Few original anime in recent years grabbed people’s attention like Sonny Boy. With the show in competition at Annecy Film Festival this year, I had the pleasure of interviewing some of the Sonny Boy team to understand more about this enigmatic series.
I sat down with director Shingo Natsume and art director Mari Fujino to talk about the series’ origins, working on an original idea and their hopes for the future.
Related: Sonny Boy’s Ending Explained
How did you hear about your entry into Annecy, and what was your reaction when you first heard?
Shingo Natsume: I received the information from the producer. When I first heard, I was surprised because I had completely forgotten that we had applied for it! But I was really happy to hear this news.
Fujino Mari: For me, I heard it from one of my seniors, and then found out on Yahoo News!
How did the initial idea for Sonny Boy come about? The first episode focused on the school; was that the first idea or was there a broader concept first?
Natsume: The first idea was the school, actually.
If you go to a public school, you tend to know everyone because you live in the same neighbourhood, so I thought it was interesting to see how those people who knew each other could disappear and go to a new world. But the image I had was mainly the school at first.
Fujino, how was the concept first explained to you and what were your first thoughts?
Fujino: The order came to Studio Pablo [art and background studio]. I had spoken to Natsume, too, but when I first read the scenario, I thought I would be able to create something that was never seen before.
I personally thought I would have a lot of fun on this, so I really wanted to get involved. I explained this to my boss and that’s how I became the Art Director.
One of my favourite things about Sonny Boy is colour. There are a lot of contrasts used in the series, so what were the discussions around colour like?
Natsume: Actually, when I wrote the scenario at first, I didn’t really think about any details about how it would come out visually.
My main goal was to get all the decoration and colour from the ideas of Fujino-san. I wanted her to use her imagination to think about the colours. But yeah, we talked a lot about it.
About the contrast: the contrast is dry in the series and that’s something we really tried to realise.
Sonny Boy was an original anime; what are the particular challenges that come with creating an original series compared to an adaptation?
Natsume: Because it’s an original anime you have to start from nothing, so the workload is very, very heavy.
The thing is that everything you create is the right answer because it’s your own work. I have to say that, as a creator, it’s really fulfilling to work with that.
Fujino: I think the same thing, that’s why it was really exciting to work on this project.
Japan is celebrating women in animation at Annecy. How important is it for women to have leading roles in anime creation, and how much has the industry changed since you started?
Fujino: Being a woman in the Japanese anime industry, I have to say that I don’t really feel any kind of discrimination or anything, so that’s pretty good.
It’s true that when I entered, I heard many people say that in the past there were not a lot of women directors but now I meet a lot of them. It’s clear that there are more and more every day and it’s really encouraging to see.
Natsume, are you working on any more original ideas at the moment? Are there any new ideas you would like to explore, or would you like to do an anime with a similar theme in the future?
Natsume: If I am given the opportunity, I would really want to create another original anime, maybe with a different style.
But when it comes to Sonny Boy, I have to say that it’s a very egocentric anime; like, it’s an anime I created myself without anybody else, in the sense that I really thought about it myself.
If I had the opportunity to create another original anime, I would like to do it with a team and be able to argue about my ideas with other people, because for Sonny Boy I was able to just create what I wanted.