Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms-An Interview with Mari Okada

Originally published on The Fandom Post

Anime Expo 2018 hosted the US premiere of Mari Okada’s latest film, Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, which hits theaters on July 20th. Prior to the premiere, I sat down with Okada to discuss both the movie and her general thoughts on both writing and directing.

Interviewer: How was it different to write and direct compared to just writing?

Mari Okada: It’s not the process of being director, but because I was directing…usually when I write a script for other directors I would say like “before this character says this line there’s a beat or a few seconds.” You cannot say “you need five seconds or three seconds,” you can’t really specifically say those, although the meaning in the words would differ from the difference in the beat and the facial expressions of the characters would change the meaning of the lines, but this time I believed this director would do what I feel as a script writer because it was me. So I could write the script a lot simpler than when I would write for other directors.

I: You’ve done a lot of both movies and TV series. Which format do you prefer ultimately?

MO: Both have some good things. For example for TV series, with the short time you need ups and downs and also timing needs to be so that the audience wouldn’t be bored. After one episode is aired, there is some time before the next episode is aired, so I feel like some of the story in the viewers’ minds would get more enhancement while they’re not watching TV. So that’s the beauty of the TV show, although nowadays people sometimes watch the whole series in one sitting. Whereas for film, the viewers would watch the film from the beginning to the end without any time difference. So in a TV series, some viewers would stop watching after several episodes, so as production we need to figure out how not to bore the viewers and sometimes we have to think of some commercial things like a business. You can’t have all the viewers stop watching, so you have to have some attractive scenes where, even when the directors or writers don’t want a scene to be that big, you kind of have to make it big so that the viewers would be entertained. Whereas film, because the viewers watch the whole thing, I felt like I had more freedom to be more selfish in a way, to have some quiet moment when I want the quiet moment, not really thinking about “oh, the viewers would leave the show.” So I felt more freedom having some ups and downs wherever I wanted.

I: Onto the film itself, I watched a screener copy from Eleven Arts and I noticed the fantasy world was different from other fantasy worlds I’ve seen. What was your inspiration for it?

MO: What I really wanted to convey in this movie is a strong relationship between characters, a human relationship, and the needs of having a person in your life. So when I was trying to figure out the location for this story, I felt that it had to be a fantasy world. Unlike how most people would think “okay let’s do the fantasy” and then have the story, for me it was the human relationship first and I figured out that it had to be fantasy. With this story, I wanted to depict the emotions of the characters in the background as well. For example, Iolph, the world that Maquia came from, it’s so beautiful and it’s so clean, it’s so beautiful that there couldn’t be any animals or any living things like fish in the water; there were no fish in the water in Iolph. They’re so perfect, and they neglected other living things. So the stage of the story is depicted in the background. Other examples would be, in the world of Dorael, there is a watermill. So it kind of looks like a clock, and it’s emphasizing the time passing in that scene. So this movie is all about time passing and how human relationships change over time. And also, in Mezart, the shadow of the bridge that you see in the water would be one of the indications of time passing.

I: That actually leads into my next question. What drew you to the theme of time passing and things always changing, originally?

MO: Whenever I was writing original stories as a script writer like Anohana and Nagi no Asukara, these tended to relate to time, passing time strongly. For example, Anohana had this childhood best friend die on the main character and other kids would become high school students, and all of the sudden the best friend who died comes back in front of her. And Nagi no Asukara had a best friend sleep in the ice and they would come back alive and time’s already passed and they’re still staying the same physique. For some reason I was always attracted to that, and I tended to write those stories. So when it was mentioned that I could direct and write the script, I immediately thought “that’s what I’m always attracted to, that story would be even deeper but it would be about time and human relationships”.

I: Are there any other projects you’re interested in directing in the future?

MO: Yeah, there are a lot. There are several.

I: What kind of challenges have you run into with anime originals versus adaptations?

MO: There’s a big difference I feel like, when there’s an author, I feel like I have to not just read the book but also really think about what’s the idea behind the story or writing, whereas with original I don’t have to do that.

I: Any final messages for your English speaking fans?

MO: We were actually nervous when we were producing this film, because maybe the relationship between mother and child, the concept of motherhood, might be different from country to country. So we were a little bit nervous when we were making this story because there could be some gap, different common sense. However, we were getting a lot of comments that they were deeply touched, and there were some really great comments after watching this film. So we’re very very excited and pleased and so happy about that and I would love for everyone to watch this film, as many as possible.

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