As first SWORD ART ONLINE – Alicization – teaser has just been released, Sword Art Online saga director, Itou Tomohiko, and new, long awaited season director, Ono Manabu, answer fans questions in an exclusive interview!
Q: At long last, the anime adaption of SWORD ART ONLINE -Alicization- has been officially announced. First of all, Mr. Ito, tell us how you felt when you first heard of the news.
Itou Tomohiko: In the first place, I’d already read all the light novels online to prepare for the anime series, so I already knew about the Alicization arc before the first season of Sword Art Online was made. Even then, I felt that bringing this to the big screen would be a difficult task. Of course, I did think that it would be great if Sword Art Online could make all the way to the Alicization arc… So, while working on the last scene of the movie, without knowing who was going to be in charge, I was thinking, “here, take this baton from me.”
Q: So that’s what you were trying to convey during that last scene of Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale. So, tell us, Mr, Ono, how did you come to accept the position of directing the Alicization arc?
Itou Tomohiko: When was it you heard about it first?
Ono Manabu: It was around the time the movie was being test-screened. Even before that I’ve heard from the Aniplex staff that they were planning to adapt the entire Sword Art Online series.
Q: What made you decide to take on the anime adaption of the Alicization arc?
Ono Manabu: It’s a popular series having a first and second season as well as a movie. When I accepted the job, I though about how much pressure I’d be under. But I thought, “If I would ever get to do something on this scale, this would be now or never.” But most of all, producing a TV series can be so arduous in terms of motivation and stamina, and right now I felt that I was in prime condition to do it. This was one of the biggest reasons.
Q: What did you both think about the original Alicization arc?
Itou Tomohiko: First of all, the scale of the story is grand. Not only is the story long, you would also have to portray the war going on as well. I had the impression and thought “Just how (can you turn this, into an anime)?” When I read the original novels, I though that this would take at least 10 years from the time the first season was anime adapted.
Ono Manabu: I felt the same way as Mr. Ito. It was a story of epic scale and it would be tough to bring everything to the big screen. I do understand how Mr. Ito feels saying that “it would take 10 years” with how it was then reading the novels, but now, this is something we can achieve, with all the recent innovative technology in animation. I felt that “we’d be up to the challenge.”
Itou Tomohiko: With the introduction of the new characters, in a way, I though it was a good chance in terms of the story to switch directors (laughs). And I think you can go ahead and portray Alice and Eugeo in your own way.
Ono Manabu: Thank you very much. As you said, Mr. Ito, the feel of the series drastically changes with the Alicization arc, and that’s one of the reasons why I decided to take on the challenge. That being said, Mr. (Shingo) Adachi will be will be returning from the previous series as character designer, so the backbone of the story remains unchanged. As for the new characters, I hope to put my own stamp on them.
Ono Manabu : I would like to cherish both the original work as well as keep what has been to be the Sword Art Online anime so far.Itou Tomohiko : I thought it would be reassuring to pass on this series to Mr. Ono with his well-known achievements.
Q: Mr. Ono, what was your impression of the previous Sword Art Online series?
Ono Manabu: I saw the first episode in real time when it aired, and I thought it was very intriguing, it was truly an ideal first episode. Kirito and Asuna’s appeal, how cool the action scenes were, and just how interesting the story was.
Ono Manabu: Overall, I was intrigued by how each character would discharge their emotions on each other without holding back at all. In a way, it was a “raw” human emotions. Since the Alicization arc also has that “rawness”, I hope I can be up to the challenge to depicting it in my own way.
Itou Tomohiko: With the many achievements you have in your carrier, I feel reassured that it’s going to be you directing. Up until now I’ve received comments like “We’re looking forward to the Alicization arc!” so it really takes a lot off my chest to finally be able to say “But I’m not directing it.”
Ono Manabu: I do hope I can pick up where the first two seasons and the movie left off and would like to pursuit the same intriguing aspects of the Sword Art Online series to the screen.
Q: Mr. Ono, can you tell us what kind of story you would like Alicization to be?
Ono Manabu: The original Alicization light novels focuses on the friendship between Kirito and Eugeo, and I would like to portray that kind of friendship between guys in the anime as well, and I hope it will move the hearts of the viewers. Kirito will be portrayed as an eleven-year-old, so one of the issues was how to make him seem like an eleven-year-old. I hope to make our viewers feel “What will happen next!?” when they watch the series.
Q: Last but not least, Mr. Ito, if you have any words of advice for Mr. Ono, we would like to hear them now.
Itou Tomohiko: The Sword Art Online production site tends to have directors pass out on spot and get carted off in ambulances, and even character designers breaking a bone or two. So, I just hope that you take good care of yourself!
Ono Manabu: Thank you very much. Before the production goes into full roll, I think I’ll go ahead and get a full medical checkup (laughs).
Itou Tomohiko: Please look forward to director Manabu Ito’s Alicization arc!
About Ono Manabu :
Animation director. Main director of series such as: Saki (2009 - 2015), A-Channel (2011), Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere (2011-2012), The Irregular at Magic High School (2014), The Asterisk War (2015-2016) and many more.
About Itou Tomohiko :