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Countdown to DYRL BD — 1984 Interview with Shoji Kawamori from Animage booklet: “Minmay: Ai Miemashita ka”

An oldie but a goodie.

As we await anxiously the release of Macross Do You Remember Love on Blu-Ray — and with all the, er, controversy that surrounds this —  let us take the time to recall some words from co-director Shoji Kawamori, which he shared with the editorial of Animage just a few months after the original release of the film in Japan.  To fans, the findings may seem a touch interesting…

Note: The title of the feature is “Macross Seminar”.   There is one more installment in a later booklet that I may eventually translate also.  This should not be confused with the “Super Dimension Seminar” currently airing on Tokyo MX television, there is no relation whatsoever.

“Macross Seminar: Exceeding the limits of the prototype”

Interview with Shoji Kawamori — from “Minmay: Ai Miemashita ka Book”, supplement to October 1984 issue of Animage; translated by Renato Rivera.


The significance of “no explanations”

AM: What was the intention behind the outright omission of elements like the launch of the Macross, or Minmay’s debut, etc.?  It seems like there are many people who did not understand the overall situation.

Kawamori: It’s because those things have no bearing on the plot; at the very least, they are not connected with the themes in the narrative.
For example, if we explain the background of the war, there is a danger of it looking as if it is “a story about war”, which it isn’t — it is a story centred on human drama.

AM: Even so, I think there could have been some brief on-screen text describing the events up until this point.

SK: Those types of “explanatory text” scenes have become a cliche and I didn’t want to do anything that had become orthodox.  I wanted to go against this trend in recent anime of over-explaining things.  It may seem “unkind”, and in a way, I suppose it did end up being an “unkind” film.
However, one doesn’t make movies to explain everything.  If people want explanations you can write the themes or stories on a piece of paper and just hand them to someone.  I believe that movies are, at the end of the day, meant for “feeling” the drama which is being expressed.
Also, as far as those who watched the TV series are concerned, the more situational explanations you put in, the more they will be conscious that “oh the story is different to the TV show”.  Due to that, they will gradually lose focus of the essence of the story.  That was what was most worrisome for me. You could say that in order to get people to concentrate on the parts which I wanted them to see, I needed to discard the unnecessary parts.

AM: In making this movie, where did you place the point of view?  Was it centred on Minmay or was it Misa, I think that part is not very clear.

SK: I focused on Hikaru, Misa and Minmay equally.  The lead character, that is, the main thematic focal point, is Minmay, but she is not the main focal point in terms of viewpoints.  If this was a hero-style story, then you would need to put the viewpoint on one single character, but this is not the only way to tell a story.  For instance, does “2001: A Space Odyssey” take only one point of view?  No, it doesn’t — rather, the “monolith” is carrying the story thread along.
In this movie, the relations between the three characters itself, plus the music, are what carry the story, and thus it is constructed so that the points of view are equal between all three characters.

Questions regarding the last scene

AM: In the scene just before the song, “Do You Remember Love”, Hikaru slaps Minmay.  He was angry at Minmay’s line that “I don’t care if everyone apart from us dies!”  But if one thinks about it, that is a typical way of thinking for a girl in love.  In the storyboard, we can see the word “selfish”, but is it really so?

SK: The premise is that Minmay became a singer even against the will of her parents.  For this, I believe she has to take some responsibility. If she cannot do that, then she is nothing but a child.  By singing here, Minmay is taking one more step towards becoming an adult.

AM: What were Minmay’s feelings as she sang “Do You Remember Love”?  From the format, we assume that she has cast aside her feelings for Hikaru and has awoken to living as a singer…

SK: Her independence as a singer is certainly a big part.  Without that, I think she would not have sung.  But I doubt she could so easily cast aside her feelings for Hikaru.  It’s best to think of it as her trying to cast them aside.  I think she was singing with a combination of a feeling of parting with her fascination with the world that Hikaru represented, feelings of regret, and obviously feelings of sadness due to her loss of Hikaru.

AM: In the final scene, Minmay and Misa exchange smiles.  Do two women who have fought over the same man really end up all smiles like this?

SK: If Minmay didn’t have the song, then it would not have been that way.  Essentially, she loved song as much as she did Hikaru.  This is where Minmay and Misa realized that they both live in separate worlds.

AM: Even though you say they understood each other in the end, I am still left with the sense of pity for Minmay.

SK: The flipside of that sense of pity is that without it, she could never have become a star.  If we think about it as a typical love triangle, maybe Minmay is pitiable. But if we think about it from the perspective of a singer, she has now moved onto a higher level, so that is not pitiful at all.

AM: So, in the end, were Minmay’s feelings for Hikaru actually love?

SK: Rather than Hikaru, what Minmay was fascinated with was her own everyday life itself. Like being infatuated with infatuation.  After they were separated, and later reunited, she misunderstood her own feelings towards Hikaru as love.

AM: As director, how would you describe the theme of this movie?

SK: If you are born in a different environment, then your growth process will also be different. When many young people from such different backgrounds come together, can they manage to overcome those differences and come together as one?  You may be fascinated by some aspects of another person’s world, while at the same time wanting to rebel against other parts of it — it is by using this growth from Minmay’s idol status to star status as the main thread that I intended to depict the relationship between Minmay, Misa and Hikaru.
The worlds which individual people inhabit are not as close as one may think.  Even if people speak Japanese as a common language, there are still breakdowns in communication.  In order to get past this, firstly we must start by acknowledging that our worlds are different.  Basically, Minmay and Misa have just taken their first step towards that.  So I don’t think Minmay should be pitied.  The three of them now understood each other on a level other than love.

AM: There is one thing I really wanted to ask for a while.  Can we infer that Misa and Hikaru “got together” when on Earth?

SK: If I hadn’t shown it that way, then afterwards when Hikaru, Minmay and Misa meet again, Hikaru would not have picked Misa.  After that, when they return to the Macross, and Hikaru hears Minmay’s song on the street, that’s when he makes up his mind.

The Lost Ending

AM: Before the ending credits, there is a scene where Minmay is counting “One, two, three, four…” and I thought it strange that it felt a little too long.

SK: That impression can probably be put down to the limits of the animation medium. Basically, it was too much to put into an animated screen.  That length was, in terms of “enshutsu” [“performance” — Japanese animation industry lingo for the way the characters and objects act, to give the desired emotional effect in the viewer -Renato] the minimum number of seconds needed to render that scene. It’s meant to be cathartic. Then there is the scene where she smiles at Misa — in that case is it 100 percent catharsis? No, it’s not.  In that scene, she realizes that her world is one where she must continue to live as a singer, and in order to depict that realization across, I decided that that was the amount of time the movie needed.  Perhaps there is not enough on screen to back that up.

AM: Is it the stage of the Macross where Minmay is counting?

SK: Rather than a specific place, the scene is supposed to convey one step inside her own heart. The galaxy-like lights that you see in the background represent the infinite possibilities in her future.  Her counting is her way of preparing for that, getting her heart ready. The length is representative of the long journey ahead for her to reach that, so if you feel it is long, it’s because I purposely wanted it to feel a little long.  If you didn’t interpret it that way, then that is just down to my lack of skill.

AM: If there had been something like a representation of Minmay’s future during the ending credits then the intention behind the scene would have been better understood.

SK: Actually, in the storyboarding stage, I did intend to put images during the ending.  It was a Minmay concert on Earth two years later.  Hikaru and Misa are there, watching over, as well as humans and Zentradi and Meltrandi.  It was ultimately cut due to budget and time constraints.

AM: I’m sure that if that scene had appeared, then the waiting, or rather, the impression that the counting scene was too long would have been less strong.

SK: But there is one danger there: that you end up limiting Minmay’s possible futures to just one. In that sense, I think it is better left as it is.

“Hmmm…. 40% + alpha”

AM: Now, having finished making the movie, how would you rate yourself?

SK: If you’re talking about my rating towards my own skill rather than the movie itself, then I would say 40/100, plus alpha.  I am confident I pushed the limits of the prototype. But there are parts where it is clear that I failed, so I cannot give a better than average score.

AM: Will there ever be a “Macross 2″?

SK: No, I don’t want to be concerned with Macross forever, plus in my mind, the story is done. I am not sure what kind of work I will be involved in from here on in, but I would like to continue working in animation, and I would like to put my true effort into it.  The “enshutsu” [“performances”] within animation have become somewhat formulaic and I want to break all that down.

AM: Lastly, do you have anything you want to say to those who watched the movie?

SK: Movies are things which last, so I would like for people to re-watch the movie again in a few years. I would be happy if they discover some new things about it when they do.
(Incidentally, the version of Minmay in the included poster is supposed to be the image of her, two years later, as drawn by Haruhiko Mikimoto.)