Interview with Director Toshio Hirata

Strawberry News cover featuring Unico.

Strawberry News
March 15, 1981 Issue 144 pg. 10

Translated by Crystal “Xellis” Rider (3/24/2023)

“I can only say one thing about Tezuka’s original work.” Mr. Hirata began his interview with the following words.
We visited Sanrio’s headquarters for a quick interview with the director, Toshio Hirata, to find out more about the appeal of the Unico movie.

— “Isn’t it hard being a film director?”

Hirata: “Anyway, this is a first for me. I’ve done the anime TV shows… you know, Tezuka’s Jungle Emperor. I also worked on the Sanrio short film, Little Jumbo with Mr. Yanase and fellow director Masami Hata, but this was my first time directing a feature-length animated film for the theater. That said, there were a lot of things I didn’t understand and things that were difficult to do…”

— “For example, what was the most difficult part? What was the most troublesome part of making the film?”

Hirata: “Well, I guess it is a question of how we can bring out the difference between a live-action film and an animation. In other words, there are things that can only be done in animation, such as leaps in movement and acting, and the world that is created. Unico and Akuma-kun do not exist in reality. There’s Akuma-kun-like movements, and there’s Unico-like movements. The key was how to create a part that would capture the imagination.”

— “I saw the movie, and the story is easy to understand. The pictures are beautiful, and what’s more, Unico is cute.”

Hirata: “Thanks. Unico is really cute. But Akuma-kun and Chao are cute too, right? It’s only when someone loves them that their power comes into play. In this respect, it is these supporting players, or waki (supporting roles), who play an important role in the film. I hope you will see this film from that point of view.”

— “Sanrio’s animated films are always taking on new challenges, aren’t they? The animation shadow method used in Orpheus no Hoshi (Winds of Change) was actually a live-action composite film. In Sirius no Densetsu (The Sea Prince and the Fire Child), which is currently being worked on, animating a natural phenomenon focused on fire and water is said to be the most difficult to do in animation… Is there anything new from such a technical aspect? In Unico?”

Hirata: “Rather than take on such challenges, I made this Unico by going back to the roots of animation. In an Orthodox way. Today’s anime tends to be pulled along by the storyline. With Unico, however, we kept the story as simple as possible and focused on the most interesting aspect of animation: movement.”

— “How long was the production period?”

Hirata: “It took about two years from the planning to the theatrical release.”

— “This Unico was serialized in Sanrio’s magazine, Lyrica. What parts of the original work did you value the most?”

Hirata: “If I had to sum it in a few words, I would say love and compassion. But to put it more specific, what can you do for others?”

— “How long have you known Tezuka-sensei, Mr. Hirata?”

Hirata: “Yes, as I mentioned earlier, I worked for Mushi Pro for four years. I really respect Tezuka-sensei. For example, in this Unico movie, there is a scene with just the two of them, ‘Unico, who only knows love,’ and ‘Akuma-kun, who only knows emotion,’ right? I believe that there is no one else but Tezuka who can take these two polar opposites of love and evil and develop them into a theme in manga. That’s the greatness of Tezuka-sensei, isn’t it?”

“I felt that when I saw Unico; it was really a movie that the whole family could watch together.”

Hirata: “I see, thank you. The staff said, ‘For the first time in a long time, we made a movie that I want to show my children. It’s been a long time since I made a film I wanted to show to my kids.” (laughs)

“I really think so. By the way, are you thinking about a sequel?”

Hirata: “I hope so, of course. But this is just… the beginning. Anyway, we need to get everyone to see it… I can’t make it even if I want to. Everyone watch it!!” (laughs)

— “Finally, for our readers, what would you like them to see most in this film?”

Hirata: “I’ve talked about many things, but I hope you get the idea. Anyway, for me, I am interested in animation and its movement. And if I can make people understand what love is, even a little, I will be happy. And if you feel refreshed after watching it, like a cleansing agent, then there is nothing more we can do for you.”

— “Thank you very much. Please keep making better and better films for Sanrio Films.”

★ After the interview…….
Mr. Hirata speaks in a relaxed manner, as if listening carefully to every word. His eyes are very gentle. I strongly felt that Ms. Hirata was the right person to supervise the production of the adorable Unico movie. I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

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1981 3月15日 144号 pg 10















平田「ええ、さっきもいったように、虫プロに4年間おせわになりました。手塚先生はほんとうに尊敬しています。たとえば、このユニコの映画にしても、「愛しかしらないユニコ」と感しかしらない悪魔クン』の二人だけのシーンがあるでしょ? 愛と悪ーこの2つの両極たんのものをテーマに、マンガで展開できる人っていうのは手塚先生をおいて他にないんじゃないですか。手塚先生のすごさですよね。」








★ 取材を終えて…….

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