Columns > Published on November 4th, 2019

Anime Directors Whose Work Influenced "Cherry Blossom Eyes"

Cherry Blossom Eyes is my new novella from Eraserhead Press. As much as it draws influence from the work of Bizarro fiction authors such as Carlton Mellick III and Cameron Pierce, it also draws influence from some of my favourie anime directors. Here are four anime directors with a brief explanation of what they bring to the table, and how their work influenced my novella.

1. Hayao Miyazaki

Miyazaki is the go-to guy for lovers of anime films. He's the legendary director of Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Ponyo, amongst others. His work excels at capturing a child-like wonder and vibrant energy in stories brimming with fantasy and adventure. Themes of family and friendship are often at the forefront of his films and nature sometimes manifests itself as spirit creatures defending themselves and their domain against a cold and heartless humankind.

The child-like wonder and fantastical mythology is something I carried across into my own work. And then there's the themes of nature, with my story focusing on an island with a strange connection to the cherry blossom trees which grow there.

2. Mamoru Hosoda

Hosoda's films are often coming of age stories with his protagonists finding themselves in transformative experiences which are as unusual as they are challenging. His works typically take place in contemporary settings with fantastical twists, like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Wolf Children, which features a family whose children can transform between humans and wolves.

The transformative nature of his stories make for interesting and creative storytelling, as it places focus on the protagonists and how they manage to grow and adapt, regardless of whether a villain or antagonist is present or not. Cherry Blossom Eyes focuses on two kids growing up and experiencing rituals and traditions from new perspectives, learning that not everything is as black and white as it seems as a child, and that many lines are often wildly blurred.

3. Satoshi Kon

The late Satoshi Kon had an uncanny knack for creating fluid and dreamlike transitions in his films, which he utilised to great effect, with characters suddenly finding themselves sucked from a dream into reality or from reality into a dream or memory. This was most evident in his psychological thriller, Perfect Blue, which blurred the lines between reality and imagination, such that you couldn't be sure if the protagonist had a stalker or it was a figment of her imagination or everything was constructed out of her greatest dreams and greatest fears.

What really makes Satoshi Kon's work a thrill to watch is the perspective. Reality is subjective. The truth is fluid. Perception is everything. I took this idea and ran with it. With shapeshifters swimming up onto the beach and taking on human form, replacing those you know and love, it warps reality in ways that gets you second-guessing everyone you meet, examining their behaviours and mannerisms with hyper-focus. You might not even recognise your own mother or your best friend.

4. Masaaki Yuasa

Yuasa is the wildest, most reckless director on this list. His works vary so violently in content and style. He holds zero regard for reality and logic, instead focusing on what is important for telling the story, regardless of how strange it seems. Each film or series has its own aesthetic, from the slow, surreal, quiet mood of Kaiba to the breakneck speed and hyperfocus of The Tatami Galaxy, to the vibrant wild art aesthetic of Mind Game. Nothing is uniform, nothing fits in any particular box. The only guarantee is that you're in for a wild ride.

If there's one thing you can take away from Yuasa's work, it's that there's no wrong way to create art. If you go a step further, you learn that there's no point trying to tread the ground of others in your field. Be your own aesthetic. I put effort into making Cherry Blossom Eyes a wild and fun and surreal read, told in a style unique to me. Even if you go for wildly different styles or voices from book to book, project to project— each one can be distinctly different and still distinctly, uniquely you.

Cherry Blossom Eyes is out now from Eraserhead Press. 

About the author

S.T. Cartledge is an Australian writer of action/adventure Bizarro fiction, often bordering on the fantastical, with rich world-building and fast-paced action sequences inspired by anime, manga, and the works of D. Harlan Wilson, Carlton Mellick III, and Cameron Pierce. 

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