Originally from 20/07/12
So, today/yesterday Tsuki Amano held a live stream (New Album "Sora no Ki" Release Commemoration Broadcast ~Beneath a Big Sky Tree~), which featured FF producer Keisuke Kikuchi and director Makoto Shibata (as well as Kanon Wakeshima later on). I don't have a video to give you, but here is a kind of summary of what happened, based on my frantically-scribbled notes (don't expect exact transcriptions or anything ) :
*The first half (~30 mins or so) of the first segment, which features Kikuchi and Shibata, talks about the creation of the theme songs for the series. This is really Kikuchi's bit - he and Amano talk quite a lot, while Shibata is mostly silent. There is a brief joke at the start about the infamous "love letters" Shibata sends Amano containing the plot details for the game, what he wants her to put into the song, etc. when he first commissions her to write a theme song for each game. The vast majority of this section was covered in the Famitsu article that was published last month, so check there if you want to read more. Amano mentions that she only wrote the "sakende mo kikoenu nara" ("if you can't hear me even though I call out") part of Chou when she was actually in the recording booth, and had to ask the staff to stop for a moment to let her write it down.
*They play the trailer for Shinku no Chou. Well, sort of... near the end, as the Promise Ending clip plays and Mio has her arms around a kneeling Mayu, the computer it's being played on is hit with a Blue Screen of Death and crashes. There is a short, mystified silence, and then Shibata mentions that things like this happen "all the time" with this kind of game - even on his PC. The staff scramble to apologise and we are miraculously spared a Shibata ghost story. For now, at least.
*In the latter half of the segment, talk shifts to the FF/Zero series. Shibata wakes up a bit here. Kikuchi mentions that the first game was never originally titled "Zero" to begin with - Shibata actually at first wanted to call it "Reikoku" (零刻) - which sounds kind of like Kokumeikan/Deception. There was a lot of excitement about this. The name is different, but even back then they were making "rei" puns - since "rei" also means "ghost". (Quite a few people in the audience also pointed out that this shares a reading with 冷酷, meaning "cruelty" or coldheartedness".) They thought of hundreds of things but in the end the simplest title, "Zero", turned out to be best. It's supposed to resent "nothingness". (Someone in the audience was very impressed with Kikuchi's explanations and decided to comment to that effect.)
*Now the Q&A session starts. The first question is about why there are so few male characters in the series. Amano says that isn't Kei the only man - Shibata reminds her of Mafuyu, and after far too long a pause, Choushirou. Chou gets a huuuge outpouring of love and sympathy in the comments, so it's okay (ranging from "he's so hot~" to "I'd not have bothered beating it if he wasn't in it"). Amano comments that you often see women in horror-themed media. This leads to a discussion about Kei (to whom Amano affectionately refers as "Kei-kun" throughout) - Shibata mentions that keywords for him during development were "unlucky with women" and "hetare" - good-for-nothing/incompetent. Amano finds this amusing.
*How did they come up with the numbers for the film types? He just kind of wrote down "Type 14" and liked the way it looked. Type 07 was meant to be half of that. The staff suggested the others.
*And now a question Amano herself is really interested in - is Rei Kurosawa from FF3 related to the Kurosawa family from FF2? Shibata says sorry, but no - there's no relation between them. People are disappointed.
*Amano mentions here that she has created a character correlation chart for the first two games, and holds it up to the camera. She says that Miyuki's husband/Miku and Mafuyu's father is nameless - Shibata quickly mentions that he does have a name, but he isn't in the game - so she had to refer to him as "Papa Hinasaki". She had quite a lot of issues with nameless parents while making her chart. The chart supposes some kind of blood relationship between Rei and the Kurosawas but, unfortunately, this was proven false earlier. Sadness. She has also misspelt Misaki's name...
*Next question: were the characters/locations modelled on anything or anyone in real life? According to Shibata, yes - the first house you enter, the Osaka house, was based on his grandfather's house. I wasn't paying a huge amount of attention at this point, but I think he mentions that when they went back to remake the game he suddenly remembered there was a window they had left out - could it be the small latticed window in the room where you find the camera? Hmm. Go hunting.
*Amano now mentions that with this game, there's something she quite enjoys playing around with: the curtains. Normally with noren curtains (the ones split down the middle, like the ones in the Osaka entrance with the Osaka crest on them), as you walk through you would expect them to just graze the top of your head and go over... but since the curtain animations in the game are so weird, she likes stopping halfway through a curtain and mess around.
*They get talking about electricity and electric lighting in the games. I think they start talking about the flickering rooms that are so common in the series, because Shibata starts talking about how he believes ghosts mess with electric lighting, and either turn them off or set them blinking. We finally get a short ghost story out of him, but I don't listen too closely. Sorry, Shibata fans
*A question I think everyone has been waiting for: what is your favourite character/ghost? They start with characters.
Shibata can't choose, but thinks perhaps he might go for Rei. I'm not sure why. I don't think he is, either. Kikuchi chooses Miku; Mio is the cutest, and Ruka is the prettiest, but he likes Miku best. Amano chooses Reika (hold on just a minute...) because she feels for her, putting her all into being a priestess while being separated from her lover ("having that moment seared into her eyes forever," chimes in Shibata). At this point, Amano tells the story of her friend who lost her fiance a lot like Rei did and at the same/a similar age - this can be found in the Famitsu interview. Shibata sent her one of his "love letters" which was completely covered top to bottom in instructions, one of which was that the theme song would have the theme of "wanting to forget". They fell out over this, since Amano wanted to express how it wasn't a sin to forget, and Kikuchi had to play mediator. But in the end they sorted it out, and the way the ending turned out made Shibata cry, which made her happy...?
*Now onto favourite ghost:
Kikuchi goes for Broken Neck Woman - he doesn't make it clear which one - continuing the running joke that's been around since the first game that Kikuchi has a thing for women with broken necks and apparently has a crush on Broken Neck from FF1 (he consistently chooses her as his favourite when asked, right since FF1's release). Shibata umms and ahhs again, before finally saying... he can't choose. Okay. Amano goes for... Stroller Grandma (after a little bit of back-and-forth they finally settle the fact that she is from the third game). Amano really, really (chou daisuki, it's serious) loves her, but has only fought her in mission mode, which was quite an experience. Shibata asks if she's ever tried taking a peek inside the stroller. Amano says no - he replies that, even though you only get a second, if you look inside you can see something that looks like a doll in there (though he does use the "iru" verb - "to be" referring to a person rather than an inanimate object). Kikuchi seems impressed an comments that it must have taken quite some effort to do. Amano makes the cardinal error and asks if Stroller Grandma was based on anyone - actually, says Shibata, he's seen a ghost like her... and here goes a ghost story. He's told this story before so I won't go into detail. Check his FF3 columns for more Shibata goodness.
*Another anticipated question: do you plan to make more Zero games? Kikuchi says that yes, they do want to keep making them - they're kind of planning another one at the moment, but they've barely got started, and ideas are still all over the place. They don't plan to stop making games any time in the near future, though.
*And finally, which is the ritual you would like the least to do?
For once, not only does Shibata actually answer the question, but he and Kikuchi agree - Shibata shouts out pretty much as soon as the question has been asked, "Rope!" and Kikuchi and Amano quickly agree - Kikuchi explains by saying that while having to kill your own twin in the Crimson Sacrifice ritual would be traumatic, it's "only" mental trauma, whereas being pulled apart by ropes is... pretty physical. Shibata agrees.
(The audience agree, though there's a lot of calls for the blinding ritual, and oddly, some people decide to start quoting Koji...)
This is the end of their segment - then Kanon Wakeshima appears and talks for a while before the brand new Sora no Ki PV is unveiled in full for the first time. Aside from that, Kanon talks in a very timid and very cute voice for a while about stuff I didn't really listen to (sorry, Kanon) except that she first became aware of Amano when she bought the Sharon Stones album back around the time when she was in middle school.
That was really it, apart from a great Amano impression of Mio's "onee-chaaan!" shriek during the ending, and a poll conducted about whether you empathise more with Mio or Mayu - Amano and both Shibata and Kikuchi put their hands up for Mio. The audience poll was quite conclusive - Mio won by a veritable landslide, with over 70% of the vote.
And one more thing they spoke about, though I didn't note down exactly when it occurred, so I'll put it at the bottom:
*Amano brings up Mayu's leg, which is bandaged, and asks if it's really injured and is she dragging it on purpose? Shibata confirms that yes, there really is an injury under the bandage - which quickly becomes known as the "bandage of symbolism". Amano says that Mayu seems to pick her leg up when she walks down stairs and things, like she's going "ouch, ouch". She also gets really irritating whining about her leg all the time, and then asks Shibata about this. He responds that even Mayu herself no longer knows whether she's in pain or not - she may say that it really hurts... but does it? Sometimes she does consciously play on it, but she doesn't even know 100% of the time whether she's playing or not. There's the possibility that she thinks it hurts, but it actually doesn't.
Amano talks about how, right until the end, Mayu's voice is there, all around you, like she still has a hold on you as she brings to to that place full of ghosts. Then Amano brings up the way in which Mayu mentions that she fell from the cliff on purpose during the fight with her that leads to the Hellish Abyss ending. Shibata says that, again, Mayu herself doesn't know any more whether or not this is true... her head is so messed up these days that she may have done, and she may not. Is it just one more way of getting Mio's attention...? Amano wonders if this is Mayu trying to make sense of her hazy memories along with her mixed feelings about Mio, and Shibata agrees.
Amano continues that she actually thinks in a way Mayu is quite cool - the way she's so upbeat and plays it down even when her leg must really hurt. There are times when Amano respects her for this.
*There is also a mention of how Amano really likes scarlet - there is much fuss in the comments about "Kurenai vs Shu" (Crimson v Scarlet), and will we now get a remake titled "Scarlet Butterfly" (朱い蝶/Akai Chou)?
*Amano says that if she were Mio, after that accident 5 or so years ago - longer, says Shibata - okay, 7 or 8 years ago - about 10, says Shibata - okay, about 10 years ago; whatever kind of injury she sustained, the first thing she would wonder if she were Mio is why is Mayu still wearing a bandage? Shibata says it's for show - commenters suggest that there be a new line of bandages created for this purpose.
(Soon after this "kurenai" starts playing. Cue flood of puns - "kurenai no CD ore ni kurenai?" etc. for eternity.)
In the end the supposed-to-be-one-hour show overran with the three of them alone talking for an hour and a half, the full show running for nearly 2 and a half hours, so this isn't the full thing - but you should get the gist of what went on. I wish they would do this every week. It was great fun.