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Interview: Shoji Kawamori

by Christopher Macdonald,

Shōji Kawamori talks about Arjuna

In an ancient Indian story that takes place around 200 BC, Arjuna, a prince who is highly skilled with the bow is involved in a civil war fought between different members of the Royal Family over who should rule. In a battle Arjuna asks his charioteer to take him to the front so that he can look upon his enemies. To Arjuna's dismay he sees his favorite uncle, a teacher and many more friends.

Kawamori resurrected Arjuna as a 20th century girl, and loosely adapted the theme of fighting one's friends.

“The concept of fighting against one's friends can be applied to technology as well. I'm not against technology, it is definitely our friend, but I think there could be dangerous aspects to technology. Knowing that, I think people should find the right way to use technology, the right balance between technology and nature. But the environmental aspects of Arjuna aren't the main aspect of the story, they're just a motif.”

In Earth Girl Arjuna, Ariyoshi Juna is a regular girl who is badly hurt in a motorcycle accident on a trip to the ocean with her boyfriend. Arjuna dies in the emergency room, but her departing spirit sees Earth's horrific future she is brought back to life by a mysterious boy in order to become the Avatar of Time and save the earth.

Kawamori says that he traveled to Malaysia, Borneo and India researching material for Arjuna. During the process he interviewed several people who had near death experiences as well as others claiming to have special powers. Kawamori feels that many of the people he spoke with were fakes and that others were misunderstood, but he also tells the story of one very famous doctor that he met. By merely taking Kawamori's pulse, the doctor was able to produce a correct prognosis that Kawamori says would take modern science two days to produce. He also tells us that his associate broke the doctor's rule about not eating any meat during the week prior to the examination and that, again by merely taking a pulse, the doctor knew that the man had eaten chicken during the period.

Kawamori considered that if this doctor could get so much info by manually taking someone's pulse, what else could people see and know through means that are scientifically unexplainable?

Kawamori says that he was interested in life itself and what makes us feel alive. He wanted to create a story about a person who had a sixth sense and the way he described it in the series had never been done before. Creating something that as entirely original is important to Kawamori.

A huge amount of money was spent producing Arjuna; apparently it had the largest budget ever at Bandai Visual. In addition to the immediately visible superior animation, Kawamori also brought in legendary composer Yoko Kano to produce the music, including a different opening theme for each episode. Kawamori explains that he felt it was necessary to have Yoko Kano in order to produce music that would be appropriate for this show.

“I enjoy working with Yoko Kano because she does not deliver the request, but comes up with something entirely different. And I don't use it for what she intends... For example, Kano created a piece of music to be the opening theme for episode 2, but I ended up using it in the first episode. Fortunately Kano was happy when she saw the end result.”

With Arjuna complete, Kawamori returned to the Macross Universe to work on the Macross 0 OAV. But he would be happy to return to Arjuna and expand the idea even further, perhaps create a theatrical feature. Other things Kawamori would like to do include directing a comedy, which he has never done (he wrote the script for Earth Self Defense Family which is an action comedy). He would also like to continue Earth Self Defense Family, which was cut short after 13 of 26 planned episodes, he is hoping that it comes to North America and that a positive reaction will result in a demand for a 2nd series. Otherwise... Maybe he'll just do something completely different.

This was Shōji Kawamori's first trip to Anime Expo; Anime News Network would like to thank Jerry Chu and Ken Iyadomi of Bandai Entertainment for the opportunity to interview Mr. Kawamori and of course we would like to thank Mr. Kawamori himself for taking the time to answer our questions.

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