Home Interview: Witch Hat Atelier Author and Anime Staff on the Adaptation

Interview: Witch Hat Atelier Author and Anime Staff on the Adaptation

During this year’s Anime Expo, we got the opportunity to speak to Kamone Shirahama, author of the incredible Witch Hat Atelier manga series, as well as Ayumu Watanabe and Hiroaki Kojima, the Director and Producer, respectively, of its upcoming anime adaptation. We asked about the inspiration for Witch Hat Atelier as well as about how the three envisioned different aspects of the anime series.

Q: Shirahama-sensei, can you talk about what inspired you (either other works of art or parts of your life) when creating the story and characters for Witch Hat Atelier?

Shirahama-sensei: When developing characters I like to think about their flaws first. Take Agott for example, she’s very self-centered and Richeh is quite stubborn and Tetia is unable to read the room or capture vibes that are going on. I try to make sure that regardless of these character flaws the story is still quite engaging and there is something fun for audiences to be able to experience. I try to build up episodes that make you want to be friends with them, even if they have flaws.

Q: How long did the initial concept take to develop?

Shirahama-sensei: In my head, I would say I’d had it for about six years. But when the project had actually gotten started and I got together the first plot of the manga it was about a year.

Q: How do feel about the fact that your story is going to be animated?

Shirahama-sensei: It makes me very, very happy, of course, because before I draw anything, I try to imagine what certain scenes would look like in an audiovisual format. That’s where I take inspiration from and translate that into a manga, so the fact that it can be an anime and the readers will get to experience what I’m imagining in my mind is quite cool.

Q: Kojima-san and Watanabe-san, can you talk about how you initially came to work on the project?

Kojima-san: Looking at the original works, the Witch Hat Atelier manga — of course, the manga visuals were really, really amazing so when I wanted to make and adapt it into an anime I made sure that no information would be lost in the process. The amount of information that the manga panels contain is really amazing, so we had to brainstorm and come up with ideas in order to translate that into an anime format without losing any information and making sure it does justice to the manga.

Watanabe-san: Normally when any manga gets adapted into an anime one of the first roles you want to cast is the Director so when I initially heard about this from Producer Kojima-san and received the offer I was a little bit overwhelmed because it seemed like a very reckless venture to be able to take this particular project and turn it into an anime.

Q: The art in the original manga series is spectacular. In what ways do you all work together to ensure that the art of the anime will stay high quality and true to the original manga?

Shirahama-sensei: In my case, I get to look at all the different worlds, settings, and concepts that they give me and just say “Okay, okay” so that’s largely what my job is (laughs). But on a more serious note, for a lot of the props, the animals, and the backgrounds I try to dig a little deeper and just figure out the textures or the materials and maybe give advice. I might say “Hey, this should feel a little harder,” for example. Or looking at the different types of food that are being consumed in the world and trying to imagine “Well if the land was groomed and grown this way then it should be more like this or that.” So it’s really more about observing the settings and giving advice about the materials.

Watanabe-san: First I want to say to Sensei that she’s been very nice and gentle in how she’s handled the entire process—the collaborative process—with the anime production team. And when adapting any type of original work into an anime, oftentimes we have to dig really, really deep. So we’ll be looking at the manga and find certain details and dig deeper than perhaps the original author would have even wanted to. Perhaps it’s an area or a theme they don’t want to dive too deep into. But in doing so, Shirahama-sensei has been very very kind and gentle in how she’s received and accepted some of our comments or questions. I think of course that paying your respects to and trying to accurately recreate the manga is certainly one thing. But, at the end of the day, anime is a derivative—or an adaptation—so my hope is that we can pay all the respects that we can to the original manga and franchise. And if you do happen to see something in the anime that didn’t exist in the original manga understand that that’s something Shirahama-sensei worked really hard with us to make happen and put on the screen.

Shirahama-sensei: And I just say “Okay, okay.” (laughs)

Kojima-san: Whenever we submit any type of settings or concepts to approve, the color is always very hard to get just right because we have to really use a lot of our imagination in terms of what that world would feel like, the textures perhaps, or even just different regional quirks or qualities that wouldn’t necessarily have been expressed in the manga itself. So whenever I submit something, I’m thinking to myself, “Yes, we really nailed it, we got this,” and I’ll submit it. But I’m always nervous because I don’t know what’s going to come back in our communication. And, of course, from Shirahama-sensei, a lot of anime, what makes it unique is that it’s not just visual. You have music and there’s also movement that’s adding more dimensions and layers to what the manga does. So I’m excited to see how that all comes together.

Q: Coco is a very curious, thoughtful person. What kind of voice do you envision for her character?

Shirahama-sensei: I’m really not sure yet, so I think whatever the readers may be imagining is probably the closest voice to what Coco would be. The readers may be reading it in their own voice, perhaps.

Watanabe-san: More so than any kind of specific voice, I think there needs to be a desire for us to want something to be that voice. And that desire is for it to be a kind of voice that doesn’t have a lot of color. It should be a voice that has infinite possibilities and that hasn’t really been dyed by any type of ideology. I think that the experiences that Coco will go through throughout the story will provide a lot of different learnings and a lot of different angles to view life through. So the range I imagine would be quite dynamic in order to be able to withstand a lot of the different angles and character that she’ll show. I don’t know if that’s something an actor or performer could do; maybe it’s something that we’ll have to look into AI for, I don’t know (laughs).

Kojima-san: To echo what the Director said, I think we’re still deciding, but again, it should be someone who feels almost a little incomplete and doesn’t have a full color yet, it’s hard to imagine, you know, maybe someone exists who can do it or maybe a new face or someone, a newer voice acting talent, perhaps, but Coco is really kind of representative of the entire franchise, so I think we really have to nail it.

We’d like to thank Kamone Shirahama, Ayumu Watanabe, and Hiroaki Kojima for taking the time to speak to us at Anime Expo. The Witch Hat Atelier anime revealed its staff and studio (Bug Films) and showed off a trailer for the series during its Anime Expo panel. The anime is set to air in 2025 and will be streamed by Crunchyroll.

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