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Interview with the Director

Q1:Why did you choose Ai Kawashima’s autobiography “Saigo no Kotoba” (“The Last Words”) for your third film?

Akio Nishizawa

During the production process of the second film, I thought the third one would be produced from a British writer’s book. I had negotiated with the sales agency of the book for the permission to use it, but it didn’t succeed in five months so I abandoned it.
After that, I began to look for another original work with Murakami and his staff of WAO World(the production studio). Well…, I’ve read about 20 books or so, and finally I met the “Saigo no Kotoba” (“The Last Words”) out of them.
A girl of the protagonist of this book, Ai had continued the street performances to realize both her and her mother’s dream being a professional singer in spite of the harsh environment of their everyday life. Her singing fascinated Mr. Akiba, a young president of a marketing company and some college students who respected him. They decided to help realizing her dream. It was a very emotional story. I was deeply impressed by the book. Namely as I found the writer was a singer, I rushed into a CD shop and bought her CD “Rojo-shu 1” (“1st Collection - On the Street”). I really liked it as well.
I contacted the agency of Ai’s music activity at once, and I did decide it for the third film. It was a coincidence that Ai and the young men met at an underground shopping center in Tokyo, and so was that of I and this book. If I had decided the British book for the third work, I couldn’t have met this book and Ai Kawashima either.

Q2:This is your third film following the first work “NITABOH”~ Unauthorized Biography of Father of Tsugaru Shamisen and the second work “Furusato-JAPAN”. Is there any common theme among the three films?

I believe the common theme penetrating through these three is “background of the times” and “music.” They are motifs of my films. I’m interested in the turning point of the times. People, as it were, strive to survive against the tide of the times. During the process, something new comes out, on the other hand something important disappears. I know “music” should be a motif to help representing the changing times.
In the first film, I represented a man named “NITABOH”. He was the founder of “Tsugaru-shamisen”’ (A shamisen is a Japanese traditional three-stringed musical instrument), and it was the turning point from the Edo era to the Meiji in 1860s. In the second film, I represented a teacher and her students. They tried to pass down “Doyo” (Japanese traditional children’s songs) as the root of Japanese cultural identity to the future generations. It was in the late 1950s when Japan was just starting to recover from the damages of the World War Ⅱ and Japan hoped to develop her economy.

Akio Nishizawa

Then, as for this third work, the time is undergoing transition from the 20th century to the 21st. I represented a girl and some young guys. The girl continued street performances in Shibuya, Tokyo, the city reflected the times in Japan, to become a professional singer. Also, I wanted to represent the young guys who strived to realize her dream.
But, I don’t think this film is to be “a biography of Ai Kawashima.” The comic book about her life and the live action work (documentary) were already published. I didn’t interview Ai the person herself for the details, did I to the people around her, though.
I described a lot of the imaginary events when I wrote the screen play. This film is an independent work as itself. I hope it will also excite those who don’t know Ai herself or her autobiography. Besides, I believe it will be interesting for those who already read the book to wonder how it would be changed in my animated film.

Q3:I heard that it was much harder to produce the third film than the previous two works. What was the especially hard process?

Meeting

My fundamental idea is to produce ‘an animation similar to a live action film as possible as I can.’ So, I asked the staff to draw the characters looks like real humans, not like ordinary anime characters exaggeratedly deformed the appearances. Moreover, so many characters are in this film, and they speak long, too. I know that was hard work for the staff to draw each character. As for the scenes with long conversations, I recorded the real performances by the professional theater members, and then animated the shot images. It was also a complicated process to make Ai’s live concert scenes. I hold a real concert at Shibuya Music Hall. I brought a crane truck into the hall, and shot from almost all the directions. Based on the shot images I managed to make the celluloid pictures and CG images, then composed them together.
Our staff got over these tough works. As a result, I think this film became really worth seeing.

Q4:I heard that some of the staff wondered why it had to be an animation, not a live action film. What makes you persist with the animation?

Meeting

First of all, I have to tell you that ‘the live action film’ and ‘an animation as similar as to a live action film’ are totally different. ‘A live action film’ is made by shooting the real actors’ performances at the real backgrounds. Naturally, the actors will get older, and the backgrounds will change through the time. ‘The present’ of when it’s shot will surely be ‘the past’ because the actors and the objects in the film get older.
However, ‘an animation’ is made by drawing. Pictures won’t get older. It is, so to speak, ‘the eternal present.’ When I produce ‘an animation as similar as to a live action film’, it doesn’t mean like cartoons or animes for the maniacs. I want to produce animation films with reality which can move the seers of all ages.
Recently, we are able to enjoy movies not only in the theater, but also at home with our family with DVD or through the Internet. So, I hope all the family both adults and children would discuss how they feel the film.
In order to realize that, I know the quality of the content must be important. There must be the true essence of the human beings and our society. I think such films may not be clearly understood at only once. You can finally figure what I intended in the films out when you see them many times. The more you see them, the more you can find another point of view. That’ is why I produce the animation films.