Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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« Postmen in the MountainsDenno Coil #9 »

Sunday, July 8, 2007

03:57:30 pm , 987 words, 1427 views     Categories: Animation, Translation, Interview

Keiichi Hara interview

Ran across an interview with Keiichi Hara, so I thought I'd translate it, just to see if I could get a feel for his voice, though there isn't much of anything by way of new information in the interview. Original interview from here.

I hear you've been warming this project for years.

I first ran into the original story about 20 years ago, back when I was working as chief director of the TV show Esper Mami. Few projects at the time were original, instead always focusing on adapting popular comics. I didn't think it was a good thing for the industry to keep going in that direction, so I took it upon myself to buy a few books on my own tab every week and read through them to look for a potential interesting project. Kappa Uproar by Masao Kogure was the one that I found at the time that seemed to have the most potential as animation. A baby kappa born in the Edo period comes back to life and experiences life in our own times. I thought the situation had a lot of possibility. Unfortunately it took me 20 years to finally get to the point where I could actually do the project. The author, Masao Kogure, passed away earlier this year. When I'd met him before, I had mentioned that I wanted to change the story a bit to make it into a film. Instead of asking me how I was going to change it, he just said, "I'm just happy that the book will be coming back to life, so I'll leave it up to you." The film was completed at the end of last year, but sadly Masao Kogure passed away before I had a chance to show it to him. I still tremendously regret that I didn't have a chance to show it to him.

There's a gap of 5 years between this film and your last film, the Warring States Shin-Chan film.

I didn't actually do much during that time. I wrote a script someone asked me to write and gave some ideas for an SFX movie, but none of those things came to fruition. I was glad that people were asking me to do these things, but at the time I was still employed at Shinei, so I wasn't exactly free to just do as I pleased. Coo had been on my mind constantly ever since I started working on Shin-chan. Every time one of the films ended, I thought, "Now is my chance to get started on Coo." But then I'd be forced to start working on the next film - over and over again. So in the end after Warring States I just decided to put my foot down and shift to working on Coo. People who'd seen my Shin-chan work asked me if there was anything else I'd like to do, which made it a lot easier to set to work on it. In way, it's thanks to Shin-chan that I was able to do Coo.

The film touches on some environmental issues.

I look at the yokai (traditional Japanese monsters) more as minorities than monsters. Many ethnic groups have been persecuted and marginalized throughout history, but nobody has ever even seen a kappa, so thinking of kappa in terms of a minority helped me come to grips with how a kappa might have felt in Coo's situation. So in a sense there is a bit of overlap with Native Americans. People move into the area inhabited by the kappas, use the land to their own ends, and drive out the kappas. In that sense it's a parallel with what happened to the Native Americans.

The scene with the family on the Tokyo Tower is kind of similar to the scene you did in the Adult Empire Strikes Back movie.

Actually, it's the other way around. I already had the idea to use that scene in Coo when I started making Adult Empire, and I just borrowed the idea in the Adult Empire film. Then I came to Coo and was in a bit of a fix since I'd already used the scene in that film. But I decided to go ahead with it anyway. I just accepted that the Tokyo Tower would be this recurring theme in my work.

Who do you want to see this film?

20 years ago when I first came up with the idea for the film I was thinking it would be for kids, but after years of working on the Shin-chan films I changed and wanted to make films that not only kids would want to watch but also adults. So I'd like kids to watch it, but I'd also like people of my generation to watch it. I'm satisfied enough with the results to be able to say that. It's been about one full generation since the original story was written, so I'll be happy if moms and dads who read the story back then come to the film with their kids and it brings back some memories.

What's your next project?

Right now I'm feeling really empty after having finished this project I'd been working on for 20 years. I don't know what to say whenever somebody asks me what I'm doing next, because it'll take me some time to get over that feeling. It's not like I've got a spare project I can just pull out of the drawer. Coo was everything. I'm freelance now, so I'd like to try my hand at various things if people want me. I'm also interested in live action. But I'm well aware that it takes more than enthusiasm to get a project done. In any case, in the coming days I'd like to focus on creating dense drama, so I'd like to continue to direct feature films.

(Actually, I found a few more interviews, so I'll probably be translating them as well soon.)

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