Photo/IllutrationWearing his signature knit cap, director Masaaki Yuasa strikes an aloha pose to promote his next project themed on surfing. (Yusuke Kato)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Masaaki Yuasa and his “artistic” films are now the talk of the Japanese anime industry, but the versatile director is moving in a different direction with his next project, a romantic comedy.

Yuasa, 53, won the Cristal for a Feature award at the 2017 Annecy International Animation Film Festival for his “Lu Over the Wall.” The event in France is considered the world’s most prestigious animation festival.

He became only the third Japanese director to win the accolade, following “Porco Rosso” director Hayao Miyazaki and “Pom Poko” creator Isao Takahata.

However, he remains calm about his accomplishment.

“I am not a director who has made big hits, so I have no sense of fame,” Yuasa said in an exclusive interview with The Asahi Shimbun.

In addition to the Annecy-winning work, Yuasa released a theatrical feature film titled “Night is Short, Walk on Girl” in 2017.

This year, Yuasa’s “Devilman Crybaby,” an animated series based on the original “Devilman” manga, started streaming worldwide on Netflix. The Tokyo International Film Festival, which ended on Nov. 3, honored Yuasa with a retrospective showcase.

Yuasa defies the traditions and styles of anime movies. He has even turned to a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for one of his projects.

“It’s fun to create things as I explore the responses because when the techniques are different, people’s expectations of me are also different,” he said.

The director said his forte is being light-footed and proactive.

“I want to be someone who only needs to make an epic movie once in several years,” he joked.

Yuasa is recognized for thinking outside the box for his drawings and dynamic expressions, especially among fans and critics outside Japan who often tout his works as “artistic anime.”

“Actually, I find it a real bummer,” he said. “I always try to make my anime easy to understand for everyone.”

Aside from being an animator, Yuasa had wanted to become a pyrotechnician. He still dreams of working on something that makes everyone say things like, “It’s interesting” and “fun.”

Yuasa’s next movie, “Kimi to Nami ni Noretara” (If I could ride the waves with you), will be theatrically released next summer.

The director said the latest project will be different from many of his previous works that incorporated fantasy factors, such as introducing a mermaid character, and surrealistic concepts.

“This time, it’s a relatively straightforward romantic comedy,” Yuasa said. “In my own way, I devised a language I could share with the audience and explored ways to get close to them.”