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The magazine Scenario (シナリオ) No.405/ Vol.38 No.4 features a conversation between Katsuhiro Otomo and film director Shogo Ishii that took place on January 26, 1982. 


Publisher: Writers Association of Japan (シナリオ作家協会)
Release date: 1982-IV-1
Language: Japanese
Number of pages: 156
Size: A5
Retail price: ¥700

TALK Katsuhiro Otomo & Sogo Ishii


Manga and Cinema

Sogo Ishii: I used your manga RUN to film Shuffle, and it suddenly strikes me I still haven't paid you for that...

Katsuhiro Otomo: If you'd made a huge profit I wouldn't mind a share, but otherwise, to be honest I'm just pleased something drawn by me has turned out interesting on screen.

Ishii: It wasn't my intention to do anything on so grand a scale, but as shooting progressed I got carried away ... The screening in December (at the Seibu Gekijo in Shibuya) was just the premiere, and I've yet to decide how it will be released properly.

Otomo: I was a little busy last December and couldn't make it - got tied up with revisions on Kibun wa mo senso.

lshii: It's been altered slightly from the original, but I do hope you can watch it sometime soon. Was Shuffle the first of your manga to be released as a movie?

Otomo: Ninkyo Cinema Club ("Koukou Erotopia Akai Seifuku" released May 1979) was made into a film by Nikkatsu. When I read the script and asked if they could rewrite it, they told me the movie was already in the can (laughs).

Ishii: I was in the athletics club at school, so knew all about the act of running (like the main character in Shuffle), and had a screen version in mind as soon as I read the original. 

Otomo: I have to think now, what motivated me to draw RUN ... ? That's right, the 22  or 23 year-old hero runs, and while running things come back to him, like what he thought about at junior high school, and his life up to this point. But in the manga the middle section of the story is missing: there's a part where a gir1 is watching him at a junior high sports day, isn't there? I wanted to expand on that more.

lshii: Well the film does expand on it - it's the climax.

Otomo: The plot has to have twists and turns, and I had a yakuza story, with him killing his superior, and wanted to show the things coming back to him while he was running. Unfortunately there weren't enough pages.

lshii: Shuffle is intended, at least, to fall into the "hard-boiled" category. My aim was to pursue the possibilities for noir of this kind in Japan. I guess it's a bit cheeky of me, but actually I'd been hoping to work with you for a long time. I like the artwork, the ideas. and the dialogue in your manga, but especially the plots. Your plots are amazing. They unfold in such an incredibly cinematic fashion. How do you put them together?

Otomo: When I'm thinking up the story, I run it in my head as if making a movie. The thing with manga though is that you only have a limited number of pages. There are always all sorts of scenes I'd like to include, but can't. Which can be frustrating. I've been doing this for quite a while now, so I know where to cut, make sure there are plenty of twists and drama, and think about what to show, but when it comes to what kind of characters to portray, the main ones just seem to move of their own accord. So I do devise a story, but don't let myself be too bound to it. My protagonists are, I suspect, parts of me, and it all comes down to how I personally would behave.

Ishii: You tend to have a lot of supporting characters woven very cleverly into the narrative. What's your secret there?

Otomo: Ah, well now, there's a jazz band that goes by the name Weather Report, and on their records the main melody emerges first, then they all perform the melody with great gusto, then after a while the bass starts to do something else, and they begin to improvise. But the rhythm hangs in there, and at the end, just when you think the original form has been lost, for some reason that first melody appears again. Maybe composing a plot is a bit like that.

Ishii: Take for example the endings of When the Saints Go Marching In, or WHISKY-GOGO: those last visuals are totally unexpected in light of how the plot has unfolded up to that point. I don't think that's something you can write into a screenplay. I tend to film without finalizing the last scene. I do write something (in the script), but really that's not such a good idea. As I shoot symbolic frames come to mind, and It seems to work best if I leave those until last to decide. I also wonder if maybe it's the characters.

Otomo: Each character has its own dramas, so it's a matter of connecting those dramas in the right way (laughs).

Ishii: When you speak of Weather Report I think I know what you mean. For my part, lately I've been playing rock all the time. I find listening to rock music gives the story more oomph than just sitting there pondering the composition. The ad libbing of movement, freedom I guess you'd call it, the beauty of that can only emerge during actual shooting. It's hard to put down in writing. 

Last film?

Ishii: When did you publish your first manga?

Otomo: When I was at high school, I took some stuff I'd drawn to Morimi Murano-san, and there just happened to be an editor from (Manga) Action there, who asked me if I'd like to have a go working for them. But at high school I wasn't especially bothered with manga; movies were my thing. I wanted to make movies, but that didn't seem realistic and it struck me that with manga I might somehow manage to make my own way in the world, earn enough to buy the odd drink (laughs). These days it's film that I want to do. I've had enough of manga. With manga, you know how it's going to go before you even start drawing. You've got this many pages, this story, and only this many days to do it in. Meaning, you work it all out in your head beforehand, so there's no tension.

Ishii: Which there is in films. Plenty. And all the time. You say this might be your last movie (laughs). Film does require perseverance, doesn't it?

Otomo: Indeed it does. I tried doing a little shooting myself, which was good even just to make me realize how I'd underestimated the effort involved.

Ishii: So is that finished?

Otomo: No, unfortunately the actor went out and found a proper job. It was Daimakyo. I wrote the script, did the storyboards ... bit of a shame really. I'd like to do a film. 

Ishii: I'd soon give you a hand. About thirty minutes is a good length to start with. Although you never seem to be able to make the exact movie in your head. 

Otomo: I sensed that. I managed to shoot about thirty minutes of Daimakyo, and that's only a third of it.