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HN: Does the story of this film have any original parts not found in the manga? If so, could you please let us know your aim and intention on that part?

Kenji Iwaisawa: The original manga is a bit of a short story with approximately 100 pages, so if I make a film with only that, it would be no more than about 40 minutes long. So, I’ve added about 30 minutes worth of new, original parts of the story to the film.

Morita is one of the supporting characters in the original manga and not depicted in detail, so I thought I could show Morita more when I developed my original part of the film. Then, I fleshed out Morita’s story in the original manga and treated him almost as a protagonist and increased the number of scenes that highlight him.

Morita meets Kenji
One of the scenes of Morita from the storyboard

HN: What did you take care the most in terms of the whole structure of the film’s story?

Kenji Iwaisawa: I was aware that I was making a film where it relies more on the visuals rather than the story for getting a ‘Wow!’ response from the audience towards the end of the film, unlike with the original manga. So, I’ve decided that the story structure that focuses on the everyday life of the characters in a straightforward manner, and when the main characters play at the outdoor music festival at the end of the film (which is original to the film), the story starts to drive up into a final ‘bang’.

HN: I felt that this film keeps the audience’s interest throughout the first half of the film, even though it depicts the characters’ daily scenes in a monotonous manner. I’m wondering whether it is because of something from the original manga’s story structure, or if it’s anything you’ve devised in visuals.

Kenji Iwaisawa: It was what I directed consciously. Of course, the dialogue between the characters in the original manga is interesting. On the other hand, I intentionally put attractive visuals, which is made possible through animation, at key points in the film.

For example, the scene where the band makes a sound with their instruments for the first time, which I’ve created by making the camera do a full rotation in the scene, is one of the visual expressions in the film that is not found in the original manga.

The band makes a sound with their instruments for the first time
Storyboard of the scene
Live-action filming of the scene

HN: Could you please let us know the process behind the composition of the music that the band plays in the film?

Kenji Iwaisawa: During the long production period of the film, there were some music that must come before creating the drawings, but others were composed to suit the scenes with completed animation.

For instance, we developed the animation using rotoscoping, and there was some music we needed to have when we shot the live action for that. In terms of the music, I told the titles of songs which are close to my image of music for the film to the composer. It ended up that most of the scores that the musician composed based on my request were exactly what I had in mind, and I gave them the OK on the first go without any modifications. So, regarding to the music composition, I could put good and convincing pieces of music into the film without any difficulties at all.

HN: Was there a turning point for you during the seven-year production period which made you think: “Now, we can finish this film”?

Kenji Iwaisawa: In order to shoot the live-action materials for drawing the final outdoor festival scene, we planned an actual outdoor music festival by ourselves and held it as free-of-charge by setting up the stage and coordinating the musicians. So, the visitors of the festival in the live-action materials were a real, actual audience, not extras like in a normal shooting of a live-action film. We then asked musicians to perform on stage, including parts not used in the film.

The idea of actually organising an outdoor festival for the production of an animation film was not understood by the people around us at all. So, everything needed to be prepared with only two of the staff, me and another, by moving and working about. But in the end, we were able to receive a lot of help and the outdoor music festival came to be. That was when I thought, “Oh, this film project is going to work!”.

Preparation for the outdoor music festival
Filming with a live audience
Musicians performing onstage
A still from the outdoor music festival scene
A scene of the outdoor music festival from the storyboard

HN: Then, the filming of the outdoor music festival to make reference material for rotoscoped animation was not done by asking people to act in a way that reproduced your directing intentions, but instead bringing the atmosphere and the energy of the real outdoor music festival to the film, as if it were a documentary, right?

Kenji Iwaisawa: Yes, that’s right. That was how we could give the festival scenes a sense of presence and a realistic feeling.

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