On both the Saturday and Sunday of the convention, Shouji Gatou attended panels at which the first dubbed episode (presented by FunimationNow) of Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory was screened. Although the episode was the same for both days, MC Jeremy Graves from Anime Limited presented a Q&A after each screening that were different, with interpreting provided by Bethan Jones. The two sessions worked separately but were also designed to complement each other. As such, we will be presenting both in this article.
Gatou thanked fans for attending the event, quipping that he had probably come the farthest though. Asked what he made of getting to see the first episode in English, he was impressed that the English cast sounded so close to the Japanese one and thinks the military jargon sounds cooler in English.
This was his first time visiting London, commenting he thinks it’s a beautiful city and particularly enjoyed Covent Garden. He feels Japanese cities are messy in comparison, whilst London is full of historical brick/stone buildings.
His interest and knowledge of real world militaries initially grew out of a fondness for military action films. Eventually he sourced information from Japanese books and publications in addition to consulting friends who work in the Japanese defence forces. However, when using all of this as inspiration for writing Full Metal Panic! he placed entertainment ahead of military facts.
Asked to describe the series for those who have never read or watched it, he summarised that a former child soldier who is also a member of a secret organization infiltrates a Japanese high school where he meets a special girl. Together they are pursued and fight and through their adventures together he starts to become more human again.
There is not a single character whom he specifically relates to in the cast but Gatou noted that some believe a writer’s villains are a comment on their inner darkness, before quipping that their handling of romance scenes likewise speaks of their own experience in relationships.
Concerning the long gap since the airing of The Second Raid, he noted that the original novels ended in 2010 but it took time to arrange everything to continue the anime adaptation, with Invisible Victory having been worked on for the past three years. He is impressed that despite the long gap the production team hit the ground running returning to these characters.
Full Metal Panic! receiving an adaptation was his gateway into anime production and he is thankful it has allowed him to work on other anime productions.
No plans currently for any more episodes of Amagi Brilliant Park but he’d like to do more if the option became available.
Asked how it had been to meet fans the previous day, Gatou replied he was surprised and honoured to find he had so many passionate fans in the UK.
The first anime he ever saw was The Moomins. Quizzed on a favourite all time TV series or movie- “Die Hard.” The two most random fan gifts he has received are a tie between a hand-knitted Bonta-kun and some Japanese liquor.
Although he wrote short stories at age 19, it would not be until a few years later that he decided it was a career he wished to pursue and began sending writing samples to different places. His specific writing process requires him to disconnect from the flow of information. He leaves his phone at home and takes a word processor to a café to work free from distractions. Switching between light hearted and heavier content between scenes comes easy to him as he finds it boring to only write one. So a comedic scene may serve as the necessary antidote to a long action scene or vice-versa.
On working on an adaptation of someone else’s creation vs his own, he employs essentially the same philosophy for both. He appreciates there are things that work in prose that don’t in animation and always tries to be respectful to fans.
If he had to choose one character to be his friend in his own high school days he would choose Kaname, citing her as lively.
On favourite FMP! OPs and EDs, he believes Invisible Victory’s ‘Even…if’ and ‘yes’, both by Tamaru Yamada, are his current favourites and both fitting for a robot anime.
Asked by a fan who has read the novels what kind of warning he might give to those watching the anime instead, Gatou opined that was a tough one before cryptically saying he expect they may be shocked by what is to come and to remember that Kaname is the heroine of the story.
On returning with a brand new FMP! story, he feels that Sousuke and Kaname are the heart of FMP! and thus he’d first need to conceive of a story he believes in which involves them.
Concerning the importance of OPs in anime, he feels they are important as they essentially have to sell audiences on a show in a short time span and give them an idea of what to expect. With Invisible Victory specifically, Yamada read all of the novels to ensure the lyrics she wrote fit themes of the story. He is grateful to her for such passion and commitment.
The final question concerned the heavily comedic of Fumoffu. Gatou revealed that the scenarios within came from comedic FMP! short stories he originally wrote for Dragon Magazine. The anime version was the first season produced by Kyoto Animation and he feels circumstances proved just right for all involved parties to produce something great.