Pacific Friend, vol 18 no 9 (January 1991), page 7-8
[Pacific Friend is an American-language Japanese newspaper published by Jiji Gaho Sha, Inc.]
Posted to Anime-l/rec.arts.anime by Robert Gutierrez, June 29, 1991
Reformatted and edited by Steven Feldman, March 19, 1992
© 1991 by Jiji Gaho Sha, Inc.
Transcribed without permission for personal entertainment purpose only.
We live in an age when it is cheaper to buy the rights to movies than to make them. Rather than suffer all the problems of making movies, it often seems more expedient to buy them from abroad. In fact, movie producers in Japan have the impression they can buy what they want as easily as if from a vending machine. People often come to me and say point-blank: "Make a film for us as you can see fit. We'll pay whatever you ask." I think Japan today is in an age unsuited to creativity.
The Japanese today have nothing to realy on in their minds. They've even alienated themselves from their own natural and spiritual environment. But does that mean that their modern sense of individualism is now strong enough to enable them to lead independent, self-initiated lives like Americans and Europeans do? I think not. The Japanese people cling together accepting each other's sad state. They don't seem to be able to grapple firsthand with the problems afflicting them. Under such circumstances, we shouldn't expect works of high artistic value to be created.
I don't blame anyone for this situation. Rather I consider it a problem I have to deal with myself... so I keep striving, convinced that even in this situation there are movies worth making. Children sense the nature of the age we're living in almost instinctively. Can we honestly expect to make persuasive movies by merely exhorting these children to entertain hope? So I think about a lot of things, but I'm not making movies just to make appeals on particular problems, say, environmental protection. The close relationship between nature and mankind, including spiritual ties, is something we should be aware of as common sense of people living in the present-day world, regardless of whether or not we make movies.
In my movies for children, I want to express before anything else the themes: "The world is profound, manifold and beautiful," and "You children are fortunate to have been born into this world... Although the world's beset with lots of seemingly intractable problems, such as population explosion and environmental disruptions, making it difficult to entertain hope, it's nevertheless a wonderful thing to live." This is more easily said than done. It's adults rather than children that are seeing their hopes dashed. So making movies also amounts to struggling with myself.
But regrettably, others making animated cartoons seem to be different. They insist, "This is the trend... This is likely to be a hit..." I can't engage myself in such an inhuman task as making animated cartoons just to produce such things. To produce a decent animated cartoon requires anywhere from a year to a year and a half, and our private lives go out the window during this period. Of course, we could make cartoons while still taking our vacations, but that would be reflected in their quality. Works of art are created by those who are prepared to go the limit. We're not interested in anything else.
This is the reason that, even though Japanese animated cartoons for television are distributed all over the world, this doesn't constitute a particular source of pride for us. It's just that no other country has wanted to make animated cartoons as "brutal" and "provocative" as those made in Japan. If we make an animated cartoon that Japanese children find really enjoyable, and that cartoon is also recognized and accepted in foreign countries, then we can say that its images have been elevated to a universal level. We were glad to hear that Korean animators, who had seen My Neighbor Totoro, were quite pleased with it. They said South Korea has its share of imaginary creatures like Totoro. In fact, they asked if we had used one of the Korean imaginary creatures as a model.
There are two other things we have to bear in mind when we make movies. First, in the case of action films, we are in control of the destiny-- even the birth and death-- of the principal characters. And if we make our arbitrary decisions in order to attract audiences, we end up becoming God. This can spell disaster for the filmmaker. Second, since there are so many things in the real world that do not go quite the way people would have them go, they want to see their heroes in movies live comfortably and free from all cares. Today, whatever "issue" one might consider, it cannot be resolved by a single person. One may ask why people don't get together and tackle problems as a group. But we know that in this day and age tackling problems as a group is often even less effective than tackling them as individuals. Under the circumstances, the urge to create a world where human efforts and physical strength are effective in solving problems is surely understandable. At least, that's how we feel when we make entertaining pieces. In the real world, it's easier to find discouraging than encouraging things. We would like to find good things.
We're only doing what comes natural to us. I really don't know why my works are so highly regarded. But, then, there's no guarantee that I will continue to enjoy acclaim. Many times I've waited for younger filmmakers of great promise to come along, and I've even tried fostering them-- but to no avail. I myself intend to continue making films. I have no idea how long I can go on, or what the next generation holds.