GANTZ Interview: Director Shinsuke Sato
Author: Elliot Gay
Official Movie Site: gantz-movie.com (Japan), gantzmovies.com (US)
Source: NTV (Nippon Television Network)
Photos: NEW PEOPLE Entertainment, The Associates, Madman Entertainment
Special Thanks to Asuka Kimura and Shio Toyoda
A SCIFI JAPAN EXCLUSIVE
Following a successful theatrical run in Japan, the sci-fi thriller GANTZ II: PERFECT ANSWER (前編 PERFECT ANSWER, Gantsu Pafekuto Ansaa, 2011) will soon be available on Blu-ray and/or DVD in key English-speaking territories… January 17th sees the North American release from NEW PEOPLE Entertainment, the UK discs by Manga Entertainment street February 6th, and Madman Entertainment will release the film in Australia on February 15th. Based on the hit manga series, GANTZ II: PERFECT ANSWER concludes the story begun in GANTZ (前編, Gantsu, 2011), and stars leading Japanese actors Kazunari Ninomiya (LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA) and Kenichi Matsuyama (DEATH NOTE, DETROIT METAL CITY).
Both GANTZ movies were directed by filmmaker and video game developer Shinsuke Sato, born 1970 in Hiba, Hiroshima Prefecture. A graduate of Musashino University of The Arts, Sato first drew attention for writing and directing successful student films, including the 1994 Pia Film Festival Grand Prix Award-winning NO MISBEHAVIOR IN THE DORM. Director Jun Ichikawa hired Sato to write the screenplays for TOKYO LULLABY (東京夜曲, Tokyo Yakyoku, 1997), TADON AND CHIKUWA (たどんとちくわ, Tadon to Chikuwa, 1998) and ZAWA-ZAWA SHIMOKITA-SAWA (ざわざわ下北沢, 2000). Sato also wrote the script for Isao Yukisada’s manga adaptation SUNFLOWER (ひまわり, Himawari, 2000) before making his professional directorial debut with LOVE SONG (2001).
His second film, THE PRINCESS BLADE (修羅雪姫, Shura Yukihime, 2001), was released internationally, and he has directed such well-received movies as ALL ABOUT MY DOG (いぬのえいが, Inu no Eiga, 2005), SAND CLOCK (砂時計, Sunadokei, 2008) and the Japan Academy Prize-nominated animated feature OBLIVION ISLAND: HARUKA AND THE MAGIC MIRROR (ホッタラケの島 〜遥と魔法の鏡〜, Hottarake no Shima – Haruka to Maho no Kagami, 2009). Sato has also developed characters and storylines for video games, most notably TEKKEN 4 (2002).
SciFi Japan writer Elliot Gay recently spoke with Shinsuke Sato about his work on the two GANTZ films…
Elliot Gay： Before you joined as the director of both films, had you ever read the original manga?
Shinsuke Sato: I read the entire series after it was decided I’d be coming on as the director of the films.
Elliot Gay： Was the project always planned to be two films?
Shinsuke Sato: Yes, actually. In fact it was also decided that there would not be a 3rd film. We found it hard to imagine the world of GANTZ in only one film. I say that, but at the same time we wanted to avoid being a series that gets worse the longer it goes on. By dividing the project into two films, we were able to raise the overall quality. I believe this was the right choice.
Elliot Gay： I was greatly surprised to find that both films really embraced large scale, special effects driven action sequences. I saw the first film in Japanese theaters and was blown away by the final battle against the giant statue. What was it like directing such special effects heavy sequences?
Shinsuke Sato: First of all, I knew that within our allotted budget, we would have to make some incredibly dynamic action sequences. Japanese films in general are typically much more low budget than the average American film. Yet even despite this apparent limitation, there are a lot of Japanese films that manage to pull off exciting and thrilling action scenes. I felt that by using a mix of CG as well as special effects that had been honed over the years and even cutting style, we could make our audiences feel a sense of wonder and excitement.
Currently in the Gantz manga, there are even more amazing sequences being drawn. Unfortunately, we had a budget that we had to work within. We had to find a way to make the audience feel as though they had seen something just as incredible as the material in the manga. I personally believe that rather than packing in a lot stuff into the film, it’s much more expressive to have a smaller amount of incredibly high quality material. That’s the policy I followed while making these films.
Elliot Gay： There is a lot of stunt work in the film. How did you prepare the cast for such vigorous action sequences?
Shinsuke Sato: Long before we started shooting the film, we used pipe chairs and boxes to create a makeshift set. We used that to film the storyboards. At the time, the only people who were being filmed were the stuntmen and the staff. We actually shot all of the action sequences in this fashion. In all honesty, it actually kind of felt like shooting a student film!
We would then cut these storyboards together and show them to the participating actors. After that is when we would enter the practice phase. Because the people involved also had other work they were doing, the schedule was really tight. They would come to the studio and run through the action sequences starting from the basics.
Elliot Gay： Hiroya Oku’s manga is extremely graphic. Were you ever nervous about adapting the large amount of violence and gore from the manga?
Shinsuke Sato: Finding a way to express the material in the Gantz manga, but in a film form, was important right from the start. This wasn’t just a case of filling the movie with gory scenes. We aimed to make the audience feel the gore in their minds. It actually wasn’t as nerve-wracking as you might imagine. In fact I’d go so far as to say we might have enjoyed it!
Simply shooting gore is actually a very straightforward process. That’s why I think it’s more fun and interesting to try and make the audience feel grossed out despite showing them very little. Their minds produce all the terrible imagery and I think this is something that film really has the ability to do effectively. In the case of the Negi Alien, there was a lot of difficult CG mixed in to the sequence so we had to make sure to storyboard and go over the scene many times as we moved forward.
Elliot Gay： In many ways, GANTZ is primarily the story of Kei Kurono. The transformation he goes through as he experiences these fights for survival is the center of the entire tale. When you were casting for the film, what made you decide on Kazunari Ninomiya for the leading role?
Shinsuke Sato: I felt that Kurono represented the current generation, which made me think that Ninomiya would be a perfect fit for the role. I also felt that on a visual level, he looks a lot like the main character. In the manga, Kurono goes through some very subtle changes of the heart. I felt that Ninomiya could really portray those particular qualities.
Elliot Gay： What is the overall message of these films? What story were you trying to tell?
Shinsuke Sato: I feel that the world of GANTZ is reflective of the current times. For example, I think that Kurono is the kind of main character that simply could not have existed in the past. Another example would be the Tanaka Alien, whose mysterious, terrifying nature is something that I think could only exist in this day and age. I think one could say that in the current times, killing and war have become so commonplace in gaming and the like that they’ve become apart of our daily lives.
That’s why I feel like GANTZ serves as an appropriate representation of how things have become. For example, even if a strange and unknown device like GANTZ appeared before us, sure we’d be surprised at first, but wouldn’t we soon accept it as something possible? Asking questions like “What is this?” and getting answers is no longer 100% necessary. The “why?” and the “meaning”, the feeling of wanting to ask questions; these things are beginning to fade away. I think this is something the original manga expressed well, and something that I personally feel is very representative of the culture and time we live in.
It’s for this very reason that I feel PERFECT ANSWER is an almost paradoxical sequel. Stories are always trying to lead the way to the question and the answer. One could argue that that’s the basic theory to storytelling. That’s why one could say that PERFECT ANSWER is like a counterattack against part 1. The style changes and in many ways, PERFECT ANSWER is in opposition to GANTZ part 1.
Elliot Gay： The world of film is constantly changing. What kind of direction do you think Japanese film needs to go in for it to continue to be successful?
Shinsuke Sato: I wonder what exactly qualifies as successful? The ways we can go about finding success and the way we place value on a film continues to broaden even now. That’s why I think that there are multiple ways to answer that kind of question.
One could argue that we should be trying to make more films that feel inherently Japanese. At the same time I could argue that we should be trying to aim for a more internationalized, worldwide market. It seems to me that by making films for only the people in your country, the content and the industry itself becomes circular and warped. If we want out industry to grow, I think it’s important that everyone, staff included, find a way to get out and see more of the world.
Elliot Gay： Do you have any words for your fans overseas?
Shinsuke Sato: I hope you enjoy the mysterious sights and sounds as well as the excitement and emotion of these two GANTZ films!
For more information on GANTZ please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:
- Action-Packed GANTZ Hits US Theater Screens Nationwide in One-Night World Premiere
- Win Tickets to See GANTZ World Premiere on January 20
- GANTZ to Have Special Hollywood Premiere Event January 20
- GANTZ Premiere Ticket Winners Announced
- GANTZ Stars Kazunari Ninomiya and Kenichi Matsuyama to Attend Hollywood Premiere
- GANTZ: THE COMPLETE SERIES on Region 1 DVD
- GANTZ Press Notes
- Ninomiya Fans See Nino and GANTZ Premiere, Too
- GANTZ and BREATH at VIZ Cinema in February
- GANTZ on Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray in August
- Win Tickets to GANTZ and GANTZ: PERFECT ANSWER at NYAFF!
- GANTZ and GANTZ: PERFECT ANSWER Ticket Winners Announced
- Theatrical Comic-Con Screening of GANTZ II: PERFECT ANSWER
- Win GANTZ DVD + Poster Prize Pack!
- GANTZ DVD + Poster Prize Pack Winners Announced
- GANTZ on UK DVD and Blu-ray in October
- GANTZ II: PERFECT ANSWER Blu-ray and DVD Announced for January
- GANTZ on Australian DVD and Blu-ray in December
- NEW PEOPLE Kicks Off the Holidays with Three Special Film Screenings
- GANTZ II: PERFECT ANSWER on Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray