Scotland Loves Animation 2011 – Hotarubi no Mori e Producer Q & A

It was the second year running for “Scotland Loves Animation” at Glasgow Film Theatre last weekend. Last year they had Evangelion 2.0 and Trigun. This year we seem to have a common theme of mythical beings.

  • Tekken Blood Vengeance
  • Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem
  • Hotarubi no Mori e (Into the Forest of the Fireflies’ Light)
  • Mardock Scramble: The First Compression & The Second Combustion
  • Escaflowne The Movie
  • Colourful
  • Momo e no Tegami (Letter to Momo)

Apparently Letter to Momo won’t be screening in Japan until 2012, Spring so we got to see it first here (as well as those in Toronto…)

It’s nice to see there was a bit more marketing this year which goes to show Anime has come a long way compared to the days when you would only find a few videos in a few select stores. I’m guessing it’s all thanks to how easy it is to access foreign media over the interwebs. This poster was apparently designed by JPOP star Kanon Wakeshima.

Scotland Loves Animation 2011

It wasn’t all just movie watching. There was also a Q & A session with the producers of Hotarubi afterwards who kindly brought a few posters and flyers to give out!

Out of the 7 movies, I only decided to see 3 because I couldn’t be bothered staying in town for the whole day just to see them even though there was a 4 for the price of 3 deal.

Tekken Blood Vengeance

Very slim storyline of Xiao Yu being dragged into the Zaibatsu’s rivalry where she is forced to find one of their experiments, a student named Shin Kamiya who holds the key to immortality.

Tekken was the first movie they were showing to kick off SLA and it was in 3D. The booklet had it down as subbed but it turned out to be dubbed!

Lots of cheezy, cliche lines and lots of cliche Anime lines like “humans should just disappear”. Humour was really randomly thrown in. There was Lee Chaolan who played a teacher appearing randomly to say, “Excellent!” and Xiao Yu looking at a test subject’s serial number and automatically interpreting it like numbers on a treasure map… The sensual fan service probably got more laughs. Square-Enix did a much better job with their Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children!

There was also a lack of characters with only just under 10 making a brief appearance.

That said, I wasn’t really expecting much. I watched it for the CG you’d expect from the game and it was pretty good. Some of the character’s trademark moves were used although not a lot. It was shown in 3D and unlike the Cineworld glasses, GFT’s ones were more like “goggles” – the kind that comes with 3D TV sets. Very hard to keep on if you have glasses like I do. I had to hold them up the whole movie! I was hoping I could keep them but you have to return them after the movie.

Movie itself is screening in Japan just now and will be part of the Tekken Hybrid Blu-ray due next month.

Letter to Momo

A young single mother moves to the rural Inland Seas with her daughter Momo after having lost her husband. Both are trying to cope. Momo is distressed that she had said some horrible things to her father before he died and finds an incomplete letter addressed to her. Moving from the city to the countryside where there wasn’t a single convenience store wasn’t easy for her but, things get interesting when she discovers the ability to see Youkais (Japanese spirits).

This was probably the best movie out of the ones I’ve seen. It has a “Summer Wars” vibe to it with the working together theme to overcome problems theme going on so anyone who enjoyed that movie should like this. Or even if you didn’t like Summer Wars, you might still like it because I think this was better although I didn’t quite get into the cute and goofy Youkais. Great balance of action, comedy and sentimental moments.

Artwork was good to look at with Production IG behind the scenes. Unlike most Anime today, this was all back to the classic hand drawn animation and the detail really shows through. The blu-ray/DVD releases probably won’t be until sometime next year.

Hotarubi no Mori e, Q & A

They showed two episodes of Bacanno, episodes 2 and 3 before they showed the actual movie… probably the “shorts” they mentioned in the booklet. I never watched the show because I lost interest after watching the first episode when the series aired. These free previews made me want to avoid it even more with the horrible jokes but third episode was pretty good.

From the same producers as Natsume no Yuujinchou (which is why I went to see it!), Hotarubi is a supernatural romance movie about a little girl named Hotaru getting lost in the forest and meets a Yokai in the form of a young man named Gin. From that day onwards, she decides to return every summer to see him and their love grows. Catch is, they can’t touch each other or Gin will die which is why you see that piece of cloth between them so it’s a fairly painful relationship… literally.

The movie itself which isn’t out on DVD/Blu-ray until next year February 22nd. It had quite a similar vibe to Natsume in terms of soundtracks, artwork, atmosphere but a lot more tranquil. I guess it’s because it’s a love story but… I prefer the balance of action, tranquility and humour the Natsume series has. Everything was too smooth sailing in this movie apart from the few moments you felt the pain between the couple.

Hotarubi no Mori e Flyer

There were two special guests over all the way from Japan Tokyo, Shuko Yokoyama from Aniplex and Yumi Satou from Brain Base which produced the animation.

It was very nice of them to bring a few posters and flyers to give out to everyone that stayed behind. 本当にありがとうございました、佐藤さんと横山さん!

Just a shame I didn’t have a bag to keep it in flattened and it was raining D:

Background to Hotarubi no Mori e

Production for this movie took around 7 or 8 months for the scenario writing, then another 5 or 6 months after storyboarding. Supposedly the staff members involved were all Japanese staff but I saw Korean names in the credits…

There was a nasty little comment during the interview, “Are all the colouring staff women? Is it because they’re cheaper?” Lucky he patched things up by saying, no they’re not after the crowd jeered. I doubt the interpreter translated the comment so the producers answered women have a better sense of colour.

Here’s a transcript of the rest of the interview and Q&A.

Jonathan Clements, Shuko Yokoyama and Yumi Satou on stage.

Why choose to make this into an Anime?

The staff liked the short Manga and since they already worked with Natsume, they felt they should turn it into an Anime. They mention the fourth season of Natsume no Yuujinchou will be coming January.

I understand this movie was distributed in a different way. Why was that?

Originally this 41 minute long movie (booklet had it down as 95!) was supposed to be an OVA but they learned some independent theatres were willing to show short movies so it went to the theatres instead.

Is there a particular location the movie is based on?

The story isn’t based on any particular location although Midorikawa-san (author of the original Manga) came from Hitoyoshi in the Kumakoto Prefecture so the inspiration most likely came from there.

Is there a certain theme the movie follows…?

The theme is based on how Youkai are connected with summer and festival. Ghost stories are told during that time to make people shiver and hopefully cooler too… A lot of children have no siblings so they end up joining Youkai in these fictional stories and it’s very common for them to go to the rural area to visit their grandparents.

Seiyuus pre-chosen?

Usually Seiyuus have to audition although in shows like Baccano where there’s lots of characters, the process is different.

When will the DVD be released?

No news about a UK release yet. Japanese DVD next year February 22nd comes with mask, mobile phone strap but Blu-ray £70! £50 for DVD.

What is the audience base?

Mostly women in Japan – about 80% of the audience are women. They like the bitter-happy love stories and bi-shounens (“beautiful” young men who can resemble women sometimes) although they were trying to make it appeal to all audiences.

What are your favourite Youkai and do they appear in the movie?

It would have to be Nyanko-sensei (from Natsume) and apparently he makes a cameo appearance near the candy floss so keep your eyes open.

Anything that would have made sense with the Japanese audience but lost with the Western?

Old houses in the rural area. When Hotaru stares at the movie she becomes quite agitated. The grain of the wood looked like scary Youkai to Hotaru.

Thanks to Jonathan Clements and everyone else who were involved bringing these new Anime movies to Scotland! I’m looking forward to what next year will bring. Hopefully Evangelion 3.0 will be part of it.

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