Isamu Imakake’s sci-fi anime sequel to ‘The Laws of the Universe-Part 0’ reverses history in a tale of an ancient Earth civilization and its battle with space reptiles.
For director Isamu Imakake and producer Hisaaki Takeuchi, their latest sci-fi anime film, The Laws of the Universe-Part I, represented a chance to once more visit the futuristic world best-selling author Ryuho Okawa shared with them back in 2011, that they first brought to the screen as The Laws of the Universe-Part 0 in 2015.
In the new sequel, Imakake returns as director and lead designer, working with Okawa, who also executive produces, to convey the author’s thematic and visual ideas. The story and its concepts of space aliens, the creation of mankind and “the God of the Earth” are based on an original story by Okawa, who has published numerous books over the last 30 years. The film, produced by HS Pictures Studio, has been dubbed in English and is being distributed in the U.S. and Canada by ELEVEN ARTS Anime Studio.
In the film, a group of university students, Ray, Anna, Tyler, Halle, and Eisuke, pursuing their dreams and enjoying their time in school, are actually on a secret mission in their fight against invading Reptilians from outer space. Ray travels 330 million years back in time to search for his friend Tyler, captured after falling into a trap set by the evil alien, Dahar. At the same time, Alpha, the God of the Earth, was planning to create a new civilization on Earth and had invited Queen Zamza and her fellow Reptilian from the planet Zeta, to come to our planet. The sequel reverses the history of civilization, dealing with the birth of the Earth, the secret of the creation of humankind, interactions and battle with various aliens, as well as revealing the existence of the God of the Earth and the reason for humanity’s existence.
Thematically, one of the film’s main concepts is love. According to the director, “Love is one of the main themes of this film. There are different kinds of love, such as love for neighbors, nations, ethnicities, religions and more. We believe that an even bigger love embraces everything on Earth. This film has a lot of fighting scenes -- we believe that battles for love and justice in order to protect something or someone is important to keep the world at peace. So, even if you hurt someone in the past, we believe that by awakening to true love and faith, you can grow, improve and become a better human being.”
Story development and design work began in 2015, with Imakake handling the main character designs and lookdev. “Ultimately, over 300 artists worked on the film,” Takeuchi notes, “spending almost three years on the film’s writing, storyboarding, character designs and production.”
For Imakake, contemplating the story’s underlying philosophy was key to his design process. “In terms of designing, I always carefully choose the believable way to visualize the originality of the source material. After researching and learning about various kinds of materials, I meditated, then drew imageboards and storyboards. Through repetition of this creative cycle, I was able to design the world and story of the film.”
According to the director, the main color palette of the film is “light,” and his understanding of the expression of light equates to how he portrayed the philosophy of the original story. “The color palette of light is chosen depending on its space, time and figures,” he notes. “There are four spaces: heavenly world, this world, space, and Earth. There are two different times: 330 million years ago and now. Also, there is god, angels, human beings now and then, and space people. They are each representing by a different expression of light.” After encountering some difficulty in visualizing the Earth of 330 million years ago, Imakake tracked down scientific references that led to a Pacific island research trip. “I had a hard time creating an image of the Earth 330 million years ago. But, I found resources saying it might have been close to a sub-tropical zone, so we went on a research trip to study the Hawaiian Islands. The well-harmonized atmosphere of Hawaii, its nature and the local people helped me quite a bit.”
“I started to color my concept sketches, and made various similar colorscripts in order to make it easier for the team to understand the film’s world view,” Imakake continues. “On every project, I draw tons of inspirational sketches and concept art. But, but this time, I colored them to show more project concept details. Also, I tried to make good use of digital picture storyboards and digital animations too.”
To Imakake, the film’s greatest challenge lay not in any one area of production or a particular film sequence, but in understanding the concepts of the story itself. “I cannot simply identify the most challenging sequences or part of the production only in terms of the animation,” he reflects. “That’s because everything is connected and influenced together. Everything is one, one is everything.”
“But I would say the most challenging part of this project was whether or not we could believe in this vision of the Earth’s existence 330 million years ago,” he continues. “That was the most important thing of all. Modern scientific theories don’t provide information regarding the existence of God, earthlings, and aliens 330 million years ago on Earth. Also, the idea of the existence of highly advanced civilizations on other planets to some is hardly believable. After reading and deeply contemplating the original story and scenario, I realized that I needed to narrow the messages, expressions and themes by putting them into the conceptual box of modern values. The Earth is filled with races who understand “love,” and this “love” has been present since 330 million years ago. When I realized with this, I was sure this project was necessary in our current age.”
Finding like-minded artists initially proved difficult, so the production opted to bring on staff who, though inexperienced, believed in those core ideas. “This wasn’t much different from other animation projects, but it was harder because not many people believed in these ideas,” Imakake explains. “In order to solve that problem, I picked up animators and artists who understood the film’s theme and message though they were not very experienced. To me, spirituality is more important than skills. Well, skills are still important too, but they can be taught.”
Ultimately, both Imakake and Takeuchi firmly believe in both the need for and importance of bringing Okawa’s story to worldwide audiences. “You can simply enjoy The Laws of the Universe-Part I as an animated film, but there are also deeper messages within it,” the producer says. “By watching this film, I think audiences will better understand the true reason why there are groups of people who have different values and religions. To overcome conflicts between ethnicities and religions, love and forgiveness, accepting diversity, and understanding others are important. If you have this point of view, how you look at your family, friends, colleagues and other important people’s “individuality” might be changed.”
The director agrees, adding, “Now, on Earth, there are various problems between races. I hope this film will give people a chance to accept each other’s differences and to awaken as an earthling. I tried my best to create with animated film with reality. I want all people regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, or religion to enjoy the film. That is why the challenges were worth meeting.”
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.