“Our goal is to bring the world of the film to life,” Japanese animation dancer Bang says as he discusses his ambitious new project with MyMBuzz. “By using animation and robot dance [we want it to seem] as if the characters have come straight out of the film.” Working with first-time director Toshinari Shinohe on his new anime, tentatively called Child of Kamiari Month, it’s no wonder that he sounds so excited.
Bang and his troupe of dancers Kayo, Takahiro and Yu-mi, are all in high spirits after their captivating performance, which saw them transform into the Gods of Speed (Bang), Sun (Kayo), Wind (Yu-mi) and Thunder (Takahiro), respectively. As they sit in their costumes in the crypts of the Olympia London it certainly feels like the film has come to life before our very eyes. Currently in production ahead of its release in 2020, the performance that Bang and his troupe give is just a taste of what’s to come, and we couldn’t be more excited to see it come to fruition.
Could you please tell us more about the movie?
Toshinari Shinohe: “The film is a Japanese anime that’ll be coming out in 2020, the story is based on a story about a month where all the gods disappear. So, we took the world of that story and made a film out of it, it’s set in October. In the story when the gods disappear they all go to a place called Izumo in Shimane, Japan. We would like to create the image of the place where all the gods come together, the film is still being made and this is the only image that we have, so we decided to have a collaboration with Bang and his team of dancers to bring the story to life.”
How long have you been working on this dance project and why were you interested in it?
Bang: “I started working with this main team very recently, maybe since last summer. I wanted to open my world more, and not to be limited by my personal skills. I wanted to present this vast world in more detail, so at the same time as he began making the film I began to work on the dance. At first, I wasn’t sure if I could make it, but now I’m confident I can do a bigger, more detailed performance. We call it animation combined with animation dance.”
What was the collaboration process like between you all?
Bang: “I didn’t want to make a team that had the same skills as me, I wanted to have each person have a different style. Yu-mi is a professional belly dancer, Kayo is a model, and Takahiro is a professional Budo fighter. If I made a team that was only skilled in dance then it wouldn’t work with the theme, but, like this, we can be more comfortable with the theme.”
How do their skills work together to make this performance work?
Bang: “Before this we were just friends. I taught them my style of dancing, but it was too difficult. That’s why I wanted to make their style work with mine, so I had to teach them my style of dancing and combine it with theirs. Now we can go in any direction, everyone fits well with our ideas for the animation.”
What was it like for all of you to work together?
Yu-mi: “I feel very lucky, at the beginning it was very difficult because everyone has their own dance style and there was a lot to learn but I am really happy to be involved in such an exciting project!”
Kayo: “I’m very happy to be part of this very exciting project with a great director, dancer and teammates. It’s something that would be difficult to do by yourself, but it is great that we could come together and create something better than we would have been able to do individually.”
Takahiro: “I’m a beginner at dance, so I’m glad I could join everyone. I’m used to working alone, so when I did Budo it was by myself. But, now it’s great to be in a team because I can get feedback from everyone and learn from them, and it’s even helped improve my Budo as well.”
How did you pick each person for the team, and how did you highlight each of their skills?
Bang: “I didn’t want to make it a really big group, I only wanted to pick the best from each genre. So, I contacted a few people, not too many, about five performers. After a few changes we ended up with the four of us that perform. But, there’s also make-up artists, animators and so on, so the group is bigger than the four of us performing.”
Toshinari Shinohe: “I feel that as a director, Bang’s team have great skills and they are great performers. What I want for this project is quite difficult, but they are very flexible, so they are a very good team.”
Who decided on who plays each character?
Bang: “I decided who played who. This piece expands on the animation, so that we can show it to the real world. This is not the same kind of dance as, say, Thriller, so I wanted to do something different and expand on it. It was a lot of work for me, so I discussed it with the director and we decided to make the performance about the gods themselves. I thought about my team and which god is suitable to each person and that’s how we ended up with the gods of Thunder, Sun, and Wind, while I play Speed.”
What do you think makes each person right for the character?
Bang: “Just their mood and personality, as well as their skills and how it worked with the theme.”
So, Thunder must be strong like a fighter, the Sun has to be beautiful and Wind has to be flexible?
Bang: “Yes, yes! I thought about that.”
Is the main character Speed?
Bang: “It’s a really old story, about the world of gods and I’m the god of Speed. But, the main character in the film is a descendent of the God of Speed, she’s a girl. We wanted to use this performance to introduce the world of the Japanese gods to the real world, and the film will be set in modern times.”
Is the story a well-known folktale?
Bang: “The original story is a Japanese folktale, but this is a new story.”
How did you adapt the folktale and turn it into a dance, then?
Bang: “That’s a hard question! Animation dance is quite new, and there were lots of different versions of the performance in the beginning, the same with the costumes. I didn’t want to make it too modern through using recent dance trends, I wanted it to be a fusion between modern and old styles.”
Toshinari Shinohe: “For example, we went to Shimane for location hunting, and while we were there we recorded sounds from a shrine to bring the performance to life, so it uses very old sounds.”
How did you make the costumes?
Bang: “Yu-mi and Kayo’s costumes are Japanese kimono, and we remade it to represent the themes of their characters. When you think of the wind an image of the leaves falling comes to mind, like waving in the wind. So, that was the inspiration for her costume. We had to make Takahiro’s costume make him seem strong, scary and evil-looking. While, the Sun is the most respected god in Japanese culture, so I wanted to make her as beautiful as possible. The costumes were made by a special make-up artist, and he is a special effects make-up artist who is a master at this type of work.”
The film is only in its early stages, how will you continue to work together?
Bang: “Just before, or around release we will perform again like this. I’m not involved in the animation process, but we will do a preview show like this.”
Toshinari Shinohe: “Currently this anime is just a drawing on a piece of paper. But, we are making it with one of the most famous animation studios in the world, and we have big national sponsors for the 2020 release. Now, it’s just a drawing so, the animation is in its early stages, but the dance can bring the world of the film to life. The dancers are doing this performance to let people know about the film.”
Will you be performing up until 2020? Or just in 2020?
Bang: “I hope that we can keep going around the world, to London, Paris, and Cannes. The last stop is Japan!”
Toshinari Shinohe: “This is my first film, so it’s not famous in Japan but we’d like people to watch it for what it is, and to enjoy it for what it is.”
What do you hope to achieve with this collaboration project?
Bang: “This isn’t the first time that we are working with an anime and combining it with an animation dance. We don’t really have any strict rules about what animation and animation dance can be, what we want to do is a dance performance that looks almost unhuman – the movements don’t look human. Our goal is to bring the world of the film to life, not like cosplay, but using animation and robot dance [we want it to seem] as if the characters have come straight out of the film. We’re going to be bringing new skills to this project that will bring it all together, so stay tuned!”
Interview and all photos by Roxy Simons