Cult anime director Masaaki Yuasa was in the UK recently, being eager to quiz him about his two upcoming films Night is Short, Walk On Girl which hits cinemas on 4th October 2017 (visit the official website to find a screening near you) and Lu Over the Wall on 6th December 2017.
Rather than just send anyone to interview this great director, we wanted to send someone we knew who is one of Masaaki Yuasa biggest fans. So we sent Katy.
There's never been a better time to be a Masaaki Yuasa fan. Along Netflix acquiring his new show Devilman Crybaby for spring 2018, he's bringing not one but two new films to the UK. The first, Night is Short, Walk On Girl, sees Yuasa adapting a second novel by Tomohiko Morimi (The Tatami Galaxy, The Eccentric Family) and won Best Feature at Ottawa International Animation Festival.
"Gracefully yet violently, The Girl with Black Hair (Kana Hanazawa) swirls through the abstract Kyoto night a joyful tempest. Blowing through pub crawls, festivals and book fairs, her youthful glee infects parties of increasingly eccentric characters, but amongst the debtors, existentialists and the God of the Old Book Market, can she be convinced “coincidental” encounters are fate and will she notice the Senpai (Gen Hoshino) in pursuit of her love?
Whether the hands on your clock move fast or slow, The Night is Short, Walk On Girl."
Meanwhile the second film, 'Lu Over The Wall' is an all ages, original story that won the Cristal award at Annecy International Animation Festival:
"Kai, a young middle schooler, lives in Hinashi Town, a lonely fishing village, with his father and his grandfather, a sun-umbrella maker. He used to live in Tokyo, but after his parents divorced he moved back to his parent's home town. Kai has trouble telling his parents the complicated feelings he has for them, and he's lonely and pessimistic about his school life. One of his joys is uploading songs he writes to the internet.
One day, his classmates Kunio and Yuuho invite him to join their band, "SEIRÈN". As he reluctantly follows them to Merfolk Island, their practice spot, they meet Lu, the mermaid girl. Lu sings merrily and dances innocently. As Kai begins to spend time with her, he starts to be able to say what it is that he's really thinking.
But since ancient times, the people of Hinashi Town have thought that mermaids brought disaster. Something happens that puts a huge rift between Lu and the townspeople. And then, the town is in danger. Will Kai's cry for the heart be able to save the town?"
I was lucky enough to get to ask Yuasa a few questions about both films and the stories and process around making them.
So you're bringing two films to the UK, which is very exciting. To talk about Walk On Girl first: As it's another adaptation of a Morimi novel, how does it feel to come back to Morimi's world, and what is it that draws you to his novels?
Actually with Walk on Girl, the project plan came up during Tatami Galaxy. We wanted to make it straight away, but it didn't work out that way. I think that after Tatami Galaxy we went to the point of creating a script for Walk On Girl, but it just didn't really happen. So about seven years came and went and then while I was making Lu, Walk On Girl came up again and I just didn't want to miss the opportunity.
What attracts me to Morimi's novels is the language, how words are used. It's very fun, very much comedy, but it's not just that; there's always something behind it, behind the obvious. And as a creator, to bring that to the fore is always interesting and I think that's pretty much what attracts me.
The recurring theme... I can't quite remember what it was in Tatami Galaxy but it's about what is fun, I think, and Walk on Girl is about the connection amongst people. In the books, all these things are quite subtle but with animation, how to bring them to the fore in pictures is always challenging and I like that element about it.
Since making Tatami Galaxy, you formed Science Saru and have been working with Flash, how does it feel having your own company and to have this different way of working?
Regarding the contents, there isn't much difference, it's more like a TV series and feature film. With Walk On Girl, by using Flash we were able to make more spectacular scenes. Flash works fantastically and there are things that only Flash can do.
Also, the music is different. For a TV series, we have a selection of songs and we choose what the best would be whereas with the feature film we had an original score. Oshima did fantastic music that goes with the pictures.
On the music, because there's obviously a very important musical focus in Lu, and there's the theatre scenes in Walk On Girl which have so much energy... at any point would you like to do an entire anime musical? Because we'd love to see that!
Yes, that would be very interesting. I mean I love Singing in the Rain and Little Shop of Horrors so yeah, that would be great if I could.
In Walk on Girl, there's a scene with lots of cocktails. What's your favourite cocktail, and have you had any drunken adventures that may have played into your choices for the film?
I don't really drink cocktails much, I'm more a Japanese Sake man. But the Margarita I had in Singapore was fantastic. I'm not really great at alcohol like the girl in the movie. I'm more careful. And as I'm older, I think the speed that you get drunk gets kind of slower. I think I'm okay and then as I'm going home I just realise that oh my god I'm drunk. If I drink until the early hours of the morning, the hangover is like... I don't even want to think about it. I just can't actually predict my drunkenness. I normally use my push bike so I go for a drink, going home on my pushbike and somehow these poles are coming towards me so I manoeuvre around and another one is coming up so basically I'm zigzagging but I'm just avoiding the objects walking towards me I'm not cycling towards them, they're coming towards me. So yes, that's my experience.
In Lu, there's a very strong sense of place and heritage about the town. Are there any particular places that inspire its setting?
It's not really 'real', it's all fantasy, but it's a mosaic or patchwork of places that I have been, that I've travelled, went and saw. For example, this two storey building with a ground floor you can actually park a ship in, in Kyoto. And in Onomichi in Hiroshima I saw this building that inspired me to use that design for the main character's house. So, places that I saw but it's a fantasy.
The Mermaids have quite an unusual depiction, in the mythology around them, their visuals and their audio. Was there anything that particularly inspired this?
I think mermaids, they're like a siren, they're kind of scary. There's a sort of vampire element to it. I mean, mermaids used to eat a lot of different animals... probably they don't now because they're a bit cuter now. If you think about Mermaids you think about immortality. I didn't really intend to do this but many people might think of the mermaid as a metaphor for the dead. It wasn't intentional but while I was making it I thought people might think that way.
The mermaids have a geometric look to their water magic, and Lu's voice sounds like samples. Was this almost 'digital' feel to them intentional or did it just happen to feel right?
The voice actress is actually really good, she's got a really good voice. But it's a character who is not actually human so I wanted her to sing like a not-human, an animal cry if you like. She made a great effort towards that but we also used a bit of sound effect on the voice. But also the mermaid likes Kai's music, that's why she comes by so I wanted to create that sort of a feeling.
Because for a lot of UK, this might be their first exposure to your work, are there any things you'd like to say to new viewers and anything you'd especially like them to take away from the two films?
I don't want to say too much because I don't want to send out preconceptions, but Walk on Girl is a fast paced film so please buckle your seatbelts when you watch it. It's about silly, student college life so don't take it too seriously and if it's too silly please don't get angry. Lu is for everyone. I intended to make a movie for everyone and I think there's a universal theme to it so it probably could be a nice taster for my works.