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Interview: Tomomi Mochizuki on House of Five Leaves

by Rebecca Silverman,
Tomomi Mochizuki is the director of House of Five Leaves, the television adaptation of Natsume Ono's acclaimed manga. The series will be available in a deluxe DVD box on March 6th, 2012, from NIS America.
ANN: Do you see this story as being plot or character driven? How did that affect your directorial choices?

Mochizuki: I don't think we should decide whether one is more important than the other. They each have their own features and charm, which are all directly connected with the plot as well. My directorial choices reflected on how both of those factors weigh equally in importance.

House of Five Leaves” is animated almost exclusively using a dark color palate, and most of the brighter colors that are present are muted. The notable exception is the red of both the maple leaves and the blood. What was your reason for doing this?

The reason why everything was so dark is because that was exactly how dark it was during that time period in Japan. The muted color palate was really just my personal preference. The red maple leaf was representative of the title “House of Five Leaves,” so I made sure it stood out amidst that color setting.

Was there a specific mood or emotion that you wanted to evoke in your viewers? How did your choice of color and music contribute to that?

I strove for realism; I wanted to make a period drama that looked and felt like the real thing. I wanted the viewers to experience the atmosphere of that exact time period. As I mentioned in the previous answer, the muted color scheme contributed to that. In terms of music, I used traditional Japanese string instruments and added in piano tracks to give it both a modern and Japanese feel.

Masa and Yaichi are nearly direct opposites in terms of their characters and world views. That's partly drawn from their original manga incarnations, but how did you use the added medium of sound to expand upon that? Would it be fair to say that Masa is the voice of innocence while Yaichi represents jaded experience?

To put it in general terms, Masanosuke looks straight into your eyes when speaking to you, while Yaichi always looks away when talking. That itself represents how they deal with the world around them as well. Even in regards to how they speak, Yaichi only says the bare minimum and puts no emotion into his words.

The calico cat has a much larger presence in the anime than in Ono's original manga. Is there some symbolism to that, or was it to add a “cuteness” to a show otherwise lacking in it?

I think the cat appears to have more of a presence in the anime because we actually see it move. I believe that cat serves as a “break” in the flow of the story.

Episode 10 begins by using a first person perspective, an unusual move for this show. What made you decide to do that?

This is the part where it begins from the viewpoint of Seinoshin and then turns into that of Yaichi's. Because of the importance of this scene, I wanted a special way to present it.

Episode 12, the show's finale, takes pains to show a lot of ripples spreading out on liquid. Does this portray some message about Yaichi's past and present or an overarching theme of the show?

Water is always flowing. I have this concept where it's always connected to one's past. As this is the episode where many elements of Yaichi's past and present become revealed, I think I subconsciously added more ripple effects to the liquid surfaces. Not every detail was calculated. I believe this show is very good in how much of the presentation was determined by the story direction, and not directly by me.


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