My Dress Up Darling Crosstalk Translation: Series Director Keisuke Shinohara x

My Get dressed-Up Darling Crosstalk Translation: Sequence Director Keisuke Shinohara x Persona Fashion designer Kazumasa Ishida x Leader Animation Director Jun Yamazaki

Today we bring you a translation of a long conversation between My Dress-Up Darling‘s core staff about the massively talented animation team that gathers around Shouta Umehara, the ups and downs of its production, and what it’s like to animate a work about unashamedly dedicating yourself to the creative process.


  • Keisuke Shinohara (Series Director)
  • Kazumasa Ishida (Character Designer, Chief Animation Director)
  • Jun Yamazaki (Chief Animation Director)

Interview originally published in the official key animation book for the series. It was available for sale at a series of exhibits, and presumably will be available online at a later date too. Maybe! Text provided by Dazza. Translated by megax, checked by bitmap.

  • How did you all come to work on this title?

Ishida: I was approached by Shouta Umehara, a producer at CloverWorks. I had known Umehara from working with him on titles such as YuruYuri♪♪, Saekano Flat, and Darling in the Franxx, on which he was a production assistant. I’d already read the Kisekoi manga and enjoyed it, so there was no reason for me to refuse. Also, they hadn’t decided on a chief director at first, so I suggested Shinohara for the job. Though he’s not the first person you’d think of for a romantic comedy…

Shinohara: Well, I can’t blame you there (laughs).

Ishida: Nevertheless, from how he delicately depicts characters’ emotions, I thought that he must enjoy directing dramatic moments, and this would be a good fit. Also, when I’d previously worked with him, the image of him fervently working at his desk had left an impression on me.

Shinohara: Thank you very much. Kisekoi marks my third series as director; I’d heard that a director’s caliber is judged by how he handles his first three works, so back then, I was panicking. When the offer came, I was quite busy at the time, so I really would have liked some time off to recover… But if I let this chance slip, I figured CloverWorks would not ask me to direct a series again, so I accepted.

Yamazaki: When I was working on Wonder Egg Priority, Umehara would bring up Kisekoi from time to time, and he asked me to take part in one form or another. I remember telling him, “I can help out, but just a little.” But before I knew it, I ended up with an immense workload… (laughs) As for why I had been so hesitant initially, I’d also read the manga before, and it seemed like it’d be fun to work on. However, I wasn’t sure I could capture Shinichi Fukuda‘s delicate touch. That said, once I saw Ishida’s well-drafted character designs, I knew I’d be fine as long as I was working off his model sheets. In the end, I’m glad I was able to take part in a production that I learned so much from.

  • What came up in your discussions regarding the overall visual direction?

Shinohara: There’s an appeal to the art of the original manga, and it plays a part in what makes it so enjoyable. So even without any discussion, it felt like we were already headed in a faithful direction.

Ishida: That’s true. I dare say that the biggest challenge for the character designs was how to not change things up. We wanted to preserve the feel of the original art, with its large line count, as much as we could.

Shinohara: Of course, it’s not possible to create an anime as heavy on the lines as the art in the manga, but Ishida adapted it into designs suitable for animation, for which I am grateful. You could say that Ishida was the one who established the guidelines for the visual direction.

Ishida: To me, it feels like I passed off a lot of it to the animators, so they could deal with it instead. As for my duties as chief AD, the difficult part was in figuring out how to make adjustments to the key animation while still bringing out the best from what I was given.

Yamazaki: I do remember that for episode 1, we had a lot of very talented key animators. So instead of correcting everything to strictly match the sheets, the fun was in seeing their own takes that still managed to fit.

Shinohara: Even great key animators have quirks that show up in their drawings; however, Ishida and Yamazaki in particular are very good at making corrections without losing the spark in the original drawings. You could say that they add corrections without reducing the key animators’ morale.

Yamazaki: It’s something that I always have trouble with. Personal emotions end up coming into play when it’s a good colleague’s work, and in the end, we also want to preserve the qualities of what we’re given. Everyone draws differently, so we don’t want to tell them to blindly follow the model sheets. In fact, you’ll find a huge variation in the line count on an episode-by-episode basis.

Ishida: I’m glad it was a production that allowed for such variation.

Yamazaki: That’s right. I feel that there was a mutual sense of respect. Shinohara usually gives people free rein, but he’ll be strict about cuts that really matter, and come to you asking for something a little better. But the impression I have is that even in cases like that, he’ll acknowledge the parts that are good.

Shinohara: Was I really that strict? It must have been because I trusted deep down that this was a production where we could strive for something better. As someone who believes that the most important aspect of a production is its schedule, this all assumes that time allows it, of course.

Yamazaki: In that sense, you might say that the art direction, in both the quality and the staging, came to be decided following the productions of episodes 1 and 2.

Shinohara: Episode 1 was aiming for something different, so I would say episode 2. Back then, we still didn’t know who would be participating, so the storyboards were drawn up to allow for a finished product, no matter the circumstances. But once I saw the key animation coming in, I was surprised to see how it ended up (laughs). There were a lot of animators who depicted the measurement scenes with realistic acting, and it made me realize that when you gather so many talented folks, you can end up with a product that surpasses your own expectations.

Yamazaki: The key animators embellished everything as much as they could (laughs).

Shinohara: That said, episode 3 really did end up with an unforgiving schedule…

Yamazaki: You see it a lot in anime. You devote time to episode 1, so it ends up being high in quality, but going forward, you’re left with the task of trying not to fall short of that standard. The first two episodes ended up being well-made, so I felt incredible pressure as chief AD for episode 3. Even so, all the key animators took efforts to make sure their own parts were solid, so we were able to get through it as a team. This isn’t as common as you might imagine.

Ishida: As a result, the episode ended up being well put together as a whole.

Shinohara: Looking back on the overall series, it feels like we were all running endlessly. Not running toward a goal necessarily, but more that we found ourselves at our goal after all that running. There were a lot of younger folks on the production, and I got the impression that they gave all they had to the work in front of them, rather than simply carrying out their jobs. I really do appreciate Mai Yamaguchi, the color director, and Tsubasa Kanamori, the compositing director, for being so patient with me. Working on the show as we slowly figured things out must have been rough for the two of them (laughs). That said, I enjoyed myself, and I look back on it fondly.

  • Are there aspects of the production that were unique to CloverWorks?

Yamazaki: The animators really give their all for each and every drawing, and many of them are quite strong-minded. The Umehara crew really feels like they’re right by your side, while preserving the enthusiasm that the creators have. It’s a lot of fun, because you feel like you’re creating this as a team.

Ishida: I know just how you feel.

Shinohara: It feels like a very open work atmosphere. It helps that Umehara doesn’t mince his words, whether it’s praise or criticism (laughs). He may be blunt, but he’s reasonable.

Yamazaki: You can sense his pride in the way that he fully devotes himself to anime, not as a creator but on the production side. He’s one of the few production assistants who will demand retakes, and I’m sure there are those who might find him overly severe. But they say madness is the key to creating amazing quality works (laughs).

Shinohara: Perhaps.

Yamazaki: It’s true that a shared madness exists between animators, where they’re spurred to do better by seeing the drawings that others draw. But it’s rare to see a production assistant who can stimulate others in the same way. I feel truly blessed to work with such a dependable team.

  • Looking back at all the episodes, please tell us about any cuts you find noteworthy, be it those you put great care into, or are particularly fond of.

Shinohara: I recently took the time to rewatch episode 1. As the episode director, there are parts that make me grimace in many ways. But as I tried to figure out why it was received so positively, I came to the conclusion that it has to do with (Tomoki) Yoshikawa’s animation at the end of the episode. The delicacy in his expressions and gestures has a certain power to it that makes people fall in love with the characters. I’m a big fan of the acting in the scene with Marin’s hands on her face.

Yamazaki: The following scene where she jumps up and down in joy is also very cute. You could say that Yoshikawa’s drawings served as a secondary model sheet.

Ishida: I also think that he helped to complete the character designs.

Yamazaki: He’s too good at drawing expressions straight out of the original manga. I’ve had the chance to work with him since Wonder Egg, and he really is a super animator.

Shinohara: I’m echoing Umehara’s sentiments here, but you don’t see the animator’s movements in Yoshikawa’s work. He can draw Marin as you would imagine her moving.

Ishida: Most skilled animators act out the scenes themselves and use that to animate. But it doesn’t feel that way at all from Yoshikawa’s work.

Yamazaki: Shinohara seems reluctant to admit it, but I think episode 1 was fantastic from an episode direction standpoint as well. The A-part is so somber as a whole, and I was shocked to see that it ended on a cut of Wakana in the classroom alone, but it was an approach I really liked. I hadn’t imagined that it would go with such a grounded dramatic feel. Then, building off of that, most of the B-part blindsides you with its burst of energy, until it cleanly ends the episode on Wakana’s “Say what now?” drawn in that humorous style. I couldn’t help but be impressed by the entire sequence of events.

Shinohara: I’m not used to hearing such praise, but I’m happy that you feel that way. For an episode with incredible episode direction, I would nominate episode 9. Yuta Yamazaki was completely in his element.

Yamazaki: Absolutely. In the best possible way.

Shinohara: I asked Yuta, “Doesn’t it tire you out making an episode focused on quality?” To which he answered, “That’s why I made episode 9 the way I did.” For an anime to be called high-quality, it not only needs to have beautiful drawings, but also to move a lot, as well as beautiful backgrounds and compositing… That really is hard to achieve, and requires a lot of effort. I’m sure he must have thought, “But that’s not the only way to make a good anime”. Yuta is very fussy, so he spent a lot of time on touch-ups, but it ended up taking a very small number of total man-hours, which came as a great relief for our schedule.

Yamazaki: Yusuke Yamamoto, who did the character designs and was completely in charge of the Flower Princess Blaze!! segments, was episode director for episode 11, which was fun. That’s the episode where Marin cosplays as Liz-kyun at a love hotel. All the key animators on that episode were very skilled, and I enjoyed that their quirks shone through. I believe the scene where they’re just breathing heavily was animated by Yoshikuni Ono. I remember the only things I corrected were the eyes. With good drawings, the eyes alone give the character a different feel.

Ishida: I feel the need to recognize Hirohiko Sukegawa’s efforts. Episode 5 was a solo animation direction effort by Sukegawa, and he was on AD and chief AD duty for episode 10, although he also had assistant ADs for that one. Looking over an entire episode of this series by yourself must have really been an ordeal.

Shinohara: Not to mention it was for episode 5…

Yamazaki: I believe it was Takuya Niinuma who did the cut of Marin running in her cosplay as Shizuku-tan. He’s an uncanny draftsman. This goes back to Ishida’s character designs, but I think faithful draftsmanship like his is indispensable for the meticulous acting in Kisekoi.

Ishida: The chain on the bosom of Shizuku-tan’s outfit seemed like it would be fairly demanding to animate, so at first, we considered leaving it out. But Sukegawa said, “I don’t think Wakana would leave out a detail like that in his work. It might be difficult, but the cosplay outfits are the one part where we can’t take shortcuts in this series.” Sukegawa was the one who would be drawing this outfit the most, so his words were all the reassurance I needed to draw the chain, instead of avoiding it.

Yamazaki: I was chief AD on episode 5, and I really dreaded having to draw that outfit (laughs). What’s more, the outfit is mostly black, so I thought that drawing the chain might be a waste of effort. But it ended up striking a perfect balance, where it feels like something is missing without the chain.

Shinohara: I’m glad we were able to add the chain… Of course, I say that without actually drawing it, so I imagine things weren’t as simple as that.

Ishida: I also really like the fireworks scene in episode 12. Yoshikawa’s cuts begin when Marin shows up, to where she shows off her nape to Wakana. It was also the episode where Sukegawa made the line count skyrocket, in cuts such as the one where Marin’s face is in profile as she watches the fireworks.

Shinohara: Episode 8 features a lot of animators assembled by Keisuke Kobayashi, its animation director, and many of them were only on that one episode. As for the reason they all showed up, it’s because Kobayashi himself possesses absurd animation skills. That of course includes the characters’ gestures and acting, but I’ve never seen anyone who can make so many corrections to drawings of hands.

Yamazaki: I’ve been compiling a folder of well-drawn hands for my own use, and I’ve included every cut corrected by Kobayashi.

Ishida: I believe that was the first time he’s served as AD for an entire episode. He has my gratitude.

Yamazaki: It’s no wonder that animators would flock to him. I would love for him to correct my work. If I may geek out a bit, Kobayashi’s part at the end of the opening, where Marin and Wakana go off at a half-run, is just sublime.

Shinohara: You mean the run on 4s?! To explain, as a rule of thumb, motion in anime is often animated every three frames. At 24 frames per second, that would mean 8 drawings, changing every 3 frames. As a broad example, if you wanted to create smoother action, you would animate on the 2s. Animation on the 4s can end up looking stilted, so it’s not used very much for character movement, but here, even though the running includes animation on 4s, the movement is satisfying to watch. I’m sure that the opening must have excited animation enthusiasts, with its use of animation on 4s.

Ishida: (Naoya) Takahashi, the main animator, is in charge of the important scenes with Marin, such as episode 1’s “the ultimate form of love” scene, or the C-part in episode 12, where she goes “See you later.” And he uses light in very stylish ways. For example, in episode 1, you see the light shining through the gaps in her hair. In episode 12, in the cut where Marin is lying in bed and kicking her legs, it’s lit in a way you wouldn’t usually see, and his skill is evident in places like that.

Yamazaki: You could say he takes great care in expressing the specific nuance of the acting, looking at the abnormal number of drawings in his key animation. You normally wouldn’t draw so much, or even make the attempt. I corrected his work, but I was the one learning from him.

Shinohara: He came to ask whether Marin’s hair should be translucent for the scene in episode 1 where it’s lit from behind, which is when I realized he’s the type to consider such small details. We decided that the thickness of her hair meant that it wouldn’t be translucent, as he had envisioned, but we kept that sense of light in the edges and loose strands of her hair.

Yamazaki: I’d like to talk about Keimon Oda’s cut where Marin is blushing, from the measurement scene in episode 2. He’s a male animator, but I didn’t think you could come up with acting like that unless you were a cute girl.

Shinohara: Her expression was different from both the original manga and the model sheets, but it was cute so we gave it the okay.

Yamazaki: The cut before Marin blushes, with Wakana running to turn on the AC, is less conspicuous, but also very well done.

Shinohara: Keimon draws cute Wakanas as well. Hmm… Giving specific names makes it seem like they’re the only talented ones, but there are so many more great animators that I couldn’t name them all.

Yamazaki: That really is the case.

Shinohara: I’m also a fan of the movie shown in episode 12. It was my first time getting to work with Tatsuo Hasegawa. I enjoyed seeing him turn the storyboards that I had drawn up half-jokingly into something great.


Yamazaki: In that sense, she may not have been in an animation role, but I love all of the promotional illustrations done by Erika Nishihara, who designed the costumes.

Shinohara: I also love the illustrations done by Aoi Umeki. They have a cute extrovert’s touch to them, and I think she expands upon Marin’s image in a way that’s different from how the anime depicts her.

Yamazaki: Also, Futata’s ending animation was amazing!

Ishida: We had no input at all, so we were very surprised when the finished footage came in (laughs).

Shinohara: She asked me what kind of ending I was hoping for, and I answered, “I’ll leave that to you. It doesn’t have to be like the show. You can even send them to space.” So I was surprised to see that all of it was in space (laughs). But it struck the right mood, so I gave it the green light. She originally uploaded very nice, cartoony animations on Twitter, and Umehara was the one who reached out to her. A few days before our first meeting, she won the grand prize in an animation competition, and was crowned king (laughs). I think if we had been a little later with our offer,  she wouldn’t have taken it on.

  • Has working on this production served to inspire you in some way? I would appreciate it if you could each share your stance as a creator, as well as your aspirations for the future.

Shinohara: Lately, I’ve been reading a manga called Wangan Midnight. I came across the lines, “You know, this world’s full of people who don’t give a damn. That’s why I pretended I didn’t care, either. Because it’s easier that way. But keep on pretending, and you’ll end up not caring for real.” And it reminded me of myself. I wondered if I was making anime pretending that I didn’t care.

Yamazaki: That hits a sore spot.

Ishida: It really is just as that quote says.

Shinohara: There’s plenty that I struggle with as a director, but I’d like to continue making anime, all while trying not to pretend that I don’t care.

Yamazaki: I’m not good at putting my own motives into words, so I can’t help but respect Shinohara. My body’s not cut out for all-nighters like it used to be, so I hope to carry out what’s given to me with competence, while supporting the amazing young animators. To put it more briefly, I want to be useful to others (laughs). I apologize for being overly pragmatic, but I understand my own mediocrity better than anyone else, so I have no choice but to keep at it in good faith.

Ishida: Umehara has worked on many series at CloverWorks, and he says that Shinohara and I are the least dependable people he’s worked with. That’s because we’re mediocre as well. But he also said that we might serve as hope for those who lack talent. This production was one where I learned a lot from skilled animators, so I hope to take what I’ve learned, and use it to update the characters I work with in the future.

Yamazaki: You two have talent. However, you think of yourselves as mediocre after seeing the greater heights reached by the amazing people we’ve named today, so it seems to me that it’s an inevitable spiral. Despite all this, it really is important that we don’t pretend not to care.

  • Indeed, Marin and Wakana bring a passion to cosplay that could be called “love”. Do you think that’s influenced you in some way?

Shinohara: I don’t know if it’s influenced me, but the original manga has always rejected the view that devoting yourself to your passions makes you a dork. I’m sure that way of thinking comes naturally to Fukuda, the original author.

Yamazaki: As a creator, the episode where Wakana struggles hit me hard. I was dazzled by their youth, and absolutely felt the desire to do my best.

Ishida: As animation director, my goal is to give animators who hold such stances as much leeway as possible to do as they want, and make corrections that don’t put a damper on their passion… But is making that my personal aspirations as a creator just running away?

Shinohara: It’s alright. It’s not running away as long as you don’t pretend not to care.

Yamazaki: That’s right (laughs). I won’t pretend I don’t care, and continue to lie in wait.

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