Credit: Peggy Sue Wood | @pswediting
About the Event
This panel at Crunchyroll Expo 2021 features exclusive behind-the-scene info from the staff of “The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat,” Masafumi Tamura, Katsuhiko Takayama, and Satoshi Motonaga. This is NOT a perfect transcription of the panel. It is a close transcription, with some cuts in the dialogue. Still, I have tried my best to remain accurate to what what said in this panel.
About the Anime / Introduction to Panel
Releasing from Crunchyroll in October 2021 comes a new isekai series filled with assassinations, adventure, and magic. This Fall release is based on “The World’s Finest Assassin,” a popular light novel series by Tsukiyo Rui who also authored “Redo of a Healer” (a very different series in terms of tone and direction). The original light novel has sold over 400,000 copies and has a manga adaptation from Yen Press.
The story follows Kenji Akabane. the world’s number one assassin, as he is reincarnated as the eldest son of a family of aristocrat assassins, Tuatha Dé, Lugh. The goddess that grants him this new life with his memories and gives him one mission to complete in this other world: Kill the hero who is prophesied to destroy the world. He must use his vast knowledge and experience gained that made all manner of assassinations possible in the modern world along with the secret techniques and magic of his new fantasy world along with the insight from his powerful family of assassins to complete his task.
While the story and character take center stage to audiences, one cannot overlook the important roles and contributions behind-the-scenes that make the anime possible. At the 2021 Crunchyroll Expo, staff from the anime sat down for a behind-the-scenes discussion of this upcoming series. The panel included Satoshi Motonaga, the producer of “The World’s Finest Assassin;” Masafumi Tamura, the director who previously directed “The Misfit of Demon King Academy” and “Wise Man’s Grandchild;” and Katsuhiko Takayama, the series composer and screenwriter who previously composed for “Ga-Rei: Zero” and “Aldnoah. Zero.”
Motonaga: Could you tell us what you thought when you first learned about this series?
Tamura: In other isekai series, usually someone with a totally different profession becomes the hero or protagonist, but in this case, he keeps the same profession. The goddess was looking for a professional—the best assassin in the world. I think that kind of protagonist makes the series more accessible. There’s no complexity related to his reincarnation. For me, the question was, how do we make the series awesome given that?
Takayama: This is actually my first time working on this kind of reincarnation story. When I read the series, despite the genre being new to me, it felt nostalgic. Ordinary Earthlings or humans visiting another place and becoming superhuman is a nostalgic genre for me. Like “The Skylark of Space,” a human visits another planet and puts salt on his food because it’s seasoned differently from what he’s used to. The aliens respond by asking, “What is this stuff?” The planet doesn’t have salt, so it’s an incredibly valuable material there. A war is started over salt. The enemy wonders if they can harvest salt from the protagonist, and try to kill him. The idea of common knowledge and materials we have here, becoming incredibly valuable in another world has been around for a long time. We’re revisiting that idea in the present, which feels nostalgic.
Motonaga: So while the perspective is new, the currently-popular format of going to another world has existed previously.
Takayama: [nodding] The format itself and people’s interest in it has been around for a long time.
Motonaga: It’s not just the younger generation that’s enjoying it. There’s a generation that’s already experienced it who might be enjoying works in this genre.
Takayama: That’s right. The current popularity of a genre focused on that specific element felt nostalgic.
Motonaga: It certainly is. I see.
Motonaga: Tamura, you mentioned earlier that the protagonist keeps the same profession. In other series like this one, there are surprisingly few in which the protagonist is reincarnated with the same profession.
Tamura: Being able to use his previous knowledge as an assassin again makes a lot of sense. The goddess chose to reincarnate him because he has that knowledge, and can use his skills as the world’s greatest assassin to kill the Hero and complete the mission she gave him. I think it naturally leads into the start of the story.
[Note: At this point in the interview, the panelists showed the official trailer for this upcoming series. We’ve linked the trailer above.]
Tamura: The women on the cover illustrations for “The World’s Finest Assassin” were drawn by character designer Reia. When adapting their design for animation, I insisted that they be the same women. While designing the female characters, we received a lot of help. We asked character designer Osada Eri for her assistance, and ended up with the cure, cool characters you saw in the video. The design for the pre-reincarnation Lugh came from Reia. I’m very glad we were able to apply designs for the characters that looked the way they should.
Regarding the gun models in the anime:
(TAV photos/Peggy Sue Wood, Screenshot 1 from “Behind-the-Scenes Story of ‘The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat’")
Tamura: This is the model of sniper rifle used by the assassin. We wanted to express the fact that he performed a cool job in the real world. We asked Tsukiyo what kind of gun he used. Since he’s the world’s best assassin, he’d use the world’s best tools, so we went with the CheyTac M200. When we said we’d like to see how it looks when a human holds it, for animation reference, Takayama provided this for us.
Takayama: It’s a Japanese model gun, so there’s nothing dangerous about it. Tsukiyo offered a few suggestions when we asked about the gun. Instead of lead bullets, it uses specialized brass cartridges that look like they were produced on a lathe. It’s an extremely accurate and incredibly expensive rifle. We wanted to make it obvious that his employer was a large and wealthy organization, so this is the model we decided on.
Tamura: We had a 3D [digital] model made for the gun. At first we wondered if we should animate it by hand, but the 3D director, Eda, is very familiar with firearms. When we told him about it, he said, “Yeah, sure. I’ll make you a model,” so we took him up on it. We combined that with the characters in the current animation style, which combines 2D and 3D. When the character cocks a gun, it’s a combination of 2D and 3D. The shot of the spent shells being ejected is 3D only. When a character aims and fires a gun, we used a hybrid style that includes 2D animation. I hope we made the gun look cool.
Motonaga: I’d like to touch on the series’ charming characters, so let’s talk about them. First, there’s the protagonist, Lugh. What do the two of you think of Lugh?
Tamura: [Lugh] was very difficult to animate. He doesn’t really act like a child, but sometimes he does. He’s a complicated character to direct and animate. I struggled with how to get the audience to relate to him while working on the series… [During the animation process, the team focused on his looks.] One of the highlights is seeing how he changes throughout the anime.
Takayama: Rather than focusing on his looks, I write about what’s on the inside, like the principles of his action. In doing that, he reminded me of Ogami Itto from the old series “Lone Wolf and Cub.” […] He seems to perform his duty without considering the feelings of others, but the answers he produces are actually overflowing with humanity.
Tamura: It’s one of the things that make us like him.
Takayama: But the character himself isn’t interested in being liked, and doesn’t believe he’s doing anything good. He doesn’t see himself as performing righteous acts, and isn’t motivated by a desire to do good. He’s just doing what he thinks is right according to his own logic, but from the outside, we can see that what he’s doing is righteous.
[Note: The panelists talk about three female leads. I excluded this discussion because it was really more of a dive into their design and flat-characteristics than about the writing or development of the characters in the story.]
Motonaga: Is there anything in particular you paid special attention to, or wrestled or struggled with as part of the series composition?
Takayama: The original work is a web novel, which means it mainly features a ton of short stories. This type of series with multiple short stories is very difficult to compose. I’ve done something similar before. There was a series composed of several short stories told in a row. It was another series about assassins starring the voice actor Akabane, and the original work was structured the same way. The series composition was incredibly difficult. If the individual stories were even shorter, I would have more options. A little longer stories would have been easier too. This series was filled with short stories that are exactly the most difficult length to work with. The series composition required some special techniques.
I can’t tell you exactly what techniques I used, since that would be a spoiler, but they weren’t all the same. Depending on the content, I had to change which technique I used. It was a very difficult series to adapt into a script for an anime.
Motonaga: Tamura, what did you think of what Takayama just told us?
Tamura: When I get the scripts, I apply the characters’ expressions to them, and their performances or acting–a word I don’t particularly like [for what I do]… I want the characters to feel alive within the story. I want the dialogue to feel conversational. Having the actors record the lines will add to that.
Motonaga: In discussions with the author, Tsukiyo, is there anything that stands out to you now that you’ve come this far with the recording?
Tamura: Since he’s the original author, we asked if there was a difference in energy between the lines we recorded and the original work. He was very accepting about it. He said he’d leave it up to the anime professionals, and we’ve leaned heavily on that. I’m very grateful for his consideration. He trusts us and we don’t want to let him down. We rely on hims for some things, like if we don’t know how a line should be spoken. We ask him questions like that during today’s recording. When we ask him how a certain moment is supposed to feel, he gives us advice on finding the right energy for the actors and performance. When I read “The World’s Finest Assassin,” I felt it was different from Tsukiyo’s other works, but I could still sense him in it.
Motonaga: Takayama, how was your experience working with Tsukiyo?
Takayama: You can tell when you speak with him, but he’s very smart. Maybe that’s a rude thing to say but Tsukiyo is very intelligent. He has a lot of ideas, and sometimes I wonder if my plans have diverged too much from the original work. But when I ask him about it, he answers my questions fully understanding what my plan is. He’s not just looking at it superficially. He sees the plans laid out in the script, which would normally be difficult to understand, but he responds relatively quickly. He struck me as a very intelligent person.
Writing an anime and writing a novel are two very different activities. Unless the series happens to be of a particular style, it’s practically impossible for them to match up exactly. This is true of writers for comics, novels, and games as well, but there aren’t many writers who understand writing for a field other than their own. In most cases, it takes a long time to explain things. But when I explain to him how writing a script for an anime works and what I want to do, he picks up on it very quickly. He considers the benefits and drawbacks to doing something in a certain way when answering my questions. It made me think he’s a very flexible person.
Tamura: It was important to establish the world in our meetings with Tsukiyo before we began animating. When he told us about his story’s setting, he also described the kind of music he imagined would go with it, and we were able to select the appropriate instruments. I feel like Tsukiyo was integral to the production.
(TAV photos/Peggy Sue Wood, Screenshot 2 from “Behind-the-Scenes Story of ‘The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat’")
[Tamura then shows us one scene’s storyboard from the anime and explains a little about what it is and how it fits into the process of creating an anime. Rather than type this out, I invite you to check out our post on Aniplex’s panel “How to Produce an Anime” from Aniplex Online Fest 2020 here: https://theanimeview.com/post/639260776495038464/aniplex-online-fest-how-to-produce-an-anime]
(TAV photos/Peggy Sue Wood, Screenshot 3 from “Behind-the-Scenes Story of ‘The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat’")
Above is one screen shot from his presentation of the drawn out 3 second scene when Tarte reveals her staff/spear in the PV prior to coloring. It took 46 pages of key frames for that 3 second scene.]
Tamura: It takes the sweat, tears, and sleep deprivation of all these people (production staff, animators, etc.) to make these. Each 30-minute episode is made by repeating this process over and over.
Motonaga: What are those other papers you’ve got over there?
Tamura: When we discuss the storyboards, we draw rough sketches of what we think the animation will look like.
(TAV photos/Peggy Sue Wood, Screenshot 4 from “Behind-the-Scenes Story of ‘The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat’")
Tamura: I meet with the animation director and chief animation director, who are both responsible for checking the drawings, and we lay the corrected drawings over each other, and finally–it’s traced with see-through paper, and the combined finished product is that stack of papers we saw earlier.
(TAV photos/Peggy Sue Wood, Screenshot 5 from “Behind-the-Scenes Story of ‘The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat’")
Tamura: The pink and yellow lines are my corrections. We go through four total rounds of corrections before it’s animated.
(TAV photos/Peggy Sue Wood, Screenshot 6 from “Behind-the-Scenes Story of ‘The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat’")
Tamura: Japanese animation is an art. Your favorite series are probably made the same way. Additionally, there are time codes put into the same folders as these frames. Time codes truly are the blueprint of the episode as they show which image goes where in the run-time.
(TAV photos/Peggy Sue Wood, Screenshot 7 + 8 from “Behind-the-Scenes Story of ‘The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat’")
Motonaga: On the official Twitter for this series, after each episode they will be releasing parts of the storyboard for those interested.
Season 1 of “The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat” will be available on Crunchyroll in Fall 2021.