Honey-chan has interviewed a lot of people for Honey’s Anime, but this one is a highlight for her young career. She recently sat down with producer and founder of not only MADHOUSE studio (1972), but also MAPPA (2011), Masao Maruyama. The anime industry legend has produced some stand-out series and films such as Unico, Ninja Scroll, Card Captor Sakura, Monster, Death Note, Paprika, Redline, Supernatural: The Animation, and a movie that Honey-chan finds very romantic, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. He is also largely responsible for the record-breaking animated movie In This Corner of the World.
Interview with Masao Maruyama
You worked for a very long time to bring In This Corner of the World to completion. What was it about that project that made you want to ensure that this story was told?
We, the director Sunao Katabuchi and I, were really compelled to bring Fumiyo Kono’s original manga to life. We liked how it wasn’t flashy; it’s an understated slice-of-life film about an ordinary Japanese woman. There are no cute girls and handsome guys that are featured. It’s not a tear-jerker war story, either.
How did you get a studio to support a project that wasn’t flashy?
That’s exactly why it was hard to find financing that would guarantee its success. We did find financing and made a successful film while avoiding all the film elements that an anime financer would want.
You had a crowdfunding element as part of the financing. Do you believe that this is a new revenue stream for anime production or was the crowdfunding a fluke?
The way I see it, crowdfunding was part of the success of In This Corner of the World, but I do not believe that crowdfunding will always bring success. The crowdfunding wasn’t even a majority of the money used for the film, but it was successful in showing investors that there was a market for it. A big part of it was Katabuchi’s last film, The Miracle of a Thousand Years, and its struggle at the box office that led to them show the film at boutique theaters. Katabuchi attended the viewing, met the audience and talked about his intent and his passion. This went on for two years, creating a lot of supporters of Katabuchi. This led to the success of the crowdfunding.
Your heroine, Suzu, is described as “boring” many times in the movie. Were you trying to show that a normal woman surrounded by larger events can be just as compelling as an epic romantic war story?
There is a big climatic event in the film [the atomic bomb dropping on Hiroshima] and there is a huge obstacle for the main character to overcome, but it isn’t really depicted in much detail because we thought that it was an event so well known that it didn’t visually need to be in the film.
I thought it was more impactful seeing it viewed from a distance. I was moved by the way the bombing of Hiroshima was depicted. We are out of time but I want to tell you again that In This Corner of the World is a beautiful film; thank you for sharing it with us.