Higuchi Shinji was the co-director of the quirky period film The Floating Castle, based on true historical events in Japan. Higuchi Shinji, however, is best known for his work in the animation industry, having worked with Gainax in the past (responsible for anime behemoths like Neon Genesis Evangelion). However, it was interesting to hear about his experiences while directing live-action, especially on something like The Floating Castle, which isn’t a typical period film, and it uses CGI effects, also unusual for an Asian film – especially in something of this genre.
The biggest problem he discussed was the problem of releasing the film. The initial release had to be pushed back by a year due to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The film features several scenes where the two sides use the power of flood in order to attack each other, and it was felt that these scenes were too close to the real life destruction to be released at the time. Higuchi Shinji also mentioned that many of those who had been involved with working on the film had been affected by the disaster, and so pushing back the release became something that was universally agreed.
Higuchi Shinji also discussed the relationship he has with Inudo Isshin, the other director of The Floating Castle, and how they developed a way of working together on the film as co directors. When you consider the rather odd nature of the film, it is interesting to learn about how the two directors worked together on something so strange. Their combined styles and approaches to filmmaking obviously created a combination that enabled the film to come across as a historical/comedy feature, and it was intriguing to learn more about this from one so closely involved in the film.
‘When we had already finished shooting the film and had almost completed the editing, then the terrible earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. Some 20000 people died, and many of my extras were affected by the casualties. At that time we close to the conclusion of our work and we wondered what to do because in our film there was the scene of the flood. These images of course were associated to the terrible tsunami. Soon after the castle had been attacked, the scenes of destruction by water reminded us of what we saw by the tsunami. We initially discussed changing the scene but it was a historical event. So instead we included images of the city at the present day for a positive influence. To see the film as it is today with rice fields and cherry blossom, children going to school and playing happily. So the message was despite destruction a new future was possible.’
‘The place I live in is very close to the blocks he lives in so we meet very often. Already from my high school experiences I always watched Inudo’s works and I liked them very much. He also said he liked my work. We are both two male directors so you can call it a brotherhood rather than a marriage. You can say we grew together in a way that it was natural to have this co direction. In terms of the roles between us, I am the younger brother, a bit naughty, and he is the older brother who also knows what to do.’