“For “Inu-Ho”, I was inspired by Michael Jackson and Jackie Chan”

He is one of the greatest directors of contemporary animated film. The Japanese Masaaki Yuasa (“Mind Game”, “Lou and the island of the sirens”) offers with “Inu-Ho” a unique musical, to discover this Wednesday on our screens. We met him.

Paris Match. What was the starting point of “Inu-Oh”?
Masaaki Yuasa.
I wanted to stage Noh theater while telling historical facts. I wanted to surprise the public, to discover things they perhaps hadn’t imagined. Young people know that an instrument like the Biwa (a stringed instrument whose origin dates back to the 8th century) exists, but they have no idea what happened in Japan during the period told by the film (the period Kamakura, from 1185 to 1333). “The Tale of the Heike” is a text known by all Japanese. They know that a clan has lost the battle but their knowledge stops there.

The film contains thirty minutes of musical comedy, including a rock concert. How do you imagine such a scenic spectacle?
At the beginning, I didn’t know what form to give to these concerts. I wanted something that could really exist while still being surprising. To design all the details of the choreography, I freed myself from all the historical context to imagine a contemporary scenography. I wanted something extraordinary.

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How did you work with music composer Yoshihide Otomo?
Initially, I wanted to do as for a musical, to order music from the composer and then create images to stick to the music. But Yoshihide Otomo asked me to draw the entire film, imagining the sung parts. From there, he composed a perfect music to stick to the images already created.

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The movie trailer

Would you like to stage a rock opera with actors?
It may not be a project in the near future but why not… I don’t often go to concerts or live shows, to be honest but I love dancing to the music, that moment when you go into a trance .

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How exactly did you work on the choreography? Were you inspired by famous dancers?
Everything inspires me: the movements of Kung fu, the exercises of gymnasts, which I try to make the image more aesthetic. Concretely, I was inspired by the way of dancing of MC Hammer, by the steps of Michael Jackson or the acrobatics of Jackie Chan. I’m not a good dancer and I take other people’s movements as references.

Artists need a protector, like Inu-Ho in the movie

Masaaki Yuasa

How do you work with your animators?
It’s not easy for them to follow my imagination. I am sometimes misunderstood, but we always end up finding compromises (laughs). Surprising the public but above all yourself is something very important to me, especially visually. But there are so many constraints: time is limited, budget is limited. I have to make difficult decisions in relation to my first desires.

Precisely, how does one manage to produce such a UFO in Japan?
This project is a proposal from Asmik Ace Entertainment studio. I always try to do projects that can work commercially but this time, like on “Mind Game”, I had more freedom. I was able to make this film without worrying about commercial receipts. Artists need a protector, like Inu-Ho in the movie. Painters often have patrons, that was the case for me on this project. The ideal would be to work like Pablo Picasso, being the producer of his works. But I’m more like Antoni Gaudi who needed the industrialist Eusebi Güell to work.

How is Japanese animation reserved for an adult audience doing?
There are still a lot of productions reserved for adults, even if the market is of course driven by children and teenagers. Twenty or thirty years ago, it was frowned upon for a Japanese adult to see animated films, this is no longer the case today.

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