Japanator Interviews: Makoto Shinkai


A true artist

Wow, talk about an awesome day! Back at Anime Expo this year I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with one of my favorite masters of anime, the illustrious Makoto Shinkai. If you've been living under a rock for the last few years you may not know about his ground breaking works like; The Place Promised in Our Early Days, 5 Centimeters per Second, and his recent masterpiece, Garden of Words.

Unfortunately my audio recorder bit the big one during our meeting, so much of the interview is paraphrased. Luckily, I have an amazing memory! We only had a few minutes to catch up since his schedule was so packed, but I hope you enjoy the words we did exchange, and gain some insight to the amazing man.

Japanator - I just finished watching your masterpiece Garden of Words. Looking back at the film, do you feel like you set out what you wanted to achieve?

Shinkai - I feel as though we got what we wanted. Looking back, there's always going to be something you may have done differently, even something as small as color choices for scenes, however I'm very happy with the end result. I hope the viewers are happy.

Japanator - Why do you feel the need to Direct, edit, and do cinematography for your works? Do you feel like total control is a key to your success?

Shinkai - We are actually a very small company, so it is actually necessary for everyone to wear many hats. However, it does give me the ability to do exactly what I want. In Garden of Words, I am able to get the exact shot, color, and feeling necessary to convey the message. There are less people to appease and have opinions, so this set up works well for me.

Japanator - You decided to keep Garden of Words to around 40 minutes. Do you feel like less is often more?

Shinkai - I don't like having to think about those kinds of restrictions. Thinking about wether a movie should be 2 hours for the theatre, 30 minutes for TV is not something I want to think about. What it took to do the last movie was 2 hours, while this one was 40 minutes.

Japanator - Did you have an idea prior to production on the length of the film?

I think as soon as we started writing the story boards we had an idea of the length. Even from concept we had an idea on the compression of ideas. I don't like to think too much about the length of time. However, when the idea for this movie was conceived, I knew it would be best to do it in this length.

Japanator - Your films capture environments and moments so beautifully. How important is it that every nuance and detail is captured in a scene. Is hyper realism important to you, or do you feel that that is just a necessary part of anime?

Shinkai - I think that's the nature of anime. Part of art is what sets you apart from other anime directors Unlike many other directors, I don't come from an animation and drawing background. I previously worked for a video game company where I focused primarily on background and scenery. I feel that my focus on those aspects is different. I guess you can see my past work in my current work!

Japanator - You are often compared to Hayao Miyazaki. Personally, I don’t see much similarity. If there is any Director/Producer you feel like you have similarities with?

Shinkai - I appreciate any comparisons to other Directors, however I don't as though there are any that I would necessarily compare myself to.

Japanator - What is the significance of Yukari’s inability to taste in the film?

Shinkai - In the film, Yukari is going through a tough time where she is unable to return to work. As she goes into the garden within Shinjuku she begins the journey of finding herself. The stresses of her life cause an affliction of her to lose taste. As she she slowly regains her taste. It's is also her finding herself.

Japanator - Why choose shoe making for Takao?

Shinkai - In the film Yukari mentions how she can not walk many more. Meeting Takao and him being someone who can help her walk again helps illustrate the relationship they have, and the unmentioned need they have for each other.

Japanator - Have you considering directing a non-animated film?

Shinkai - I actually get this question a lot. This is what I do, and I'm currently not interested currently in other mediums. There is a beauty and focus on things that you can only create with animation.

Japanator - Are details part of a film? Or is the film the details?

Shinkai - That's the rule of art. When you choose to make art, you are in control of the details or beauty that you are able to express and highlight. The fact that my medium is animation should not change the fact that I want to share the emotion and details.

Japanator - Favorite anime or video games?

Shinkai - This is probably true for a lot of creators, but I often find that I need to stay away from other people's material to do original work. If I immerse myself in other people's work I find myself influenced by it. It's important that my work comes from within.

Japanator - Have you listened to the English dub of Garden of Words? Do you feel it is appropriate for foreign audiences to watch a film with different voice actors?

Shinkai - Obviously English is not my native language, so it is hard for me to tell. From what people have told me the voice acting is done well, and just listening I can feel the emotion of the actors come through, so in that respect I feel it's a success. That being said, it will always be different. Where or not it is successful or good is up to the American audience.

Japanator - Any messages for your American fans?

Shinkai - I don't like to think about where fans as from very much., but I do appreciate all of the support I've gotten from my fan base. In my work, especially Garden of Words, I want to share the beauty of my favorite places in Japan . The park in the film is a real place in Shinjuku that I like to visit. I would like to share the peace and harmony of unique places like this, and the love I have for my country. Maybe it will inspire people to visit.

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