Tokyo International Film Festival has an animation special program, curated by anime critic and Meiji University lecturer Hikawa Kiyohiko, centering on the career of an animator. This year the program introduced Hara Keiichi, known internationally for his recent film Miss Hokusai, but his career spans from TV animation to Tv anime based theatrical films such as Crayon Shin-chan, and he even made a live action film on his favorite Japanese film director, Kinoshita Keisuke.
Photo by Eija Niskanen
Hara Keiichi notes immediately on Moomin, when I tell him that I come from Finland. In fact, he has a connection to Moomin: Hara was inspired into animation by Shibayama Tsutomu, who worked as an assistant key animator for the first Japanese animated Moomin in 1969-70.
Hara’s inspiration in anime lies stems from Fujiko F. Fujio, known for Doraemon. He studied at Tokyo Designer Gakuin College, and entered the anime studio Tokyo Movie.
One of the interesting films featured in the Keiichi Hara special screening series, was Crayon Shin-chan: The Storm Called: The Adult Empire Strikes Back (2001). What surprised me was the maturity of the story: it is not an overt-cuter story for only kids, but widens up to include adult audiences as well. In the post-screening talk event the screewriterMizushima Tsutomo told the audience that the nostalgic 20th century fair was incluenced by his visit to Osaka World Fair back in 1970, when he was 11 years old, The theme of the fair was ‘future’. “During our childhood anime was quite wild,”, states Hara.
Crayon Shin-chan: The Storm Called: The Adult Empire Strikes Back (2001). Photo; Tokyo International Film Festival.
The other Hara-directed Crayon Shinchan movie, The Storm called: The Battle of the Warring States (2002) is Hara’s take on jidaigeki, period drama. “Although I respect grewatly Akira Kurosawa as a filmmaker, his take on the time of the Warring States was partly fictional. I wanted the details of my film to be truthful to the real life of people during that time”, states Hara.
Hara’s true favorite amongst Japanese filmmakers is KinoshitaKeisuke. Therefore it was suitable for him to direct a biopic on this classical director, : Dawn of the Filmmaker: The Keisuke Kinoshita Story. The film picks up one episode from the director’s life, a journey taken by him and his brother to get their mother to a safer location during the Pacific War. “Shochiku wanted to commamerate 100th Kinoshita birthday. Originally my task was to write the script, based on Kinoshita’s own writings. Then I did the storyboard and finally offered myself to direct the film.” Doing a live action film is different from animation production: “I had to think the budget differently. We changed the location of some scenes due to budget restrictions, and I had to pay attention to the production budget differently than when doing animation.”
Dawn of a Filmmaker: The Keisuke Kinoshita Story (2013). Photo by Tokyo International Film Festival.
Summer Days with Coo is one of the most memorable animation features by Hara. “In Japan everyone knows the mythical character of kappa, the water goblin. In fact, some people even claim to have seen a kappa”, says Hara. Coo is one of the Japanese animated fantasy characters like Totoro, who support children in their life. The film changed Hara’s career: the Crayon Shinchan films were based on the concept of the TV series, but with Coo Hara developed his own storyworld and style.
Colorful further developed Hara’s style. This animated youth drama was adapted from a novel, where the events happen in a non-specifiel city place. Hara placed the story in Futago-Tamagawa in the Setagaya-ku area of Tokyo. “I lived in Setagaya-ku, and wanted to learn more about it. Tama-den, the local tram, runs right up to the library, and I placed it in the anime. Railroads are favorite subjects for animators.”
Hara sees the future of Japanese animation in dual light. He shares the common view within the Japanese anime industry that the lack of young animators getting into the field is a problem. “On the other hand there are many foreigners who enter the industry, and who might prove to be an asset for the industry.”