Katsuhiro Otomo has answered to the French media from the Museum of Louvre in Paris where he has arrived today in it's way to the 'Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême'. Manga.tv & Musekai Productions have created the videos that collect most of the event.
TRANSLATION OF OTOMO'S ANSWERS
(Thanks to Noelis Prieto for the translation)
Q: You have always talked about your work in your place, why do you open up to your readers and followers today?
A: I was extremely delighted and grateful to the Festival d'Angoulême for awarding me such a prestigious prize rendering homage to my career. I would like to thank the Festival d'Angouleme and the French public who has always supported me. As you may know, I am someone who talks very little in front of the camera, I don't usually do this kind of thing, so I would like to thank you very much. The international meeting is planned in Angouleme, and suddenly, not being accustomed to conferences, I didn't know if I was going to be here. Anyway, I'll do my best and hope that you will be kind to me.
Q: In an interview in 2009, Naoki Urasawa said that Fireball was for a whole generation of mangaka equivalent to "Nouvelle Illustration". What is it like to be a superstar and is it not a bit paralyzing?
A:I am touched by all the praise, but I try not to be disturbed by the appreciation of others because creation is a whole other thing. So, I try to be faithful to my opinion and be creative.
Q: In retrospect, what would you do different and what would you change about your work Akira?
A: Nowadays, I think I would never do Akira. That's a question I have never asked myself, so it's hard to answer. When I think about the times in which I created Akira, I really gave everything to it. There is nothing that I didn't manage to put in the work. While I was working on the manga I began working on the animated film and there were a lot of constraints, like it was necessary for the film to last less than two hours. I was very frustrated during the theatrical release and so I finished the manga. When I look at the manga I feel like I put in everything I wanted. In any case, I will not repeat Akira.
Q: In France, Manga sales are dominated by works such as Naruto or One Piece. What is your view on these types of Manga?
A: I hope that my works are selling as well as those titles.
Q: We have the unfortunate habit of forgetting that the Akira was released more than 30 years ago. You have inspired many filmmakers and comic fans. What do you think of the younger generation of manga artists (beginners or experienced), like Mamoru Hosoda and his recent work The Boy and the Beast. Do you have names you would like to highlight through this platform?
A: I recently participated in a book called Oyajishu which is a collection of stories, manga, and illustrations where I worked alongside young Japanese authors. I loved it. The mangaka work a lot and are not necessarily known. It was a really fabulous experience that made me really happy so I hope it'll continue. In any case it has made me want to work with young authors.
Q: Akira is a phenomenal success. Does this not lock you in an international momentum? Does this not put aside your other works? Does this summarize you to Akira?
A: It all really depends on the works. Some of my works have met their success and others haven't. All of these works remain as my works and I have no reason to complain. They are all as important as each other.
Q: The idea of making a televisions has crossed your mind. Is this still relevant or is that gone?
A: I don't know how or what to say. It's true that there is a television project. On the other hand, I'm not with the person involved with this project, so I don't know what I am entitled to say or not. It would be better that you were not talking about this issue.
Q; What has been the imaginative and creative base of your works?
A: Daily life gives me a lot of inspiration, but it is not only that. There are also creations, Mangas, novels, and works that I've discovered and read during my childhood and have inspired me a lot. Maybe not at that time, it took some time, but those are all memories that have given me inspiration. It took a certain maturation time for this influence to permeate my creations.
Q: Apart from your main work, you have participated in four films including "Manie Manie", "Robot Carnival", "Memories", and "Short Peace". What do you like most? Would you do it again?
A: Yes, I would like to repeat those experiences if the opportunities arise. Short film is lighter than the feature film, because I am less concerned about commercial success. In addition, it allows me to try things, make experiments that are practical in the short film format, but are more complicated with the feature film format.
Q: We are getting closer to 2030, the time in which Akira takes place. Does it amuse you to see the differences between what you imagined and what you see today?
A: I think that everyone working in the Science-Fiction world shares that idea. Nobody could imagine what the future really would be. Who could have predicted, for example, the importance of the mobile phone today? And I think that with the progress of technology, both the present and future are very different from what we had imagined.
Q: What do you think of the colorized version of Akira?
A: Today, I find it perfectible, but back then it was a good job. It was Marvel who had the idea and wanted to work with a colourist -I forget the name- who wanted to work the colouring with a computer. I didn't know this technique and it intrigued me, so I accepted and worked with the team. It would have been better now, but at the time we worked well.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about your current projects? There was talk about you working with the Louvre on a comic about the Edo period. Will there be a return to animation...?
A: I cannot give you any details, but yes, the manga on the Edo period is still ongoing but I cannot move forward because I do many things simultaneously. I have a live-action film project, an animated film...I am currently working to find budgets but I am also in discussion with the Louvre and the Orsay museums. I would like to finally plan everything this year.
Q: Do you know European comics, especially the French-Belgian? What do you think of the production and do you have any favorite authors?
There are many authors I like! It's been a couple of years since I've visited France so, I don't really know all current authors but I like Nicolas De Crécy, Kerascoët, and Lewis Trondheim. I'm certainly all ears if you have authors to recommend!
Q: Is a project for making an Akira film with real actors conceivable? To what extent would be your investment?
A: So, I guess you're referring to a live Akira film project produced by Warner. To this day, I have still not received the script, so I'll have trouble commenting. I know the Warner team is working very hard on it but I have no more information to give you. On my part, I did the Manga and an animated film, I think I did everything I could and I do not really intend to participate in this project. I'd rather watch the film as a spectator.
Q: One can feel an anguished view on the world in your work Akira. Has your view of the world changed? Is that anguish still the same?
A: Yes, it's true I can have a kind of anguish towards the world today; the same anguish as when I wrote Akira. Human beings are creatures that aren't absolutely perfect, and that is why sometimes unfortunate, strange, and mysterious events happen, and this is reflected in my works; this spirit that we must have to cope with such events.
Q: You are absolutely a great influence to other comic artists and many of them have said they would like to access your brain to know the origin of your genius and your ideas. Is there an artist about who you feel the same way?
A: I confess I don't worry too much about other authors and rather concentrate on my work. With age, I've realized that I still have many things to do and I want to fulfill my duty. Others do not interest me.
Q: What inspired you for this festival's poster?
A: Finding the idea for the festival's poster took me an enormous amount of time. I was very late and I had to bother the world because of it. I wanted to make a poster that nobody had seen before, something surprising. For some time I've been very interested in traditional Chinese and Japanese writings, so I wanted to insert this traditional culture. Before that, I did a poster for a very colorful Jazz music festival, much like the Japanese prints "Ukiyo-e". Wanting to do something very different for Angouleme, I used the Chinese inkwash technique with very little colors, hoping that you liked it.
Q: What do you think about the polemic concerning the lack of nominations of female artists in the Festival d'Angouleme?
A: I think the sex difference, man, woman, ultimately doesn't matter when facing the interests of the work. It is simply that the works should be interesting.
Q: In which way does the matter of equality (male/female) concerns and/or interest you (or not)?
A: It is true that equality between men and women is not fully implemented in today's world. However, I am speaking purely of creation, and the world of online publishing doesn't pay attention to whether the author is a man or a woman. I have to do works that sell, otherwise the publisher wont publish it. Thus, the criteria for publication does not depend absolutely on sex or color.
Q: Some years ago you adapted a Manga into a live action film. What have you retained from this experience? What are the differences between the Manga and the actual shooting? What are the filmmakers that have inspired you?
A: I love live-action films and I can mention plenty of directors I respect, like Akira Kurosawa. When I make a live-action film, I like to mix real life and the fantasy side. That is why I made the film you mentioned, in order to mix the universe of those two worlds. In the old days, it was very difficult to realize this because the computer processes did not allow it. Suddenly, the special effects were very artisanal. Today, with the technological advances, we can absolutely make extraordinary special effects. I am very interested in that today and if I should give you other names of classic Japanese film directors apart from Kurosawa, I would mention Yasaujiro Ozu or also Shohei Imamura. I love all the classic directors that you certainly also know.
Q: To stay on the cinematographic side: How was the transition from solitary profession of designer to team work as director of Akira? What were the challenges? How do you write a movie without revealing the end of the Manga?
A: It may seem a little strange, but when I draw only for my Manga, it makes me want to work for the cinema, which is a collective work, and when I work on a cinematographic project, it makes me want to go back to my solitary work. When I started to work on the animated version of Akira, I had not finished my Manga, but I had already drawn the end of the story. The most important constraint was the duration of the film, because it was necessary that I tell it all in 2 hours, so I didn't do everything I wanted. That is why only after the completion of the film, when I took up the manga, I took a long time to do all that I had not been able to do in the film.
Q: You say you don't know too many contemporary comic authors but in particular I think you were working with Moebius on a project that was aborted called Airtight Garage. Could you talk a little about Moebius and your relationship?
A: I absolutely love Moebius' work and it's true we had a common project that was abandoned. We were working on an animated film and we discussed it a lot in Japan with Moebius because I also like other European comic artists like Enki Bilal. In fact, I found out I'm not the only one who enjoys Bande Dessines. In the late 70's and early 80's many people loved European comics and there were people coming to France every two years to check up on the comic scene.
Q: Video games can be considered an art form, same as manga. Would you not want to contribute your touch in this environment, or would you prefer to concentrate uniquely on manga and Japanese animation?
A: Personally, I love video games. I know one mustn't abuse, but I play a lot. But, the video game world has changed dramatically and we invest a lot of money to create video games. The image quality of video games has increased in considerable ways and now high definition 4k is used to create images for video games. It's become extremely complicated for me to go into that environment because it has changed and when I look at the work done, I find it very difficult. I also have a very good friend who is one of the most important people in Bandai-Namco, important society of video games in Japan, who told me that it has become very expensive to produce video games.
Q: Animation techniques have evolved a lot. Has that influenced your way of writing and approaching new projects?
Finally, advanced technology and history have nothing to do with the plot of a film. Even if there is progress, technology doesn't change my way of writing. But it is sure that this technological progress gives me ideas, and it is through this that I have the opportunity to show some sequences. But the technology and the content of a movie are two different things.
Q: Kaneda's bike has become an emblem of Akira. What was the creative process of this bike? What do you think of the excitement around Kaneda?
A: In fact, I intended to mention Kaneda's motorcycle at the Festival d'Angouleme so I don't think I'll talk about it here.