DVDs and Hiroshima

I had a chance today to talk with Minoru Maeda, an animation director and teacher who did a beautiful movie on the atomic bombing. He was born in 1970, but recalls family stories of the bombing and its aftermath as a part of his childhood.

I left my notes at the office because I have some documents to go over this evening, so I won’t try to capture the depth of his work, the research to create authentic images and his thinking about conveying the legacy of the bombing. But he said that, as he realized he was making progress in art as a high school or middle school student, he realized it gave him a way to share what he felt about the tragedy to classmates who had not had family in Hiroshima during the war.

Maeda’s “The Day the Sun Was Lost” is a family piece in almost every sense. Much of it draws on what his father has told the family since they were little. An older brother played music for the approximately 20-minute movie. After painting water colors for the animation, the animator had his little sister pencil in color shading on the special paper he used. (The paper is textured with tiny bumps, I guess you would say, on the surface, allowing the subtle addition of the shading.) The sister, Naoko, also has done a wonderful manga account of his making of the movie, going in humorous fashion into how her older brothers would make excuses and slip away while little sister was too scared to do anything but listen to the stories.

Minoru Maeda also took youthful perceptions into account. He tried to capture, he says, the familiar world that children of Hiroshima — places to play, the neighborhood and even the scolding older neighbor — lost in an instant. The film ends right after the bombing, with the young (maybe 7 years old) boy at the heart of the story being picked up by a truck.

He says he worried that survivors would say that he should have showed the horror, but was very pleased when one immediately told him that he was glad Maeda left out the “hell” of the post-bombing sufferings. By not hammering home the details and adhering to the story itself and the authenticity of such carefully researched images, his work may become a lesson in how those from Hiroshima who didn’t experience World War II can keep awareness of the bombing alive in many more young — and not so young — in years to come.

By the way, you can get a DVD copy of the movie from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum’s book shop. But before I found it there, I couldn’t even get the DVD from a big electronics store in downtown Hiroshima where a clerk very conscientiously checked for me. Maybe it will eventually become a lot more available.

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