Oshi no Ko, from its very first episode, shattered records on HIDIVE for the number of total streams and new subscribers, becoming the best anime launch in the history of the streaming platform. The anime had one of the most uniquely cinematic premieres I’ve ever seen; not only was the first episode 90 minutes in the form of a feature-length film, but the animation, artistic detail, music, and storyline all came together to create something the entire world jumped onto immediately.
At this year’s Anime NYC, we got the chance to sit down with staff for the Oshi no Ko anime to talk about how they adapted the manga and created such a successful project. Director Daisuke Hiramaki, Assistant Director Ciao Nekotomi, and Producer Shimpei Yamashita answered questions from the press and gave us some perspective on what happens behind the scenes to make Oshi no Ko a consistent hit.
Creating the Oshi no Ko Anime
First and foremost, it’s worth delving into the process of adaptation, working with the original creators, and assembling a star-studded team. The Oshi no Ko anime is adapted from the seinen manga of the same name written by Aka Akasaka (Kaguya-sama: Love is War) and illustrated by Mengo Yokoyari (Scrum’s Wish). The series is produced by the studio Doga Kobo, who also produced anime like Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun and plenty of moe and yuri series. Producer Yamashita explained what inspired him to start the project and how he brought the staff together.
“I didn’t know about this comic series, but when I was in a comic book store, I was in a conversation with one of the people from a production company. I was talking to character designer Hirayama [Kanna Hirayama] and he said ‘I really want to do this series. How can we make it happen?’ That’s when Director Hiramaki and Assistant Director Ciao came into our team.
Then I thought, ‘Okay, maybe I should read this comic book.’ I read it, and I was amazed by how strong an impact this series had [on me]. So I immediately thought that I should make it into an anime TV series.”
“Director Hiramaki and I have worked together numerous times. We already had a solid relationship and trust between us. When I talked to Doga Kobo, the animation production company, about this TV series, they suggested the other team members. All of them happened to love the original Oshi no Ko comic books. So, even though there were a lot of difficulties, I think we were able to make it because we had love for the series. I think that led to success.”
Due in part to the impressive complexity and detail in the source material, there are specific difficulties in adapting Oshi no Ko, an endeavor that spanned roughly two and a half years. Staff have to use discretion in opting when to enhance certain scenes beyond the few panels they may have been in the manga or leave them more or less as they were. On top of that, because the series’ plot involves so many idiosyncrasies of the entertainment industry, it has to be presented in a way that’s clear to an outsider without that industry knowledge or experience. The manga creators were a crucial source of support to accomplish this, as Director Hiramaki explained.
“We were getting in touch here and there as we created this anime TV series. Let’s say we got a request about the star in Ai’s eye, or how her hairstyle would be, or the music that they sing and dance to, and the choice of [vocal] texture, or [singing[ high, low, slow or fast. Also how the voice actor or actresses acted out [scenes].”
Assistant Director Nekotomi pointed to a particular scene that was enhanced for the Oshi no Ko anime and received some added flair.
“When Ruby thought she couldn’t dance, but realizes ‘Oh my god, I can,’ — that scene. So, when Ruby found out that she could dance, in the original comic book, there was just one page. However, in the anime version, we took 12 seconds for that one scene and kind of elongated it, just because we wanted to put Ruby’s joy and the hope for her future.”
Both the director and assistant director also explained that both manga author Akasaka and themselves had to take extra effort and even do some field research in order to adequately convey some aspects of the entertainment industry in Oshi no Ko.
Hiramaki: In the anime, there are scenes where they have a shooting set. So in terms of all of that equipment, we had to go there [film sets/locations] and actually interview them and learn the terminology that they have on set. But if we put all of that terminology into the anime, a lot of people would get lost. So I try to put both a little bit of that terminology and also our regular conversational terminology. I try to balance both of those.
Nekotomi: In the comic book Akasaka-sensei created, pretty much all the information and details [about the entertainment industry] were there, so we just had to make that into anime form. Akasaka-sensei interviewed a lot of those people in the industry—the TV shooting and film shooting industry. Pretty much everything was there and we just took that into anime. It was kind of simple.
Launch and Reception
Oshi no Ko premiered with a 90-minute first “episode,” meaning fans had more time than usual to learn about the story and its characters. This also allowed the anime to weave together a broad tapestry of characters, themes, and a bluntly realistic portrayal of Japanese idol culture, including the darker aspects like aggressive fans and stalkers. The different threads in the initial premiere are greater than the sum of their parts, and having them all watched together nearly felt obligatory rather than like a stylistic choice. Producer Yamashita gave members of the press some insight into the choice to have a feature-length premiere that was even released in movie theaters.
“The director and I had the same opinion about this because the first volume [10 chapters] of the comic book had quite a huge impact on us. We didn’t want to break the flow that the first volume had…the emotions of the characters, how they went from point A to B to C to D. We didn’t want to divide that nice flow that the comic book had. So the whole first volume, we decided to put that whole thing into one episode. 60 minutes is quite long, but we hear that happens quite a lot. But 90 minutes, you don’t hear that often. 90 minutes is quite a good length for a feature film. We had experience on TV, making TV series as well as feature film productions. So we just decided to do 90 minutes right on the start. The job for me as a producer is to create the perfect environment for the team and the director. So then they can create what they need and what they’re seeking.”
He also explained some of the ways he went beyond his typical production duties to really push Oshi no Ko to as many viewers as possible and make it a record-breaking hit.
“As a producer, when I create something I always hope that it will be the best thing ever made. That’s my philosophy. Also, this time around, I did a lot of different things on the creative side, like advertisements. I’ve created a YouTube channel for Oshi no Ko, and now it has over 760,000 followers. I’d never done anything like that before, so I was really nervous. We tried that and waited to see what happens. I thought I’d die if it didn’t sell. But a lot of people actually accepted it, so I was relieved. That’s probably my most honest reaction.”
Both the director and assistant director were a bit surprised at the incredible response to the series, especially across so many demographics and locations across the world.
Hiramaki: I was very surprised when I came across little children singing idol songs. Throughout the series, the reaction from international audiences outside of Japan was more than I expected. But, in terms of reactions to each individual episode, it was kind of as expected.
Nekotomi: I didn’t really know about the reactions from abroad, like internationally [outside of Japan]. I wasn’t really aware of it. But in Japan, we got so many reactions, and [Oshi no Ko] was well-received, so I’m quite proud of that. In terms of reactions from fans overseas, I just faced those realities when I came here today to Anime NYC.
Even more, both emphasized that there are elements of current culture and the specific state of the world that run in parallel to the plot of Oshi no Ko and help audiences draw connections to it.
Hiramaki: It’s just that the time that we’re living in and people’s interests kind of matched to what we did. I feel like in terms of the timing that this was presented to the audience, it was all perfect timing. It was a perfect match for what we created, what they wanted to watch, and what they were interested in.
Nekotomi: I think that not everyone can be idols. I think nowadays it’s a very device-driven world. Everyone has devices and everyone is on social networks like X, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok. I believe a lot of us can relate to all those struggles or stress or anger towards what happens or what is happening on the internet, like bullies and all that. I strongly believe that anyone can relate to all those problems and incidents nowadays.
Hiramaki: Yes, there is the negative side of the internet. But at the same time, in the comic book and anime, we kind of take that into comedy essence, a comedic place. So it’s kind of both negativity and positivity, the comedy side.
To close, here is some advice from the director and assistant director to those (especially Oshi no Ko fans) who are looking to work in the anime and animation industry.
Hiramaki: So if you are in a circumstance when you are able to do it, how do you feel about that? Just do it, no matter where you are. It’s the action that speaks out loud. And keep doing it, do not quit.
Nekotomi: So yes, there are so many elements that you might want to have in your pocket, like the technique when you draw and the ability to communicate with others. But most importantly, I would strongly say that the feeling or thoughts that you love anime, that this drives you, no matter what happens, it will drive you where you want to be. So just keep your passion for anime, hold it to yourself, and that will take you where you want to be.
We’d like to thank Daisuke Hiramaki, Ciao Nekotomi, and Shimpei Yamashita for giving such detailed and insightful answers and the entire staff for Oshi no Ko for working on one of the most ambitious anime projects ever. To no one’s surprise, Oshi no Ko will be returning for a second season. You can check out its new trailer and visual here. The series is streaming on HIDIVE.
© Akasaka Aka x Mengo Yokoyari / Shueisha / Oshi no Ko Production Committee