The year was 1989. I was on a usual weekend family visit to my grandparents place. It was totally mundane and largely routine; we would always arrive in the mid afternoon, have dinner prepared by my grandmother, and then head home around 9 or 10 o’clock. But something that would transpire that evening made it an unforgettable day etched forever in my memory. My youngest uncle, whom me and my brother liked immensely because of his huge collection of Japanese comics and cartoons, was once again poised to impress us with his latest acquisitions. Popping the laserdisc ( I still remember vividly those huge and cumbersome laserdiscs, awkward by today’s standards but state of the art then ) into the player as the film started, the television screen was filled by the image of a huge and hulking crater, as a bold red title appeared.
The film was Akira. Neither me nor my brother had ever seen anything as devastatingly powerful and at once shocking; indeed, few animation films past and present can challenge the sheer awe and depth of this groundbreaking animation masterpiece. I was immediately hooked; I must have lived and breathed Akira for years to come, watching the film countless times and poring over the comics, its imaginative and detail artwork the stuff I wish I could one day, if even just a tiny percentage of that beauty, recreate.
Fast forward 17 years into the future, I am now 27 and on a film scholarship here in Tokyo, Japan. Its a cold October evening and I’m rushing around like a madman in Ogikubo, searching frantically for the studio where I was supposed to attend an interview for a job that should have started 30 minutes ago.
“Where the hell have you been ? Get the f**k outta here, we do not entertain late comers.” These nightmarish thoughts, soon to become reality I figure, flashed over and over again in my mind.
* * *
One hour later. I emerged from the studio, bowing profusely. The director said he liked the work he saw on my website, hopes for me to begin work with them soon.
The name of the studio, stuck nonchalantly on the door, read Steamboy Studios; the name of the assignment that I am soon to embark on : Project Freedom; character designer; Katsuhiro Otomo.
I’m greatly honoured to join the Project Freedom committee, standing on the shoulder of giants. To me, the chance of working on a Otomo Katsuhiro film is nothing short of a dream come true. I live a blessed life, I think.