Kenshi Yonezu & Daisuke Igarashi - Children of the Sea

CotS Official, June 2nd, 2019 (Original Article)

The First Testimony About "Children of the Sea"

Daisuke Igarashi, the original creator of the world and story of Children of the Sea, and Kenshi Yonezu, who wrote the theme song for the Children of the Sea film. These two - who happened to meet due to their participation in the Louvre's special 2016 exhibition "Louvre No. 9 ~Manga, the Ninth Art~" - had a dialogue while visiting the "Big Sagami Bay Tank" at New Enoshima Aquarium, one of the locales featured in Children of the Sea. Fragments that surround Children of the Sea, calmly floating toward a place that swirls with the presence of sea life. A mixture of footprints that circles around with the passage of time reflects the sparkle of film more brilliantly than ever.

Children of the Sea and the Two's Meeting

— It seems you two are having a long-awaited reunion.

Yonezu: That we are. I guess it's been just about 2 years since we last met.

Igarashi: Is it that long already? But right, it was after Louvre No. 9, after all.

Yonezu: We first met at a private viewing of Louvre No. 9, and went out for a meal once afterward. I've been a fan for a long time, so I remember just how happy I was.

— What was your encounter with Igarashi's works like, Yonezu?

Yonezu: I think it was when I was 18 or so. I encountered them at a bookstore after leaving my hometown in Tokushima for Osaka. Living normally in my hometown, I'd never encounter any outstanding culture, so I was moved to tears by the large bookstores in the city. It was a time when I seeped in it, feeling the need to absorb everything. Among it all, Igarashi-san's manga shocked me, to think there was someone who drew this art and this world like I'd never seen before. Also, there was this time when I just normally bought one of Igarashi-san's art books, and there was a handwritten autograph on the last page. The one I unknowingly picked up just happened to be a signed copy... The city is amazing, I thought to myself.

— And the manga in question was...

Yonezu: None other than Children of the Sea. There was a moment in my youth where I aspired to be a manga artist, but that faint dream of mine was blown away in an instant. I received a serious blow - however much time I spent, I thought, I could never reach up to this.

— Igarashi, what was your first encounter with Yonezu's music?

Igarashi: I hardly listen to any music normally, so I'm not engaged in new stuff. As such, my start was the song for Louvre No. 9, and listening to the CD I received from him when we met. I wonder how I should say it? It felt very "now." Then after that, seeing his work continuously expand through the world, I was like "wooow, ehhh?, huhhh..." (laughs) I don't watch much TV myself these days, but my wife got into the show Unnatural, and we watched it together a few times. The show itself was very interesting, but Yonezu-san's theme song Lemon playing at the end was always very striking. I thought, ah, this song is the plate on which the show rests. Like it's showing the landing point for the themes the show is trying to portray. The construction of the characters has parts that stand out in a manga-like way, but with Lemon placed over it, it comes together with a feel of "this is a story about us right now." I thought it was really something.

— Between your viewpoint on life, your aboriginal impression, and your expression of physicality without words, I feel your two worldviews overlap in places. Have you been conscious of that?

Yonezu: I don't know about that myself, but I think if you feel that way, then it is what it is, and now that you mention, maybe so. I mean, I was super influenced by him.

Igarashi: If there is something common between us, I'm very happy about it. But in Yonezu-san's songs, he always wears different expressions in each song, yet every one feels like it's somehow getting up close to you. There's a pointed essence, of course, but at the root is a bountiful and gentle glance looking at others. And I think that's something my works don't have, so I'm more inclined to say it's that difference which deeply interests me.

— Igarashi, I heard you also went to see Yonezu's tour at Yokohama Arena.

Igarashi: That's right. When you experience the artistic expression of someone who makes things filled with feeling, doesn't it stimulate your own creative desires? I felt a huge impact there, and above all, the performance was overpowering and vivid. I actually wanted to go say hi to you that day and talk about my thoughts and things, but I had to refrain, since the flu happened to be going around at my kid's school, and I was worried something might come up. But thank you very much for that. Also, the venue was filled with the fans' love for Yonezu-san, and it made me feel happy too. Across the board, it was a truly good experience.

Yonezu: I'm very happy myself that you came to watch.

Igarashi: Were the artwork and other effects at the show conceived with you in the center, Yonezu-san? Things like the drummers coming out and the set design were really great.

Yonezu: We have meetings about what to do for the next concert where the concept for it gets inflated. This time, I threw a few things out there, like "what if it's like we're assembling a mass game or a marching band on stage?" From there, we all work together and figure out how to implement it in practice.

Igarashi: I see. So you weave it together as a team. Well, you know, it sure seemed like a lot of fun. Past making the music, you have concerts, and furthermore you work with lots of people to build up a stage - to raise it as your own, maybe you could say. Meanwhile, a mangaka... well, at least speaking for myself, I do most of the work alone. So I do admire seeing many people coming together to assemble something.

Yonezu: Yeah, it is fun. But actually, I've also done lots of self-contained solo works in the past, so at the same time I feel the difficulty of having a lot of people involved.

Children of the Sea and Primal Scenery

— Yonezu, what did you find captivating about the Children of the Sea manga?

Yonezu: First off, the power that radiates from the art is incredible. I'm sure I feel this even moreso because I'm soneone who's just dabbled in art a little, but just the feeling of the lines, it doesn't feel like something I could achieve in a day. Even the rawer images are beautiful, and Igarashi-san's observing eye can be seen all over the place - you can get a sense of him understanding all the subjects in a neutral way. ...Though now I'm feeling like, "what am I even saying in front of the man himself?" Also, regarding the story and the worldview, I felt my own vision being expanded by them. Between "before I read this manga" and "after I read this manga," my world changed; it made me think, what a cramped world I'd been living in until now. It also felt like I was being scolded somehow. The world is very abundant, and the things happening in this story surely exist somewhere on Earth - that's what it made me think.

Igarashi: I'm truly grateful you took to it in such a way. I think manga is something that mixes together with the things the reader has seen and experienced, and becomes complete within the reader. So the reason you felt that way can be none other than your own world being abundant, I think.

— With this story being set in the sea, what is the sea to both of you?

Yonezu: My hometown was close to the sea, so it was familiar to me. Though it was more of a harbor than a beach, so I didn't swim in the sea often. My view of the sea is always accompanied by a sense of "scariness." In this sea creature encyclopedia I saw in grade school, among the deep-sea pages, there was a picture of a giant squid seen from the ocean floor extending its tentacles toward prey, which really scared me. It must have been quite a shock to my child mind, since I can't forget that picture and my fear of it, and it sometimes appears in my dreams still. The sea isn't an environment where humans can live, yet I have dreams of being tossed into it, unable to move and struggling. So to me, the sea is a subject of fear. And sea creatures... Fish and mollusks have a very different form and ecology from humans, yet their eyes alone are a shape clearly identifiable as eyes. When I see that, I get this feeling of "we're watching everything you do."

Igarashi: Meanwhile, I was born in beachless Saitama, so the sea didn't even enter my consciousness in ordinary life. It wasn't close enough for me to feel fear, but that doesn't mean I admired it either. So I only came into contact with the sea once I'd grown to a certain degree. Even when I started drawing Children of the Sea, I was living in the mountains. But whenever I went to the beach on vacation or whatnot... you can just sit there and watch the waves breaking onto the shore forever, can't you?

Yonezu: You sure can.

Igarashi: The movement, the sounds, everything about it draws you in. Those are the sorts of things that captivated me. Also, I guess another impetus was being stricken by the difference between mountain culture and seaside culture. I lived in Iwate prefecture at the time, and there are some wonderful kagura traditions passed down in the mountains, which were carried from there to various other regions. And beyond that, they arrived at the seaside. Once that happened, despite being the same kagura at the roots, the mood was totally different between when it was in the mountains and when it arrived at the seaside. Seaside kagura looked like it had a more liberated mood, and I found that difference interesting. In fact, I started to think that after living near the sea for a while, your very senses and way of looking at things would start to change. That piqued my interest. As a result, I came to live near the sea. And thus, it wasn't untiil after I finished drawing Children of the Sea that I actually came in frequent contact with the sea. And it was only last year that I became able to go snorkeling at a depth my legs couldn't reach down to.

Yonezu: That's surprising.

Igarashi: So the fun of the sea, and the scariness of being unable to breathe, are now finally starting to feel real to me.

— I feel the scariness of the sea is one of the essences of Children of the Sea, yet for you it's only recently become real.

Igarashi: That's right. In truth, if we're talking about scariness, forests and mountains have their own unique horrors, and when writing Children of the Sea, it felt like I was building it by replacing those horrors with things from the sea. In the mountains, there might be bears on trees or in bushes. You feel like you're being cautious in all directions.

Yonezu: Yeah, hearing that about you making replacements, it makes a lot of sense. Actually, I'd say I'm more of a mountainous person too, or at least, my memories of running around playing are in the mountains. So maybe I felt not just fear toward the sea you portrayed, but some kind of nostalgia. My grandma and grandpa's house is in the mountains of Shikoku. There's even a valley, or rather, a mountain stream, so I used to play in the river.

Igarashi: Ahh, how nice.

Yonezu: It was a ton of fun to jump into it from slightly high up.

Igarashi: Right. Yonezu-san, you really do come off as bountiful.

Children of the Sea and Ghost of the Sea

— About the theme song written for this film, Ghost of the Sea. Yonezu, how did you haul in this song?

Yonezu: I struggled a fair bit. I felt I had to create something that could stand as equal with the original's charm. The music I make is pop music, and as Igarashi-san so kindly put it earlier, I've always valued the feeling of nestling close to the person listening. But I wondered if that would be right for this. If I'm trying to express the style of the original work, would that approach work out? That said, it's not like, for instance, Zen music would be good either.

Igarashi: So it was more or less about what kind of distance to keep with the work.

Yonezu: That's it. While letting it be my own music, what sort of distance should I keep from the original work? I went on a journey searching for exactly that. What I had as my axis were scenes that have stuck with me deeply ever since I first read the manga. To be specific, there's an anecdote in the first volume about ghosts and chairs. It's just a single panel of a chair on the shore, though - really a very tiny scene compared to the whole grand story.

Igarashi: It certainly is a small scene. I mean, even I sort of forgot about it. (laughs) When your song was finished and I heard it, I recalled it like "Ah! This is..." Really, like you scooped up a little droplet.

Yonezu: A single chair sitting on the shore... For some reason, this image always stuck with me. I realized I could write it based around this, and so I worked from there.

— Igarashi, what impressions did you get from this song?

Igarashi: First, when I heard Yonezu-san would be making the theme song, I thought "ahh, so that was an option." As a matter of fact, when it was decided this work would be made into a film, I also worried a bit that the end result might be seen in a mythical way. If that happened, the people watching the film would feel it was distanced from "now," and I wanted to avoid that. In practice, though, director Ayumu Watanabe's talent produced something where you could feel the characters' breathing. Still, I thought that if it had Yonezu-san's song as a final piece, there could be nothing more wonderful. With Yonezu-san, even if it had a mythical impression, surely he'd show the landing point for this story of "now," and convey it with care to the people of "now." And then, the song that he produced was even more fantastic than I imagined, so I just thought "yep, this is it." I believe it's the only song fit for this film.

Yonezu: That means a lot to me.

Igarashi: It also feels like your impression changes when you listen to it on loop, so I earnestly feel "how nice" about it. It's constructed with an orchestral performance, and the thickness of the sound is incredible. Do you use orchestras often?

Yonezu: No, this is actually my first time using orchestra. I had a meeting with a classical musician my age.

Igarashi: Then it also served as the impetus for that meeting. Even I'm awfully happy about that.

— The jacket illustration for Ghost of the Sea was done by Igarashi.

Yonezu: It's truly an honor.

Igarashi: (Comparing with a few colored rough drafts) I drew a number of rough versions like this to eventually make the finished product.

Yonezu: Whoa, amazing. I can't say anything but "amazing." My chest is heating up. It's trite, but I'd like you to have taught me when I was 18.

Igarashi: But Yonezu-san, you normally handle your own jacket artwork, don't you?

Yonezu: That's right. This is my first time having someone else draw it.

Igarashi: Right. So while I was drawing it, I was thinking "Is he fine with it being me? Maybe it'd be better if Yonezu-san drew it."

Yonezu: No, no, no, no. Don't be ridiculous.

Igarashi: In that way, I thought a lot about the distance between myself and the song. It was my first time doing artwork for a song, so I had to sort of gauge a neutral distance. I want to not limit my ideas and expand outward, but it'd be bad if I went too far off, so what should I do? I agonized over it like that. Listening to Ghost of the Sea the whole time, I drew a bunch of things, and ultimately settled on the image of "footprints" and "a ghost." Although, I think this art has more of a night mood, and when you listen to the song, you probably picture an empty beach during the day, so I feel like I couldn't keep it in line at all. Thus I thought, "maybe I'll have Yonezu-san draw a day version." (laughs) But really, I would like to see that too.

Children of the Sea, Made Into Film

— What did you think of the finally complete Children of the Sea film?

Yonezu: The initial video I received to write the song had the art mostly done, but no sound. It was the version with the director's voice saying the dialogue.

Igarashi: Ah, that was a fun version too.

Yonezu: Yeah, yeah. Even at that stage, I thought the art was amazing, but the other day, I was able to see the first screening with all the sound. With the addition of that element, it felt like the world stood up all at once, and I got goosebumps. At first, when I heard this work would be made into an animated film, I certainly had thoughts like "is that going to be possible?" But it turned out to be a really beautiful film. In scenes like the one where Sora glows more and more, the sound and art are so vivid, and I felt "ahh, this is something only animation can accomplish."

Igarashi: Yes, honestly, it's amazing animation. You feel like you're being swallowed up. The use of sound and music in the presentation especially is an element not in the manga, so it's very exciting.

— Studio 4°C produced quite the intense film.

Yonezu: I've always loved Studio 4°C; I saw Tekkonkinkreet and Genius Party, and I've liked the members Tatsuyuki Tanaka-san and Koji Morimoto-san ever since I was a teen. So Studio 4°C handling a manga by Igarashi-san is the tag-team of my dreams.

Igarashi: Ahaha. I also like the works you just named, and Masaaki Yuasa-san's Mind Game, so it was a great honor to have Studio 4°C make it. Also, Kenichi Konishi-san (originally from Studio Ghibli, animation director on The Tale of Princess Kaguya et al.) was taken on as the general art director for this, and I just knew he would pour intense passion into this. I came to take a look numerous times during development, and every time I did, the quality of the art was something tremendous. Even a single depiction of a beach is packed full of the difficulty and wonder of animation. Knowing the unparalleled attention to detail that was taken, as an artist myself, I truly bow my head to them.

— What were your thoughts on the movie wrapping up and your own song playing over the credits?

Yonezu: Even when I was watching the first screening, as it approached the finale, I got really tense wondering "is my song going to be played here?" It's a little embarrassing, honestly. Even I think "dang, what a good song it turned out to be," and I'm conceited about that, but when I heard it actually play, I was taken aback. It's not about it being my first theme song for a movie under the name Kenshi Yonezu, because I had that experience for Fireworks with DAOKO-chan (theme song for "Do You View Fireworks From Below, Or From the Side?"), so it's not really the first. But I mean, sure enough, I broke into this weird sweat.

Igarashi: Hmm, so that's what it's like. But it's a truly wonderful song, so I'd like to hear it in a big theater with a good echo.

Yonezu: When you hear music in a large theater, it feels like your whole body's bathing in it, so I'd like to get a taste of that soon.

— What stimuli did you get from the opportunity that was this Children of the Sea film, and do you feel it'll have any bearing on your own future works?

Igarashi: Having my work turned into an animated movie has been a good opportunity to think about the difference between films and manga. I've always admired the freedom possible only in films or possible only in music, and have found myself thinking my manga lacks those sorts of freedoms. But in all the thinking I've been doing lately, I've have the chance to notice that manga's lack of freedom produces its own "freedom unique to manga." Films are a medium where the creators can control time, but in manga, the passage of time is left to the reader. Manga stands still for the reader. It's interesting how I was able to become conscious of that abundance, and I'm planning to treasure and keep those things in mind.

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