Today: April 11, 2024

Director Kenji Kamiya on 009 Re: Cyborg

Shotaro Ishinomori’s iconic manga, Cyborg 009, gets its latest big screen outing this week. Chris Patmore spoke to the anime’s director and writer Kenji Kamiya (Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex) about the challenges of bringing the classic manga to 21st Century audience.

What attracted you this story in the first place?
The original story is over 50 years old, but the fact that the protagonists came from around the world and gathered together and became heroes was a fresh idea. In the US you would have American heroes. In Japan you had Japanese heroes. The fact that people from around the world could join together and be heroes was something new at the time, and something fitting for today’s world. That original continued for 20 or so years in various forms, but the themes of justice and evil were universal.

So you haven’t had to update the story at all for a modern audience?
In the original, Ishinomori tried to … say that people are evil. If the fact that evil would continue as long as people were around… He brought in the idea of gods, and gods trying to destroy human beings, with that huge storyline, but he died before being able to bring that to a conclusion. I wanted to take that incomplete theme and work with what Ishinomori was trying to do, and say that if there is this god that is trying to punish people, would the 009 cyborgs … have to fight against this god, or would they decide to fight against the humans whom the gods had decided were evil? Or would they find some other justice to fight for? I wanted to put that into a film and create a new opportunity for people to come and see 009. That was the biggest reason for creating it.

Won’t the religious aspect alienate some of the audience that just want to see robots fighting?
I think that people who are familiar with the original work will understand what I am trying to do. Some people who come to 009 for the first time might find it difficult and might not like those religious nuances, but I felt that we had to wrap up that theme that Ishinomori had started with, before any other writer could work with 009. We used that as a slogan for the Japanese film, “We can’t start until we finish”. Until that theme is dealt with, we couldn’t move forward. I imagine some fans will feel uncomfortable with it, but I’ll be happy if they understand a bit of the background history of the series in Japan.

Japan is one of the last bastions of 2D line animation, and yet you chose to 3D CGI. Can you tell us about why you chose this method?
Firstly, there’s a change in the world of anime in Japan. The animators working in 2D animation are getting older, and there are fewer and fewer of them, and also fewer people who want to work in 2D. We wanted to keep the 2D look, but use 3D. There are things that 3D CG are good at, such as objects and rotating objects, and things that 2D is good at, which is the characters. This gave us the opportunity to maintain the strengths of both. It gives people around the world what they expect from anime, which is the 2D look, but uses 3D at the same time.

009 Re: Cyborg opens in UK cinemas on 7th June.


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