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Noted Japanese author Haruki Murakami is happy with first animated adaptation of his short stories

TOKYO — Renowned Japanese author Haruki Murakami expressed joy with how several of his short stories were adapted in American director Pierre Földes’ animated film “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman”, adding he wanted to see future interpretations of his work with filmmakers’ own spin.

The Japanese language version of the 2022 film will be released for the first time in Japan on July 26. It is the first animated adaptation of Murakami’s work.

After screening the film Saturday at his alma mater Waseda University in Tokyo, Murakami — joining Földes at a talk session — admitted that while he wasn’t a fan of animated films, he watched it twice.

The filmmaker was inspired by six of Murakami’s short stories: “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo” and “U.F.O. in Kushiro”— from “After the Quake,” collection, written after the fatal 1995 Kobe earthquake — and ”Birthday Girl,” “Dabchick,” “The Windup Bird and Tuesday’s Women.”

“Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” is set in Tokyo in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima meltdowns. It focuses on three main characters — Katagiri, a diligent but lonely and confidence-lacking banker who teams up with a giant talking frog to save Tokyo from an imminent second quake, his unenthusiastic younger colleague and his wife Kyoko, who — depressed and glued to earthquake news on TV — leaves him. Through recollections and dreams, the three eventually find peace and the ability to start anew.

Murakami praised the animated version of the intelligent green Frog, voiced by Földes, saying it matched how he imagined the character to be.

“What I would like to see is not a mere film version of what I wrote, but something added to it and becoming something new,” Murakami said during the talk.

Földes said his approach “is to be faithful to my interpretation of things of my inspiration,” which obviously worked for Murakami.

The American filmmaker said he didn’t have a definitive plan when he picked six stories that “I just love.” But things started to build “like different crops growing together,” he told Murakami. “Little by little all these links appeared and this is how I combined all your stories into one story with other stories inside.”

The popular writer’s works previously inspired several award-winning works, including Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s 2021 “Drive My Car” and South Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s 2018 thriller “Burning.”

Murakami cited both films and Földes’ animation as examples that successfully achieved his and the directors’ goals.

“Making a film based on short stories would require directors creativity to add own materials, which tends to help the creation of an interesting product,” he said, noting that adapting a film from a full-length novel could require the opposite to make it in a two-hour production.

Murakami also said his “Underground,” his non-fiction long-form investigative work which is based on interviews with people affected by the 1995 terrorist poisonous gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, would make a fascinating film.

“Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” received a nomination for best-animated film at the 2024 Lumieres Awards.

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