For the first interview translation of this blog, I chose this long Animestyle interview with Mamoru Hosoda, who I probably don’t need to introduce. This interview was made in 2005 for the release of the DVD version of One Piece: Omatsuri Danshaku to Himitsu no Shima. Back then Hosoda was already well-known among anime fans, since he pretty much became famous overnight through his Digimon movie, but not by the larger public like he is today, through his various recent movies (Summer Wars, Wolf Children, The Boy and the Beast…).
Although I like all of his films, Omatsuri Danshaku in particular is a very interesting piece of his filmography that tends to be neglected by the larger circle of anime fans.
Most of what is said in this interview is already « known » among fans of the movie and can be found dispersed on the internet (I think), but I don’t think that the interview itself was ever translated, and it’s extremely informative, so enjoy.
The original interview was in 5 parts. To keep things to a reasonable length I divided the whole thing into two posts: this one contains part 1, 2 and 5, while the next one will have part 3 and 4. Part 3 and 4 focus more on the staff of the movie, the animation, etc. so I decided to put them together.
Date of interview: 08/08/2005 ; Interviewee: Hosoda Mamoru (H); Interviewer: Oguro Yuuichirou (O); Location: Kichijouji.
O: I want to start with how you came to participate to the making of this One Piece movie. How did it go? Was it about making a feature length movie from the beginning?
H: Yes, it went something like « How about you make a One Piece movie? ». Then I was told « Do a TV episode [of One Piece] first and learn from that ». « Okay! ». It was fairly casual.
O: And then the episode you made was episode 199, « The Marines Dragnet Closes In! The Second Member Captured! », right. Surprisingly for a Hosoda episode, the camera work was kinda…
H: (bitter laugh) kinda showy?
O: You’re the type that doesn’t usually move the camera much, but here there was a lot of panning and stuff.
H: Like QTB. (quick trackback)
O: I was surprised. I thought maybe you had changed your policy.
H: (laughs) Well, there’s an original work to take into account, and it’s one episode inside a long series, so I tried to match the tone.
O: Did you take the opportunity to read the manga? Since you were going to make that movie.
H: I did.
O: How was it?
H: It was interesting. A well done shônen manga. I think it is how shônen manga should be.
O: What do you mean, more specifically?
H: Hm, well… For example, in One Piece bonds between people first create themselves, and once those people have been together for a while conflicts start to appear. The basis is not to have a fight first, and then to see relationships emerge from that fight. Rather, it shows that when human relationships get deeper, conflicts are bound to happen. I thought that was pretty realistic.
O: Another impressive thing is that the main character never goes through a power up. There’s no point where he goes through a training to become stronger.
H: Yes. He doesn’t think stuff like « I want to battle against strong guys! ». Maybe that’s why it felt more relatable.
O: So, about the movie’s planning. At what stage did you get on the project?
H: Let’s see, the plot was already done.
O: So the Omatsuri Island setting already existed then.
H: Yes. When I saw the story I thought « ‘the hell is that? ».
O: Is it okay to leave that in [the interview]? (laughs)
H: Yeah, it’s okay. …Let’s leave that in too (laughs). To tell the truth, when I first saw this, I thought I might not be able to do it.
H: It was different from what made the original manga interesting. I had read the manga as preparation for the movie, and I thought it was good. Following the same line, I had directed an episode of the series. But when I saw that plot, I thought it was really different from what made the manga interesting and I was perplexed.
O: What was the story like at that stage?
H: « They go to Omatsuri Island, and they have to pass a lot of trials » was all the basic structure had. It was supposed to have a carefree mood, with interesting stuff coming up on the spot without a well-defined direction, like in a variety show.
O: Of course, there was some going back and forth on the scenario before the final version was done, right?
H: Yes. But I wasn’t able to do last moment changes. You know, when you do staff meetings for the scenario, I think you should be able to look at the whole picture and proceed inductively, like « this would be good at the end, so the beginning should be like that ». But I wasn’t able to change the scenario right until the end, so I couldn’t cram in stuff that way, and I just wrote it linearly instead. But well, from a producer’s perspective, since the person writing the script was a writer for variety shows, the ideas used were the kind you see in those shows, and the scenario was less anime-like which was interesting. It was a fairly different kind of thing. I think that’s what they thought.
O: So this scenario was what the producer aimed for.
H: Yes. The previous movie (One Piece: The Cursed Holy Sword) had a fairly adult tone, so the intention was to make something more of a comedy, which is why they chose this kind of plot.
O: In the first script, were there more trials?
H: Yes, it was full of that. And they were long ones, too. But at this stage, I wasn’t sure how to make an interesting animation movie with this type of event at the center of the plot. I thought it would be hard.
O: Although what emerges as the center of the movie is the question of « what is a companion? » that Luffy is confronted to…
H: Yes, in the completed version of the movie.
O: So it wasn’t there at the script writing stage?
H: It was there, but in a harmless form. The usual « friends are precious ». That wasn’t the core purpose of that movie.
O: I see. So you gave it more importance at the storyboard stage, then?
H: Yes. I had to incorporate things like the character’s motives and their emotional changes as subplots in the storyboard. The movie became what it is when I was writing the storyboard and thinking about all of this.
O: This movie shows something that could be a bit… dangerous? for One Piece fans, right.
H: Does it?
O: After all, in this film, Sanji, Zorro and cie were saved in the end, and everyone went back to their usual adventures. But even if they had all died, it’s hinted that Luffy could have joined the Tearoom pirates, or the Short Mustache pirates and could have kept sailing with them.
O: So what this movie is saying is that you shouldn’t stay indefinitely fixated on your old companions.
H: Yes. After all, Luffy’s goal is to find the One Piece and become the king of pirates. It’s not to go on an adventure with his current companions. Rather, he needs companions in order to find the One Piece. That’s the kind of person he is.
O: Another point is Luffy’s overly optimistic personality. He always says idealistic things, but the question is raised whether they will always come true, whether he can keep saying that forever.
H: Yes. I guess that’s what it ended up being, that’s the way I went down.
O: Ended up?
H: Yes, at first I didn’t particularly want to put forward those kinds of things, but I guess it kinda became like that along the way. I was thinking about Luffy, about what kind of person the Baron Omatsuri was, and as a consequence it led to this kind of development. That’s why I don’t think I had particularly planned anything of the sort in advance. While I was drawing the storyboard, I was thinking « What would Luffy do in this situation », « What would Baron Omatsuri do » each time. I didn’t start from and end goal and reverse-engineer the plot from there.
O: That’s the greatest point of difference with « Digimon Adventures: Bokura no War Game », right?
H: Around when I finished drawing the A-part of the storyboard, well… I felt like I was starting to row in complete darkness (bitter laugh). Really.
O: Where does A-part stops?
H: A-part is until the end of the first trial. B-part starts when they’re wandering about in the jungle. In A-part, Omatsuri’s various facets are shown, and Brief appears. At that stage, I wasn’t yet sure what kind of person Brief would be.
H: Short Mustache.
O: Oh, okay. When he first appears, he suddenly throws rocks at Luffy, so you think « Uh? A bad guy? ».
H: (laughs) Yeah.
O: In this scene, he’s gauging Luffy’s strength, right.
H: There’s this scene, you know, in « Shichinin no Samurai »…
O: Lauching an attack from undercover.
H: Yes. I only really thought about it that way when I was drawing B-part, though. I kept going without knowing what the conclusion would be, without knowing who Brief was. I drew it while having no idea what role he would play.
O: Were Short Mustache and the Tearoom Pirate already there at the script stage?
H: They were. In the scenario, Short Mustache had the role of the supporting character that provides all the explanations. The Tearoom pirates were a sort of comic relief, being funny because they’re such a weak pirate crew. They were just a showcase of pirate crews having been driven into misfortune by the Baron. Their role wasn’t as important.
O: Onto something different, from your point of view, are « companions » a necessary thing to have?
H: Hm, what!?
H: Of course they are.
…Oh, yes! I see. It’s probably that… Well, I feel sorry for the people writing the script, but the reason why I put together the film that way is not just because I thought it’d be interesting for the viewers, but also because of a struggle I had to face myself. To put it simply, the struggle I had with Howl.
Is it really okay to leave that in the interview? hahahaha (big laugh)
O: It’s the most interesting topic of today’s talk, though.
H: True. Well, that’s it basically. If you ask what kind of movie Omatsuri Danshaku is, the answer is that it’s based on my experience at Ghibli. (bitter laugh)
O: I see!
H: It really is! Really. In fact, it was unavoidable.
O: I understand. So the Omatsuri Island is Ghibli then?
H: Yes, that’s it! The story basically is, when you close in on your opponent, and aha! From that moment on you force him into an uneven battle, what happens?
O: I see.
H: That’s really how it is, you know. When I went to Ghibli to make Howl, they were very busy with Sen to Chihiro. So they had no staff to spare to prepare Howl. Because of that, I had to gather the staff myself. For the designs, for the sakuga… Because I was the director, I had no choice but to do it myself. I would have them accept to join by pleading to them: « Please! ». I wasn’t a producer, so I was only appealing to their sympathy. I’d ask someone saying « You’re necessary to this project ». I thought that Howl was an all-out war, so I asked one by one to all the people I thought I couldn’t do without, and had them join. However, for various reasons, the project itself just crashed. When a project collapses, the director isn’t in a position to give any guarantee to the staff. So when this project collapsed, I felt very guilty for all those people. I said to them « We’re gonna make something great! », but I couldn’t fulfill my pledge. In a sense, I had lied to them. I had betrayed them. Now nobody would trust me again. You can’t make a film alone, so I really thought that would be the end for me (laughs). I’m serious. I thought I would just quietly recess into a corner of the industry, just scraping along, without making too much noise. (bitter laugh). While I was thinking that, Seki-san and Igarashi-san gave me a chance with Ojamajo Doremi Dokkaan! 40th episode. On top of that, some very benevolent people told me that «If you’re working on something I want to be a part of it ». That was Sushio-san and Kubota-kun!
O: I see. It’s a good story.
H: At that point, Yamashita-san said «I won’t do it ».
(roar of laughters)
H: « I’ve had enough! », he said. Well, that is only natural.
O: Of course. If he had said « I’ll do it » that would have been a lie, right.
H: Yes. I was really happy that Kubota-kun and Sushio-san accepted to do it. In that sense, they’re like Brief to me.
O: Aah. So Yamashita-san would be Zorro or Sanji.
H: Exactly! With Hamasu-san, maybe. Doesn’t that fit well?
O: It does. But Hamasu-san didn’t do key animation for Omatsuri, did he?
H: Actually he did, and I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful from the bottom of my heart that Yamashita-san accepted to be animation director and that Hamasu-san said he would do key animation for this movie. To me, they’re just like the people who come [to join Luffy] as the sun rises at the end of the movie.
O: But you know, while I was watching the film I wondered, considering everything that happened, « Isn’t Mamoru Hosoda treating those themes of friendship and companions in a kind of cold way? »
H: A bit cold? Hm. There’s plenty of my own experience into that though.
O: Well you see, even before the Baron uses his magic to bring discord between them, Luffy and his companions already seem on bad terms, right? (laughs)
H: That’s their default state, it’s in the original manga too.
O: No, no, normally at the beginning they would…
H: No, see, in A-part they’re shown as a good team that can coordinate well. That’s how I depicted them. That’s because of that that the Baron gets jealous. Watch it properly, please!
O: Well, I saw it this morning on DVD though…
H: Oh, thank you (laughs).
O: At the end, even after everyone revived, someone still says « Oy, captain! What are you doing, sleeping again ». I thought that was pretty rough.
O: That was kinda cold.
H: Yes. But you know, that’s how things are sometimes. Even if I call them companions, Hamasu-san and Yamashita-san aren’t soft on me. (laughs) Not at all. And that’s why I can trust them. We’re not some buddy-buddy club, after all.
O: Same with Luffy and co, then.
H: Yes. Because when you’ve set yourself a goal of some kind, usually, you don’t start prioritizing the buddy-buddy club halfway. What does « companion » mean for people like that? Of course, if you say something like « Friends are more precious than anything », you may gain the sympathy of the audience. But that’s not reality. In other words, among a staff that works together on a given work, sometimes things can happen that make people part from the group.
O: It’s hard to accept that.
H: (evil laugh). That’s how it is! Hahaha! It really is. And that film is about what you do when that happens.
O: So then, the Baron is… Howl’s… No, no, it can’t be that (laughs)
H: No, that’s it!
O: The Baron Omatsuri is the broken director that can’t get over it and keeps thinking about the staff that went away.
H: That’s a reeeally interesting interview, isn’t it?
O: Even though Yamashita-san and Hamasu-san end up leaving (laughs)
H: Yes. That’s why, in a sense, the Baron’s state reflects mine. That’s with that kind of mood that I went requesting for those people to work with me. I really think they were necessary. Seriously.
O: The ideals and aspirations you have for your companions?
H: Yes. The feeling that you want to be with them, you want to work together.
O: But in this movie, putting too much emphasis on the preciousness of friends brings unhappiness to everyone.
H: Yes, on the other hand, this aspect is there too.
O: The Baron is like that, and Short Mustache is like that too. You kinda think « What are you doing, your companions are gone, so you should move on, leave on a new trip! ».
H: Well, even though he lost his companions, Short Mustache is someone who still has the strength to make new companions.
O: Didn’t he only become that way when he met Luffy?
H: No, he’s always been that kind of person. In that sense, Brief is also an avatar of myself. In short, at that time when all those things happened and I had lost their trust… I always found myself wishing for Yamashita’s layouts or Hamasu’s key animation… This interview is really dangerous, isn’t it? Ahahaha!
O: That’s no good! Softening like that.
H: Yes. That’s why I have a sort of almost pathetic resignation to the fact that I can’t keep going without new companions. It’s true. You’re laughing, but that’s serious.
O: No, I’m not laughing (laughs). So then, as you said before, Sushio-kun and Kubota-kun are like the Tearoom pirates or Short Mustache.
H: Hm, from Luffy’s point of view, it would be Brief. And from Brief’s point of view, it would be Luffy. So if I was Short Mustache, Luffy would be Sushio or Kubota. Actually, you know, I talked to Yamashita-san about this in the staff room.
O: Alright, let’s move on to a slightly different topic.
H: It’s an interesting interview, right. Is it really okay for it to be so interesting? (laughs)
O: How old is the Tearoom Pirates oldest daughter in the setting?
O: I see, at that age she wouldn’t listen to her dad, right.
O: But her dad wants to think of her as a little girl who’d still cling on to her father.
H: Yes. You know, it might be that something happened to the mother because the dad is that way.
O: Even without saying he would be directly the cause of her death, it’s not hard to imagine that his personality was a sort of factor in it.
H. Yeah. Although, well, it’s not shown in the movie whether she’s dead or not.
O: It’s a bit weird to begin with that they’re doing pirate business as a family like that. Usually you would find sturdy companions before sailing out.
H: Actually, the mom was there at the scenario stage, but I intentionally decided to have only one parent in the movie. I think that family is the smallest unit of human relationships, and I wanted to display a relationship crisis of a different nature from Luffy and the others.
O: The story pretty much ends with the tearoom dad piercing through the Baron with the bow. Is that really okay?
H: Yes. When he was introduced in part B, I had already decided that the dad would be the one giving the final blow at the end. A presentiment (laugh). Well… I thought that this time, the one who would settle the fight would be the one you least expect to do so.
O: I see.
H: That’s why the dad does it, rather than Luffy or Brief. In that sense, this film is about Luffy, Brief, the dad and Omatsuri. In other words, it’s about the captains.
O: The story of four captains who think about their companions, right.
H: Yes. And a story questioning what you should do for your companions. I think it shows that there’s something common to those people who occupy the same place, the captain place, including Omatsuri.
O: A group of four captain comes onto the stage, and their various companions get into trouble… the Tearoom crew didn’t encounter too many misfortunes.
H: Well, the Tearoom crew is a family on the brink of collapse, you see. Brief and Omatsuri both have already lost their companions. And Luffy is the one losing them now.
O: Can’t we have some happier examples (laughs). Usually, when something is about « companions », it tends to only capture the positive sides of it. Here, you depicted the sad and bitter aspects that can come from « having companions ».
H: Yes. Ah, thank you for summing it all up (laughs). But well, I wonder if that’s not just what naturally comes from depicting captains.
O: Let’s come back to the original topic. Among all of that, you gave a hint that even if Luffy was to lose his companions, he could go on living and make new ones.
H: Yes. I think Luffy would be that kind of person.
O: Although as long as he would think it possible, he would do his best to save them.
H: But you see, I don’t think that’s being a cold person. For example, when you’re in primary school you have friends, then you go on to middle and high-school and you make other friends, and then you go on to college and you start working, and once again you make new friends and colleagues, and you gradually grow estranged from your older friends. But isn’t that normal? Hanging out with an old, trusted friend is great but it’s within one’s comfort zone. In order to make new friends, you need to start from zero and show yourself as you are, and the other person needs to start from zero too and accept you as you are, and that’s a ton of effort. But if you don’t do it you’ll never get used to it, you won’t grow up, you won’t ever be confronted to a different world than yours. I think that in today’s society, people tend to think that’s a hassle, they shut themselves in, they reject society and new environments, often prompt to talk about things like depression and inadaptability. Wishing for new friendships may seem cold to one’s old friends, but in the event we should lose our current friends, we need the energy to face up and find new friends, new companions. That applies to the young ones watching this film too. That’s why I think, I want to think that Luffy, if he loses his companions, will be able to once again search for new ones. His companions probably think the same too.
O: They wouldn’t want him to give up on being a pirate if they died. That’s what they think.
H: Yes. They probably think that he’s not someone like Omatsuri.
O: Ah, I see then. Here, what shows that Luffy might be able to keep moving forward even if Zorro and the others died, is the fact that Luffy and the Baron are different as human beings.
H: Yes, that’s it.
O: So, that brings us back to the original manga but, there was a fight between Luffy and Usopp, right. I think Omatsuri Danshaku was in production when that story was published, though.
H: That was an arc about the Merry-go, right.
O: At that point, the story strayed a bit away from the Merry-go, and Usopp said something among the lines of « The truth is that you don’t need someone like me around, right? ». That’s… maybe it’s putting the finger on something essential in One Piece, isn’t it.
H: « You’re all a bunch of monsters, I can’t keep up with you », something like that.
O: Yes. Well, if you think purely in terms of power, it’s true though (laughs). The fact that this happened in the manga, and other things too… really, Omatsuri Danshaku was deeply emotive on several levels.
H: I really think the original manga pushes that kind of idea to the forefront. In this film, we only had an hour and half, which is short and maybe the reason why we couldn’t do some things on that topic, though. The topic of how do we think about the companions we hold dear, the relationships between people.
O: I said that before but, that part where Zorro and co don’t even have a nice word to spare for Luffy who just saved them… I’m amazed you did that!
O: I can see the world’s harshness right there.
H: I never got those kinds of nice words either (laughs) That’s because I’m the director.
O: You can really see your vision of life coming through here. If it had been me I’d have wanted to say « how dare you not thank me after I saved you ».
H: Weeell I would want to say that too, but that’s not what a captain should look for.
O: And it all ends with a broad smile.
H: Yes. That’s why the end is just a black screen. It’s okay like this.
O: As a Mamoru Hosoda fan, the reason why Omatsuri Danshaku was interesting…
H: Yes, as a fan?
O: In contrast with « Bokura no War Game », which I thought was minutely done, following a clear rational development, here there are spots of ambiguity, of vagueness, where spontaneous feelings surge out. That was interesting. I thought that kind of thing was close to what your friend Katsuyo Hashimoto-san would do. « Oh, Mamoru Hosoda does that kind of work too », I thought. I was a bit surprised.
H: The reason why it ended up like this is certainly because I used as a motif personal struggles which I haven’t come to terms with yet. To say it bluntly, it’s probably because I’m still struggling with questions about my experience at Ghibli, the notion of companion, etc… (bitter laugh). But well, in a way those are not issues you can really resolve completely.
O: What kind of movie would you personally want to do next?
H: Hm, let’s see…
O: From what I know of your tastes, I had the feeling that maybe you didn’t really like to throw this kind of thoughts, which you’ve not completely settled within yourself, into a film.
H: No, that’s not the case. I said that in Animestyle 2 but, a film that you can’t wrap up completely is still a film. Although you shouldn’t say« I couldn’t wrap it up » (laughs). You see, a film where everything is fully reasoned out, where all the cogs fit perfectly well together is a film, but even if that’s not the case it’s still a film. In Animestyle 2, I was saying that it’s possible for a film to not be premeditated. I feel like it’s precisely what this One Piece movie is.
O: I see. What will your next work be?
H: I think I will need more planning for the next one. Well, I can’t know what will happen before actually trying out. I don’t think it will be as calculated as War Game was though. Because I’m dealing with a theme that doesn’t have much to do with reason. But I still want to squeeze in some elements of it, I’m not sure yet.
O: I’m looking forward to « Mamoru Hosoda’s path to authorship ».
H: Am I an author now? (laughs) I’m not an author, you know, I’m a simple director. But even as a simple director, I often think that I want to do what I have to do well.
O: I see. Thanks a lot!
H: Thank you.