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HN: Lastly, I would like to hear from all of you your impressions of watching the completed film for the first time.

Masataka Aoki: Then it should be my impression of the first print of the film at the preview screening for the staff.

I felt that a quite magnificent thing has been created in form of a film, and at the same time felt immense gratitude to all of the staff.

As animation visuals and sounds are developed separately, I had watched many silent moving images of this film for a long time. So, I attended the audio mastering of the film, but I felt that the depth of the film’s space has expanded by combining moving images and sounds.

This film needed more than five years to complete and it’s been a really long production period compared to normal animated features in the Japanese animation industry. It makes me emotional because I had always been seeing over staff’s works throughout the period as the line producer. Therefore, it is difficult for me to have an objective opinion when I watch the completed film, actually. Anyway, I personally feel that this film could be a great, one-of-a-kind film.

Kotaro Hirano: In my case, when I saw the scene in the latter half of the movie where a whale appears from the sea by opening and closing it’s big mouth, which is one of the scenes I was responsible for, I thought, “I won!” That scene moved me the most, and I thought it was really great.

It was during the production of the film, but the most moving moment for me during the long production period of the film is when I saw first the key frames I received from Sanae Shimada, the animator who took charge of water effects through the film. Those keyframes will probably flash before my eyes when I die!

A whale appears from the sea

Water effect by Sanae Shimada.

Kenichi Konishi: I was involved in all the scenes in the film, so I think this project could become such a great film because all the staff did such fantastic work.

In terms of my first impression of the completed film, the ending song (which I never heard until then) fits perfectly as the last piece of the film and it works so well with the film’s direction. It had exceeded my expectations, and I was so moved by that. Everything worked like clockwork!

Even though I made this film by making everyone overwork, I could be the one who left a scar in this film in terms of a completed product. My role as the supervising animator was checking all the shots of the film and then adjusting and revising the shots, in which I can give the OK, until they can reach an acceptable quality for me. However, there are some shots in which I couldn’t bring to that level because I ran out of time.

So, I was annoyed by my own uselessness in that regard, which was how I thought when the film was completed. I feel sorry for all the staff involved about that and I’m often frustrated with myself. Of course, I’m proud of this film because it deserves praise. But, on the other hand, I was sorry for many people including Mr. Igarashi that I could not accomplish my role perfectly even though I had a longer production period than with general animated feature film projects in Japan. Everyone did fantastic work for the film but I think my work was not good. I am ashamed of it.

Masataka Aoki: No, I don’t think so. That was because Mr. Konish put a lot of effort into all the shots in the film. I think, thanks to that, we could increase the number of high quality and detailed cuts throughout the film.

Layout corrected by Kenichi Konishi

Layout corrected by Kenichi Konishi

Kenichi Konishi: Well, there are indeed many elements in a feature film development, so I also think, in terms of raising the quality of the film, I could not manage well the negotiation between the studio and myself on its production period, or manage reading each other’s ‘playing cards’.

Anyway, as for the mission of raising the visual quality, I feel like I could’ve done better than that.

Miyuki Ito: Actually, I had a similar feeling with Mr. Konishi. I worked on all the shots in the film except the shots which are just background art only and no characters. At some point during the production, I became very busy and hectic to deal with all the shots I received one after another. I did my best but there were a few shots I didn’t get an OK from Mr. Watanabe and Mr. Konishi when the film completed. So, I was a bit nervous thinking “what did they think of those shots?” when I watched the first print of the film with the other staff.

In terms of my impression of the first print of the film, the silent moving visuals we made are united with mysterious music and sounds and the pure elements of the characters expressed by the voice actors and actresses, so there are not only visual expressions of the story but also sound expressions of the story. It gave the film great depth and made the film’s spatial representation wider more. So, I was emotional by experiencing how that feeling of completion felt from the animation project.

Jasbeer Kootobally: I was just happy, I was really happy to see that everyone’s hard work, because we’ve worked so hard and so long on it, actually paid off because what I saw was really amazing. I was just very happy that all that work was put into making something so beautiful.

Ayumu Watanabe: Actually, the most happy and fun moment for me is the time during production when I’m thinking various things like “let’s do this kind of expression this time” or “we might arrange this like that”, and making new findings every time I receive rushes (raw and unedited shots) from each section.

Hence, when I watched the first print of the film with the staff, I thought that the journey of this film project has concluded. It is a mysterious film that made me want to continue its development forever, if it could allow me so. Thus, the first print of the film didn’t mean that it was the completed product for me and I still thought that there might be something I could change.

I think, presumably, all the other staff there with me also had a similar feeling because everyone fell in love with developing the film. Among them in particular, Mr. Konishi tried to continue drawing to the end, brushing up the visual of the film even more.

Regarding my impression of the first print of the film, I’m actually still thinking about how I personally consider and evaluate this film for understanding. As I talked a bit in the beginning of this interview, I would like to leave this film to the audiences and hope that they would individually weave each of their own story.

Kenichi Konishi: Mr. Takahata showed a similar reaction when his film The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013), which I took part in the production, was concluded. He said to me, “Oh, is this really the end?”, when the final rush got the OK. I think that he really meant “I still want to continue working for this film” behind his actual words.

As a film production period becomes longer, it becomes harder for the staff to work. On the other hand, the staff tends to start having fun putting the effort together in completing a film when they are in the homestretch, particularly if a film project has a very long production period. Even though it was hard, I didn’t want that time to end! So, I worked on two feature films in a row which I experienced the same type of last-term production!

Ayumu Watanabe: Yes, it was kinda like that!

In terms of scheduling and producing, I think this film ended up being a very tough title.

Miyuki Ito: Actually, this film project was referred to as the Sagrada Família in the Japanese animation industry!

HN: I think that in general Japanese animation studios develop a featured-length film in a shorter production period than studios in Europe. I personally feel that Japanese animated features could have some edgy artistic expressions because in the restricted production period, creators work very hard while pushing themselves to their limit.

Ayumu Watanabe: I agree. I think animation production period in Japan is like a shooting star. Its characteristics are its brevity and brightness at the very last moment and being completed quickly, like sparkling. I think that the attractiveness of Japanese animation might be supported by that instantaneous force.

Kenichi Konishi: The time flows differently throughout a whole animated feature film production period. More than half a year of time is condensed into the last three months.

Ayumu Watanabe: The last three months is the moment a shooting star enters into the atmosphere of the earth. The fragment of a shooting star, which has traveled and revolved around the galaxy, sparkles instantly and vanishes. It’s very fleeting.