The main attraction of New York Comic Con for me was the coming of visionary director Makoto Shinkai, known for 5 Centimeters Per Second and Voices of a Distant Star. So, I was understandably excited when I was approved for an interview. The original schedule was to be me with a a group of four other outlets for a half hour, then they decided to combine all the interviewers into one big block and have ten people speak with Shinkai for a full hour. However, many of the outlets didn’t show up. The few that did just took off when they learned that video wasn’t allowed. I understand those who only release video to be upset that they can’t record but…we’re talking about a chance to speak with Makoto Shinkai! Even if I wasn’t allowed to publish anything, if I was sworn to secrecy for the rest of my life…you get a chance to speak with one of the best animation directors currently working in Japan.
In the end only two of us sat down with Shinkai-san and my fellow interviewer asked only three questions in the half hour session. SoIbasically had a one-on-one with Makoto Shinkai for over twenty minutes. I wanted to prepare some questions that wouldn’t be wasting my opportunity. I figured everyone would be asking him questions about starting as an independent animator or his love of clouds. I wanted to ask him specific questions about his films. So I came up with as many specific questions as I could about the film I know best: 5 Centimeters Per Second. I didn’t expect to ask all of them. I couldn’t have been more lucky with the way things turned out.
When the interview wrapped and I asked to take a photo, the one at the start of this post. Shinkai agreed then offered to take one with me, which I eagerly accepted. Before we parted I told him I was looking forward to seeing his new film the next day, explaining that I missed the screening in Baltimore. He hoped that I would enjoy it. That evening I saw the excellent panel where Roland Kelts interviewed Shinkai in the official panel, which can be read about on ANN or seen here. After getting so close to Shinkai and asking him my specific questions it was good to get a well rounded view of the man. It backed up my impression of him, which I’ll cover at the end.
The next day I got to the con early so I could get a seat for Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below which was a beautiful film, to say the least. After the film Shinkai held an autograph session at the Bandai booth and another stroke of luck hit. I bought a copy of 5 Centimeters Per Second and said I’d like to get it signed. The cashier asked if I had a ticket which I did not, they had been given out early in the morning. A guy standing next to me said he had an extra, he grabbed one but had never seen a Shinkai film! I was so grateful and wanted to give him something so I handed him $5 and got in line. When I reached Shinkai he seemed excited to see me and thanked me for coming out. I told him I saw the film and that it was beautiful. He asked if I enjoyed it. I said, “Very much.” He shook my hand and said, “Yesterday when we spoke I had fun.” To which I returned a humbled thank you and told him that the honor was completely mine.
My impression of the man was complete in that moment. Throughout the weekend I got the feeling that he was truly humbled when people enjoy his work. During his introduction of “Lost Voices” he told the audience, “If you like the movie it’d make me really happy!” (which he said in English) and I get the sense that was a completely sincere statement. Shinkai loves making animation and even more he loves when people enjoy his work. I hope the crowd that came out to see him at New York Comic Con gave him reason to continue creating exceptional works of art.
You can read my interview with Makoto Shinkai over at Otaku in Review.