Makoto Shinkai Interview - 2012
In advance of the June 26th theatrical release of Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Anime Network recently had the chance to visit with its director, writer and producer Makoto Shinkai.
Q. When creating or writing, how would you describe the environment you prefer to work in?
A. It depends on the kind of work I'm doing. Until about six or seven years ago, my working environment was my home. That was my studio. The staff members would come to my home on a schedule, and once they left, I would sleep.
Q. Was that true for Children Who Chase Lost Voices?
A. For Children Who Chase Lost Voices, a few studios in the area were rented. So, my life style changed quite a bit. I would go to the studio in the morning, come home and sleep and then go back to the studio. There were a number of reasons for the switch, but one of the big reasons was that I am married and have a child now, so it is very difficult to work out of my home.
Q. How do you choose the music for your creations?
A. I used to work at a game company before I became an independent director. There was a composer at the game company, TENMON. He worked with me on my first independent projects, and I've been working with him ever since. So, in reality, I don't have to consider the music much. I give TENMON some general guidelines and he goes from there. I really enjoy working with him; we work together very well.
Q. What are some of your favorite music styles?
A. I'm not the sort to listen to music while I work. I occasionally listen to the radio, but I don't really have a style that I prefer.
Q. Do you plan on writing lyrics for your future projects, as you did for The Place Promised in Our Early Days?
A. The short answer is "yes", if I get the chance. For Children Who Chase Lost Voices, I did not have the opportunity to work on the lyrics. The song was written by Anri Kumaki, a talented singer / song writer. I gave her some general directions and comments, but she was responsible for the work.
© Makoto Shinkai / CMMMY
Q. The look of your work is very unique: the lighting, the technique, camera angles and transitions between scenes are quite distinctive. Can you tell us about your vision when creating the program?
A. Um, that's a difficult question. Right now, throughout the world, there's a lot of 3D animation going on. That's the mainstream. But my work is more the traditional 2D animation, essentially a lot of fixed cuts that are sewn together. Because of that, one of the first things I think of is the importance of the beauty of each cut as a still picture. Even though there's motion there, I think there needs to be a beauty there akin to that of a picture or still drawing.
Q. How did you determine the locations or settings for Children Who Chase Lost Voices?
A. In the very beginning of the planning for this work, I had already decided it was going to be about children going to the underworld and coming back. So, since they were going to a fantastic realm, I felt the place they would depart from should not also be a fantastic place, but something closer to the everyday world. For that reason, I decided to use the Japanese countryside as the setting before they descend to the underworld. The work is based on a "hollow Earth" theory, but if I set the work in the present day, it's already been proven that this isn't true and I thought it would be too unbelievable if I set the story in the present time. So, I set the story in the 1970's to somewhat ameliorate this effect, because I thought if I set it then, it might be just BARELY possible that people living in that time could believe that the Earth was hollow.
Q. Do you have any interest in developing an episodic series in the future?
A. I'm definitely interested, but with regard to TV series, I think it would be very difficult. The studio here is very small, and the idea of trying to produce one episode a week doesn't seem very feasible for such a small group of people. But I am interested in possibly adapting a work that's already written or created in another medium, or perhaps trying a genre I haven't already worked in.
Q. What are some of your favorite movies?
A. Because I have a child now, I watch things that I would never have thought about watching before. One of these is a very popular children's animation called Anpan-Man. That's something that I really enjoy right now. I've also been watching more Pixar works. I recently saw Toy Story 3 and Cars 1 & 2 and Ratatouille. I enjoyed them very much. I think there are definitely themes in these works that Japanese animation can really learn from. Really, SHOULD learn from, actually. They definitely had an impact on me. But I also have films that I've liked all along. For instance, I like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars - those kinds of space operas.
Q. Friendship and loss are common themes of your works. Do you anticipate future works exploring other human emotions?
A. My first work, Voices of a Distant Star, is a story about the relationship between two people - between a boy and a girl - about love. But in this most recent work, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, I explore different relationships: the relationship between the girl, main character, and her mother; between the girl and her teacher, who isn't even part of her family. I believe that other types of relationships, other human emotions, will begin factoring into my works, though I don't necessarily intend to explore any specific emotions.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your creative team?
A. My creative team doesn't necessarily "move" as a team - that is, they work really together on my projects, but once the work is done, they go on to their individual projects. The positive side of that is, that when they're called back to work on another project, they can bring their individual experiences on other projects elsewhere. But in terms of having a permanent team in a studio, that's still in the works.
© Makoto Shinkai / CMMMY
Q. Would you share with us your favorite scene from Children Who Chase Lost Voices?
A. Nothing really stands out to me as my favorite. I put a lot of effort into each scene and remember them all to some extent, but there is one scene in particular - a climactic scene about 10 minutes from the end, where Morisaki tries to revive his wife. I really like the music in this scene, and amid all the chaos of the scene, the characters movements and the voice actors' performances really stand out.
Q. Were there any particularly challenging scenes in the movie?
A. Throughout the work, one of the things I really put effort into is the expression of the sky. There are a number of scenes where the passage of time can be seen in the setting of the sun - where perhaps a conversation starts in the late afternoon, and by the time the conversation is over, the sun has set. I feel that things like that are very important to convey well.
Q. Can you share any details about your next project?
A. I am pursuing a couple of projects right now. None of them have gotten to the point of gathering staff yet. But one of the things I really want to do is a children's project - that one of the things I'm really pursuing. The other is a hard-core sci-fi project.
Q. Finally, is there anything you'd like to share with your American fans?
A. Even now, it's a little unbelievable that people across the sea are watching my works. I want to thank you for that from the bottom of my heart. I receive a good amount of email from overseas fans. I want to thank them as well. If there is anybody who hasn't seen Children Who Chase Lost Voices, I would really like for them to be able to see it.
Learn more about Children Who Chase Lost Voices at: www.childrenwhochaselostvoices.com.