Saturday, July 30, 2011

A little bit about Shinichiro Watanabe

Japan invades Anima Mundi once again, with the presence of one of its most renowned and respected directors and authors: Shinichiro Watanabe. Born in 1965, in Kyoto, he is greatly admired for his works, such as the iconic television series that originated the feature film Cowboy Bebop, and the Samurai Champloo series.

Watanabe began his career as an animator at age 20. He joined Sunrise studios as a production assistant, and became co-director of Macross Plus, the continuity of the successful Macross series, in 1994. He began his career as a director with Cowboy Bebop, the series that became a huge hit worldwide and originated the feature film Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, 2001 (which later became known simply as Cowboy Bebop: the Movie). In 2003, Watanabe joined the select group of Japanese directors invited to create their versions of stories based on the universe of the action film The Matrix, in the cult American production Animatrix. He was put in charge of two episodes (Kid’s Story and A Detective Story), which helped consolidate his status as an international animation celebrity. His next work was a series that presented an innovative format, remixing samurai tradition with the modernity of hip hop – Samurai Champloo, which premiered in 2004.

As a matter of fact, remixing is a key concept in Watanabe’s mastery in harmonizing music and image. It is not just a simple mix of styles, but a balanced and intense combination of longstanding flavors, where visual and musical ingredients blend into a refined culinary recipe of a gourmet. The soundtrack commands his narrative, and the rhythm of his scenes varies in intensity and style according to the dramatic moment. This has led Watanabe to recently start working on soundtracks for other directors, an activity that brings him a sense of pleasure and accomplishment. In Michiko & Hatchin, a recently releases series with sceneries and characters inspired by Brazil, Shinichiro Watanabe, as a musical director, uses Brazilian music, of which he seems to be a great expert and admirer.

Cowboy Bebop: the Movie, which we will have the privilege of watching on a big screen, with the presence of the director (in Brazil, it was released as a direct-to-video and DVD movie), is a film where each sequence brings a different and sophisticated mixture of space and urban sci-fi, American jazz (thus bebop) and western movie style violence. Each one of these sequences was planned according to a specific hit song, such as Sympathy for the Devil or My Funny Valentine, or musical genre, ranging from samba to heavy metal.

Watanabe once stated in an interview that he would like to demystify the general idea that Japanese people avoid expressing their feelings. To him, this was true only during certain moments and time periods, such as the Edo period, a time of repression in which he placed the samurais of Samurai Champloo. This is the reason why, in this series, he creates this contrast through the eloquence of hip hop.

During the current reign of Anime, it is clear that the Japanese people, as quiet and shy as they might seem, have a lot to say. So prepare your eyes and ears for the Animated Chat with Shinichiro Watanabe, in the Anima Mundi 2011!

* The presence of Shinichiro Watanabe in Anima Mundi is a result of partnerships with the Instituto Japão POP Br and Dô Cultural.

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