10 Years of Encouragement at the Japan Media Arts Festival
Held once a year, the Japan Media Arts Festival showcases the year’s best works in art, entertainment, anime, and manga. Called by many observers the “Academy Awards of Subculture,” this year celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Festival. To commemorate the anniversary, the 20th Anniversary Exhibition will be held in Akihabara beginning on October 15th, featuring the best works of the last 20 years in one hall.
Today we will speak with Studio Chizu’s Yuichiro Saito, the producer of two animation films that won the Grand Prize at past Festivals – The Girl Who Leapt through Time and Summer Wars – both directed by Mamoru Hosoda.
齋藤優一郎 Yuichiro Saito
Producer / Corporate Director
Joined Madhouse anime studio in 1999. In 2011, founded Studio Chizu along with anime director Mamoru Hosoda. As a producer, has been involved with such hits as The Girl Who Leapt through Time, Summer Wars, Wolf Children, and The Boy and the Beast. At the Japan Media Arts Festival, these works have been honored with two Grand Prizes, an Award of Excellence, and a Judges’ Committee Recommendation respectively.
──At the 10th Japan Media Arts Festival in 2006, The Girl Who Leapt through Time (Directed by Mamoru Hosoda), which you produced, won the Grand Prize and subsequently became a big hit. How do you feel when you look back at the last ten years?
Saito: Yes, this year marks 10 years since the film first opened, and 10 years since I became involved with the Japan Media Arts Festival. In its first week, the film was shown in only six independent theaters, but through positive word-of-mouth and the endorsement from the venerable Japan Media Arts Festival, the theatrical run was expanded to over 100 theaters and lasted for an incredible forty weeks. It became a real joy. During that time, the encouragement we received at the Japan Media Arts Festival was instrumental in our endeavor. It really pushed us to keep going forward, and I am very grateful for that. This year, to mark the 10th anniversary of The Girl Who Leapt through Time, we released a digitally remastered version in theaters. In addition, a special outdoor showing of the film was held at the Tokyo National Museum. It was great to be able to connect with the fans again.
2006 TOKIKAKE Film Partners
The Girl Who Leapt through Time (2006) and Summer Wars (2009) both won the Grand Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival.
──In the following years, you were also involved with the creation of animation hits like Summer Wars, Wolf Children, and The Boy and the Beast. What’s the force that has driven you over the past 10 years?
Saito: The director Mamoro Hosoda continually challenges himself to create new motifs, themes, and forms of expression in every film he does, and thus expand the range of possibilities in animation. But in film, you have to approach each film individually. Only one failure can mean the end of your chances to make another. For that reason, as long as people keep coming to our films and giving us chances to make others, we will continue to push the envelope. I hope that we can make films that are meaningful even for people living on the other side of the world. We want the form of expression to resonate with more and more people. So, in the next 10 years, we will continue to do what we did in the last 10 years and challenge ourselves to create something new in every film.
(C)2009 SUMMERWARS FILM PARTNERS
(C)2015 THE BOY AND THE BEAST FILM PARTNERS
(C)2012“ WOLF CHILDREN “ FILM PARTNERS
──So even though the theme of each new work may change, the motivation of the creator doesn’t change?
Saito: That’s right. Change can continue to exist with things that never change. I feel that reality matches the theme of the 20th Anniversary Exhibition—Power to Change. Keeping history and context in mind, you look for works that challenged themselves to change modes of expression and widen the possibilities for animation. When Summer Wars and Wolf Children won the Grand Prize at past Festivals, we were incredibly honored that these two works were recognized for the challenges they took. The encouragement we received continues to motivate us today.
──What are your thoughts on the future of animation?
Saito: I think the possibilities of animation are still limitless, both in Japan and abroad. There are still doors that no one has unlocked yet. We have to continue to challenge ourselves to find those possibilities in film after film, while still producing fascinating content. The future of animation will be built that way, with incremental evolution in film after film, and we plan to do our part as well.