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The ninth episode of Pocket Monsters The Movie "Koko" Supporters' Podcast - "The Movie Secrets We Want to Tell You" (劇場版ポ ケットモンスター ココ －サポーターズPodcastーいま、君に伝えたい映画のヒミツ) was released on Friday, December 18th, 2020.
You can listen to the podcast here, though do be aware that the episode is completely in Japanese.
Host: Mr. Hisanori Yoshida (吉田尚記)
Special Guest: One of the film's Executive Producers, Mr. Hidenaga Katakami (片上秀長)
The podcast's host, Mr. Hisanori Yoshida, comments on how those of us who listen to this podcast week after week may notice that the audio seems a little off this time around. That's because today they're downstairs from where they usually are, near this huge studio where a daytime talk show is being filmed. He describes there being a Pokémon image in the background, and a member of the crew working on the white balance by holding up a sheet of white paper at the camera. Later on, he continues, he thinks Mr. Kankuro Nakamura and Ms. Moka Kamishiraishi, the stars of the new Pokémon movie, will be sitting down right over there. They're recording today's episode in a small room off to the side, but it's just a regular room and not one set up to be a recording studio, and so the acoustics aren't going to be the best. But they turned off the ventilation fan and Mr. Yoshida's put on a face mask for a change so they should hopefully be able to record the show normally.
Welcome to the Pocket Monsters The Movie "Koko" Supporters' Podcast - "The Movie Secrets We Want to Tell You"! We've only got one week to go before the release of Pocket Monsters The Movie "Koko"! This podcast explores the production side of the Pocket Monsters movies by talking to the various people who work behind the scenes to bring these films to life. They've got only two episodes left, including this one! The theme for this week's podcast is "The mastermind's here! The overall production of the Pokémon movies," and the guest they've brought on is one of the film's two executive producers, Mr. Hidenaga Katakami!
Mr. Katakami introduces himself as being from The Pokémon Company. Mr. Yoshida's idea of what an "executive producer" is of a guy in a three piece suit, like in The Aviator, but instead Mr. Katakami's come into the studio today looking pretty casual. The guest replies that he wants to dress in a way that makes him approachable; his job is set up so that people usually only come to him when there's some sort of problem, he says, so he needs to seem as unassuming and inviting as possible.
Mr. Yoshida just thought of something after hearing Mr. Katakami introduce himself. When the podcast host introduces himself he says he's "Yoshida from Nippon Broadcasting" even though the company he works for is officially known as the "Nippon Broadcasting System, Inc." But he noticed that Mr. Katakami introduced himself, formally, as "Katakami from The Pokémon Company." Doesn't he ever shorten it to just "Katakami from Pokémon"? He doesn't, Mr. Katakami responds. He recalls how he once heard a voicemail recording of his where he introduced himself as "Katakami from Pokémon" and it made everyone who heard it at the lunch table he was sitting at that day laugh and laugh. "Ooh~, a phone call from Pokémon, huh?" they all went. It was a bit embarrassing for him so he now makes sure to use his the company's full name whenever he introduces himself.
So how did Mr. Katakami get into Pokémon in the first place? He's about the same age as Mr. Yoshida so that means Pokémon would've come out around the time he was a university student, right? The first thing he really remembers, Mr. Katakami replies, is getting into was the movies. Mr. Yoshida recounts that, toward the end of his college years, he used to go to the brick-and-mortar video store Tsutaya and rent the Pocket Monsters TV series on VHS. Mr. Katakami used to go to Tsutaya a lot as well, he adds, though he'll talk more about that later.
The executive producer continues, saying he got into Pokémon right around the time when he was studying abroad. He knew he wanted to do something related to video production so he ended up enrolling in a Japanese film school outside Japan. It was during this time abroad that he'd hear his classmates talk about this really amazing new TV show out there called Pokémon. Mr. Yoshida asks where he was at this time, and he replies that he was in Santa Monica, California, USA. Mr. Yoshida states that he was basically right next door to the mecca of moviemaking! Mr. Katakami says that people from all over the world came to that school to study, adding he had classmates from places like India, South Korea, and Italy. Hearing the guest say "India" reminds Mr. Yoshida that he had just read that Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris' (parents) had come to California from India.
So Mr. Katakami was in this place where cinephiles from all over the world had gathered, and they all talked about how great this thing called "Pokémon" was? That was basically the first time any flags had been raised for him about this show. He would later go to Tsutaya and rent a bunch of videos, with one out of ten videos or so being a Pokémon movie. Around the time he turned 30 he was looking for a job back home in Japan, and he applied for video production jobs for a number of companies. He eventually joined The Pokémon Company about five years ago, in 2015.
Were you invited to come join The Pokémon Company or was that somewhere you sought out, asks the podcast host. Well, back then he didn't even know that a "Pokémon Company" even existed! But, after some natural disaster happened in Japan, one of his classmates from his college days asked him to come and help volunteer. So he went to whatever town had been affected and started helping out by doing simple grunt work like taking down the tents that had been set up. This was doing the Japanese Golden Week holidays, he recalls. At some point, one of the old ladies at the town hall mentioned that "Pokémon" was going to be coming into town that day and she asked Mr. Katakami to help them out. He had no idea what she meant at the time. Later, two men from The Pokémon Company came to the town to film certain things and, one thing led to another, and Mr. Katakami found himself helping out with photography-related tasks. It was at this point that Mr. Katakami realized that "The Pokémon Company" was an actual company; that this thing that had started off as a video game and TV series had gone on to become this huge publicly traded company. He was amazed at how quickly its rise had been. But to answer Mr. Yoshida's question, he was invited to come join the company.
Mr. Yoshida wants to make sure he has everything straight. Mr. Katakami knew of this worldwide phenomenon called Pocket Monsters, where they have all sorts of monsters who battle each other, but before that all he knew of Pokémon was that it was this thing that's really popular with children and the people back home in Japan. The executive producer confirms that this is correct. He says he was also interested in how a giant worldwide company like The Pokémon Company comes to the decisions it makes so he would try to study and contribute as much to that decision making process as possible, all while he was employed on their video production team. He worked on the animated TV series, of course, but he also helped out with commercials for various products, videos for the video games, and then eventually the movies. Mr. Katakami started at The Pokémon Company around Autumn 2015, right around the time they were trying to figure out what they were going to do for the 20th anniversary film that would eventually become I Choose You! From that point onwards they asked him to be the person in charge of the movies, and then he was asked to work on the TV series Sun & Moon, and then also the foreign-made film Pokémon: Detective Pikachu.
So Mr. Katakami got the idea to work for Pokémon when he was actually in the trenches with the company doing volunteer work. When he started working on I Choose You! did he feel free comfortable stating his own opinions freely? The executive producer responds that he actually just listened to the opinions of the other people in the room at first; everyone had all these ideas about what they should do for the 20th Pokémon movie, he says, so he would just sit there and absorb what everyone had to say. Mr. Tsunekazu Ishihara gathered all the people who had been with the series since the very beginning -- which wasn't that many people, considering just how long the show had been going on by that point -- and they all gave out ideas of what they thought would be fitting for a 20th anniversary movie. He remembers this clearly, even today. The podcast host asks if this was Mr. Katakami's first time seeing the birth of a Pokémon movie from the very, very beginning. The executive producer says that it was, adding that they were also in the middle of producing the 19th movie at that time so he was able to observe first-hand how the scripts are made, how they go about double checking everything, and so on.
What were Mr. Katakami's first impressions of the Pokémon movie making process? He answers that he quickly realized that they really don't have any extra wiggle room when it comes to getting all the tasks they have to complete before the film's deadline. That's one of the reasons he was brought in, actually; as an outsider he had all these ideas about how his production company could do to help these films along. The actual creative aspects of the movies are left to their director, Mr. Kunihiko Yuyama, as well as the rest of the films' very passionate staff. Mr. Katakami says they then have to boil down each film to a simple message, backed by numbers and other hard data, so that they can eventually convey to the various partners involved. And in the end, they had things like merch ready at the Pokémon Center stores right when the film came out, and other non-Pokémon Go tie-ins (since the mobile game was still just a glimmer in Niantic's eye back in 2017) and then they also did things like take a bunch of post-screening audience interviews and participated in group interviews with the public transportation company jeki. Mr. Katakami concludes that it's a good idea to get the creative side of the films to cooperate with them in getting the message of the films.
When the first Pokémon movie came out, he recalls, they had merchandise for it ready at the Pokémon Center store in Japan, and the TV series had tie-ins as well. So for the 20th movie they wanted to create a film that would remind those fans from back in the day what it was like to go see Pokémon in the theater and then help make them want to start coming back again. They crunched the data and found that those fans in their 20s and 30s had seen Pokémon movies in theaters before but that they didn't really see them as something they need to keep going to year after year. So they talked with the films' distributor, Toho, and came up with a number of new ideas, like increase the number of weeknight showings (an idea Toho's Mr. Morita talked about in Episode 03 of the podcast) or writing little messages on the movie posters that they thought would appeal to older fans. Of course the films have the creative teams who work on them, and so the job of people like Mr. Katakami is to find a way to get those creative works out to as many people as possible. They're really nervous when it comes to seeing how adults will react to these new movies, he adds.
Mr. Yoshida responds by saying it seems like they aren't just like "OK, let's just keep doing things the way we've always been" but instead rethink their approach each and every year and then make adjustments as needed. You can see a big difference in how Everyone's Story, the first fully CG Pokémon film Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution, and then this year's film Koko were all handled, from a marketing standpoint. Listening to Mr. Katakami talk, the podcast host continues, it seems like he doesn't come into these movies with a set idea of how he should approach these films. If he's planning a vacation for himself he'll have a pre-conceived notion of what he should do, Mr. Katakami says, but in his professional life he has his production company bring all these movie veterans together and rely on them to support the films' creative staff. The production sides and creative sides are handled by different teams -- something that was beaten into his head when he was studying in the U.S., he adds -- and it'd be weird for producers like himself to tell the creative side what to do. So instead, they look at what the creative teams have come up with and find a way to turn the art they made into words that his collaborators can then understand.
The year's movie, Koko, has a lot of things about it that makes it unique. So how did Mr. Katakami go about conveying what this movie's going to be like to his collaborators? Well with Mr. Yajima's Everyone's Story, he remembers it was tough to really boil that movie down into a simple phrase that they could use as the movie's tagline. So this time around they worked on the tagline and then augmented that message by using the film's soundtrack and the state-of-the-art visuals that the Pocket Monsters movies are known for having to really paint a picture of what this film's going to be like. For the music, he adds, they got all the background music from the film's composer Mr. Shinji Miyazaki, as well as the vocal songs produced for the film produced by Mr. Okazaki Physical Education, and then they played all that music, in chronological order. This gave the film's partners an idea of what it would feel like to actually watch the completed product.
But we should get back to the topic at hand. One of the themes of this movie is a simple "parent and child" one. The film's director is pulling from his own life experiences with this one, similar to the way he used his experiences with his own grandmother to create the old woman character Hisui from Everyone's Story. Mr. Katakami is impressed with Mr. Yajima's ability to take his real life experiences and translate them into Pokémon movies.
So it's now time for the big question on everybody's mind: what exactly does an Executive Producer do, anyway? Listening to everything he's said up until now it seems like Mr. Katakami has his fingers in a lot of pies so it's hard for the podcast host to figure out what exactly it is that he does. To put it simply, Mr. Katakami responds, a lot of companies come together to produce a single Pocket Monsters movie. From The Pokémon Company's side, their goals are to 1) make a film that's really good, and 2) a film that's really successful, and so they work with all the other companies involved to help facilitate the completion of those two goals. Mr. Yoshida compares it to being a second baseman or shortstop in baseball. You have balls coming at you from all over, and you have to make quick decisions right there in the moment; the second baseman doesn't have time to run over to the bench real quick and ask the other players what he should do, right? It's the same thing with an Executive Producer, he reckons.
Mr. Katakami's job also entails creating that link between the world of Pokémon in the movies and the real world. He listens to what others have to say about making this the best movie they can and all the while Mr. Katakami thinks about which elements they'll be able to pluck from the film and bring out into the real world. The creative side worries about the film from the point of view of the world of the movie, while executive producers like Mr. Katakami worries about both the world of the movie and the world outside the screen. So for example you have Zarude, the star of the this year's movie. The creative team worries about how to make them seem cool and special within the context of the movie while Mr. Katakami helps facilitate making that character available in the video games so that audiences can enjoy playing with Zarude even after the movie's done. When they first started working on the film Mr. Katakami met with Game Freak and were like we have this idea for a Pokémon, can you put it in your games somehow? Mr. Yoshida adds that both before the movie begins and after the movie ends there are these messages on the screen that reminds the audience to make sure they download their Zarude when they get home.
Mr. Yoshida wants to talk about the Zarude design a little bit more. Mr. Katakami says that Game Freak, of course, has its own idea about what the Pokémon should be within the world of the games it created and so they made a design, and then The Pokémon Company would be like "well, we want to tell this kind of story" and so Game Freak would make little adjustments to the design accordingly. Mr. Katakami's job involves him working with Game Freak, on a very tight schedule, he adds, to come up with the look of the character as well as what abilities it has. Mr. Yoshida thought "design" just meant the way it looks but this also includes what attacks it can use? That if "Dada" Zarude uses these attacks in the movie then it should also be able to use those attacks in the video games? The podcast host hadn't thought of that, but it does make a certain amount of sense; if the character in the video game seems weaker than the cool character they saw in the movie then players will be disappointed, right?
Movie productions are, by their very nature, these huge beasts that require various teams to work together, and that's doubly true when it comes to Pokémon movies. Everyone wants to create a truly multi-layered experience, Mr. Katakami says. He works with a bunch of companies -- Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions for the video, OLM for the animation production, etc. -- and as everyone works on their parts The Pokémon Company has constant dialogues with each and every one of them to make sure everyone's on the same page. As far as Mr. Katakami is aware Pokémon movies require a lot more work than other movies do.
He also states that he has to be friendly and approachable because a lot of people need to feel like they can come to him to talk about various aspects of the movie. Though maybe the people who work directly under him don't necessarily feel that way, he says with a laugh. Mr. Katakami adds that he's a parent himself so he's used to having a bunch of people coming to him with all sorts of requests, he adds.
Mr. Yoshida says that the person who came up with the idea to do this very podcast was Mr. Katakami (*1). It really is a great platform for them to talk about anything and everything! But why did Mr. Katakami want them to do a podcast in the first place? Well, the decision to delay the film had to be made fairly early on -- if they let the pre-order tickets go on sale before postponing the film then that would just cause all sorts of headaches -- so they made the decision back in March or April. Of course he was sad to have to postpone the film but he saw a lot of nice messages from the fans that were like "don't worry, take your time" or "we'll wait patiently." He wanted to do something for those fans who have been so understanding during this difficult time so they began thinking of what kind of new content they could deliver to them while they wait. They talked with Toho and decided a podcast was the way to go. Mr. Katakami also says that if this was any other year they wouldn't have been able to do this podcast because nobody would have had the free time to come do it!
(*1) Mr. Yoshida has also said that Mr. Michihiro Morita, from Toho, was the one who came up with the idea for the podcast back in Episode 03.
The podcast host states that next week's episode, the final episode, will have Mr. Kankuro Nakamura and Ms. Moka Kamishiraishi as its guests. This really is a roller coaster of a podcast; they're going from having Mr. Katakami on the show to having a historical period actor and a movie star on!
It's time to wrap up the show! Pocket Monsters The Movie "Koko" hits theaters December 25th, 2020. The special pre-order tickets that have serial codes for a Zarude and Celebi of the Okoya Forest are currently on-sale.
Mr. Yoshida asks Mr. Katakami to send everyone off with a message. The podcast host adds that of all the guests they've had until now they all say that this final message is the most difficult part of the show for them. So, Mr. Yoshida says, how about you try giving a message not as a representative of The Pokémon Company but as someone talking to his close friends and family. Mr. Katakami says that a lot of the people who worked on this movie, even Mr. Yajima, have told him that he's like a father to them, so he should be able to manage something:
Mr. Katakami: I was raised in a household with only one parent -- my father wasn't around -- and so I wanted to deliver a movie that speaks to all those kids like that. I couldn't remember what I was into when I was a kid, though, so I went on sites like YouTube and watched videos of things that would have been popular when I was in elementary school, like Bikkuriman, to help me figure out how to make this movie something special. There's a lot to keep track of when raising kids from a small age I didn't realize, like how you have to keep their immunizations up to date, for example. And there are a ton of things I didn't know about raising children, or about myself, really, until I became a father. I didn't grow up with a father, and Zarude wasn't a father at first, but I still really resonated with this movie so hopefully others will feel the same way.
Mr. Yoshida asks if there's anybody who can't relate to this movie, and Mr. Katakami responds that he doesn't think there is. There's something in here for everyone! Mr. Yoshida adds that his daughter's in middle school now and that it would have been nice if a movie like this had come out seven or eight years ago instead, he says with a laugh.
The podcast host thanks his guest for his time and the two of them sign off for the episode.
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