WRITER & DIRECTOR: PROGRAM
ANIMATRIX WRITER: WORLD RECORD
How do you feel
about the reception your work is getting, particularly Ninja Scroll, which
was recommended to the cast as a really good
happy to hear it has been well received. It’s very flattering
to know the under-40 generation of commercial and feature directors,
like the Wachowskis, have digested a Japanese anime movie like Ninja Scroll,
and actually built on top of its visual style. It pleases me that elements
of that style are being passed on to a younger generation of creators.
MATRIX: Before we get into
THE ANIMATRIX, talk about how you got into directing.
I finished school a long time ago, there was no information available
on the animation field, or how to become an animator. I was most
interested in finding a profession that would allow me to make a living
drawing, or doing some design-related or art-related profession, in particular
comics or manga. My first brush with the animation world came about
because I thought that learning animation would be a good way to improve
my skills as a comic artist. Once I realized the power of comics
with sound and moving visuals, I decided that was what I wanted to concentrate
MATRIX: Did you put out any
KAWAJIRI-SAN: In high school I did some comic book art, but I never sold
anything. It was just a hobby.
MATRIX: How did you get your first break in anime?
KAWAJIRI-SAN: I started out
just doing animation and animation supervision, as well as character design
and art direction type of work.
When I did get a few chances to actually work as a director, I felt myself
coming into my own and really enjoying directing. Then I directed the
film Wicked City.
MATRIX: Since you write as
well as illustrate, which comes first, the story or the visuals?
KAWAJIRI-SAN: Visuals. It
all starts for me with an image. Filmmaking is an art that involves balancing
story, character, visuals, all of those aspects,
but it’s primarily a visual medium, and my work requires a little
juggling of all those different elements.
MATRIX: Do you remember the
first images the Ninja Scroll story evolved from?
KAWAJIRI-SAN: When I was a
child I was fascinated by the idea of ninjas, probably the same way an
American child of the same generation would have
been fascinated by Westerns, or something like that. One thing that fascinated
me about doing a movie on the lives of ninjas was the idea of them
faking each other out, tricking each other. I remember the old Mission:
Impossible TV series was always about two opponents using all kinds tricks
to better the other fellow. That was key for me, finding some visual expression
MATRIX: Since some people
might be new to your work; could you name some of your early projects as
well as more recent works?
KAWAJIRI-SAN: Of course I’d
like the people who see PROGRAM and WORLD RECORD to see all of my works,
but if I could only name a few that I’m
really proud of that work really well as films and as animations I’d
say, Wicked City and Ninja Scroll, and a movie I finished last year, Vampire
Hunter D: Bloodlust, which I’m quite happy with.
MATRIX: Have you done many
KAWAJIRI-SAN: Aside from
THE ANIMATRIX, the only short form production I’ve done is
a film called Running Man, which is one of three parts in a movie called
Meikyû Monogatari. In the United States it’s called
Manie Manie, I think. It’s
an amazing movie; Andy and Larry really like it and said they thought
RECORD had a lot in common with Running Man.
MATRIX: Could you talk about the different challenges that face a feature
and a short?
KAWAJIRI-SAN: With a long
project, one of the challenges is to make sure it doesn’t bore the
audience or challenge their attention span. For a small piece, it’s
about getting maximum information across within a very short time period.
me, it’s a matter of appreciating the different
rhythms of the different formats, and the way people enjoy long pieces
versus short pieces.
MATRIX: What was your reaction the first time you saw THE MATRIX?
KAWAJIRI-SAN: I found it extremely
interesting. I was impressed by the visuals, the editing, the story, and
was really impressed that it stands on its own
as a mainstream movie and as broad entertainment, despite the themes it
plays on. It would be very easy to make a movie with the same story that
be impossible for most people to understand, so one of the things that
impresses me about THE MATRIX is that it has such a complex story, but
is still extremely
MATRIX: How did you feel when
you were invited to be involved in THE ANIMATRIX?
KAWAJIRI-SAN: It’s a great project. It was very attractive to me because
the only limitation was that I had to play within the world of the Matrix;
other than that I’ve been able to work with complete freedom. And
since it’s a fairly short schedule and a short film — six to
ten minutes — it’s been great.
MATRIX: Where did the idea
for PROGRAM come from?
KAWAJIRI-SAN: One of the inspirations
was the matter of Cypher’s betrayal
in THE MATRIX. That was something that got me going, the idea of that betrayal.
Another thing was that I was pretty sure there were certain aspects of
work that were interesting to Andy and Larry and I was trying to
play to that. I also wanted to make an episode which would very strongly
represent my own personality and be something that the other animation
directors wouldn’t do, so I chose a very strong hero, the girl in
a very short piece, so one way to make it stand out is to have a very memorable
MATRIX: In regards to the style, how hands on are you?
KAWAJIRI-SAN: I wrote the
story, did the character designs, did the storyboards and did a lot of
concept art, but the actual animation I completely
entrusted to Yutaka Minowa. If you look at my storyboards compared to the
finished product, every shot is laid out exactly the same as it was in
storyboards — my concept art really was a blueprint for the kind of coloring
and actual look of the piece. So even though I didn’t animate it
myself, I feel like I mapped it all out in my head ahead of time.
MATRIX: Have you ever interpreted or worked with someone else’s script
in the past?
KAWAJIRI-SAN: I’ve almost
always worked on my own stories. The three films I previously mentioned,
Vampire Hunter D, Ninja Scroll, and Wicked City,
are all my own original stories.
MATRIX: How did it feel when
to write a story and hand it over to another director, as you did for WORLD
KAWAJIRI-SAN: My approach
to making a movie based on my own story, since I’ve already mapped
out the entire thing, is always how to best approach creating the idealized
image for the film that I have formed in my mind,
and approximating the images I’ve seen in my head. But one of the
real pleasures when I hand over a script to another director is that I
to see a movie I couldn’t have imagined, even though it’s based
on my story. I think that Koike-san’s WORLD RECORD is much better
than what Kawajiri’s WORLD RECORD would have been. It’s just
something I wouldn’t have imagined.
MATRIX: When you wrote it did you see the way you would have directed it?
KAWAJIRI-SAN: After I submitted
my first draft of WORLD RECORD, I actually did a lot of rewriting with
Larry and Andy’s help, so by the time
I handed the script over to Koike-san it was already something very different
from what I’d imagined, which was something much closer to Running
Man. It was very enjoyable to just let that go, especially since I have
a very close relationship with Koike-san.
MATRIX: For WORLD RECORD,
how did the ideas develop?
KAWAJIRI-SAN: I was searching
for a hero as different as possible from Neo as he could be. Someone who
would not intellectualize everything the way Neo
does, someone who was perhaps a bit more in touch with his physical self.
In the case of Dan, I found a character who could transgress the physical
world and, through his ability to run, break through.
MATRIX: Have you thought about what the sound design for the picture will
KAWAJIRI-SAN: Rather than
sticking to a totally realistic representation of the action, I hope the
sound brings something bigger than life to the
story, favoring dramatic impact over realism. From the beginning, I’ve
been looking forward to entrusting the music completely to Don
I’m totally willing to put myself in his hands.
MATRIX: It’s been a
while since the episode was finished; what is your reaction looking at
KAWAJIRI-SAN: I think my career
as a director will be over when I’m
satisfied with what I’ve made, so every time I see a finished picture
of mine, I have a complex reaction — a combination of satisfaction
and dissatisfaction. At the very least, I think I’ve met my goal
for PROGRAM, which was to make a stylish, exciting Matrix film.
MATRIX: How do you feel about
your episode being one of the four available for download over the Internet?
very important to me that as many people see this film as possible, so
if the ’Net or anything else gets it
out to more people, I’m totally in favor of it.
MATRIX: Thank you, Kawajiri-san.
Interview by REDPILL
Translated by Mike Arias