HE WAS a man with humble beginnings, one who kickstarted his memorable career with a simple, five-minute short film. He was a man with a vision, whose stories would sweep over the globe for their beautiful artistry and tear-jerking storyline. He was a man who, after countless days of solitary endeavors, succeeded in creating one of the most breathtaking movies of all time. This man is Shinkai Makoto, the director of the world-renowned animation: Your Name. To commemorate his long journey and enormous success, the Shinkai Makoto Exhibition: From Voices of a Distant Star to Your Name has launched at the Seoul Arts Center in Seocho-gu, Seoul, for everyone to admire his works and immerse in the behind-the-scenes of his creations.
The promised exhibition
The main exhibition is set up to make the audience feel as if they are walking with Shinkai through his career. The space is divided into sections dedicated to his films, consisting of trailers and posters that introduce the movies. Further into the room, there are various still images and background arts that capture the audience’s attention with their enhanced details.
Actual pages from his storyboard are also present, with simple, rough drawings of specific sceneries showing a gradual improvement in the details of the art. In addition, animation drawings are displayed to illustrate the main characters and their specific characteristics. Comments are written all across the illustrations, showing a great level of consideration behind each protagonist.
Scattered throughout the exhibition are brief explanations of the behind-the-scenes production, which focus on aspects such as the background art design and color setting. With visual examples to aid its explanations, the exhibit allows the public to delve into the mind of Shinkai and follow his path of inspiration, hard work, and impact on the world.
Voices of a distant, starlight beauty
The exhibition is structured in a way that makes the audience feel as if they are a part of Shinkai’s movies. The atmosphere is calming, with soothing music playing in the background. The colors of the walls are purposely mild, using white and pastel hues to make the passageway more delicate. These touches allow the visitors to envision themselves as lingering inside his films, as many of his works share this gentle aura. It almost feels as if time has slowed down with the sole purpose of allowing the viewer to truly take the time to marvel at his work.
The spectator enters the exhibit by pushing aside heavy, black curtains, which can be seen as a metaphorical revelation of his inner workings. They walk into a dark room dedicated only to the landscapes that he drew over the years. A voiceover encourages us to take in the beauty of the scenes he has created. The audio explains how the director took the small things in life—stars in the skies and the daily sunset—and solidified them into stunning works of art. The voice then inspires us to envision ourselves in his shoes and become more mindful of the landscapes we are in.
The exhibit takes its time to properly introduce each of Shinkai’s work. The layout is a chronological display of his films, and this is greatly impactful as it demonstrates not only the importance of each movie but also its effect on the director’s career. As people walk through the physical version of his biography, they get to see how each movie was instrumental in forming his present style. Not only that, though his rise as a director may have reached its peak with Your Name, the exhibition reminds us that success does not happen overnight. Shinkai had to go through an arduous path to reach where he stands today, and this storyline further inspires us to keep fighting hard for our own dreams.
The garden of words and lasting impressions
In relation to the theme of “walking with Shinkai,” the exhibit does its best to keep its visitors engaged with various photo-zone areas, some of which are recreations of certain scenes from his movies. For example, his movie, The Garden of Words, contains a garden scene, in which the two main characters promise each other to continue to meet in person. A replica of this garden, complete with rain, trees, and even the small shelter, has been made to allow people to sit inside and fully envelop themselves in the tranquil ambience. They can thus better understand the vibe that he was aiming to create in that specific scene, which makes the movie and the exhibit all the more moving.
This forges a spiritual bond between the director and the public as they can both physically and visually experience Shinkai’s vision. Physically, the public can adventure through his movies in real life. Visually, the still images and background arts allow them to see each and every detail of the illustration, features that originally cannot be grasped by merely watching the movies up-close. As such, they are able to take their time to truly appreciate the details the director inserted.
Your name, your reviews, your conclusion
There are some qualities that may interrupt the stimulating experiences. For instance, there is some noise that clashes with the serene mood of the exhibit. The promotional videos, though they represent another visually appealing portion of the exhibit, create a discord with the tranquil background music because the sound is not muted. As such, the cacophony may disrupt the overall peaceful air.
Furthermore, there is a repetitiveness that may discourage some in fully exploring the exhibit. The same layout of posters, images, storyboard, and background art takes away the possibility of introducing a “wow” factor. It also restricts some of the genius of Shinkai as the unchanging arrangement limits what can be shown on display, ultimately dismissing some of his endeavors.
Regardless, these minor setbacks cannot deter the overall beauty and impact of the exhibition. It achieves the goal of introducing and explaining Shinkai’s vision while maintaining the illusion of his presence in that exact moment.
The public is able to envision themselves in the behind-the-scenes with him due to the explanations of the movie-making process that are sprinkled throughout the venue. For example, the keyframes of the first five seconds of his first film, Voices of a Distant Star, are shown to have multiple individual drawings of the same character, whose movements change only slightly. This implies that millions of frames were needed in order to make a smooth movie sequence, and thus shows the arduous process behind the creation of an animation. Other examples include the background art design process, which emphasizes how approximately 50 layers were created to produce a realistic finish. Knowing this, the viewer can fully respect Shinkai as both a director and an animator.
The finale of the exhibit draws the public back into a dark room, in which a video compilation of his greatest works is displayed, inviting them to reflect on the exhibition. Ending the exhibit with another dark room can be interpreted as closing a chapter in Shinkai’s journey, but the next is just waiting to be written. This exhibition does an amazing job not only at capturing the essence of Shinkai Makoto’s works in true fashion, but also at taking its time to show the tremendous accomplishments a hard-working man with an endless spectrum of imagination was able to achieve.
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Filled with hearty information, the Shinkai Makoto exhibition gives the public a full experience of what it is like to work as an animator and director. More importantly, however, it allows them to establish an emotional connection with the genius who was able to pull at our heartstrings with his expressive and vivid vision.