Mirai no Mirai

1. That house is a baby danger course, all that level difference and stairs?

2. Hosoda need to rethink his character style if he wants to keep using 3d environments this way, it’s incredibly jarring. He favours plain untextured muted palettes for hand-drawn but goes very shiny and reflective in 3d.

3. The movie lack focus, as if it was meant to be released as 15min episodic web clips. Each episode have barely anything to do with the previous one, rarely sharing characters or plot devices, other than the one with the dog and Mirai (incidentally the two I like most). Worse it renders the whole experience very flat, yet very little individual moments to make things entertaining, I hesitant to say they ruin the build ups because there’s none to begin with.

4. Is Kun 4 or is he 6-7? The problem is he talks (in voice and mannerism) and have understanding (in his surrounding and what people tell him) like a 6-7, yet have reaction and tantrums like a 4. But he is not cute and adorable like a 4 year old would be, so I’m a lot less sympathetic to his antics and he just ends up grating.

5. The episode with the shinkansen is just … off. I’m not sure what Hosoda is aiming for here, it’s not been set up either tonally or thematically. Again it feels like this should have been an episodic release.

6. There are better ways to talk about family. Hosoda got greedy, shouldn’t have thrown every idea into the blender.

7. Given this is the movie and those promo trailers… yeah, no wonder audience wanted their money back.

8. I’m glad Mary and Witches Flower beat it at the box office, that one had a lot more fun and heart to it.

Shinkai’s biggest fan – Noritaka Kawaguchi


A man who could be living the life in Roppongi driving around in an open air benz. Instead he made a 15 year bet on an amateur anime director who made a 5 min anime short about a cat and its owner.


The anime director’s name is Shinkai Makoto.


And the man’s name is Noritaka Kawaguchi.


Shinkai’s Biggest Fan.


A lot of people know of Shinkai’s story. Of how a modest, humble literature graduate who might have returned home to take up the family business, decided to instead join a game company. Work at day and then on his own animations at night, the man created a 5 minute short She and Her Cat, burned the CD-R himself and sold them at Comiket and mails. It was well received and not long after he made the fateful decision to quit his job, so began his journey as an anime movie director with the one man short film Voices of a Distant Star. From there he made a few others, had a few missteps along the way, but ultimately he made Your Name.


As I looked more and more into Shinkai’s footsteps, I found there are plenty others who travelled with Shinkai on his incredible journey, and one man among them, is Noritaka Kawaguchi. Shinkai’s biggest believer.


Kawaguchi is a businessman, after graduating university he joined Itochu, one of Japan’s largest sogo shosha (kind of like investment fund conglomerate). After a few years in the company, he was assigned to work in the group’s game related business in Akiba. In 1998 he was appointed to lead the newly formed Comix Wave Inc, at a age of just 32. [1]


In 2001 one of the staff at Mangazoo, an associated digital publishing business that had been merged into Comix Wave the year before, heard about Shinkai as the guy who worked 5 days a week and made anime in his spare time plus burning and selling CD-Rs. Too much work for one guy. So the company reached out, offering to at least press and sell the CD-R for him. [3]


That was the start of the relationship between Shinkai and Comix Wave.


Shinkai had been concepting Voices of a Distant Star for a few months then, however there were limits to what one could do in the short time outside of work [4]. Seeing this the people from Mangazoo offered to cover the costs and encouraged Shinkai to make a go for it. [3]


Kawaguchi described their first meeting. (The purpose of the meeting is unclear, described as soon after Shinkai’s 28th birthday, putting it around spring of 2001. Possibly as a meeting to get commitment for Voices). Meeting at a restaurant in Harajuku, Shinkai was already sitting there when he arrived. A very polite, friendly man. [5]


Through the making of Voices of a Distant Star, Kawaguchi was convinced of Shinkai’s genius and begins his unwavering faith in supporting him. [6]


With the success of Voices of a Distant Star, Comix Wave was on board for Shinkai’s next film, The Place Promised in Our Early Days. The production was rocky and the film barely made it out the door.


Nevertheless, the company and Shinkai continued onward to 5 cm per second.


Around this time the future of Comix Wave was being reviewed. The company was almost 10 years old and options were explored as to what to do with it. In the end in 2007, a few month before the release of 5 cm per second, the company was split into 3 and bought out by the senior managements: Bulls-eye, Minori (which Shinkai would go on to make the OP for its games EF) and Comix Wave Film, which inherited the name.[7]  For his part in the management buy out, Kawaguchi financed million dollar loans in his own name, making his bet on Shinkai very much a personal one. [9]


(Shinkai is not a conventional director, to match neither could Kawaguchi afford to be conventional on the business side. While Shinkai’s growing success has given Comix Wave some animation studio colors, it mustn’t be forgotten that it was founded and still is, a publishing company.)


Unlike many of its compatriots Comix Wave controlled its own destiny and Kawaguchi was determined to forge a different path. Prior to Children who Chase Lost Voices, Comix Wave took the risk and handled both distribution of film and dvds themselves, including overseas sales, allowing them to reap a much larger share of the successes. [8]


The evergreen nature of Shinkai’s works gave the DVDs long tails, selling well years after release, combined with the greater share of the revenue the steady income kept Comix Wave going between releases, and the company managed to stay small and focused. Kawaguchi compared Shinkai’s works to those of Haruki Murakami, it was something people felt special and wanted something physical to connect to. [8]


From very early Kawaguchi had his sights set internationally, borrowing on his experience and networks from Itochu. [2] (How much he worked to expand Shinkai’s overseas audience is not clear though it’s probably intentional, working with JPF to host a workshop in the middle east then encouraging Shinkai to spend a year in England, then the interviews and collaboration with chinese anime upstarts). As early as Voices of a Distant Star, he had been evaluating the state of pirated DVDs in China and looked to make a move there when the time is mature.[12] By the time 5 cm per second came out, Shinkai had a dedicated overseas fan base and overseas sales became a vital income for Comix Wave.


The failure of Children who Chase Lost Voices was not just impactful for Shinkai but on Kawaguchi and Comix Wave itself. In the interview he hinted at staff tensions and more than the financial loses, it was the feeling of having let his staff down, having had them invest the golden years of their life into the film. But even if it lead to loses, he felt it was more important to be able to look back and think they put in everything and had no regrets. [8]


Kawaguchi had to finance additional loans in his own name to recapitalize the company and worked hard to avoid the company being in the red for a second year in order to stave off the banks. Thankfully with the help of income from overseas, they managed to recover the production cost of Lost Voices after 2 years. [6] [8]


Learning from the experience with Lost Voices, a different approach was taken with Garden of Words. A limited theater release combined with little to no advertising. Instead the DVD and downloads were made available at the same time on release to great success.[7] With Garden of Words, both Comix Wave and Shinkai had turned a corner. (A similar approach is being used for Shikioriori)


Shinkai is not the only creator at Comix Wave. There’s another handful of manga and anime creators that Comix Wave help produce and publish for, to mixed successes.[11] (Peeping Life has a decent following on Youtube, so maybe it’s doing quite okay) For now, Comix Wave still mostly revolves around Shinkai.


With the success of Your Name, Comix Wave has turned a new page. Kawaguchi is looking to lay the foundation for something more than just Shinkai’s supporting studio.


Kawaguchi saw himself as someone who could help bring changes to the industry and sought to value those who worked on the films well.


The box office line that Your Name needed to hit to definitely see a next time from those on the production committee was 3 billion yen. Kawaguchi thus had announced before release to the staffs that should Your Name hit 3.5 billion, there would be a round of bonuses. (In a way he jinxed himself), that number was of course broken in record time. The first round of bonuses were handed out on just 15th of September (film was released only on 26th August). The bonuses were given to not only Comix Wave staffs, while it was not possible to give a bonus to all, where possible outsiders were also rewarded for their involvements. [7]


Comix Wave had been a small studio, many did not even realize Comix Wave had in house production capabilities.[7] With the huge windfall and assured future revenue from continued sales and merchandising, Comix Wave has been on a recruitment spree. While some of the staffs were experienced animators, about half were fresh recruits. [9] Kawaguchi wants Comix Wave to become a place that nurtures new talents that will sustain the anime industry, with a view that fairly paid salary staffs will reflect quality in the works produced. [7]


However the company had been structured to support Shinkai, with a very lean staff meant to support a single anime production at a time, to train up the new recruits will take time and opportunity, something the studio did not have. Comix Wave needed a second production line. (Shikioriori presented the perfect opportunity). The collaboration with Haoliner meant finance was shouldered by the chinese side while Comix Wave dealt with the productions, and an opportunity to give its staffs much needed experience. [12]


(Perhaps in a few years, Comix Wave would become a place known for producing some of the best animator and artists)


Kawaguchi remarked that Shinkai is someone who writes even emails and schedules with such grace and poetic beauty, a man who exhibited a sparkle even in the everyday mundane. [5] He could be enjoying the life from his apartment in Roppongi, driving his open air Benz; instead he made a bet on that young man he met at the Harajuku restaurant. [8]


And for 15 years, the man patiently watched and worked, his faith never wavering, determined to support and nurture that talent. Now after all that Shinkai and he have achieved, he looks to give something back to the anime industry, and perhaps one day, see Shinkai walk down the red carpet. [8]


[1] Hear from the Spirit of the Wandering Samurai, First Half (rough translation), Itochu Facebook, 2017

[2] Hear from the Spirit of the Wandering Samurai, Latter Half (rough translation), Itochu Facebook, 2017

[3] Framing Makoto Shinkai:15 Years of Anime Art from the Director of“Your Name, Crunchyroll, 2017

[4] Youtube DVD Interview, probably from the Hoshi no Koe dvd release.

[5] Comics Star Awards Interview, Bilibili, 2015

[6] Your Name. The man who believed in Makoto Shinkai. Interview of Comix Wave Film’s Noritaka Kawaguchi (rough translation). Yahoo Japan News, 2016

[7] The decade leading up to Your Name (rough translation), Nikkei Business, 2017

[8] How will profit from Your Name be used (rough translation), Nikkei Business, 2017

[9] Frenzy! Anime Industry (rough translation), Toyokeizai, 2017

[10] All about Shinkai’s works, from CEO of Comix Wave, Talking of Anime Business (rough translation). Anime Anime Biz, 2013

[11] Interview with representative from Comix Wave (rough translation), Wakuwork 2019 Interview with Exhibiting Businesses, 2018

[12] Your Name’s Producer Kawaguchi Noritaka speak on Overseas Marketing and the issue faced by the Anime industry (rough translation), Daily Cyzo, 2018


Kanto Maigo – Day 9

Final day.




Our flight leaves at 1pm, I aim to get to Narita before 11am, either the 8.46 or 9.31 direct train from Shinbashi. Leave some time to do a final luggage check and reserve time for unforeseen issues. That leaves us an hour and a bit in the morning.


下午1點的班機,預計11點前到成田,搭8.46or 9.31從新橋直達車。留點時間最後確認行李和突發狀況。早上有一個多小時的時間。


The options was either Meiji-Jingu Outer Garden or Zoujouji, a temple with a view of Tokyo Tower not far from the hotel.




Meiji-Jingu Outer Garden is about 7 minutes from Shinbashi, accounting for walking time it’d be about 20 minutes each way. Doable but will be cutting it close even if we left at 7am.




Zoujouji is about 10 minutes walk, easier to control the timing. And since we had seen ginkgo leaves the day before I felt Zoujouji would be more interesting.




For breakfast, the egg was scrambled egg with sausage wieners, fish was salt grilled fish, plus roasted potato with bacon, salisbury steak.





We headed out about quarter past 7.




Super Hotel is already outside the commercial areas of Shinbashi. From here to Zoujouji was mostly residential areas.


Super Hotel在新橋鬧區外,從這走到增上寺多是住宅區。


Along the way we passed the Prince Hotel, it had a fancy looking cafe/restaurant/bakery looking place by the roadside away from the main hotel building. Wondered if it was targeted at the guests or nearby office workers. The large car park before the hotel was mostly empty except for one or two tour buses.




The main gate of Zouzouji was under renovation works. The two side doors were entirely boxed behind protective boards.




Zouzouji is one of the older temples in Tokyo, though not in its current location, it was moved twice during the Edo Era then much of it burned down during WW2.



Zoujouji and Tokyo Tower



As the family temple of the Tokugawa the temple saw periods of incredibly glory, with over 120 buildings at its peak. Even today the temple is a massive complex with several interconnected giant halls.




The family tomb of the Tokugawa is located here. To the north western end of the temple grounds lies 6 of the Tokugawa shoguns. We weren’t able to enter the tomb area, it’s closed off and only opens at 10 plus 500Y entrance fee.



Tokugawa family burial grounds

Along the northern edge of the temple was a long row of child Jizos statues. They wore red little hats and capes and had windmills next to them. Dedicated for the safe growth of children and memorial of unborn babies.



Child Jizous

Child Jizous

Behind the temple hall rose the red and white of Tokyo tower. Replaced by the Skytree its original purpose may be have been, its faux Eiffel Tower silhouette remains the spirit and romance of Tokyo.



Tokyo Tower

The hour went by strangely quickly, I had envisioned there being enough time to go to the bottom of Tokyo tower.




We walked back to the hotel in the same way. In the narrow streets we passed a Lawson that advertized that it baked its own bread each day.



Lawson with bakery

True enough, the place has a mini bakery with two ovens. I imagine the dough is made centrally then delivered to each store, the staff only need to put the dough into the oven each morning. It’s a good step above regular packaged bread which I would have much enjoyed over cold rice balls if only these were more common place during my trips.




We got back to the hotel with plenty of time to do some last minute packing, brush up and get a last minute coffee. There is no need to check out at Super Hotel, when ready just grab the bags and walk out.


回到旅館後還有充足的時間做最後的打包,刷牙洗臉,然後再拿一杯早餐咖啡。在Super Hotel不用退房,準備好了拿起行李直接走就行了。


We hopped on the direct train from Shinbashi to Narita according to schedule. The train was a typical urban commuter with seats along the walls. Actually not much slower than the Skyliner express and much faster than the NEX, at less than half the price.




There weren’t too many people in the Sunday morning, we had no problem finding seats. The train surfaced after Skytree and I chanced a glimpse before it disappeared behind the high rises. The Tokyo cityscape slowly roll past, the hour slipped by.




Vanilla Air was based in Terminal 3, the low cost airline terminal without its own railway station, one has to either walk 500m from Terminal 2 or wait for the shuttle bus.




The walkway between the two terminal is painted like a sports ground runway, with several rest stops along the way with benches and vending. A lot of efforts went into making the walk interesting, changing lanes, colours, posters along the walls. The distance was barely felt, in a blink we were at the escalator leading up to the terminal.




Not yet 10.30, the counter should open at 10.50, 2 hours before the flight. We were maybe 4th or 5th in line.




Originally I had considered taking the later train, not wanting to get here before the counter opened. With more thoughts now this way worked better. We may need to wait a short while for the counter to open but we were ahead of the line, as soon as the counter opened, we could drop off our bag and be on our way, whether to lunch or shopping. Had we come later we would have had to wait in the queue for time unknown.




While we waited for the counter to open I realized I had not yet bought a Playstation point card. Since I play Japanese games and the store only accepted credit cards from Japan, using a point card was the only way to buy the games online or for the DLCs. Thankfully there’s a Lawson right next to the counters.




After checking in we went to find something for lunch.




Terminal 3 had only a limited selection of shops but no shortage of food. Before customs there is a large food court with about 8 shops with a carefully selection ranging from ramen, sushi, donburi to western burgers and cafe.



Terminal 3 foodcourt

Coming early definitely worked out well, had we came later we would not have finished checking in till after 11.30, then we’d be in a hurry to eat lunch and get through customs. As it is we could easily peruse the available stalls, pick our choices and have lunch at a leisurely pace, enjoying the bustling activities all about from travellers of all walks. I went with the safe choice of the Nagasaki Champon noodle (same one in Hakata) while Y got a spicy ramen.



Nagasaki Champon Noodle

After that we went through customs. At one stage there was a tax claim station where they were supposed to inspect the tax free claimed items to ensure the travellers were bringing them with them. Instead there was only a basket with a sign and arrows. Y casually tossed the tax free claim slip into it.




Airside there was just one souvenir store selling pretty much everything. Electronics, especially rice cookers at 220V aimed at chinese. Traditional Japanese wares like chopsticks and textiles, Hello Kitties and of course all sorts of sweets. Y knew about a lot of the various sweets and chocolates, which ones were famous, which ones were talked about. I had already got enough sweets so didn’t buy any.


過境後只有一家紀念品店,所有可想到的都有賣。電器,尤其是鎖定陸客的220V電器。傳統日本工藝品如筷子,紡織品,Hello Kitty和當然的各式甜點。Y對這些甜點還頗有研究的,那些有名,那些很紅,那些大家常討論。我已經帶很多甜點了所以沒有再買。

Airside souvenir store

Since this was a low cost terminal there were no air bridges. Passengers had to walk down 3 flight of stairs to the ground level, across the tarmac to the air stairs through an expendable corridor that provided some shelter from the elements and served to keep passengers from wandering off.



Cleverly designed eh.. air bridge?

It was a small single aisle 737, the flight was short and past lunchtime, I don’t think many people ordered meals during the flight.




We arrived at Taiwan late in the afternoon and after we passed customs, disbanded and waved each other farewell.