Shouji Gatou at MCM London Comic Con

Shouji Gatou at MCM London Comic Con

0 comments 📅02 June 2018, 13:58

“I feel like I’m an old hand at it now,” Full Metal Panic! creator Shouji Gatou says of taking his stories and bringing them to life on screen. Speaking in a deep, cheerful voice, the author considers every question carefully as he discusses his beloved franchise. Starting from 12 light novels that have spawned eight manga and four anime series, to say Gatou’s mecha series is popular would be an understatement.

So, it makes sense that he is the anime guest of honour at MCM London Comic Con, to meet fans and discuss the franchise’s newest series Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory. Continuing directly on from The Second Raid, the series’ fourth outing returns to the plight of Mithril soldier Sousuke Sagara and the gifted Kaname Chidori, as they face the prospect of their peaceful high school life coming to an end now that the organization Amalgam are determined to defeat them and take Chidori for themselves.

You began as a writer, and you explained at the panel that it was coincidental that you got to work in anime. What was it about Full Metal Panic! that got you into the industry?

“First, the novels were very popular, and quite often a book or manga that’s a big hit will become an anime at some point. So, four years after the novels came out they decided to make it into an anime, and they started with the first three books. I guess that’s it!”

Since you came in as a writer and then became involved with the anime, how did your approach to the series change? Did you have to adapt the story differently, or maybe change the characters?

“I forgot to mention, with the first series I didn’t actually write the scenario. I started writing with Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, and I didn’t change much with this series but from The Second Raid I started to change characters, and other elements. The Second Raid is based on the fourth volume of the novels, and the bad guy had quite a low impact. He just sort of appeared, says a few lines, and then he gets killed! But that didn’t feel like enough for an anime, so we decided that he should be more eccentric so he could have a bigger impact, and that’s how I changed the character. I really like the villain in The Second Raid, he’s slightly crazy!”

Has your approach to creating anime changed over the years?

“My approach has changed. At first, I would focus on writing the screenplay and nothing else. But, nowadays I bear in mind the work that the animators have to put in to what I’m writing, the length of the episodes, also the fact that viewers of an anime are different to those that would read my books, so I have to tone down some things, or make them easier to follow. I feel like I’m an old hand at it now.”

Mecha anime can feature quite a wide range of genres, it can be quite dark or it can be comedic. Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory seems to be able to mix the two well, why did you want to take that approach with the story?

“When I made Fumoffu I was aware I wouldn’t be able to go back to that comedic style, so Invisible Victory combines both Fumoffu and The Second Raid. That first episode kind of alerts viewers that they won’t see the same level of comedy that they would have seen in that first series, unfortunately!”

Which Mecha anime inspire you? Do you have any favourites?

“I like Armoured Trooper Votoms from the 80s, Mobile Suit Gundam, and Combat Mecha Xabungle. All sorts of Mecha anime from that era, there’s a lot of those that inspire me.”

In terms of your characters, Sousuke has a dark past and is quite a flawed individual. Why did you want to focus on him as your lead character?

“Thinking about it now, he is broken and flawed in many ways but when I first conceived the character he wasn’t meant to be that way. He was meant to be a more comical character, just a former soldier that was knocking around in peace time. Then the darkness came later, it was an afterthought!”

Why did you decide to include it later, then?

“That’s how I build characters, not just Sousuke but any character. I start with a superficial idea of a character, and as they talk and move around I find out about their past, and what’s going on in their head and build up the character.”

One great aspect of the anime is that Chidori is a strong female lead. She can stand up on her own and she’s not a damsel in distress. Why did you want to have a character like that?

“I didn’t think a princess-type character would be particularly interesting, and I thought that if these two were going to go on these adventures together then she would need to be able to take care of herself. I thought it would be more interesting if she could support Sousuke, and I love James Cameron movies!”

At the panel you mentioned that you visited an RAF museum while you were here. Since you do a lot of research for your stories do you think we will ever see anything from that trip appear in your work?

“If I were to write something set in the past, then I’d love to use something that I saw there but air battles nowadays are boring! It’s only radars and missiles, they don’t do the dog fighting anymore. I’d love to do something with it, though.”

Personally speaking, I think you have a great voice for voice acting. Would you ever consider doing it? And if you could, which of your characters would you voice?

“Being a voice actor really is a special skill, I don’t think I could do it! But, if I were to do it, then maybe I would be most suited to Belfangan Clouseau of Urzu 1.”

Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory is currently being simulcast, with an English Dub, on Funimation.

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