Interview with Yasuhiro Yoshiura, Director of Patema Inverted

A short distance from Holborn station, director Yasuhiro Yoshiura sits quietly and patiently at a table with translator, Bethan Jones. His appearance is youthful and relaxed despite the thirteen years he has spent working within the animation industry.

Born in 1980, Yoshiura is most well-known for his work on Pale Cocoon, and the series and successive film, Time of Eve. He speaks softly and calmly, his words engaging as he discuss the forthcoming release of his new work, Patema Inverted.

The film tells of Patema, who has lived her whole life in an underground village. While the law prohibits anyone from travelling to the surface, she dreams of adventures above ground. One day she manages to make it to the top, only to find herself falling into the sky. She is saved by Age, a young student who lives in Aiga, a harsh world controlled by a tyrant. Together they end up uncovering a dark secret behind their inverted worlds.

image_1MCM Buzz: Regarding the forthcoming Patema Inverted film, could you clarify a little the connexion between this and the Beginning of the Day miniseries; I’m assuming this will be a continuation and expansion of the original material?

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: The miniseries is kind of an advertisement for the film, so it’s part of the first half of the film, just chopped up into mini episodes. If you see the film, you don’t need to watch the miniseries.

MCM Buzz: I noticed a strong focus on cybernetics in your work, from Aquatic Language’s reference to androids and Asimov, through to aspects of Time of Eve. Is this relationship between the human condition and the man-madethe artificial humansomething that you feel defines your work?

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: I think it’s a case of the film reflecting my personal interests. I like classic sci-fi novels and I think that in Time of Eve and Patema Inverted the motifs of those kinds of novels come through and they end up having similar themes.

MCM Buzz: Likewise there is a sense of dystopia, of the split world, in Patema Inverted. Regarding that theme, can I ask about your involvement as a designer for Evangelion 2.0did that interest in dystopia inform your work on Evangelion?

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: I like sci-fi that depicts dystopias. I particularly love live action films, there are a lot of live action films I like, like Brazil and Gattaca, and that shows in particular in the eiga, the world of eiga and films. With Evangelion, the director, Kazuya Tsurumaki, saw Pale Cocoon and saw the sense of sci-fi dystopia that was in that and asked me to do the design for the aquarium based on that.

MCM Buzz: There’s also a lot of cyberpunk elements in your work, and as a genre, cyberpunk is very traditionally rooted in the late 80s, and early 90s. How do you feel this has influenced your stories?

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: The underground world of Patema Inverted has a lot of cyberpunk in it, and that’s very 80s – 90s, as you say, but the above ground world is more influenced by the 60s and 70s.

MCM Buzz: The divide between those two worlds is almost like the spiritual division made real in Haruki Murakami’s novels, or Miyazaki ‘s Nausicaa film; was the use of gravity intended to illustrate this, and is this social divide something you’re feeling about Japan in the present day?

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: That’s not what I intended. The idea for this film is a very simple idea—‘what if people were upside-down and fell into the sky?’ —so the poster for the film is what I wrote in the proposal. The story and the world came from there, there was no particular theme that I wished to get across initially, but once you have these two tribes with different values, I think you’re onto a universal theme.bg_top_02

MCM Buzz: That use of gravity in the film is a defining characteristic of the film. How difficult was it realising the logistics of that and how did you work through that process in terms of the everyday aspects of the story?

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: The inspiration for this upside-down world comes from a novel, The Invisible Man by HG Wells, in which there is an invisible person and there’s a question of ‘what would happen if…?’ I changed that invisibility into inversion and created the world of Patema Inverted.

MCM Buzz: One of the many inversions of themes I liked about Patema, having had a religious upbringing myself, was the idea that the sky wasn’t somewhere you would want to goyou don’t get lifted up to Heavenit’s suddenly a fearful place that you fall into.

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: This inversion of values is quite a normal setting for classic sci-fi, the world that you know is actually false, or what you believed in turns out to be not true, and that’s something that maybe subconsciously I returned to.

MCM Buzz: That theme is very much present in the work of Philip K. Dick. Are you a fan of his work?

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: Yes, he’s one of the authors I mean.

MCM Buzz: You mentioned live action films earlier. I smiled at the mention of ‘Komori Ningen’ (Bat Man) in Patema. Would you at any point consider working on a live action or tokusatsu series?

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: I’d definitely be interested, because when making anime, you discover certain things you can’t do, because it’s animation, and you also discover things you could do if it was live action, and so I’d like to try those things that I can’t do in animation in live action. But why did you mention the Komori Ningen?

MCM Buzz: Kamen Rider. The Bat Man and the Spider Man are the first two villains in every old Kamen Rider series.

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: I was brought up on that kind of thing so I’m sure it influenced me.

MCM Buzz: Regarding that division between live action and anime, is there anything you’ve found particularly difficult as an anime director?

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: I felt it particularly whilst making Time of Eve as it’s hard to get so much across through the facial expression and through close up acting in anime. You’ve got a lot of famous actors here in the UK, and they can express a lot just through their faces.visual_01

MCM Buzz: Lastly can we talk a little about where you like to go next after Patema, what projects are in the pipeline for you?

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: It’s actually already finished. It’s a 25 minute short anime and it’s out in Japan on 1st March, but I do want to make another film as well and I’m in the process of preparing that right now.

MCM Buzz: Can I just ask what the title of the new project is?

Yasuhiro Yoshiura: It’s titled Harmony, but you pronounce it ar-mon-e, and in all sorts of ways it’s completely the opposite to Patema Inverted. The theme is ‘school caste’, the levels of school. It’s quite painful to watch, so maybe people around the world will be able to associate with it.

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