Originally posted on 6 March 2016
Source: page 186-189

Ryu Encyclopaedia

Portraits of the Creators, Episode 10: Toshio Yasuda/Kotaro Hara

The men who have spent 10 years continuously supporting the video

Freelance video director
Toshio Yasuda

Originally working on promotional movies, he is a director who also creates the script for the game's event parts and does video editing, amongst other things. He also cooperated on the scenario for Ryu ga Gotoku 2. Aside from this, he has worked on things such as educational programmes for NHK.

Avex Management
Kotaro Hara

Performs general video creation for promotional purposes, including TV adverts and videos to be exhibited online and at the Tokyo Game Show. He is serves as a sort of point of contact with Mr. Yasuda. He has been working on the series since Ryu ga Gotoku 4, and since then has acted as Mr. Yasuda's partner.

Amusement and struggles unique to CG video

―Which game did the two of you become involved with the Ryu ga Gotoku series for?

Kotaro Hara (below, Hara): I took over the job from my boss after Ryu ga Gotoku 4, so I'm a newbie (laughs). You've been here from quite an early stage, haven't you, Mr. Yasuda?

Toshio Yasuda (below, Yasuda): I've been participating since the creation of Ryu ga Gotoku 2. I knew Mr. Hara's boss, who was at another company at the time, through another video job we worked on together. He had been involved in the first Ryu ga Gotoku, and asked me if I would like to work on the second with him, which is how I got started... and all of a sudden 10 years had passed (laughs). Up until that point, I had primarily been making video for TV shows or business PR videos... But the method used here is totally different, so it was interesting.

―By a "different method", what specifically are you referring to?

Yasuda: It's not like my main field was with things like films and dramas... but still I did get the impression that it wasn't like them. At first, in particular, there were things that were difficult to portray clearly using CG. For example, the depiction of cloth. Back then, we couldn't show things like a wrinkling or bulging of the collar when someone grabbed onto it properly, so we tried our hardest not to put anything like that into the script. But modifying and creating things like this that we couldn't do was a good opportunity to show off our skills.

Hara: Recent technological advances have meant that we don't really have to concern ourselves with this too much anymore when doing the script.

Yasuda: That's right. At first, there were times when we would try having the script written up, but end up being told, "We won't be able to show this properly using CG, so please change it." This experience led us to avoid depictions of clothing being grabbed; since then, we've been told, "This time around the clothes can stretch, so we can do it!" and actually been asked to modify the script in the other direction.

―I see. That must be a boon of technical innovation.

Yasuda: It truly is. Mr. Nagoshi will sometimes fret, "Can we really do this?" at meetings, but the people in charge will say, "We can!" I wonder if this is a build-up of is having kept at it each year. It's also the kind of exchange that you would never have with a live action filming, so it's interesting.

Hara: I hear that they used to be fussy about the depiction of liquids, too.

Yasuda: There were things like not being able to shown a scene of someone pouring alcohol into a glass.

Hara: This is a story from when Mr. Yokoyama was in the scenario-writing phase - when he tried to write a scene where it was raining, it seems as though the person in charge of graphics was vehemently against it (laughs).

Yasuda: The games in the Ryu ga Gotoku series have short development periods, so they probably have very little time for trial and error. I'm sure it's a difficult time for the developers, as well.

―That's right. After all, this is the Ryu ga Gotoku team, which prides itself on having one of the highest development speeds in the game industry...

Yasuda: Even we have things we think we could have done better on each game. For example, with a scene where it's snowing, there are things we can't imagine at all when we're doing the storyboards, like how much of a sense of the snow's scale you can create using CG. As a result of this, sometimes I'll see the completed scene and think, "I wish we had shown it for a little longer," or, "I wish we could have shown it in a wider shot." Thanks to the continuation of the series, we're able to take this and tie it to the next game, for which I'm grateful.

―Incidentally, is Ryu ga Gotoku's development speed rapid when compared to other visual works like TV shows and films?

Hara: Maybe it's easiest to understand if I compare it to a film? If it's an epic, the development period is generally around two to three years...

Yasuda: When compared to a film, I think that the Ryu ga Gotoku series seems to move at a pace that's roughly four times faster. TV dramas have shorter production periods than films, but this doesn't mean that they don't employ special effects. You really can't compare the speed of this series to anything else (laughs).

―Does this mean that you hurriedly begin writing the script the instant that the scenario is done, Mr. Yasuda?

Yasuda: Yes. I'm told the broad details of the story, but have to just keep working without even knowing much detail about the ending.

Hara: This means that occasionally, the script will have to be changed midway through even though it's complete.

Yasuda: That's right. It's kind of like, "Let's extend this scene to delve into the characters' backstory, and get rid of this scene." Some of the scenes created for the past games have been added or removed. But when you make a game of this scale... if you don't move at a certain pace, it'll never be done (laughs).

Hara: Also, there are cases where scenes that are set to be in event scenes are cut, and later turned into things in the adventure part.

―I see. So changes like that get made, too.

Hara: The screenplay is absolutely huge, so I guess there are parts where you need to balance it and be consistent. Despite the fact that they are dispersed throughout each chapter, these days the screenplay has more or less 100 pages per chapter. The chapters in the latter half are around 200 pages.

―That's huge (laughs). By the way, is there anything you pay attention to when creating the storyboards?

Yasuda: In terms of video, the Ryu ga Gotoku series rarely uses dynamic camerawork, generally utilising a fixed camera to put an emphasis on the drama. This means that it's important to make sure to show the person speaking, and then portray a clean shot of the expression of their companion. I guess you could call it a sense of tempo - it's about knowing when to pause.

Hara: I think this is a huge characteristic of the Ryu ga Gotoku series.

The ultimate crunch time: Tokyo Game Show

―After being involved with the Ryu ga Gotoku series for about 10 years, please tell us what you remember struggling with the most.

Yasuda: Simply put, the amount of content increases with each game, so that aspect makes it hard work. But there's nothing we can do about that. It takes time to up the quality, and our time is growing inversely proportional to the amount there is to do.

Hara: To speak about something recent, Ryu ga Gotoku 5 was tight. The script normally requires you to write about 1.5 times more than the event parts that are to be recorded. Then selections are made from out of that, but even the things that make it into the game are pretty voluminous, right? (laughs) We have to tell the stores of five people, so that can't really be helped.

Yasuda: So many things get added that it almost becomes overly greedy (laughs).

Hara: Also, in terms of a different kind of trouble, maybe things like the promotional videos for Tokyo Game Show?

Yasuda: At the stage when we're making the video for Tokyo Game Show, there aren't a lot of resources left at our disposal. We have no choice but to use these limited resources to create a story, though.

Hara: Isn't it new things that catch the interest of the audience? But it's because it's new that we often hear, "We're in the middle of development and can't spare resources!"

Yasuda: It's really hard having to come up with a plan for a video that even the developers can't read (laughs).

Hara: Actually, it's this situation that leads to differences between the video made for Tokyo Game Show and the video in the game itself.

―Oho! What kinds of scenes, specifically?

Hara: For example, the video played at Tokyo Game Show 2015 is the scene whre Kiryu says, "Step the fuck up!" In the Game Show version of the movie, his hand is shown in shot, but in the actual one it's not.

―If you search the internet, you might be able to find that difference.

Yasuda: Perhaps. Ryu ga Gotoku videos are often played on the big screen at Tokyo Game Show that people can line up and watch. I want people to think, "The waiting in line paid off," or, "I'm glad I saw that." I think it's important how excited we're able to make people using our limited resources, and it's also something we struggle with each time.

―By the way, which game has had your favourite cutscenes so far?

Yasuda: For me personally, it's Ryu ga Gotoku 2. The story set foot in adult territory that it hadn't previously by way of Kiryu and Sayama's romance, so we shone the spotlight on that. That said, however, it's not just a sugary sweet love story - it was a case of trial and error in attempting to depict a romance hardboiled enough to end up in a stabbing - so I have an attachment to it.

Hara: I recently had the chance to watch Ryu ga Gotoku 1 and 2's cutscenes. From today's perspective, they're shockingly low quality (laughs).

Yasuda: That's true (laughs). Personally speaking, I don't think that the CG being good means that it will definitely be more interesting. It's the same with watching old films; for example, even if the picture quality is low, if something is interesting then it's interesting. People can fill in all kinds of things with their own imagination, so they sometimes end up seeing something that isn't there. In that sense, I start to think that the story really is important. Looking back on it, though, the overall tone of Ryu ga Gotoku 1 and 2 is dark. Even the way the blood is depicted makes it look syrupy. They definitely are charming images, but it makes me think that they did a good job in managing to actually sell (laughs).

In order to bring a Ryu ga Gotoku-like duality to prominence

―This might be a silly question, but what kind of thing seems to you to embody the essence of Ryu ga Gotoku?

Yasuda: To me, "Ryu ga Gotoku-ness" means its duality. In terms of the story, at times like, "I have to hurry or Haruka will be in danger!" you can wander off to a hostess club. That's a gamey kind of fun. The absurdity of the things you can do in the adventure part, and the seriousness of the story. We work hard to create an adult drama in order to bring this duality to more prominence. We usually like messing around quite a lot, so we want to put these kinds of things in, but we let off steam by chatting about things like, "It would be funny if Kiryu did something like this," or, "It would be amusing if Kiryu was in a place like this."

Hara: Though a lot of the programmes you make lean in a serious direction, don't they? Things like E Tele.

Yasuda: The educational programme aimed at high schoolers has finished, but I have previously made programmes about things like space.

―They're complete opposites. It's doubtful whether many of the characters in the world of Ryu ga Gotoku have even finished high school.

Hara: In the future, if a high school or outer space appears, it will probably be Mr. Yasuda's fault (laughs).

―Incidentally, are there any things in terms of production that you'd like to challenge yourselves to in the future?

Yasuda: Rather than things I'd like to attempt, there are cutscenes I'd like to see. Kiryu ages realistically, right? So one day, I'd like to turn that around and see a Kiryu who uses a walking stick. Waving it around and things like that.

―I kind of get the impression that I don't want to imagine that Kiryu, though (laughs).

Yasuda: Well, I doubt that it could be done in the main story. But when development finishes on the Ryu ga Gotoku series, we have a completion party. One day, I have this ambition that we'll be able to play a trailer at one of these when Kiryu, who doesn't get a pension, runs wild and finally punishes the evil politicians.

―But... Kiryu definitely doesn't pay for his pension, does he?

Yasuda: Nope. It's his own fault for not paying, though. He's just as bad as the evil politicians (laughs).

A real comparison! The difference between the TGS version and the finished version

Based on the testimony of Mr. Yasuda, we compared the short trailer for Ryu ga Gotoku Kiwami that was shown at Tokyo Game Show 2015 to the same scene in the retail version. You probably wouldn't notice without it being pointed out, but there really is a difference depending on whether or not Kiryu's hand is present. As you can see from this example, they and the other staff re-evaluated a variety of scenes right up until just before release and improved them.