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Japanese animator reacts to film's record success in S. Korea

All Headlines 16:00 February 10, 2017

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- The director of the megahit Japanese animation "Your Name." said Friday that he never imagined the film would attract a record-breaking 3.5 million-plus viewers in South Korea and made clear he is very happy with the numbers.

"I visited Seoul when the film opened about a month ago," Makoto Shinkai said during a news conference to celebrate the movie's success in South Korea. "Of course, I personally hoped many people would come to see my film, but never imagined that wish would come true. I'm very happy because so many people saw it."

Released on Jan. 4, the animation became the most-viewed Japanese film of all time in the country, having sold 3.58 million tickets nationwide as of Thursday.

Makoto Shinkai, director of the megahit Japanese animation "Your Name.", speaks during a news conference for the film at a hotel in southern Seoul on Feb. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

Depicting the story of two teenagers who accidentally switch bodies, the film has earned US$207 million from 18.2 million admissions in Japan. Factoring in international grosses, it has now earned $290 million globally, topping box offices of China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan.

Three million may not be a large audience in a country where many homegrown and big-budget Hollywood films effortlessly pass the mark but is a phenomenon for any Japanese movie. Traditionally, Japanese films are not popular in Korea largely due to the two countries' colonial past.

Shinkai arrived in Seoul on Wednesday for a three-day trip to fulfill his pledge to revisit the country when the film passes the 3 million mark. Before the news conference, he met audiences in theaters and took part in interviews.

"I found during a meeting with the audience yesterday that more than 90 percent of them came to see the film for more than a third time. Some of them said they have seen it over 50 times," he said.

When questioned on how many times people need to see the film to best understand it, he said the film includes a great deal of information.

"The opening scene can feel different the second time around. There can be many ways to watch it like focusing on the music during the third view," the director said. He then said that watching the film four times would be the best.

The animator jokingly said the portion of viewers who are seeing the movie multiple times may indicate that the actual number of local moviegoers who really saw the film may be less than 1 million. "Still, this is a very happy phenomenon for me."

Asked why the film resonated so much with Koreans, Shinkai responded: "I think Japan and Korea share many cultural similarities and other things in common."

This image provided by Media Castle shows the official poster of "Your Name." (Yonhap)
A still from the Japanese animation film "Your Name." (Yonhap)

The two neighboring countries' landscapes also look very much alike as many East Asian countries do, he said.

"Many of the Korean highschool students who saw the movie may have imagined Tokyo in the film as Seoul and Mitsuha's countryside hometown as a rural town in Korea," he said, referring to the name of one of the two main characters.

Mitsuha is a highschool girl who lives in a small rural town up in the mountains, constantly wishing to be living a lavish lifestyle in Tokyo. Taki is a highschool boy who lives in downtown Tokyo. One day, their bodies get switched and their fates become intertwined by the one-in-a-thousand-years fall of a comet.

"This basically is a boy-meets-girl story. I wanted to tell through the film that there can be a very important person among whom you have not yet met and you can have a fateful encounter with that someone today."

He also said Koreans' painful memories from disasters that have hit the country like the sinking of the Sewol ferry of 2014 may be a reason for the film's success. The ferry sinking claimed more than 300 lives, mostly highschool students on a field trip.

"These memories are sad, but I hoped people would be able to harbor hope after watching the movie. I'd be glad if they made up their mind to make efforts for a better future."

sshim@yna.co.kr
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