In an industry where so many different series are being produced, we can’t really expect to see top directors in charge of every series. But sometimes we get really really lucky.
The Ensemble Stars! anime has been particularly “long-awaited”. Back in 2015, it was first announced that the idol game would be receiving an anime adaptation and that we could expect more information soon. Unfortunately, the next time we received info on the upcoming series was in 2017 when the entire project was postponed due to “various circumstances”. Thankfully, it didn’t just disappear and in 2018, the entire project was relaunched.
The series will finally be premiering this year, on July 7, but Happy Elements, the game’s developers, have released the full main staff listing. We’d previously only gotten a small hint of who would be creating the series, with Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure anime creators David Production credited for animation production, and Food Wars! composer Tatsuya Kato creating the soundtrack.
Much of the rest of the listing is fairly unexciting, with a couple of bizarre points like three separate character designers who will be adapting the game’s designs into animation, and a director whose name has never appeared in the credits of an anime before. But supervising this mystery director as “series director” is a man who fans of Gonzo shows from the early 2000s may be familiar with: Yasufumi Soejima.
Back before Gonzo was severely leaking money, they were innovators within the growth of digital anime. Whilst other companies were seeking to use digital technologies for the sake of efficiency, the team at Gonzo were working heavily within 3D and digital effects. One of the main creators behind this was Yasufumi Soejima. Take any hallmark Gonzo Digimation series and it’s likely that Soejima worked in a leading role.
He worked as Digital Director on Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, and 3D Director on Last Exile, Final Fantasy: Unlimited, and Level E. Since then, he’s also worked as director for many of the studio’s shorter projects. He developed his own short film for the Ani-Kuri 15 compilation, he directed the music video for metal band Dream Theater’s 2008 track “Forsaken“, and created a short web series for Sega’s DS game Infinite Space.
He’s since moved onto David Production, a team set up by ex-Gonzo staff members and has worked on several projects, including Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and the Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan OVA (which he served as assistant director on). Ensemble Stars! marks the first time he takes up the role of director at David Production and his first full TV series.
Whilst it doesn’t seem like the perfect space to explore Soejima’s abilities, it’ll be interesting to see how much of a hands-on role he’s able to take, and if he’ll be able to elevate the series beyond the scope of other boys’ idol shows in terms of production quality.