Interview with Atsushi Takahashi and Takamitsu Inoue, Director and Producer of Blue Exorcist: The Movie

IMG_1398Outside, the rain falls lightly upon queues stretching back to Canning Town for the MCM London Comic Con, yet inside, there is a sense of quiet calm and reflection

Seated in a spacious room upstairs at London’s ExCeL Centre, director of Blue Exorcist: The MovieAtsushi Takahashi, and the film’s producer, Takamitsu Inoue, met with us to discuss the forthcoming DVD and Blu-Ray release of the movie. 

MCM Buzz: Blue Exorcist presents a very rich world in terms of its presentation and the aesthetic mix of both Japanese and Western imagery. Can I just ask how the look of the film was decided upon—how did you try to put your stamp on this material?

Atsushi Takahashi: Those visuals are there in the comics, so we used them but made them a bit richer for the film and added more detail. In the film, the city is doubled in size. The Japanese audience like having all of those different details, so there are things from Roman architecture and the Meiji Era, as when Japan opened up to the rest of the world during that period, people found foreign objects very exotic and they would display them in their homes. People nowadays find that somewhat nostalgic. A lot of this was down to the art director, Shinji Kimura.

Takamitsu Inoue: Mister Kimura also worked on Steamboy as the art director.

MCM Buzz: There have been a lot of stories that deal with demonology as a central tenet of their structure—from Go Nagai’s Devil Man through to Bleach, what specific approach did you take when bringing the film’s monsters to life and how did you reconcile the use of Biblical terms with a Japanese setting?

Atsushi Takahashi: I think it’s the same with the buildings of the city. Japanese people are very good at this sort of thing and almost do it without noticing—it’s not good or bad.

MCM Buzz: It was interesting seeing the tanuki and other yokai in amongst the Christian symbolism.

Atsushi Takahashi: I always wonder if it’s okay to do that though.

MCM Buzz: Usamaro is a very cute character—what was it like developing a devil that the audience could sympathise with in a series that essentially casts daemons as the antagonists?

Atsushi Takahashi: For Japanese people, I guess the daemons are like spirits; if you eat with them, you’re friends. There’s no sense of that being unnatural. As a child I watched GeGeGe no Kitarō and Obake no Q-tarō, about the boy becoming friends with the ghost in his house, and I think this is very much in the same tradition.

MCM Buzz: Blue Exorcist: The Movie originally debuted in Japan in 2012 and the manga has been running since 2009, how do you feel this on-going story has changed since then and are there are points that you both feel you would like to revisit?

Atsushi Takahashi: I’m ready anytime for a sequel, I just need the go ahead. Unfortunately, in this grown up world, it’s hard to get that go ahead.

MCM Buzz: Was there any correspondence with Kazue Kato on the development of these new elements for the film or were you allowed free reign within her universe?

Atsushi Takahashi: When we had the original plot outline, just one piece of paper, she came in and told us what she thought as she knows what’s going to happen next in the manga and knows much more than we do. She also designed the guest characters, Usamaro and Cheng-Long Liu. There were also characters in the comics, some of the students for example, that she hadn’t delved into, so there were things we were allowed to do with them and some things we weren’t.

MCM Buzz: With films released during seasonal lulls in established shows, was there anything you planned to do with the film but weren’t able to realise due to plans for a second series?

Atsushi Takahashi: I didn’t direct the first season of the anime, but we had to work with the world view of the anime and not betray that. If they asked me to direct the second series, I would love to but there is no second series at the moment.

MCM Buzz: Both of you have worked on some very big franchises—Mister Inoue on Naruto and Prince of Tennis, Mister Takahashi on Lupin III and with Studio Ghibli—what has been your experience working on such well-loved projects and how have your personal expectations differed from work on smaller projects?

Atsushi Takahashi: The biggest difference is when I go back to visit my parents and see what their reaction is. My parents hadn’t heard of Blue Exorcist but they get excited about Doraemon. My dad mentioned it to a girl he works with and she knew Blue Exorcist and that’s how he found out about it.

MCM Buzz:Regarding the strength of those franchises, how do you see anime evolving as an industry over the next five years—are there any predictions you’d like to make based on current trends?

IMG_1379Atsushi Takahashi: The two biggest changes have been that there are now more women in the industry and more foreign people also. I think a reason for there being more women in the industry is that all the ambitious men don’t want to succeed in anime. As for more foreign people working in the industry, I think that generation who grew up watching Japanese animation and they don’t feel that there’s a cultural gap anymore.

Takamitsu Inoue: Previously when you asked a foreign company to animate something, they would get small things wrong due to cultural differences, but that doesn’t happen anymore.

MCM Buzz: Do you think that there’s been an impact on the industry due to generational shift and declining birth rates?

Atsushi Takahashi: I think anime should be for children, or at least mostly for children, but as the number of children being born is fallen, there are less and less people watching anime, but at the same time there are more and more children in other countries watching anime, such as in Asia for example, which is exciting.


Photos by Sarah Tsang

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