Interview: Summer Ghost Director loundrawby Kalai Chik,
Artist, animator, and director loundraw founded the animation studio, Flat Studio, with writer Tetsuya Sano in January 2019. Known for his character designs on I want to eat your pancreas and Tsuki ga Kirei, loundraw made his directorial debut with the studio's first short film, Summer Ghost. Originally released in November 2021, the forty-minute movie received a manga adaptation and two novels that expanded on its story. At the 5th Animation is Film Festival, loundraw spoke with Anime News Network on the making of Summer Ghost, establishing his own animation studio, and what's to come.
ANN: With your directional debut on Summer Ghost, which is a forty-minute short film, how did you change your eye for direction? Previously, you've directed shorter, two-minute trailers.
loundraw: I think for a two-minute visual, it's more about the experience and not the story. Such as the timing of the sound, or what it makes you feel. But for a forty-minute film, it's about the director's intent that's at the forefront. I had to think of it not as twenty different two-minute visuals, but more as a whole sequence. I had to also explain how I feel as a human being, how I feel in relation to everything in the story. That's what I focused on.
In a previous interview, you mentioned the characters—Tomoya, Aoi, Ryō, and Ayane—are based on parts of your own personality. Are they reflective of how you were feeling when working towards your goals in the animation industry?
They might have been a part of me, and that's how I felt when I was making this film. But in a sense, it was also different because Summer Ghost—in addition to it being my story—could be another person's story. Or even a story about how people overcome their obstacles. When I first created these characters, and started to work with them within the film, they established their own personalities. As the script was being written, they started to move and take on a role of their own. I think it turned out well.
How long did it take for you and the staff to complete Summer Ghost?
I think it took maybe a year for the animation process, but I was working on the script a year before that. For the script I did something a little bit different from the standards of making an anime. I was doing the script and the storyboard, and then took ideas from the storyboard back to the script. It was a very collaborative process between me and the scriptwriter. That process alone took a year and then the animation was another year.
You did a video introduction for the Summer Ghost preview screening at Anime Expo in early July. Was that the first time you'd been to Los Angeles?
Yes, that was my first time coming to LA. I'm very excited, and a little nervous because LA is a special city filled with movie culture.
Do you plan to tour any of the movie studios while you're here?
I don't have any plans on going to any of the movie studios, but I would love to one day. I did get the chance to go to the Academy Museum and learn about the history of Hollywood. I gained a lot from that experience.
Shifting topics, founding a studio at a young age is very ambitious. Considering the high number of challenges in the Japanese animation industry, what have you learned in creating Flat Studio?
It really comes down to the reason behind why I decided to create my own studio. This came naturally to me because without creating my studio, I couldn't create what I wanted. I have this style that is hard to explain to somebody. For example, I can say, “try not to draw too much.” But that's something that I feel I can't explain well. It comes down to the person I'm teaching, how they feel, their sense of style, and how the team feels. In teaching them and collaborating with them, I gained a lot of experience, and it was an interesting process.
You've worked in various positions, such as character designer, scriptwriter, and storyboard. Which do you enjoy the most?
I do enjoy being an illustrator the most. Even within a moving sequence, I think an illustration is cutting out a scene from that arrangement. That's what stands out to me. Even as I've become a director now, I want to keep to my roots as an illustrator and it's what I tend to lean towards.
As you mentioned before, one of the reasons you started your own studio was because you felt that you couldn't work on your own stories under the strictures of the current animation industry. Did you encounter any of those same challenges you saw while working at other studios?
I think if someone had a different motivation as to why they are in the animation industry, they might feel that my studio has a problem. It comes down to the structure of how Japanese animation is created. As for my current staff at Flat Studio, they know what they're doing is something new and different. They look like they're having a lot of fun and they have a lot of passion for going after what they want to do. I don't think my studio is encountering the same problems.
Given the reactions from the screenings at Anime Expo and Animation is Film Festival, what do you want to take away from the American audience's reception to Summer Ghost?
What I want the audience to take away from watching my movie would be to have a changed view of the world when they step outside. Maybe the scenery or the world looks a little different. Or they start thinking about what it means to live. I also want them to realize that this movie is my take on how I feel about life and death. I'm curious to know what the American audience thinks about life and death after they've watched the movie.