This interview was originally published in the March issue of Animage, 2017. The interview was translated by Twitter user @HwpMatthews © 2017 Wave Motion Cannon
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Animage: This is the second movie you’re doing in the Lupin the IIIrd movie series, but how did you respond to this fact?
Koike: Given that Goemon was becoming the main character, I became obsessive about the sword fight scenes. I thought about how I could express the sharpness and eeriness of Zantetsuken’s cut, when Goemon is slicing his enemies, a cross-section will appear on those cut parts, with blood gushing all over the place. I’ll be satisfied if I can get across those little details. Again, the image of Goemon that everyone holds onto is of someone who places importance on living life without pointless death or destruction, which I think leads him to have an exceptional level of natural ability with the sword (Kenjutsu). Since the Lupin family is about to reach the end of its course with this episode, I hope that I was able to get a step closer to the image I have of them in my mind.
Animage: What are your feelings about the allure of Goemon?
Koike: I think his allure comes from him being a man of few words who holds a beauty to his form as a Samurai. It’s his so-called sullen, sombre side. With that being said, I had great trouble figuring out how I could best express the inexperience of this kind of Goemon. For example, before he was beaten by hawk, the look on his eyes that were only a little discerning, and his nihilistically grinning mouth were among the things that gave off a feeling of arrogance.
Animage: As director, you were also personally in charge of doing character design, but did you have any parts that you were fixated on?
Koike: Because I had wanted to express a high level of natural ability, I made the body lines thin so that the characters would look convincing, but what that could have resulted in were bodies that had little muscularity to them. So when I asked for opinions about the final version, I was told “They’re surprisingly macho aren’t they” (laughs).
Animage: Where would your favorite scene happen to be?
Koike: For me my favorite would have to be Goemon’s facial expressions during his training. After being met with defeat by Hawk, he beats himself down under a waterfall and squares off against boulders as part of his training. And then there’s the figure of Goemon as he is seen crying in the rain, I liked that he also showed sorrow in that moment, since he hadn’t been like that up until this point. Another favorite part is in the latter half when he cuts down fifty men. I think his facial expressions after he unsheathed his katana were also mesmerizing. In the finale, I like how the moment when Goemon and inspector Zenigata just miss hitting each other was also somewhat understated.
Animage: As a director, what orders did you give to Daisuke Namikawa?
Koike: Since we were covering Goemon’s younger days, I requested to him I wanted Goemon to give off the feeling and impression of being a bit full of himself in the first half. The thing I was really the most persistent about was the spiritual awakening scene in the second act, where Goemon unexpectedly unlocks a state of sudden enlightenment (Satori); uttering the line “I’ve seen it!” I recorded god knows how many takes until I was satisfied with it.
Animage: Concerning the music, what was the process behind it like?
Koike: Speaking of Goemon, you would expect to think of a Shakuhachi (bamboo end-blown flute) type of image, but to ensure that he wasn’t too Japanese; I felt like wanted to try and give off an air of sorrow about him. Composer James Shimoji created the soundtrack while discussing it over with me. One of the instruments used was a thing called a Dobro guitar which is a little unusual; I think it has a bit of a retro sound to it. The ending theme was the very first to get finished, but since it was pretty much perfect, we didn’t have to make any big changes to it, it felt like we were just brushing up the base. Still, applying the sound to the original version of the movie was very difficult and full of trouble. At first, we applied only a small amount of sound so we could stress the visuals, but we made countless adjustments to make sure that the climax of the first act and the second act’s sword fight scene had just around the same balance.
Animage: Looking back at it, what would be a thing that stands out from this film?
Koike: This time we had the aspect of drama between our lively characters, as well as an extremely large amount of characters and action scenes yet again. We truly relied on the strength of the animators, especially for the sword fight scene in the second half, but it took a very long amount of time as you would expect. Nevertheless, I feel positive that we were able to pour all we could into making that fight. I think you should all definitely go to the cinema to have a look.
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