An Interview with Makoto Shinaki Director of Your Name
Date: 2016 November 15th Tuesday [15:52] | Posted By: Joe
Makoto Shinkai's latest movie Your Name is about to hit the UK nationally on Thursday 24th November 2016. Last month we were lucky enough to catch up with Mr Shinkai to talk about Your Name while he was in London for the BFI London Film Festival.
You can catch the box office smash hit by going to YourNameTheMovie.co.uk to find a screening near you.
This isn't Makoto Shinkai's first time in London. We interviewed him in 2008 last time he was at the BFI promoting 5 Centimeters Per Second.
You can read our Your Name review too if you're interested to know more about the film.
This time around we had a press session on Friday 14th October 2016. We were joined by two other press people from anime circles, Andrew Osmond writing for Anime Limited and Sarah Hughes writing for Anime UK News.
Andrew: You were talking about the development of the story. It's been reported that the producer of the film Mr Genki Kawamura had some influence on the story. I was wondering, what were the biggest changes that the story went through development?
We had script meetings for 6 months, a series of meetings with Genki Kawamura, the team in Toho. I did the script myself, every month, I'd meet up with them and then talk about it. So they'd say this is boring or that's a bit too complicated, so I'd update everything and we'd meet up in 4 weeks time. We did this for about 6 months.
Genki Kawamura gave me really good suggestions and a fresh perspective about structure of the film. The film starts at Itomori where Mitsuha lives. Kawamura said, we've got to keep it to 15 minutes, any longer and it'll be boring. So I said, right, that's a good idea.
Also we've got several climaxes in the movie. Two main scenes are when Taki learns he has actually met Mitsuha 3 years previously and then they meet at the (doki) twilight time and Genki suggested that these two scenes have to be in the same frame. So they have to come one after the other. Where as on my original script these two scenes are separate. So they're really good suggestions from him.
Otaku News: We've seen and enjoyed your movies since you first started making your own anime pretty much by yourself. It seems like you've been working your way up to Your Name. When you first started making your own anime, did you expect to end up creating a movie as successful as Your Name?
I never expected this really, when I started out. It's been 10/14 years since I started making animation films. What I've always had in my mind I wanted more people to see my movies. Every time, more people than the last one and also I wanted people to think that they had a really good time and they enjoyed the movie. In a way, Your Name is a dream come true for me, but the scale of it is so massive that I'm totally overwhelmed that I'm not really comfortable about it.
Sarah: Because of your massive success of the film, you're probably going to get a lot of people especially in the west who are not traditional anime fans and they're going to look at your film and to think what to look at next? What would you suggest they look at next from what you've made so far?
That's a difficult question, I imagine people are familiar with Hayao Miyazaki's works? Studio Ghibli, the general public you reckon? So shall I recommend something else? Not Miyazaki?
Sarah: One of your films?
Garden of Words probably. I don't like to talk about my old movies, there are things I feel I could have done better. I just notice there are things I would do differently. I would be embarrassed about them. I know the fans the people who like my films would understand that I don't want to say negative things about my works. So I think the Garden of Words is short, but easy to watch for non-anime viewers. I think there are some things people just like about it.
Andrew: When I saw Your Name I thought it designed to appeal to a very wide audience, I just wondered does it means that it feels less personal to you than your previous films or it feels just as personal as the other films?
This is what I really, really wanted to make. I collaborated with various other talented people, Masayoshi Tanaka the character designer and Masashi Ando the animator who used to work at Ghibli. That was a really amazing combination, it just gave so much depth to my work and also the music by RADWIMPS. Radwimps gave us loads of colours to the film. It made it more catchy in a way.
Being able to work with various talents was just amazing. It's my first time to do that scale of collaboration. I owe that to them. But having said that, this film is 100% mine and very personal.
Otaku News: Watching the movie it's clear it's a Makoto Shinkai feature, it's got all your trade mark elements, but one thing seems to have changed, you've dialled down the melancholy that's normally present in your movies. Why is this?
One important thing when I started making this film was I wanted the audience to leave the cinema with a smiling face. Also I wanted to put some comedy elements to my script, that's again the first time that I did it.
I wanted to put every emotion, happiness, sadness, melancholy, everything. Two years ago when I started making this movie I was confident that I can actually do it. Probably I wouldn't have before, but I knew that I could do different emotions with this one.
Sarah: The whole body swapping theme is quite populate in the west, normally in comedy for TV and films. The whole take away in it is to walk in each other's shoes to understand each other better. You've created a film that not only avoids some of the old tired jokes, but have created something that's very fresh, very relatable and very authentic. So I wanted to know was this something you initially stride for or did it come naturally in the creative process?
I wanted to describe the exciting emotions you have as a teenager. But the body swap isn't the main element of the film. They could have met though social network services, it didn't have to be the body swap. The main theme here is these two people have met, they meet at the end. So body swap is like a prop if you like. It didn't have to be that, about being about something else.
Andrew: In the film I loved the fantasy sequence that comes just after the boy drinks the saki in the cave, there's a very elaborate animators fantasy sequence. Could you talk about how that was created?
That scene is directed by Yoshitoshi Shinomiya, who's an artist, a classical Japanese painter. He's got a different perspective of colours and I wanted that scene to be different from any other in the film. So I just left it all to him. I did the story boards, but the actual direction and the art direction was done by him.
The sequence is only 2 minutes. Originally I wanted to make it kind of live vague, fantastic because the film is kind of tense. I wanted to make the audience feel a bit relaxed, but Mr Shinomiya gave it more tension more powerful and made it tighter. So I didn't expect that. I think the result was really good.
Otaku News: How do you balance what you want to achieve as a storyteller with the commercial pressures growing success brings with it?
I get asked that by various people, not just media, but by random people. I worked with Toho with a big budget, people were like was it difficult? Was your freedom restricted? Actually, no! They didn't tell me what to do. That's all. Sometimes I didn't know what to do. I wanted to do this, or do that. "Which is better?" Then the Toho people would say, "I think this would work better", so I think that's pretty much all.
They never told me what to do, or change this, change that. So there was no compromise. I was able to do more by working with Toho than I did before. They gave me total freedom.
Genki Kawamura the producer said we have to leave the director free, he's controlling the movie, not us! So he gave me advice, but never told me what to do.
Sarah: You also wrote the novel based on the book, are there any parts of the book you were unable to carry over in the film but wish you could?
No. The answer is no, because what happened was I wrote the original script and while I was making the movie I got to write the book, so the book comes after the script. I finished the book, the book came out before the film. I rewrote the script by the first person perspective, so it gave me more depth about each character. So it really helped me with directing the voice actors because I knew more about the characters than when I wrote the actual script because I rewrote as I studied about the characters.
Andrew: Let's talk about how you chose RADWIMPS to do the music and how you worked with them. For example did you already have an idea of where you wanted the main songs to support the story.
It was 18 months of collaboration, basically they had never done any film soundtracks. So we've got 4 vocal tracks and 22 music songs. So I gave them the first draught of my script and told them to write anything. So they came back with some songs and I played it and I changed my script accordingly here and there. Then I carried on writing my script and then just went back to them, I've got this scene, can you change that? So I did that for about 18 months. It was really hard.
It was a long process, but it was really worth it. When we started working, the band said to me, "Please don't leave us! We won't let you down, we want to carry on". And I thought, yeah I want to work with them. And that was the 18 months.
Otaku News: Where any there any scenes in particular that you did differently in Your Name?
The comet scene, it's a long sequence, about like a minute, the song is called Sparkle. The middle 8 is over like a minute, normally one cut for an animation is 4 to 6 seconds, but I've got about 3 cuts. I was quite worried about how people would think, but nobody comments on it. I think it worked OK.
Otaku News would like to thank Makoto Shinkai for giving us such a great interview. The good folks at Anime Limited for helping us arrange the interview and also releasing Your Name in the UK.
As we've said before you can catch the box office smash hit by going to YourNameTheMovie.co.uk to find a screening near you.
Don't forget to read our Your Name review too if you want to know even more about the film.