As I’ve said elsewhere, all my writing was pushed back by Anime Boston this past weekend – but I didn’t leave empty-handed! Both literally (bought more manga and wall scrolls I have no idea what to do with), and figuratively, because Dai Sato was there and I managed to catch him at two fantastic panels. I didn’t actually take notes during his talks, unfortunately, but he had tons of interesting things to say that I figured you folks might appreciate, so I’ll run down the highlights of what I remember.
One point he kept bringing up was how critical music was to his perspective on storytelling – he wrote songs for idol groups before transitioning to scripts, and apparently tends to see stories and shows overall in terms of what kind of song he thinks they’d be. So Cowboy Bebop is obviously a “jazz show,” but Eureka Seven is a dance show, and Ergo Proxy is brit-rock.
He also emphasized how much he agrees with how writing for television is “sculpting in time” – how his most noticeable craft progression has been developing a better understanding of how to use every minute a story has at its disposal. Then there was a bit about how different shows have different processes, and how various directors really do guide the stories they’re directing. He described creating scripts for various directors as “writing a love letter to that director” – getting better as a writer means getting better at understanding both what that director cares about in stories and how to articulate those priorities in script form. Watanabe, for example, cares very much about the beats and rhythm of dialogue – his gateway to a story is how the characters bounce off each other in a fluid way, and most other priorities are secondary to how the key scenes will play out flow-wise. In contrast, Kamiyama prioritizes the narrative beats and where a story is going – what is the point of this episode, what are we saying here.
As for the medium itself, he seemed very excited about what he saw as the medium’s first full cycle, with the moe phase fading into a renewed interest in the tools, stories, and aesthetics of the 70s and early 80s. Since that’s when anime first rose to prominence as an artistic medium, he saw this as the medium’s first completed revolution of the artistic cycles all mediums experience.
And then there were a ton of great little details about all sorts of other stuff. He said he has great respect for Okada and Urobuchi, loves Game of Thrones, thinks he and J.J. Abrams think in pretty similar ways, and would like to work with Neil Gaiman. He said Eureka Seven was partially a thought experiment about continuing a story like Evangelion past the point of romantic confession. He said the transition in S.A.C. 2nd Gig from the personal/psychological to the political was a result not just of Oshii‘s involvement, but also the impossibility of avoiding addressing a broader society in a post-9/11 world. He said don’t listen to naysayers like Anno and Miyazaki, the medium’s just changing, and the future possibly lies in the acts of collaborative creation things like Vocaloid represent. He was very happy to see everyone, and very humbled by how happy everyone was to see him.
…if it’s not already clear, the panels in general made me feel Dai Sato’s an awesome guy who’s extremely good at what he does. I actually asked him a question about his experience in music versus scriptwriting at the first panel, and then when I was waiting in line the next day for his other panel, I ended up almost bumping into him as he was sneaking in the back, and we exchanged a great awkward wave. The price of admission was worth it just for that silly little moment.