A few weeks ago, Mobile Suit Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino spoke to Japan’s Weekly Playboy magazine of the rivalry he feels towards acclaimed anime director Makoto Shinkai’s works. “From my generation’s perspective, you don’t have to go out of your way to make an anime that feels like an introspective novel (‘I novel’),” he said. He also described Shinkai’s works as “stories about a boy and a girl who are always stretching out their hands towards each other,” and said, “And yet the boy’s hand never reaches the girl’s crotch.”
Tomino appeared to be remarking on the lack of adult maturity and perspective in the focal relationships portrayed in Shinkai’s films. He tread similar ground in an interview published in Shueisha’s Weekly Young Jump magazine on Thursday, albeit with rather different phrasing. The interview is a deep dive into Tomino’s perspective on the intersection of art and politics, as well as the issues facing youths today.
Note: This article contains spoilers for Weathering With You.
According to Tomino, today’s Japanese youths are different from his generation. Unlike youths in the 1960s, who dreamed of communist revolution, today’s youths find similar catharsis in works divorced from reality, which Tomino thinks is exemplified in the appeal of YouTube and Makoto Shinkai’s films.
“Weathering With You is really easy to watch,” he said. “But the reason it became a hit is because it understands the viewer’s feelings. An even easier example is your name.: a lot of people could relate to the feelings of yearning depicted when the characters ask and are asked, ‘What is your name.?’ But even if the characters possess wholesome feelings of admiration, they don’t take that step towards declaring love and touching the other’s body. That pent-up, unresolved feeling is connected to Tokyo’s submerged state. I was surprised that so many people could relate to a resolution like that, to the extent of pouring over ten billion yen into the box office. To think that there are people in today’s society who think that reality is just that harsh. And the fact that Shinkai’s works are hits around the world means that in spite of the differences between countries, that feeling of looking inward can be seen across the world.”
Tomino then remarked that a feeling of frustration towards the state of Japanese politics has been a constant since World War II. “It ends up being a case where people feel like all they can do is just plod along steadily in life, without getting caught up in the incompetence of politicians. So when it comes to their desires, they look away from reality and instead direct themselves inward. They dream of revolution taking place within themselves. In that sense, watching Shinkai’s anime and feeling refreshed, even when it’s only your own feelings that are being addressed, is one way of living in today’s society without becoming a criminal.”
When the interviewer responded that this seemed like a rather defeatist outlook, Tomino said that “plodding along steadily” is a very human characteristic. Ideally, people should be applying that mentality towards the problems of the world rather than focusing all of it inward. As a positive example, he cited the cleanup activities performed by elementary school children on the island of Okinoerabujima in order to prevent plastics on the beaches reaching other countries. Applying an attitude of diligence towards the environment within one’s daily life and passing that attitude on to children is a way of confronting the world’s problems. By doing that, the world can be changed without looking inward or through sparking revolution.
“And if society were to change like that… maybe Shinkai’s works won’t be hits to the extent that they are now,” Tomino remarked with a laugh.
Tomino recently attended the Anime NYC convention, where he shared some of the themes of his works to his fans. A question regarding his comments on Shinkai’s works also came up there, and Tomino clarified that he was not talking about the level of “sexiness” in Shinkai’s films. He did, however, say, “This might be hard for all of you to see, but in my mind, the image of a sexy animated character is Disney’s Snow White.”
Source: Weekly Young Jump Issue #51 (December 5)