Interview with A Lull in the Sea Director Toshiya Shinohara and P.A. Works Producer Mitsuhito Tsuji

Written by Alexander Te and Ruben Vernier

nagiasu_750pxA Lull in the Sea (Nagi no Asukara) is a romance drama anime produced by P.A. Works in 2013. The anime has been well received in Japan, and is now available in North American markets thanks to NIS America and in the UK from MVM Entertainment.

NIS America describes the series:

“Long ago, humans lived in the sea. However, some humans defied the Sea God and moved to the land, creating the division that now exists between Shioshishio, the Sea Village, and Oshiooshi, the village of the land. Now, four middle school students from the Sea Village, Manaka Mukaido, Hikari Sakishima, Chisaki Hiradaira, and Kaname Isaki must attend Mihama Middle School on the land. While getting used to their new lives, these four and their new friend from the land, Tsumugu Kihara, learn how true bonds of love and friendship can overcome any separation.”

Japan Curiosity interviews Toshiya Shinohara, the director of the anime, along with Mitsuhito Tsuji, a producer from P.A. Works.

NagiAsuQ: What is the Japanese audience’s impression of A Lull in the Sea?
Tsuji: There were people that were obsessed with it and very passionate about it.
Shinohara: There were a lot of people that would like specific characters, and there were many people who would watch it every week interested in how their favorite character’s love life progressed within the series.

Q: How does the American audience’s response compare?
Shinohara: A lot of characters from A Lull in the Sea do not really show their feelings on their sleeves, and for Japanese people, that is actually a good thing. It is good courtesy to do so. We are thinking that is not the case in American culture, so we are not really sure how the American audience will respond.

Q: What is your motivation for creating this series? Was there ever an “aha” moment?
Shinohara: It is hard to say but, I found that I would dive deeper and deeper into this series. Sometimes, I would have trouble finding a solution to a problem I had while creating this. But when I was deep in a slump and I did not know what would happen, sometimes an idea would come to me. That was a very strenuous process. Tsuji would always tell me to follow the schedule. *laughs* In the end, I would be late and he was always there to follow and support and make up for that, so it worked out.

Q: What made you choose junior high school students as the main focus rather than high schoolers?
Shinohara: One of the reasons is that junior high would usually be the first time you fall in love. It is a time of love and you do not really know what love is. You are panicking because you do not really know what to do. We really wanted to delicately describe the theme as not knowing what is going on and being overcome with emotion.
Tsuji: During that age, it is a time where you like someone, but do not have the courage to tell them or tell anyone else that you like that person. But when it comes to high schoolers, you can just tell them that you like them. It is not as embarrassing. We wanted to use the middle school setting because you still possess that heart-thumping innocence.

Q: Was the time skip in the series planned before the production of the anime, or was it decided while the series was airing?
Shinohara: It was something that we had planned. We had finished working on the series before it aired. It is hard to go on as a 26 episode anime with just a story of love so we needed a side-story to that.

nagiQ: Were there any scrapped scenarios such as an alternate ending or different development?
Both: There are many!
Tsuji: First, what we thought of doing was that instead of a five year time skip, it would be fifteen years. However, that means that the characters would be 30 years old.
Shinohara: With the five year time skip, the person that Miuna always loved and admired would end up being the same age as her. When we thought about that, we thought it would be a good development. When it aired, the response was greater than we imagined.

Q: Do you have any plans in expanding the world of A Lull in the Sea? For example, a spin-off sequel series where the main characters of the original series become the supporting characters and the focus is on a completely different cast?
Tsuji: There are many sea villages so you can make stories on one of them or expand on one character’s story. The characters can even come to California or any other place or city which is right by the sea. A school setting can also be incorporated as well.

Q: Would it be easier to make spin-offs into a manga or light novel series?
It depends on the creator or the writer, and who will be writing such spin-offs.

Q: What is the most important aspect that viewers should take away when watching A Lull in the Sea?
Shinohara: As a creator, I believe that once the story leaves my hands and goes to the viewer, they are free to think whatever they want. But, I am always happy to hear that something really tugged on their emotions.
Tsuji: Our company P.A. Works is very lucky to have many original series. To be able to do a love drama anime that is 26 episodes long, of course like what Director Shinohara said, the audience is free to feel however they feel about the work. However, I just want them to see it from beginning to end because we put a lot of effort into it. With A Lull in the Sea, a love fantasy story, we paid special attention to the art and characters. I think this series is not something that we are able to replicate due to a lot of things coming together such as the staff we were lucky to have and timing of it all. Because of that, I really want to spread the word about this series to a lot of people and have them see and appreciate it. And then, maybe we can think about what to do next, maybe within this series’ world.


Q: What were your paths and stepping stones in getting to where you are in your careers?
Shinohara: I have been in this industry for a long time; it has been 30 years now. I used to hold the same position as Tsuji as a producer where I was more in charge of management such as scheduling. But becoming a director is not a position you can obtain unless someone is there to recommend you or appreciate your work and refer you.

Q: As you may know, A Lull in the Sea has been a hit series in the West. Are there are any personal messages you would like to give to your western fans?
Shinohara: We worked really hard on this anime so please recommend it to your friends because we just want as many people as possible to see it.
Tsuji: There are a lot of times when the series might pain or touch our hearts, so the anime might be hard to watch sometimes because the story does get really sad at some moments. It may be long at 26 episodes, but we think that whoever does watch the series will have changed thoughts about it, so we would really like for you and a lot of people to experience our story.