Trainspotting

Ahead of the European premiere of Eureka 7: Hi-Evolution 1, director Tomoki Kyoda pokes at his posh-nosh gnocchi with a fork. The Michelin-recommended hotel is a far cry from the Scotland he saw in certain movies, one of which supplied the name of his lead character.

“Originally Renton was a place-holder name I just lifted it from a film I liked. I figured I would go back and change it sometime. But then the production got so integrated into rave music, and people kept calling him Renton. In fact, the working title for a long time was Renton 7. Eureka just kind of stuck.

He confesses to me that he is worried he should admit such things to a Scottish audience. “Won’t they be insulted that I have stolen something from them?” he frets. No, I say, they will love it. This is, after all the same Scotland Loves Anime festival that was once celebrated in a notorious cartoon that pastiched the “Choose Life” speech from Trainspotting, delivered by a figure in a kilt backed up by a Braveheart-era Mel Smith riding a giant mutant haggis.

Ten years on from Eureka 7’s original airing in Japan, Kyoda is overseeing a film trilogy that re-cuts and augments the original, taking it off in a very different direction, much like the Evangelion movies. Some things, however, remain the same. “In the original, I wanted to give 2D animators the chance to do fighting robots. Everyone only ever wanted 3D work, and I felt that the industry was losing a particular skillset.” A decade later, he is more concerned about the disappearance of a different echelon of talent.

“The thing that amazed me about the Tohoku Earthquake was how little it affected the business. The studios managed to keep running. We outsource so much work these days that Japan can suffer all sorts of issues and just keep rolling. But we rely so heavily on the overseas in-betweeners that we couldn’t function without them. If you want to know what shuts down the Japanese animation industry these days, it’s a national holiday in China.

“So, anyway, the first thing I did when I got to Scotland is I dragged everybody down to Edinburgh. I got them to take my pictures as I ran along Princes Street, and down those steps (they’re not where you think they are, you know), and banged into a car. I went and found that bridge from the film. I was like a Trainspotting tourist.”

“Did you try and score any heroin?” I ask.

“No,” he says.

Jonathan Clements is the author of A Brief History of Japan. This article first appeared in NEO 170, 2017.

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