It’s a world of haughty actors and totally ripped actresses, decked out galas and stressed out investors. Welcome to the world of dreams and madness. Welcome to Nyallywood, the setting for GKIDS’ latest cinematic effort: Pompo the movie buff.
“I think it has universal appeal – or at least I hope so,” says writer and director Takayuki Hirao, previously known for his directorial work on anime series like god eater and movies like Majokko shimai no Yoyo to Nene. “It’s really important to follow your dreams. In this world, there are so many people who don’t fit in or think they are in the minority, or they suffer because they are in the minority of dreamers. If I can, through this film, guide them to move forward, I would be really happy.
Hirao’s hopes for the film actually refer to one of the most crucial lines spoken in the feature: “Don’t just look down. Look ahead, or you’ll lose something important.
Pompo the movie buff – which hit US theaters last Friday, April 29 – begins with a daring producer named Pompo, famous for her outrageous and trashy B movies. Meanwhile, his shy but movie-obsessed assistant, Gene, dreams of one day directing great films that will shake the souls of viewers. But Gene thinks he still has a long way to go to achieve his goals. Pompo thinks otherwise and, after penning a surprisingly sincere script about a touching drama, announces that Gene will be the film’s director and sole editor.
As Pompo and Gene assemble their cast, with legendary Brando-esque actor Martin Braddock playing the tortured songwriter protagonist, and young actress Nathalie Woodward seeking her first break as a disarming heroine, Gene wonders if he’s really up to the task of taking Pompo’s vision and finding his own aria within the pages of his screenplay… working from 72 hours of filmed shots. But, in Gene’s words, “I have no place to go but here. Only two choices: make a movie or die. So I’m going to stake my life on it.
It’s a feeling that Hirao also knows.
“When I was young, I was also the type that couldn’t fit in with everyone,” he says. “So watching movies or reading manga or watching cartoons kind of saved me from loneliness. In that, I was able to really relate to Gene. So I wanted to make a movie that has themes about minority versus majority and Shogo Sugitani’s original work had many of these same elements.
Hirao’s film, produced by your name‘s Kadokawa Productions and Clap Animation Studio, is based on a 2017 manga by Sugitani titled, in Japanese, Eiga Daisuki Ponpo-san. But the film is saturated with classic Hollywood cinematic inspiration. “I was really inspired by Scorsese Freedmen, with how the most important scene of the movie is at the beginning and meant to really grab viewers’ attention,” Hirao notes. “The inspiration I drew from Whiplash came from the mind of having to sacrifice something to pursue your dreams. And then there’s also a scene where one of the characters, Mr. Peterzen, cuts an old movie and the movie he cuts is a tribute to Taxi driver.”
Specific to design and sequencing, Hirao also uses wipes for his film’s transitions, inspired by 127 hours as well as the desire to bring home the endless and laborious task of film editing and scene cutting.
“The highlight of this film is really about Gene’s editing,” says Hirao. “I wanted to express that. So throughout the movie, I’ve included a lot of wipes for transitions in various places.
Amidst the story’s detailed and cute 2D anime, Hirao also incorporates 3D/CG and retro-colored animation during the Gene cut scenes from both the Pompo movies trailers and the entire from his own film. After beginning the computer editing process, Gene suddenly finds himself transported to a black void where reels of film pass in front of him. Equipped with a large sword, Gene begins running along the reels, hacking and slashing.
“Especially in the scene where he’s editing his own movie, because that’s a climax, I really wanted to make it dynamic,” Hirao explains. “If you were to show someone editing a movie in the real world, it would literally be the director sitting in front of a keyboard and banging away. But since it’s about animation, I decided to mix reality and fantasy. I wanted to turn the montage into an action scene. And, because it’s animation, it’s not weird that Gene enters this fantasy world where he has a sword instead of a keyboard.
These scenes also illustrate the abstract and anxiety-provoking feeling of what goes through a director’s mind as he puts his film together. “I feel like I’m holding a sword, but I’m not cutting,” Hirao laughs. “It’s more like I’m standing there, holding the sword, wondering if I should cut or not.”
While Pompo the movie buff is a tribute to cinema and all the creative departments responsible for bringing a film to the big screen, it’s above all a story about the courageous decision to dream, to reach for the stars, no matter how unqualified you feel or poorly equipped.
“Towards the end of the movie, when Gene asks for a reshoot, I really put a lot of emotion into it because I’ve done this before,” Hirao says. “I made this huge mistake and there was a time when I thought maybe I couldn’t make movies anymore. Of course, now I’m here, making this movie. But I really put a lot of that emotion in the scene because it’s happened to me before. I wanted to keep creating films and Pompom was like an expression of my resolve to keep doing this.
According to Hirao, the feeling of failure can sometimes be the best fuel for pursuing ambition. Or, in Pompo’s words from the film, “Happiness kills creativity.”
“I’m okay with that to some extent,” he shares. “Imagination starts with having a lot of emotions. And then those emotions become the core of what you create. So if there’s something I’m not happy about, or if there’s something I I want to express, I think that emotion in you is really what drives you to express what you want in a film.
Hirao says he hopes to express with Pompo the movie buff that there is a home for everyone in the glittering and colorful world of Nyallywood and hopes the film will be a positive boost for those in need.
“If viewers have a dream they’re chasing, I’d like this movie to be something that pushes them forward,” he says. “Maybe after seeing this movie they’ll leave the cinema thinking, ‘Okay, starting tomorrow, I’m going to try harder for my dream,’ or if there was a dream they had given up, maybe that will inspire them to start chasing that dream again.
Tickets for the film are on sale at PompoMovie.com and box offices of participating theatres. Theaters and participants are subject to change.
Victoria Davis is a full-time freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She reported many stories ranging from activist news to entertainment. To learn more about his work, visit victoriadavisdepiction.com.