By David Leong
Yuasa’s MINDGAME had its international premiere
on Friday, June 24th at the New York Asian Film Festival.
KFCC had the pleasure to sit down and speak with MINDGAME
producer Eiko Tanaka prior to the screening. Ms. Tanaka
worked with Hayao Miyazaki on MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO and
KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE as a line producer and
later co-founded Studio 4°C, for which Ms. Tanaka
is President and CEO. The animation house Studio 4°C
is renowned for its cutting-edge productions that
include NOISEMAN SOUND INSECT, MEMORIES, SPRIGGAN
and THE MATRIX animation THE ANIMATRIX, of which five
segments were created in-house.
is a work of animation like no other. While titles
like AKIRA and GHOST IN THE SHELL are placed on the
top of the list of seminal anime movies. MINDGAME
may one day displace them all. MINDGAME is a pasticcio
of styles; a mélange of motifs that transcend
state-of-the art labels. “Instead of telling
it serious and straight, I went for a look that was
a bit wild and patchy… …I think that Japanese
animation fans today don’t necessarily demand
something that’s so polished. You can throw
different styles at them and they can still usually
enjoy it,” said director Masaaki Yuasa (Japan
visual storytelling in MINDGAME is a fast and loose
crosscutting of images and eye-blink editing. MINDGAME
uses this technique to its advantage by generating
fragmented themes and images that appear irrelevant
and inconsequential, but ultimately provide a greater
understanding as all the pieces fall into place. Many
of the images have their own unique visual texture.
MINDGAME reminds us of how we process memories, as
jagged little pieces and as pearls. The shapes that
memories take provide insight into how we recall them.
The anime combines elements of Frank Capra’s
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, Jack Kerouac’s
ON THE ROAD and the story of “Jonah and the
whale,” with a dash of Carlos Castaneda. What
does that mean? There are tasty layers that reveal
themselves when we least expect to enrich the drama.
All told with a good deal of humor and a surreal style
The anime is based on the manga by Robin Nishi (a
compendium of the manga, in Japanese, has recently
been released by Studio 4°C). “I was impressed
by the manga. It wasn’t very popular, but I
liked the main character, Nishi, who takes control
of his life,” said Tanaka.
in a nutshell, is about a loser named Nishi, who lacks
the initiative and courage to grab for life or love,
is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He gets killed
by a yakuza goon, but is given a second chance at
life. He returns and goes on a wild adventure with
his ex-girlfriend Miyo and her sister. Providing the
story is the easy part. Trying to explain how the
story unfolds on screen is tough.
is so different from anything ever done. It’s
hard to describe, but it’s a very exciting and
complex movie,” said Tanaka. “The message
in the film is to discover your path in life and to
take it; to go for it.”
Tanaka said that she was “nervous but happy”
as she awaited the international premiere. She was
interested to see what type of people wanted to experience
MINDGAME. “I definitely want to see the kinds
of people that show up, if there are a lot of high-school
kids or adults and how they react.
order to be successful, the future of Japanese animation
needs to expand beyond children and family entertainment.
MINDGAME is very adult. It’s fairly mature and
contains sex and violence”
director Masaaki Yuasa’s résumé
lists SAMURAI CHAMPLOO, CRAYON SHIN-CHAN as examples
of his animated work, and as a co-director on NOISEMAN
SOUND INSECT. “Masaaki Yuasa has incredible
abilities,” said Tanaka. “He understands
motion and how real motion works.”
took three years to complete. The movie uses traditional
cel animation, CGI and a type of motion capture that
included filming live actors and animating the pictures.
“A little bit of everything--live action-animation,
3D-modeling, still photography,” said Tanaka.
“Of the 300 people who worked on the film, 250
were animators or worked on the film’s animation.”
The animation ranges from simple line art to a flowing
river of oil paint on canvas to scenes of photo realistic
film took some time to be recognized in Japan. “MINDGAME
didn’t open well in Japan. It built up and grew
over the weeks by word-of-mouth,” said Tanaka.
“And maybe it’ll be received here in the
same way. I hope the word-of-mouth gets out.”
to midnighteye.com’s Nicholas Rucka for translating.