Japanese director and animator, Makoto Shinkai speaks to Sneha Gohri about his recent visit to India and his animation film Weathering With You, which is Japan’s official entry to the Oscars.
Makoto Shinkai is a Japanese director, writer and animator whose filmography includes the 2016 international anime hit, Your Name. His latest film, Weathering with You, is getting a countrywide release in India, a first for any anime film in India. This film is also Japan’s official entry for the foreign film category in the upcoming edition of the Oscars.
Shinkai was recently in India for the opening ceremony of the Japanese Film Festival 2019 India.
Q. To what extent is the Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki your inspiration? Do you wish through your films to comment, like him, on the politics and environment of our present world?
A. I’ve grown up watching Hayao Miyazaki’s movies. I am deeply inspired by his masterpieces. But when you talk about the actual content of my movies—for example, in Your Name there is a sort of a natural disaster and there is another natural disaster which is at the centre of Weathering with You—it is not something which is directly inspired by anyone from the previous generations. It is inspired more by the idea of what is in front of us—that which needs to be addressed; what I can speak to my audiences about—that which they can relate to.
Q. Your previous films have been themed on traditional Japanese philosophies. For instance, Your Name introduced us to Shintoism. Is there any particular Japanese tradition you are exploring in your new film, Weathering with You?
A. Yes, you’re right. We had many ideas from the Shinto tradition built into the script of Your Name. In Weathering With You, you will find a Buddhist tradition called Obon. In Japan, in summertime, there’s this period where you light a fire and your ancestors’ spirits come back from the heaven for a few days, during which you feast and pray for them and then you send them back. So you will find those motifs in the latest film.
Q. Your film is Japan’s official entry for the upcoming Oscars. How does that feel?
A. That’s a very interesting question because I’m trying not to get too carried away. It’s not that we have been nominated or shortlisted for any Oscar. Currently, my movie has only been sent as Japan’s representative movie. In that sense there is a fair amount of joy that a body which represents the filmmakers of Japan has chosen my film over the others to go as a representative of our country.
I don’t come from a pure filmmaking background, and I’m not somebody who made his life thinking he would become an animation director. I was not even part of an animation studio. I actually started my career in a gaming company and because I enjoyed doing that, I veered towards animation films. I’m a sort of self-made person. I did a small film and that was received well. Some part of me always feels that maybe I’m not really an authentic director. So having my film chosen as Japan’s official entry to the Oscars makes me feel grateful, and also makes me feel a little uneasy.
Q. What is your to advice for manga and anime enthusiasts in India?
A. We are fortunate to be living in the world of the Internet, where you have a lot of online tutorials and access to so much material that can teach you how to create animation. You don’t necessarily need to go to a professional school to learn these skills. The environment is already there for somebody who wants to do it. If you really, really want to do it, I think you should go ahead and use all the tools at your disposal.
Q. What was the hardest part of your journey?
A. I’ll tell you what was difficult… Before I went pro, I knew no fear. I was doing something that I just loved. So when I came out with something called Voices of a Distant Star and it got a really rousing reception, I realised I needed to take this seriously. When you have to take something seriously because of external factors, it puts a lot of pressure on you. And I felt that pressur e a lot when I came up with my next creation, which was The Place Promised in Our Early Days, because I realised that becoming a professional meant throwing away that sense of abandonment that you have when you’re doing something just for the love of it.
Q. How does it feel to see your film being screened at the Japan Film Festival in India?
A. I am very excited to be here in India for the premiere of Weathering With You. The enthusiasm and response have been overwhelming so far. Anime is a popular genre in Japan and it makes me so happy to see it is popular in India too. I hope the audience will love my film. I would like to thank Japan Foundation, PVR Cinemas and VKAAO for making this happen. I wish them all the luck for a successful Japanese Film Festival.
After Delhi, the Japanese Film Festival 2019 India travels to five cities: Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Bengaluru, and Chennai