When 33-year-old director Hiroyasu Ishida was offered the opportunity to produce his second feature film, the opportunity arose with complete freedom to create whatever he wanted.
So, naturally, he chose a story about a group of school-aged children trapped in a floating apartment complex in the middle of the ocean. Because of course.
“We explored other ideas and concepts, but I came to this one because it’s something you never thought possible or plausible,” says Ishida, known for his feature debut, the film. prime penguin highway. “Also, it’s that age range that appeals to me for the characters because that’s when, as a young boy, I had the most fun of my life.”
Drift homewhich hits Netflix today, September 16, is produced by At a glance‘s Studio Colorido Co. and follows the story of sixth graders Kosuke and Natsume who, along with their friends, sneak into a dilapidated old public housing complex, which was once where Kosuke and Natsume lived. The two friends were raised as siblings, but later separated after their families moved to new homes.
When Natsume and Kosuke fight on the roof of their old house, they suddenly find themselves caught in a torrential downpour. As the storm subsides, the group of children discover the apartment and, with it, drift out to sea.
It was an early sketch of this scene that most intrigued Drift homeproducer Hibiki Saito.
“There was this first picture board that the director gave us, which was just a picture, a sketch, of this building drifting along the ocean,” Saito recalls. “I thought it was something we could definitely expand on. The staff and crew I had on board also felt the same, so we just agreed.
But while a massive, crumbling urban apartment floating in the middle of a vast blue ocean is certainly striking and unique, the heart of the film lies in the interior constructions of this particular apartment.
“There are different types of Danchi buildings, but the one featured in this film comes from a particular time, just after the end of World War II in Japan,” Ishida explains. “So these apartment buildings are over 50 years old and have sprouted all over the country, built on the ruins of war because there wasn’t enough housing to accommodate everyone in the country. One of the characteristics of the Danchi of this period is that the rooms are communicating, so you can go from one room to another without going out into the hallway.
The director continues, “They were also connected vertically, so someone on the first floor had a lot of communication with someone living on the second floor.”
The way these Danchi compounds were built stems from a concept used in the Edo period, where one-storey apartment-like houses had many people from the community living in a compound, and each residential area was connected.
“So everyone lived side by side, and you could move from one room or neighborhood to another and it was very easy to form a community among the residents who lived in those buildings,” says Ishida. “The Danchi apartment buildings follow that tradition in that the rooms are connected and there was this really strong sense of community between the tenants.”
In the film, Natsume is taken under the wing of Yasuji, Kosuke’s grandfather who lives in a Danchi apartment one floor below Kousuke and his parents. In current film footage and flashbacks, Natsume and Kosuke frequently run around the apartment, in and out of rooms, back and forth between multiple floors, traversing connecting routes as if they were secret tunnels. . fort that the children built themselves. The apartment is as much their playground as a living space.
Understanding the intricacies of the Danchi apartment was so important to Ishida that the director had a model made to help with the design and animation.
“There’s a bit of dialogue in the movie where they talk about how, with Natsume’s character, whenever she had emotional issues, she would transport herself from the fourth floor to the fifth floor, and vice versa, to get herself. comfort,” notes Ishida. “This feeling of vertical movement is something that contemporary apartment complexes in Japan don’t have. But, at the same time, this type of apartment complex is very typically Japanese and very symbolic of a specific era in Japan. So I want it to bring a sense of cultural discovery to those who watch this film.
But within this historically specific setting, Ishida wanted to capture a more universal message, based on nostalgia for the places we’ve called home. The film goes on to reveal Natsume’s harrowing family history and how, after being sent to live with Yasuji and Kosuke, she began to regard the old, dilapidated apartment as her refuge and salvation, which is why she is beyond reluctant. . let it go and move on. It’s a concept director Ishida and producer Saito are familiar with.
“I actually grew up in one of those apartment buildings in Danchi, and when I visited my family recently, they had moved out and are now living in a newer building,” Saito says. “I’m not someone who usually has a sense of nostalgia towards buildings, but I felt a wave of sentimentality wash over me the moment I learned that my family had moved. Watching this movie we made made me realize that this is an experience that everyone should have too.
For Ishida, each movement is accompanied by more than a small reminiscence.
“I moved many times between my childhood and my college years and, of course, for the houses or apartments where I lived longer, there is a feeling of attachment to these places,” he says. . “The first house I lived in was not a Danchi apartment, but it was much older with a history of around 90 years. high school, and when I went back there, I had this feeling of sentimentality.
He continues: “After that, I moved to Kyoto to go to university, and after spending five years in Kyoto, it became like a second home. Now I live in Tokyo, where I actually live in a Danchi apartment. I’m sure I’ll feel the same when I have to leave this building.
However, as Drift home continues to reveal, it is not just the physical location of a home that fosters fond memories, but the community that has been built within the building itself, the friendships that have been formed and the bonds that will survive all brick and mortar. In this way, a Danchi apartment, a house that expands the community effortlessly, is the perfect location for a film about childhood nostalgia.
“We’re telling the story of a place – this Danchi apartment – and growing up in a certain place, in a certain house, and having to say goodbye to that place and how you resolve that sadness or nostalgia,” Ishida says. . “The truth is that a place is never forever. They come and go, and then we also have to come and go or leave a place. And as we as people have to move on in our lives , it’s the connection with the people around us that really helps us transition through these changes.
Saito adds, “And I think that’s a kind of sensibility that’s not just Japanese, but very universal.”
As for why the apartment is adrift in the ocean? Viewers will have to watch the movie to get the answer.
Victoria Davis is a full-time freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She reported many stories ranging from activist news to entertainment. To learn more about his work, visit victoriadavisdepiction.com.