–to say, “here’s some interesting things that were done with Bloodlust, some things that were done by Digital Frontier on other productions. Where do we have our strength and where do we have a weakness?
Zac: If I’m parsing you correctly here, it sounds like maybe you feel like a casual audience, is going to look at something… they know what anime is, you don’t want this to look like anime so much because maybe a more casual audience looks at that and says, “Oh that’s anime, I’m not into that,” and they just shut off?
Kurt: I think you’ve hit the problem that anime has in general in the United States is that people are able to put that limited animation into a box. They say, “it’s fun every once in a while but that’s not for me full time.”
Kurt: It’s taking that person and not allowing that person to make that decision that rashly. If we can do that quickly, and I think a picture does that, right? A visual does that. It engages somebody. If we can do that quickly, then I think we’ll be successful.
Zac: Do you have any analogues? Do you have any things you can compare it to in terms of what you’re sort of going for with the look?
Kurt: Nothing that, if it were read back, would make a lot of sense. What we’ll do over the next month is we’re going to try to get a folder of images that have different components that are either more or less successful. Digital Frontier is doing the same. With that, we’ll be able to get, I think, to a place where we have consensus. What we’re not going to be doing is subsurface scattered, true 3D, make it look like Beowulf or Mars Needs Moms or some version of that. That’s not ever going to be this show.
Zac: Yeah that makes sense. I think one of the biggest challenges is: when you say Vampire Hunter D, the audience that is familiar with it thinks of the Amano designs. Which, to this day, have always been adapted as… it’s an old-looking guy, which has always been weird to me because in the books D is described as this amazingly handsome man, but in the anime he’s kind of an old guy in a floppy hat and I feel like maybe the audience you’re looking for isn’t going to go, “oh, sexy!” and start watching it. That seems like a huge challenge, because those Amano designs are iconic, but in a sense you kind of have to get away from them, right?
Kurt: It’s interesting, because I think a Western viewer may have a harder time finding an animated character attractive.
Zac: I don’t know about that.
Kurt: That is a hypothesis. When you see Tangled, right, they try to make their 3D characters attractive. Frozen is the same thing. Where they have a larger eye, they have sort of an anime aesthetic in a way, translated into 3D, where there’s a lot of emotion in the face, a lot of emotion in the eye. The eyes are scaled up; it’s not a human proportion. And I wonder if a female finds that attractive. Or I wonder if many US males find a Tangled character attractive.
Zac: Well the reason I bring it up is you mention the audience you’re going for is pay cable drama. That stuff is sold largely on sex appeal. I figured there must be a component of that in there and if you’re going with those Amano designs it seems a little incongruous.
Kurt: I think the possible outlets are broader than pay cable. That only just happened in the last year and a half or two years? It could even be inclusive of something like The Wire or something like House of Cards. There are other outlets now, but I’m not saying that is our… We are going to be as focused on getting an HBO or getting somebody that has huge guts to put a lot behind it. Look, we can put this on HBO the way Spawn was in the 90s, where it was essential appointment TV animation. That was a big win. That spawned–Spawn? spawned?–a hundred-million-dollar feature film. The feature film killed the franchise, but the two years of broadcast–
Taliesin: Well, the lesson’s there.
Kurt: –that was the only reason that MacFarlane got a chance at bat. So HBO has enough of that vision. Could be great, but there could be other folks as well outside of the pay cable. The sex appeal? Absolutely. I think that there is something that needs to be brought back from the original Amano design that maybe got lost a little in animation.
Taliesin: For me, for the original design it’s not about the face, it’s about the grace. That’s something that’s been brought up a lot; we’ve been talking about how to translate Vampire Hunter D. There is a natural grace to what they want in the animation and what’s going to try and be built is something that moves beautifully. I think the movement is where you’re going to get that character. The face… I mean like, I dunno, Tom Hiddleston’s not…
Kurt: Well, they did a little paintcept the other day and the paintcept was actually attractive. It was slightly 3D-ish and it was way more successful with D than it was for the secondary character they did–which was, the human stuff was, “bleeh.” But D had an earthly glow about him, a softness, a slightly porcelain-ness, which I think is true of vampires in general. I thought that was interesting. But the point you make is a good one, which is: it is refining him to be in persona, in animation, to be unearthly and to have that inner confidence that, to be honest, with limited animation was probably quite difficult for them to achieve in the two movies.
Zac: That’s a good point that Taliesin makes about translating not necessarily the exact aesthetic Amano had, but the flow of his lines and the way movement is portrayed in his art, that’s arguably a more important element of his art to translate to the screen. But based on this conversation, it sounds like right now this is in a lot of different pieces and you’re coming to the hardest part of this, which is: what’s this show going to look like and who is it going to appeal to? And it sounds like that is a big challenge.
Kurt: Yeah. I think our audience is an audience that is probably in that more male demographic. It’s a 15-45 year-old audience because of the number of iterations. I think we can get the younger viewers, we can get guys like me that’ve seen the original. I think the depth of the story and the depth of the universe may lead female viewers to be interested.
Taliesin: Oh, I have no doubt.
Kurt: So I think that kind of works. But it is, we are intentionally going into the world of the unknown. This isn’t something that we’re just retreading, that we can run a pro-forma on, something that’s already been done. This is trying to break the mold both in its production style and manner as well as, in some regards, possibly the audience. So there will be… we will, by necessity, have to find somebody who has vision on the distribution front.
Zac: Creatively, Taliesin: in your head when they say, “we’re doing Vampire Hunter D as an hour-long serial… I keep using the word “cable,” but just because it’s evocative of the audience you guys are going for. An hour-long serial cable drama: what pops into your head? Immediately, what comes to mind?
Taliesin: I’m always a little hesitant to do that just because I know the things that pop into my head are not necessarily going to make the same bouquet of imagery in someone else’s head. But I’ll say the first thing I thought when they pitched this to me is, “oh god I get to do an animated Hannibal.”
Zac: Oh okay, interesting, all right.
Taliesin: It was my first thought. “Oh god, it’s the opposite of Hellsing, I’m so happy.” It’s big, it’s horror, it’s romantic, it’s post-apocalyptic, and it’s getting to take this thing from all of these novels and build this companion piece for them in this fascinating way. There are things that we can’t talk about, and it’s driving me absolutely nuts, of the way this is coming together and it’s so unique and interesting and I can’t wait to do another one of these where we can talk more.
Kurt: It’s Fallout meets H.P. Lovecraft.
Zac: Well that’s interesting. You mention horror. I’m curious. Do you see it; for a modern audience, do you see this more as a horror thing or as a gothic, romantic fantasy?
Taliesin: I hate to pigeonhole it.
Scott: I think that we’ll actually cross a lot of those lines for people that have multiple interests. As we talk about the wide range, because of the depth of this property and the number of novels, I think great storytelling kind of trumps everything. If we truly have that focus of bringing this universe in a new visual medium, a new look and feel with an amazing story, if we do our job right I think we’ll cross those lines. People who are like “I’ll give it a chance because I like this, it appeals to this part of me and I’ll watch it.” So it’s not purely what their core thing is, but they’re like, “this is pretty good, yeah.” So for the horror people, it’ll give them a little something. For the monster movie people, it’ll give them a little something. I think we can meet that broad appeal.
Taliesin: Genre functions best when it’s juggling. We can talk about great genre classics, but I think there’s no denying that things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Doctor Who are at their best and most memorable when they’re more than one thing, those episodes that are funny and whimsical and frightening all at the same time. Those are the moments when those shows really really shine is when they’re managing to be as much as they’re capable of.
Zac: That’s a good point. Genre entertainment currently has to kind of do everything in order to be successful.
Taliesin: In order to be magnificent.
Zac: There you go. That’s the word.
Kurt: Things that we will need to find our way on. Scott and I had a great conversation with Kevin Leahy the other night and he was very open and encouraging to the endeavor. Also being interested in finding his way with us, which is very interesting in the workflow. But our next scheduled conversation will be around the universe, his understanding of it–because as far as I can tell, on a Western, English-speaking front, he’s probably the most knowledgeable person–and by doing so, we will, by necessity, have to tailor it a little more for our broader audience. Which could mean taking some liberties. How do we have Kikuchi-san understand and embrace what we may ask of those facets of the story, to indulge that liberty? So it will be interesting to unearth that. Humor isn’t really in the novels–in a Western sense. It has the potential for being–if you rewrote The Left Hand to be Lewis Black, you have the potential for this snide, put-upon, tethered character that has no choice but to be with D and he’s exactly the opposite. If he were to take form, he would be the ugliest guy in the room and D is the most beautiful. Is it something we can take a liberty with to that degree, to make it work on television, to have that level of humor and have the one-liner that is something that most Western audiences like to find? We don’t know yet. We have not proposed it.
Taliesin: I always heard the voice of Douglas Adams in The Hand. Just the wit, the never-ending, sardonic wit. Just painful.
Kurt: Is it a smart Bill Paxton? You could place all these characters in there because you know that it’s been translated and what exactly is that voice? I think, of the show, we’ll feature The Left Hand to a greater degree than is in the novels.
Zac: Really? Okay.
Kurt: We need that levity.
Zac: Well, they lean on it for levity in the original film in moments. But, to hear that it’ll be a little bit more of a standout presence is interesting. So, it terms of distribution platform, you’re talking cable, obviously this hasn’t be picked up by anybody yet, right? You’re going to produce a pilot and then pitch it?
Kurt: Correct. So we’re going to put together our presentation of this, put the team together. We will then take and do the standard pitch set and go find an outlet for it. I think it is… there is a lack of this for broadcast. So I think that we will find a receptive audience. Whether or not they pick it up is a different matter, but I do believe we’ll at least get through the front door.
Zac: Are you a little more optimistic about this getting a foot in the door at any one of the enormous streaming companies that’s spending lots and lots and lots of money on original content right now? Netflix, Hulu, Yahoo, Amazon…
Kurt: You know what? I’m completely agnostic. I think that on one side of it you have a traditional broadcaster that needs to combat those guys. So you may find an audience someplace where you don’t expect it and they say, “this is exactly what we need to not have another competitor in the stream.” So I have no opinion and I will treat them all somewhat equally. There are plusses and minuses for each platform, right?
Zac: One other thing I definitely wanted to ask about, for Taliesin: from a writing perspective Vampire Hunter D presents a challenge because there’s really only one memorable character, maybe two if you count The Hand. That character’s monolithic in that world. Looking through the books and noticing what’s popular about the films, are you concerned about being able to build a supporting cast around D? Because it’s such a monolithic character in those books, how much of a challenge do you see that as?
Taliesin: Honestly… I know I haven’t shared all of the things that I’m going to pitch at the boys at this point about people… Everyone has their list of people they want to drag into this and I know I have my list of people I want to drag into this. So with the idea of the talent that I want to throw at this in mind, my answer would be I’m not concerned at all. I think that the nice thing about such a charismatic character like D and such a fruitful world is going to be that populating it is not going to be a challenge. It’s very fertile earth and very interesting things can grow out of it, especially if we give ourselves the freedom to be more than what’s put down on paper.
Kurt: Well we’ve got twelve thousand years of…
Taliesin: A lot can happen.
Kurt: A lot can happen in twelve thousand years.
Zac: So I’ve heard.
Kurt: There’s an interesting facet of D’s persona in the books, that is the timelessness. You don’t ever really know whether he has met any one nemesis before. I think we will most likely exploit that.
Taliesin: I’ll say Doctor Who is a good example of a show that basically focuses on two characters for almost its entire run. And only one stable character and one recurring, possibly a companion who sticks around for thirteen episodes, six episodes. So I think that the ensemble cast is not necessarily a device that needs to exist, but it’s definitely one way or another to go.
Zac: Right, understood. Okay, so, for people who want to follow this project: where can they do that?
Kurt: We’re putting our site together now, which is vhdtheseries.com. We are having some naming conversations currently, whether it’s just simply Vampire Hunter D, whether we add some flavor to that, that will be coming up soon. We will have a definitive thing by the time we release. But right now, the destination is Vampire Hunter D: The Series, as generic and inspiring that is, right? Who doesn’t like that?
Taliesin: It tells you want to know, right there.
Scott: It’s simple; it’s to the point…
Kurt: It’s got “peanut butter” and “sandwich” right in the name. It’s a peanut butter sandwich, what do you want?
Scott: If people over the course of development have questions, we’ll put out development blogs, I’ll be doing videos that will be loading up to the site so that we’ll be answering questions for people. It’ll be “here’s information so that you know what’s going on as we go forward, if you have questions send them in and we’ll answer them as best we can.” That way we can keep people in the loop about what we’re doing. We don’t want to do the arm’s length distance thing, if you will – I think that’s the problem with a lot of productions in Hollywood–we’ll tell you when we’re ready to tell you and it’s a need-to-know basis. We don’t think that’s a great policy.
Kurt: It’s a good point. Letting people into the sausage factory I think is a good idea. This truly is that. As I said, it can either be wonderfully successful or a train wreck of a crash and what is interesting to me, as a guy who does this… We’re working on a $40 million version of the Aardvark and the Ark tale with John Stevenson. It is a big-budget CG movie. That’s one production methodology. This is entirely different. We’re working here where we’re doing writing and story in the US, this is what we’ve early on with the guys at Digital Frontier have laid some track on, is that… analyzing how they tell stories in Japan and analyzing how we tell stories in the United States with a more three-act structure and a more regimented way on that front, saying to the guys at DF: we think the easiest way in is to have a writing team here in the US that is translated into Japanese, that their guys get to weigh in on, and we retranslate it so it is entirely circular. It adds a ton of work, but I think that’s the only way to have this fusion function well. That in and of itself will be a fascinating journey for a fan to view. The artwork and the animation can be the same, because it will be collaborative and cooperative, we hope, and entirely novel. There will be some art generated here in the United States. It’s not a purely “we’re going to send it over and the Japanese will find a subcontractor and we’ll find the cheapest, most expeditious way to a generic look.” This is something we’re only interested in doing because of the love of the property. The result, ideally, is the thing that lasts forever. If you do crappy work it stays on the screen forever, you’re never going to be happy. The guys in Japan understand it, we understand it, and that’s what we want to convey to the fans. It really is going to be what I feel is a labor of love.
Zac: So it sounds like the process is you’re basically going to be getting notes from Kikuchi and Kawajiri on your scripts.
Kurt: So Kawajiri-san will be our supervising director. Now, whether or not some episodes are directed primarily US and some episodes are directed in Japan, that very well could be. I think we’ll have animation on both sides of the pond. We may have layout in Japan, potentially key art generated here. It will be a sausage factory, that’s the reason I used the term, is I think it’s going to be messy–but fun. And yes, going to Mr. Kikuchi to have is input, to have that input by way of Kevin Leahy is incredibly valuable. For instance, right now I don’t know why there’s no map of the universe. That’s the first thing I think a Western audience member that reads the novel asks is, “where is this place?” And one of the questions I’ll have for Kevin is: is there a map? And if so, can we expand upon it? Or did Kikuchi-san not map out the universe intentionally? And if so, why? So we’ll be respectful of either answer. I don’t think it’s for us to say to them, “hey, the Western audience likes a map, there’s going to be a map.” That’s not the spirit of the relationship and that’s not the way that I think this is a successful series is to have anything done by edict on either side.
Zac: Right. The dream, I guess, is total collaboration. It would be great if it worked out that way, that would be fantastic, but it’s good to get a breakdown of exactly how your Japanese talent will be involved, because so far mostly this sounds like an American production but you have the blessing and supervision of the people who worked on the–
Kurt: That’s not the case, no. I would say, if anything, in my mind, it’s a majority Japanese production with US writing. So even right now, the description has led to that middling ground where the perception is one and the reality could be another. I hope that it is truly that. It’s only that the writing will lead the story from a US standpoint. But it could be that animation and style is entirely derived from Japan. As long as it’s something that’s palatable, we’re asking their guys to stretch. They may have a bizdev artist who is throwing the shackles off of something and saying, “here’s an interesting take on it, what do you guys think?” And it meets with approval, because it’s not purely for a Japanese audience, so they’re able to take some risks.
Zac: Well it’s good to get that clarification and that’s important. But honestly, you know, I think at this stage, with this property, I think the only thing the fans are going to care about is whether or not it’s any good.
Kurt: I don’t think you’ll ever see it if it’s crappy, I don’t think anyone picks it up.
Kurt: You know what I mean? So, it’s simple enough.
Scott: Yeah, I don’t want, I do not want some die-hard fan coming after me and screaming at me, “you had this golden opportunity, how did you screw it up?” That’s one of the things I dearly wish to avoid.
Taliesin: I feel like I’ve had a really good batting average in my career. I haven’t put out a lot, but what I have put out I’m pretty proud of, so I’m hoping to keep that one up.
Kurt: Let me ask you a question. Do you think that American fans are interested in a truly co-produced thing? Or do you think that a large majority of the fans are interested in the art form because it is generated in Japan?
Zac: I’ll tell you, for this property you’re going to be introducing Vampire Hunter D to fifteen years, twenty years of anime fans who have no idea what it is. Anime fans, modern fans right now who are teenagers, they have no idea. Vampire Hunter D hasn’t been a thing since 2000. You’re unearthing this coffin and opening it back up and you get to reintroduce it. So, those fans will go back to… they might go back and watch an old DVD of Bloodlust or something, but your thing is going to define it for them. It’s not an established property anymore. You might as well be working with some thing from the 80s nobody’s ever heard of before. I’m not saying the IP is completely unknown, but it’s an old property that no one’s done anything with in a really long time. So you have a great opportunity, I think, to make this cool to a completely new audience.
Kurt: What does it for them? Meaning, so I have my own perception…
Zac: I’m saying on this project, they’re not going to care.
Kurt: I’m talking more broadly. In the fan base that is more interested in Japanese animation, anime specifically or manga, are they attracted to just good stories in a unique telling and that’s why the majority of the fans are there? Are they interested in… I’m trying to get a bead, in some regards, on what does a younger fan look for? I’m not a young fan anymore. So seeing Funimation’s presentation of things is unique, because it is kitschy and slightly foreign. There’s an unexplained quality to certain things that the characters do. Do you feel that is part of the attraction?
Zac: Yeah, I mean, sure. A lot of anime fans… it’s important to keep in mind that the average length of an anime fan’s existence is two years, that’s how long people stay anime fans. I’m an exception, Taliesin’s an exception. Most of them only stay fans for about two years and they’re teenagers. Yeah, the foreignness of it, the fact that it comes from another country–it’s like the cartoons they seen on TV, but these are for quote-unquote adults. Yeah, that’s part of it. The other part is anime is a medium, not a genre. It tells all kinds of stories that are written for people who are not ten to twelve years old, that is part of the appeal. American [fans]–if I’m parsing your question correctly–are they going to respond to something that is not immediately identifiable as anime? If it’s cool and if it kind of seems like anime a little bit, yeah sure, those fans are still going to respond to it. They’re not going to immediately reject your show just because it doesn’t look like Dragon Ball or Naruto or whatever, that’s not the case.
Kurt: Our talking style was Avatar.
Zac: Yeah, if you said, “we’re going to try for Avatar,” I would say you have a much, in my opinion, much more of an uphill climb. Because there have been a lot of pretenders to that throne and almost none of them have succeeded. But if you’re aiming for a different style, hour-long drama aimed at adults, you’re going for a completely different audience and your opportunities are wide open. You’re entering new territory, so you get to blaze the path. I think, creatively, the doors are wide open for you. That’s my opinion.
Kurt: Look, if there are a hundred thousand attendees to an expo and the average fan’s duration is two or three years, then it should mean that there are a million hardened fans that have been created over the last fifteen years. So I think there is something that, maybe as they grow and mature or age, that there’s still a bit of nostalgia that we can play upon, as long it’s familiar, novel… So it’s interesting. I’m always interested in people’s opinions on what an audience does or doesn’t want, because nobody really knows until you go do it. So it’s always interesting to hear. Thank you.
Zac: Thanks a lot guys, good luck.”
As always thank you for reading.