We’re so honored to have an opportunity to interview with Akihiro Nishino, a picture book author, screenwriter, and executive producer for an animated film, Poupelle of Chimney Town. Poupelle of Chimney Town is based on a hit picture book written and drawn by Nishino, and it’s sold over 700,000 copies (as of June 2021) since its release in 2016. Multi projects are currently underway, including a stage show, a kabuki musical, a solo art exhibition, and the construction of a museum. Nishino was the first Japanese artist who ever held a picturebook exhibition at the Eiffel Tower in Paris as well.

This mega-hit picture book received an anime film adaption by STUDIO4°C’s and Director Yusuke Hirota in Japan last year. It’s finally hitting the US theaters distributed by Eleven Arts starting December 30, 2021 and nationwide on January 7, 2022, subtitled and dubbed in English.


1. You’re a very well-known comedian in Japan, but what made you start drawing picture books? What did you want to express through books?

I got into the entertainment industry when I was about 19 or 20 years old, and I was able to appear on TV at a relatively early stage of my career. But when I was 25, I realized that as long as my work heavily relied on the Japanese language, I couldn’t reach an audience beyond the 120 million people in Japan no matter how hard I would try. I asked myself, “is it okay to end here?” and even thought about quitting my job as a comedian.

If I want to compete with and reach billions of people in the world, I realized I had to create non-verbal or translatable content. At that time, Tamori, a famous Japanese comedian, suggested that I should draw. I wasn’t really interested in just drawing, but I liked making stories, so I came up with the idea to make a picture book.

When thinking about competing against the world, I thought that Japanese people relatively have a higher chance to win in categories with unified standards, for example, sports that are classified by weight. However, if it’s something that relies on a budget, there’s no chance for me to compete as equals with Disney and Hollywood. (Laughs) But when it comes to a picture book, Disney’s and my budgets would not differ so much. It instead would simply be a competition of talents. I thought that the possibility of being able to compete with these big names was zero if it was any kind of media other than a picture book, and that’s how I started my career in this field.

What is so exceptional about a picture book?

Originally, it’s not like I wanted to do only picture books, but I thought that it was very interesting that a picture book could become a communication tool for both parents and children. Other forms of entertainment can be enjoyed by kids alone, but I love the aspect of parents reading books to their children.


2. I heard you used a specialized method in the creation of your picture book where you divided each task to different artists that had their own expertise in specific fields.  When you first started working on Poupelle Of Chimney Town, were you already aiming for a film adaptation in the future?

Yes, correct. I originally wrote a script for a movie, but I thought that no one would go see a movie without knowing the story. I combined only Chapters 3 and 4, out of seven original chapters, together into a picture book so that people can get to know about Poupelle first.

Does that mean that you made a picture book considering a movie production from the beginning?

That’s right!

Was overseas screening one of your goals for this project as well?

Of course. Screening this movie all over the world was my goal from the beginning.


3. In Poupelle of Chimney Town, you’re the film’s screenwriter and the executive producer. You were also involved with casting and even composed a theme song. What aspect of the film production were you most insistent on?

It was the production committee’s decision. The film is supported financially by sponsors, but they had to agree to the condition that they’ll never say a word about this project when they joined us. (Laughs) I knew I was being ultra selfish, but I was committed to my beliefs until the end. (Laughs)

Movie theme songs are usually sung by popular artists so that they can promote the song on a TV show. But when I thought about the difference between a “product” and a “work,” I realized that a “product” is made when it’s needed by the majority, while a“work” is made because you want to create no matter what, regardless of the general or commercial needs. In other words, I thought a significant difference is whether marketing comes before or after it’s made. I didn’t want to cast the artists only with marketing in mind because then it would become a “product.” If I’m making something that is worth risking my life for, I want to create a “work” rather than a “product.” That’s why I casted an unknown artist, Lozareena. Sure she was not someone famous, but her voice matched the world of Poupelle very well. I even composed a song myself… (Laughs) So, the part of production I was most insistent on was persuading the people around me to create a “work” the way I wanted to make it.

That means you could create the world of Poupelle exactly how you wanted it to be right?

Yes! I casted everyone because I thought each of them was perfect for this film.


4. The production and screening were going on during the pandemic. What was the most challenging part of the process?

The pandemic took over the world near the end of the production and the movie release. Compared to a live-action film, an anime film production is actually more compatible with remote work. Even though all the staff still had a tough time, we managed to break through somehow.

However, delivering this film to an audience was much more challenging. We voluntarily decided to cancel all screening events, but we still wanted people to come to see the movie that we worked so hard on. I didn’t want to give up. So I decided to go to see the movie with a live audience about three to four times a day for a whole month in theaters all over Japan. Thankfully, the movie was a hit, but then I got bashed because of this. (Laughs)

Why? Because groups of people gathered?

No, if it’s not ideal for people to gather, you can’t shoot, film or even ask people to go see a movie on social media. Japanese people have a tendency to criticize things that they’ve never seen. Perhaps some people didn’t like that the movie was a hit while their stress was building up due to the pandemic. When I asked them what exactly was wrong, no one could give me an answer.

I feel like this type of criticism happens pretty often in Japan. You’re also a celebrity, so rather than your work being evaluated purely, your involvement may have indirectly altered the image of a film based on different perspectives of you as a celebrity. In that case, the quality of your work will actually be evaluated purely based on what it offers and its success overseas.

Yes, it was pretty rough. But it actually pumped me up. (Laughs)


5. Which scene moved you the most when you first saw the completed film?

At the beginning of the movie, there was a scene where a tram flew. That scene reminded me that I’m in the entertainment industry because as a kid I loved these kinds of exciting moments, like scenes from Indiana Jones. It means a lot to me that now I’m on the side of providing that kind of entertainment. I think I would be super thrilled if I had seen it when I was a kid!


6. I read the picture book, Poupelle Of Chimney Town online. I cried for the first time from reading a picture book. It is said that the film, Pupelle of Chimney Town includes things that were not drawn in the book. Is the film’s story considered to be the complete version of Poupelle Of Chimney Town?

Yes, the movie is a complete version of this series.

Will you draw a sequel picture book in the future?

Hmm, I prefer movies to picture books, so if I were to make a sequel, it would probably continue with just a movie.

I listened to your Voicy (the online audio content platform) this morning, and you mentioned that Poupelle Of Chimney Town is only a small part of a larger story that includes your previous books. Does that mean when all the works are combined it will become one complete story in the end?

When I decided to become a picture book writer at 25, I decided to stand at the top of the world. Looking at my favorite authors’ and directors’ works, I realized that usually I prefer their earlier ones. The earlier works are rough and not as well-polished yet. That means as I get older, my work may get much more polished, but there’s a chance that it may sound more preachy. So I wrote all the stories for a lifetime at once when I was 25, and I’m putting them into shape in order right now. So Poupelle is just episode 4, but there are up to 25 to 26 episodes in total.

Wow, it won’t be over anytime soon then!

Yes, I’m releasing my work once every few years. Since the main plot is already completed. Even if I release a new work at 70, I wrote that story when I was 25, so maybe it won’t sound too polished and preachy.

It’s amazing, you put so much thought into this when you were 25…

Not at all. I thought I couldn’t compete with the world if I didn’t do that much thinking. (Laughs)


7. Poupelle Of Chimney Town won the Japan Academy Film Prize for Animation Of The Year, and now it’s being confirmed eligible for the 94th annual Academy Awards. How do you feel about your film receiving recognition from all over the world?

I thought, “lucky!” (Laughs) Back to what I was talking about earlier, there were various voices when I worked on the story. For example, I was told a lot about the theory of creating hits, such as including a romance scene or food scene. But I stuck to my belief to make a work that “I” personally want to see or it would be meaningless, and I ignored the voices that said otherwise. As a result, my work exactly as I envisioned was able to still reach people all over the world. I’m glad I didn’t take their advice. If I had, it may have become a more bland work.


8. You joined the North American Premiere of Poupelle Of Chimney Town virtually from Japan, but could you tell how excited the audience was? You also just attended a screening event in New York the other day. How was screening your own film in front of an American audience?

Amazing…! New York was really amazing! Almost all attendees who joined the screening came to the reception and told me their impressions of the movie one after another. It reminded me of how fun it is to make and deliver entertainment! I’m really glad that the audience was so enthusiastic about giving me feedback, and I received a lot of good energy from them! Above all, I was able to confirm that I’m communicating with people through my work.

Actually, I’ve been invited to many film festivals in various countries, but I could participate only online due to the pandemic. This is the first time I’ve physically attended an overseas screening, so I was really happy to receive a lot of passionate reactions directly! I drank a lot that night! Well, I was dead the next morning though. (Laughs)


Poupelle of Chimney Town

— If you believe, the world will change. —

Poupelle of Chimney Town is the story of young Lubicchi living among the thick smoke from the chimneys of his isolated town, yearning to see the “stars” — to know the truth — his father always told him about. One Halloween night he meets Poupelle, a man made of garbage, and together they look to the sky as their adventure begins. Spectacularly beautiful, filled with inspiring performances and splendid music and sound effects, and produced at Tokyo’s famed STUDIO4ºC, Poupelle of Chimney Town brings laughter, tears and joy.

GET YOUR TICKETS-> https://www.elevenarts.net/titles/poupelle-of-chimney-town

Eleven Arts
Website: https://www.elevenarts.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elevenarts/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ELEVEN_ARTS
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Poupelle of Chimney Town (Japanese)
Website: https://poupelle.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/poupellemovie
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/poupellemovie/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/poupellemovie/


Akihiro Nishino

Poupelle of Chimney Town – Screenwriter, Author, and Executive Producer
Born in 1980, a comedian and picture book author. He formed the comic duo King Kong with Yuta Kajiwara in 1999. In addition to his work as a comedian, he has authored many picture books.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nishinoakihiro
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/japanesehandsome/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AkihiroNishino.official



A Tokyo, Japan-based animation production company that has earned worldwide acclaim for its high-quality visual expression.  Under the leadership of founder, president and producer Eiko Tanaka, STUDIO4°C has produced a wide variety of films, emphasizing the individuality of film work and constantly exploring and pushing the boundaries of the possibilities of visual expression. STUDIO4°C’s filmography is available at https://www.studio4c.co.jp/works/en/.

Early productions include Memoirs (1995), directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, Princess Arete (2001), directed by Sunao Katabuchi, The Animatrix (2003), and Mind Game (2004), directed by Masaaki Yuasa, which won the Grand Prize in the Animation Division of the Japan Media Arts Festival.
STUDIO4°C grew its portfolio, often surprising the world of animation with films that include Tekkonkinkreet (2006), and MFKZ (2006), Genius Party (2007), Berserk: The Golden Age Arc  Trilogy (2012, 2013), and Harmony (2015).
In 2019, STUDIO4°C’s Children of the Sea (2019) won the Grand Prize in the Animation category at the Japan Media Arts Festival, and the Mainichi Film Concours Animation Film  Prize.
The name of the company, STUDIO4°C, refers to the temperature 4°C, which is the temperature at which the density of water is at its highest, and was named with the intention of creating works of high quality with rich, dense imagery.

Website: http://www.studio4c.co.jp/english/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/STUDIO4C
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/studio4c


1) 日本ではお笑い芸人として有名な西野さんですが、絵本を描き始めたきっかけはありますか?

僕は19, 20歳くらいから芸能界に入り、比較的テレビにも早い段階で世に出ることができたんですけど、ただ25歳の時に日本語で活動している限りどれだけ頑張っても日本にいる1億2千万人以上には届かないんだと気付いてしまって。ここで終わっていいのか?と強く思い、もう芸人を辞めようとさえ思いました。


世界で戦うという前提で打つ手を選んでいく場合、日本人は体重別のスポーツの試合のように、規格を統一したゲームの中では活躍しているなと思ったんです。予算がかかるものに手を出したらディズニーやハリウッドにはやられちゃうと思ったんです。(笑) でも彼らが力を出せないジャンルってなんだろうと思った時に、絵本であれば僕とディズニーがかける予算はあまり変わりなくて、そうするとシンプルに才能勝負になる。才能勝負に持ち込めれば勝負できる可能性がゼロではないな、と思って絵本にしました。




2) 分業制で一冊の絵を完成させるというのは映画の技法を絵本業界に持ち込んだと言われていますが、西野さんは「えんとつ町のプペル」という大きなプロジェクトを始めた時には既に映画化は視野に入れていたのでしょうか?







3) 「映画 えんとつ町のプペル」では製作総指揮、脚本、それだけでなくキャスティングの参加や主題歌も作詞作曲されていますが、今回映画製作の中で一番こだわった点は何ですか?

一番こだわったのは製作委員会方式です。製作委員会なので企業にお金を出して頂いているんですけど、政策委員会の人に一言も口を出させないという。(笑) 最初から口出しをしないことを条件に参加して頂くという鬼ワガママを貫きました。(笑)

主題歌は本来流行りのアーティストをブッキングして、歌番組で宣伝するというのが主流。でも僕は商品と作品の違いを考えた時に、商品はニーズがあってそこに球を投げている。作品はニーズ関係なしに自分の作りたくてたまらないものを作る。つまりマーケティングが先か後かの違いだと思ったんです。マーケティングを考えてのキャスティングは商品になるので自分は作りたくないと思った。せっかく人生をかけて作るんだったら、商品ではなく作品を作りたいと思たので、ロザリーナという無名のアーティストを起用しました。彼女は無名でしたが、でも声がとても良くて作品にピッタリでした。この物語にはこういう曲にしたい!という想いもあったので自分で曲も作ったりして…。(笑) なので、こだわった点は周りを説得してワガママを貫いて時には喧嘩しながらも作品を作ったことですね。












5) 完成された映画を初めて見た時に一番感動したシーンはどこですか?



6) 「えんとつ町のプペル」の絵本をネットの無料公開で拝見させて頂きました。絵本を読むこと自体が何十年ぶりでしたが初めて絵本で泣いてしまった気がします。「映画 えんとつ町のプペル」は絵本では描かれなかった部分も描かれているとのことですが、本来はこちらの映画が完全版のストーリーなのでしょうか?











7) 日本アカデミー賞優秀アニメーション作品賞を受賞され、現在は第94回アカデミー賞長編アニメ映画部門にエントリーされています。日本だけでなく世界から評価されている今のお気持ちをお聞かせください。

ラッキー!と思ってます。(笑) ただ話が戻りますが、ストーリーを作る時にいろんな声があったんです。例えば男女の恋愛を入れるべきだとか、食事シーンを入れないとダメだとかヒットのセオリーをすごく言われたんですけど、「いや、そんなことはしたくないし僕がそれを見たくない」ということで全部突っぱねて。「僕が見たいものを作るんだ、そうでないと意味がなくなってしまう」ということで自分の作りたい作品を作ったんですけど、それが結果的に世界中に届いたということだったので、あそこであのアドバイスを聞かないで良かったなって今は思います。聞いてたらもっと当たり障りのない作品になってしまったかもしれないです。


8) 10月には全米プレミアのイベントがありオンラインでの舞台挨拶での参加だったそうですが、会場の熱気は伝わりましたか?すでにニューヨークでのイベントも先日終えていらっしゃると思いますが、オンラインではなく実際にアメリカ人の前で「映画 えんとつ町のプペル」を上映した感想はいかがですか?




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