Since 2012, SWORD ART ONLINE has been making huge waves in the world of anime. With worldwide success, this is a feat that not many light-novel series can achieve. Anime Festival is best known for bringing Sword Art Online goodness to Australia, and they have once again brought back SAO Character Designer Shingo Adachi to the convention. Talking all things design and animation (whilst drawing Alice and Keiko), check out the following extracts from the Live Drawing panel (featuring VA Bryce Papenbrook aka English Dub Kirito)! Enjoy!
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Bryce: So I’m looking at this cool mascot that you have designed — can you tell us something about her?
Shingo Adachi: I was told by Madman that they needed a new mascot character, and because Madman has looked after me four times now, I decided to make a contribution towards the convention in my own way. I’ve been told that the girl is Madi and the one behind her is King Dropi. I’ve actually been wondering where the names have come from.
Host: Madi is obviously ‘Madman’. And in terms of King Dropi’s name, only Australians know — barely anyone else do. We have koalas and drop bears, and drop bears do as they suggest. You’re walking in the middle of nowhere and they drop on you. They’re very vicious.
Bryce: Are there any drop bears in Sydney?
Host: They do drop on people, and you don’t see that person ever again [audience laughs]
Shingo Adachi: I have to be honest with you….In Japan, there are cats absolutely everywhere. Before I came to Australia, I actually thought there would be koalas and kangaroos everywhere in Australia. However, that’s not really the case.
Bryce: How did you feel when you joined Sword Art Online as a character designer?
Shingo Adachi: When I first heard about SAO, the project was still in discussion. A1 Pictures asked me for suggestions as to who could be a character designer for the series. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say — but there was a gentleman who I thought would be great for the series. However, I didn’t think anyone would personally ask me. Aniplex then came over and asked me to be the character designer.
Host: It must’ve been nice for them to ask you.
Shingo Adachi: It was definitely an honour and out of blue for me. SAO is not really my style that I’m used to working with. And of course, you can’t do the work if you don’t know the work so I decided to read the light novel series. I actually ended up reading the books in a couple of hours. I really enjoyed the series and I personally play online games myself. I immediately called up the producer and asked if I could work on the project.
Bryce: Once you took on the role of character designer, which character did you design?
Shingo Adachi: So I began designing Kirito and then Asuna. With Asuna, there were many times where I had to re-design her. The original art was already there but I have to try and create that work into an animation and reimagine her into animation. In terms of Asuna’s character design, there was a lot of trial and error in order to make her work.
Bryce: Each time the characters go into a different game, each character has different costume designs. What are some of the things that you really focussed on when designing their costumes?
Shingo Adachi: So the first thing of any design is to create, and reduce as many lines as possible for the staff to draw. And with SAO, especially at the beginning, the Aincrad had swords on their back. Normally when you think of swords, you put them on a belt like Kirito. But there are other characters where they don’t have belts, so we made it as if they’ve got magnets on their back and they just stick it there. It’s only possible because it is a game — you can do anything you want in a game!
Host: You’re not only working on the character designs, but also key art and acting animation work. What has been a memorable aspect of working on the SAO series?
Shingo Adachi: I’ve been working on the series for a long time and my understanding of the story really deepens as the years go by. I know what the character is going to do and say. For instance, there was an episode where Aincrad walks towards the Boss Room and Kirito and Asuna was having a conversation. And in that conversation, there is a moment where Asuna mentions that she doesn’t know the switch system of the game and Kirito says something like, “Oh no, she doesn’t know. What do I actually do?”
I remember when I saw the draft of the scene, I went to the producers and said, “I don’t think Kirito would react to Asuna the way he did — it is a bit exaggerated”.
Bryce: Speaking of animation directing, when you’re looking at the animation, do you pick out errors that others have made? What are some things that you look for?
Shingo Adachi: There is a number of steps that we take to correct errors. We’ve got the animators who does the actual work; and then you have the director of that particular episode; and then you have the director of the series; and then the total director who looks at the overall balance. So that’s four times where things get checked for errors.
To give you an example — During the Fairy Dance arc, we have that scene where Leafa watches Kirito heading towards the ceiling and charges his way through with his sword.
In that particular scene, we’ve got Leafa who is actually screaming something at Kirito and she is using her entire body to express her facial expressions. When I originally received the cells from the animator, there were lots and lots of pages. Because they drew so many, as the animation director, I made sure to look at every single one of them and the fine details that come with them.
When I pulled out the original draft, the draft had a lot of comments and it actually said “OFF” — which actually meant a monologue. In other words, Leafa shouldn’t actually be speaking at all, and that it should be in her head. This also means that no-one had noticed the ‘OFF’ in the draft, and it got missed director after director until it came to me. This actually happens quite a lot.
Bryce: After Season 2, we had Ordinal Scale. I thought it was really cool that we got to see the characters in the real world and wearing normal outfits. Could you talk about the design process for that?
Shingo Adachi: In Ordinal Scale, even with their casual everyday outfits, I did everything from scratch. You’ll notice there are lot of costume changes throughout the movie. We had to consider, “What would Asuna wear? What would she choose to wear? What kind of fashion style would she have?”
I had a big job of putting everyday outfits for each character. If you look at the original novels, there were images but not everyday outfits so I had to design them from scratch. It even got to the point where I began designing the logo for the brand that Kirito likes to wear. I actually came up with the name of the brand ‘Sound 3H‘. Unfortunately you can’t really see the names on these images but they do exist.
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Check out Shingo Adachi’s Sword Art Online Gallery from Anime Festival Sydney below!