Tag Archives: otakon 2011

Ultimate Lolita Fashion Show

The Ultimate Lolita Fashion Show serves to showcase a number of designers across the various subsections. Sitting through the handful of catwalks, I had a recurring thought and felt the exhibit raises more questions than answers.

What is the attraction to lolita fashion? Given the current gravitation towards anime with a moe theme, it offers an obvious driving force. But that only begs the question on the force behind said gravitation. People desire youth. Society places value on it. But lolita fashion goes further. It portrays an image of pure innocence. Yet it’s amusing (to yours truly) that a lot of cosmetics are utilized to achieve the effect. Besides, the poses each model would make reflects a level of maturity that fails to conjure the innocence it’s trying to capture. Finally, I found it interesting that most designers chose to accompany the catwalks with a soundtrack featuring sounds of an alternative rock nature with solemn male voices.

I realize that gothic lolita and similar others project a slightly different image but the panel predominantly featured sweet lolita designs. (I have limited knowledge of lolita fashion.) My recurring thought revolves around the reception of the audience versus the designers’ intent. It’s no secret that lolita fashion carries sexual undertones. But does that stem from the designer or the audience? In some ways fashion, lolita included, is like Gundam. It involves a wide array of subjects among which politics may be one of them. Gender politics to be exact. Do women, since fashion is overwhelmingly geared towards said gender, wear a certain style to satisfy their desire or those of others? What about the designer? In other words, is the woman creating the innocent schoolgirl sexual connotation or is that a label affixed by the man or both?

I wish I have more answers. In fact, I know just what to do at the next Otakon.

All photos courtesy of SciFiAnimeHeroes.

Otakon 2011: Makoto Shinkai Press Conference

After a previous two days filled with just following Makoto Shinkai (新海誠) around, there was finally a 9AM Press conference at the Sheraton. Typically press conference happens when there is just too much interview requests for a particular guest. I know thePaper got 1:1 interviews with other Otakon guests, but here is my main press goal for Otakon this year. This post might be similar to the fan q&a, but since this was a press conference that I waited the entire weekend for.

Here’s what I heard. I took the liberty of not transcribing to the exact audio of what I heard, but hopefully you, the reader would understand what I saw when I heard Makoto Shinkai’s press conference. As with the other q&a, questions asked are already going to be some spoilers for Shinkai’s latest film. Video was not allowed, but audio and film was.

There is a difference in translation/interpretation of the Japanese and English title between 星を追う子ども and Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below can you explain the difference in this interpretation?

The Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below is the subtitle to the Japanese title, we used it as a temporary title to for releasing to the western market. So in the future the title might be changed to reflect the Japanese title. I apologize for any confusion that you might have felt.

From the Fan Q&A, it was asked what your literary background was, so for this press conference can you reiterate those influences are.

In Anime, I got much inspiration from Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki works, and if you ask for one title in particular, it would be Laputa: Castle in the Sky. From novels, it would be Haruki Murakami.

You have a small staff available now, would have wanted your current staff when you were working on Voices of a Distant Star?

As you said I have staff people, but in comparison when I was doing Voices of a Distant Star, it was a self made independent film and including the fact that I voiced in it showed that it was a handmade by me. At the time I felt a great sense of satisfaction, on completing a project. On the other hand I currently have staff members that are like family to me. So when I am working alone now, sooner or later I won’t be. So I would be feeling like I am going back to a family studio. If you ask me whether I ever think about the time when I was working on Voices of a Distant Star and wanting this current staff, that is a “what if” question, and those scenarios never came to my mind. So I never really thought about it.

Is there a personal or professional goal for making 星を追う子ども?

I don’t know if this is an answer. 星を追う子ども was finished in March and then released in Japan’s theaters in May, so it has been only three months since its completion. Currently I am still not sure what I should do from here on. Currently I am taking this opportunity to take a look at the reactions including audiences from Japan and abroad. So I would like to take this opportunity to think and decide on what to do after this, both professionally and personally.

Your movies in the past have had simple and complex feelings with themes of distant and time, what are the overall themes of を追う子ども?

It is quite difficult to put a theme in one word. If I can do that then I won’t be making a two hour animation. However, if you want me to put in a phrase then it is how to overcome a sense of deep loss.

In this film we see a new demonstration of your animation sequence in action. Can you say what other films and other work that have inspired your action style?

As I said earlier, I studied lots of Miyazaki’s works. But since we were using sword for the action scenes, I studied a lot of Rurounin Kenshin (Samurai X) and also a lot of Japanese sword fighting television shows, and among those in particular is Mugen no Junin (Blade of the Immortal) that has also been made into an anime a couple of years ago.

What do you think of computer animation as oppose to hand drawn animation?

Although it has commonly said that I have started work in computer animation, upon designing the characters, I drew them out with pencil/pen and scan it in. By means of tradition the method I happen to use is how 2D animation is made. On the other hand 3D is a quite different method from 2D and it is a trend that it is more movies right now. If that is going to be the continuing trend, then it is unavoidable that 2D would disappear, but personally I do love 2D animation style. It is something I am more familiar with, growing up and watching it. I myself would definitely love to continue drawing it.

I understand you studied Japanese literature in college, and there is an introspective, literary quality to a lot of your work, particularly in the way you use voiceover and monologue. Do any particular live action filmmakers, directors, cinematographers, etc., that you admire? Is live action a medium you wish to work with in the future?

Speaking of live action, I do go and enjoy it, but I go as a fan/viewer. If you ask if I am ever inspired by any particular action director, then that would be Shunji Iwai. His way of using light and shadow is quite inspiring.

The trend of your professional is unique in starting from video game to animation. Now many directors do move from animation to video games. What do you think the anime industry can do in attracting new talent?

From what I can see, the video game industry in Japan is more stable and they treat their workers better than the animation industry is. However the people who currently work with me, love working in animation, so of course I treat them well in working for what they love, that is a personal opinion. If you ask on how the industry is on this trend, then of directors moving, then it is something I never thought about. Since I am not an industry representative, but personally what I think is that if we can continue to make great animation films that people or society can think is great, then we can increase the amount of people who is more interested in working in this industry.

The time frame of を追う子ども is a little unclear. Was there a particular reasoning or a non-descript one you were aiming for the movie to have?

There is an intention for the time frame for this work. I placed the time frame in a way that it would be the minimum requirement for the audience to know. I would like the audience to feel satisfied when they first watch the film, but at the same time I want them to have certain questions about the time frame, and want them to watch the film two or three time more to have more questions, so the time frame is in a way made more complicated to be understood.

Your movies have slightly ambiguous endings, is this intentional and what do you want your viewers to come away with?

Yes, my works in the past have the lingering question of whether it is a happy ending or not. This is intentional because I want the audience to decide for themselves whether this is a happy ending or not. in Japan, that is not a major style on how the endings are done. Upon making my own films I want to make a unique one to other existing ones, on the other hand を追う子ども this one, the ending is a bit more clearer compare to my past works.

Looking at the reactions of the audience now for your movie, would you have changed it?

I always have certain regrets or certain rethinking after a movie. So yes if I have a chance to remake the film, I would like to make it twice as more fun, even for my past work of 5 Centimeters per Seconds, perhaps I would make it five times more interesting. So as time goes by, I would have gain more experience, but the audience who have paid and watch the film already, so I try not to think about it as much, rather it was the best I can do at the time.

Can you describe the transition from making a one man project to a large scale project with a larger staff?

The big difference is when making it alone, there is less stress. What I imagine and intend to draw, I draw. So there is no stress at all, on the other hand with working it alone, the outcome would be only my own and it would be my own limit. When working with a group, there is stress, and at times there is a background produce not to my liking, so there is communication stress. Sometimes though, my staff comes up were brilliant ideas, so it can become more fleshed out and beyond my own limits.

In what ways have you developed as a director and in the future what would you like to expand?

Ever since I debuted with Voices of a Distant Star, I am not sure if I should call it directing since I made it myself. I was called director, but at the time I didn’t understand what the position means. After that I was working with other people, still I wasn’t so sure what director means. I drew pictures myself, and directed others, it was a learning process. After two years working on this current project, I finally got the vision of this feeling like an anime director, so I finally feel this project is my directorial debut. Now I have learned how this feeling is, my next project I want it to be an anime project. So I am looking forward to what I can do for my next show.

(Shinkai was asked on his feelings/perceptions on how)Animation and computer software have changed in the last twenty years for an aspiring artist.

True today the circumstances are much better, there is more powerful computer and better software, however the truth is what you like to tell in your work is the basics. When you are self making it, the effort goes in the quality of how you would like the project to look. Though the circumstances are better, if the self making artist does not understand that you need to talk about what you really want to show then it has not really changed much from ten years ago.

Is there any reason why you have used young people to explain your overall theme of loss? What does the introduction of an older character mean and can imply for a future work?

Morisaki is the adult, but the main character is Asuna who is 11-12 years old, so I want to clarify that. The basic purpose of change is because I want to have a broader audience, in my past movies the audience was more of a 20-30 year old male. That is fine, but I want the challenge is for a broader audience to watch my movie like a teenager to watch and enjoy it. So this is why I include an adult in my current work.

Can you talk about the relationship between Morisaki and Asuna, when there is a dialogue, and later conflicting feeling occur in relation to that line?

Asuna has lost her father, so traveling with Morisaki, she has an familial emotion to Morisaki. Morisaki on the other hand is a very selfish, yet pure person who has lost his wife. Upon dying his wife told him to keep on living, but Morisaki being pure can’t move on without her. Perhaps he knows that it is impossible to bring the dead back to life, but with traveling with Asuna and in the end he realizes that his purpose was bring back a life then sacrifice would have to be made. So in being selfish and pure, then he would have to follow his dream to keep on living. This is controversial, I can’t say that he is a bad and selfish person, he is a complex person and I can’t deny him this.

(A Japanese question was made, and this is a summation of what the interpreter did)

With Shinkai’s background in literature, and ambitious ending stems from Japanese literature, would Shinkai continue to create movies that have a typical Japanese ambiguous end for audience to ponder? Since this is a Japanese style, it was understood that 30-40 years ago it would have been impossible to think of this ending becoming known for the western world.

(This is tie in with the previous question, so this is going to be what the interpreter sums up.)

Morisaki is a complicated character on who believes that retrieving the death is more important. Shun said that the living is more important, and Asuna feels that living is a blessing. She does not deny either of the other two character’s beliefs, and this is how I personally feel and think of often. It is with this thought I want to leave the audience to think.

If you ask me if there was any ambiguous Japanese literature ending, then yes If you asked if there was any literature that influence my coming to this type of ending, then there is none. Upon seeing reactions of audience abroad, I am getting the feeling that this style can be accepted worldwide, if the entertainment is more perfect, then the ending does not have to be so clear. Technically it is possible to make the ending more easily to understand to make the audience feel better, and if it is required then it is possible that in my future works I would make the ending less un-ambiguous. I can’t, however change who I am and the literature I have grown up with, perhaps the way I think and the way I make an ending would not change that much, technically possible to change though.

Your works center around communication, what makes this theme attractive to you? Are there any particular aspects of humans and society that you get your inspiration from?

Simply put in Japan and most of the word today, the majority of people are interested in communication. Today in Japan, people don’t watch as much television or play as much games. The communication is becoming more of an entertainment in itself. In the society that I live in where the communication is so important, taking the place of entertainment it has became my center point of my works.

Would you want to use this current setting of Agaratha in later works?

I feel rather honored if other creators would want to use my setting of Agaratha. を追う子ども currently has two manga that is in magazines, created by two separate individual artists. I didn’t make any particular requests for those two artists. So I have no problems with more creators to use my world.

Your films have highlight commitment as a virtue and obsession as related to commitment. Commitment is positive and obsession as negative. A distinction between those two a lesson you want to teach your audience?

I think it depends on the time my work was made. Perhaps your question indicates 5 Centimeters per Second. In my current work, I have made Morisaki as being unwavering in his obsession. The character who continues to have that commitment and obsession can create enough input for himself to keep on living. It is possible to make an obsession a source of living will.

Do you feel that a younger international audience would make your work appeal on a broader level?

To be honest if I made my current work to appeal to a broader international audience, I never thought about that. Toward making を追う子ども I wanted to make a different world than my previous works. In enjoying my older works, audiences have to know a certain amount of details, with existing Japanese culture and background. I want to make it different than 5 Centimeters per Second, so people, who don’t know about Japan, can also enjoy. This is my main reason for making something different this time. It is true that I want a younger audience for this movie, and if those accept it abroad is that audience then I am already quite happy to know that. Yet when I was making this movie, I never intentionally made it for the world market to enjoy. I just want to make a work different than my previous ones.

Now Makoto Shinkai is announced to be a guest for NYAF 2011, so as I said this is a great opportunity to check out his latest work, if there is time then I would definitely love to see his latest movie again.

Baby the Stars Shine Bright/Alice and the Pirates Fashion Show @ Otakon 2011

A large number of fans arrived early to wait in line for the Baby, the Stars Shine Bright and Alice and the Pirate fashion show. It was an adorable sight to see so many dressed in their cutest lolita outfits. The turnout provided an auspicious beginning to Otakon’s second day even if the show started over a half hour behind.

Set to ambient music one might find in a fairy tale involving sleeping princesses, the models posed generously. And with inviting gestures, they lured the audience into a trance in a surprisingly short amount of time. This became painfully apparent during the few moments when the music dropped and I felt myself awkwardly out of place sitting inside a modern facility staring at fashion of a long bygone era. All of which speaks volumes to the designers’ talent.

From just out of arm’s reach, it occurred to me that there’s a direct positive relationship between proximity and appreciation. The immense attention paid to intricate details, which are lost as distance grows, remains the forte of each piece. I often found my eyes drawn to the delicate frills of fabric surrounding the neckline or to the ridiculously festive headpieces or grandiose lace bow at the back of dresses. The time and skill devoted in crafting each and every detail left an almost mesmerizing impression.

My favorite piece (depicted to the right) stood out against the deluge of sweetness. The amalgam of the hat, the domineering bow, striped vest, Victorian romper, for lack of a better word, and knee high stockings establishes a boardroom presence rivaling that of a bespoke Armani suit. And it does so in purple!

Ultimately though, as the fantasy came to an end, I wondered if there’s ever an occasion where one might don such magnificent constructions of fabrics besides garden tea parties or an Emilie Autumn concert. Then again, works of breathtaking beauty blend into any milieu.

Edited show on Youtube, courtesy of Dragonfish Films, as are the photos.

Otakon 2011: Fan Parodies with DragonFish Films

Experiencing fan parodies often for a person on their computer is a solitary experience, but how about screening it on a large screen for two nights until the wee hours of morning? Many people I know would definitely put Fan Parodies on their agenda. For me, this is my second year experiencing some form of Fan Parodies, and it definitely reminds me of my high school anime club viewings. How about for any other people? How does it feel like experiencing it with 100+ people?

Fan Parodies give a certain group of people an opportunity to showcase short films that is made, for the enjoyment of being able to poke fun at a known element. First comers don’t be afraid of this, but definitely go with friends if you are able to. Often though I don’t happen to stay around for the entire thing, though from what I can recall, there is enjoyment, and laughter for the sheer stupidity in some of the dubbing and comparisons.

This year’s Fan Parodies happen to screen DragonFish Films‘s latest short trailer for MooGooGaiPan. They are a great bunch of people to know and see, so I made some plans to go and watch DFF’s initial screening with thePaper.

MooGooGaiPan is a reminiscence of a 70’s to 80’s approach to viewing Hong Kong cinema with some serious CGI-brother loyalty between two brothers: MooGoo, a ‘shroom (looking like a Nintendo’s Goomba) and GaiPan a human brother who is stuck outside of his brother’s limelight. When push comes to shove though what happens to GaiPan when MooGoo is struck down?

I hope that other people who watched this screening enjoyed it as much as I did, and I definitely have to thank DFF again for their assistance during Otakon. Prior to the fan parodies, I found myself with Robin in a video and that is the result of maybe 4+ takes. I am not for one having a screen presence, but with DFF hard at work, there is still more coverage from AD and DFF.

Otakon 2011: Children who Lost their Voices to the Deep Below Movie/Event Recap

Released in Japan around May 7th, 2011, Otakon had the honor of being the place and event to debut Makoto Shinkai’s latest film in North America. A trailer for Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below (星を追う子ども) can be viewed here. Prior to this film, I have never fully watched any of Shinkai’s other films and in watching this film, I was quite pleased. The movie runs for an hour and 56 minutes making this the longest project that Makoto Shinkai has worked on.

This movie centers on Asuna, a rather ordinary girl who enjoys heading to a nearby rock outcrop and listening to her homemade radio. One day she happens to meet Shun from the mystical Agartha, and from there she begins a journey with her teacher to discover how to say goodbye. There that is the extent of how much I would talk about for the plot of this visually sweeping film.

People would definitely compare this film to watching something similar to a Hayao Miyazaki film in superior backgrounds, mood ambience, and characteristics. However I felt the themes elaborated in this film was quite similar to Final Fantasy X, and with death of loved ones and afterlife.

Now it is always neat to watch a movie, and be in the presence of the director. Meeting Shinkai in person, one of the best reactions I read was what Ink tweets:

After meeting Makoto Shinkai this weekend, I’m gonna go right ahead and call him a poet. His work and manner both reflect it. #crushing

Following the movie, and an hour before his fan q&a panel, there was enough time to take thirteen questions. Each fan who got to asked a question, came away with a movie poster.

Prior to the convention, Mike mentioned a curiosity to see how much fan noticing/adulation or coverage there was going to be, and I am safe to say that there were plenty of fans. Originally I was planning to write up my experiences on the autograph line, but seeing as I wasn’t at that event as a press capacity, and because an image I took there ultimately is for the viewing pleasure of my friend, I decided to forgo that article. An autograph session is ultimately for the pleasures of fans meeting a person they admire, and have a very short time with them. I saw many people I met on that autograph line at this screening. The screening was 10AM on Saturday, so definitely after breakfast, I made it over to HD Video 5, and saw this line.

Inside the venue was pretty big, but if you ever have the experience to view a foreign movie with lots of other fans. Some advice, be sure you take an take an aisle seat toward the middle. This event was not lucky as FMA did in getting an encore screening on Sunday. The film would definitely be making another screening at the New York Anime Festival, so if you get the chance to attend NYAF, please take the time to check this movie out. I definitely would recommend this movie to be viewed, by not just the majority of male fanboys I saw at this event. Shinkai was quite happy with how much fan love there is, yet this movie is his attempt to appeal to a more broader audience.

Otakon 2011: Makoto Shinkai’s Fan Q&A

Video shot by our friends at Dragonfish Films. Please visit their website!

Makoto Shinkai was a featured guest at Otakon 2011, and a majority of my press coverage was focused on his appearances. I do hope that before reading this transcript, that there is a fair warning on there being spoilers for the latest Shinkai film. Dragonfish Films was present at this panel, so you can check out their excellent video/post. However as my usual style. I usually take the longer way of transcribing, for archival purposes. If you notice the time notations in this post, those were for time notations I made for a reminder, since I transcribed this dialogue from that video.

There was a screening for Shinkai’s latest movie, Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below 星を追う子ども so the fans who were at this panel had all seen the screening.

Makoto Shinkai was introduced with an enormous round of applause and cheers. Koichiro Ito, producer from CoMix Wave also sat next to him during this panel. This is a very long thoughtful drawn out fan panel.

Hi everyone, nice to meet you. I am Makoto Shinkai. Thank you for coming here today, I can’t speak English I need a translator.

The interpreter playfully said that he can go, Shinkai said to please stay. So the q&a began again, as the interpreter asked audience to raise their hands if they caught the screening.

Ah, many people. Arigatou gozaimasu. I am so happy. Now since so many people have seen the film I would like to talk about this movie with you.

The movie, Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below is a movie that contains very many themes. So with a single viewing of the movie, you may come out thinking that the movie is quite complicated. So underlying this movie is a simple story of traveling to one place and then coming back. All themes can trace back to being inspired by Japanese fairytales and mythologies, such as the story of Urashima Taro, or more recently in anime: Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. All with the theme of being whisked away to a mysterious world and then coming back.

So the question is what happens when you go away. When you go away you realize the worth and value of things you left behind. You realize how beautiful your hometown was or how much your family meant to you, only when you actually step away from them.

As I said earlier (after the movie Q&A) Asuna needed to make this journey to Agartha because near the end of the movie as she admits to others (Izoku), that she was just lonely. It required her to make this trip and realize that Shun was no longer around. She’ll never see him again. That Shin is ultimately not Shun. So this story based on a simple traveling adventure story encompasses many themes, but I also want to make this film a bit more acceptable to a wider audience. I wanted to go back to a classic theme, so character design might be different from my other films. It goes back to designs that remind audience of Studio Ghibli films or other more classical pieces.

I still don’t know how it would perform overseas. The fan response was really positive and it gives me great hope. But business is business, so I am a little worried on how it is going to perform business-wise.

So this covers pretty much I want to say about this movie that you’ve seen this morning. If there are other things you want to know about this film or past films, then I want to feel free to come and ask.

Films clips were available from Shinkai’s earlier films, available as a reward for people who asked questions. A huge question line formed, so at this time of the convention, there was still no indication of a Makoto Shinkai press panel, so I wanted to ask a question, and waited on this line. Questions are in bold text, with answers in block quotes.

You’ve produced Voices of a Distant Star among others, what made you decide to produce this way instead of going through the normal industry route?

Around that time, I was working for a game company, where I was responsible for creating the opening animation to the game. As I was completing that job, I realize how great it was to create your own animation, so while working at that company, I started to create my own animation. This was how Voices of a Distant Star came about. Also at that time, cell phones became widely available in Japan, as I worked on this movie. I brought my first cell phone, and so I use to send mail to my girlfriend at that time. We are no longer together. Yet at the time when I sent these emails, it would take three to four days for her to respond. We lived in the same town, and it felt like we were living on another planet, that became the inspiration for the story of Voices. So this fun of animation and my first cell phone experiences brought about Voices of a Distant Star.

I notice your movies always involved star crossed hopeless lovers. I hope that in the future you would diversify your work in terms of themes.

My titles do involve a lot of lost love…and such. Hard to say what my next film would bring. I can disclose that my next film considering is a love story…but the main story is a boy leaving home. It can reflect the current Japanese situation now. So it would be a story of a boy going on a journey and realizing what he had lost.

Regarding the guns featured in Voices of a Distant Star, what firearms were those based on?

The era for the guns is around 1975, and guns that appeared were supposed to have existed at that time. However even though the setting is 1975, Ark Angels are supposed to have the latest and greatest of guns, so it might seem ahead of the time.

Can Mr. Shinkai contrast key difference in his process or creative direction, from his early works working by himself up to now when he is starting to have a traditional larger staff.

Since I have a large staff now to work with, I can say one thing, it is lonely to do it alone. But when you create things by yourself, there is no stress, but it can’t move beyond your own imagination without input from others. So it is pretty stressful with additional staff, but some of those staff members would come to you with designs or art that you haven’t consider, and that can be amazing. My work with a devoted staff means that they are expending a year or two of their lives to create something with me. So that gives me a sense of responsibility to see it to the end. This film took a period of two years to make with a staff, and if it was Shinkai himself, it would take ten years to make.

I notice in a great deal of your films, a notice for detail, (examples given from Voices of a Distant Star), so my question is, do you try to go and take real life footage of things by yourself to get the inspiration?

I don’t take video, but I take photographs. So I took a staff of 20-30 to Nagano prefecture. There we took thousands of still photographs, and felt the texture of the rock or the warmth of the days. We tried to absorb what the details of the locale before even starting. So while I am not saying that I am not influenced by video I see, what has caught my eyes recently is usage of lens flare, like either in the recent Star Trek film or the Transformer film. This might be the first time in an animated film to use such a technique.

In the movie when Asuna and Mimi are parting ways. I never had pets, but I know that Shinkai has own pets. Is there a particular reaction or emotion you want to convey on why you had that one cut?

Growing up we always have pets, dogs and cats. Inevitably pets are not long lived, so I will always remember growing up, and always going to mountain to bury deceased pet members. When designing Mimi, one design I wanted to convey was inspired by Linus of Peanuts, who is always dragging around his security blanket.

The whole concept of security blanket brings feelings of comfort and safety to the person. Inevitably people have to grow up, and no longer need that safety blanket. Mimi was a security blanket for Asuna, and at that point of the story, she reached the point where she no longed needed it.

What was it like to work with a variety of voice actors like Shimamoto Sumi (Lisa in film and past works include, Castle of Cagliostro and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) or Aikawa Juri. (Asuna in film and known for Ika Musume)

In regards to Shinmamoto Sumi, since she was Clarisse and Nausicaa, I felt really nervous working with her. Since the character of Lisa was dead at that point. I wanted to get a recognizable voice by many, and a clear voice to convey that she was no long a character of the world. So I can’t think of anyone else fitting other than Shinmamoto Sumi. What hurt my heart the most though is that Shinmamoto is in her mid 50’s and Lisa is in her mid 20’s…so to tell her to sound younger really hurt my heart.

I didn’t cast her as a voice for Asuna, because I like her voice, we audition for her voice before Ika Musume. So at the audition, I asked her what she was doing, she responded, Ika Musume where she would be ending each of her phrases of “Ika” or “Geso”, so I thought this is interesting.

Your grown up in a rural setting has an inspiration or impact to other parts of the film?

As a child, I didn’t listen to radio a lot, but the movie’s outcrop of rocks existed, so I found myself there a lot. The view out there was just surrounded by mountains, as a child, you can’t help but wonder what was beyond those mountains. I wasn’t unhappy with my life, but as Asuna who has a satisfying life also wanted to expand beyond.

The ending for Five Centimeters per Second was sad, and the manga showed a slightly different ending. This can also be seen on the DVD, viewing the three alternate takes the ending, and you’ve mention in past interviews on selecting three out of ten parts of the whole story. What is your take, counting the other missing seven parts to the true conclusion of Five Centimeters per Second.

Five Centimeters per Second was my first movie, and then someone wrote a manga for it, then a novel, so there have been many adaptations on the Five Centimeters per Second Story. I created this movie to be a mirror, that you would put yourself in the world of Takagi, where you can reach a certain conclusion yourself. For me, the ending of the novel for Five Seconds reflects my mirror. Where Takagi rushes by Akari at the rail crossing, but he’s not sure if he did or not. Just thinking the possibility he did something miraculous gives him a foothold to move forward, and that’s the ending for me.

My question begins around 36:30

Some regard your latest work as bearing similarities to works by Studio Ghibli. You’ve also been called “the next Miyazaki” by others. What do you think about such comparisons? What do you think you have learned, perhaps, from the work of Studio Ghibli and/or Hayao Miyazaki?

Personally I have never met Director Miyazaki, though some of my staff has worked with him in the past. Hayao Miyazaki as a man doesn’t interest me, it is his movies that have always inspired me and if you look at my latest movies. You’ll see some scenes that were definitely influenced by his film. I remember seeing Castle in the Sky, Laputa when I was in junior high, and the emotions I felt after seeing the film inspired me so great to want to do a similar movie. If someone like a junior high student would see my movie and feel the same way then that would make me feel happy. Regarding the comparison, I don’t believe I can reach up to that greatness. I can only make films and someday look back and say these were pretty good.

From the variety of Shinkai films out there, is there a preference for what type of setting that you have completed? Were there any challenges you’ve experience for the action packed sequences vs. the teary scenes of the others?

Growing up, I was a big science fiction fan, and my favorite author was Arthur C. Clarke of 2001: A Space Odyssey. So Voices was inspired by Clarke, and to be able to depict the distance between man and space, really allows focus on the person by that storytelling. So my current favorite author is Greg Egan, and it is a perspective to expand one’s viewpoint into the universe, I would love to depict that in animation, however I realize that it only possible because it is written in words, and the limits are the imagination, so I don’t know if I would be able to satisfy a writing, but it is something I would like to do.

We’ve heard your takes on what influences you so far, but can you elaborate on what has inspired your films the most.

Haruki Murakami is a big inspiration for me. So there is a mish mash of all of what influences my film, Ghibli, and science fiction.

In 5 Centimeters per Second with the scene of the train moving and stopping with Takagi, this probably parallels the difficulties of the character later. Where did writing this part come from, writing the book or making the movie?

Okay, I never thought about this parallel, so keen of you to notice. In the past I had a girlfriend who would be living far away, so when I visited her in the wintertime, I was delayed by the snow, so that is one reason why that scene exists in the movie.

In your movies, you mentioned long distant relationships, what’s personal reason for the prominent theme of distance.

Email is the prominent means of communication between young lovers in Japan, so the faster you respond to emails, is a gauge on how you much you care or love the person. On this indication it can be a sweet or a cruel thing. How much email sent is just how close you are. It can be either one email or a thousand.

What words do you want to say to fans who are inspired by your films?

I have been influenced by other animators and work, though I never imagined getting into anime films, so if my works inspired others then that is great, the flow moves on in a cycle.

Your works has a great watercolor aesthetic, did you ever receive training or what has led you to use such an intense coloring scheme?

I have never been trained in art whatsoever. All I can say is that I love looking at scenery, and growing up with the scenery of the mountains around me, it was a great influence. When I was 18, I left for Tokyo, but before I left my hometown I went and looked around, and since I know I would miss this scenery, my movies are later influenced by this.

In 5 Seconds per Centimeter, for the third section what inspired the music video quality and how your relationship with music changes as your staff grows?

The third story is the shortest, and it acts almost like the promotional music video of the series. As a child growing up, days can seem long, but as your grow older, the day can go by. So three years as an adult can past by in an instant vs. how it can feel like an eternity for a child. I want to depict his adult life like that, so that is how the third episode came about. I was pretty limited when I was by myself, but as my staff grows there is more options, like I want to use this person’s music or have others do something for me.

Your works varied in animation length, is there a preference for length of work, whether 5 minutes or 2 hours?

Since my company is quite small, and with no deadline of a weekly animated television program. We have the freedom to make works as long or as short as we need, so it depends on the story. So the most recent work, needed two hours to tell the story, it really depends on the time I need to tell my story, and since it was such a hardship creating these two hours for the current film, I believe my next film would be shorter.

At this point, Koichiro Ito spoke up with his viewpoint.

A production back story, originally the movie was supposed to be a 100 minutes long, but it wasn’t enough time, so an extra 16 minutes was added.

Have you been considered or asked to do a television series?

I have had several offers, but in order to create a weekly show is beyond my personal capabilities at the moment, so we have been turning them down.

In the latest movie, there were elements of creating a new world, so what is your process and possibility of creating new worlds for any later films compared to using real places in your past works?

It really depends on the story I want to tell, so beginning from the starting point of telling of a world that I already know of, so the home world of Asuna is the Nagano Prefecture, a familiar setting for a Japanese person. For Agartha I wanted a different setting, so I have done some work that took me to the Middle East, so I used the experiences I had there. I had then searched the internet for some locale and went to the library, so the world of Agatha is influenced by the Middle East and Tibet.

What were you considered to be your most difficult challenges starting your film career, and how has that changed with your experiences?

When I first stared out, it was creating something into what I want to do, turning a hobby into work. When your hobby becomes your work, what do you do when you no longer have a hobby to relieve stress? I still love creating animation, but there are more obligations, and priorities to be completed, so adjusting to that was difficult.

The interpreter asked what Shinkai’s latest hobby was.

I don’t have a hobby as of yet, but I had a child about a year ago, so watching my child has become sort of a hobby for me.

Can you talk about your collaboration with Tenmon?

He’s done the music for me with 5 Seconds and Children, so I first met him at the game company. When we had first worked together, he had done the music for an opening I have completed. Though he was much more senior than I was at the company, whenever I went to him with suggestions for music, he would always hear me out and never frowned about my requests, so that is what I liked about him. He definitely is a musical talent, so when he never complains when I have requests is something I really enjoy in working with him.

At the point you realized you wanted to create animation, due to maybe financial worries or other, can you share an episode of this and what you did to cope with it?

So many episodes, but what comes first to mind is reviews for my recent films, it only came out three months ago, there are mixed reviews of the movie being fantastic, or this is the worse film completed. With moments like that I do question my suitably to being a director. There could have been a suitable job, but at this time I don’t believe I would be suited for any other job, other than this.

There has been an industry criticism here in the United States, and creators have spoke about it before. Anime has been focused on hard core otaku, what is your opinion on this criticism, and what would you think it would take for anime to be more accepted by the general public or is it better to be accepted as a niche industry.

First I think, Otaku culture in Japan is spreading, with series like K-On or Puella Magi Madoka Magica was created for that otaku culture, and they were a big hit. There are other works like Pokemon or Ghibli films, created for kids. For the films I created, I want to appeal to otaku fan base as well as the general populace, so I do believe all these are a good thing.

What kind of advice would you give to people who want to start their own project to get into the industry, what computer programs etc.?

Advice for someone who wants to create their own work, to not be constricted by something that is for business, so there is creativity for their own vision, and sure if you want to create something you want to complete, there are surely others who would want to see this vision.

Thought it is not reflected in the video, I believe I have in my own notes that Makoto Shinkai did mention his own usage of Photoshop and After Effects, to work on creating animation.

FMA: The Sacred Star of Milos Premiere @ Otakon 2011

After only three weeks since its premiere in Japan, Funimation and Aniplex made an international premiere of Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos a reality Saturday night for Otakon attendees. It was a very special treat especially for the fans. This was clearly evident as the audience roared each time a returning character first appeared on screen or at the conclusion of fight scenes. To paraphrase the second season, the siblinghood of the audience was palpable.

Having had the fortune to interview the director hours before the premiere, I was extra excited. Murata-san had stressed in the interview that the magic to his success lies in entertaining the audience and he did not disappoint. The pace never felt off and changed tempo in accordance with the plot. Of particular note are the action segments. Under Murata-san’s direction, the intensity has one’s heartbeat approaching the speed of light due to its realism. I recall the part during the train fight where a man was caught in a net so fast that it took me a moment to recognize what happened which certainly places the audience into said man’s shoes.

The plot, while engaging, felt trite in its theme even though Murata-san mentioned that it takes place sometime after episode twenty of the second season. This could be a side effect of high expectations due to the originality that made the anime so popular in the first place. It rehashes the principal of never attempting the taboo from the series. The premise also shares similarities with the Gundam universe which I shall not spoil. I also felt the introduction and development of new characters were spent at the expense of neglecting returning ones. Is it still a FMA film if Colonel Mustang… no worries, no spoilers! Comic relief delivers each time and there’s enough romance in the air for those seeking it. In short, the film delivers on entertainment.

A limited theatrical release for the US is scheduled for 2012.

Otakon 2011: Thoughts about CHEMISTRY Concert

As I rushed out the set list, the day after I received it, I was still in the middle of fixing images from Friday’s Otakon concert, so now a week later…here! (BTW, I went back and revised the set list, with appropriate anime videos.)

Compared to last year’s Otakon, Friday’s concert was the only concert I was able to cover this year. So as I summed up some thoughts about CHEMISTRY….I clearly forgot who they specifically were, while my friends reminded me of their anime openings…which I do like Antique Bakery‘s opening, however on further review from their discography of songs. They do have one song that I really loved.. 君をさがしてた ~New Jersey United~ which was actually used as a theme song for a live action I watched a couple of years ago. So of course I am kicking myself… for not getting their autograph.

Following that, I also I learned some other lessons, that I would try to remember the next time. I forgot to take a picture of their merchandise table. The table had their latest single, their best of album, cell phone strap, glow stick, photo book.. among some others, items. Well the first thing to be sold out, were the glow sticks and the photo book.

My attempt to take a picture of the audience.

Press were seated the stage right, and were allowed to take photos of the group for the first three songs, with no flash. Of course, a mob of us swarmed over to get photos. This venue was packed. CHEMISTRY performed with much energy, and it was a fun show. Of course some parts of when they were performing anime openings, it would have been great to have seen clips of the anime they were performing. The most popular song that they performed was of course the Full Metal Alchemist theme song.

In the middle of their concert, Yoshikuni Dōchin, pulled out a paper to speak with the audience in their broken English. Everyone didn’t mind, as he thanked everyone for their support for Japan.

Somethings Otakon did differently this year, they had a running merchandise table for sales, where the autograph sessions use to be held, and cleared the room out for what looks to be the Otakon Rave. If you see the set list, there was no encore performance, so this concert was actually on time, and finished in about an hour.

So this was CHEMISTRY’s debut in America with Synergy, a Japanese dance group. They are going to be collaborating with this group some more. If you want to follow them via twitter, @chemistry_2011 (They tweet in Japanese mainly, and at the time of this entry, I see that they’re taking some time to tour the U.S.)

Check out more of my photos during this concert here. Also be sure to check out Dragon Fish Film’s Concert photos as well.

Otakon 2011: Summing up Makoto Shinkai Experience!

Getting together photos, and faithfully transcribing Makoto Shinkai’s appearance, just a week after Otakon is a great deal of work and I can only imagine how much satisfaction there is for readers after all this is done. Covering Mr. Shinkai’s appearance was the main agenda of mine during Otakon 2011, so for three days. I followed public and press appearances of Mr. Shinkai.

On Friday, I waited on an autograph line with many Makoto Shinkai fans and friends. There’s apparently a new autograph policy necessity for personalizing every autograph, probably to ward off selling products on eBay. However, for every fan who got an autograph, there was a movie postcard. There, I was happy to report that he said “Thank you!” to Mike for enjoying his films. P.S. I mailed autograph, Otakon goodies to him on Tuesday.

Saturday there was the film premiere for Mr. Shinkai’s latest film. Then the fan q&a of which Dragon Fish Films were with me.. so please be on the lookout for a video and a transcription of the fan panel.. and a review for the movie screening.

Sunday come 9am, there was a press conference. Be on the lookout for transcription of that conference.

I think I may have seen an inkling for why there are fans like Mike that would definitely count this as a great experience to hear. I recall omonomono tweeting…

Shinkai brings all the brainy questions to the yard

Otakon 2011: CHEMISTRY Set List

As the weekend of Otakon is drawing to a close, on Friday con goers were treated to a sample of CHEMISTRY’s songs. This year marks their 10th year Anniversary since their debut as a chart topping duo. Otakon provides the stage for their debut presence on American soil. They lit the stage with energy and vibrancy, as they also danced alongside with backup dancers. Their anime songs in particular notice to Full Metal Alchemist‘s opening had nearly the entire place standing up and cheering from their seats. So for only a short hour, fans were treated to R&B, Japanese style.

This is the set list of the songs they sang.

Go Alone
merry-go-round (Gundam Unicorn)
Wings of words
This Night
Life goes on (Antique Bakery)
Period (Full Metal Alchemist)
Keep your Love