As the producer of The Laws of the Universe—a series of anime features from Isamu Imakake—Hisaaki Takeuchi has had grand ambitions. While Part 0 launched in 2015, Part I hit theaters this year, unfurling a mythology of the universe where humans and invading aliens strive to coexist.
In creating this film series, Takeuchi and his team saw that they were filling a creative gap. While there are endless mythologies from various cultures representing the world in their own ways, Takeuchi wanted to “connect to the Earth and space, beyond this timeline that we’re living right now,” in a way that had never been done in animation. To the producer, planet Earth is a place that presents endless questions. Where did we come from, and why is the world the way it is now? “There are a lot of ethnic differences—and there’s a lot of diversity—[to do] with the genesis of the Earth, and those are based on mythology,” he notes. “But we never know [how this came to be], right?”
A contender on Oscar’s Best Animated Feature shortlist, The Laws of the Universe – Part I is predicated on a set of beliefs, on the part of the creative team. “We believe that there are a lot of aliens on this Earth,” Takeuchi says. “And actually, in the beginning of the Earth, there were many aliens that flew to the Earth, and began living on Earth, and tried to civilize a lot.”
In the end, the film’s message is one of unity, in the face of complex challenges plaguing the world today. “The theme of the film is that [we] have to figure out how to deal with different values, how [we] can go beyond different barriers and get together,” the producer reflects. “We believe that love is more important than hatred; we think love can overcome any hatred, or any conflict, [based on] ethnicity or different religions.”
“In the film, we portrayed how aliens figured out how to get together with love and the power of acceptance,” he adds of the Eleven Arts release. “That’s not only about them, but also about us.”
What was your intention, when it came to your visual style for The Laws of the Universe – Part 1?
With this particular animation, we wanted to portray three big different worlds: this world, the other, heavenly world, and also the world of space. There are people like us on Earth, there are angels and alpha gods in the heavenly world, and also various aliens in space, and we were trying to show that all these creatures and worlds were coexisting together, in the same world and the same timeframe, especially with the lighting. We wanted to put those different worlds together, and do it in a mystical way. Does the expression of light make harmony in those three different kinds of worlds? And actually, we used really different types of light expression, depending on where they are. If they are alien, they shine a little bit differently from the heavenly world people. Also, we used it for people’s state of mind. Zamza, for example, transforms. She goes on her journey through the story, and she changes a lot inside, so we used a lot of different types of light expression to portray how she changes as a person.
How did the designs of your myriad alien creatures come about?
The executive producer of the film is Ryuho Okawa. He’s published thousands of books, and for 28 years in a row, his books have been best-sellers. One of his books is about aliens, and he actually planned everything about this film, and gave us ideas about how they should look. But also, we referenced dinosaurs and all the animals that are nonexistent right now. Then, we tried to make a world with a variety of animals and aliens. We also thought about those animals [we see] right now, [the fact that] they are based on [creatures], which must have come from a long time ago.
What approach did you take with the music we hear in the film?
For the background music, we tried new things. For example, we used music effects, but it’s not just the sound of a river, or water or air. We also added original music to it—to the sound effect. We tried to put in music when the river is running, where [there’s] the atmosphere of an Egyptian pyramid type of thing, and that was because we wanted to create a mysterious atmosphere. We wanted to try to make it creative and original. Also, we thought the sound of 330 million years ago must have been different from what we hear right now, so that [was one focus].
Were there other substantial challenges in making Part I that you could speak to?
The first thing director Imakake felt was challenging about this film was that he wanted to create 330 million years ago on Earth, which we never have been able to see. So, he traveled to Hawaii, this place in a subtropical zone, where people and plants and nature coexist in a really harmonized way, and that was his inspiration. Also, creating the Alpha shrine, he really tried to make it as original as possible. He got inspiration from Egyptian pyramids and other buildings, but he tried to think about why those structures were made, and what people wanted to portray with those structures. And what if they wanted to create something similar 330 million years ago? So, we had to create everything new. We couldn’t use anything existing on Earth right now and that was really challenging.
Another challenging part was the expression of light. We’ve been making films for over 20 years, but we’ve been focusing on how we can make invisible light, visible. In the film, we had to express [an idea of] light which we cannot actually see with our eyes. It wasn’t simply just drawing a light; we wanted viewers to feel the energy in the lighting, and we also wanted viewers to feel something special about it.
When can we expect the next installment in the Laws of the Universe series?
We actually already have plans and original stories for Part 3, and we’re going to show Part 2 in three years. Throughout the story, the main theme is how the Earth overcomes different values or different events, like war or conflicts, or many different things, and then how it is actually changed. We want to create a mythology of the Earth [that will express] the whole big picture. Part 1 was about how it began; in Part 2, we portray how different aliens and different people with different values get together, and how they overcome different things. That’s the evolution. In Part 2, we’re going to have a theme on good and evil, and with different events, we’re going to portray how people survive. They have to choose good over bad, and then they’re going to create a new world.