This year marks the 20th anniversary of Japan Media Arts Festival since it was first held in 1997. Every year, awards are given in four categories: Art, Entertainment, Animation, and Manga. By honoring excellent works both domestic and overseas that present ‘media arts of the day’, the awards have been well recognized internationally.
At the 20th festival, in animation category, the Excellence Award was given to A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi) directed by Naoko Yamada, who was awarded the New Face Award at the same festival with Tamako Love Story two years ago. She turned such a universal theme, ‘communication’, into an immersive work with lyrical images and coordinated yet intricate sounds, almost like a piece of installation art. How did she manage to create it and what sentiment took place? We interviewed her at the exhibition of award-winning works that was held 16 – 28 September, 2017.
Interview, article by Tsukasa Takase
The 20th Japan Media Arts Festival, Exhibition of Award-winning Works
16 to 28 September 2017
Venue: NTT InterCommunication Center [ICC], Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, and others
A Work of Sincerity that portrays hopes
— Congratulations on winning the Excellence Award with A Silent Voice (2016) at the 20th Japan Media Arts Festival, after your previous 18th Japan Media Arts Festival New Face award with Tamako Love Story (2014).
Thank you. Winning an award at Japan Media Arts Festival is always one of my aims when I create something and I’m so happy.
— I’m sure more people will learn about A Silent Voice thanks to this award. Please allow me to ask you some questions on it. This movie is an anime adaptation of the manga series A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ooima. What was your impression when you first read the source material?
I felt it illustrated sincere hearts that stubbornly crave hope. The characters are desperate and hopeless, but at the same time they are also experiencing different conflicting emotions. My impression was that this was a work of sincerity.
— Is there a special keyword or phrase that you kept in mind when adapting such a delicate work into anime?
The ‘desire to be forgiven’. Humans generally fail, hurt someone or get hurt in order to live and end up in a situation that can’t be helped. I wanted to portray the hope that we can and may still live on.
— The original manga has 7 volumes in total and I believe you had to tightly compress it to fit the story into a 120 minute story. How did you handle it?
Each chapter of the manga is fascinating and the story has various layers of interpretations, I believe. So I tried not to butter both sides but made up my mind that I’m making a film and structured it so that I didn’t go off on a tangent and focused on the central aim.
— What was that aim specifically?
To concentrate on the story of Shoya Ishida, the protagonist.
— What did you do in particular to support that concept of yours? Either scenario-wise or the visual-wise.
Most importantly, I took an overall view of the whole work first, and then planned backwards from there. This is an important method that I have used with all my works, but I particularly made sure to carefully do so with this.
Picture-wise, I made sure to make it comfortable. Each character is troubled in his or her own way, they all look too distressed, and can’t even welcome the next day. But I want the world to be generous to welcome such children. Therefore I tried to depict the world as one that is consistently beautiful and graceful and embraces Shoya and others.
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