Bright: Samurai Soul is an anime spin-off movie in the universe of Netflix’s film Bright, depicting its world in the setting of Meiji-era Japan. ANN had the chance to speak with the director of the movie, Kyōhei Ishiguro, about how he approached the project and intermingling themes of its setting.
What attracted you to the project, working on a spin-off to a movie like Bright?
Well, several things attracted me. First and foremost, I liked the original movie very much, featuring Will Smith. It was a great movie. And second of all, I was given a certain degree of freedom in creating this spin-off version. And I was told that the setting of the spin-off version would be in Japan, and would not be a contemporary setting, but the end of the Edo period and the beginning of the Meiji period, which was intriguing as well. That’s why I decided to join.
What sort of materials were you given to follow the information and world-building for Bright? Was there any sort of story bible or anything like that which was given to you to follow?
Well, several things came to me. One was the material on a ‘Bright’ itself, in terms of how the ability is for someone who owns it. And also there were some materials about the ‘Dark Lord’, which is mentioned in the story only by words, but there is a lot of concept behind it. But I don’t think I can reveal any more details about these things, I guess these are confidential…. *laughs* Sorry!
The original Bright movie seemed to focus on the intermingling fantasy and modern cultures, while Samurai Soul seems more focused on the historical element of the setting, which you had said they told you to use. Is there a reason you chose to focus on the historical element of the setting, rather than delving too deep into the intermingling of the magical cultures with the culture of the setting you were given?
That’s a great question, I think! In the spin-off version, the setting is the beginning of the Meiji period, and the assumption I gave to the story was that the people have very, very little knowledge about wands, or the Bright ability itself. So it is something that is depicted in a very covert, a very subtle way, little by little as the story develops. That was the assumption I gave to the scenario. And among different tribes which appear in the story, fantasy is not something that is very apparent, but only in the underlying concept of the story, so it’s not on the surface at all. But that will come to the surface only little by little, as the characters try to find out about it.
One of the main ideas in the original Bright was its allegorical handling of racism. How did you seek to approach that subject in Samurai Soul?
Well this film does succeed in taking over the same world-view as the original version, but not necessarily for some of the concepts – including racism. Partly because of different social situations and settings between Japan and the United States. So I didn’t give so much attention to that aspect. However, having said that, I did try to study many conceptual themes that were in the original film. For example, the background of Raiden: I tried to understand the situations and backgrounds of Raiden himself, [like the orc] in the original film. But I didn’t depict it in a very overt way in the story. It may not come across as one of the main themes, but I did cover that. But in terms of racism, I didn’t handle it the same way as the original; that was my judgment.
The animation art style for Samurai Soul is quite unique. I know you’ve primarily worked in traditional, 2D animated projects before this one. How different was it directing the 3D CGI animation of Samurai Soulcompared to your previous experiences?
Well, I was always interested in doing some work for three-dimensional character animation films. And what I consciously tried to do this time was to eliminate all the shadows. For the US, Japan, and other countries, other 3D films always have shadows. And because it’s 3D, I was always thinking that the shadows were not a necessary detail, and if I eliminate all the shadows it would be more simple, and I wanted to try doing that – but only with the figures, the silhouette of the characters. And in that way I tried to come up with new types of expressions. This film was supposed to be 3D, which was already decided before I came in. But when I was hired, I proposed to the staff that maybe we can do without the shadows. And they accepted this style of Japanese traditional wood-block print. The big difference was that although this is 3D, I tried a new art style. This was one of the most challenging things, but I enjoyed this challenge a lot, and I think it worked well.
Bright: Samurai Soul will be released on Netflix on October 12th
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