Highschool DxD Season 5, movie discussed by Kadokawa producer Satoshi Motonaga at Anime Expo 2019 [Exclusive Interview]

Highschool DxD artwork
Kadokawa Hero producer Satoshi Motonaga spoke to us about Highschool DxD at Anime Expo 2019. Pic credit: Passione/FUNimation

Highschool DxD anime fans may be still singing Oppai Dragon in their hearts, but a year after the Highschool DxD Hero anime delighted us with its new episodes everyone wants to know what’s next.

Will Highschool DxD Season 5 finish the Heroic Oppai Dragon story arc… or maybe there could be a Highschool DxD movie?

The guys at FUNimation are fans of the anime series and even they wanted to know the answers to those questions. So, they were more than happy to arrange an exclusive Anime Expo 2019 interview for Monsters and Critics with Kadokawa producer Satoshi Motonaga, the man responsible for bringing more animated oppai bliss to the world.

Satoshi: Hi, I’m Satoshi, the producer of Highschool DxD Hero the fourth season and I’m working on other sexy titles, too.

Monsters and Critics: As a Kadokawa producer, what is your main job in regards to Highschool DxD?

Satoshi: For Highschool DxD I kind of inherited the project from Season 4 and largely what I do is oversee the ADR, the dubbing process, the editing, the episodes, and preparing it and producing it in preparation for the TV broadcast.

Monsters and Critics: Were you a fan of the series before you were brought on for the fourth season?

Satoshi: [Laughs] Actually, I only saw the first episode of the first season [beforehand] but there was a change in departments and people were reallocated a little bit. Our company, we have two production lines, and when I switched departments I kind of inherited a lot of those projects.

Up until then, I’d only seen the first episode but for the first time I thought, “Okay, I got to watch this.” So I watched a bunch of episodes and I thought, “Wow, this is actually a lot more fun than I thought. Since then I rewatched it preparing for the production. I read as many of the light novels as I could; I know there’s a lot of novels.

Monsters and Critics: What’s your favorite character? [I gestured to Satoshi’s shirt, which had Rias Gremory’s face drawn in an artistic fashion. Satoshi made a humming noise as he thought out loud] I mean, you are wearing the T-shirt…

Satoshi: Especially in Hero, I will say I liked Irina Shidou.

Irina Shidou in High School DxD Hero
Irina Shidou in Highschool DxD Hero. Pic credit: Passione/FUNimation

Monsters and Critics: The first season did very, very well, especially in regards to Blu-Ray sales, but for each new Highschool DxD anime season, sales have been declining in comparison to the previous season.

However, from 2012 (which is when the first season came out) through 2018 (which is when Hero came out), streaming revenue has become a more significant financial factor. How has this change to the anime industry influenced the creation of the Highschool DxD anime?

Satoshi: I think this phenomenon is not limited to Highschool DxD. It kind of changed the anime industry as a whole.

Traditionally, about 80 percent of revenue came from Blu-Ray and DVD sales, but with the shift in infrastructure — streaming websites and SVOD services — it really kind of fragmented the market so I’m really feeling the impact of that shift right now.

Monsters and Critics: One of the big draws of the Blu-Rays and DVDs was the uncensored content, especially for this type of anime. Is the remaining emphasis to have content you can’t see on TV?

Satoshi: Certainly I think as a fundamental concept a lot of what we do in this anime can’t be aired or broadcast on TV. It’s kind of a necessity that we shift a lot of that content and it adds a kind of bonus to the fans and the uncensored Blu-Ray/DVD release, which is why that has accounted for 80 percent of our sales.

I think that is kind of a big draw to this genre itself. The fact that you can pack all this extra content into Blu-Ray and DVD format. Personally, I’m a fan of that type of thing myself.

Monsters and Critics: For added value, yeah. One notable thing about Anime Expo 2019 was the number of announcements and episode premieres that first took place in America instead of Japan. In fact, they kept saying that we’re seeing it first before Japan. How large is the international audience for DxD in comparison to Japan?

Satoshi: As a producer, I’m not specifically aware of the allocations of how the markets are shaping up. Our impression is certainly that this title is a very strong title outside of Japan. I think the sexy [e*chi] genre is kind of shrinking in the Japanese market.

Not that we are specifically making this for the foreign market, it just naturally seems to resonate really well. There’s always going to be a core fanbase but sales-wise I think it’s safe to say the Western markets are becoming a lot stronger in terms of this type of content.

Monsters and Critics: Do you think over the coming years there will be more of a shift to marketing to the international audience with this type of content?

Satoshi: I think shifting our focus to foreign markets is almost a necessity. We have a Kadokawa Youtube channel in Japan where we upload official trailers.

When we upload a trailer there is a lot more foreign comments, especially in English and Spanish, and I think a lot of those fans are also tweeting back to the original creator of the property. So, I think it’s definitely a necessity that we point our focus to the foreign markets.

Monsters and Critics: I know a problem a lot of English-speaking fans have is that they want to know what happens next in the story. Kadokawa publishes The Highschool DxD light novel series by writer Ichiei Ishibumi and illustrator Miyama-Zero.

The manga adaptation of DxD illustrated by Hiroji Mishima was translated into English by Yen Press but stopped with Volume 11. Unfortunately, the manga is behind the anime storywise so English-only fans can’t read the rest of the story.

The books don’t have an English translation officially. I know this is not your responsibility, but have you heard of talk of any plans to translate the light novel series into English?

Satoshi: In the company? That’s a hard one to answer. There are some conversations but they haven’t really matured into anything. It’s hard to answer.

Highschool DxD Volume 11
The cover of the English translation of Highschool DxD Volume 11. Pic credit: Yen Press

Monsters and Critics: You were part of the transition into the fourth season, Hero. Why was there an animation studio shift from studio TNK to Passione?

Satoshi: We’ve developed three seasons now. We started in 2013 or even earlier and we went on to make Season 2 and Season 3. In our conversation earlier we talked about the shift in the market place as well as the shift and transition in the audience themselves.

How in this market place can we keep this series alive and draw new audiences to it? This is kind of a challenge for ourselves and we wanted to add a little boost so that kind of transitioned to a new animation studio we thought would be a fresh take on it.

Monsters and Critics: Speaking of fresh takes, the studio change also came with a noticeable change to the art style. Do you know why the decision was made to change the character design?

Satoshi: One reason is that a lot of time with animation studios it’s kind of attached to the producer of that animation studio. They kind of come with their own character design and interpretations and now that we’re shifting to a new studio we wanted to take that opportunity to revisit the character design.

The original character designs were also very popular so it was a hard decision but I think the new animation studio wanted to take a new look at the characters themselves, too.

Monsters and Critics: Episode 0 0f the fourth season, Hero, essentially rewrote the third season’s ending. What has been fan response to this new version of events?

Satoshi: I think there was some concern among the fans with the shift in animation studio along with the character design. But I think once Episode 0 aired and the Oppai Dragon song started playing there was a lot of laughter and that [concern] kind of transitioned into acceptance.

We actually didn’t publicize that there was going to be an Episode 0. Everywhere on the websites, it said we were going to start with Episode 1 so I think  Episode 0 came as a surprise. It’s kind of like a review of the past series, but I think the Oppai Dragon song brought it into acceptance. The song trended on Twitter and Yahoo searches, as well. [Laughs].

Still from the Oppai Dragon song
Still from the Oppai Dragon song. Pic credit: Passione/FUNimation

Monsters and Critics: There is a change in tone over the course of the anime because the Highschool DxD light novel series slowly goes from being a harem/fan service story to a full-on battle shonen plot. Everyone loves oppai, right? [Everyone laughs]

But do you personally think the anime should be emphasizing the action or the fan service? I understand a lot of times you’re having to condense a lot of source material so there’s only so much you can show. What aspects do you think should be more important going forward?

Satoshi: Before I got involved — I mentioned the department change — I just thought Highschool DxD was another sexy, e*chi anime, but having read it for the first time I realized it was a lot more than that. It’s a story about a boy transitioning through adolescence into young adulthood. There’s a lot of intense battles, a lot of drama, and there happens to be a side serving of eros and e*chi.

That’s not necessarily the focus so I think a lot of the other sexy anime or novels they have eros in the center and a story built around that. But with DxD the story is a kind of supporting access and there are accents of eros scattered about. I think that’s a very important distinction.

The Sensei who is writing the novels I think values that a lot, as well. It’s about the shonen passion that drives the battle and the school life and eros is kind of an accessory, but because of the focus on the school life I think it makes the eros stand out a little more.

Monsters and Critics: One thing readers of the light novels have noted is that once you get into later volumes there’s less fan service. Since fan service is a main draw for this type of anime do you think there might be some anime original fan service going on?

Satoshi: For the future?

Monsters and Critics: Well, if we ever get to there.

Satoshi: It might not be a direct answer but… I mentioned Sensei’s values and the balance of the story and when we make the anime all that remains true, but I’m of course not oblivious to the fact that we have a lot of fans that are after that. There definitely needs to be a dose of fan service.

As the original light novel series transitions into a more dark place I think it’s certainly possible that we might need to introduce something without making it stand out too much, to introduce some elements of fan service. But all I can say right now is that I hope we can continue making this, so stay tuned for more information.

Monsters and Critics: Since the anime is becoming more action-based is there any chance of a Highschool DxD movie adapting part of the story?

Satoshi: [He leans forward excitedly and speaks English directly without using the translator] There is a possibility! So… please, wait for the brand new information. I wish to do it!

[The FUNimation representative pumps both arms into the air and exclaims, ‘Yes!’]

Monsters and Critics: He’s happy to hear that!

Satoshi: Really?

Monsters and Critics: He wanted me to ask that question specifically.

[Everyone laughs]

FUNimation Rep: I personally think it’s a great series for a lot of reasons.

Satoshi: [Very excited and still not using the translator] I personally want to do a movie, also. I want to, I have to do… more!

Monsters and Critics: The Highschool DxD light novel series actually finished with Volume 25 in March 2018, but the sequel series called Shin Highschool DxD already started releasing in July 2018. 

Since Shin Highschool DxD is a direct sequel, will the anime adaptation first finish the original series before moving on to adapting the book sequel into anime?

Satoshi: Either pattern is possible right now because nothing has been decided so I genuinely don’t know, but there’s a possibility of either course of action happening.

Monsters and Critics: Here’s the big one. Can you say anything at all about Highschool DxD Season 5?

Satoshi: [Laughs] I want to but not now.

Monsters and Critics: I kind of figured but, hey, I had to ask.

Satoshi: I want to.

Monsters and Critics: So you definitely want to?

Satoshi: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s really an amazing season, an amazing title.

Monsters and Critics: It just depends on other factors in play and other…

Satoshi: People.

Monsters and Critics: I understand. It’s not your decision to make. Now, the fourth season, Hero, adapted two books and ended with Volume 10. The anime is essentially in the middle of the Heroic Oppai Dragon story arc.

Instead of the various seasons being called Season 2 and 3 they were called New and BorN and Hero. I know you would like to do another season, but would the title be something along the lines of Highschool DxD Hero Part 2, or would it have a new name assuming it is ever made?

Satoshi: I think it’s going to be a new name. I think. Since it’s something related to oppai and eros. Because the second season, Highschool DxD New, “new” is b**bs in Japanese. The third season, BorN, is similar to the onomatopoeia of b**bs bouncing.

And, of course, BorN itself is just born so it’s like a double meaning. In the final episode [of Season 4], there’s a battle between Issei and Sairaorg, a battle between heroes. If you divide the word “hero” into two words it’s e*chi and eros [‘He’ representing h*ntai and ‘ero’ is eros]. So, the titles conform to something like that. I think the new series will have some kind of double meaning.

Monsters and Critics: I know there will be hidden meaning or jokes on the basis of the Japanese language that go completely over the heads of English-speaking audiences. Are you aware of any similar things like that where Americans just don’t get it?

Satoshi: No, not in Highschool DxD. So, the answer is, I think the title is going to change and we’re going to have to think about those type of… ummm, stupid things. [Laughs.]

Monsters and Critics: Double meaning and how to portray that part of the story in a similar fashion. I don’t know, that’s an interesting one to figure out.

Satoshi: BorN is a weaker connection to the double meaning. New is how you say breast. Hero is the “h” combined with eros. Each subtitle has a meaning, but BorN is the weakest link.

Monsters and Critics: Do you have any closing thoughts you want to tell international audiences?

Satoshi: Aside from Highschool DxD I’m working on several other projects. A lot of my projects fall into one of two big directions. On the one side I, of course, try to take on new challenges and explore new areas of anime but on the other, I focus a lot on the eros.

A lot of fans out there, I hope they have faith in this h*ntai guy and what he can come up with, the new sort of ideas that come. I think there is a lot to look forward and I hope you guys stay tuned!

For more details and spoilers about the Highschool DxD Season 5 anime, please see our full-length article. Stay tuned!

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