Mamoru Hosoda Q&A @ Animation is Film Festival

We were privileged enough to listen to a Q&A session of Hosoda-kantoku by Charles Solomon (LA Times, Animation Magazine, others) at the Animation is Film Festival! See the transcript of the session below:


The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Q: Why did you choose The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, a novel which first was released the year you were born, as your first personal project?
A: The novel had been adapted into movies and TV multiple times, according to the time period they were released, but never an anime film. Because there were so many versions, I wanted to make my own version.
Q: The relationship between Makoto, Chiaki and Kousuke are very warm and real, in a way that goes through all of your films. How did you approach this?
A: The original novel is very sci-fi heavy. The most famous adaptation was very much a love story. When I made my own, I wanted something that was different from both. I wanted to capture something that was about youth, what it’s like to be a teenager, with friendship and a little romance.
Q: Your female protagonists like Makoto, Natsuki , Hana, Kaede, Mirai, etc are strong female characters that are different from the Japanese standard. Do they represent a new type of heroine?
A: I guess there’s an idea of a traditional woman and gender roles, not just in Japan. I want to show something more liberal and against gender roles, so I prefer to create characters that challenge that. I don’t like stories about powerful heroic men, so I prefer to write stories about women, especially to show how they open up the world.
Q: In the time leap scenes, there are subtle differences that seem to show how Makoto struggles to manage time.

A: I had to think about making the time travel interesting. I used Bach’s Goldberg Variations, 30 versions one one work, to show all the different time travel.

Summer Wars


Q: Next we’re going to see Summer Wars, which Tron and Ready Player One tried to do, but not as well. (audience laughter)

Hosoda: Oh… I saw Ready Player One on the plane, and it did feel kind of familiar…


Q: How was working on an original without a structure laid out for you different?

A: I choose titles to work on not because they sell well but because it’s a good story. When I made TokiKake, I got pushback, like “why are you making something so old?” since it was 40 years old. For Summer Wars etc, the reason I go with an original story is because the length of existing works often is not quite right for a movie. For me, if the story is the right length and a good story, I’d be interested in working on it.


Q: What’s your process on working on movies like? What do you do first?

A: I write the script first. I present almost a full script first to the producers before doing storyboards [which Hosoda-kantoku draws himself].


Q: When I (Solomon) first interviewed Hosoda-San, he mentioned Summer Wars was inspired by meeting his wife’s family.

A: When I first got the idea for Summer Wars, I already had the idea of doing a story about fighting in the internet, but I wanted to choose heroes who were very far removed from the internet–so, relatives from the countryside. These kinds of relatives can be rowdy and maybe a bit… annoying. When I met my wife’s family, I was struck by the realization that my number of relatives would double.


Wolf Children


Q: Summer Wars is a large scale film with many characters, but Wolf Children is much more intimate with a smaller number. What can you tell us about that?

A: I made this movie after my mother passed away and I thought about how she raised me. I wanted to make a film about raising children but I thought maybe it would be a bland concept at first. There aren’t many films about that. But actually, raising children has a lot of action!


Q: In Western stories, wolves are villains; is it different in Japanese stories?

A: When I thought about making a movie about childraising, I wanted to come up with another metaphor, so I thought about a girl who fell in love with a wolf man. In Japanese folk tales, wolves are actually not that scary; for example, they would walk with you if you have to walk alone in the dark. So I wanted to think of a kind Japanese wolf.


Q: Hana finds acceptance in the countryside, after she moves. Is this a statement about the isolating nature of modern cities?

A: It’s true that in Tokyo there aren’t many places that would let you own a large dog, so they wouldn’t be great for raising her kids. But in Japan, we’re always thinking about what the best way to raise children – – whether the convenience of the city OR the vastness of the countryside.


Q: Where did you grow up, the city or the country?

A: I actually grew up in the countryside. The locations where Hana moves to are based on my hometown, since it’s a movie about my mother.


The Boy and The Beast


Q: It seems that in Hosoda-san’s movies, children learn from the teachers that match them, not who they are given through a sort of “standard” educational system. Yuki learns from school, Ame from the fox, and in The Boy And the Beast, Kyuta learns from Kumatetsu.

A: In the story, when Yuki is younger, she’s more active and Ame is more human. The reversal is important. I know people who are energetic but grew up sickly, or smart people who became violent. Ultimately teachers tell you how to grow, but children grow on their own as they will.


Q: Your characters are deep and complex, with their own strengths. It’s not like other mentor stories like the Karate Kid, where the relationship is touchy-feely: in the Boy and the Beast, the two fight and spar physically

A: When I was creating Kumatetsu, I felt that teachers are not perfect but have their own problems. I think that makes them more believable and better teachers. As another example, I think Kung Fu Panda is a good example of a story with teachers with problems of their own.


Q: Did you ever you study martial arts? Is a martial arts sensei is like an animation sensei?

A: There actually is a connection between martial arts and animation teachers. I didn’t learn martial arts as a kid, actually. In animation, people who are really good animators are often just talented; they’re geniuses. So they don’t know how to teach, since it comes so naturally to them. I had the same experience with my senpais and when I was trying to teach others.


Q: I’ve heard you aren’t influenced by manga culture, but by other sources. In Summer Wars, the climactic battle against Love Machine looks inspired by an ukiyo-e print.

A: In the Boy and the Beast, the whale that comes into Shibuya was inspired by ukiyo-e woodblock prints, like one depicting fighting against whales. The reason I use Japanese art as an inspiration is because animation is thought of as an afterthought after live action film, but personally I feel it’s an extension of art history. Film has maybe 150 years of history, right? But art has thousands, and I feel animation is continuation of art and paintings. I studied at an art school, not an animation or film school.


Q: The connection between Kyuta and Kumatetsu is not like Karate Kid–it’s a lot more nuanced. Can you speak to that?

A: The movie is actually based on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which I’ve loved. I like how the characters dislike each other but grow to care for each other.


Q: The scene where she’s bandaging the Beast and he yells at her and she yells back was probably the first time a Disney heroine stood up for herself like that.

A: I love that scene too. In Beauty and the Beast, they hate each other but end up falling in love. I wanted to see how people like a student and teacher who don’t get along can grow to care for each other.


Get all four of these amazing movies on Blu-ray/Digital here!