Space and light

AUTHOR:  
Published:  January 15, 2010
Desktop
Space and light

Since Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away swept the Oscars in 2001 the Western world has been embracing the joys of anime more and more. People love Miyazaki not just because he keeps things fun and has the rare ability to inject fairytales with the grey areas between good and evil, but because his stunning hand-drawn animations put the hyper-real visuals of most pure CGI releases to shame.

Makoto Shinkai has been critically lauded as the ‘next Miyazaki’ so I am understandably excited to check out the comparison, but watching Voices from a Distant Star it becomes clear Shinkai isn’t just another Miyazaki wannabe. The film had some Miyazaki trademarks sure – rich hand-drawn animation with some tactful CGI enhancements, starship battles, an emotive score, some wide-eyed young protagonists – but there is no traditional narrative arc to speak of. Voices from a Distant Star uses time and space as props inside a story that unfolds more like a 90-minute visual poem than standard anime sci-fi feature. It is unexpected, but the more I watch the more I like it.

With the help of a Japanese translator I chat with Shinkai about the Australian release of his 2007 film 5 Centimetres per Second, and how an ex-Falcom game designer like him ended up in the business of making understated, almost lyrical anime.

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and your life so far?
I was born and raised in the countryside of Nagano Prefecture. After graduating high school, I attended a university in Tokyo. On completion, a game company in Tokyo employed me. My generation was known as the ‘second-generation baby boomers’ in Japan. Competition to get into schools was tough and the job-hunting process wasn’t easy, as the bubble economy had ended by then. I think I had an ordinary childhood and was a normal teenager without any particular big dreams or aspirations. I attended Chuo University, Graduate School of Literature. I majored in Japanese literature. I chose Kafu Nagai (a Japanese author, playwright and essayist) as my graduation thesis.

At 28 years of age, my life had a turning point. This was after creating my self-produced animation Voices of a Distant Star. The creation and distribution of my works have become milestones in my life. I feel that since then my life has become simpler, even though the line between my work and my private life has become ambiguous.

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

Can you tell us about your time at Falcom?
My position at Falcom was as a designer. I designed maps for games, advertisements, package design and catchphrases etc. I became familiar with the visual/graphic tools Photoshop and After Effects through this company. I also created the website for the company, made job classified ads and created training programs for new recruits. This company gave me a lot of opportunities to try many different things. I think that my time at Falcom and all the experiences there provided me with the technical and mental foundation for my work.

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

What do you love about animation and what drew you to create your own?
I like the way animation conveys stories through pictures and words. I think a lot of people liked picture books when they were kids because they stimulate the imagination; so does animation. My imagination is stimulated by certain moments in everyday life. Animation is also an outlet for me. If have something I cannot talk about or explain to people in my life, I convey it through my creations.

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

Was it a big risk to leave Falcom to work on your first animation full-time?
I was not scared to leave the company even though, looking back, it was a drastic decision. I had a strong passion to create Voices of a Distant Star and I wanted to concentrate on it. I was so into it that it consumed me and I could not pay attention to anything else.

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

How did you feel when you had finished making 5 Centimetres per Second?
I felt a great sense of accomplishment, but also an uneasiness wondering, ‘Is there anyone who can relate to this work?’ Actually, I felt those same thoughts occasionally from the production stage onwards and had to tell myself that it will be OK. So, initially I was filled with some fear and uncertainty about how people will relate to my work. Then, I realised that there are a lot of people out there and they all have different perspectives, and at least some of them can relate to mine. The key factor is how to target those people as an audience and how to deliver the work to them. With 5 Centimetres per Second, right from the beginning, people connected to the material more than I expected. Having said that, it is hard to tell what the response will be until the works are shown.

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

What sort of equipment do you use when working on an animation?
I use multiple Apple Macintosh computers, with Wacom pen tablets and a Canon laser printer. I use Photoshop and After Effects as my main software and sometimes use NewTek LightWave 3D as three-dimensional CG software.

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

What do you love about animation?
I like animation because it’s made by human hands. I also like the fact that the creator’s imagination is not limited by reality as other film mediums are. I think animation is a medium, which can deliver directly to the audience the perspective and vision of the creator.

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

Copyright Makoto Shinkai

Who are some of your favourite animators?
The artist who influenced me most is Hayao Miyazaki. My favourite animation is Laputa: Castle in the Sky. I was also influenced by the comic version of Nausicaa a lot too. I think that his works have distinctive differences compared to the works made by others. They are so entertaining and unusually beautiful. I would like to create work that can influence people like his work does.



5 Centimetres per Second is available on DVD through Madman Entertainment

www.madman.com.au

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *