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Japanese Animator and Director
Makoto Shinkai says that as a teenager he often immersed himself in the scenery viewed from the window of the daily commuter train, and that those early experiences provided much of the material that shaped his style of animation. He attended Chuo University in Tokyo, graduating with a major in Japanese literature, then worked 5 years for a game development company. During this latter period, he conceived the idea of creating his own anime and produced two notable short works, "She and Her Cat" and "Other Worlds." Both were rendered monochromatic, due to the limitations of computing power at the time, only "Other Worlds" was done without voices. "She and Her Cat," in which he and his fiancee Mika Shinohara provided voices for the two characters, went on to receive the SKIP Human Creative Award for Best Video of 2000, as well as the Grand Prize in the DoGA CG Animation Contest.
In June of 2000, Shinkai sat down and drew a picture of a girl holding a cell phone in a cockpit, and that image became the basis for his next work, "Voices of a Distant Star." Using updated computing power for color rendering, he was now able to create something significant to which he could put his own personal stamp. Shinkai worked almost totally alone on "Voices," using just the basic hardware and software available. He made his own website for presenting the new work to the public, voicing the part of Noboru while Miss Shinohara voiced Mikako. It soon got the attention of MangaZoo, and the anime distributor contacted him about doing both theatrical and DVD releases. This led to Shinkai's decision to quit his job with the game company and become a full-time animator. The final 25-minute version, using different voice actors in the two roles, premiered in 2002 at Tollywood in Tokyo, garnering record ticket sales for that venue. It also placed first at the New Century Tokyo International Anime Fair 21, and won for him "Best Director" at the 8th annual AMD Awards.
Shinkai then began a continuing association with the studio CoMix Wave, creating with them his first full-length anime, "The Place Promised in Our Early Days." For this project, he decided to employ extra staff, as well as enlist the help of Ushio Tazawa (The Animatrix, Mind Game, Noein) for character design and animation. While it was still in production, he created a manga version titled Tou no Mukou (Beyond the Tower), which introduced the "tower" that would appear in the anime. During that time, he and Mr. Tazawa also worked on a music video entitled "Egao" for the children's TV program "Everyone's Song." The final animated version of "Place" premiered November 2004 at the Shinemaraizu in Shibuya, Tokyo to record attendance. It later received the "Best Feature Film" award at the Seoul International Animation Festival, as well as winning for "Best Animated Film" at the Mainichi Film Awards.
In the Fall of 2005, Shinkai started work on his next project, "5 Centimeters Per Second." As the opening line spoken by the character Akari states, this is the speed at which cherry blossoms fall. Shinkai says that "speed" is the central theme of this film, represented in various ways throughout. He also wanted to include a popular song, "One More Time, One More Chance" by Masayoshi Yamazaki, as the main musical theme accompanying the story-line. Unlike the two earlier works, "5 Centimeters" would not use any science fiction or fantasy elements, but rather, draw from everyday life in the modern world, allowing the audience to better relate to the characters and their situations. Much of the production work was completed by a close-knit staff working inside Shinkai's house in Shibuya, Tokyo. Tickets to the March 2007 premiere at the Shinemaraizu in Shibuya, were sold out. The film went on to win the "Best Animated Feature Film" award at the 2007 Asia Pacific Film Festival, as well as the "Lancia Platinum Grand Prize" at the Future Film Festival in Bologna, Italy.
In 2008, Shinkai began a world tour promoting "5 Centimeters," starting in the Middle East then winding up in London, England.