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Interview with Kenji Kamiyama (1)

Kenji Kamiyama
Born in Saitama Prefecture on March 20, 1966. A rare example of a background artist shifting to directorial roles, Kamiyama became a protégé of Mamoru Oshii, working as animation director in Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999) and contributing the script for Blood: The Last Vampire (2000). International attention arrived with the TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002, Excellence Prize, Japan Media Arts Festival 2002) and its second season, Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd Gig (2004), followed by the feature-length Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society (Jury Prize, 21st Digital Content Grand Prix). In 2007, after almost 6 years spent in the world of Ghost in the Shell, Kamiyama directed the high-fantasy TV series Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (Jury Recommended Work, 11th Japan Media Arts Festival) followed in 2009 by Eden of the East (2009, Best TV Animation, 14th Animation Kobe), Kamiyama's highly anticipated original TV series, dealing with NEETs and other underlying issues in Japan's youth society. In 2011, he supervised the 3D conversion of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society, that was greeted with the International 3D Award at the 1st International 3D Awards 2011.

Re:Cyborg, 27 Years Later - PART 1

Cyborg 009, the original comic series that Shotaro Ishinomori started in 1964, is now considered a classic in Japan, where its influence is comparable to what X-Men is to Americans. How did you approach the task of making a new movie from this highly respected milestone in the Japanese manga and anime culture?
Our idea from the very beginning was to answer to the question, what would these nine cybernetically enhanced heroes do if they were living in present days? In the original story, they turn against those who transformed them into cyborgs against their will -in other words, their own creators- and eventually win their long battle. But after this victory, they decide to continue to fight, this time for world peace. Through the various story arcs of the comic series, they ask themselves in many occasions about the meaning of their battle and of "justice" itself. However, Ishinomori did not write new pages after 1987, and we are not to know what happened to the nine 00-series cyborgs after the end of the Cold War. So the movie starts in 2013, after a three decade-long blank -to be precise, 27 years- in the actual comic timeline.

Of course the next question is: and what happened?
If you think about cyborgs in a realistic way, you assume they'd require a certain degree of maintenance, which would also be rather expensive. So expensive that nor even the Gilmore Foundation can afford it. And since their role as an impartial multinational peace keeping force was deemed exhausted with the end of the Cold War, the team scattered. Some of them went back to their home countries and found employment within organizations big enough to keep them in shape, and interested in exploiting what they could do best. So GB (007) works for MI6, Jet (002) is with the NSA, and Albert (004) is an instructor for the GSG-9 (*). Some degree of indifference toward Doctor Gilmore and the whole idea of working as a team is there, too. The Chinese cyborg, Chang Changku (006), is a successful entrepreneur who operates a world-scale restaurant chain. In the original comic, whenever Chang Changku tried to open a new restaurant, he inevitably failed.

Which brings us to the next question: what kind of enemy would the 00-series cyborgs face in the 21st century?
Of course that was our big question, too. I took inspiration from two of the most ambitious and thought-provoking story arcs in the original comic, which also happened to have been left unresolved, where the nine cyborgs question the very principle of "justice" they had been fighting for, and their own role in this world. I reduced the fantasy elements and introduced more serious and modern political issues. And I transferred everything in the very near future, as the movie starts in February 2013, just three months ahead the opening date of the movie in Japanese theaters. We can say that our world changed from the Berlin Wall era to the post 9/11, and so it changed for super heroes conceived under a different political and social situation. I had 007 say the line, "When did we stop being the good guys?" which somehow epitomizes the premises of the movie. I cannot really add more to it as this would result in a spoiler...

(*) Great Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (Military Intelligence, Section 6), United States' National Security Agency and Germany's counter-terrorism unit Grenzschutzgruppe 9, respectively.

(1 - to be continued)

© 2012 009 RE:CYBORG Production Committee