Boruto: Naruto Next Generations’ director Hiroyuki Yamashi gave an interview that was released in the Naurto: The Animation Chronicle (Heaven) Book this year. The interview talks about when he first came across Naruto, the challenges he faced when directing his first movie, Boruto: Naruto the Movie. And the things he had to cut out from Boruto: Naruto the Movie due to time constraint, which were A LOT. Yamashita also talks about his plans to include these cut scenes and more in Boruto TV anime. Check full interview bellow.
BORUTO THE MOVIE & BORUTO –NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS- 監督 (Director)
Yamashita Hiroyuki Interview!!
Director Date supervised the TV anime series ‘Naruto’ and ‘Naruto Shippuden’for a period of 14 years; he then passed on the baton of supervising the TV anime series ‘Boruto’to both Director Yamashita and Chief Director Abe. He will thoroughly tell about his fastidiousness in regards to animation production.
Yamashita Hiroyuki is a Japanese animator with Studio Pierrot. He was involved in directing and storyboarding for ‘Naruto Shippuden’, as well as serving as the role of key animation director. In 2014, he was the key animation director in ‘The Last- Naruto the Movie-’. In 2015 he was selected to be the director of ‘Boruto – Naruto the Movie-‘. Beginning in April 2017, he has been working as the director of the TV anime series ‘Boruto- Naruto Next Generations-‘.
Q: Director Yamashita, when did you first come across the ‘Naruto’ series?
Yamashita: During my senior high school days, I was reading a certain volume. It was when the Chuunin Exams were happening and Lee was fighting Gaara. I remember feeling very excited while I was reading the scene where Lee drops his stone weights with ‘Guts’ written on them. Around the time when I saw ‘Princess Mononoke’ at the movie theatre, I was truly and very impressed by the beauty of the background art. From these personal experiences and motivation, I thought that I wanted to be an artist who did the background art. Afterwards, during my vocational school time, I watched the ‘Naruto’ anime, and was still impassioned. I was thinking ‘That’s the kind of artist that I want to be’; That’s when I set out with the goal of becoming an animator.
Q: And then you became an animator. You ended up managing the TV anime ‘Naruto Shippuden’ as a director. So what kinds of things were you presiding over for ‘Shippuden’?
Yamashita: During ‘Shippuden’ I was doing things like storyboarding, key animation, episode directing, and being an animation director. Come to think of it, I was allowed to do something like edit an episode the way that I wanted to.
Q: Speaking of ‘Episode Directing’ and ‘Key Animation Directing’, what kinds of things did you do?Yamashita: In terms of ‘Episode Directing’, my position meant managing and giving instructions to the animators. I was the person in charge of things like final scene composition in storyboarding, scene processing, photography, settings to resemble a film, and managing progress. There are episode directors who do the storyboard cuts their own, and some who don’t do such cuts- It varies from person to person. The first time when I was responsible for episode directing was during ‘Shippuden’. I think it was the episode when Madara was revived. Being a key animation director was a bit more carefree. As an animator, you would be in a position where you just receive tasks from the episode director. Well, relative to ‘Shippuden’, the key animation director also frequently has the task of episode directing at the same time too… Personally, I enjoy drawing sketches, and I’m the type who has trouble conveying my opinions to other people. So I probably like the position of being the key animation director over being an episode director (laugh).
‘We emphasized abiding by the ‘Three-Act Structure’ in the movie version’
Q: Was there a scene in ‘Shippuden’ that you absolutely and personally wanted to work on?Yamashita: That would be Kakashi and Obito’s fight scene. I had the privilege of directing it since I absolutely wanted to work on it. I felt that I relatively worked with many episodes concerning the Uchiha clan, like Sasuke with Itachi, and Madara with Obito. I was allowed to do the complete episode for when Madara was revived. I was personally doing the storyboard cuts for it. For example, when good key animation frames arose from the direction of the key animator; I was happy doing it. Afterwards, it was things like when I was editing frames and music, and finding good places to insert the music. Actually, I personally wanted to work on Gai and Madara’s fight scene. But at the time, it conflicted with working on the movie. As expected, it was impossible to do both at once. But I really wanted to work on it. That was unfortunate for me.
An unfamiliar ‘Director’ role, a ‘Difficult’ continuation
Q: Afterwards in 2015, you became the director for the ‘Boruto’ movie. As the director, which sections were you cognisant about?
Yamashita: At any rate, it meant that I wouldn’t be stepping out from the worldly perspectives of ‘Naruto’. I was entrusted with being responsible for each of the era settings and designs. Things like the small details for when Naruto types on his computer have descriptions and written scenarios by Kishimoto-sensei. Later we referenced the original work from the Gaiden to produce the atmosphere. After that we had a business meeting with Kishimoto-sensei where he told us to abide by the ‘Three-Act Structure’. That was great, and to me, this was a huge and important point to keep in mind. This so-called ‘Three-Act Structure’ is for dividing a scenario into three balanced parts: the beginning, middle, and end. I was cognisant about managing the time allocation for each structure.
[T/N] Yamashita is referring to how screenwriters divide the story into the setup/exposition, confrontation/rising action, and resolution/climax.
Q: So how often would you have business meetings with Kishimoto-sensei?
Yamashita: I don’t remember exactly, but I think we had several business meetings. The first time we met was around the time of Jump Festa, and then two or three times afterwards? Aside from that, we probably met up around the time of auditions. I’m certain that it was the time when Kishimoto-sensei was finished with the plot, and was whittling it down when I joined. I felt that we were closer to brainstorming while we were chatting at Jump Festa, “Let’s have something like the ‘Vanishing Rasengan’”. And then also things like, “At the Hokage Monument, let’s have Boruto and Sarada talk about such-and-such”. I felt that sort of impression about the topics we discussed…Well, since it’s been over two years, I’ve probably forgotten a lot about it (laugh).
Q: What was your first impression when you saw the script and the Gaiden, with Boruto and his comrades as the protagonists?
Yamashita: When I first read the script, my impression of Boruto was like, “What a great guy”. But there were a lot of opinions from the people around me who were saying, “He’s cheeky”… When I read Kishimoto-sensei’s Gaiden, I was thinking that “Sarada is a good kid” (laugh). With Mitsuki’s part in the movie, he was much more of a gentle character. From reading the Gaiden, his image was solidified bit by bit.
“To convey certain images in my head to someone with words itself…even that is difficult”
Q: What sorts of things were difficult in the making of the ‘Boruto’ movie?
Yamashita: First of all, I was unfamiliar with being in the role of ‘Director’. To convey certain images in my head to someone with words itself…even that is difficult. But I was fortunately blessed with my staff. Everyone was nice, saying things like “Let’s make great things!”. There were many people with strong spirits. And so I thought that the atmosphere on-site was relatively great. On occasion afterwards, we had unscheduled time. We only had roughly half a year to compose the scenarios during the production period. The real working period for drawing was about two or three month, I think. Well, time passed in the blink of an eye…Later, we had to bring the length to within 90 minutes, so it was difficult to manage the number of cuts. In the beginning, we had included too many volumes of scenarios. When it came to what should we leave out or whittle down, we left the decision to Kishimoto-sensei when we spoke during meetings. So with scenes concerning the enemy character, particularly with Momoshiki, or small scenes during the Chuunin Exams, those were cut. What was left behind was the story of Naruto and Boruto at the centre. But after all that, of course there was too much remaining. But we gradually shortened it down to within an hour and a half. Lastly, from the production side of things, it was depicting Boruto’s ‘Vanishing Rasengan’. It was pretty difficult. By nature, it’s something that’s invisible, so it was about how I supposed to represent it.
Q: What’s your favourite scene in the ‘Boruto’ movie?
Yamashita: I liked the opening scene when Sasuke and Kinshiki were battling. I thought that there ought to be development in the action in the first and second halves. It turned out cooler than I thought it would be. For that scene I entrusted the direction to Kobayashi-kun, the key animator. I would check on what he finished and return it. There were several times when we went back and forth on things. It was created through these iterations. At first I had more cuts to do for the length, so I had to cut some of it due to the sheer volume.
Q: When you received the request to do the ‘Boruto’ movie, what kind of mental state were you in?
Yamashita: Well, I think that I felt as if the world was spinning. Practically if I was standing still I’d feel dizzy (sarcastic laugh). Anyhow, the producer’s push was impressive. Voices would take different turns, and various things were churning around my head.
Q: What about how you managed the work as the director?
Yamashita: When I first read the script, it thought that it was pretty intriguing. As I kept working on it, I felt my self-confidence dwindling within me bit by bit. ‘Will I be able to make it intriguing?”. By the time of the film release I was really nervous and excited for it. So after the countdown to the first screening there was a scene that showed Mitsuki’s true form, and everyone got stirred up by it. That was the first time I thought, “Ahh, I seems that it might be intriguing”. Afterwards, I remember receiving words of praise from Kishimoto-sensei. But honestly at that time I hadn’t felt it much, not even now.
“I wanted to try to include ninja action scenes a bit more”
Q: Actually when the movie was released, it was extremely popular amount the fans. How was your reaction?
Yamashita: Well it wasn’t done by my strength alone, as we included many of Kishimoto-sensei’s wonderful ideas. We also had gathered truly amazing staff. I think that it was all thanks to their hardwork too. For example, in the scene when Naruto and Boruto attacked with their parent-child ‘Rasengan’, the idea and direction to insert it was key animator’s Matsumoto-san’s idea. His opinion made it become something much better and more lively, so it was very helpful. Later it was great that were able to hold meetings for photography in the storyboarding. With the storyboarding as the movie, we looked over it together with everyone and shared ideas like, “The flow in this part would be better like this”. Since I don’t do these things too often, and especially in the second half of the battle scenes, I think that were able to be especially careful in the making of it.
Q: Due to constraints on the length, what kinds of things had to be left out or left unfinished?
Yamashita: There were various things, as I wanted to include scenes more carefully with Momoshiki, or continuing things with Boruto and Sarada after the ending. Especially when it came to Momoshiki and Kinshiki, I thought that they would be better enemy characters with more depth to them. Later, when Boruto uses the scientist’s ninja weaponry, I had originally done a scene where he actually received punishment at first. But due to the length constraints, it got cut…As a result, it didn’t seem as though he received punishment for doing something bad. I think that I still left that sort of impression, personally. Also because of the length constraints, I couldn’t allow Shikadai and Chou-Chou speak as much. But after April’s TV anime, I intend to utilize them more.
There are various styles of sketches for the Naruto TV anime
Q: For now, the topic will shift to the April broadcast of the TV anime ‘Boruto: Next Generations’, and how you’ll work as the director. What was your mental state when you received the request in the beginning?
Yamashita: I remember that I actually was working on the continuity for final battle in ‘Shippuden’ (Chapters 696-697) when it came up. So far the original ‘Naruto’ series and ‘Shippuden’, the concepts came from mainly the character drama. Moreso in ‘Boruto’, I wanted to try to include ninja action scenes a bit more. Things like psychological warfare between fellow ninja, or weapons…That’s more my taste.
Q: You were given the responsibilities of the prior series from Director Date. Did you get any advice?
Yamashita: I received advice from Director Date, “I hope that you’ll emphasize the sentimental lines, since this is a character drama”. ‘Sentimental lines’ can be delivered through one speech, showing the overall display of character’s expressions, so we shouldn’t cut them off. When it’s converted to the anime from the original work, it ought to keep the same consistency. It should stay connected to the lines of the manga. This is to prevent flaws in the story…things like that. With portions of the manga that I want to depict, I draw out huge panel layouts. Then I make cuts of it to enliven the anime. After, I was told about the how to develop the script . But in the end I’m usually told, “You can do with it as you want” (laugh). Instead of telling me the way to do things, I was told “I want you to emphasize this”.
Q: In contrast, what points are you fastidious about as a director?
Yamashita: From the director point of view, nothing in particular. But since my background is being an animator, I think that I’m a bit fastidious when it comes to the drawings. Even if the story is chaotic, and even when it comes to the drawings, we have Kishimoto-sensei’s sketches, and Nishio Tetsuya-san’s or Suzuki Hirofumi’s sketches (Note: Nishio & Suzuki are the current characters designers for Boruto TV anime, and formally Naruto’s.). There are various references for the Naruto anime. It depends on how the each animator depicts things, because styles change. That’s why it changes with the way it’s depicted each time. That’s what makes work enjoyable for me every time I work with the animators.
“ ‘It seems to be like Kishimoto-sensei’s sketches and atmosphere’”
Q: What’s the easiest sketch to work with for you?
Yamashita: Well for me, it would be Kishimoto-sensei: Nishio-san : Suzuki-san in a ratio of about 6:2:2 in terms of ease… if I have to say it, it’s kind of difficult to understand? (laugh). Amongst some animators, Nishio-san’s are more well liked, but for others it’s Suzuki-san’s. I wanted Kurozuyasu Aki-san and Nishio-san to show me various things. I think that I was greatly influenced by the two of them when I saw them working. By the way, working with Nisho’s sketches is quite difficult. People who are super amazing at sketching can do so with just simple lines and shadowing. But when someone who’s not as experienced attempts to imitate it, the effect isn’t like that. Even for me, I can’t accurately reproduce those kind of sketches. At first glance, it might seem easy. But you have to diligently study the shape and contour of the human body. Even then, you won’t be on the same level. By just adding an additional stroke, the sketch will just turn out different altogether.
Q: But what about Kishimoto’s sketches?
Yamashita: What I liked the most were the ones from the ‘Sasuke Retrieval Arc’. Kishimoto’s sketch style has gradually changed throughout the serialization. Seeing it from the perspective of the character sketches, it was around the time of the ‘Sasuke Retrieval Arc’. I felt great about Kishimoto-sensei and Nishio-san with their dynamic, and vibrant work. Around the time of ‘Shippuden’, the number of lines decreased considerably. It was simpler. Around the beginning of the Great Ninja War, we settled on the current designs. Seeing this change was great. Then again, the story becomes chaotic. Kishimoto’s clothes wrinkles imitated Nishio-san’s clothes wrinkles. That was great to see. Nishio-san’s lines are simple, but when Kishimoto-sensei reproduces it, his has more of a ‘tube’ sense to it. If there’s a character that’s difficult to draw every time, it would be Naruto. With his forehead protector, hair, and face, I think that it’s difficult to balance. Later, when there’s a large number of Kage Bunshin, it was difficult to do each time (laugh).
Q: Now, Ikemoto Mikio is in the middle of serialization in Shonen Jump for ‘Boruto’. What about his sketches?
Yamashita: I’m fond of Ikemoto-sensei’s sketches. I especially like the ‘real touch’ of his characters and the upper lips…(laugh). Well, I thought Momoshiki was really cool, I was thinking honestly, ‘He did it!’. In terms of panel layout, his oblong landscape layout for frames is really cool. But for the anime, it’s difficult to depict the two-page spreads. It’ll be trial-and-error for me to depict Ikemoto-sensei’s ninja action in the anime. In comparison to the depiction of Kishimoto-sensei’s manga, it is more detailed and realistic. I don’t think there are other manga like it.When kunai fly from their bags, Kishimoto-sensei uses three panels! Including sound, there’s the panels to accommodate in the anime. It’s even difficult for an animator to draw the characters movement at the angles that Kishimoto-sensei has drawn them. I think it’s an advanced sketch.
Q: Lastly, please leave a message of excitement for the viewers who are looking forward to the ‘Boruto’ anime.
Yamashita: In terms of chronological order, the events of the anime series occur before the events of the movie. It’s stories from before Boruto became a genin and is still an academy student. I think that’ll be taking the main portion. In terms of excitement…I’ll be working hard for you to say that it’s cool every episode, and that ‘It’s Kishimoto-sensei-like in sketch and in atmosphere’. I want it to be left in everyone’s memories, so you might say it’s like a having ‘trauma’ (laugh). I think that it would be great if I could create an anime like that.
We’d like to give massive thanks to redditor OrganicDinosaur for translating this long interview.