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Interview: The Staff of Studio SHAFT's Fireworks

Studio SHAFT's Fireworks, Should We See it from the Side or the Bottom? is a nostalgic film about teenage summer love, based on a classic TV drama. We sat down with director Nobuyuki Takeuchi and producer Genki Kawahara to discuss the film and its impact one year after its release.

For Takeuchi, Nazuna's mystical marble felt more like a metaphor for certain emotions to me than a real time-traveling object. Do you personally see Norimichi's magical day as something he really experienced or something more like a dream?

Nobuyuki Takeuchi: I think I must say it was both. I can't find the exact right words to express this, but it has to be both, otherwise the story would be impossible. I think it's both because the things we experience complement our dreams, so I don't think the mixture of all kinds of emotions is crazy or aberrational. In other words, his experience won't expand if we live in the world of only dreams, and it won't expand with reality alone. Both are within him. Well, it's just the scope of a seventh grader (first grade of junior high school), so it's not broad; it's not the more expansive experience of an adult. But he synthesized his dreams and also the things he experienced in real life, though we can only see a portion of his experience in the film. So it is unsure if this event happened on Norimichi's side of reality or Nazuna's side.

This film gets viewers thinking about the endless possibilities of their own youth, the many what-ifs. Was there any what-if from your own adolescence that was on your mind when making this film?

This is a difficult question.

Really? You were asking Suzu-chan (Suzu Hirose) and Suda-kun (Masaki Suda) at the promotional events and media interviews like this if they had memories of wishing they could go back to the past like in the film.

Simply, it is a case of “I should have told the girl I liked her,” isn't it? There are people who think, "Whether I was turned down or accepted, shouldn't I have told her I liked her anyway?" That's why I think Norimichi is great because—well, I just followed what was written in the script, so I'm supposed to say that he's not great. But still, I think he was great, even though he was induced to say things half-forcibly, he ultimately told Nazuna that he liked her. I think I should have taken certain actions in the past. The situation resembles regret, but yes, there is always a what-if out there.

Have you ever viewed fireworks from the side for yourself?

If it could be considered as from the side, I have viewed fireworks from the side from a distance. But I wonder if I can rightfully say that it was the side.

It's actually round, isn't it?

It's round. It's a number of gunpowder flashes, and then those flashes remain on the eyes. So, if an entire firework were formed by gunpowder, it would open up roundly. But when I'm asked if it's round or flat, I say it's round, I suppose. Pyro-technicians design fireworks for what's seen and unseen, and they make fireworks where the gunpowder does not flash for the unseen section. But explosions themselves are basically round.

For Kawamura-san, what do you think made this story perfect for an adaptation by SHAFT? How did you react to the story when you first read it?

Genki Kawamura: I've been a producer for live-action movies such as “Confessions (Kokuhaku)” and “Villain (Akunin)”. And after that, I started working on animated movies, like “Wolf Children” and “The Boy and The Beast” with director Mamoru Hosoda, and “your name.” with director Makoto Shinkai. I am always attentive to bring my way of thinking for making live-action films to animated films, and for blending the thought processes of live action and animation. When I work with the chief director Akiyuki Shinbo, whose particular animation style is best seen in the Monogatari series and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, I thought if we remade a live-action film as animation, it would be a new type of animated film. I've long been a fan of the original drama by director Shunji Iwai. As his work captured this beautiful moment of youth, I initially thought it would be impossible to remake it as a live-action film. But because of my experience in animation with directors Mamoru Hosoda and Makoto Shinkai, I thought I might be able to depict this shining moment of youth by using the power of animation instead. But the original film was a short live-action drama, so it took a long time to adapt the script to feature-length animation.

How did you feel when you first heard DAOKO and Kenshi Yonezu perform "Uchiage Hanabi"? Were you surprised by how massively successful the song became?

I've been a music producer with DAOKO since her debut. She debuted when she was 17, so it's already been four years. Because I could see her talent developing while I worked with her closely, I chose her song as a theme song. The director Shinbo is a fan of hers as well, and that was one of the main reasons why I chose her for this project. I thought it was ideal if the song was like a dialogue between a boy and a girl, to mirror the story of the movie. Both DAOKO and Kenshi Yonezu found fame on the internet, and I was confident that the perspective of the movie and synergy would occur between DAOKO and Kenshi Yonezu performing that dialogue. As a result, this song became a smash hit, and the music video constructed from clips from the movie has over 150 million views. I think this song has been heard all over the world!

Fireworks is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.

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