Delving Deep with Gen Urobuchi

Gen UrobuchiPopular novelist and screenwriter Gen Urobuchi, who has written dozens of visual novels for Nitroplus, as well as writing spin-off novels for various popular titles from other publishers such as Shogakukan and Type-Moon. Recently, he has also served as screenwriter for original TV anime such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Psycho Pass.

Anime Shrine had the great pleasure of interviewing Mr. Urobuchi during his guest appearance at AFA2013 under the Psycho Pass special feature and he was kind enough to entertain some questions we had for him. Thank you for having us on such short notice. It must be a whirlwind adventure with all the big achievements your shows have made. How are things so far? 

Gen UrobochiIt has indeed been a crazy few months. With so many things happening, I didn’t get a chance to take stock of what I am doing as yet. Now all I can focus on is the wave my productions are making, be it Psycho-Pass or the upcoming ones for 2014. Again congratulations on how far Psycho-Pass has come. Just like your previous series, it has taken many by surprise in how things have developed. 

UrobochiI try to keep things fresh when I can and put in new ideas that, I hope, would be relatable to the audience. The concepts, Sibyl System and the Dominators, are major plot devices for Psycho-Pass. What inspired you to produce these ideas? 

UrobochiThe ideas, to be honest, had all been cobbled together in a meeting that lasted about three hours with major referencing being taken from, I guess, the works of the science fiction author Philip K. Dick. We also pulled ideas from the 1997 Hollywood film, Gattaca, as well.

Psycho The Sibyl System is somewhat similar to what the National Security Agency (NSA) in America is using. Do you think Psycho-Pass is somewhat related to what the NSA is doing in America? 

UrobochiI didn’t think about that really. In fact, I’m more surprised to hear that the NSA is about as scary as the Sybil System. A real world representation of an idea that seems far-fetched is truly surreal and mind-boggling. In Psycho-Pass, you quoted some western books, 1984 by George Orwell and Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill. Who is responsible for the homage? 

UrobochiAah, I had collaborative writing session with Fukami Makoto (the scriptwriter for Psycho-Pass), so I think that’s the part he rewrote, to give it a more realistic link to our world. Thus, I’d say that this is Fukami’s idea to incorporate these quotes. I see. These references allow fans from the show in the west to relate better somehow. Had you expected Psycho-Pass to be successful with foreign audiences? 

UrobochiAt the point of production, we only thought to make it for the Japanese audience in mind. To see how well-received it is overseas is actually very surprising. The responses from the west have made me and team very happy. Was there any aspects you found difficult when making an anime? 

UrobochiWell, when any of my anime productions get translate,  I don’t know if the actual meaning gets across accurately because I don’t understand foreign language and I have no way of checking. But from the reactions I’ve seen, I can safely say that the important points have all been accurately transmitted to the audience. This happened to be the case with Psycho-Pass and so I’m relieved my message made it through. What of acquiring new ideas to be incorporated into your upcoming shows? 

UrobochiI do read some books to pick up new concepts though I must say my mind is the sort that ask tough questions about life and how things work. That and observing the most mundane of things as I figure out what else can be derived from it. Currently all sorts of discussions and interactions take place on the Internet. In the future, what role do you think the Net play as a medium? 

UrobochiI’m a rather old-fashioned person so I still feel a little intimidated with how information is exchanged through the Web. However, it’s a current that can’t be changed, and, thus, people will eventually have to adapt to what is being brought about anyway. However, I do think that the generation that grew up with this hyper-connectivity will experience a more difficult world and environment to live in.

Madoka The same can be said of your other hit series, Puella Magi Madoka MagicaBesides being submitted for an Oscar prize nomination, it can be said that the show is very well-received, especially in Southeast Asia. Did you expect this sort of success for a dark show? 

UrobochiI’ve wondered about that and had been asked the same question a few times. Was it nominated? I thought it was only listed up because it hit the expected number of viewers in US… Well actually your movie had been submitted for nomination based on the production quality and values. In fact, if shortlisted, it would be competing directly with Studio Ghibli’s Kaze Tachinu. 

Urobochi(Laughts!) Ooh, then it is indeed a great honour if my movie gets picked! That means I have misunderstood the nomination methodology!

Fate-Zero There had been a time when you suffered a bout of writer’s block and you couldn’t write any new visual novels. What did you do to overcome that challenge?

UrobochiThis period took place before I started my work on Fate/Zero. I should say that having joined Nasu, one of the writers for the Fate series, to make Fate/Zero kickstarted my creativity again. The show helped me a lot as it had been my first actual attempt on working with someone else’s idea and creating new content for it.

To me, that showed how when you feel a limit to your own inspiration, moving on to collaborate with others can be a form of great encouragement. Your team would give you different insights and tell you how – “It can go this way too”. Indeed, you can see new hope and possibilities. Any parting words for your fans? 

UrobochiI hope you will all continue to support my upcoming works and that you’d give me the opportunity to tell wonderful stories and introduce new characters. Continue to enjoy what you all do as well and one day you’d be able to create new story-telling concepts that I may use and enjoy.

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