(Interview) ‘Suzume’s Lockdown’ director Makoto Shinkai “Why is it a hit in Korea?”

[뉴스토마토 김재범 기자] Once in Korea, Japanese animation was a kind of ‘cult culture’ centered on maniacs. Rather than having a comprehensive popularity, it has been regarded as the exclusive property of some deeply immersed maniacs. From the 1980s to the 1990s, titles from the so-called ‘Japanimation’ era. That was the position of Japanese animation that had been consumed in the domestic market. And since the 2000s, the era of the so-called ‘deokhu’, Japanese animation took a place in that era. Of course, the meaning of examining how the aspect of consumption was done was melted into the word ‘deokhu’ that penetrates this era. That’s why the popularity of Japanese animation being consumed in theaters in 2023 is more surprising than ever. ‘The First Slam Dunk’, which created a syndrome in domestic theaters at the beginning of this year, and ‘Suzume’s Door Lock’ inherited the syndrome. In particular, ‘Suzume’s Door Lock’ is a new film directed by Makoto Shinkai, the director of ‘Your Name.’ He has been garnering attention as the next global star in the Japanese animation industry. Even the fans who like him tilted their heads when he made an ambitious promise that he would return to Korea when he reached 3 million viewers, presenting a box office record that surpassed his previous film ‘Your Name.’ However, currently ‘Suzume’s Door Lock’ has surpassed 5 million viewers and is currently making progress at the box office. And director Shinkai Makoto, who proudly made a promise, came to Korea again to keep that promise.

Directed by Makoto Shinkai. Photo = Media Castle Co., Ltd.

Director Makoto Shinkai, who returned to Korea at the end of last month, was surprised even by himself. First of all, he was grateful and surprised that his promise had been fulfilled. Above all, he said he was very curious about why this movie was so popular in Korea and why young Koreans liked and loved it. His promise to come back when it exceeds 3 million was made at the time when he received a box office record of 5 million, which doubled. Of course, the timing was also accomplished in a timely manner that exceeded expectations.

“I didn’t expect that so many Korean audiences would like it in such a short amount of time. I was wondering if Koreans would enjoy watching it because it depicts a disaster that happened 12 years ago in Japan. The previous film, ‘Your Name.’ Even now, in fact, I want to ask why Koreans like this work (laughs)”

It’s a bit of a cautious question, but there are some things that can’t be helped if it fits with the recent domestic atmosphere. Anti-Japanese sentiment has already been a trend since the previous administration. Recently, there is an analysis that the Korean government is focusing on restoring Korea-Japan relations, and in line with that, ‘Suzume’s door crackdown’ was a great success in box office in line with the positive gaze of the so-called ‘Yes Japan’ generation. Regarding this, director Shinkai Makoto made the premise extremely personal, but he honestly conveyed his own point of view.

Directed by Makoto Shinkai. Photo = Media Castle Co., Ltd.

“It seems that I have been making animations for about 20 years. So, since 2004, I have been making works and visiting Korea every time I release a new work. When I look back on the time I went back and forth, the two countries had good times and bad times. Politically, of course. However, regardless of that atmosphere, I have been visiting Korea and communicating with fans every time a work is released. So, it is my point of view that I feel that there is no difference between the two countries, at least in terms of consuming culture and perspective. K-pop is also popular in Japan, and ‘The First Slam Dunk’ is also popular in Korea. I just think of it as responding to and consuming good things and fun things.”

Of course, it has never been formally discussed, nor has it been mentioned. However, fans are wondering what kind of actor director Shinkai Makoto has in mind if ‘Suzume’s Lockdown’ becomes a live-action film. I was curious. First of all, director Makoto Shinkai was very interesting. But his answer was more interesting. Since he started his directing debut as an ‘animation director’, he gave an appropriate answer. He drew the line, ‘He’s not interested in human actors at all’. He himself burst into laughter first.

“I’m really sorry about this (laughs). As an animation director, I’ve never been very interested in human actors. So, I don’t know the actors’ names well, and it’s hard to memorize people’s names except for close acquaintances around me. However, among Korean celebrities, the name I hear the most these days is ‘Ive’. I listen to their hit song ‘I Am’ almost every day. But I don’t know a single member’s name. ha ha ha. sorry.”

Directed by Makoto Shinkai. Photo = Media Castle Co., Ltd.

While this ‘Suzume’s Door Lock’ attracted more than 5 million viewers, the most eye-catching evaluation of the public was that it was ‘inspired beyond animation’. ‘Suzume’s Lockdown’ is an anime. It can also be called ‘comics’ to the general public. However, the drawing, that is, the drawing technique, seemed quite different from the general manga. So the feeling of being close to a live-action movie was strong. So, I wondered if Makoto Shinkai, the director of the new generation representing Japanese animation, had a special secret.

“I don’t think I can give you the answer you were expecting (laughs). In conclusion, there is no new drawing technique that is different from the previous work. Haven’t used anything like that at all. It followed the traditional technique of animation using 24 frames per second. However, while watching ‘Avatar 2’ recently, there are times when I wonder if we (animation) should change to the ‘high frame’ method that uses up to 60 frames per second. However, until now, Japanese animation is still maintaining the old techniques. It might be a special technique.”

I asked director Makoto Shinkai, who follows traditional animation, for a rival. I wondered if the name of director Hayao Miyazaki, the master of Japanese animation, would come out. However, it seemed that the name of a legendary Japanese animation work could come out. However, unexpected words came out of director Makoto Shinkai’s mouth. It was a name that was not expected at all, no, it was a ‘name’.

Directed by Makoto Shinkai. Photo = Media Castle Co., Ltd.

“I have never thought of a rival, but now that I think about what a specific rival is, there is one. I think it’s not another animation work or director, but an internet video. More specifically, I’m talking about TikTok, social media videos, or YouTube shorts videos. The speed and tempo are very fast, so I am trying to include a lot of information so that I do not fall behind when I create my work. There is an opinion that my work is getting faster and faster to tell the story than before, and I think that’s probably why.”

From ‘Weathering Child’ to ‘Your Name.’ to ‘Suzume’s Lockdown’. Director Makoto Shinkai who completed the so-called ‘disaster trilogy’. I wondered if there were plans to draw another disaster story in the future. It took a total of nine years to complete these trilogy. He says that he will, of course, create a new work in the future, and he does not know if he will continue the material as ‘disaster’ even though he is in the process of planning. And he said that he was talking about Japan, where he lived, not about ‘disaster’, and left room to say that he did not know if he had any plans to talk about a new space away from Japan.

Directed by Makoto Shinkai. Photo = Media Castle Co., Ltd.

“Rather than a disaster, I have been talking about the place where I live, namely Japan. Everyone thinks that they encounter an event that will change them greatly in their lives, but for me, the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 was like that. As I translated this incident into a work, I faced an opportunity to look at something inside me. I think I need to go a little further to see if I can find a path that leads to the inner side of others while looking at my own inner side. There are no special plans yet, but what is clear is that the challenge will continue.”

Reporter Kim Jae-beom, specializing in popular culture, [email protected]

This article was finally confirmed and corrected by Kim Jae-beom, head of the Popular Culture Department, in accordance with the News Tomato Reporting Rules and Code of Ethics.

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