MATRIX: Could you talk a little bit about the films you have done.

MAEDA-SAN: My most recent film is actually a series of films called Blue Submarine 6. It’s a science fiction action series about a crew in a futuristic submarine who are battling mad scientists and mutants.

MATRIX: Can you outline some of the influences you bring to your work?

MAEDA-SAN: I’m not sure if western audiences will be familiar with it, but there was a television series directed by Hayao Miyazaki called Future Boy Conan, the director of Princess Mononoke; that was one of the things which influenced me most in my decision to become an animator.

MATRIX: What do you think about the increasing embrace American audiences have of Japanese animation?

MAEDA-SAN: It makes me very happy, and at the same time it’s kind of an odd feeling. It seems that right now America is a very prosperous country, and is really reaching out to things which, in other countries, might be minor things. That Americans are really attracted, lately, to elements from Japanese and other cultures is a surprise to me. It is also strange to me because we Japanese people make these films for a Japanese audience, we always think of our culture as a stand alone culture that doesn’t have a lot of parallels, or a lot in common with that of other cultures. So it makes us happy, but it also feels a little strange, as we’re not really sure why your audiences would like our work.

MATRIX: Has THE MATRIX broken cultural boundaries; is it fully embraced in Japan?

MAEDA-SAN: Audiences in Japan think it is cool, a very stylish movie for an action movie. Young Japanese audiences don’t think of where something is coming from, they just like things that are interesting; their reaction to THE MATRIX is really just based on how interesting it is. It is very cool and it’s also very new and fresh.

MATRIX: How did you get involved in THE ANIMATRIX?

MAEDA-SAN: I was fairly busy at the time but Tanaka-san, our Producer, called me up and said she had a really interesting project to talk about and would I hear her out; so that was my first real introduction to it.

Typically I write my own stories, but in this case Andy and Larry [Wachowski, Writers / Directors] had an outline of a story that they wanted to do, so when they approached me it was with that in mind. My task has really been to take their ideas and figure out a way to visualize them and expand upon the vision of THE MATRIX, following tangents they would never be able to in a live action film. As a director on the ANIMATRIX, after the storyboards are finished we hand them out to the various key animators and designers working on the project, and with them we draw various designs and details. I go through and draw some of them, approve them, or make changes to them. Once all the design work is done, we have animators begin, then it’s all drawing until we actually finish the drawings and do the digital effects and photography. There are many different elements in each different stage of the process, and I have to be there all the time, giving my opinion on all the various elements, keeping things in the direction that I want them to go.

MATRIX: What did you think when you saw THE MATRIX for the first time?

MAEDA-SAN: That’s a very important question. The first time I saw THE MATRIX I felt like someone had done it before I did, it was very frustrating, I really felt the intelligence behind the film and I liked it as an action movie as well. I first saw THE MATRIX trailer in the theatre when I was directing Blue Submarine 6, a series of films about a deep diving submarine battling mutants and mad scientists. When I was watching the images in the trailer of the Neb with people chased by robotic squid – the Sentinels – I really felt like I had been beaten to the punch, because that was very similar to what I had been thinking about.
The other thing was that I was doing a lot of work on cyber punk type projects, planning some cyber punk epics. I was very attracted to some of the images in the trailer and, even though I had no idea at the time what the story of THE MATRIX was, I sort of imagined the Neb was a program in cyber space and the Sentinels were computer viruses chasing after it. Of course, in the film, it’s exactly the opposite, that’s the real world. I just love that you have images of that kind of complexity, it really excited me.

MATRIX: How has it been working with Larry and Andy Wachowski?

MAEDA-SAN: The first time I met them I felt, yeah, of course these guys are the type of people I’d think would make a movie like THE MATRIX. I got a real sense of their intelligence, their sense for the visual, and also their skill as filmmakers in their timing and editing. I love a lot of the things in THE MATRIX. There are some details that are just background details, and then there’s the way they take you into cyber space, into the virtual world; I got a real sense for their talent in those terms as well.

MATRIX: Has there been a feeling of collaboration working with Larry and Andy on the ANIMATRIX?

MAEDA-SAN: In practical terms, my work on a real collaborative basis with Andy and Larry is probably limited to storyboarding, the art direction, and the design of characters and various things we see in this story. THE MATRIX is a film I like, and the story I’m directing is something they created, so even when I’ve started doing the animation which they won’t be directly involved in, I want to at least maintain a sense of collaboration and dialogue with them, I think that’s very important.

MATRIX: Are you looking forward to THE MATRIX sequels?

MAEDA-SAN: Yes, I’m very much looking forward to both of the sequels – I hope they release them as soon as possible so I can watch them.

MATRIX: Thanks Maeda-san.

Interview by REDPILL

Translated by Mike Arias
November 2000