Animage, vol. 184; October, 1993
Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama
Edited by D Goldsmith
© 1993 by Tokuma Shoten
Translated without permission for personal entertainment purpose only. This is not, by any means, an accurate word for word translation, and the translator is solely responsible for any mistranslation or misunderstanding due to it.
M: First, I was impressed by the graphics side. I've decided that I would never compete with Oshii-san in this genre. You didn't spend all that time in front of the computer for nothing. To animate such images is too complicated, so I don't even want to speculate how you did it. -laughs- Did you use computer graphics (CG)?
O: Almost all of them were so. But, CG itself doesn't go well with cel anime, so it was difficult to combine CG and cel pictures together.
M: The style of drawing was like Patlabor 1 and Meikyuu Bukken (OVA). I think the film's whole image had such a strange, ominous pull. It was very much worth seeing. It was really outstanding in terms of clever storytelling, too. But, the malice of Hoba in Patlabor 1 was more consistent, and easier to understand. I can't understand Tsuge's feelings in this movie.
A: You mean, what led Tsuge to commit a crime such as a coup.
In the beginning, the scene in Cambodia where they went as PKO, I
thought it must be Cambodia since there was a Buddha statue of Angkor
Tom. In that scene, Tsuge, as a front commander, doesn't open fire, just
asks headquarters for permission to fire. But that's his own fault. As
a professional military officer, it's not true that you don't say
"fight back" or "fire"
when the lives of your subordinates are in danger. By following the
orders from HQ, he got his subordinates killed. It's a
matter of whether we think it's respectable because he followed orders,
and I thought (you?) should let (him?) open fire. Cause it's human.
O: I don't think today's Japanese Self Defense Force (SDF) has that kind of professional military mind.
M: But I heard that there was someone who said "if I were shot, I wouldn't just let myself be killed so easily," among those who went to Cambodia as civilian policemen for PKO. I can understand that better.
O: Comparing SDF and policemen, I think policemen have a far greater (grasp of) reality. Their work always requires them to work with people. An animator who did the key animation also told me "in a situation like that, of course you fire." But it's not whether you can or can not fire. That wasn't the point. Of course, I think you can fire with your own judgment as a front commander. But that's a pure militaristic situation, and the current SDF isn't made that way. I don't think they consider PKO as a militaristic matter. I depicted that as the reason why he could not fire.
But if you are a proper front commander, the moment you are given
your command, you should imagine every possible situation, and prepare
for what you would do in a given situation. I think that's the
readiness of a professional soldier. And more than that, I feel that a
modern man acts with realism. Everyone knows the triviality of such
things as state power, the chief of staff, or the country. When you are
ordered, if it's a choice between your position and the lives of your
subordinates, you would say "fire." If you don't say that,
you wouldn't volunteer to go to the war zone.
I think you would say (fire).
O: There was another issue I put in. When we ask why he didn't fire, there is an issue of that if he could really recognize the danger to his life. That's why I used the cockpit of the combat robot, filled with monitors. (The issue is) whether you can really feel that your life is actually in danger, in a situation where you are surrounded by such secondary information.
M: If that's the issue, I feel that after he quit the military and disappeared, Tsuge would throw technology out and start a down-to-earth life, like doing organic agriculture or something. That's more realistic.
O: In terms of reality, I think you are right.
Four years after the bubble
But this movie doesn't just deal with the issues regarding the
Japanese SDF. In the center of it, there is the issue of the city of
Tokyo, as well as the issue of war and peace. During the
Bubble, I myself had such a feeling of wanting to give some
punishment to Tokyo, which had enlarged superficially and kept
bulldozing over everything.
I could understand why Hoba wanted to turn
Tokyo upside down with a vengeance. But, I could not understand Tsuge
at all. I think Oshii-san himself is losing interest in today's Tokyo.
A person with enough organizing power to carry out a coup wouldn't
become a front-line commander to begin with, if we think about it.
O: It shows its weakness in many aspects.
M: There was a time when Japanese society actually seemed strong and seemed to be advancing toward a certain direction to say something, but it's not advancing any more. The other day, I saw a freshman LDP congressman saying to President Kouno: "Please stop those demeaning heckling (in the Diet). It's unbearable to hear such things, and I can't let children listen to such things." And Mr. Kouno was nodding. I don't know if this changes the LDP, but it was the kind of scene which symbolizes the turning point when the era of Japan's upward moving ended and the era of downward moving started. I don't know how it will be evaluated later, though.
O: The political world changed, because they thought it didn't matter if it changed. It's not like they thought there would be some dramatic development. It could be changed, because everyone thought there wouldn't be much difference between the LDP and the coalition government.
M: But, the structure of the cozy relationships with the business world will be a shaken up a bit. Even that can make the air fresh. We don't have a lot of options. I mean, what vision can this country have? After all, they are just partial improvements. Not even an improvement, but it's just saying don't be so greedy, or something like that. Even though we want to judge the issues we have now by making them simpler, it's not that simple.
The era with no vision
O: The world has no vision, either. Not only Japan, but also America, and Europe. If there was (someone who has a vision), it's the Islamic world, though it's fanatic. It's more a blind belief than a vision, I guess. I think that's because the era itself has started being moved by what comes out from the structurally weak point, rather than by a vision. My impression is, the recapping of the era has started.
M: Rather than that we have no vision, it's that people feel they don't need a worthless vision.
The only thing that remains is the desire to eat a stomach-full of
good food, and build a new house. And it's the same all over the world.
Even in the Islamic world, even though there is fundamentalism on the
surface, they come to Japan to make money, after all. Of course some
come because things are desperate, but most of them come because they
want to make money to build a house. In the end, only a sort of
"desire naturalism" remains.
M: I don't think there will be an end.
I mean, regardless of whether there will be an end or not, the only
thing left is to wait and see the future for a while more. There is no
other thing to do.
M: And if you arm yourself in such a way when making a film, there is nothing left for me to say. -laughs- I mean, everything was well disposed in various characters, so when I came up with some question, (one of the characters) answers it. But the conclusion where that creepy SDF investigator, Arakawa, was one of the criminals wasn't interesting.
O: That was just to end the movie...
M: That's what I thought. But I wished that he'd just kept on going. -laughs-
O: For myself, the pedantic way of reacting, like Arakawa did, is a possibility. It is possible that a person who is not involved in the situation can say the best thing at the point. In short, knowing can stand just as knowing, so you don't have to be asked what you are going to do in that situation. If you see in order to take some action, or to search for something, it's not seeing. You can't see things as they are, since you have some predisposition to do something.
In war, the winner loses
M: About the conversation between Arakawa and Goto about the false peace and war of justice, that enumeration of words, I thought that "here we go again, the Oshii tune as usual." I thought that that's what you've been saying all the time, but since they are fast-talking, we can not stop and think (while watching the movie). So, you have removed the organic agriculture, you have removed the debate at the Diet, in short, the most tiresome things in our daily life, the worldly nitty-gritty, you removed all those things, and created a computer game in the Oshii world. I saw the movie as such. Before I saw it, I had thought that Oshii-san's book of thoughts might have come out, but (after I saw it), I thought that Oshii-san was in the mental state of moving to Izu to settle down to watch Tokyo. -laughs-
O: That's fairly close. -laughs-
M: In that sense, it was interesting until I saw your hands. But the minute you set up the movie with more worldly settings so that it will have a more interesting conspiracy, such as, "it was the Clinton government's trap to inflict economic damage on Japan, or to gain a political compromise (from Japan)," it further loses reality. America is also in a fix. If they do (fight), I feel that it will be a more stupid, violent, simple, kids' brawl. Such as not buying Japanese cars anymore. But this is complicated, too. What about American cars with Japanese engines? -laughs-
O: There is a gap. Even though there is a certain structure of conflict as a political idea, in terms of actual technology, there are some parts in which Japan has already surpassed the United States. From games to automobiles, it's so in Japan, and it's so outside of Japan. Even if the politicians' thinking becomes more radical, the structures are such that it won't materialize as a reality of our life. If we can think of politics as an extension of the reality of our life, no one would start a war. Because someone jumps the gun, war happens. And once it's happened, it's not good, and there is no end to it, so we have no choice but to stop; though how we stop it is another matter. Something like opening up a prospect by expanding the territory by war, as in the old days such as the era of Imperial Japan-- there is no such thing anymore.
M: At any rate, if you have war, you won't gain anything even if you win.
O: There is no win or lose, in essence.
M: Rather, the winner loses. The military becomes overconfident and enlarges, and people acquire a strange confidence. I heard that some Vietnamese said that the confidence that they beat America corrupted Vietnam. It's a groundless confidence.
O: The United States has no vision to bind the country other than ruling the world well with its hegemony. If they stop doing so, (the country) will disintegrate. Because they don't want that, they keep doing it, that's all. It is certain that the world has hit the wall, in both economic and political sense. The reason for this is, because we've gotten the answer that everything we've been doing is no good.
M: I think that once we get that answer, we'll create various other visions. I can not say that doing so is a mistake. For these creatures called humans, there is no other choice than to keep going on by making it (vision?), trying to continue to walk towards it, while saying "this didn't work either."
To make a movie
O: Seen historically, the things we did in the twentieth century were huge. But they were failures after all.
M: They are the experiments of the nineteenth century. And all of them went bankrupt before the end of the twentieth century.
O: Speaking of war, the nature of it has changed, and every war has become a civil war.
M: Otherwise, I wouldn't have made a movie like Porco Rosso. -laughs-
O: If we think that way, "There is no point in making a movie for now. In truth, there is no value in making a movie now." I said so before.
M: That's because you speak as a thinker. I'm not. I am an entertainer, so entertaining (people) with a movie, or entertaining them by giving them a ride in my tricycle, it's the same thing to me. In fact, when I give two small kids a ride, they really get delighted. And it makes me really happy to see that. So, I still have something I want to make. A pig flies in a red plane, or you seclude yourself on a mountain with a dog, it doesn't matter. But, both Oshii-san and I would sum that (what we've done) up as "not good," that's for sure. -laughs-
A: For Oshii-san, was it a movie to recap the era?
M: I felt that thoughts from the time when Oshii-san joined the student movement in the 1970s are still swirling inside of him, and he is still making a story with the desire to somehow turn things upside down, explode them, and reveal the essence of the world. With missiles, Molotov cocktails, or anti-subversive law, it doesn't matter. So, he wants to put the SDF in the middle of the city, and wants to show that it's a military. And where is Oshii-san? He is among those tankers in tanks. So, the movie paid so much consideration towards the ordinary soldiers, -laughs- but no consideration towards the tax payers around there.
A: It had more consideration towards a dog walking around the streets.
M: To start with, there is a question of whether we'd have an unchained dog in Tokyo. -laughs- I guess it wouldn't work if a cat was meowing in that scene.
O: Though it seems to have reality on the surface, everything is a movie (fiction).
In short, the hatred such as Hoba's in the previous movie has been
changing into something else-- that's what I felt.
A: What will your next movie be?
M: I have something I want to make, but whether I can make it next or not depends on the situation. Also, I want to make a love story in a straightforward way. Regardless of whether the world loses dogma or does whatever, love remains. Though Oshii-san seems to think that love doesn't exist anymore.
O: No, I wouldn't say that. -laughs- I'm not that dry. However, originally, I didn't intend to make a movie like Patlabor 2.
A: You've said in other interviews that you made it because you couldn't wait. What couldn't you wait for?
O: I meant two things by saying I couldn't wait. One is that, simply put, I wanted to live in Izu with my dog. So, please let me make money. The other is the political issues I was talking about. I wanted to complete what I was thinking at that time, if I have to make it anyway. So, in terms of energy like hatred, certainly Hoba had more.
M: I thought so. Even the birds which you are always so particular about did nothing more than fly in front of the airship. -laughs-
O: They are tableau-like images. It's not a drama. Because there is no dialectic.
Love and sensuality
M: After all, a drama is "falling in love." I've come to think that way these days.
O: I don't know if it's love itself, but I guess it's something close to that.
When I had an opportunity to join a conversation between
Ryorato Shiba-san and Yoshie Hotta-san, Shiba-san said, "I think that a
novels are for writing about such affairs between a man and a woman.
What I've been doing isn't a novel. It's a letter to myself in my
youth. A letter to the twenty-year-old, who was on a tank made of thin
steel plates, and was wondering why in the world I had to be on such a
Then Hotta-san said, "it's the same with me. Until this age,
I've been writing an answer to myself who saw the stretch of burned
ruins during the war."
O: I think for a human to live, we need some kind of sensuality. During a certain period, that can be called love. The moment when your passion gushes out towards something other than yourself. At that time, if you are occupied with yourself, it won't be sensual. As for Shiba-san's letter to himself as a youth, while he was occupied with himself, it probably wasn't the spurting of his passion. The object (of one's passion) can be a woman, child, dog, bird, or anything. Either for novels or movies, if you create something, you need at least something like that. If not for that, it might not be entertainment. I think in my movie, there are such things remaining, but just barely.
M: I wish you would make something which makes people laugh, even if you have to stretch yourself... I think it's a pity that (you don't use it) since you have such a talent. It's OK, you don't have to say difficult things.
A: We heard that you want to make that kind of movie, that makes people laugh, as your next project.
M: But I won't lend you my tricycle. -laughs-
O: If you lend me that car, I can make that movie. Please lend it to me.
M: I know how a car is treated at a movie location.
O: I will return it in perfect condition.
M: No, it's the same thing as saying, "lend me your wife. I'll return her in perfect condition." -laughs- I can't lend it that easily.
Well, let's put that aside. -laughs- On different note, when I
finished this movie, I came to see what I want to say a bit more
Jostling of all the human race
But on the other hand, a lot of things are becoming clear these days.
From now on, all humans have to live while jostling each other.
O: Including such richness in nature, including such richness in material things, in short, from now on, there will be jostling between those who want to protect their vested interests and those who want their own fair share. Regardless if Japan is really rich or not, others see Japan as a rich country. So that has to be protected. Right now, there is no idea that we can abandon that, is there?
M: There is an idea to share.
O: I think that sharing will fail somewhere before it's realized.
M: The other day, I saw a TV program in which Nanami Shiono-san was talking with three politicians, and it was interesting. They were talking about whether ninety-nine people should be sacrificed to save one person, saying that the era when the reality of humanism will be questioned has already arrived.
O: There is one rich person because there are ninety-nine poor people. I don't think a culture can exist in any other way. If everything is leveled and becomes like a desert, can we as human beings deal with it? We will probably take the side of protecting the culture, though we don't call it good. Can we conclude that it's ideal for humans simply if everyone can have enough to eat? Can we be satisfied and ignore everything else (if that ideal was realized)? To say such a thing, or the feeling of wanting to say that, is the problem. In reality, that wouldn't be enough.
M: It's a problem where the answer isn't black or white.
O: As we discussed before, that's the problem which was posed during the nineteenth century, and we tried to figure out what the best solution was during the twentieth century. Socialism is the most leftist thinking among them. We tested everything, from left to right, and everything failed. We accomplished nothing more than confirming that the Capitalism was the system with the least failures for now.
M: It's not that it is succeeding as a system. Since the poorest countries are all Capitalist.
O: In that sense, the problem of the market principle of Capitalism and the problem of Democracy are mixed. No one really thinks that Democracy is the best system. It's just that it's the better one. After all, Democracy is nothing more than (a system) which exists standing on the sacrifice of a majority of the people on the earth.
M: That is exactly why Nausicaa wouldn't proceed and still hasn't ended. -laughs-
O: So we know that clearly to this point, but what do we do next? We can not get a solution so easily. Probably we won't get a right answer before we die. So, I'm saying that at least we have to recap. I don't think we can start anything without doing that. It's not that we have to think together. Recapping can actually start a war, just like the civil war in former Yugoslavia. We can say that they started recapping after Tito had died.
M: Recapping is "summing up." It means that we have to conclude what we have had up until now. And we know what that conclusion would be. It's just that we've reconfirmed the fact that humans aren't that wise. It's something people have been saying, for two thousand years, four thousand years.
O: The people who understand that can see the point.
The standpoint of non-humans
M: That's why we've hit the wall. Such as the harm brought by boundless development out of desire. The biggest thing is that the belief of "Nature is infinite" in Marxism collapsed. Whenever I listen to you Oshii-san, I wonder what standpoint you have about how human creatures, who are dependent on nature or plants, exist. I know you feed birds at your terrace, or plant grapes, but there is nothing about such an issue in your movie.
O: There is. I put Seitaka-awadachisou in my movies.
M: That's just that you are using Seitaka-awadachisou as a tool to express the image that humans are stalled.
O: In that sense, you are right.
M: Like it or not, we will have to deal with the issues of plants or agriculture. Some say that we just have to produce tomatoes and other food at factories, but I don't think so. You yourself have already realized this. Otherwise, you wouldn't move to Izu. I don't think that's simply because you want to live with your dog.
O: I'll think about it well with my dog.
M: Even Sherlock Holmes spent his last days as a bee keeper.
O: I think there is such a reflection. We've been focusing too much on humans, and animation isn't the exception. Even when two persons are talking, probably a bird is flying over their heads, a fish is in a pond, and a dog is watching you when you look down. In my case, the eyes of animals are always on my mind.
M: There are many cooking programs on the television. Catch a fish, and tear it apart-- very sinful. I feel like saying "stop it!" Let's not kill, and eat the bare minimum. I'm getting to be like a monk. I guess that's because I'm getting old. I used to watch them and think it looked tasty until recently. -laughs- But we kill too many just for fun. Is it less cruel than eating a live monkey's brain? It's a difference in customs, that's all. We'd better return once more to the place where humans and earthworms are the same.
O: We know it, but I don't think we can return there.
The scenery I love
M: I feel that we will return there when we lose everything. I think that time will come when or right before the population becomes ten billion. Then, when everyone pauses, it's the same whether you are black or white, or in Bosnia or in Okushiri Island. You cry or exclaim for your family. (I heard that) a woman ran to a house whose parents were away, because a tidal wave was coming. She saw three children shivering at the entrance and they dashed to hold on her fast. That's the only thing she remembers, and they somehow managed to escape. The rest of it is probably the same anywhere.
O: I have no objection to it at all. As a recognition, it's definitely so. As I said before, the gap between the reality of our life and politicians' thinking is widening. I think it's the same thing as the question of how we can close that gap. To say you care about animals and to say you have to reexamine postwar history properly once more-- they are actually the same thing.
M: It's not just postwar history.
O: But concretely, that is it. It's the reality we've lived. There, we have people like Miyazaki-san, or Producer Suzuki of Ghibli. -laughs- It's the actual era in which we've been living, and I really want to make (a film about it) properly.
M: I cannot quite understand your adherence to Tokyo. It's like you are forcing yourself to make Tokyo a hypothetical enemy. I feel that you've lost your interest in Tokyo a long time ago. I've lost almost all interest in Tokyo.
O: I've been living in Tokyo for forty-some years. It's easy to think that this is an uninteresting city, or that you want to destroy it. The most frustrating thing I feel when I watch movies such as Akira is that they destroy Tokyo so easily. If you depict it as a city which you won't miss even if it were destroyed, as a fake thing made from only steel and concrete from the beginning, destroying it won't accomplish anything. It's far from being a real catharsis. Even in Tokyo, if you look carefully, if you dig up your memories, you can find some scenery which you are very much attracted to. It can be the evening at the train crossing, or it can be scenery of some vacant land with Seitaka-awadachisou in Tokyo Bay area. We have scenery we love inside of us. It's related to our childhood memories. If you depict (Tokyo) that way, and depict it as something you still have to destroy, I can understand that, but they (those movies) do not. I think they don't have the right issues in mind. Animation can do that. I still think that there is meaning to be found in making a movie which can do it properly.