I walked into a press suite of the third floor at the Renaissance in downtown Dallas prepared for an interview with Dai Sato. The interview was scheduled for 10:30 and even though I was there early, I still had to wait for a few other outlets to get their shot at Dai first. It was 11:45 before I could get my interview in so I spent the time shooting the breeze with other interviewers. IHOG is the new kid on the block and I was questioned by other interviewers with, “What is an IHOG”. This quickly turned into, “Awesome name!” once they found out we are the International House of Geek! Everyone in the room was equal parts excited and nervous.
I spent a few minutes writing out my questions on a yellow notepad so that Dai Sato’s translator would be able to run through the questions with him beforehand, although I had been assured by several people that Dai Sato knows English. Every time they said this it was immediately followed by a nervous chuckle and the feeling I was not being told the whole truth.
I wanted to know more about his writing than anything, as that’s what he has the most say in. I didn’t want to ask the generic questions that have been answered so many times before, but I also wanted to keep the questions simple. I wanted to avoid questions like “What is your favorite color?” though. I heard a girl from one of the other outlets saying she had to ask, “Is Spike really dead?”. Seemed like a waste of a question to me since we all know Spike is definitely ________ (Fill in your preference here). Especially since she could have asked what his favorite color was… wait… dammit this is harder than I thought.
On top of all this, I had stayed up the entire night before hand watching anime, promoting for the site, and doing light aerobics in an attempt to stay awake for the interview in the morning (If you saw somebody doing stretches in front of the Angel Beats projector at 5 in the morning that was me). You see, I’m not a morning person so just as an education to you daywalkers out there, I have to stay up the night before if I am needed in the morning. The answer? Two 5-hour energy drinks.
It was time for my interview with Dai and through a combination of sleep deprivation and the power of 5-hour energy I shoved my twitching hands into my pocket and walked in.
Before me I saw a large table covered in sandwiches, cookies and other treats for Dai Sato. A great view of downtown Dallas and the morning sun bouncing of the buildings highlighted the room with an almost holy ambiance. I looked over to see an American sprawled out on a couch, but no Dai Sato. Maybe Dai looked much more American than his pictures led me to believe. I introduced myself respectfully and Dai Sato shook my hand and introduced himself… as Jonathon. The translator. I heard the toilet flush from the room next to me and the sink begin to run. >_<
Out came Dai wiping his hands dry and smiling like he had just won the lotto. He wasn’t wearing glasses like the photo I had seen of him and he had the air of somebody you just want to sit down and talk to. He introduced himself in English and I could immediately tell that he understands English better than he can speak it. That’s okay, Dai. I can’t understand or speak Japanese.
I set up my recorder at the table, we sat down and began.
KOALA – First of all, how are you and what do you think of the convention?
DAI SATO – So, you know, it’s my fifth year here and it’s great to see old faces and see new faces, and it’s an odd way to say it but it almost feels as if I’ve come home.
KOALA – What new projects are you working on that have you especially excited?
DAI SATO – So most recently I have been working on the Tekken 3D Blood Vengeance movie and it’s got me very excited. [Dai Sato pulls out a folder and art-book for the Tekken 3D movie that I flip through as he continues] So it was really great for me to work on it as a 3D work and not a 2D work, because the 3D experience was very stimulating.
KOALA – I have a Nintendo 3DS that I’ve been really enjoying actually =)
DAI SATO – Ah, yes! We are working on bringing the Tekken 3D movie to the 3DS.
KOALA – If you could expand the story to any one project you have already completed, what would it be and why?
DAI SATO – From the perspective of a season 2 continuation of a story, I feel that I have tried to make as complete of a work as possible the first time, so there isn’t really anything I’d like to continue, but…. From the perspective of expanding a story and embellishing it a little bit more, although I don’t really have the rights to do anything like this, perhaps I feel I can add a little more to the Samurai Champloo series. Nobody has died yet and there is probably a lot more we can do with the characters.
KOALA – I just finished Champloo not too long ago and it was very good.
DAI SATO – Thank you!
KOALA – I know you are a musician, so I was curious if you get any say as to what music goes into the anime? Especially with Champloo I know that Nujabes was used a lot. Or is that something that is usually left up to somebody else?
DAI SATO – It kind of depends on the work. Sometimes, depending on the work, if the music is going to be used as a focal point in the piece I might be consulted or asked to introduce some musicians I know of or I am friends with. And probably one of the best example of that is Eureka Seven. So for things like Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop, the director, Shinichiro Watanabe, is much more into music than even me.
KOALA – What instrument do you play?
DAI SATO – I can’t play a traditional instrument, but I do DJ. I’ve been a club DJ since my early 20’s through probably my mid 30’s and from that perspective I have been very involved in music.
KOALA – How long does it take you personally to write a story once you have it in your head? [At this point I was asked to specify whether I meant a single episode or a whole series] How long for a single episode?
DAI SATO – It takes about a month to make the plot. And then to actually write that out as a script takes about another month. And that is probably the most ideal example. With a show like Ghost in the Shell and its complexity it took closer to three months. But for simpler works like Battle Spirits: Shonen Toppa Bashin, which is a kids show that I did, that maybe took two weeks.
KOALA – Do you feel being a screenwriter is a thankless job or that you get the credit you deserve?
DAI SATO – [Dai Sato laughs and runs his hands through his hair while giving me a look that said “The stories I could tell you”] I think it is somewhat taken for granted a little bit, maybe a little bit of a thankless job, but that’s okay. I think that’s part of what the role of a screenwriter is. So I think the ideal screenwriter/scriptwriter is one that can make the character who the people are watching say what the character should be saying and act the way the characters should be acting. If that becomes indistinguishable from the scriptwriter then they have done a good job.
KOALA – Do you have advice for novice screenwriters now that you have experience with the industry?
DAI SATO – [Gives a japanese “hmmmmm” noise] Yes. So I think first, if the screenwriter is aiming for working in the anime industry, the most important thing for them is to have a lot of interests outside the anime industry. And if you are going to write for games, make sure you understand many things outside of the game industry. And the reason for this is that no matter how much you think you may know about anime or games, in those industries there is always a group of people who know so much more than you, that the value you can bring to the table is in areas outside of their expertise. And so I think for me personally, I think my interest and passion for music is one of the things that has helped me in working for the anime industry and in the game industry and part of what has brought creators from that side to be interested in me.
KOALA – What do you do when you have writer’s block? [Dai Sato goes “Ohhhhh Writer’s Block” before the translator even says a word to him]
DAI SATO – So every time I look for a new place to live or move, one of my conditions is there is a park that is definitely nearby. So for me when I’m finishing writing something or I run into writer’s block I always make sure to go for a long walk in the park and just zone out and relax.
KOALA – How hard has it been to learn English for you? [Ironically he answers this question in Japanese]
DAI SATO – So I don’t really feel like I have mastered it or even come close, but I think through experiences like this with different translators and being at conventions I have been able to pick up little bits here and there but it is still a challenge. And so other methods I have tried to use are I watch lots of horror, sci-fi, and action movies and even though I don’t understand the English I just absorb it as best I can. Or I play games like Dead Space or Prototype, that haven’t been released in Japan or won’t be released in Japan and I work really hard to play it and feel like I understand what I’m doing.
KOALA – I like Dead Space and Prototype very much
DAI SATO – YESSSSSS! They are sooo good. [We both laugh and I secretly develop a man crush for Dai Sato at this point]
KOALA – Have you played Dead Space 2?
DAI SATO – Yes! Yes! Yes!
KOALA – Oh my god when he gets the needle in the eye!
DAI SATO – I know, so dramatic! [He says this in English, which sounds like “dra-ah-mah-tique”]
I hope you all liked Part 1 of the interview with Dai Sato and the rest of the interview will be up within a week. Until then, check out some of the other posts. Come hungry, leave Geeky.