[Honey’s Anime Interview] My Hero Academia’s Kenji Nagasaki (Director) & Wakana Okamura (Producer)

Boku no Hero Academia wallpaper
My Hero Academia has taken Western anime fans by storm thanks to FUNimation’s amazing simulcasts available on FUNimation Now and Hulu. The story takes place in aEarlier, Honey’s Anime brought you an amazing interview with some of the English cast for the popular shonen anime, My Hero Academia, the story of a young boy, Deku, born without super powers in a world where they have become the norm. Deku doesn’t let his lack of powers defeat his dreams, though, as he continues to work towards his goal to become the ultimate hero like his idol, All Might.

Today we bring you a follow-up to that interview. FUNimation allowed us to sit down with the director, Kenji Nagasaki, and producer, Wakana Okamura, of the anime to ask them how they became involved with one of the most popular anime of the Fall season, and how they made the journey there!

Let’s begin!


Honey's Anime

Kenji Nagasaki

Wakana Okamura

How exactly did both of you become involved in the anime industry?

I liked movies when I was growing up. I watched Laputa by Studio Ghibli when I was in high school and that inspired me and piqued my interest. That was my inspiration.

I wanted to get into the creative industry when I was in college and when I graduated I joined a company, a flash animation company, and that’s where I started.

Nagasaki-san, have you ever actually met Miyazaki?

I saw him! I saw him on the street when I was going to the studio nearby. I’ve never actually talked to him.

Nagasaki-san, what led you to direct the anime adaptation of My Hero Academia? Did you read the manga? Why did you choose this project?

I was actually scouted by a producer at Bones for this project and I actually had not read the manga at that time. Then I read all the manga and thought that I could do something really great with the anime version, so that’s how I came to work on this project.

What about you, Okamura-san?

I’ve been reading Weekly Shonen Jump and when I read the very first chapter of this manga I thought this could possibly make a very good anime adaptation. I kept reading every chapter and my interest grew. I thought that it has a very good story, great characters, and I thought that it could be enhanced if it were an anime and that’s when I decided to start the project and I talked to Shueisha.

Since the anime is originally a manga, do you work directly with the mangaka? How does that work?

Since the manga is pretty solid and the author is pretty happy just leaving it up to us, so basically we work on it solely, but we ask his assistance when we need some help in terms of certain art for certain characters or backgrounds so he will consult with us on certain things and provide his input. So I guess I would say that he is involved.

For the English version, do you work with the English cast or the English director? How do you express your feelings in another language?

I actually don’t work on the English version. I’m not involved in the English production version at all. It’s all just side notes and FUNimation, but I watched the English dub version and I was very, very happy with it and how the voices were able to capture the essence of the Japanese version of each character.

What exactly are you trying to convey to your audience? What is the message you are trying to send through this anime and what do you hope audiences gain from watching this series?

As you know, the main character Deku doesn’t have any powers, but he inherits the power from All Might. By holding the power, he starts his journey to become the hero that he wants to be and that journey to become you really want and aspire to be can be applied to anybody. I would like fans to learn something through this journey.

How did you choose which seiyuu for the cast of My Hero Academia? Did you have an idea of who you wanted already or did you hold open auditions?

We actually auditioned about a hundred people for each character. For most of the main characters like Deku and Bakugo, we listened to about a hundred samples to find the right fit to convey the character's emotions. For example, Deku who is very emotional, but he has a very strong core. He is very strong inside. We tried to find someone that fits and that can deliver such a wide variety of emotions so it took a while.

Was it fun at least?

When we find that one, all that effort and time spent is worth it.

One thing that we did pay attention to and focused on was to create a group of voice actors to voice students and we purposely selected fresh voices that are more upcoming, young voice actors and for teachers, including All Might and everyone, we tried to focus on bringing veteran voice actors to voice those characters. We hope that these young voice actors can also learn from these veteran voice actors and grow themselves along with the characters. That’s what we were hoping for.

That’s amazing!
Nagasaki-san, you used to be a storyboard artist. How did you make the transition from an artist to a director? Was directing something you always wanted to do or was it just fate?

I’m actually a director and the reason I’m listed as the storyboard sometimes is because I do the storyboard myself.

Okamura-san, you’ve worked on many different projects spanning a wide range of genres, what is your favorite genre to work on? Haikyuu was a sports anime, Psycho-Pass was sci-fi, and now shounen. Which is the most enjoyable?

I really enjoy each different genre in general because each genre and project have its own needs and whatever I’m working on at that time I really enjoy it. For instance, Haikyuu!! and sports anime, I would go and research by going and watching the games and that’s fun in itself. So I really enjoy each genre that I’m working on.

Speaking of Haikyuu!!, when can we expect the new season?

October!

How is My Hero Academia been different from past projects you have worked on?

There are a lot of things that are different about this project! I grew up watching shonen anime, but nowadays you see less and less really good shonen anime and I really like the story of master and apprentice, but you don’t see that in anime nowadays so I’m really glad that I was able to work on this project to pursue that and to create something that is really special in a sense that for me growing up watching shounen anime, this is a really special project.

Which shonen anime did you use to watch as a child?

I really liked the hero’s journey in shonen anime. Yes, of course, I watched Dragonball, but also the anime Slam Dunk and Captain. There’s a space anime just called Captain where the main character grows into his own journey of becoming who he wants to be and that’s something that you don’t see in anime a lot.

A lot of projects that I’ve worked on before tend to skew to an older audience, but with My Hero Academia this is my first time working for a more mass audience anime that ranges from kids to adults. I really enjoy working on this because it’s new and we were able to create games and toys for kids. That’s something that is very fresh. That’s something that is the most different about working on this anime from what I’ve worked on in the past.

Okamura-san, most people have a general idea of what the director does, but what exactly does the producer do? Would you mind explaining it to us?

For me, I’m more of a project planning producer. There is a different producer at the studio that actually does the production of the anime, so my part is that I’m the one that pieces together everything like getting the licensing for a manga to make the anime, and I select animation studios and I put the staff together.
The extent that I get involved in the production is just to write the script and I’ll be involved in script development meetings, but once it goes to the storyboarding stage I’m hands off, usually.

Final Thoughts

Honey’s Anime would like to thank FUNimation for setting up this amazing opportunity and to Nagasaki-san and Okamura-san for taking the time to answer our burning questions. Okamura-san has also worked on popular anime such as Haikyuu!! and Psycho-Pass, so be sure to check out her other work while Nagasaki-san’s newer works include the last two versions of Gatchaman Crowds and Tsuritama. Make sure to watch them all! My Hero Academia is available for streaming on both Hulu and FUNimation, now. There is really no excuse not to!

Nikki Flores

Writer

Author: Nikki Flores

You may know me by my witty and excellent prose, but I assure you there is a real person underneath this brilliant exterior. As a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, I traveled to Okinawa, Japan in search of the One Piece. Together my crew consisting of a white dog named Yuki, an evil cat named Kyubei, the wise feline Pickles, and my ever supportive husband Aaron, we travel the globe seeking life’s greatest treasures. Oh, and I’m sure one day I’ll eventually meet Trafalgar Law in the New World. I hope. Please? *pout*

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