For three years in a row, the Tokyo International Film Festival has honored an anime director with a series of retrospectives and talk events based around that director’s filmography. Two years ago, it was Evangelion’s Hideaki Anno; last year, Mobile Suit Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino took the stage. This time around, the festival is honoring Mamoru Hosoda, the director of Summer Wars, Wolf Children and The Boy and the Beast.
Following a screening of Wolf Children Wednesday evening, Hosoda took the stage with fellow director Hirokazu Koreeda for a wide-ranging discussion about what inspires him to make the kinds of films he does.
Hosoda started by remarking the theme he explored in Wolf Children – the struggle of a single mother in modern Japan – isn’t typical anime fodder.
“It was a challenging theme for animation,” he said. “People don’t take up these issues. I myself thought I was crazy for doing it. It’s definitely not a normal theme for a hit movie.”
He went on to say that Wolf Children was partially made as way to “apologize to his mother,” who passed away after a long hospitalization while the director was working on Summer Wars.
Hosoda also revealed that the setting for Wolf Children, the countryside village of Kamiichi, Toyama, is actually his own hometown. To prepare for the film, Hosoda brought his team of animators to visit, but ended up feeling a bit embarrassed about his old stomping grounds: “It was a strange experience, having my staff in my hometown. They’re the best animators in the business, and there’s really nothing there.”
He also noted that Aoi Miyazaki, the voice actor who plays the mother in the film, also came to his hometown, and while she was there he felt a “connection” between her and his mother, “as if they were the same person. It was a special feeling.”
Koreeda, who works exclusively in live-action film, asked Hosoda how closely his staff stick to what they see when they go out on these source material excursions. Hosoda explained that while photographs capture reality, drawings capture “the things that leave an impression on you,” continuing, “what ends up being reflected is your own perception of life. You can subtract what you’re not interested in.”
An audience member asked Hosoda about the music for Wolf Children, composed by Masakatsu Takagi. Hosoda explained that the soundtrack for the film was so powerful because Takagi had never scored a feature film before and was therefore “very original.” Hosoda used Takagi again for The Boy and the Beast, signaling a high level of respect for the composer.
Speaking about his films more generally, Hosoda noted that many of his films – or don’t, more accurately – an absent father. This stems, said Hosoda, from his own life, in which his father was almost never home and had an “ambiguous” presence at best. However, the director noted that an absent father carries “some kind of attractiveness… you almost feel his existence more because he’s not there, like in The Boy and the Beast.”
Wrapping up the discussion, Hosoda revealed a small but interesting bit of information about his next film: the first draft of the screenplay has been approved, the film will feature “a father, but isn’t about fatherhood,” and, if all goes well, will be released in 2018.
The World of Mamoru Hosoda runs through October 31 in Tokyo.
Matt Schley is Otaku USA’s man in Japan. He highly recommends Koreeda’s Still Walking. So good.