Anime Shrine had a chance to interview the men behind the popular anime Sword Art Online. Present at AFA 2013 as special guests were producer Shinichiro Kashiwada and director Tomohiko Ito. They answered some very interesting questions about SAO while they were there.

Team Sword Art Online: Kashiwada-san (Producer) and Tomohiko-san (Director)

1. With the popularity of SAO, are there any plans for a movie and/or second season?
Director: Producer-san, please answer this!

Producer: We’re still deciding whether or not to go with it. We weren’t even sure if it’s THAT successful but if overall sales looks good, then yes, we might consider it. But don’t take my word for it!
Director: Wow, that’s very optimistic.

2. This story is very game-oriented, are you familiar with the gaming terms? Are you guys gamers yourselves?
Producer: Nope. I don’t. I just make sure everyone does their jobs, hahaha.

Director: Before this, I’m very unfamiliar with all these gaming terms. I mean, work takes up so much of my time that there’s really no room for games. But the rest of the staff are serious gamers so they taught me a lot and at various points, I even got Kawahara-san to teach me a few things about gaming terms and concepts.

3. If you can create your own original SAO character what kind of character would it be?
Producer: I think I’d want to create a cute girl character. Because I’m not cute. So I want my avatar to be cute.

Sword Art Online: Kirito and Asuna’s married life

4. Was there any difficulties during the anime production? What kind of challenges did you face?
Director: Hmmm. The hard part, I think, was establishing the romance between Kirito and Asuna, and their married life. I mean, I’m single, most of the staff are single, so a lot us of had a hard time trying to portray that.

5. Did you work closely with Kawahara throughout the production of the anime?
Director: Of course. We have meetings every week with him to make sure we got it right. Sometimes Kawahara-san provided his own ideas that weren’t in the novels to properly accomodate the anime medium.

6. How did Kawahara-san respond to the visual design of the anime i.e. the architecture, the environments, the color palette. Did he like it, did he give his own input and ideas?
Director: Nope. No input from him. He respected that we are the animators and decided to just leave all the visuals to us. Then every week he’d come over and pretty much nod at everything we showed him.

Taketatsu Ayana voices Suguha (Kirito’s little sister) and her in-game character Leafa

7. Taketatsu-san has played a lot of imouto characters. Did that have anything to do with casting her as Suguha?
Director: Yes. Exactly! Well, actually we had auditions with other voice actresses. But none of them seemed to fit the role, and the rest of the sound team pretty much agreed to cast Taketatsu-san for the role.

8. You brought in Yuki Kajiura to do the BGM for SAO. Why Kajiura? Was there something you looking for in her music?
Producer: Kajiura is good at creating music which gives a huge sense of space. Like, her music creates an impression of a wide-open field, which is what we’re looking for.

9. Will there be a collaboration between SAO and Accel World in the future?
Producer: Well, both are by the same author, so I can’t say it’s impossible. There’s just no plans for it.

10. There were a lot of battle scenes in SAO, which ones were the most difficult to animate?
Director: As director, I had to focus on character development. The animation director spent a lot of time working on the battles, so I decided to just leave it all to him so I can focus on the things I’m having a lot of trouble with (i.e. the romance between Asuna and Kirito)

11. You directed the Silver Spoon anime and for research, you went into agricultural universities and ate a lot. What kind of research did you do for SAO?
Director: I’ve never played online games before. So I went to a manga cafe after work every day to play it. I was there from 12am to 8am the next morning, and I played Tera. I did that for over a week just to see what this whole thing was all about. When I was playing, I got into some trouble with the monsters and I was surprised when random strangers would come in and save him. I’ve never experienced that before and I thought that was very interesting.

Sword Art Online EXTRA EDITION will be aired on 1st January 2014 in Japan. You can also catch the worldwide simulcast event on Daisuki on the same day!