Home Interview: Director Yuzuru Tachikawa Talks Blue Giant

Interview: Director Yuzuru Tachikawa Talks Blue Giant

Anime Corner had the opportunity to chat with the famed director Yuzuru Tachikawa about one of his latest movies, Blue Giant which recently came out on Blu-ray in the West. Although the interview focused mainly on the movie itself, we still managed to squeeze in a few questions about Mr. Tachikawa’s career and future projects.

Blue Giant follows the story of Dai Miyamoto, who discovers jazz and realizes that he has found his true calling. He moves to Tokyo to work on his career. There, he meets Yukinori Sawabe who shares a similar passion. The two team up with Dai’s high school friend Shunji Tamada and form a band, named JASS.

Q: Could you tell us a bit about how you ended up getting involved with the Blue Giant project? Were you familiar with the series before the movie?

The original Blue Giant is originally a manga, and I hadn’t read it. Toho had been interested in turning it into an anime, so they sent it over, and I actually read the entire series in a day. That was my introduction to Blue Giant and initially, when I read it, I thought this would be better suited as a TV series, but the original author really wanted to see it in the big theater because if it’s on TV you’re very limited [when it comes] to sound. You can’t have a nice sound, but you can definitely make that happen in a theater setting and have that rich theater sound for audiences to enjoy.

Q: Speaking of the original author, what was it like working with them?

The original mangaka wasn’t directly involved with the development of the script, but actually, the former editor of the original manga series was the person I worked with the most. We would write the script, [tweak] it a bit and then we were able to send it to the mangaka for them to read. So that’s that’s the extent to which they were involved.

Q: How long did the production process for Blue Giant take?

The original manga is 10 volumes [long]. We set off in pre-production to whittle it down to a feature; that I recall being about a year to a year and a half long process. And then once we went into production it was six months.

Q: What scenes, would you say, were the most challenging to animate? Was it the live performances? They look incredibly detailed and are actually pretty long.

Yeah, as you point out it was the live performances that took a long time. At the script level, we had about four live performances, but a full live performance is about 6-7 minutes each. So there would be a lot of cuts and a lot of work going into it. There were parts in the finished animation, where you have partial performances.

Yuzuru Tachikawa

Q: Do you have a favorite scene in the Blue Giant movie?

When all three of them are at Yukinori’s house or apartment and they have that fight. I feel that that’s [the most] dramatic [moment] in the entire film. That’s one scene that I really like.

Q: Did you listen to jazz before the movie?

Yeah, before production started, I was actually just a casual listener of jazz. But once production started, I actually went and took the saxophone lessons up until production got busy and I couldn’t continue anymore.

Q: Do you have a favorite Blue Giant character?

Yeah. So I thought that Tamada would be a great character for the audience to really plug into and get into the world. But Yukinori is my personal favorite.

Q If you could go back in time and do one thing differently or change something about the way Blue Giant was adapted what would it be?

I wouldn’t actually say a whole chunk of scenes, but I would say improving the transitions between the action scenes maybe, or also the Dai’s facial expressions or any of the other characters’ expressions. At the time they were good enough to deliver the intention, but they could have been stronger or more impactful.

This is where the interview was briefly interrupted by Ms. Junko Goda’s dogs, who somehow managed to turn on the TV. Although I really wanted to hear more about the dogs in question I felt awkward asking but Mr. Tachikawa had no problem with doing so and seemed charmed by the adorable puppers. Still, we quickly got back on track.

Q: There is a scene in the movie where Yukinori hears Dai play for the first time. He spent years practicing and creating music, yet he is fully blown away by Dai’s talent. As an artist, animator, do you ever encounter similar situations? Do you think that in animation talent sometimes trumps hard work and practice?

Yes, I’ve had moments like that, you know, for example, you know, I’m trying to figure out how to put the cuts together and I’m working on the draft and then there’ll be someone who just whips up that draft really quickly. However, I don’t know how much effort and work they have put in to get to that point either. But yeah, I do have moments when I feel like talent trumps all that effort sometimes.

On the other hand, it could just be my hope or just my feeling that talent that surpasses anything exists, especially because what we do in the animation world can be so time-consuming that maybe I have a feeling that I hope there is such a thing that can surpass that just goes above working hard on something.

Mr. Tachikawa spent a few previous years working on three concurrent projects: he directed the Blue Giant and Detective Conan: Black Iron Submarine movies and was also the chief director for the final season of Mob Psycho 100 anime. Naturally, this was the perfect opportunity to ask about what is next.

Q: Now that the Blue Giant, Detective Conan and Mob Psycho 100 projects are fully done, is there something new you are working on or are you taking a much-deserved vacation?

A: Actually last year two of my films came out so I was able to take a break last year so [now] I’m moving on to my next project. I can’t get into details yet, but I’m working on two movies right now.

Q: Are you ever surprised by the support you get from overseas fans? Are you aware that there are fandoms and communities built around following animators’ work?

A: Back when I first started, I of course, never thought that the anime world would be this worldwide with how things are distributed today. Back when I started there was a demand to some extent: like a specific genre where it’s mostly like male lead and there are girls as supporting characters. So there was already a basic genre that there was a demand for and that there was buyers for and now that the level of distribution is is faster and there’s a lot of it, there has just been that much more demand for different genres. I never thought it would become such a big world as it is now [although] there was already some worldwide demand.

Q: And finally, do you have a message for people who will be watching the Blue Giant movie for the first time now that it is out on Blu-ray?

I really, really encourage people to see this movie in the theaters to really get the full experience. We had a lot of fans go to the theaters over and over again to experience it, but with the Blu-ray, I would really encourage everyone to watch it with the best sound possible. Don’t do housework while it’s playing in the background, maybe use headphones and a really nice sound system to experience the music.

Looking back I wish I had asked some of the questions differently and perhaps included a few about Hiromi Uehara, who composed the music for this jazz-focused movie, but perhaps next time. We’d love to thank Mr. Tachikawa for taking the time to speak to us and we’re looking forward to seeing the new projects he mentioned!

©2023 BLUE GIANT Movie project ©2013 Shinichi Ishizuka, Shogakukan

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