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Director Keiichi Hara reveals ‘I’m aware of being a Japanese when depicting the daily lives in details’

Sarusuberi Miss Hokusai

©2015 TIFF

The anime Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai, which portrays the life of female Edo period Ukiyo-e master O-Ei, was screened on October 25 as part of the Japan Now section of the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival. Director Keiichi Hara attended a Q & A session at Shinjuku Piccadilly, Tokyo.
The original manga by the same name by manga artist and researcher of Edo customs Hinako Sugiura was adapted for film by director Hara, the anime film Crayon Shin-chan series and Summer Days with Coo. Daughter of Katsushika Hokusai and Ukiyo-e master O-Ei, who according to historical evidence worked under the name of Katsushika Ōi, is portrayed living a free and easy life with her friends along with the beautiful seasons of Edo.
Director Hara portrays the daily lives of his characters in a vivid manner in all of his films. He showed us some of his self respect saying “there is no life in characters drawn on a flat image. When a slight human gesture is added to the image, we can suddenly see it transformed into something like life which we can emphasize. I like making things like that, and I like people feeling responding to that when they watch. Drawing the big parts are important as well as the little parts. I’m aware of being a Japanese when I’m drawing. I don’t think people from other countries take it up to my level, which is to have the extreme attention to the details in the drawings.”
Director Hara who said that he first encountered Sugiura’s works in his late twenties, admitted that “all the while I have been working in animation, I have been thinking I wanted to turn them into a film some day” and “Sugiura’s works influential to me during all that time.” He talked about the wonder of those works. “I think that Sugiura really shined in that she didn’t just write with nostalgia. She loved the Edo period and was someone who had drawn Edo in details in a way that no other person could have drawn. Even so, she had been saying all along that ‘I would not want to live in the Edo period. I like it in the present.’ In this respect, we are similar”, he said with the utmost respect.
He furthermore made references to values of the Edo era, explaining that “there was a way of living stylishly called ‘iki’, and in opposition to this was ‘yabo’. Sugiura had drawn a stylish manga.” He reflected that “The characters appearing in the manga rarely show their tears. I decided to maintain this trait in Miss Hokusai”. He also spoke with passion about how “even though Sugiura portrays a tragedy, she disdained showing sadness felt in the heart with simple tears. I made the film following this example.”
The film has been distributed to 6 countries throughout Europe including France, U.K. and Belgium, and has received high praise in each country. The film is currently also screening in France, and Hara says that “I was first told that it would be shown in around 30 theaters, but the number is steadily increasing, and at its peak was being shown at about 120 theaters.” The audience gave him a congratulatory round of applause.

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KEIRIN.JPThe 28th Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
27th Tokyo International Film Festival(2014)