Shouji Gatou, the creator of works such as Full Metal Panic! and Amagi Brilliant Park was the Anime Guest of Honour for this May’s MCM London Comic Con, primarily to promote FMP’s 4th season ‘Invisible Victory’. Toonzone News was given the chance to pose some questions to the celebrated writer.
TOONZONE NEWS: What influences gave you the inspiration to create Full Metal Panic! ?
SHOUJI GATOU: I started out wanting to write something about an international rescue force that featured robots. It was very simple. And then I added various aspects like the high school element.
TOONZONE NEWS: ‘Invisible Victory’ is the fourth season of the series, returning well over a decade since ‘The Second Raid’. Given light novel adaptations often only adapt early volumes, how does it feel to see your creation continue to endure in animation?
SHOUJI GATOU: Ideally you want to animate the whole series, right through to the end of the novels. But a lot of the time a big part of the anime’s job is to promote the novels, so quite often you’ll just get one series and that’s it.
So it’s true that quite often you won’t have the budget to go on to make more anime.
TOONZONE NEWS: Full Metal Panic! has a multi-layered story, but the heart is clearly the relationship between Sousuke and Chidori. What was your mind set in handling these two characters?
SHOUJI GATOU: Their relationship is based on the straight-man/funny-man style of Japanese comedy, where one person will say or do something silly and the other person will slap them or point out the silliness of what they’ve said. So it’s very familiar to people familiar with Japanese comedy.
…And then there’s romance! [Both laugh.]
TOONZONE NEWS: ‘Invisible Victory’ has retained the actors from previous seasons, such as Tomokazu Seki and Satsuki Yukino. How important was retaining their sense of vocal continuity to the production?
SHOUJI GATOU: I’m very grateful that 13 years on we were able to get the same voice cast, it’s a miracle and I’m glad they were all able to come on board.
TOONZONE NEWS: Communicating a story in prose has differences from communicating one visually. Are there any moments you feel the animated series conveyed better than the novels or any scenes you couldn’t wait to see animated?
SHOUJI GATOU: Anime is much stronger in action because you can see the scenes with the mecha, so I enjoy those parts. So this time round we have really brightly coloured mecha which doesn’t come across in the novel so that’s something to enjoy in the anime.
TOONZONE NEWS: With series such as Full Metal Panic! and Amagi Brilliant Park you’ve created a range of engaging characters and deep world settings. What do you feel is key to making audiences as invested in your creations as you yourself are?
SHOUJI GATOU: Hmmm… [Muses.]
I just want to serve the audience, not let them get bored. [Muses again.]
I try to make the dialogue as interesting as possible…have unexpected twists in the story…[Muses briefly, laughs] I guess that’s it.
TOONZONE NEWS: The story has a globally minded focus, with characters and settings from across the world being involved. Does this focus stem from your personal interests?
SHOUJI GATOU: I just thought it’d be more interesting having people from different countries! [Laughs.]
But in terms of the setting, it’s sort of Pan-Pacific. So I don’t think that there’s that many European characters. You’ve got Kurz of course, a German. But mostly Japanese.
TOONZONE NEWS: Across the various characters and Arm Slaves featured in the story, do you have a favourite from each?
SHOUJI GATOU: I like all the mecha, I can’t really pick one. [Both laugh.]
I guess if I had to choose, I’d go for the M9s? I like Savage as well. And Arbalest. And Laevatein. [Laughs.]
But I can’t choose a character. I’ve put so much work into all of them.
TOONZONE NEWS: They’re a bit like your children.
SHOUJI GATOU: [Laughs.] Yeah, I guess.
TOONZONE NEWS: To conclude, is there a message you’d like to impart to European fans of Full Metal Panic! ?
SHOUJI GATOU: [Laughs.] A message…I guess, just that I’ve put a lot of effort into it so…enjoy!
I guess not a lot of people here have read the novels, so a lot of people are probably worried what’s going to happen next. But if they stick with it they will get their happy ending. So don’t worry.
Toonzone would like to thank Shouji Gatou for answering our questions, Andy Hanley from Anime Limited for facilitating this interview and Bethan Jones for interpreting.