ASURA Production Notes
Source: Toei Co., Ltd.
Official Site: asura-movie.com (Japan)
Additional Material: Nippon Connection
Abandoned in the barren wasteland of Kyoto, an abandoned boy does whatever it takes to survive in the wild — until he is confronted by humanity.
Toei’s anime feature ASURA (アシュラ, Ashura, 2012) is based on George Akiyama’s legendary banned manga (originally serialized in Kodansha’s Weekly Young Magazine in 1970-1971). Directed by anime veteran Keiichi Sato (TIGER & BUNNY, KARAS) and featuring two legendary Japanese voice actresses, Masako Nozawa (DRAGON BALL, GALAXY EXPRESS 999) and Megumi Hayashibara (COWBOY BEBOP, NEON GENESIS EVANGELION), the film made its North American premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival/Japan Cuts in July 2012 and began its Japanese theatrical run last September 29th.
Toei is now offering ASURA for foreign distribution. The following text was prepared by the company for international sales and publicity…
Mid-fifteenth century — Japan.
Flood, drought and famine have transformed the landscape of the capital of Kyoto into a barren wasteland. More than 80,000 have perished in the three years between 1459 and 1461. This desolate state served as the backdrop to the beginning of the country’s greatest civil war. The victims of this dark period in Japan’s history were too great in number to include in the pages of history.
In this era, a boy was born a beast — Asura.
Abandoned as an infant, Asura is forced to learn the means to survive in the wild. In time, he would learn to kill humans…
Asura’s lost soul is saved by the grace of a young girl named Wakasa.
Through love she tames Asura’s beastly heart and teaches him the lessons of humanity. Nevertheless, as Asura attempts to assimilate into village life, the poverty-stricken villagers are unwilling to accept the strange outsider and retaliate. Though he was taught kindness, love and empathy, it is jealousy and prejudice that drives him. And also Wakasa…
A story of wild young boy who would grow up to be the high priest Asura who would guide the lost souls to haven.
Asura — the controversial manga masterpiece from the 1970s that caused a social phenomena. The property they was said to be unadaptable is now a Hybrid animation feature film!
March 11th, 2011 — Japan is hit with a devastating earthquake and tsunami. In the aftermath of the natural disasters, a nuclear reactor on the coast city of Fukushima is declared unstable, turning devastation into a state of total despair. Those who lost family members, friends, and loved ones lose all hope — amongst the survivors, there are many who lose the will to continue, the will to live.
A witness to the devastation, a director decides to take a stand.
He is Keiichi Sato, the creative force behind animated blockbuster hits such as BIG O (1999), KARAS (2007) and TIGER & BUNNY (2011).
Why would Sato, known for his lighthearted action comedy fare, decide to wrestle with the dark and dense themes of ASURA?
Because he felt he had to.
Since the events of 3/11, his conviction only grew stronger and served as a source of inspiration for the ASURA team. Sato felt it was his duty to send a message to those who found themselves without the will to live following the events of 3/11.
“There is a reason you survived. Your purpose is to live!”
He informed the ASURA development team that he would change the direction of the project, then he began to imbue his life-affirming message directed to those who have lost all hope.
In the wake of the earthquake and the impending nuclear disaster at Fukushima, with the country still in mourning, talks of scrapping ASURA circulated. Nevertheless, Sato championed the film undeterred, declaring, “now is the time for this project.”
Sato’s infectious conviction quickly spread, ultimately reaching the industry’s top talent. One such talent is Masako Nozawa, the popular voice behind Son Goku from DRAGON BALL. Three time Japanese Academy Award winner, Kinya Kitaohji, a Japanese film industry legend is another. The two stars signed up for the project based on Sato’s unfaltering passion. Kitaohji had impassioned discussions with the director in between his busy shooting schedule. Nozawa stepped out of her comfort zone voicing stereotypical heroes to deliver a nuanced performance portraying a conflicted beast that is Asura. Their dedication blessed the project with a fighting spirit.
This film is produced using Hybrid animation, a new technique Toei Animation has developed. It mimics “watercolors in motion”, the next evolution in traditional animation. All the characters are animated in GC, while the background is painted traditionally. Forging the composite between CG and 2D elements is a challenge, but the result is innovative and distinct. First, the camera is able to move about freely in the environment. The technique also adds a realism to animation. The fusion of 2D and CGI is a feat that can only be accomplished by a studio with extensive traditional animation experience as Toei Animation. Hybrid animation technique marks a new age in the already storied history of Japanese animation.
DIRECTOR: KEIICHI SATO
From 1985, Sato worked as an Animation artist and director at Sunrise, AIC, and Toei Animation. 1996, transferred to Sunrise and worked as Character Design, Animation Director etc. In 2000, transferred to Tatsunoko VCR and directed KARAS. Established own production office Bells & Whistles. His recent work TIGER & BUNNY created sensation. ASURA is his first feature animation.
Date of Birth: December 18, 1965
Place: Kagawa Prefecture, Japan
1985: Worked as an Animation artist and Key Animation Director on productions at Sunrise, AIC, and Toei Animation.
1986: Worked on various productions as a CF Director.
1995: Stage Art Design for the music unit ‘TM Network’.
Worked on the cover illustration for Naoto Kine’s acclaimed JUNKERS COME HERE, particularly in areas other than
Participated as Animation Director and Mechanical Design on the OVA production of GIANT ROBO –THE DAY THE EARTH
1996: Transferred to Sunrise.
Character Design and Key Animation Director for the Special TV Animated Series CITY HUNTER SP: GOODBYE, MY
1998: Character Design for the Special TV Animated Series CITY HUNTER SP: EMERGENCY BROADCAST – DEATH OF EVIL RYO
1999: Development, Original Creation, Character Design, Supervisor, Animation Director for the TV anime THE BIG O
(produced by Sunrise), which received attention from anime fans worldwide.
2000: Transferred to Tatsunoko VCR.
OP Director and Creature Design for the TV anime SOULTAKER (produced by Tatsunoko).
Director & Storyboard for NTT East’s CF GATCHAMAN.
2001~: Character Design for the Toei’s Power Rangers Series.
POWER RANGERS: WILD FORCE (2001)
POWER RANGERS: NINJA STORM (2002)
POWER RANGERS: DINO THUNDER (2003)
2002: Due to overwhelming demand from the international audience, created the TV Anime THE BIG O: 2nd Season.
2004: Participated in the 3D Movie Production NIKE MAN for the NIKE WHITE DUNK SHOW.
2005: Tatsunoko Production’s 40th Anniversary Project, KARAS (Director, Original Concept, Development, Character Design).
Released in North America 2006 / Won No. 4 in North America’s DVD Sales chart.
2006: TV Series ULTRAMAN MAX (Character Design)
Toei’s video feature, SUPER NINJA INAZUMA! (Character Design)
KARAS Tokyo International Anime Fair 2006. Won Best Anime in Original Video category at Tokyo International Anime
2007: KARAS #4~#6 August – October Consecutive Release. Also released in October in North America / Won No. 10 in North
America’s DVD Sales chart.
TV Drama ULTRASEVEN X (Character Design)
EXAMURAI (Animation Director). Animation project based on Japan’s pop music artists, EXILE
2008: TV Anime YATTERMAN (Director, OP Storyboard): [Aired in Korea in March, 2009]
TV Anime CRYSTAL BLAZE (Director, OP Storyboard)
2009: Established own production office Bells & Whistles.
2011: Mega hit TV Anime TIGER & BUNNY (Director). Won Best Anime in Television category at the 2012 Tokyo Anime
TV Anime C (Conceptual Design)
2012: Feature Film ASURA (Director)
TBD: Feature Film SAINT SEIYA: THE MOVIE (Director)
DURATION: 75 min.
TYPE OF ANIMATION: CGI Animation (Hybrid Animation / CGI + 2D BG)
ORIGINAL COMIC: George Akiyama
DIRECTOR: Keiichi Sato
SCREENPLAY: Ikuko Takahashi
ANIMATION PRODUCTION: Toei Animation
MUSIC: Yoshihiro Ike / Susumu Ueda / Norihito Sumitomo
PRODUCER: Yoshi Ikezawa
ASURA: Masako Nozawa
MONK: Kinya Kitaogi
WAKASA: Megumi Hayashibara
STEWARD: Tesshou Genda
SHICHIRO: Hiroaki Hirata
GISUKE: Bin Shimada
FUJINO: Kaori Yamagata
KOTARO: Kappei Yamaguchi
HATSUJI: Yu Mizushima
For more information on ASURA, please see the previous coverage here on SciFi Japan: