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Exclusive: Afro Samurai director Fuminori Kizaki reveals details of his new cyberpunk film

By Jacob Oller
Human Lost

Fuminori Kizaki made a huge splash onto the anime scene with his direction of the Samuel L. Jackson-starring Afro Samurai in 1998 and its Emmy-winning follow-up Afro Samurai: Resurrection in 2009. Kizaki continued working on high-profile projects after that with films such as Bayonetta: Bloody Fate and miniseries such as an anime take on the X-Men that aired back in 2011. Now a sci-fi film he's been developing for the past four years, Human Lost, is about to hit theaters.

Human Lost adapts Osamu Dazai's famous novel No Longer Human into a cyberpunk world, injecting the book's intense character study and damaged themes into a world of motorcycles, neon, and blaster-filled battles. Yozo Oba joins a gang in Tokyo 2036, where medical advances mean the hyper-rich can live forever. He's not one of them. What does it all mean? Well, we have some answers to tide fans over until the film hits theaters this fall.

SYFY WIRE sat down for an exclusive interview with the Human Lost director and his C2E2 panel mate, Shuzo John Shiota (Polygon Pictures president), to talk about sci-fi, adaptation, and flaming horses.

Aside from the change in animation style (from 2D to 3D), can you tell me a little bit about what's been different working on this film than working on Afro Samurai?

Kizaki: The genre is totally different from Afro Samurai. It was an action samurai movie with a robot. Human Lost is sci-fi. It's very modern. So this time, in this movie, I'm stepping into a new area I didn't have experience with. The last footage that we showed had a highway chase, a bike chase. There's a squad coming down from a helicopter. These are totally brand-new things I've never had a chance to express on screen. I experimented.

You mentioned Blade Runner at the panel, which, like No Longer Human, also features themes of alienation and identity. How do you convey these emotions in your sci-fi world?

Kizaki: The attraction of the original novel, No Longer Human, is that it's a taste of alienation. A taste of, basically, the human being's weak part. Which everyone has inside, kind of like the nature of the human being. Since everyone has it, viewers can sympathize with this essence, which I wanted to bring to the film.

So should fans read the novel before seeing the film?

Kizaki: It's not mandatory. Maybe it's better to read it after the movie since it's so different.

And much more depressing.

Shiota: Exactly.

What can you tell fans that are only going to see the brief teaser in order to get them excited for the film?

Kizaki: As the director of the movie, I put a lot of thought into the characters' storylines and the emotional expression within the plot. If the audience could feel that, I'd be very happy. Some people say that after seeing the movie, they feel very moved or that it was a very heartwarming story. Eguru — it's like ... if the storyline drilled into viewers' emotions. Sticks with you.

It's that idea married to the big sci-fi battle scenes — how do you balance the two?

Kizaki: I balanced the action scenes in order to express the emotions. I figured out when the action scenes should be after what kind of dialogue — placing those emotional battle scenes was important.

Also, it's a long movie, 110 minutes. So I paid attention not to let the audience get bored.

You mentioned the characters' storylines. The novel primarily has one character — how many are in Human Lost?

Kizaki: Three. Yozo the protagonist, Yoshiko the sub-protagonist, and Masao the antagonist.

How do you want to push the sci-fi genre forward?

Kizaki: There are lots of other parts of the movie that aren't like those in the trailer that pull from influences like Mad Max or Ghost in the Shell. There are other elements that are cyberpunk-like, which, adding to the others spreads the genre, [are] pushing it forward.

Shiota: There's an abstract part we haven't shown in the trailer, which is kind of like a depiction of the inner soul. There are some sequences with some color concepts that show up right in the midst of a cyberpunk thing that are totally different.

One final question: In the C2E2 trailer, we saw a horse that was on fire. What was that about?

Kizaki: Yozo is a painter. He painted that horse. It's from Hell.

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