Directors of Blame! not feeling the pressure

Directors Hiroyuki Seshita and Tadahiro Yoshihira are behind Netfilx's Blame! (above).
Directors Hiroyuki Seshita and Tadahiro Yoshihira are behind Netfilx's Blame! (above).PHOTO: TSUTOMU NIHEI, KODANSHA/ BLAME! PRODUCTION COMMITTEE, BLAME ANIME/TWITTER
Directors Hiroyuki Seshita (far left) and Tadahiro Yoshihira are behind Netfilx's Blame!.
Directors Hiroyuki Seshita (far left) and Tadahiro Yoshihira are behind Netfilx's Blame!.PHOTO: TSUTOMU NIHEI, KODANSHA/ BLAME! PRODUCTION COMMITTEE, BLAME ANIME/TWITTER

Directors of Netflix's Blame! say they had been working very closely with the artist of the manga on the film project

Much hype has surrounded Netflix's film adaptation of the cult manga series, Blame!, but the co- directors of the new project are not feeling any pressure.

That is because, unlike most adaptations of iconic works, the creator of the original story - in this case, Tsutomu Nihei - is very much involved in the making of the film from start to finish.

Fans can therefore rest assured that the vision here is fully approved by the 46-year-old manga artist himself.

As Hiroyuki Seshita, lead director of the film, tells The Straits Times in a recent interview: "Mr Nihei is a core person on the movie-making staff and did everything from scriptwriting to looking at the artwork.

"He was involved on a scale here that you cannot imagine. He would design concept art and bring his sketches for us and there were so many of these sketches that they can all come together to make a book."

His co-director and computer graphics supervisor, Tadahiro Yoshihira, agrees.

"It's not like he was some guy who looked at us from the outside, to tell us what he liked or didn't like. He was very much a member of our team, working from the inside," he says.

"He would give a lot of suggestions, but he was also open to what we said, so it was a collaborative effort."

The pair were speaking to The Straits Times in Japanese via a translator in a video conference call from Tokyo, where they are based.

Blame!, which is available on streaming service Netflix, is based on Nihei's 10-volume science- fiction manga series set in the distant future, where people live in a bleak technological megastructure that expands endlessly. As humans have lost the ability to control this structure, they are seen as a threat and in danger of being exterminated.

When the manga was released in 1998, it made waves in the scene for its imaginative storyline and stark art. It is now widely considered to be one of the most influential cyberpunk science-fiction manga series of all time.

Seshita, 50, who remembers the manga's impact when it was first published, says: "I was already working in anime at the time and everyone in the business was talking about this hugely original piece of work. Obviously, I'm a huge fan."

Yoshihira, 39, adds: "I was 20 years old when the manga came out and I remember thinking how cool it was. I thought it was so stylish and it had a huge influence on what I wanted my future occupation to be."

Given the complex and sprawling nature of the manga, however, it is considered a particularly difficult piece of work to adapt for the screen. A seven-part Web TV anime adaptation in 2003 received lukewarm reviews.

Learning from that, Seshita says the makers of the current film decided to focus on just a small part of the story instead.

He says: "The basic aesthetics of the world are consistent with the manga, but the story here will be much more focused because it can be told only in two hours.

"In fact, you can look at this film as an original storyline, but still done by Nihei himself. Those who are not familiar with the manga will still be able to follow it."

Despite the original manga being nearly two decades old, the directors believe the themes are more relevant than ever.

Seshita says: "When you look at all the things going on in the world and stories about artificial intelligence and technology, you'll find that the manga resonates.

"The world has caught up with the one depicted in the manga 20 years ago."

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

•Blame! is available on Netflix.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline 'Gunning for the original'. Print Edition | Subscribe