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Interview: Makoto Shinkai

by Luke Carroll,

Despite an already exhausting schedule that had him only land in Australia this morning, director Makoto Shinkai kindly let us take a few minutes of his time to talk about his latest film The Garden of Words.

ANN|au: Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on a wonderful film, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Makoto Shinkai: Thank you.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Garden of Words?

A: The very first idea I wanted to put into this anime was that of modern Tokyo, just the daily scenery that I see, and snapshots of the beautiful town that I live in.

Q: Were there any major issues in producing the film?

A: This goes for every anime that I produce, but the hardest time is when I'm working by myself trying to finish the storyboard and planning. For instance, when I first showed my original plan of the story to the other workers they mentioned that the main female character Yuki seemed rather selfish, which I didn't really intend. Planning is always hard, but after that it is separate and collaborative work with others which is always fun.

©Makoto Shinkai/CoMix Wave Films

Q: It was announced a few months ago that The Garden of Words was also being adapted into a manga. How did you feel about that and did you get to have much input into its direction?

A: Every time I produce an anime I have been approached in regards to making a manga version of it. I completely leave it up to the manga artist to make the book. Coincidentally it has always been a female artist who has made the manga. I'm always interested as a reader to see how a female writer has reproduced the anime into a manga, but as I said earlier, I don't give any input.

Q: With a run time of 46 minutes, The Garden of Words is not very long. Do you have a preference for doing shorter films or is there more you wish you could have done?

A: The last anime I did, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, was two hours long so it is not like I always do short films. However I do like to produce shorter films and when I first planned The Garden of Words I did not think of it eventually airing in theatres. In the end, a lot of people have reached out for my film and it is airing in cinemas and theatres around the world. But I wanted this movie to be something that people can enjoy on their computers, tablets and personal home theatre screens; to enjoy like music in their spare time and provide a little bit of relaxation. I wanted it to be different to other productions and the way they promote things, and as such when the Japanese cinematic release occurs in a few weeks time, we will also be releasing the film on DVD.

Q: Most of your works have consisted of a ‘distant love’ theme. Have you given any thought into trying something a little different such as action or comedy?

A: I don't believe I am suited for comedy so I doubt I will give it a try any time soon. But the last film I did, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, was a sort of adventure themed film and that was personally a challenge. This time The Garden of Words is kind of a love story concept, but every time I create an anime, I try to challenge myself on a new theme and storyline so my next film will certainly be different and new again.

Q: Have you already made plans for your next titles or are you thinking of having a little break first?

A: The film itself was only finished three weeks ago and it still has a few weeks before it gets released in Japan. So I still have music videos to design for the songs used in the film as well as I'm writing a novel for the film. The Garden of Words is actually still in the process of release, so I still have a lot of work left to do for it before I can think of resting.

Q: On that same note, have you ever considered making an anime series, or are you content with films?

A: I am offered the chance sometimes to work with an anime series, and it is something I feel I should try and be a part of, but at the moment I do not feel like I am ready for it yet and that I have not done enough work. But I am really interested in doing an anime series one day.

Q: Lastly, do you believe The Garden of Words is currently your best work, and if so why?

A: I think most directors and people who make anime would agree that their latest film is probably the one they feel the most confident in, that they have done their best and put everything into. So I do believe that The Garden of Words is my best film so far. But only after it has been released in Japan for a few months do I see all the reactions and all the bits that I might have needed more work on. Until then I can't really say, but I do think at this moment in time that I have put everything into The Garden of Words, and that it is one of my best films.

ANN|au: I would like to thank you once again for your time and congratulations on a wonderful film.

Makoto Shinkai: Thank you.

We would like to thank the Gold Coast Film Festival staff for giving us the opportunity to interview Makoto Shinkai as well as for hosting the wonderful world premiere that evening.

Ed's Note: If you would like to check Luke's thoughts on The Garden of Words, you can do so here.

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