Shinjidai no Mixture Magazine BLACK PAST

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Black Past Interview with Gen Urobuchi

Because of the subtle nuances in this interview on the discussion of gender and sex, a translator has provided cultural context to this interview. This context is posted in the section following the translation.

Source: Shinjidai no Mixture Magazine BLACK PAST, June 2011. Translated by symbv from evageeks forum. Uno is interviewing Gen Urobuchi, who wrote the script for Madoka Magica.

Scan 1 and Scan 2
Uno – I have the pleasure of watching and enjoying Puella Magi Madoka Magika (Madoka). My views have changed somewhat from the first half to the second half. To be honest, up till the middle it seemed to me it is more like a work that clevely re-deployed various elements that we had already seen before. In fact, I could see Madoka have got many genes from works over the last 10 or 20 years. This was also reflected in the “established personalities” like Director Akiyuki Shinbo and Ume Aoki-san. And up till the mid-part although I found it a joy to watch I did not sense a desire to pour my words out about this anime. However, as it approached the finale, I started to reconsider and thought I had been premature in my thinking. In particular, the last 3 episodes were just sensational. My apology for stealing the word for my own use, but this was the surprise about the way of approach to reach something that is a “miracle”. In media with high degree of imagination like anime and game, consumers usually want to get hold of some “miracle”, a fantasy that could only exist in anime or game. Madoka was no exception to this.
Translations of interview text from online posts (now verified by scans):
Toggle original text:
When I [Uno] watched Madoka, it came upon me that I had met a presentation that updated the image of “miracle”. And I think this new image is about going deep with the “miracle” that occurred from a base of the relationship of two people of the same gender in which one side had only barely one month of sharing time with the other side, something that by conventional thinking would put as lacking ground and thus fragile. Between Homura and Madoka sex as narrowly defined could not happen and no child could be born between them. There is no ground whatsoever that would be said to be special and irreplacable. [Editor's note: "Sex as narrowly defined" is referring to Japanese law where no penetration = no sex.]

However, from there a “miracle” was established. At least those who watched the show feel that. And here clearly some tricks from the power of story-telling and the fictional account were at work. And what we seek from media with high degree of imagination like anime is this kind of power of story-telling, that is, showing to us the power that can make possible something originally impossible, I think. This is precisely what is a “miracle”.

Gen Urobuchi – If I can keep the use of the word “miracle”, to me a miracle is at the end nothing but some behavior that got noticed by chance. For those who were involved, it could be the fruit of praying or something that became the foundation of a faith, but if we look at it from a broader perspective, it may be just some occurrence that is not that unexpected which somehow happened at that moment. This is like, from a probability point of view, if the universe were to start over several hundred times it is not unexpected that some material may slip through. So at the end the worth of miracle is what additional meaning human put upon some accidental happening.

In the last episode, even the bonding between Homura and Madoka was established only after the miracle happened. At the stage when Madoka spoke out her wish to Kyubei, for her Homura is a denpa (wacko) whose words she could not understand. (lol) Although [Homura] came back from future and rolled back time many times, for her she only knew her only the first time. Therefore the motivation for Madoka's wish was actually rooted in desire to save all the mahou shoujo. It was not necessarily for Homura herself. It was to Homura's credit that because she went through time loops many times and bound up the causalities so that Madoka possessed the power strong enough to bend and twist the law of causality. So Homura's feeling was always facing towards Madoka, but Madoka came to understand the real feeling of Homura only after she got hold of the almighty power.

Uno – So on that part the girls were passing each other by.
Urobuchi – Yes. And in order to resolve this passing-by Madoka could only depart from humans and become a goddess. In a sense it is a cruel story.
Uno – I think in “Madoka” the theme of same-gender relationship is quite important. There is “mahou shoujo” in the title, and it seems that many watched Madoka with certain sexual image in mind. However in reality there were little appearance of male and the last part is anchored with the friendship between young girls. On one hand it was trying sexual presentation in overabundance, while on the other it tried to cut off that link. To me this is such a work. When I look at works like “The Cyber Slayer”, “Fate/Zero” and “Madoka” in this way, it seems to me that in your works a strong motive, where the sexual matter disappeared to a large extent and something happened in a sexless space, is at work.
Urobuchi – That much is certainly true. For me, perhaps there is part in my thought that said whatever relationship that could exist between male and female it should also exist between couples of same sex. Inside me, I could not imagine a model in which there is something that absolutely could only exist between male and female. Notwithstanding the extra element of sex, I do not believe male-female relationship is such a special thing among all the different inter-human relationships. Therefore if I really feel like doing, I may even try a melodrama between male couples, something like BL. [Alternative translation to the sentence starting with "Notwithstanding": "Pushing aside the issue of male and female sex (the organs), I don't believe a male/female relationship is more special nor unique compared to other relationships." Or with context from what's stated previously in the interview, it can be understood as, "Other than the involvement of penis in traditional sex definition, I don't believe a male/female relationship is more special nor unique compared to other relationships."]
Uno – Among your works, even if we put side the issue of sexuality, it seems “Fate/Zero” is a turning point. Of the works before it, “Saya no Uta” is a good representative, where we can see a composition in which catharsis is obtained by means by giving priority to personal emotion over social mores when both are present. On the other hand, after “Fate/Zero”, the style is shifted to a direction in which the strength of the story was pulled up and tension was raised by continuously taking in concepts of morals and social responsibilities. The depiction of Kiritsugu Emiya in “Fate/Zero” is typical of this. [symbv: Kiritsugu Emya is the protagonist and master of Saber in “Fate/Zero”]
Urobuchi – I wrote it in the afterword of “Fate/Zero” too. It was the time when I got so troubled by the fact that as much as I wanted to write a heartwarming story, somewhere in me just could not believe in legitimate happiness but I had to move the work to a happy end, and I almost wanted to hang up my pen. From very beginning, to opt for the individual instead of the world, to affirm his own desire and ambition is to me an absoulte bad-end. If the world should be destroyed then there was no salvation whatsoever left. I think in the past I just picked the escape route by landing the story in way that is a bad-end in a macro perspective but a happy-end from the individual's point of view. However, “Fate/Zero” is a story that had the individuals fallen into misfortune but got the world saved. Perhaps this became the turning point like you said and finally I could write my happy-end. After that, be it “Eisen Fluegel” or “Madoka”, I approached to write works in which the protagonist may face ruin and destruction but to the world it holds a good ending.
Urobuchi – I do not really like this idea of database. For example, I could never enjoy “Super Robot Wars” series. At the end for myself the top priority is the world view. I cannot love only the units that move around at will inside it as each individual item. I believe if I go to the extent where I just pick and choose the characters and mix them around as I please, I cannot establish a valid world view.
Uno – Even though you could insert into the history of “Fate/stay night” with an original story like “Fate/Zero”, you do not want to go to the extent of “SupaRobo” with its strong game-like imagination. I think you want to draw a line between works like “Mugen” or “SRC” where all the characters are chaotically mixed up together.
Urobuchi – I just think that this is really what they say “you must not follow an old chap (ojisan)” (lol) Although I also understand that, in the sense of “learning from history” where classic works are reused, it can become very meaningful contents. I cannot bring myself to do that.
Uno – So within you there is a feeling that you want to take in the sense of the post-internet age to a certain extent, you also want to resist that and hold out by the story's side. This is certainly one way of confrontation. While taking in the premises of the current period, yet keeping your own professional sense and looking for a better solution, instead of the best one, you are a little bit like Kiritsugu Emya (lol)
Urobuchi – Because I am a story teller, while I can feel the charm of how adorable the characters are as well as the environment they created, it is the power of story-telling that was created from them that I wanted to believe in.
Urobuchi – For me if I consider the “hidden history” in my life which had the impact of causing influence in my creation I remember when I was 24 I got sick and almost died. I contracted some epidemic and had fever. It got so dangerous that if the treatment had been delayed I could have died. What I could not forget is the feeling I had when I was in recuperation. Although I did not suffer grave wounds or anything like that, well, I felt that I was in a way erased from the society then. I could not get away from the feeling that I was just like a dead man. What I felt during that time is very much alive even now in my works.
Uno - So the fact that so often the protagonists got near death in your works is linked to that incident. And in every work you took care to build up a feeling that the body is slowly accumulating damages.
Urobuchi – By spending several months living like a dead man, I feel that I obtained something like the “eyesight of the dead”. It was unmistakably a precious experience when I could let my imagination to wander free regarding my death.


虚淵:奇跡という単語を引き継いで話せば、僕にとって奇跡というのはあくまでも単なる偶然に見出す行為に 他ならないんです。当事者にしてみれば、祈りの結晶だったり信仰の拠り所になっているようなものであっても、より大きな視点に立ってみれば、起こってもお かしくない出来事がたまたまその瞬間に起きたということに過ぎないんですね。確率的に言えば、宇宙を何百回か繰り返せば物質をすり抜けるようなことが起 こってもおかしくないわけでしょう。だから、あくまで奇跡の価値というのは人間がある偶然的な出来事に意味を付け加えるという行為そのものにあるのだと思います。



宇野:「まどか」にしても同性間の関係というテーマはやはり重要だと思います。タイトルに「魔法少女」と入っていることもあって、多くの人は「まどか」 に対してセクシュアルなイメージを持って見ていたという気がします。しかし、実際にはほとんど男性は登場しないし、ラストは少女たちの友情に着地するし、 一方で過剰にセクシュアルな表現を試みていながらもう一方では切断するようなこともやってみせる。そんな作品だったと思います。その意味では『鬼哭街』、 『Fate/Zero』、「まどか」といった作品を見ていくと、虚淵さんの作品にはセクシュアルなものがかなりの程度消失した、無性的な空間で何が起こるのかというモチーフが強く働いていると思いました。



虚淵:『Fate/Zero』のあとがきにも書いたんですが、僕は心温まる物語が書きたいと思っているにもかかわらず、どこかでまっとうな幸福というものを信じられないからどうしても作品がバッドエンドに向かってしまい、それに悩んで筆を折ろうかと考えていた時期があるんです。 そもそも、世界より個人をとる、自分の欲望を肯定するというのは僕の中で絶対にバッドエンドなんですよ。世界が滅んでしまうんだったら救済も何もないです よね。昔の自分はそれを認識しつつ、マクロに見ればバッドエンドだけど個人の目線ではハッピーエンドというところに物語を着地させることを逃げ道としてい たように思います。 でも『Fate/Zero』というのは個人を不幸にして世界を救う話だったので、おっしゃるようにこれをターニングポイントとしてハッピーエンドを書けるようになったのかもしれないですね。これ以降は『アイゼンフリュ-ゲル』にしろ「まどか」にしろ、主人公はどこか破滅に向かってしまうけど世界にとってはいい結末というものを迎えていますしね。


宇野:『Fate/Zero』のよう な、オリジナルとしての『Fate/stay night』の歴史に介入することはありでも、ゲーム的な想像力が強い「スパロボ」までは行きたくないということですよね。たとえば「MUGEN」とか 「SRC」のような全てのキャラクターがカオスに交じり合うようなものとは一線を引いておきたいのかなと思うんですが。

虚淵:僕の場合、創っているものに影響あるレベルで自分の人生における黒歴史を考えると、24歳くらいの時に病気で死にかかったことを 思い出しますね。感染症にかかって熱が出て、ちょっと処置が遅れたら死んでいたというくらいに危なかったんです。今でも忘れられないのが、その後の療養期 間における感覚ですね。大げさでも何でもなく、ああ、自分は今ある意味社会的に抹殺されているんだなあと感じました。自分が死人同然だという感覚が離れな かったんですね。その時間に味わったものは今でも結構作品に活きているように思います。

Translations from Scan 4 and Scan 5
Toggle original text:
Editors – Specifically did you ever feel that certain parts of your works vividly brought out your experience?
Urobuchi – Instead of showing up in any particular work, I think it is more in how in creating my work I can kill a character without hesitation. Without dodging anything within myself I can work out my imagination regarding what will happen at the moment a character dies. And thanks to that, I never go to a direction that made it easygoing like “since she is cute I cannot kill her!”. Of course when I am creating my work, if I make a character cute or stand out as a character, perhaps I am aware that I cannot be bound by the shackles that I have to let her live no matter what. In “Madoka” too, at the time when the screenplay had been done and after-recording was in progress for episode 9, people like producer and Shinbo-san got attached to Sayaka and I got the request that “could something be done in the final episode to bring her back to life?”. For me, it was “That's enough.” (lol) In “Madoka” Sayaka is a character who would be a problem [to the story] if she was brought back to life; and in the first place to me it is nothing special at all that she could not come back to life, as this is also the future for the surviving mahou shoujo. Inside myself at the point of the final episode, whether she will be alive or she will be dead – the two are absolute equivalent. Whichever it will go, once the decision to become a mahou shoujo is made, those who were living at that point, like Homura or Kyoko or Mami or Sayaka, will all reach the same fate. There may be some time difference, but that is all about it. If I can push it further, the twist of this story is also that disappearing itself is nothing unfortunate at all. Therefore in response to the request to bring her back, I have precisely only this answer “I do not understand.” I even wanted to ask back “Why all of you so obsessed with whether a character lived or died?” (lol)
Uno – This is a wonderful thing you said. (lol) Of course story and characters are not antithesis to each other, but hearing what you said so far I think if the question is which of the two should take priority you will stand behind the story side.
Urobuchi – I seem to look at character itself as a story, in the shape of one life. By that, since obviously for a character the ending is death, I think how to enliven the path leading to that is important. By that, I feel at some point a character must die, and precisely because she is staring at that she has a shining existence. In the final episode of “Madoka” too, if we put it via a slightly different angle, it can also be said that those mahou shoujo who were living are characters who were placed in the middle of their path facing the end point called death.
編集者 - 具体的に作品のここに経験が生きているなと感じる部分はありますか。
虚淵 - 特定の作品に表れているというよりも、作品を作る際に躊躇なくキャラクターを殺せるということが大きいように思いますね。キャラクターが死ぬ際にどうなってしまうのかという点に対する想像力を、自分の中で回避せずに済むわけです。おかげで「可愛いから殺せないよ」というような甘さを持った方向には行かない。やっぱり作品を創る時に、キャラクターが可愛かったりキャラとして立っていたりすると、どうにかして生かさなければという枷に縛られないでいられるというのはあるかもしれないですね。「まどか」に関しても、脚本があがって九話あたりのアフレコをしている段階で、プロデューサーや新房さんがさやかに情が移っちゃって「最終回でどうにか復活させられないかね」というオーダーをくれたんですが、僕としては「もういいだろう」と(笑)さやかは「まどか」の中で復活してもらっては困るキャラクターですし、そもそも自分にとっては彼女が復活できなかったのは特別なことでもなんでもないんですよね。あれは生き残った魔法少女の未来でもあるわけですから。自分の中では最終回の段階で生きていようと死んでいようと、その二つは全く等価なことなんですよ。どっちみち魔法少女になっている以上、あの段階で生きているほむらも杏子もマミもさやかと同じ運命を辿ることになるわけですから。ちょっとそこに時間差があると、ただそれだけの話なんですよね。さらに言ってしまえば、消えることは不幸でもなんでもないというのが物語のオチになってもいるわけですよね。だから生き返らせてくれというオーダーにはそれこそ「わけがわからないよ」と答えるしかないんです、「なぜ君たちはキャラクターの生き死ににこだわるんだい?」と訊き返したくなりますね(笑)
宇野 - 素晴らしい発言ですね(笑)物語とキャラクターというのは勿論対立概念ではないですが、この二つのどちらを優先するかと言った時に虚淵さんは物語の側に立つ人なんだと今までのお話を聞いて思いました。
虚淵 -キャラクター自体を物語として見ちゃうんでしょうね。一つの人生という形でね。そうなると、やっぱりキャラクターにとってのエンディングって死なので、そこに向かうまでの過程をいかに盛り上げるかが重要だと思うんですよ。そうなると、どこかでキャラクターというのは死ななければならないし、それを見据えるからこそ輝く存在なんだろうという気がします。「まどか」の最終回にしても、いきている魔法少女たちも、少し角度を変えた言い方をすれば死という終着点に向かっているその途中に置かれているキャラクターなんだと考えることもできますからね。
Translation of interview text from online posts:
Toggle original text:
Urobuchi – I have the feeling that I want to continue working in this industry for a bit longer, given that Madoka succeeded after that much effort. But then I do not think Madoka this time is such a critical juncture. If I have to pick a critical point then it will have to be “Fate/Zero”. That one is a work that I first felt happy creating something after a long time, and the good sales held a special meaning to me. With only “Fate/Zero”, it broke my target sales figures for all the works in my whole life. At that time, I even thought “Ah, it is fine if I do not have any success bigger than this.” And so I thought about trying various odd things but then Madoka also became a hit. It seems as long as you live and endure, unexpectedly you may hit on something.

Part of me may in a way have lost the ambition, but I will do my best in future because to have good review and be able to sell with my name is a way to repay the kindness of those who have helped me grow. And with all the viewers having taught me so many things, I also bear the responsibility of taking anime in Japan to something even better. I want to follow up on that.


虚淵:せっかく「まどか」で成功したので、もうちょっとこの業界での仕事を続けてみたいという気持ちはありますね。ただ、今回の「まどか」 を大きな節目とまでは思っていないんですよ。節目ということでいえばやはり『Fate/Zero』の方が大きかった。あれは久しぶりに物を作ることが楽し いと思えた作品ですし、がっつり売れたということも自分の中で大きな意味を持ちましたね。自分が生涯で売り上げるつもりだった目標数値を 『Fate/Zero』だけで上回っちゃったんです。その時に、「ああ、俺はもうこれ以上成功しなくてもいいや」って思っちゃったんですよね。同時に、あとの人生はボーナスステージみたいなものなんだから好き勝手にやろうという思いも出てきました。それで色々と変なことをやっていこうと考えていたらまた「まどか」で当たったので、案外生き存えていれば再び当たることもあるんだなと思いましたね。


Scan 3 of interview (sequence to rest of text unknown):
Toggle original text:
Urobuchi – In fact, nobody in “Madoka” is linked to anybody. Just when Mami thought she was about to be freed from loneliness, she died; Before Sayaka noticed Kyoko's feelings, she turned into a witch. In that sense, a very important theme in “Madoka” may be that everything missed each other along the cross-paths.

For myself, in the first place I feel strongly that “misses” means misses happened somewhere in the part where the idea that there is absolutely no link was not believed. There are the “misses” as the primary premise, and inside myself there is the thought that on the contrary how one gets to know the other side and by what means she understands them are more important.

Uno – I am very much in agreement with you. I was born in 1978 and exactly when I was a high school student “Shinseiki Evangelion” was aired. And from then, I think not only in anime and games, from Haruhi Murakami and Hayao Miyazaki onwards, every Japanese author came together and said “How could we join our hands together?”. It was “Eva” which asked how we could penetrate the “AT Field” and joined our hands. I can understand very well the background that gave rise to a desire for such story, something that looks inevitable. However, from around 10 years ago, such tendency started to shroud a more fundamental problem....[text chopped off]
虚淵 - 実際、誰一人として「まどか」では繋がっていないんですよね。マミは一人ぼっちじゃなくなると思った瞬間に死んでしまうし、さやかは杏子の想いに気付くよりも先に魔女化してしまっている。その意味ではことごとくすれ違い続けるというのが「まどか」における重要なテーマなのかもしれません。


宇野 - 凄く共感できますね。僕は一九七八年生まれになるんですが、ちょうど僕が高校生の頃に「新世紀エヴァンゲリオン」が放映されて、その辺りからアニメやゲームに限らず、村上春樹や宮崎駿からもう日本の作家たちはみんなそろって「どうやって手を繋ぐか」という話をやっていたと思うんですね。「ATフィールド」を突破してどう手を繋ぐのか、というのが「エヴァ」だった。僕にもそんな物語が欲望された背景、必然性のようなものはよく分かります。けれど十年くらい前から、この傾向はより本質的な問題を覆い隠し・・・・・

Understanding the Black Past Interview

A posted interpretation by a translator.

Us Asians do not often admit things verbally, especially if it's something deemed "forbidden" by the society. You're not imagining when you think the majority of Asians you've met are shy, no because that's our nature to be closed about individual opinions. If we want to say something to the public, either the topic has to be completely general, or we have to use metaphor to relay our (eccentric/minority) ideal indirectly.

In the interview, reporter Uno has gone to lengths before he dared to mention the issue of same-sex relationship which seemed to be prominent in MadoMagi.

The “miracle” that occurred from a base of the relationship of two people of the same gender in which one side had only barely one month of sharing time with the other side.

Uno also wanted to let Urobuchi know that he is not referring to same-sex friendship, but he had picked up something akin to male/female romantic one. Hence the mentioning:

Between Homura and Madoka sex as narrowly defined could not happen and no child could be born between them. However, from there a “miracle” was established.

In concrete Western terms, what Uno wanted to say was: "This work had done a wonderful portrayal of a relationship between 2 girls and the miracle it created. This relationship seemed to be the major point of MadoMagi. Strictly speaking, Homura and Madoka's relationship cannot bear fruit for they can't have sex (intercourse), yet the power it emitted was very strong. What do you have to say about this?"

To answer Uno, Urobuchi first explained about Homura and Madoka's overall situation and what is so miracle about it:

"Homura's feeling was always facing towards Madoka, but Madoka came to understand the real feeling of Homura only after she got hold of the almighty power..... In a sense it is a cruel story.

Uno had to prompted Urobuchi to answer more to the point he wanted to ask:

I think in “Madoka” the theme of same-gender relationship is quite important. There is “mahou shoujo” in the title, and it seems that many watched Madoka with certain sexual image in mind. However in reality there were little appearance of male and the last part is anchored with the friendship between young girls.

This paragraph meant: "Even though this is a magical girl series (traditionally aimed for little girls), what I've picked up from the audience's reaction is that there are overt tone of romance in the show (he properly refer to the explosion of fanarts and doujinshi of HomuMado and KyouSaya). Yet, the romance in MadoMagi doesn't involve any male, there are only girls in the show. Could you tell more why it is like this?"

Please notice, Uno didn't dare to outright say the sexual images fan have for MadoMagi is lesbian stuff. That'd be impolite of him otherwise. Urobuchi answered:

That much is certainly true. For me, whatever relationship that could exist between male and female could also exist between couples of same sex.... Notwithstanding the extra element of sex, I do not believe male-female relationship is such a special thing among all the different inter-human relationships.

Urobuchi admitted Uno's observation was correct, that the tone in MadoMagi indeed inspired artists and fans to fantasize about girl/girl. And he promptly added that to him, same sex relationships are equal to that of male/female, romantic or not.


See Also