Isao Takahata and Akiyuki Nosaka talks about how they want the movie to be:
Animage: Having your book made into a movie, do you have any requests for the director?
Nosaka: Well, i fully trust on his talents, so… [LAUGHS] As i just said, the older brother has his inner conflicts, and it isn’t just brotherly love. That’s the part that i’d like to see depicted. That goes into the so-called filling “What couldn’t be written in the original novel”
Takahata: Well… [LAUGHS]
Nosaka: It doesn’t matter how it’s depicted. I won’t make any demands. I don’t think it’ll even be necessary to live up to what i just said. As long as today’s audience can understand it. And they’re free to take it any way they want to. But i hate the so-called “Anti-war movies” and also the movies where the main character is placed into a bunch of cruel situations without more justification than to provide a cathartic focus for the audience’s sympathy.
Takahata: There are many difficulties in making a story into a movie, but one of them is whether the original book’s narrative can be used as effectively on-screen. This one is obviously from Seita’s point-of-view and even the objective passages are filtered through his feelings. In that sense, there’s a way to use the original narrative…
Nosaka: Is that because the story takes place in a difficult time to depict?
Takahata: Yes, it’s difficult. I think it’ll be hard to understand without explanation. The death is always nearby, as you just mentioned, is one aspect. Besides that, all the minute details of daily life are the same. Even the staff making the animation doesn’t know those times. I am the only one among them who went through it, as a fourth-grader; no one on the production staff has gone through it. When they start drawing a police station, it’s brightly lit. They must have heard stories that there were lighting restrictions and windows were taped so that glass pieces wouldn’t fly, but when they sit down and draw, they all forget. It’s a difficult call how much about rationing and the “neighborhood program”* should show up in the piece. I’m not out to make a movie that explains the times, so only the minimal requirements are sufficient, but i think those aspect should get incorporated somehow.
*A government-sanctioned program to encourage neighbors to cooperate between them, and, at the same time, report each other’s unpatriotic activities to authorities.
Takahata: When i decided i wanted to make this into a movie, there were many ways to do it. First, i thought about using methods that haven’t been used in traditional animation, but as the schedule was planned, the movie’s release date set and the staff assembled, it was apparent that there was no room for such trial-and-error approach. So instead, we’ll be doing what we’ve always been good at and, the same time, take on a new challenge. That sounds a little vague, i guess [LAUGHS].
Nosaka: Are Seita and Setsuko having fun?
Takahata: Yes, that’s my intention in animating it. It’s not only that their lives were substantial, but that they were enjoying their days.
Nosaka: They must have laughed very often, and all the small things must have looked sparkling, so beautiful. The sea and the sky, for example. They say the sky was blue on August 15, the day the war was over, but we could have see so well back then. After all, we were about to die, so it was the terminal vision of people about to die. Everything looked so fresh. For example, if i looked at a tomato, when i was about to eat one after having stolen it, it may have been to satisfy an appetite, but the sense of life in the tomato was coming to me too. Death was nearby, so the feeling of life was overwhelming. It didn’t have anything to with simply savoring it more because i didn’t know when i’d find food the next time. It was more fundamental than that. In fact, the scenery was very beautiful too. The town where the story takes place was a beautiful place through objective eyes. And the whole town was waiting in fear that an air raid was going to burn it down any night, and that made it even more beautiful. So for the two of them to have had such substantial time, against such a beautiful backdrop, is regarded as a major tragedy when we look back at it now.
Takahata: I understand that. I hope i can convey that too.
Nosaka: From what we said in our conversation, i think i can just hand the baton to you with full trust. It’s now all up to your discretion as the director. For the time being, i’ll make sure not to sleep with my feet pointed toward Kichijoji* [LAUGHS]
*Kichijoji is the area where Studio Ghibli is located, sleeping with your feet toward someone to whom you are grateful is considered rude in Japan. Nosaka wishes not to offend the animation studio where Takahata works.