Kimi no Na wa. (Your Name.), the latest film by Director Makoto Shinkai, was released nationwide on August 26. The director is known for creating emotional and touching films, such as 5 Centimeters per Second and Kotonoha no Niwa (The Garden of Words).
Kimi no Na wa. is about a boy and a girl with no other connection to each other but their supernatural ability to switch places in their sleep. Kimi no Na wa. is a mixed of emotions. At times it can be comical, other times lead to tears, and it even gives that refreshing feeling toward the end of the film as if you’re in a pleasant breeze.
We were really curious to know what was going through inside the mind of Director Shinkai when he created the film, and that’s why we bring you this heart-warming interview of a man who loves telling stories.
■ ‘I kind of thought that it’d be all right even if my film career ended’
–Compared to other films of yours, this Kimi no Na wa has a more entertaining side. What is the biggest factor that caused this?
Director Makoto Shinkai (Shinkai)
Regarding the script development, Producer Genki Kawamura had a big impact on it. We started to work together after Toho Production/Distribution Company introduced him to me. I had never met any producers like him until then. It was such an inspiring experience.
–What made it that special to work with this producer?
He gave me various suggestions. As I wrote the script, he pointed out some structural ideas, such as “the peaks here and there are far apart. I think it’s better to have them together” and “I would find it boring if the scene of Mitsuha and Taki’s switching places doesn’t happen within the first 15 minutes.” So, I think that working with a such a producer made a huge difference in my film-making experience.
–That makes the film easy to get drawn into. There was a perfect balance between the classic entertaining factors and traditional style of Director Shinkai…this was my impression of this film as a whole.
I wanted to deliver Kimi no Na wa to those who hadn’t heard of me. That was my priority. There are people who knew about me, but there are so many out there that had no idea who I was. So, through this film, I would like those people to know my name and also to realize new refreshing ways to express yourself. Then, those people will hopefully experience the excitement that you get from animation.
–You aimed to create a masterpiece, like hitting the bull’s-eye. What made you decide to do this film now?
I somehow knew in my heart that “I can do it now”. I got experience making Kotonoha no Niwa (The Garden of Words) and a TV commercial for Z-kai as well as writing a serial novel for a magazine called Da Vinci. I believe that all of these have helped me to become a better story weaver…and I feel like that I can finally sit back and relax a little. Now, I’m capable of including a comical factor into my story, not just forever serious emotional stuff. That’s why I felt like “I can do it now” and “I will do it”.
— How did your “I can do it” change before and after the completion of Kimi no Na wa?
I’ve come this far, and I kind of thought that it’d be all right even if my film career ended. Well, of course, I still don’t want to quit…but that’s it. It’s still before the release, so I am not 100% certain, but that’s how much I am positive about it.
— This film is going to be your biggest move out of your films, isn’t it?
I feel like I will figure out my next move when and if I make one or two more films full of entertaining factors. So, this film almost seems like a starting line in that sense. As people say ‘anyone can write a novel in their lifetime’, everyone can surely stand at the starting line with their first book. Then, what happens after that? I’d be probably urged to prove ‘what’s coming next’, and by doing that, I might see what I am actually good at. This may be the work in my 40s.
— How did you come up with the idea of a body switching between a boy and a girl?
To maintain the uniqueness of entertainment, I wanted to add an extra switching plot to make matters more exciting for a story with adolescents.
–There are some films with this sort of a plot, switching bodies of a boy and a girl in the past. How did you create yours differently from those films?
Yes, I know there are some classics with a switching bodies plot. Back then, the plot with a boy and a girl switching focuses on genders. For example, a girl turns into a boy inside, and the film comically describes “Huh? Isn’t she a bit boyish today?”…and she tries hard to get back to herself. However, this is not the case in 2016. People would rather say, “So what? It’s just gender swapping”. On top of that, the audience would already know how the story goes. So, Kimi no Na wa may seem to start similar to those classic body switching stories, but as the story unfolds, it actually develops to a completely different theme with unique scenery and unique relationships.
— I notice that serious aspects stand out later in the film, but the characters somehow remain happy…
I had this thing in my mind about adolescence that the characters have to reach out for each other. Whatever happens, I wanted to stick to a comical side throughout the film. So, even during a serious scene, a character physically reaches out for breasts (lol). Even when it is supposed to be emotional, Mitsuha yells “Stupid! Pervert!” I thought that the story of a high school boy and a girl wouldn’t do well with too much seriousness. That’s why they are munching away on snacks at a supposed-to-be-serious strategy meeting. They are young and energetic, and that’s normal for their age.
■ Applying some fetish factors in the film
–Now, I would love to hear about the animation development and character designs. What were the reasons you decided to have Masashi Ando as Animation Director and Masayoshi Tanaka as Character Designer?
I met Mr. Tanaka for the first time at the Z-kai TV commercial. I’d always liked his animation…and when I worked with him on the TV commercial, I finally felt very positive about my own film becoming a character animation.
— What did you feel about it until then?
I used to see scenes with the audience and people that I could swap around. Thanks to Mr. Tanaka’s work, my characters stand out. So, I asked him to be a part of my team when I worked on a full-length film.
— How about Mr. Ando?
I had a genuine admiration for Mr. Ando. When it came to decide who to take for our animation director, whether it was realistic or not, I mentioned his name. We have an ex-Ghibli experienced animator in CoMix Wave Films, and he actually said, “If you want Ando-kun*, I can contact him.”
*…kun is less formal, often used to call someone valued and also used for close subordinates.
— Ando kun… (lol)
Yes, I felt the same, ‘Wow, he’s calling Mr. Ando as Ando kun” (lol). I passed the script to Mr. Ando asking “Will you please join us?”, and he responded yes a few months later. I believe that Mr. Ando was interested in bringing the characters that Mr. Tanaka created to life, and that must have finalized his decision.
–The scene of Shinto sacred dancing, Kagura, at Miyamizu Shrine was very impressive. The movements of Mitsuha and Yotsuha carry so much weight.
Yes, I think the scene turned out wonderful. That scene employs a technique similar to rotoscoping. We asked Ichitaro Nakamura, a Kabuki actor, to choreograph a shrine maiden dance called Miko mai. Then, we filmed his dance to create the base of our animation. This Miko mai actually describes an incident related to a comet and a reflection of a legend, but the younger generations in the film don’t know anything about this legend. The scene is extremely rich thanks to Mr. Nakamura’s dance.
–After the Miko mai scene, the scene with Kuchikami sake follows…this scene gave me a big shock in a good way. There is a sort of fetishism in there.
You’re right. That was a hidden fetish factor. I personally wanted to express something like that. In The Garden of Words, I created the scene where feet are being touched for the same reason…I wanted to include some fetish factors that people get a bit of excitement from. It’s just like that this time. I claimed my right to include at least one fetish part (lol). It’s not necessarily obvious…some are academic and others could be indicated in a subtle way hidden behind the story…(lol) Hopefully, people also feel their heart skips a beat.
–How would you describe the charms of Ryunosuke Kamiki as Taki?
Mr. Kamiki is highly responsive and has a good ear for sounds and voices. He watched my film and learned the rhythms in speech by asking me so many questions like “Why does he/she pause here?” It seems like he is curious about the details of voice expression rather than the story itself. I think that’s what makes him attractive. He loves anime and he is familiar with the expressions of female characters, so those things are playing a major role in establishing Mitsuha’s character. He could pull out the charms of both genders, and his high acting skills are unmistakable. As a result, there was nobody else but him for this role.
— As for Mone Kamishiraishi playing Mitsuha, you mentioned “I would still pick her even if I had auditions with hundreds of people.”
She taught me how Mitsuha should be. While I was writing the script, Mitsuha was still vague and I wasn’t sure what she was exactly like. There is a scene with her saying, “Please, please make me a good-looking boy from Tokyo in the next life!” However, I wasn’t sure if she would really shout it. Maybe, I would let her do so, so the story could move on… I was sort of leaving the character’s part up in the air, trying to go with the flow of the story. However, meeting Ms. Kamishiraishi made me think, “She may shout it like that.” She showed me how Mitsuha should be through her acting.
–Lastly, please give a message for our readers.
I am confident that you will enjoy this film. Of course, there’ll be some people who won’t like it. However, I hope and believe that there are fun factors for everybody somewhere in the film. In that perspective, you wouldn’t lose anything to watch this, and I can also assure you that it perfectly fits into the current trend. It may have been impossible to have the pair of Mr. Ando and Mr. Tanaka if it was slightly earlier. This film was created by a staff which was able to team up only now, at the right time. So, I’d love the audience to witness our creation.
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