Friday, January 6, 2017

'In This Corner of the World' Beats the System

Financiers said 'no,' public said 'yes,' to hit anime movie

BY RYOTA GOTO/ Staff Writer  January 6, 2017 

“In This Corner of the World” ((c) Fumiyo Kouno/Futabasha/Konosekai no katasumini Project)
Financiers were not interested in Sunao Katabuchi’s “In This Corner of the World,” but the public was, and through crowdfunding and word of mouth, the movie ended up filling theaters across Japan.

The film is based on Fumiyo Kono's manga series about the day-to-day life during World War II of Suzu, who grew up in Hiroshima and moved to the nearby port and shipbuilding city of Kure to get married.

A low-key work without a major distributor, “In This Corner of the World” opened in 63 theaters in Japan on Nov. 12. That's just one-sixth the number of cinemas blockbuster anime “Your Name.” opened at.

“It was a low-budget film with a total cost of 250 million yen ($2.13 million), so it was impossible to buy TV advertisements,” said the film's producer, Taro Maki. “It was pretty much an independent film,” he added.

Despite the lack of exposure, positive reviews spread by word of mouth through Twitter and other social networking services.

By the fourth week of its release, the film was ranked fourth in total audience numbers among all the films on show at the time, and box office takings shot past 500 million yen.

 Director Sunao Katabuchi (Photo by Ryota Goto)

“I spent six years (to produce the film),” said director Katabuchi at a greeting session held at a cinema in Tokyo on the evening of Dec. 1. 

“I will put my every effort for it to become a long run.”

The total number of screening venues is scheduled to reach 195, more than triple of what the film started with.

At first, no companies wanted to invest in making “In This Corner of the World.”

“There are enthusiastic fans of Katabuchi and Kono, but it is a story of quiet taste,” said Maki. “TV companies and distributors were reluctant to chip in. I kept pushing the project for about one and half years, but I got no positive response from those businesses.”

When the script and storyboards were completed, the project team decided to try and make a promotional pilot film by raising capital through crowdfunding.

When they called for crowdfunding over the Internet in March 2015, 3,374 people raised about 40 million yen in two months, almost double the targeted amount.

With this money, the team produced the pilot film and presented it to prospective investors. They were then able to raise enough money from businesses and other establishments to properly complete the film.

“The fact so many people are supporting the project was reported as news, and it also became an appeal point to the investors,” said Maki.

Film critic Tomohiro Machiyama pointed out the film is more than just a good movie.

“It proposed an antithesis to today’s marketing-led filmmaking trend in which stakeholders are only willing to put money into titles that fit into past successful examples,” said Machiyama.

Chizumi Tomokawa, 64, who lives in Hiroshima and is a fan of Kono’s original work, paid 30,000 yen to the crowdfunding effort.

“I wanted to support it after seeing the director visiting here so many times for research by taking long-distance night buses,” said Tomokawa. “He's produced an amazing film far beyond my imagination.”

Some of his supporters included well-known authors.

Masami Yuki, who is the author of the “Patlabor” manga series, chipped in 10,000 yen, and he repeatedly recommended the film on his Twitter account, which has 130,000 followers.

“I knew other works by Katabuchi and Kono and I had faith in them,” said Yuki. “I put my support in funding as I believed it will be a great film.”

After the commercial release of the film in Japan, another crowdfunding project was launched to raise travel and accommodation costs for the director to attend international film launches. Some 25.66 million yen was raised in just two days, more than double the target.

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