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– by Gig Patta

The fireworks aren’t over yet this week.

GKIDS premiered the Japanese animated film Fireworks in select theaters this weekend.

Fireworks is a star-crossed teenage love story with a sci-fi fantasy twist. Shy Norimichi and fast-talking Yusuke, are goo-goo-eyed over the same elusive classmate, Nazuna. But Nazuna, unhappy over her mother’s decision to remarry and leave their countryside town, plans to run away and has secretly chosen Norimichi to accompany her. When things don’t go as planned, Norimichi discovers that a glowing multi-color ball found in the sea has the power to reset the clock and give them a second chance to be together. But each reset adds new complications and takes them farther and farther away from the real world – until they risk losing sight of reality altogether.

LRM reached out to producer Genki Kawamura via e-mail to discuss this remarkable Japanese anime. Kawamura has produced well known Japanese animes including Attack on Titan, Parasyte and Your Name.

Fireworks is currently released in theaters today.

Read our translated question and answer conversation below.

LRM: Why were you attracted to this project for Fireworks? How did this project come to fruition?

Genki Kawamura: I’ve been a producer for live action movies such as “Confessions (Kokuhaku)” and “Villain (Akunin)”. And after that, I started working on animated movies, like “Wolf Children” and “The Boy and The Beast” with director Mamoru Hosoda, and “Your Name” with director Makoto Shinkai. I am always attentive to bring my way of thinking for making live action films to animated films, and blending the thought processes of live action and animation.

When I work with chief director Akiyuki Shinbo, whose particular animation style is best seen in his works “The Monogatari Series (Bakemonogatari)” and “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, I thought if we remade a live action film as animation, it would be a new type of animated film.

I’ve been a fan of the original drama by director Shunji Iwai. As his work captured this beautiful moment of youth, I thought that it would be impossible to remake it as a live action film. But, thought I may be able to rebuild the story in animation, because of my experience in animation with directors Mamoru Hosoda and Makoto Shinkai. I thought I might be able to depict this shining moment of youth by using the power of animation.

Fireworks is originally a short film, so there was a process to bring it to feature length. The first half is faithful to the original, and more graphic and realistic. However, the time loop only happens once in the original story. In contrast with the original movie, the time loop repeats again and again, and the world where the main characters live becomes an anomaly like the world of “animation.” It’s a “utopia” in their head. Every time the time loop occurs, the world becomes more animated, fantasy-like, and two dimensional. This directorial technique was brought up by director Shinbo when he imagined this story as animation, in a way that only animation could accomplish. Then the screenwriter Ohne wrote the “continuation” of the original story. I think the way this movie was made, switching between live-action and animation, is what made this work so unique.

LRM: Describe the collaboration between directors.

Genki Kawamura: We tried to accurately recreate the Japanese summer, and the freshness of the scenery that was captured in the original work through the art of animation. I actually visited the shooting location of the original piece, and took pictures of the summer scenery there, which I then carefully drew. One of the best parts of animating from a live-action work was depicting the scenery in the movie.

The integration of the realistic CG art and the characters by Cel-shading, is one characteristic of the animation expression in this film. This technique was originally used by chief director Shinbo and director Takeuchi in “The Monogatari Series”. We succeeded to integrate the realistic scenes expressed by CG with the characters by Cel shading beautifully. Since I fell in love with the art style of “The Monogatari Series”, and I also offered director Shinbo to work on this film, this technique has been adopted into Fireworks.

LRM: How was the music developed for the movie?

Genki Kawamura: We had Satoru Kosaki compose the score for “The Monogatari Series”. He provided music that is very fresh. In addition to this, we did some experimenting with the music. We used the song “Forever Friends,” which is a signature song of the original live action drama, to see how the perspective and feeling would be if we used the same song from the original live action drama in this animated movie.

Above all, I think the theme song “Uchiage Hanabi (Fireworks)” performed by DAOKO x Kenshi Yonezu determined the atmosphere of this movie.

I’ve been a music producer with DAOKO since her debut. She debuted when she was 17, so it’s already been four years. Because I could see her talent developing while I worked with her closely, I chose her song as the theme song. The director Shinbo is a fan of hers as well, and that was one of the main reasons why I chose her.

I thought it was ideal if the song was like a dialogue between a boy and a girl, along with the story of the movie. Both DAOKO and Kenshi Yonezu found fame from the internet, and I was confident that the perspective of the movie and synergy would occur between DAOKO and Kenshi Yonezu performing the dialogue between a boy and a girl. As a result, the song became a smash hit, and the music video constructed from clips from the movie has over 150 million views. I think this song has been heard all over the world.

LRM: What was the most difficult thing on this project?

Genki Kawamura: The most difficult thing was to transform the live-action and short film, into a feature animation. But I believe that contributed to the uniqueness of this movie.

LRM: What’s the next projects for the studio and everybody?

Genki Kawamura: For me, “Mirai” that I worked on with director Mamoru Hosoda, has been completed and is about to open now. The movie was positively received at the director’s fortnight of Cannes Film Festival. I think the movie is Hosoda’s new frontier.

This year, I established STORY Inc. which is an animation planning company, and I’m preparing for projects with about five Japanese animation directors of the next generation. The latest work of director Makoto Shinkai is one of the projects.

LRM: Where do you think that time ball came from?

Genki Kawamura: The “If-sphere” came from the original piece by director Shunji Iwai. The time loops happen again and again in the movie which is different from the original, and the “If-Ball” was created as the devise for it. Though this is an underlying setting, the town was hit by the 2011 Tōhoku earthwuake and tsunami disaster. The location where the original drama was shot was devastated in 2011. The thoughts of the people who died in the disaster (including Nazuna’s father): thoughts like, “if we didn’t die,” accumulated in the ocean, and the sphere was made out of it, then it washed up on the shore, so the setting of the animated film is that the ball makes Nazuna, who picked it up, see a “what-if” world.”

Fireworks is currently released in theaters today.

Source: LRM Online Exclusive

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.