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Interview: Kazuya Murata, Director of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

by Zac Bertschy,

ANN: Suisei no Gargantia is an interesting sci-fi premise; how did you become attached to this particular project? What was it about the premise that attracted you to the show?

Kazuya Murata: Mr. Hirasawa, the producer at Production I.G gave me a call and briefed me about the project concept. The theme is based around the idea of "work" or "working people". It's a robot anime, which will cheer up young people who will enter and have entered society. I liked it. Moreover, hearing that the setting is a planet covered by water, I felt that it could be a chance to use one of my long-gestating ideas.  Then, I got on board.

The show is being written by Gen Urobuchi, who right now is known for writing hit shows. What are your personal expectations for Gargantia?

First of all, I look forward to seeing the world visualized before my eyes, where the planet is covered by the ocean and where people live on boats. It's great to imagine that what was only in my mind is taking shape and can then be seen by anybody. I would like as many people as possible to see the show and share in the attractiveness of the world. I couldn't be happier.

Have you been a science fiction fan in the past? If so, what are some of your favorite science fiction films and TV shows, and did any of them influence your direction on this project?

I may not be as familiar with Sci-fi as the hardcore fans, but I love it. As for this particular project, there is no specific show which influenced my direction, but there are some live action films and anime shows, which influenced me strongly. Live action films such as "Close Encounters", "Blade Runner", "Brazil”, and "Stalker". Anime series are “Space Battle Ship Yamato”, and “Conan, the Boy in Future”(“Mirai Shōnen Conan”).

What's your favorite type of project to work on? Something based on an original script, such as Gargantia, or an adaptation of something like a light novel or a manga?

I hope that I can continue to work on original projects. Of course, if the projects contain the world view and the story that I would like to express, a novel-based show would also be good. As for manga, those that impressed me already contain something excellent visually within themselves, and therefore they do not motivate me to animate them.

As director, do you feel less pressure when developing a project based on an original idea less than when you're working on an adaptation?

I feel pressure in both cases, but those are different in nature. Regarding the shows based on an original work, they already have fans. I am conscious about having the source material animated in a way so that the anime doesn't spoil what the original works’ fans have cherished. As for an original project, there is another pressure where we have to continue to think over through the entire production procedures about whether or not what we came up with works and the way we expressed it was the best way

Does the latter give you more creative freedom?

In the sense of creative freedom, an original project gives more creative freedom. Also, the originality itself becomes “the reason that the show has to be created as an original project”. That is the most important point in creating an original work.

What do you hope people take away from the experience of watching Gargantia?

For the Japanese audience, I would like “young people who are about to enter society” to take the message, “Don't worry. Try. You can do it”. For the larger audience in the world, I want them to have the message, “Whatever could happen, we, human beings, will be alright. If we all together open the path, the future will always be ahead of us”.

Your first experience directing feature films came with Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos. What was that experience like? Did you enjoy working on a feature film rather than on a TV series, and would you do it again, given the opportunity?

I enjoyed directing the action sequences in the Fullmetal Alchemist movie. It's hard to keep the story rolling with that much action in a TV format. It was the movie format that allowed me to have so much fun. Also, depicting the village of Milos was actually good practice for directing . Depicting “community” has been one of my main themes, so the Fullmetal Alchemist movie was a great lesson in directing Gargantia.

Having now directed both TV and film, which medium do you prefer as a storyteller? Do you think there's a palpable difference between the two in terms of your ability to tell the story you really want to tell?

It is not like I prefer either or. Whether or not something should be a TV series or a film depends entirely on the story. The feature film is better at extensively telling the events happening at a specific setting in the specific time frame, which enables the audience to be drawn into the story with continuous suspense and share the sense of unity. On the contrary, if it is a show that piles up the episodes to follow the ups and downs of human relations in a longer time span, the TV format will be suitable. I like both styles and want to try both of them. But, if I am asked which I am better at, I would say the feature film.

You also directed the TWO-MIX video for their song 'White Reflection' - did you ever think that video would be as famous as it is now? How do you feel about that particular video being such a big hit in America?

I didn't know that “White Reflection” was famous in the U.S.A. When it was released in Japan, there was little chance of exposure through the media. I thought that the video was left unknown. If many people in America enjoyed watching it, I feel honored. “White Reflection” contains full landscapes of America from the 70's to the 80's. I am very happy if people are enjoying them.

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