On October 22 and 23, the new anime movie Human Lost will be screened across the U.S. before it is released widely even in Japan. Thanks to Funimation, I had the pleasure of seeing this film at Anime Expo. After 30 plus years of collecting titles, I can honestly say Human Lost is the kind of movie that makes me remember why I became an anime fan. I really enjoy science fiction that has action and offers the viewer something to think about like say Blade Runner or similar fare. The story by Tow Ubukata (Ghost In The Shell: Arise) is adapted from the novel No Longer Human (or known to some as Disqualified From Being Human), a highly respected tale of introspection, life-examination, alcoholism and possibly post-traumatic stress disorder by Osamu Dezai, who committed suicide soon after publication in 1948. Dezai’s work has been influential in other works such as Bungo Stray Dogs, so it’s interesting to see his style in play here.
Taking place in 2036 Japan, we see an age in which humans live for an average lifespan of 120 years, thanks to a series of nanomachines implanted in them by the Sound Health and Everlasting Long Life (S.H.E.L.L.) organization. There are no diseases or illnesses. This treatment is only offered to the rich however who live in the shielded city. People who live outside eventually become deformed and Lost due to the terrible pollution and general environmental conditions from so much neglect that has taken place. It’s here we meet Oba, an artist who uses drugs and alcohol to deal with the struggle of living in said conditions as well as recurring bad dreams that are driving him insane. One day, his best friend convinces him to do a drag race that leads into the city. However, things take a truly unexpected turn for Oba as a chance encounter with a lovely anti-Lost agent changes his life drastically while humanity’s ultimate fate (as well as his very own soul) hangs in the balance.
Like I said, this was truly amazing to watch play out on a big screen. The animation techniques shown here are as visceral and tactile as 1995’s Ghost In The Shell feature film. Picture the level of detail put into the dark futuristic cityscape backgrounds but improved by 20 years of digital animation technologies and you might get a sense of what’s shown here. I couldn’t help but think back to The Running Man segment from Neo-Tokyo (AKA Manie-Manie Labyrinth Tales) shown on MTV’s Liquid Television. But there really are a good deal of twists in the story as the viewer’s perspective is made to evolve much like Dezai’s likely did when writing this. I also felt some shades of superhero shows such as Guyver and Tekkaman Blade at times. The biggest takeaway I had though was in thinking about the themes of existentialism that get presented throughout. It reminded me of how the Neon Genesis Evangelion TV show would tackle those themes and my Japanese friends would discuss with me how shocked they were that Americans liked it because so much of their culture was in that storyline. I wound up feeling similarly when thinking of Human Lost afterward even though its script was overloaded at times. Engaging, thought-provoking sci-fi was seemingly the aesthetic director Fuminori Kizaki was going for when he and Taku Takahashi of M-Flo consented to an interview to talk about the film prior to its screening.
DW – Your movie is being billed as a 3D film. What are some of the challenges of making an anime for 3D as opposed to strictly 2D work?
FK – I’ve been working with 2D animation for 30 years. This my first 3D. I had plateaued with 2D. This was more challenging and very interesting to me.
DW – Would you say working on this film in particular has made you a better animator or stoyteller?
FK – Still developing and changing my skills every day. One of the things I looked forward to with 3D: the potential. It’s most exciting working with 3D.
DW – You’re known as the director of Afro Samurai and X-Men (2011) among other anime with action sequences. Will there be a bit of action with this film or more dramatic like say Ghost in the Shell?
FK – It’s actually both. It’s a little bit different from GITS. Very emotional. full of action scenes. This is new pioneering territory for me. A little bit different from what I’ve worked on in the past.
DW – There’s been precious little actual footage about the film leading to its premiere. What are some insights you can give audiences going into this premiere?
FK – This a movie based on literature made into sci-fi action movie. It’s a dark hero action movie.
DW – What were some of the challenges of developing a screenplay based on Dezai’s life as shown in No Longer Human?
FK – Adapting it into the sci-fi genre was the biggest challenge because the original story was so far from that. I saw Psycho-Pass and wondered how to apply that to No Longer Human.
DW – How do you see promoting this to American audiences as opposed to Japanese ones?
FK – The target goal was to create something global like Akira and Ghost in the Shell as a film. Because its source was classical Japanese literature I hope Japanese audiences will enjoy it. I think for it being sci-fi, it’ll be a very approachable film. If you’re an Afro Samurai fan I would definitely like you to check this out.
DW – How did you come up with character looks for this film?
FK – Because the source material was a novel we had freedom to create some things. Yusuke Kozaki designed characters with stories we had written. The production team got together for the work but the designs have a lot of Kozaki-san’s input in them.
DW – How do you compose music geared toward a hard sci-fi audience?
TT – The story is a sci-fi story about how the characters interact with each other and what decisions they make. There is a human drama to it. Emotion is the most important element. This is a collaboration of M-flo and J.Balvin from Colombia, the most listened to music maker on Spotify. I’m Japanese. She’s Colombian. He’s Korean. We met J.Balvin and he talked about his love for Japanese culture. We talked and next thing we knew we were in the studio making a song. We had a discussion on how the film would feel at the end. There’s a lot of essence in this movie. It’s very philosophical, well made. Very high quality. Who is the lead character? He’s a drug addict. Very anti-social. He stays in his room and draws pictures. He’s no longer normal. He’s disqualified as a human.
Do you have any final thoughts for your fans?
Fuminori Kizaki – The movie does not have a happy ending, so I’d like to leave it to the audience to determine how they feel rather than me tell them. But I’d like to say it was a lot of fun to make a sci-fi action movie. It’s hard to describe. Not happy, not sad. Audiences will carry on their own conversations about it. My biggest hope is that we touch the audiences’ hearts.
Taku Takahashi – There’s a lot of action with good tempo, good character development, and a good story. The characters are made to live longer. This can also be a dystopia. You lose the purpose of life with lots of things becoming convenient. We’re losing a lot of stuff that’s important. It makes you question what our life is. The movie is very entertaining. Music is played right. 3D picture and 3D sound. It’s the perfect theatrical film.
The subtitled version of Human Lost will play in theaters on Tuesday, October 22 while the dub will screen on October 23rd. Check local listings for more information. You can see the official trailer below. Take care until the next article.