By Robert Ward . April 29, 2014 . 1:01pm
At Bandai Namco’s Global Gamer’s Day event, Siliconera got to speak with Bandai Namco producer Naoto Tani and Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day producer Yohei Kataoka. Kataoka, as you might recall, directed Tokyo Jungle.
During our conversation with the two, we touched upon how Ranko Tsukigime connects to the rest of Short Peace project that it is part of. While Ranko is a game, the other four pieces of the project are short animated films. The key, however, is that all five pieces share a single central theme.
For those of us who are unfamiliar with the ambitious Short Peace project, could you give us a rundown of the basics?
Naoto Tani, Assistant Manager: The Short Peace project is actually a hybrid product—the four different short films and one game. In regards to the short films, we asked four different directors to work on the short films, including Katsuhiro Otomo, who worked on Akira (1988), and also another film has been done by Shuhei Morita, and was nominated for an academy award last year.
The theme of each of these is Japan, and each film can be tied to a fixed point in its chronological history. But after we finished all of the films, we realized that we’re missing modern Japan! We decided to describe it not by using a film, but a game. In order to accomplish that, we asked Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacturer for the idea, and for the production we’ve asked Yohei Kataoka from Crispy’s (Tokyo Jungle).
Each of the films takes place in old Japanese history. One of them takes place in the Edo era, and another one in the Muromachi era. For the game, we wanted Suda and Kataoka to come up with something that could compete with these high-quality films, but something that will, at the same time, express contemporary Japanese history and culture.
Our recommendation to the player is to first watch the [four] movies and then play the game, because that will allow them to get a bigger picture of the Short Peace project.
It seems like the team was able to make four unique, diverse products within the range of just one medium, so what drove the decision to make the fifth installment of Short Peace a video game, and not an animated feature like all the rest?
Tani: Well, Bandai Namco Games is a video game publisher, and we want to create video games, not just films—that’s how this project started. When it comes to entertainment, there’s no real boundary between films and games. In the end, it’s essentially the same.
As you know, Banda Namco Games is using a lot of new character IP, and we’re talented at bringing those characters to different formats like games, films, what have you—and the Short Peace project is no exception. We wanted to experiment with other channels, so, that’s why we decided to go with a video game. It just seemed natural.
I noticed that the game, in relation to the films, had in incredibly unique animation style. The way characters moved in cutscenes was smooth but right in uncanny valley, and during gameplay, there’s just an incredible amount of visual noise when you dispatch enemies. How was this art style born?
Tani: At the very beginning, there were ten candidates for the film, but at the same time, Bandai Namco wants to feature something… Japan-like in each of these works. Again, at the beginning, each of these different films are unique, but we wanted to tie it down with one theme—and we made that theme Japan.
We want to respect what the writers, directors, and authors are trying to do in each of these films, and that’s how we start looking at how we should present this particular project visually.
What drove the decision to bring it to the West?
Tani: As you may know, the creators joining this project are well known even in Western countries. From the very beginning, it has been our intention to bring it to the west.
You mention Japan as being the main “theme” tying together each piece, but, Is there a message—greater or deeper, or even more specific—that you’re trying to convey?
Tani: Well… hmm. Basically, it’s pretty simple. We want the general audience to enjoy Japanese anime, but these days we’re missing a lot of games and anime that are created from scratch. And that’s where Kataoka-san can tell you about the game.
Yohei Kataoka, Producer: The Short Peace project is also about the collaboration among the top creators in Japan. Again, in regards to the original plan for Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day, it’s actually created by Suda 51.
The work that 51 did for Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day, though, is really just the original plan; for the actual production, Suda 51 wanted to work with someone who could create something crazy. As it turns out, he had a chance to pick up Tokyo Jungle for PS3 and was incredibly impressed, and he thought to himself, “Wow. The creators of this game must be crazy.”
So he brought the original planning documents to me and asked if I could work on the action parts of the game using this scenario, but… unfortunately, the original planning documents were really strange and incredibly difficult to understand. As you may know, from the past work that Suda 51 has done… well, it doesn’t really make much sense, in terms of storylines and scenarios. I read it over and over again but still didn’t get it, so I decided to implement the storylines and games in my own way—and the result is the build that you played today.
Now that you mention it, is there anything you can point to that you think people might see as strange in this iteration of Short Peace?
Kataoka: People may think that the game is crazy—and that may come through with the art, but it’s not what I’ve been trying to do with the game. Short Peace is one collective work, and we want the game to mirror the films in terms of volume and content. The original Short Peace films are actually short films, so when it comes to the game, I wanted to make it something people can complete in just two or three hours.
I can’t help but stray off topic for just a moment. All this talk about coming up with the idea for Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day has got me wondering just how you came up with the idea for Tokyo Jungle. Do you see any similarities in the projects in terms of how you’ve approached them conceptually?
Kataoka: Everybody can create something unique, but it’s really hard to create something that’s both unique and catchy. When it comes to Tokyo Jungle, there are two main elements: animals and the disappearance of humans. Everybody’s familiar with animals—there are so many out there and people are familiar with all their shapes and sizes. It’s an element that might be catchy to the audience.
Another element is this trope that movies like 28 Days Later use where humans have kind of disappeared. So we thought that, you know, combining these two catchy elements creates a pretty cool plot for a game! I brought that to Sony Computer Entertainment and they somehow accepted my offer.