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Children of the Sea Creators Describe Film’s “Crazy” Production

Children of the Sea Creators Describe Film’s “Crazy” ProductionChildren of the Sea, the theatrical adaptation of the Daisuke Igarashi manga and one of the year’s most ambitious anime films, was screened November 2 at the Tokyo International Film Festival.

Following the screening came a talk by the film’s director Ayumu Watanabe plus character designer and chief animation director Kenichi Konishi and CG director Kenichiro Akimoto. Together, the three described how the beautiful film came to be.

The talk was moderated by anime researcher Ryusuke Hikawa, who started by asking Watanabe why he went for the film’s ambitious visual approach, which replicated the detailed art of the original manga.

Watanabe responded, “the manga is very beautiful and unique. Making it into an anime film seemed almost crazy, both because of both content and the art. There was a lot of information in the imagery, because Igarashi presents his themes in very visual way. That’s why I knew we couldn’t afford to lose any of that information.”

Commenting on the film’s visual style, Konishi added, “a lot of people have said that it’s very true to the original work, but in reality, we actually based our work on Watanabe’s vision to a great extent.”

From left: Watanabe, Konishi, Akimoto. ©2019 TIFF.

He continued, “It was my job to take the original and, even though we weren’t doing a copy, make the audience feel that we were recapturing the essence of the original. There were some shots that were almost the same, but surprisingly few, because the director is very particular, adding different perspectives and so on. It actually would’ve been easier for me if we had just copied the manga!”

CG director Akimoto said, “You have the original manga, which is black and white, and when you deliver color animation, you want the audience to feel it retains the same quality of the manga. The CG department was responsible for the massive number of fish and the huge, dense whales. Their turning and twisting was done in CG. We carefully studied how everything was balanced in original manga and based our designs on that.”

Watanabe added, “We really worked carefully on each shot to make sure the CG and 2D animation really came together in the right way. In a way, you can fake things in hand-drawn animation, and can’t in CG.  This may sound corny, but it was like we had two teams trying to trick each other.”

Speaking about reactions they’ve had to the completed film so far, or would like to receive, the trio responded this way:

Watanabe said, “If we have been able to create something that people never seen before, I would be happy.”

Meanwhile, Konishi said, “It was so intimidating for me to live up to Igarashi’s work. I was so absorbed and engrossed thinking we weren’t doing enough. So, to be honest, when we started to hear that the quality was being praised I was surprised, because there are so many beautiful anime films these days.”

Finally, Akimoto said, “I would be happy if the film helps people realize that even in their daily lives, people are surrounded by beautiful scenery.”

Children of the Sea was released in Japan June 7 and is set to be screened in American theaters by GKIDS, who describe it like this:

When Ruka was younger, she saw a ghost in the water at the aquarium where her dad works. Now she feels drawn toward the aquarium and the two mysterious boys she meets there, Umi and Sora. They were raised by dugongs and hear the same strange calls from the sea as she does. Ruka’s dad and the other adults who work at the aquarium are only distantly aware of what the children are experiencing as they get caught up in the mystery of the worldwide disappearance of the oceans’ fish.

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