CHILDREN OF THE SEA
One summer vacation, teenage Ruka meets two strange boys, Umi and Sora, and begins to discover her own supernatural connection to the sea as they get caught up in the mystery of the worldwide disappearance of the oceans’ fish.
Saturday 28 March | Picture House | Doors 10.15 AM Session 10.45 AM
Director: Ayumu Watanabe | 2019 | Japan | 110 mins | Animation | Japanese with subtitles
Estranged from her parents, a young girl named Ruka visits an aquarium on her summer vacation, and is drawn to two brothers, Umi and Sora, who were raised by dugongs. As Ruka begins to discover in herself a supernatural connection to the sea, a host of aquatic life mysteriously gathers off the coast. Adapted from the manga of the same name by Daisuke Igarashi, Children of the Sea lifts the artwork, story and dialogue directly from its pages, creating an atmospherically exquisite oceanic animation, leading to an incredible psychedelic finale.
CHILDREN OF THE SEA is the latest feature from Japan’s STUDIO4°C (known for Tekkonkinkreet,MFKZ, Mind Game, Animatrix, Batman: Gotham Knight and others), and is directed by Ayumu Watanabe, with a score by award-winning composer and longtime Studio Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro). CHILDREN OF THE SEA is adapted from the manga of the same name by author Daisuke Igarashi, which won the Excellence Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival.
When Ruka was younger, she saw a ghost in the water at the aquarium where her dad works. Now she feels drawn towards the aquarium and the two mysterious boys she meets there, Umi and Sora. They were raised by dugongs and hear the same strange calls from the sea as she does. Ruka’s dad and the other adults who work at the aquarium are only distantly aware of what the children are experiencing as they get caught up in the mystery of the worldwide disappearance of the oceans’ fish.
When Ayumu Watanabe first read the manga on which his GKIDS film is based, he responded immediately to its visual style. “I was reading [Igarashi’s] manga before Children of the Sea came out, so I was already a fan, and I knew his artwork well,” the director tells Deadline. “For me, the variation between simple lines and sometimes very detailed [illustrations] was something I was really drawn to.”
Fundamentally, the director notes, the designs for his film’s characters came straight out of the manga. “[But] what’s really interesting is that if you just lift up a manga-designed character and stick it in animation, it’s all out of balance, and it ends up not being what you thought it would be,” he says. “We actually got the blessing of the manga artist, because he understood that it’s not a one-to-one transfer. The manga artist let the character designer do what he needed to do, in order for it to translate well into animation.”
For Watanabe and CGI supervisor Kenichiro Akimoto, one of the greatest challenges of bringing Children of the Sea to life had to do with realistically animating all of the kinds of marine life seen in the film. “For fish life and the environment, we took trips to the ocean, and did a lot of research at aquariums. We were also able to work with a university, whose specialty is to look at the movement of fish. So, we were able to look at them very closely,” Akimoto says. “What was really difficult is that in live-action, when you’re on the street, you have perspective, because you have cars, you have electric poles, so you understand depth. But [in this case], you just had a blank slate of ocean. It was especially difficult to create depth, when you’re working with a clean slate.”
Like another 2019 GKIDs title, Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering with You, Watanabe’s film is concerned with climate change. “But it’s not just holding a sign that says, ‘Keep the oceans clean.’ It’s more about portraying something beautifully, and then having the audience think, ‘How can I maintain that? What’s the answer?’ And realize that, ‘I’m part of this world, too,’” the director explains. “Once you understand that, you are not just an individual. You are one of many people on this Earth, and we’re all connected.”